There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin

Monday, February 28, 2011

D is for Disorder

     Every day I thank God for the gift of the Google search engine.  A fabulous invention that has allowed me to save hundreds of dollars on self help books at Barnes and Noble, not to mention the privacy it affords me as I seek to determine why I do the things I do.

     What a joy it’s been to discover that there are names for my behaviors.  I used to beat myself up about the fact that I would lose my car keys on a regular basis, until a Google search confirmed that I have Attention Deficit Disorder.  I questioned why I need to habitually check my burners before leaving the house until I discovered that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  My family was relieved to learn that when mom is slamming doors and eating two pounds of chocolate in one day, its not anything they have done, its simply my Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

     And don’t get me started on the array of Personality Disorders that I have…
     Of course defining the disorder hasn’t necessarily solved the problem.  I still lose my car keys and check my burners, but there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that I am not crazy, I have clearly defined diagnoses.  And this knowledge alleviates the worries caused by my Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

     Yes, according to the reliable information on the internet, I have many disorders. So many, in fact, I am wondering if there’s a disorder for that…maybe I should Google it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'd Like To Thank...

     I love the Academy Awards. I love the pageantry, the gowns, the beautiful men and women who sip champagne while waiting anxiously to hear the names of the winners announced by their peers.  I make a point to see all the movies that I know will be up for nominations so I can, along with the Academy, decide who should win. 

     It makes me want to become an actress or work in the world of cinematography in some capacity in order to get the chance to dress in designer gowns, walk the red carpet and come home with a gold statue. Unfortunately, as a mom, there are few opportunities to win awards.   Which is a shame actually.  I would love to win Best Soccer Mom, or Best Multi-tasker, or even Best Birthday Party Organizer.

      I would imagine the Academy for Moms would consist of judges such as Carol Brady, June Cleaver and, of course, Ellen Degeneres.  No, she’s not a mother, but she is very funny and she made a surprisingly good judge on American Idol last year.  But I suppose there are just too many of us to narrow it down to five or six nominees. 

     So I, along with all the other moms of the world, will have to be content with the fact that while we don’t get public recognition or fancy statues for the job we do every day, we do have the satisfaction of knowing we will never have to make a ridiculously long and boring acceptance speech.

Friday, February 25, 2011


     I recently read an article about a family who decided to live for two weeks completely free of any electronics in their home.  No television, no internet, no video games or cell phones.  The mother believed her kids would learn patience and their grades would improve.  Which she claims did happen at the end of the two week period.

     So being the highly suggestible person that I am, I thought perhaps I should conduct a similar experiment in my home.  I also believe that my kids have limited attention spans due to technology and that their grades might improve if they did not have access to so many distractions.

     As a teenager I can remember my father complaining about the television generation.  “You kids” he would say, “always looking for instant gratification. You want everything fixed in 30 minutes.” And of course he’s wrong. I want things fixed in five seconds. 

    To combat my attention issues and lack of patience he often suggested I sit quietly and twiddle my thumbs.  Seriously, dad?  This coming from a guy who was in the military, worked his way up the corporate ladder, played multiple sports, I don’t think he spent a lot of time twiddling his thumbs. I am sure this was just a phrase he picked up from his father and passed it along to us as a way to keep us out of his hair when we were bored.

     I tried the same thing with my kids, but when I suggested what to do with their thumbs, they looked at me like I said something x-rated.  No, I don’t think a technology free week is something I am willing to force on myself or my family. After all, I do know how to spend time sitting quietly and twiddling my thumbs, although in the year 2011 it’s called texting.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Unless You're the Lead Dog...

     I went dog sledding yesterday and while seated in the comfort of the sled enjoying the ride, I thought of the saying “unless you’re the lead dog, the view never changes.” I thought of the lead dog up ahead, forging his own path, thinking he is in control of  the sled and the path we were taking.  But this was a guided tour, on a well marked trail.

     What if we went off that path, what would the lead dog do?  He would look to the driver for instruction.  That lead dog may not be able to see the driver, but he has the confidence of knowing he is there, to guide him back to the path should he stray.

     Much like in my own life, for years I could see my path, the direction I was going so I didn’t think much about the driver.  It wasn’t until recently that I lost my way, suddenly faced with an open landscape, with so many paths to take, so many opportunities.  With so many options, I find I need guidance because surely there must be a right path.

    Or is there?  Will many paths lead me to the same destination and all I have to do is decide what’s best for me?  Then how do I make that decision?  Do I follow my mind or my heart?  My mind tells me to do what’s best for me, to live in the moment, have fun, if it feels good, do it.  My heart tells me to be patient, to listen to that small, still voice, it says there’s more to life than what you see.  Trust your driver…trust God.

