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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Blessed Christmas


Is it really almost Christmas (as in five hours away?).

Merry Merry Christmas. Hope it's a love-filled day and a heart-filled year.

Fa la la la love, Maureen

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's Happening


Slowly, I am breaking my own rules. Surprisingly, it doesn't hurt as much as I thought it would. See, I use the pregnancy excuse (it's really very handy).

I do realize the slippery slope I'm on. Break one rule, two are right behind. It's like eating cookie dough. If I can resist the tiniest temptation to put butter+sugar+flour+vanilla to tongue, I'm saved. If I give in, even just a little bit, I'm doomed. A taste turns into a spoonful turns into sick-on-the-couch-with-no-relief-in-sight.

I'm doomed.

Why, you ask? Because I actually went to the mall to shop in my sweatpants. Today. And I was neither a) coming from a workout; or b) out of my mind.

And they weren't even cute sweatpants. They were six year old navy drawstring sweatpants that I have worn every night from 7p-10p for the past seven hundred and fifty three days (or thereabouts). In fact (if I'm going to spill it I might as well spill it all) they even have a toothpaste stain on the hem of the bottom right leg. I am reminded of this stain every night when little one says, "Mommy, you forgot to wash your pants again."

Which leads me to another rule: I go long long periods of time between washing the sweatpants that I wear to read to my daughter and unwind in at nighttime. The reason is attributed to the fear that these sweatpants-of-all-sweatpants will not be the same if I wash them. I know you know what I mean. Maybe it's not sweats for you, but it's something. You have (or have had) the same fear, haven't you?

But wearing them out IN PUBLIC takes it to a new level (or is it a new low). Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the "have I done enough for everyone for Christmas"anxiety, maybe it was the baby growing in my belly. Whatever the excuse, there really is no excuse.

::

Friday, December 5, 2008

Music to My Ears, and Some that Makes Tears



Two local radio stations have been playing Christmas music EXCLUSIVELY since about November 18th. If I do the math (which I don't do very well) that adds up to about eight (or is it nine) days before Thanksgiving.

But you know, I didn't even mind.

I like Christmas music and I'm NOT (I mean NOT) worried about gifts and buying this year, so it didn't feel like a ticking bomb to me. We're not spending as much money but we're spending A LOT of time...together. Doing things that Christ and Christmas music and Advent inspire us to do this time of year. Like lighting balsam and cedar scented candles, baking gingerbread boys and girls til they're a little too crisp around the edges, saying extra prayers and dropping in on lonely neighbors, playing in flour (which, apparently, is way more fun to play in than to bake with) and singing way off key.

The other day I switched things up a bit and turned off the radio. I couldn't listen to Elvis' "Blue Christmas" one more time (I think it was on a 22-song repeat) and worse, that song about the little boy (or is it a little girl) whose mom is dying and he wants to buy her a pair of shoes so she can look pretty if she "meets Jesus tonight..." You know the song, I know you do. My husband gags when it comes on and even though it is a bit hokey (alright, a lot hokey) I cannot help but cry EVERY. TIME. I. HEAR. IT. It's a train-wreck song. You know it's going to hurt to look but you just can't bring yourself to look away.

So anyway, I traded up the radio for Christmas CD's while I worked. This was around 1pm.

At about 3pm, I got out my little writing pad, which I use to write about Ava or what's on my mind. Here's the first line:

"I feel a little melancholy this afternoon; I can't pinpoint the source, but I just do."

As I inked the period on the page, it occurred to me.

"Maybe it has something to do with the fact that James Taylor's Christmas CD has been playing on repeat for the last two hours and I never even once realized it."

I immediately ejected James Taylor, inserted Burl Ives, and presto...JOY.

::

One more thing about the radio. I listen to it because it's convenient and I like the variety. I have always liked music but never loved it. Until I met my husband, that is. He loves music + I love him = I love music. He's always listening to it (never on the radio), singing it, or playing it and I just wanted to let him know (publicly) how much I admire that about him and how grateful I am that he's shared it with me and instilled it, naturally, in our daughter. I rely on him for a lot of things that he probably thinks I take for granted, but I do notice (and grin) on those dreadful treadmill runs when my iPOD has been updated with all kinds of music to my ears.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Letter. Writing. Campaign.


News Flash: For those of you who don't know, and I do apologize, I am pregnant with Number two. The bundle is slated to arrive mid-latish April, putting me at about 19 weeks, half way there. Okay, on with the post...

Dear Time:

Please slow down. I’m serious. My daughter was just born and now she’s two. And a half. It was just Halloween and now people are asking what I’m making for Thanksgiving. I started thinking about what to make for Thanksgiving and someone asked me if I’d started my Christmas shopping.

This has got to stop. I’m not sure how you’ll do it, but please, just slow down. Just for one day, I beg you.

Signed,

Timed Out

::

Dear Daylight Savings Time:

I’m not sure how you’re related to Time (note separate letter, above) but I just wanted to let you know that you’ve really screwed things up for me and my family. It’s been a couple of weeks now and we still can’t seem to figure ourselves out. I’m irritable and waking at odd hours, my kid tells me she’s ready for a nap at noon (which is really 1pm, her old nap time) and I can’t very well send her to bed without lunch, so we struggle through the next hour until 1pm (which is really 2pm) at which point she’s so tired that it takes her another hour to fall asleep, which she does until nearly 5pm because she’s so tired. By 5pm when she wakes it’s nearly dinnertime. She tells me she just ate (which is basically true). By the time dinner is through and the table is cleared it feels like it should be 9pm, but she’s not tired because she just slept three hours and it’s really only 7pm. Even though its dark enough to be midnight.

I just can’t figure you out. When are we actually in “daylight savings time” anyway? When we spring ahead or when we fall back or just always?

I’m sorry to be so feisty, but I’m tired and I’m pregnant.

Signed,

Too tired and cranky to come up with a clever sign-off

::

Dear CVS guy:

Listen, I haven’t been in your store in months, maybe even a year. And to be honest, when I do walk in there I start to have heart palpitations as it is. I’m not sure how you could fit one more Whitman’s Sampler Candy box, but you do.

At any rate, when you needed to pass me in the way-overcrowded-aisle (not with people, mind you, with stuff) all you needed to say was, “Excuse me,” and I would’ve happily moved aside.

But you didn’t.

You stood there and grunted and rolled your eyes when I didn’t even know you were there.