     Of course there is a third option.  To remain comfortably seated in the sled.  Here there was no danger, no risk, and definitely no decision making.  In the sled, there was no need to worry about the path ahead because whether the lead dog or the driver was in control didn’t matter at all.  We were moving forward, and I was enjoying the ride.  But in that comfortable place, the view definitely never changes.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Little Town, It's A Quiet Village...

     This week poses a new challenge for me with my New Year’s Resolution.  I am on vacation. In CandyLand.  Well, not really, but it’s the closest thing I can come up with to describe this incredible village of Mont Tremblant, Quebec.   When I walked into reception to check in, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm, announcing to anyone within earshot that this was the most beautiful place I have ever been to in my entire life.  Which, by the way, earned me an upgrade in rooms, so now I am sitting in my top floor suite, overlooking the village and the ski mountain.

      While walking around the various shops, I expected one of the merchants to yell “Marie! The Baguettes!”  Yes, I have left reality and entered life as Belle in Beauty and the Beast.  Although, reality slammed its way back in when I whipped out my debit card to pay $22 for fudge and a brownie, and $97 for a tank of gas.  This place is not for the faint of wallet, and will likely be the only time we come, but I plan on enjoying every second while I am here. Which brings me back to the new challenge I mentioned.

      Once comfortably checked into our room, I was tempted to have a cocktail.  A hot toddy by the outdoor fireplace was the perfect reward for a long day of travel.  I am almost two months into my challenge to not drink for one year and I will admit, being here is testing my resolve.  Vacation, after all, is a time for fun, letting loose and relaxing the rules.  And, in my mind, I still equate fun with drinking. 

      So at dinner the waiter came by to take our drink order, and with visions of martinis dancing in my head, I thought of all of my friends.  The ones who know of my resolution, and the ones to whom I would have to admit that I failed, and suddenly that cocktail just didn’t seem so important.   Contentedly sipping on my ice water, I was grateful for my friends and the accountability.  I counted my blessings and the money I was saving, and after dinner went straight back to the fudge shop.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Right Tool for the Right Job

     I do not consider myself to be naturally domestic.  I didn’t learn to cook until I discovered the Food Network and could actually see what people meant by dice, sauté, and deglaze.  I learned to clean through necessity, and almost died in the process.  (Note to self: do not mix bleach and ammonia, very toxic.)  And when I could no longer afford to keep buying new underwear I finally broke down and learned how to do my own laundry.

     Laundry, a chore which continues to baffle me to this day.  I’m not sure why I am so overwhelmed by this task. It’s not like I have to haul my clothes down to the river and beat them with a rock. I have modern GE appliances, right in my own house, and still I suffer the humiliation of being beaten down by dirty clothes.

     I learned early on that ignoring the piles does not work. In fact, laundry left alone for one day multiplies like rabbits, taunting me in the process.  I tried hiring my daughter. This worked for about one week until she started forgetting and blamed it on her self-diagnosed ADD.

     I even went so far as to hire a contractor to build me a larger laundry room, thinking that if I had more space, I would be more efficient.  That was a mistake, now my multiplying laundry has more room to multiply.  The more I was overwhelmed with my laundry, the more depressed I became, feeling like I had some character defect because of my inability to overcome this problem.
     Until one day, while begrudgingly folding laundry in front of the TV, I saw Kelly Ripa dancing around her house pulling her clothes out of her Electrolux washer/dryer.  Her clothes were folding themselves and putting themselves away and I realized I was wrong.  My problem wasn’t with myself, and some deep-seated deficiency in moral character.  No, all this time, I simply had the wrong machines.

Friday, February 18, 2011

From Mia Hamm to Mia Sham

     Every Thursday night for the past four weeks, I have left the comforts of my home, strapped on my shin guards and headed out to join a very athletic group of women for a competitive game of soccer.  And every Friday morning, I am nursing a new injury. 

      Today was no different.  After pulling a calf muscle in last night’s game, I am now hobbling around on a cane, asking why I continue to do this to myself.  Feeling every minute of my 46 years, I feel like quitting.  I feel like conceding to the little voice in my head that says “give it up, you can’t do this, you are too old.”

      Why do I feel the need to pursue new interests, especially ones that are causing me such pain.   I was perfectly content to sit at home night after night, sipping on a well-chilled martini, content to hide out from the dangers that lurked outside my comfort zone. 