Maybe I’m a little more sensitive these days, being pregnant and all, but even if I weren’t pregnant I’d think you were pretty rude to someone who was just minding her own business and preparing to spend money on window candles that probably won’t work anyway.

So there, I feel better now.

Signed,


I'll huff and puff and blow that house down!

::

Dear Jesus:

I think we must be doing something right because our little two-year-old darling told me that I should talk to You the other day.

Our toaster wasn’t working right and I said, “Well, that’s a little bit of a problem” because I’d promised her toast and jam with breakfast. She told me that I should talk to You because You listen to us when we have problems and that You are everywhere.

Sigh.

Love,

Maureen


::

Dear Husband:

Remember when were dating and first married and agreed that we’d never be like our parents and watch TV in different rooms? Heck, that we wouldn’t even watch it on different couches?

Well, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we’ve started watching TV on different couches and if you keep up this Battlestar Galactica fixation, we might just end up watching it in different rooms, too.

Is this what happens when you have kids?

Love,

Wife

Ps….I’m pretty sure I have a crush on Chuck, but he kind of reminds me of you, if that makes it okay.

::

Dear Private Caller:

I’m not sure who you are or what you want, but please stop calling. At least move your pestering to the after-nap hour. One of these days you’re going to wake my little one and then I’ll really be annoyed.


Signed,

Publicly Pi**ed

::

Dear Peanut M&M’s in my cupboard:

I hear your taunts and I’m ignoring you. I am not going to open you, so please stop trying. Please.

Signed,

Stuffed well enough with my own peanut, thank you


::

Dear Olivia (of the Olivia series for children, by Ian Falconer):
I like your sass and all, but we have to talk about all this standing on tables and chairs business that you seem to enjoy (and get away with).

To date, my 2 year old is a great rule follower. She knows not to "write on people" and to "sit on her bottom." But when we read your stories and you are doing all of the above, it''s planting a seed that I'm afraid is about to sprout.

So, at least if you're going to do those things, maybe your mom and dad could at least correct you on it. Publicly.

Thanks,

Mama of a fan

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day


My husband and I live in a town that doesn't recognize Veteran's Day the way it was recognized in the one where we grew up. Here, the kids are all in school, learning to read and write and enjoy freedoms that soldiers fought so hard to protect. There isn't a parade and many porches are bare of stars and stripes.

We spoke to five people before 9am who were surprised to see my husband home from work today: they didn't realize it was Veteran's Day.

It's surprising and it isn't at the same time. They say that the "squeaky wheel gets the oil"-- none of the soldiers I know, enlisted and Veteran, squeak about much. They don't ask for recognition and plenty don't even begrudge the rest of us who take our freedoms for granted. But that doesn't mean the rest of us shouldn't go out of our way to give it. In what we say and how we live.

Yesterday I was disappointed because the corner Starbucks was closed unexpectedly. I had to walk four blocks before I found another. What an inconvenience.

Until I realized how ridiculous I sounded. When did I start to expect so much?

I know I certainly have a lot to learn about humility and sacrifice from men and women who gave up lots of conveniences to serve our great great country.

In an article I read yesterday, a woman was thanking a soldier who saved her son's life in combat. She thanked him for his courage. He respectfully replied, "Courage had nothing to do with it ma'am. Love did."

I guess I could learn some things about love, too.

Thank you, Veterans. Every day, thank you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

More Scenes From the Lunch Table



Lunch time at the table. Mena, Poppy (Grandma and Grandpa), Mommy, Daddy, and little one (AF) are eating pizza that Mena and Poppy brought with them from New York.

AF: Mmmmm this pizza is good. Thank you for making this for me, mommy.

Mommy: Thanks, Ava. But I didn't make the pizza, I just heated it up.

Mena: We got it from a pizzeria in town that mommy and daddy lived in before they were married.

AF: I want to go there when I get married.

Laughter

AF: Actually, I won't get married, I'll just go there.

Louder laugher

Daddy: What did she say?

Mommy: She said, "Actually, I won't get married, I'll just go there instead."

Ava: No mommy, I didn't say "instead." I didn't say that word.

Extra loud laughter.

A Splurge of Mint:

Candy hasn't appealed much to me lately, but when I came across these mini's in the store, I couldn't resist.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

365 days ago



One year ago on Splashes and Splurges, this is what I wrote about.

I think it's my favorite post.

It begs an equally happy update.

It's coming.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

scenes from the lunch room



Ava's finishing up lunch, twirling her sippy cup around and around in her high chair.

Ava: Mommy, I want Santa to bring me a pink guitar.

Me: Well, we need to write him a letter. What's the first song you'll play on your pink guitar if he brings you one?

Silence. I start cleaning up. A minute or two passes. I forget I asked a question.

Ava: I love you

Me: (Heart melting) Oh, I love you too, peanut.

Ava: No mommy. I Love You, that's the first song I'll play.

::

A fall splurge

I had a $5 gift card to Target. I really wanted to buy a new clock with it, but it still would've been too much money. So I bought this wooden leaf instead. It needed to feel more "leafy" around here, you know, fall-like. So I hung it on the front door but found it hanging in the garage the next day. Today I'm moving into the house. Bring it on, hubs.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

doing, doing...DONE


Here's the truth: I am way better at reading, writing, and talking about organizing than I am about doing organizing.

But I'm changing my ways.

You heard me. I'm disassembling my avoidance disorder bit by bit by bit.

And in celebration of favorite season fall, first on the list is clutter.

The word itself invokes chaos: clutter=where to start?

In the past? Nowhere.

In the present? With purpose.

Here's how we're doing it:
  • With a pad and a pen. We've observed every room (which isn't many in our townhouse) and asked this question: How do we want to use this room?
Here's how we answered:

Living/TV Room: Relaxing and Reading
Kitchen/Great Room: Creating
Bedroom: Dressing and Sleeping
Bathroom: Showering and Grooming
  • In chunks. It's a work in progress, but we're listing the items that don't meet the purpose and doing one of three things:
a. eliminating them (trash, giveaway, charity)
b. moving them (e.g. books from bedroom to living room, arts & crafts from all over to kitchen/great room)
c. leaving them put
  • In phases (I'm a big fan). Once the rooms are perfectly purposed, we'll do one more thing:
Revisit each room, and do one more "do we really need this" exercise. Mostly this goes for my books and magazines (I plan to do the article extraction thing--cut out keeper articles and notebook them). I already tackled the clothes (word of advice: it hurts but don't look back). I'm putting off the books. I really might need them someday. Right!?
I'm going to do this. If I do, I've told myself, I get to splurge a bit at Christmastime and make this home a cozy winter wonderland.