      Indulging myself in self –pity, and contemplating the desire to return to the safety of my old habits, I heard a second voice in my head.  A voice that seems to be growing louder and louder all the time saying, “don’t give up, you can do this, you are not too old.”  And somewhere deep within I am reminded that I have a choice.  It’s up to me to decide which voice to listen to, which words to hear.  After all, they are only words. Words that have no power until I give it to them.

     So maybe I’m not the next Mia Hamm, and maybe it will take me longer to get my body ready for the grueling demands of competitive sports, but I refuse to give power to the voice that says I can’t.   Armed with determination and perseverance, (and ace bandages, Advil and maybe some crutches), I will return to that soccer field just as soon as I can walk again.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Where Everybody Knows My Name

     When I was young, I dreamed of living in a big city, traveling the world, meeting exciting people and having a fancy job title.  The last thing I wanted was to spend the rest of my life in my hometown and become a “townie”.   So I set off to college,  met my future husband, and moved away from home. 

      But then reality set in.  Jet-setting around the world costs money, and the big city wasn’t where I wanted to raise a family, so we settled into our first home in a town just like the one where I grew up.  And with the arrival of my first child, the fancy job title didn’t seem quite so important anymore.

      As I focused on raising my kids, my dreams changed.  I wanted more for them than I wanted for myself. So travel and work took a back seat and I became more and more comfortable with my small town life, a life which consisted of household chores and running errands.

      And each day, as I make my rounds,  I am greeted by the manager at the local bagel shop, who knows my name and asks about my family.  I walk into Starbucks and my Zen tea is already waiting for me because the baristers know my drink of choice, and Mike at the deli prepares my turkey sandwich just how I like it.

      And I realize that the thing I didn’t want to happen has happened.  I have become a townie, and you know what? That’s not such a bad thing after all… 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In The Beginning...

     I am always amazed at the latest discoveries in science, especially as it relates to creation.  Words like quantum physics and string theory completely fascinate me, not that I have any idea what they mean.  Thoughts of multiple dimensions and numerous universes overwhelm me if I think about it too hard, causing me to question how this world came into existence in the first place.

     The Bible says God breathed the world into existence in six days, but scientists tell us we evolved into human beings over billions of years, after a great explosion.  But then what caused the explosion, or Big Bang? Was it God? An Intelligent Designer?

     The debate continues on, and will for the rest of my lifetime, I’m sure.  I do not know how I came to be, but there is no question that I exist.  Which amazes me really, when I consider the vastness of the universe, that I should be allowed to be a part of this Grand Design for a period of time that basically amounts to the blink of an eye.

     Every day, I question my purpose, “what am I supposed to do with my life, God?”  As if the answer lies in the profession I choose, or the next activity I participate in.  I am one person in a sea of billions, does what I do with my life really matter?

     When I look up at the night sky, I can’t see the individual differences in the stars, yet I do see the magnificent beauty that together they create.  And I the stars ask God what their purpose is? Do they worry if they are shining brilliantly enough?  

     Like me, God sees the beauty of the night sky, but unlike me, He also sees the beauty of the rest of his Creation.  He sees where I fit into His grand scheme, so perhaps my individual life isn’t the issue, perhaps my purpose is merely to exist as part of God’s creation and hope that I am shining brilliantly enough. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Occupation? None

     Years ago, I had a conversation with a friend who could not understand my decision to quit my job and raise my kids.  He wanted to know what I did all day to fill my time, and wondered how I kept from getting bored.  This from a guy who I knew was spending thousands of dollars on private nannies for his own children and I thought it was interesting that he placed enough value on the nanny’s work to pay her, but no value on my work, even though we did the same job.

     I have been working on a book and I write a blog, so I consider myself a writer.  Not everyone agrees with me.  Some people have asked if I get paid to write or if I have actually published anything.  My answer, of course, is that I have yet to receive any type of compensation for my writing to which their response is that I am not a writer.

     What is it about money that changes the value of what we do?  Am I only a writer if I get paid?  Is the nanny who raises children more valuable than the mom doing the same work because she receives a weekly paycheck?

     And what of volunteers?  Dedicated individuals who sacrifice time away from work and home to run PTA meetings, fundraisers, fight fires, and drive ambulances.  There is no paycheck for these people and yet I find their work to be the most valuable at times.  Still, because it’s done on a volunteer basis I have heard it dismissed as a hobby.

      A hobby, by definition, is an interest we pursue for pleasure outside of our main occupation.  Perhaps my writing is a hobby,  because that is the interest I pursue for pleasure outside of my occupation.  But is motherhood an occupation if there is no paycheck? Is being a mom actually a hobby?