::

Note: this is a grandparent/aunt/love Ava update

We took Ava for her flu shot this afternoon. Since I just had mine and still have the bruise and the swelling to prove it, I was really, really, really dreading it for her.

We spent some time with her doctor kit beforehand, giving her "baby" a shot and talking about how it would just pinch for a minute. While she wasn't exactly thrilled to be getting one, she didn't protest much (the extra goldfish at snack time might have helped).

Her daddy and I held her tight while the nurse prepared the shot. She squealed and worse-than- winced in the less-than-a-second it took, but that little darling didn't shed one tear. In fact, before the nurse had put the needle away, little Ava, in the sweetest little voice, looked at her and said, "Thank you."

Pitter Patter Pitter Patter.

::
Splurge-potential

No splurge to report. I'm making an apple cake for a meeting on Friday. If all goes well, I'll pass the recipe along.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

an itch to scratch

Scene: Dinner table, Ava is finished and has started to scratch her head.

Daddy: Do you have a scratch?

Ava: Yes, but I itched it back with all the other itches.

::

Cool, fall weather today. I think I'll make pumpkin bread.

::

Splurge-time:

A new container for my flour (1/2 the price at the store where you're only required to buy one).I was tired of only being able to fit a 1/2 cup scoop in the jar I had. Nothing that I bake ever requires just a 1/2 cup of flour, so I decided to make things a little bit easier.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

candy corn and...Santa?


Ava informed me that it was time to write Santa a letter. "No," she thought, "let's call him instead."

I explained to her that he responded best to letters and that if he took phone calls he'd never get anything made.

Curious, I asked, "What do you want to say in your letter to Santa?"

"I want him to bring me a pink guitar and a shirt with a pocket at Christmas."

::

Containing the Splurge (and a bit of the urge)

We've been cleaning out around here. Sorting, tossing, and containing. While we've been trying to use what we have, we needed a little bit extra, too. So we bought some storage containers, like these, from the container store. (Careful though, shipping can get expensive).

Monday, September 22, 2008

detachment


I can't remember what life was like before the internet. I mean, did I really use the library as my go-to resource for information? What if I needed to know what the most widely used vegetable was on a Sunday afternoon? (The onion, by the way). Would I actually have to wait until Monday morning to find out?

Not to mention all of chock-full-of inspiration blogs that are out there and the very talented people behind them. My geography has even improved with all of this globalization. I mean, I knew somebody lived in Provo, Utah...but who and what do they do?

But sometimes, the internet can be all too consuming...and after an unplanned but well-worth-it break from cyber-sucking, I'm here to say that detachment is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Don't get me wrong. I clung dearly to email and couldn't help myself from Google-ing "toddlers with temperatures" and other random inquiries, but I didn't read one single blog, didn't even update my own. And really, it was liberating.

Here's why, from where I sit.

I think that healthy access to healthy information can turn addictive, which makes it, well, not healthy. I think that it is productive when it pushes, when it prods, when it inspires, and enhances a life.

But it's unproductive when it turns into a stick that we measure our own life by.

Take me, for instance. Generally, I blog about the funny, every-day, sometimes boring things in life; rarely about the nothing-went-right days with extra mistakes on the side. In general, blogs are a digest of what's working in life--where we're excelling, learning, and experiencing some degree of success.

And that is great. I love to learn from others. I NEED to learn from others. I know I'm not alone in that.

But sometimes, I think it is easy to read others' digests of success and feel like an entire volume of loser. When that becomes the lens ("let's see what someone else is doing that I am not") then it's time to change our lens. I can't speak for men, but I think women, generally, suffer from the big comparison-sucking disorder. Maybe it's our bodies, our marriages, our success, our finances, our jobs, our children, our parenting, you name it--we do it and we pay for it.

So, what did I do with the time I didn't spend blogging or reading blogs?

  • I rested. I actually put my feet up on several occasions and closed my eyes. It felt great.
  • I prayed. I sat quietly and just prayed. I received lots of guidance that I might not have from a blog.
  • I organized. Mostly activities to do with my daughter so that when she woke, we could get down to business and laugh.
  • I cooked for my family. I even made my first pot-roast ever and it turned out really really good.
This detachment period was really good for me. I don't tend to fall into comparison traps (I've worked hard over the years to avoid them) but when I'm tired and overwhelmed with work, they're easy to fall into.

So, I'll try to be more regular on the site now that I'm "back"--that's assuming that you're not going to do a detachment period of your own. If you do, enjoy it! And hope you'll visit again when it's over.
Splurgin Sweet!

My mother in-law got me this cookbook. Little one and I have been trying to stick to an every-other-week or at minimum an every-month sampling of its recipes. The hard part is selecting which recipe to try (and staying out of the dough). We haven't been disappointed yet.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gulp

I'm still alive and everyone is okay.

Actually, I've been working on a new project for work, which is exciting AND...remember that writing course I splurged about a while back? Well, it's started and it's intense.

But I promise I'll be back soon. In fact, in all this overload I've even started fleshing out a running blog...but one that's geared toward women and especially mom's.

And as soon as I publish this post, I'm going to re-read this earlier post. Because there I go again, opening my mouth.

So stay tuned.

Splurge-less

We have not been splurging one bit. But as the weather gets cooler and I grow more tired, I can't help but daydream about this little ensemble.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Your (You're) It


I run pretty hard during the week--up early and out fast--so that when a scheduled rest day rolls around, I do what I can to protect it. However, there are three exceptions, three occasions when rest is overruled.

Those three exceptions?

1. A new pair of sneakers
2. A inspirational running story
3. Watching someone else run

Even if running isn't your outlet of choice, I'm sure you can relate. Everyone has that one thing that belongs to them, that one thing that feels as familiar to them as their own two hands. Maybe it's cooking, maybe it's golf, maybe it's fencing. The great thing is, you don't have to be the best at it, heck, you don't even have to be good at it. But it should be three things:

  • Enjoyable: you look forward to it or you miss it when you don't do it for a while
  • Stress-relieving: it should settle you down, maybe relax you, breathing comes easily and naturally (well, maybe not easily, if it's athletically-induced, but you definitely be breathing)
  • Limit-testing: you might start out casually, running a half-mile or baking homemade brownies, but with small successes comes confidence, and with confidence comes risk-taking. Your thing pushes you to expand and to grow within it. Maybe a half-mile turns into a 5K, maybe a homemade brownie turns into a canned peaches or a contest entry at next year's bake off.
And eventually, you don't even mind those instances when you fall short, when you have a bad run or when you burn the biscotti. You accept yourself when you fall short and you accept others when they fall short, too. Because somewhere along the way, as you were working on improving your thing, your thing was improving you, too.