     If money determines the value of what we do, then I suppose it follows that actors are more valuable than volunteers, and certainly more valuable than me. But if my house should start to burn, no disrespect to the Brad Pitts of the world, I want the guy with the hobby who knows how to work the hydrant. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love is in the Words

      Yesterday in church my Pastor spoke of love and the different ways we communicate our love to others.  He suggested that we all have our own “love language”.  Some express and receive love through encouraging words, others through acts of service, some through gifts.

      His sermon made me appreciate how important it is to speak the proper love language to the people in our lives.  My parents, married almost 50 years, definitely understand each other’s love language.  I have never heard my father actually say the words “I love you” to my mother, yet every week he takes her car to the gas station and fills her tank.  And my father has yet to make his own meal.  Even if my mother goes away for a few days, she prepares all of my father’s meals ahead of time.  They speak to each other through acts of service, and they hear it as love.

      Every birthday and special event my husband sends me flowers, thinking that I will know he loves me through his gifts, and yet it’s the card that is attached to the flowers I appreciate most.  I prefer words, so while the flowers may wilt and die, the message on the card is what will remain in my heart.   

      My husband, on the other hand, prefers physical touch.  I know he appreciates the hot meal that sits waiting for him each night, but it’s the hug that I give him when he returns home from work that speaks my love to him.  And yet, I try to give my boys a hug and I am quickly brushed off,  so I make sure their favorite foods are in the fridge and their laundry is cleaned and put away.

      We all thrive on giving and receiving love, it’s what we were created to do, but  ultimately, it’s how well we know the love language of those we are in a relationship with that determines the success of that relationship.   And today, on Valentine’s Day, I will know I am loved because my husband will take the time to choose just the right words to express his feelings,  and these special words will be delivered to the house on a beautiful card with some flowers attached. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

53 Days and Counting...

     Something is amiss.  I woke up this morning, went about my typical Sunday… church, Starbucks, grocery store, returned home to serve up lunch, then hit the remote and tuned in to…golf?

     The first Sunday after the Super Bowl is somewhat of a downer.  Now I am not the diehard fan my husband is, but I enjoy the routine of Sunday afternoon football.  Scott and I are creatures of habit.  Settling into the basement to watch the games, and call the plays from our armchairs, this is how we spend our weekends in the winter. 

     Knowing that millions of Americans are doing the same thing, I feel a sense of community.   There is something about the wide world of sports, and particularly football, that’s just plain fun.  The competition, the commercials, the back stories, all bringing excitement to an otherwise long, cold and snowy winter.

     Yes,  all good things must come to an end.  But time marches on, each day bringing us closer to spring.  The budding of leaves on the trees, crocuses peaking through the last remnants of snow, and best of all…Opening Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Decision of the Almighty Admissions Counselor

      As a senior in high school, my son has been fully involved in the college search process.  Yesterday he went for his last interview so all of his applications are complete. Erik’s future is now officially out of our hands.

      Knowing that my son’s future rests with various admissions counselors is unsettling.  I am doing my best to put this in God’s hands, trying to calm my nerves by reassuring myself that He has a plan for Erik so whatever is supposed to happen will happen.

      Unfortunately that thought does not give me the peace I am seeking, because while I have been taught this theory that God is in control, I have also been taught the concept of free will.  So I wonder…is my life pre-determined? Or do I have choices? 

      When I bought my house, I looked at many properties before deciding on this one.  Something about this house drew me in. When I walked through the doors, I felt like I was home.  So when we went through the process of making an offer I was anxious. I wanted everything to work out, the price, the inspection, and as my anxieties rose, I again tried to calm myself with the thought that if it was meant for me to live in this house, God would make sure it happened. 

      Once settled into my new home, I questioned whether God made certain of that outcome knowing that for my life to continue on the path He had already chosen for me, I needed to live in this particular house or was the choice to live here mine, given that I have free will.

      Are admissions counselors granted free will?  Assuming for the moment that they are, is it possible that the stroke of their pen, whether in the accepted or rejected box, may thwart the plan of our Almighty Creator?  In which case, does God then recalculate the plan, much like my GPS, where the kindly lady with the British accent recalculates my route when I take a turn against her pre-determined directions?

      Whatever those answers may be, I can assure you that try as I might, I will not be satisfied until Erik receives what will hopefully be the very large envelopes from the colleges of his choice.  Then the decision for his future is back in his hands…or is it?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Love Beats Hate

      My friend Lori writes a blog called My Life Interrupted. Today she posted a thoughtful blog about love beats hate and asked her readers to consider also writing on that theme.
      I considered that for awhile.  I tried to think of times in my life that I have actually held hatred in my heart for someone or had them hate me.  One incident in particular comes to mind. 

      When my son Erik was diagnosed with cancer, there were times when he would spike a fever. If this happened when his blood counts were low, it was a life threatening situation that required immediate emergency medical care.  On several occasions, we found ourselves racing him down to the emergency room for intravenous antibiotics. 

      On one such occasion, a woman was waiting in triage with her son, however, we were pulled in immediately, in front of her, because of the nature of the situation.  This woman became irate.  She yelled at the hospital staff, ranting about the amount of time she had been waiting, and she didn’t care that my son’s situation was life threatening.  “Everybody’s got something” were her exact words. 

      Already stressed by my worries for Erik, in that moment I hated her.  And I believe she hated me.  Years later, I still found that I harbored hate in my heart for this random woman in the emergency room, who could have cared less about my son.  It amazed me actually how I could still, years later, be holding on to that hate.

      This hate festered within me.  Whenever I thought of her, which was often, I felt angry. I was mad at her for not caring about my son, I was mad at the hospital for not handling the situation. I felt helpless at the time, I was scared for Erik, and all the emotions flooded back whenever I thought of the situation, causing me to hate her, this unknown woman, even more.

      Finally, I realized that I was hurting only myself by holding on to this hate.  Erik was fine, having long since finished his treatment by this point.  I had to let this go, but the only way I could see to do that was to somehow tell this woman how I felt. I wanted her to feel as badly as I did.  Obviously, having no idea who she was, this was impossible.  So I had no choice but to forgive. 

      It took me a long time, and I was almost unable to do it, until I really thought about the situation.  I don’t know why she was in the emergency room with her child, but obviously he was sick or hurt.  She was a mother, just like me, worried about her child.  And in that moment, I felt her pain and her frustration.  It wasn’t until I realized that she was acting out of fear, and probably feeling very out of control of her situation, much like I was feeling at the time, that I could find it in my heart to forgive her.

      So I would agree with my friend, love does beat hate.  In the end, hate hurts the hater most of all.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reaching a Crossroad

    When I first made the decision to leave my job and stay home with my kids I did not receive support from my circle of friends.  They had all returned to work after their babies were born and could not understand how I could make the choice I made.  Their comments were sometimes hurtful and made me feel insecure about my decision. 

     At social gatherings they would share stories of business trips and promotions, while I sat lost in my own thoughts…would Zack be the White Power Ranger for Halloween or the green one?  Their lives seemed exciting, and busy….very busy.  I wanted what they had. I wanted to be busy, so I joined things, baby sitting coops,  and play groups. Then later, little league and travel soccer. I was room mom at school, volunteered for bake sales and plant sales.  I ran Vacation Bible School during the summers, and taught Sunday School.  All in an effort to be busy.
     When people would ask “How are you?”  I could respond “I’m busy!”  It’s what gave me value, a sense of self worth.  And yet, I was losing myself in this flurry of activity.  Now that my kids are older and much more independent, I find I am not busy.  With far too much time on my hands, I turned to alcohol.  Every night, 5:00, I had something to do.  At that hour, I was busy. 

     Recognizing that by doing that I was not going to grow or find my true purpose for this next phase of life I made an agreement with God. I know He has a plan for my life, but I also know He can’t use me for His purposes until I surrender to Him. So I did. I gave up my drinking, my other God, my idol.  I gave Him this year and my life.  Or so I thought…

     Giving up cocktail hour forced me to face the fact that I had too much time on my hands. I was bored.  So once again, I went in search of activities.  I started to blog, I initiated game time with the family, started playing soccer and learned how to work my iPod.  And once again, “I’m busy.”  And I’m no closer to finding myself or my purpose.

      Why is downtime such a frightening prospect for me?  Why do I use anything from a trip to Starbucks to a soccer game to avoid being alone?  Am I afraid to hear from God?  Even a cursory glance at the stories of the Bible tells me that God asks great things of His people.  He asks them to do things they would rather not do.  But how does one say no to God’s calling?  I guess by keeping so busy I never have the opportunity to hear Him ask.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Choosing to See the Trees for the Forest

      Every so often, I meet a person that I like instantly.  There’s an immediate connection and we become fast friends.  Other times, it takes longer for the connection to develop but after talking several times we find common ground and become friends.  Then sometimes we don’t ever find that common ground and while we may remain acquaintances we never become close friends.