So, you're it. What's your thing?

Smores Splurge

With the left-over marshmallows from the rice krispie event (am I spelling that right?) and the found-chocolate in the cupboard (how does chocolate exist in my house without me knowing it) and the stale graham crackers in the pantry, we made smores yesterday at lunchtime. We even ate them before lunch. We're living on the wild side in this household. My excuse (and I've been using it a lot lately) is that, "It's summer. What the heck."

And with the 55 degree night we had and the low-humidity, low-80 degree days we're having, you bet it is.

Friday, August 8, 2008

a time for things


There was a time I could do a cartwheel without fearing what I might break...
A time I could eat pepperoni rolls without worrying what I might gain...
A time I could watch horror films without a pillow over my eyes...
and hands over my ears...
And there was a time when I could eat avocados without dying, nearly.

That's right, avocados nearly killed me.

It started about three years ago, right about the time I became pregnant with my little love. I was feasting on guacamole and extra salty tortilla chips and enjoying a perfectly perfect summer day.

In an hour, everything changed.

When I tell you I experienced the most violent stomach pain imaginable, believe me. There wasn't a single position that made it tolerable either...lying down, standing up, sitting down...all the same excruciating, stomach-on-fire pain. I had to talk myself out of dying, and thankfully, I was successful.

Of course, I didn't know it was the avocado right away. Afterall, who is allergic to avocado? After a few more experiences, it became evident that I was.

Well, I had another dance with death on Saturday. I had gotten a little arrogant and figured a bite or two of my husband's sushi was harmless, the avocado was no bigger than my pinky nail, how much harm could it do?

A lot. And it made up for lost time.

Turns out, the allergy isn't terribly common, but it isn't unheard of. Apparently, the oils from the avocado pit are the culprit...other people experience a similar sensation from onions and bananas, even.

Unfortunately, the latest experience did take causalities. Because the avocado was mixed with other foods, like sushi and vanilla flavored yogurt (formerly a staple in my diet), I will probably never ever be eating them again, either.

Tainted love.

How about you? Any foods you can't eat due to allergy or overdose or casualty of either?

Weekend Splurge
Still doing really great with the restricted spending. I've been able to cut my grocery bills pretty significantly by paying attention to sales and clipping coupons...and buying meat on sale and then freezing it. (I was never really good at that because the whole thawing thing never meshed with my planning or patience scale).

So the big splurge of the weekend will probably involve another shot at rice krispie treats that end up in our stomach and not underfoot...

Monday, August 4, 2008

sprinkles (on top)









Photo Courtesy of Rick Mandelson


I learned that there is a direct connection between your jaw and your hips.
To ease the tension from both, rest your tongue behind your two front teeth, soften your face.
Remember how that feels, and then try to do it often.

Or just look at this picture.

Splurgin' Sweet

Ava and I made Rice Krispie treats for my husband's work get-together. They had lots and lots of sprinkles ("there mommy, that's better" said Ava after emptying the entire jar into the crispy, marshmallowy, buttery mix).

We decided to go for a run while they cooled, because there's always room to fit in "one more thing." (I can hear my husband sighing).

That meant that we were running late, so after we got home everything was in rush-time. We cleaned up, cut them into squares, and arranged them on a Hello Kitty plate, which complemented the sprinkles nicely, I might add.

I quickly carried Ava, her shoes, her drinks, and who knows what else I grabbed along the way. Threw everything (except her) into the car, put the treats on top, and set Ava in her car seat. Watched her buckle herself in (because everything is, "I have to do it myself" these days). Shut the door, buckled in myself, thought for a second about where we were going, and left.

With the treats on top of the car.

When we got to the party, Ava said, "Mommy, forgot the treats!"

Oh yeah. The treats...

And then I remembered the last place I saw them. On top of the car.

When I went out to check, they were, of course, not there. No treats.

But when we drove home and turned onto our street, there they were, one with the pavement.

I spent the next 15 minutes scraping them up. Those darn sprinkles.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mind Mapping



Mental models are can be exhausting.

They are internal assumptions that we hold about how things/we work, how things/we are, and how things/we should be--and then apply them to our external surroundings.

In other words, it's what we believe mothering, weight, parenting, marriage, cleanliness, simplicity, tidiness, organized, healthy, smart, pretty, savvy, chic, creative, looks like.

And often, we spend our time comparing how far away or how far surpassed we are to that model in our life.
  • How clean our desk should look
  • What kind of relationship we should have with our children
  • What good home-keeping looks like
  • What successful feels like
  • What thin looks like
  • How fast we should be running
  • How much money we should be making
You get the idea.

And while mental models are important in making sure that we aim high, their existence doesn't guarantee that the aim is right. For you. Or your family.

I do a lot of journaling as a way to help challenge my own mental models and to make sure that my aim is right. Usually, if the model is wrong or our aim is off, we feel tension around it. I ask a series of questions in the process, an adaptation of which I'll share below. To illustrate their impact, I'll use an example that a friend shared with me recently:

Mental Model: Good employees go to the office summer party. I should go.

Questions:
Why should you go? Because they're expecting me too and they've put a lot of time into arranging it. I'll probably end up having fun, anyway.

What happens if you don't go? I'll feel guilty.

What would you rather do? Stay home and spend time with my husband and son.

How will you feel if you don't do what you'd rather do? I'll feel guilty, too. And resentful. But they'll understand more than work would.

If you had a party and someone couldn't come because they wanted to spend time with their family, how would you react? I'd totally understand. I'd probably even envy them a little bit.

What makes you think that work wouldn't feel the same way? I'm not sure, actually. Maybe they would.

Does considering that make you feel differently about going? A little bit. But I'm also afraid I might miss something.

And you're less concerned about missing something at home? I'm more confident at home, I trust home more than I trust work.
She thought that being a good employee meant attending the summer office party. But through the questions, she realized that her model was more a mask that perpetuated some time sucking energy draining behaviors. She left our conversation questioning her values and wanting to spend more time with her family, with whom she felt at her best and who deserved her best.

I suspect that by reallocating her energy to things that bring real fulfillment, she'll have more positive energy to give to things that bring the financial fulfillment as well.