      The same holds true in the blogosphere or when reading a memoir, for that matter.  In reading other people’s stories, there are some I am instantly drawn to and choose to follow, some that I like enough to visit from time to time, and others I can find no real connection with so I move along.

      Everyone has a story to tell, and I enjoy getting to know people through their stories.  Especially those that are similar to mine.  It’s certainly not unusual for a woman of my age to question her life, her future, her purpose, but with each story there is something unique.  It is the differences and the similarities that allow me to enjoy the journey.

      Much like a snowstorm, we watch billions of snowflakes falling from the sky, they all meander gently from cloud to ground, yet each snowflake looks uniquely different and takes its own distinct path.  Each has its own story to tell, that is what makes the snowflake so beautiful.

      I am grateful to the people who share their journeys online, through books, and in person with me over a cup of tea.  It’s those relationships I treasure. Through the hearing of individual stories, the world becomes a smaller, friendlier place.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Judge and Jury

     There is a woman in my life I find rather intimidating.  She is much farther along in her spiritual journey than I am, and therefore, I have done her the disservice of assuming she was judging me.  Instead of trying to get to know her better, I have kept my walls up when I’m around her.  I thought if she knew the real me, she would disapprove of me, my lifestyle and my choices.

      Today, however, I learned something about her that allowed us to connect on a new level and I was grateful for our open and honest exchange.  By convincing myself that she was judging me, it never occurred to me that I was judging her.  And in doing so, I have been missing the opportunity to get to know her on a deeper level.

      How often do I make that mistake?  How often do I miss an opportunity to get to know someone because I have already predetermined who they are and what they must be thinking about me? 

      I have struggled with my faith for most of my life.  I have used my doubts and questions to keep a safe distance from God.  Why does he allow evil? Why do bad things happen to good people? Is there a judgment day? Will I have to face Him one day and answer for my life?  For years it seemed better to avoid the whole thing than to wrestle with those questions.

      Much like the woman I was with today, I have been unwilling to really get to know who God is, unwilling to break down the walls and enter into a deeper relationship for fear that He has already judged me.  In fact, I have been so fearful of His judgment that I have been judging Him.

      The two greatest commandments God has given are simply love God and love your neighbor.  But how do I show my love for God?  Perhaps it’s by loving my neighbor…to leave the fear of judgment behind and create the opportunity for open and honest exchange.  To enter into a relationship…

Monday, February 7, 2011

Do You Think We Should?

      Should….a word that ought to be stricken from the English language.  I am trying to think of a time that I use that word that actually makes me feel better about myself.

       I “should” eat healthier.  I “should”  keep up with the laundry.  I “should” do a better job of remembering my friends birthdays.

       If I “should” do those things, why don’t I? Is this a misguided attempt to absolve myself of the guilt I feel when I don’t do what I “should” do?

       I have been told on more than one occasion that I am very hard on myself. But shouldn’t I be?  Isn’t that what’s necessary for growth. To evaluate my life and my actions and improve them?  To the friend who’s birthday I forgot, does it really make her feel better that I say I should have remembered?   I think what’s better is for me to design a system to actually remember the birthday.

        On many occasions I have set goals for myself and achieved them, so I know it can be done, why then, do I still have “shoulds” in my life. Any time I find I want to do something that I am not doing,  I feel it's my responsibility to understand why so I can do whatever it is I "should" be doing.

       If I say I “should” lose weight, then its up to me to figure out how and get it done. If I say I “should” volunteer more, then I need to start making some inquires about where to do that.  The problem is when do the “shoulds” end. When are we finally doing enough?  And is it possible to love and embrace ourselves in the process or only once we’ve knocked all the “shoulds” off our list.

       Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps its best to keep this word in our vocabulary, not to excuse my behavior but as a means to keep me pressing forward, improving, perfecting.

        After all, If I ever get on a plane again, I sure don’t want my pilot saying, “I should have done my pre-flight check.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Elevators, Bedbugs and Worms...Oh My!

      I am a worrier. I wish I wasn’t. I wish I was carefree and easy going, but the odds have always been against me for that.  I come from a long line of worriers, I have Irish blood in me, and I read too many magazines.

       Just yesterday, I read the latest update on bedbugs, which apparently can be found in upholstery (think movie theatre seats). I read about new research that warns that letting your dog sleep in your bed can bring on a host of ills from worms to the bubonic plague. And I learned what to do in the event my elevator plunges downward.  Although that one didn’t concern me, I stopped riding elevators the day I learned they can plunge downward.