Not all models are masks, or drains. But it's important to continuously challenge them to make sure they are helping us to become our best, not getting in the way of it.











Friday, July 25, 2008

Feeding Connections






Image by: Little Friends of Printmaking Photostream




Earlier this week I had an interesting conversation with my husband.

Well, the topic wasn't interesting, but the circumstances were.

He was looking over my shoulder, onto my computer screen, where I had my Google Reader page displayed.

"What's that you're looking at?" he asked.

"You mean my Google reader?" is how I replied, but what I thought was, "duh, are you serious?"

Because context is important, let's get something straight. I like pens and I like pencils. I love paper and I don't care if its already been used, I'll find a way to use it again. The extent of my computer-wizness is that I can type really really fast. And while there's a strange and bit obsessive reason as to why, I'll save it for another day. The bottom line is, other than their keys, I don't know much else about computers, even less about the world wide web, and double less about electronic gadgets that can make life easier.

But I do know an itty bit about RSS feeds.

Don't worry, you'll read all about them in a minute.

So I proceeded to probe my husband who knows everything about technology and websites and efficient surfing (doesn't he?) and learned that he knows nothing about Google reader.

Once I got over the initial shock, it occurred to me that if he doesn't know, then there are probably a lot of people who don't know.

So I sat down to write a blog about it. This was on Tuesday.

I eked out a paragraph and then did some procrastinating, specifically, other blog reading. You can imagine my total and utter disbelief at the first post I landed on.

It was all about RSS feeds. Written THAT DAY.

At first, I was a little bit freaked out. Then I was a little bit discouraged. What was I going to write about now?

But the truth is, Simple Mom did a WAY better job of describing what this time-saving genius application is than I ever could have done. So you must visit her blog and read all about it. Then set yourself up with one.

I'll give you a primer, though: subscribing to a feed, usually through your email account, is like an inbox for all of the websites you visit regularly. You don't have to keep checking to see if they've been updated, once you "subscribe" to them, they appear bolded in your "inbox" as soon as they are.

There's another really strange occurrence related to blogs and topic ideas that I also experienced with Simple Mom, but I'm afraid you won't believe me if I told you about it, so I'll skip it and marvel in silence at the way God gets his messages to us.

Splurge & Crafts

Ava and I spent about an hour in Michael's craft store this week. I'm not very crafty. Creative, but not crafty. But she loooovvvvveeeeesssss "arts and crafts" so we went for some resupply.

Is there anything better than a secret sale you don't know about until you're in the checkout? We picked up what I estimated to be about $25 worth of stickers, beads, glue, and paper lanterns--but ended up being (drum roll please)....$9.08!

We hit it right on Wednesday. Big sale on things already on sale. What a feeling. I don't need breathtaking sunsets or crashing waves (okay, yes I do) I just need an unexpected savings every once in a while.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

acceptance

I am boring.

I am, really. And it's okay, I've accepted it. Recently.

There was a time, though, that I so badly wanted to be the go-to fun-loving, thrill-seeking, good-for-a-late-night laugh pal. But I've never been able to pull of inauthentic without looking, well, completely inauthentic. I can remember once as a kid wanting a different laugh, so I'd practice it in my room, when no one was home. I was young, but wise enough to know how silly and forced it sounded, so I moved on to something else, like flavored sugar that you'd suck off a candied dipstick.

Point is, I'm okay with my boringness and that jokes don't live up my sleeve and I have no desire to go anywhere after ten pm where beer is served out of plastic cups and bathroom floors smell (and look) like something that's been dead on the side of the road for a year. Even if just an unoriginal laugh.

I do like to spend my time being creative, active, and calm and among my family. That's when I'm happiest. Fortunately, it also seems to be when my husband is happiest (though he could probably do without the active part) and, so far, little one, too.

So, this past weekend, when we packed up the car and headed the six hours to our home-town, that's exactly how time was spent. We have family who let us stay in their beautiful lake home, reminiscent of ones you'd see in the pages of Coastal Living. Talk about authentic, there wasn't a thing in that house that wasn't (except maybe the LEGOs on hand for little one). From exposed wooden beams to early 20th century glass, to the wood that furnished it, it was an escape right in the middle of nature. No cell coverage, no internet...just the water, the trees, and the breeze.



We swam, we kayaked, we ate smores, and we fell asleep on the porch one rainy afternoon. What was remarkable about spending a weekend at a lake I grew up with, was watching my daughter experience it for the first time.

As I've said, I can know something as well as I know my own name and somehow, watching her experience it is getting to know it all over again as if I never knew it any other way.

::

I ran in my fifth 15K Utica Boilermaker on Sunday; my dad ran in his fourth! I ran my best time, but the results won't reflect it because there was a malfunction with the chip timing system.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the running world, there are two times that a runner receives:

  • The Gun Time--the time it took a runner to finish the race from the sound of the gun
  • The Chip Time--the time it took a runner to finish the race from the point he/she crossed the start line
The distinction is important because in big races, like the Boilermaker, it can take anywhere from a minute to fifteen minutes before a runner makes it to the start line after the gun fires. For instance, on Sunday, it took me three minutes to get to the start and it took my dad 12 minutes! So when Chip Timing malfunctions, the only record they have is gun time finish, which in my case tacked on an inaccurate three minutes and in my dad's case, an inaccurate 12 minutes! It not only throws off your time, but your place as well.

Now, I don't mean to complain, these things happen. I should be satisfied with the knowledge that I ran my best regardless of what the "official" results convey. And I am. I just can't help but be an "itty bitty bit" bummed, as Ava would say.

::

Go Slow

This time-compression thing happens at night. I fix dinner, we eat it, clean up dinner, play for a bit. Get ready for bed, go to bed. All within about two hours.

This leaves little room for my age-preventing, life-saving grooming routine. In other words, I was skipping the fancy skin-care regimen that would keep me looking young, and, I hate to admit it, the all-important flossing routine that would keep me alive.

So, I'm doubling up. While Ava plays in the tub, I kneel beside her and floss. She sings about it and I try not to laugh, but she makes it hard.

While she brushes her teeth after bath, I put on my Youthtopia--skin and eye cream.

Before she goes to bed, we both drink a glass of water, "together" as she says.

And while I read her stories before bed, Pete heats up my water for a cup of tea. I drink it while I tidy up any work items or make a list for the next day...or, just sit on the couch next to him and do nothing.

Then I brush my teeth and head straight to bed.