       Try as I might to not let my anxieties get the better of me, the fact is, once a tidbit of information enters my brain it is there to stay.  Never again will I enjoy a movie without wondering what’s crawling inside the sweater I drape over the seat to protect me from lice.  Worries are insidious, they grow like cancer cells, creating havoc in even the most benign events, such as riding an elevator.

       So I have to weigh my options…having given up alcohol for the year, I can no longer  drown my fears, and I can’t find a bubble to live in, even at Amazon, and they sell everything.  I suppose I could banish all forms of media from the house, newspapers, magazines, cable TV, after all, ignorance is bliss, right?  But I live in this world, I can’t ignore what happens in it.  As much as it pains me to read about crazed gunmen, political upheaval, economic woes, and the latest lettuce recall, I would rather know than not know.

      So what’s the answer to managing my anxiety? 

       Perhaps the answer lies in something greater than myself.   Does there come a time when we no longer have a choice but to surrender our lives to the Creator of the Universe, to acknowledge that even though we don’t understand His ways, that He is ultimately in control and we are not?

      Is that what it means to have faith?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

To Read or Not to Read

      I keep a memory box.  Just one box that houses mementos from the most important events in my life.  The proms I attended, movie ticket stubs from my first date, newspaper clippings about my wedding,  but my most treasured memento is my favorite childhood book, 101 Dalmations.   I don’t know why I loved this book so much.  I didn’t analyze it, I didn’t care about the sentence structure, the use of metaphor and simile, whether it was plot-driven or character-driven, I guess I just loved the story.

       Other favorites of mine were Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller and Black Beauty.  The emotional response these books elicited was what made reading worth the time and effort.  Even today, when I am completely involved in a book, I find I never want to read the last chapter. It saddens me to say goodbye to the people in the story, as if they were now close and personal friends.

      It was puzzling to me, then, that I hated high school English classes.  Somehow, analyzing the books I was reading sucked all the joy out of reading them.  I trudged my way through Moby Dick, Wuthering Heights, Les Miserable, and Shakespeare? Seriously?

      As an adult, I felt compelled to give these classics another try.  I read Moby Dick first and then Wuthering Heights and I now count these book amongst my favorites. Although I did have to read Moby Dick three times before fully appreciating everything this novel had to offer.  Since then I have read and enjoyed many of the classics, but I have continued to avoid Shakespeare, finding his works just too intimidating. 

       Then last night, I went to see the King’s Speech. A fabulous movie, by the way, cast perfectly, but what stayed with me as I walked out of the movie theatre was the King’s speech therapist’s love for Shakespeare.  I enjoyed how much he loved the words themselves and I thought perhaps its time to give him another try.

      I have dedicated this year to challenging myself to move outside of my comfort zone,  so with the help of my friend Kim, an English teacher and Ph.D.,  I am finally tackling Shakespeare hoping that I  can learn to appreciate him,  and who knows, perhaps add his works to my list of favorites.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Through the Eyes of a Child

      Driving my daughter to school this morning she commented on how gorgeous everything looked.  The sun was just starting to rise and the rays were shining on the tops of the trees brilliantly reflecting the ice covered branches.  I wondered if anyone else was taking in the beauty of the morning and Rachael in her bright-eyed innocence said “of course everyone sees this, Mom, it’s too beautiful not to notice.”

      How wonderful to be a child and see all the goodness in things and in people.  I confess, I was skeptical about whether people were taking in the beauty of the day. I have surely not paid attention on many occasions, too caught up in my worries of the moment to notice.  And I understand that like myself, many people are fed up with this winter.

      Tired of shoveling snow and chipping away the ice, unable to see around mounds of snow on the corners of intersections making driving conditions unsafe,  school cancellations preventing a normal schedule of activities, I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring. 

      Even as I sit in my dining room typing away at my computer, I am watching water seep slowly into my house beneath the baseboards.  Unable to determine exactly where it’s coming from there is nothing I can do but wait for all the snow to melt, and hope the damage is minimal.

     And yet, my daughter’s words keep resonating in my head.  So I am resisting the urge to fall back into old habits and worry and complain about my situation.  Instead, I will choose to see the day through my daughter’s eyes and listen to the message of goodness and beauty that God spoke in His sunrise this morning. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pop-Tarts Through the Ages

       I have a confession to make.  I love Pop-tarts.  Yes, those pastry impersonators with the taste and texture of cardboard.  The snack with the dry edge surrounding the pseudo fruit filling and the colorful plastic-y icing with the sprinkles.  What a treat! 