[Curbing the Urge to] Splurge

I got an adorable little notebook for my birthday that I've been keeping track of writing ideas in. On Monday, I reserved a page in the back to keep track of credit card spending. I know there are all kinds of great software out there that can slice my data in five hundred different ways...but I just want to see what how much I'm putting on the credit card, where, and when. Kind of like I do with my diet when I'm training or overeating.

It's worked to curb mindless eating; let's see if it's successful in curbing mindless swiping.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

check it out

Another first: I was asked to guest blog over on LobotoME.

If you're looking to waste a little bit of time today, you can read about a day in the life of moi over there and see how I spend mine ;)

More to come on our long weekend away, surrounded by nature--water, bald eagles, and fresh, fresh air.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

not a thing


I did not like college. I liked the idea of it, but once I got there, I wanted no part of it. As big and as bold and wide open as college was, I didn't feel like there was any room in it for me. But I went, I saw, I experienced, and I finished--in four years with a transfer from one state school to another. (I was damned if the experience I disliked, okay, hated, was going to make me miserable and poor.)

In fact, I spent so much time hating college, that I never left much room for thinking about what I liked. Yesterday though, ten years after I graduated the first time (that's right, I hated it so much I went back for a second time), it occurred to me what I liked.

I liked the day that didn't have a plan. The day when there was no place to be, nowhere to go, nothing to clean, not a thing to prepare. While college was busy in different ways, it seemed that there were more of those unfilled days than not--and there was always someone else to share nothing with--Julie across the quad or Laura next door, maybe Merry downstairs, someone. Nothing usually began by finding a sunny spot to sit and stretch. Conversation was light and unattached, and growing by the body. Two people quickly turned into three, into four, into five, into six and more. Time moved differently; it wasn't urgent, didn't run out. In my case, it stood still. It didn't move fast enough (to have THOSE days back).

So when I saw a group of college-agers in a sunny spot yesterday with their coffee and their water, some chewing on a blade of grass, others just picking it, I remembered all of a sudden what I liked about college. Not what I miss, but what I liked. I certainly don't want those days back, I love the ones I'm in too much. But watching those friends--some who would be friends forever and others just til summer's end--reminded me of how nothing feels, and how filling it up with laughter and love and blades of grass doesn't require a courtyard or a quad. It just requires someone to do it with and the time to do it.

::

Go Slow

I've been making time for 10-minutes of clarity every morning...and it's turning into hours of peace every day. I'm going to keep at it for the rest of the month and hopefully have all kinds of prosperity to report at its end.

Splurge, splurge, splurge

Ava and I are meeting my running partner who's turned great friend and her little one for some non-running nothing this afternoon.


::

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July


Break out the bomb pops and the sparklers. It's the fourth of July.

Here's the latest citizenship test. How well do you know our nation's history and the markers of its making?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

If I Were a Tree...



We took Ava to the B&O Railroad Museum on Saturday. Our good friend Courtney is the Executive Director; he and his wife Leslie have been great friends to us. It's an incredible museum that Courtney has done a remarkable job of renovating. You can read all about it here.

Ava L.O.V.E.D. the trains.She did not want to leave and we'd been an hour and a half by the time we did, in 90+ degree heat. We'll be going back soon. She told me she misses the Caboose.

::

I can't make it out yet, but a message is making its way to me.

It's July by the way. Summer's first full month. To me, July always feels like a fresh start more than January does. Time to revisit those goals and see how they're coming, what needs shifting, tossing, and a little bit of attention.

Back to the message.

In June my husband spent two weeks in a leadership class. It was an experience (I'm obviously inferring here) that seemed pointless while in it, but with distance has proved priceless.

For starters, while attending the class he learned he'd been selected to interview for a new position--one with, you guessed it, bigger leadership responsibilities. I'll spare the suspense and let you know that not only did he ace the interview, he got the job. The two weeks he spent reflecting on leadership styles he'd observed in the past and anticipating the style he would employ himself only helped. (Because, of course, he'd have gotten the job anyway. :)

Beyond professional enhancement though, this leadership class has done wonders for our communication as a married couple. I think Pete spent as much time analyzing his own personality type as he spent trying to figure out mine. :) We are completely OPPOSITE. I wasn't sure how to take his reaction to Myers-Briggs' validation of what we always suspected, "It'll be okay. The speaker today told us he and his wife are total opposites too and they managed to stay married for 35 years." He was unclear as to whether or not they were still married, which my personality type would've asked about but his took at face value.

Truthfully, though, understanding ourselves has helped us to understand each other. For instance, I learned that a slight acknowledgment from him is equivalent to a rooftop shout from me. I learned that when he comes home to sit in front of the TV, it's not because he's lazy it's because he's transitioning. (As I write this, I'm feeling like I've been schooled here). But seriously, over the past three weeks we've both made an effort to extend beyond our own comfort zone to spend a little bit of time in the other's.

Then, today, my mom called me with a thought completely out of the blue. I hadn't shared with her all of the personality analysis that Pete and I had been engaged in, either, by the way. Anyway, she thinks that engaged couples ought to go through activities like pitching tents together and putting up Christmas trees to train for marriage. Activities that companies and businesses pay a ton of money for their employees to do so they can work better together. Apparently, that's what she and my dad spent the afternoon doing and she was quite proud of how they came out the other side. Researcher me added another layer...actually, I was thinking of my parents while I said it, "and I wonder how their interaction with each other would change and evolve over the years...say from engagement, to third year, to eighth year, to fifteenth, and so on."

If divorce weren't something you declared and needed a lawyer to do, but instead was something you were eligible for each year on three specific occasions: putting up the Christmas tree, driving home from vacation, and pitching a tent in the dark, then my parents would've been eligible A LOT in the first 15 years, less for the next ten, and pretty much not at all at 35 years of marriage.

At any rate, as couples, as children, as friends, and as parents, we all have a lot to learn about each other, from each other, and with each other. While it gets darn frustrating at times, love wouldn't be love otherwise.

As I said, I'm not sure what the message is, but it's resonating love and learning and patience. I'll let you know as soon as the decryption is complete--but then again, maybe simple awareness is the message.

::

So are you dying to find out your personality type? Thanks to my husband's find, you can do it here, for free, and you don't even have to sign up for it.

Here's a peak at my personality type. I need to find the person who wrote this because I have a lot of questions. Like, how did they know? and...what do I do!?