      And I love the new Pop-tart commercial.  It transports me right back to my childhood, and long summer vacations, eating berries that grew in the woods, picking wildflowers along the side of the road and dreams…big dreams. 

      I had plans for my life.  I was going to be a veterinarian, until I got bit by a dog. I was going to be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader until I got cut during tryouts in college, and I was going to live in a big city,  until I had kids and opted instead for suburbia.  And I wonder, did I give up on my dreams or were they simply replaced by new ones?  Are we the most authentic version of ourselves when we are young?

      I often hear of adults who say they are trying to find themselves.  I have said those words myself, but when did I get lost? Was it when I got married and I learned to compromise as my husband and I merged from two to one? Or was it when I had children and my life took a back seat to theirs?  I don’t regret the decision to get married and have kids, that was also a dream of mine, but now as I approach a new stage of life, I wonder if my inner child would recognize me at all.

      With the perspective of hindsight, I can see the slow and subtle changes that transformed me from a child into an adult.  Movies and dating replaced Tag and Red Rover, cars replaced bikes, Wuthering Heights replaced Old Yeller. Even my diet matured.  Shredded wheat replaced Fruit Loops, coffee replaced Kool-Aid,  and Godiva chocolates replaced pixie stix. 

       I want to live in Pop-tart Land. I want to play and laugh, and paint my house a sparkling frosted blueberry blue….ok, now I sound positively senile. My point is, does being an adult mean that fun is no longer allowed?  I don’t always want to make the sensible choices. The ones that are good for my weight and my health.  Sometimes I just want to eat Pop-tarts and pretend that it’s not too late to fly to Dallas.

To my readers:
This link will take you to the Pop-tart commercial if you haven’t seen it.  Watch this and go buy yourself your favorite childhood treat! And feel free to leave a comment as to what you bought!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Confessions of a Technophobe

      At first glance, the iPod appears to be a wonderful new-age musical gadget, allowing us to listen to our favorite songs with amazing clarity and portability.  But don’t let this little piece of brightly colored technology fool you, it is evil…pure and simple.  For years I have tried to understand this device, but I still have yet to listen to any music from it.
       Taunting me with its simplicity, I am able to attach it to my computer and open my iTunes account, rub my thumb around the white circle as I see my kids do, I hear the clicking noises that assure me it’s a functioning device, and yet the music remains trapped.  Unable to sync or download or upload, or whatever is the appropriate term here, I have given up, resigning myself to a life of CDs and FM radio.

       I could, of course, ask for help with my friend Curt being the obvious choice. Computer wiz by day, DJ by night, he has the ability to manage tens of thousands of songs on his iPod. This device is not the enemy to him, but I can be stubborn.  Determined to figure this out on my own, I sat down to my computer last night in an effort to finally unravel the mystery of iTunes and the iPod.  Forty minutes later, with nothing to show for my efforts, I threw a temper tantrum rivaled only by the angriest of toddlers. 

       My poor unsuspecting husband walked in the door and took the brunt of my tirade, because whenever I have a problem, somehow, someway, it must be his fault.  Taking the high road, he calmly walked me through the world of iTunes.   And after my brief tutorial, all I could say was…is it really that simple?

      15 minutes and 50 songs later, I was on a roll.  This was better than One-Click shopping at Amazon.  A new world has been opened to me and I plan to take full advantage of it.  Finally I can hold my head high, with my beautiful pink Nano in hand and join the ranks of the musically savvy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

And the Winner is...Mother Nature

      I love snow days. A welcome respite from the routine, a chance to sleep in, stay home and forget about the outside world for a day.  I bake cookies, watch old movies that I have seen a hundred times before, read, nap, anything I want to inside the comfort of my home.
      This winter, however, the snow days are not the exception they are the norm and I find myself desperately missing the routine of school.  Without routine there is no momentum and this is creating an environment where every night feels like Sunday night. 
      With the possibility of cancellations hanging over our heads on so many occasions, my kids are quickly losing interest in school altogether, and forget about homework.   There is nothing to be done, of course, for there is no negotiating with Mother Nature.  Sending a new storm each week, she apparently cares very little about the fact that my daughter may be attending seventh grade well into her eighth grade year. 
      Today, the kids are home once again. I suppose I shouldn’t fret about the lack of momentum or the homework.  Eventually, the sun will warm the earth, the snow will melt, and the school kids will get back on track, leaving me wishing for a break in the routine. 
      So today, I will remind myself why it is that I love snow days knowing that tomorrow is another day, bringing with it…well, actually…the threat of another snow day.  I better go stock up on cookie dough.