::

I've been working on a personal essay for a week or so and when I read my profile today, I got chills up my spine at the points it raises, which are almost entirely included as actual experiences in my essay. God always finds a way to talk to us, even when we're listening-resistant.
Go Slow

I'm really trying to quiet my mind again. It's been a little cluttered with things that don't matter much and, as my profile points out, are related to my inability to be at complete peace with myself--there is always something I should be doing.

I've gotten away from my ten minute prayer and quiet time in the morning. It's a 2008 goal that I've neglected for about three months now, right about the time the clutter worked its way back in. This month, that's what I'm focused on. Ten minutes in the morning and getting to bed a little earlier at night.

Splurges

Oh my gosh. You know how much I loved Juno. Well, guess what? The fella who wrote and sang the opening song to that movie (Barry Louis Polisar) is performing tonight at the park I run at nearly every day. For free. For kids. Ava and I are packing a dinner, throwing a blanket in the car, and heading over for some dancin and dreamin. You can read more about him here.


Friday, June 27, 2008

flexibility within structure

You've heard my two primary maureenisms by now:

Go Slow to Go Fast
Progress not Perfection

But there's a third (actually, there are probably fourths and fifths and sixths)--and it's one of the originals

Flexibility within Structure

I was student teaching when I came up with it. After my second lesson plan for teaching Julius Caesar to tenth graders, I decided my approach wasn't working for every kid. And it needed to. I liked the structure: 10-minute warm-up, reactivating what we knew so far; 5-minute preparation for the scene (or two) of the day; 20-minute scene interpretation; 10 minute reflection, what we now know or are still confused about.

So I kept the structure.

Then added some flexibility. For example, instead of using a written prompt for the warm-up, we used a verbal one. After we discussed what we already knew about the play (e.g. what already happened) then the kids synthesized what we discussed in a list to be used for an outline at the end of the unit. Instead of reenacting the entire scene, I'd isolate its crux and together, we'd modernize it. You get the idea.

I use this approach with my running and especially with my mothering and especially in my role as teacher to the little love I mother.

The structure remains the same every day: wake, eat, activity, lunch, nap, activity, dinner, quiet activity, bed (with a whole lot of "read" interspersed)

I've employed it with her as soon as my feet landed back on the ground after having her and I had a minute to sort out what just happened (the most wonderful thing in life happened: life) which was about when she was four weeks old.

The structure remains in fixed, but the activities, the menu's, the stories do not.

It's not rocket science, that's for sure. We all operate on our own flexibility within structures each day, but I think that sometimes the awareness of what "it" is helps the mind to relax a little bit.
What are your structures? What are your flexibilities? How do you operate?

::

I was reminded of this maureenism this week, as I was feeling a little scattered about this blog. Check back soon to hear more about it.

::

Going Slow to Go Fast

I'm up early early early every morning, either to work or to run or both. I love getting up early--I get a lot done. But it is very easy for "getting a lot done" to become a fixation. So much so that if I'm not getting something done, I feel unproductive and anxious. And that, I know, is ridiculous. So, I'm working on it.

Usually, I eat breakfast while I write email or think about the work-related tasks I need to get done that day. It's a total no-no, I know. Again, sometimes I feel like every minute needs to be productive and my sense of productivity becomes skewed. (Eating breakfast mindfully and having a minute to let the brain waves settle is, afterall, productive). So this morning, I didn't turn anything on. It was just me, my oatmeal, and some quiet, quiet air.

::

Splurge of the month

Husband paid the bills last night and whenever he pays the bills, there is a cloak of silence that falls heavy throughout the house. Don't get me wrong, it's totally self-imposed. I pretend I'm working on something when really, I'm zeroed in on his body language and his silence like it's keeping me alive.

I think about all the things I've bought this month that I probably could have done without and all the things that I could still return. Where does this guilt come from?

I must say, it's gotten way better since we've put the brakes on superfluous spending (which was never all that bad) and we've agreed to make the time to sit down together to pay those darn things. We both decided that my anxiety stems from my uninvolvement in the process.

So we're going to start making a date of it. A bottle of $10 wine and the bills. Could be a disaster, but I think it will be fun :) I'm counting on it.

In the meantime, no splurge for me!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Randomness Continues

Bare with me for one more post of scattered-ness.

::

Turns out my haircut was Wednesday. I had just sat in the chair for my trim when the stylist asked me, "So, what're we doing today?"

Without thinking, I replied, "Just a trim."

She starts snipping before settling into her line of little love questioning. (Honestly, what did we talk about before her?)

She barely got a word out when I said, "What do you think about that cut" as I pointed to another stylist down the line. She thought it would be "adorable."

Hmm...not exactly what I was looking for, but okay.

For those of you who haven't seen me in a while, I've been letting my hair grow long (for me). I've never let it get past that critical point (past the shoulders, almost down to the back) and I was determined I'd get there this time.

Because in my head, my hair looks like this.

But on my head, it looks like this.

So we cut it. And I LOVE it. No pictures yet, but it looks something like this, only way less colorful and way more streamlined.

::

This morning I saw a poll that said 60 percent of American's think the country is heading in the wrong direction, evidenced by rising gas prices, mortgage crises, and grocery bills.

Sigh.

I think it is heading in the wrong direction, evidenced by bigger cars, even bigger houses, and more more more mentality.

The abundance movement abounds. But I'm not sure what kind of abundance we're aiming for all the time. We're more grateful than we've ever been. Being grateful will get us more! I look around at fancy cars and big cars and even bigger houses and think, "Well yeah, duh! We ought to be grateful!"

I realize I sound cynical, and really, I'm all for the grateful movement--I'm not perfect at it, but I'm making progress at it. So today, I'm grateful that our great country has given my family choices and that we've been smart enough to make good ones. I'm grateful that our great country has given my family freedom that we've known when to exercise and when to resist.

Maybe it's headed in the wrong direction, I'm not astute enough on a worldly level to know these days. What I know on my small level is that I try to model manners for my daughter and say hello to strangers; water my plants during non-peak hours and cut my time in the shower; walk where I can and be efficient with driving when I can't; ask God for strength and courage each day He gives me; make my husband's lunch because I know how much he hates doing it. It all feels like the right direction to me.

I pray for people who do genuinely struggle in these times. People who can't pay the bills and who struggle to feed their family regardless of how hard they work. Those are the people who point me in the right direction--and I hope they're the ones who are getting polled.

::

There are some days when I get blindsided by motherhood. Like this morning. An early, chirpy, day-away-from-summer morning. Little love is still sleeping, husband is getting ready for work, and here I come bounding down the stairs to start some oatmeal. I round the corner and staring me square in the face are a toy baby, a stuffed tiger, and a big fluffy duck, sitting in a perfect row.

I took a look around at every drop of love she's left for me to see. Because sometimes, if I'm not looking for it, I look right over it. And me? I don't want to miss one thing.

::

Go Slow (formerly one small step) to Go Fast:

I watched the golf tournament last weekend. I don't golf, but I jumped on the band wagon and enjoyed every minute of it. At one point, Tiger was in a tough spot. The announcer said, "I want all the young people watching this to pay attention. Watch how he slows everything down, every move, and concentrates."

And he did. He slowed his breath, his walk, his movements, everything. He slowed everything down. It was something to see and it was one of the few times I was really glad a commentator commented. But I'm still wondering why he left old people out.

Go slow to go fast.


Splash-away

Today we're going to the pool and then we'll probably have a Popsicle.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Reminder Days

I think it's time for a good old-fashioned brain-drain (though I think I'd prefer a brain-freeze because that would mean lots of mint chocolate chip ice cream, whose call from the freezer I am trying really hard to ignore at the moment).

I have a lot swirling around up there right now; while it might have something to do with the two cups of coffee, extra strong, I drank this afternoon, I think it also has to do with the fact that I am without my monthly planner. I didn't lose it, didn't burn it, didn't throw it away in a fit of revolt. It ran out and I have not replaced it.

I have become, in the last month, the person I vowed I would never become: the one who never writes down appointments and deadlines in one place, but rather writes them on the back of napkins and receipts or on chintzy little day minders I got for free with the purchase of five hallmark cards (which doesn't exactly make them free, I guess) and even on calendars I printed out myself.

So, that's the long winded explanation as to why I feel a little scattered these days (or at least the reason I'm telling myself). Among my scattered-ness:

1. Is it just me, or do Tiger Woods and his Caddy have EXACTLY the same set of teeth? (See quiz on side bar.)
2. Should I or should I not buy this smart spin. I've been agonizing for years.
3. When am I going to bite the bullet and learn to iron. Properly.
4. We must stain our deck. Enough is enough.
5. Do friends and family know how much I love them?
6. What am I going to fix for dinners this week?
7. Need to mail dad's father's day card before next year's father's day. (That's right, still not in the mail)
8. Schedule annual doc appointment
9. Find out when my hair appointment is, exactly

::

That's better.

::

Whenever Father's Day comes around, I can tell you exactly what my dad's response is to my on-cue, "Happy Father's Day, Dad"

Everyday is Father's Day.

And he means it.

But it's one of those inked-in reminder days. A reminder day to tell the men who are fathers to us, like fathers to us, fathers to our children, or like fathers to our children how much we appreciate who they are and the little and big things they do. Because no one can do "it" quite like they can: say nothing when nothing is all you need, say something when saying something is exactly what you need, take it in stride, take it on the chin, take in everything we mothers, wives, daughters, sisters have to give, good and bad, which can add up to quite a lot. And at times, might even contradict.

So thank you to all the men I love...the father to me, the father to my little love, the father to my big love.

::

One Small Step

Prayers in the morning, prayers in the night. Help me to live well and live with delight.

Splurge ahead

We're going on a date, we're going on a date, we're going on a date.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Inside the Lines


G
enerally, I'm a "color inside the lines" (or run inside the lines) kind of gal. I wait patiently in church parking lots; I don't cut lines at the deli; I don't attempt to return impulse kitchen gadgets without the receipt; I wear matching socks unless I unknowingly mismatched.

But on occasion, I'm known to break a rule or two. Like eating breakfast for dinner and dessert before dinner. (Pretty wild, I know).

And I'm about to break another one. Like believing that summer doesn't start until June 21, which happens to be summer solstice and which also happens to be my husband's birthday.

Friends, solstice or not, summer is here (or maybe it's hell, but we'll pray it's just summer-come-early) and there is no denying it.

And in honor of its early arrival, please enjoy the tastiest cheat sheet I have yet to find. No more arguments with the big guy about which meat gets grilled on low, which on high, which for a long time, which for a short time. It's all right there.

Ahhhh.

::

Ava told me today that she didn't want to "go for a nap." Instead, she told me, "I just want to play. With my toys. Downstairs. Wanna come too, mommy?"

You bet I do darlin'. But you can also bet that if someone wanted to come over right now and shut the blinds, turn on the fan, read me stories about Sheep Out to Eat and sing me songs, I'd wanna do that, too.

::

Ran a great race on Saturday. It was H.O.T. (in case you can't tell by the duh look on my face) but I survived, inspired by all those survivors. And so didn't my dear dad.



::

One Small Step

Today I'm going to read my book for 15 minutes and not think once (okay, maybe just once) about the housework that needs to be done, the work that is on deadline, the stories that need to be written. Instead, I'm just going to go and read my book because we agree (don't we?) that it's summertime and reading is what you're supposed to do when it's summertime.

Splurge-smoothie

It's time again for my favorite tasty treat. You can get the recipe in my splurge section here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Zoo Time

On Saturday, we made our first trip to the zoo. As one father put it to his crying daughter, "You're at the zoo, watching elephants, a baby elephant, what more could you want?"

Our little one mostly loved it.

Except when it started thundering. Then she said, "That scares me."

Her daddy told her it was just baby elephant Sampson playing and falling down, or the monkeys swinging on the branches.

So when it thundered last night getting ready for bed, she said, "Uh oh, baby Sampson fell down"



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some perspective

If I were the weather, and you punched in my zip code to see what I was going to be like today, this is what you'd see:



Partly cloudy with a few showers sprinkled in. Almost like those days when you think it could rain, but you can't tell for sure if it's going to rain, but if it is going to rain you wish it just would and get on with it already.

That is kind of how I feel today.

Someone just tell me what to do so I can get on with it already.

::

And feeling that way doesn't feel good because I can't think of one thing (that really matters, anyway) that is unsettled in my life. But I am thinking of the woman whom I have never met but whose story I read regularly on caringbridge.org; a woman who my friend Melissa does know; a woman who today is making funeral arrangements for her twelve-year-old son who just lost his life to a brain tumor.

It makes your heart break to think of it. But when you read about the strength she describes her son as having at the end, his faith and courage to let go of life on earth, his only concern being for those on earth left to live without him, you feel like you have no business letting your heart break. Instead, you feel like your only business is to make your heart as whole and as large and as spread out as you can--for all to see and have and know.

::

So I am sitting quiet today and paying close attention to every face my little one makes. I am playing extra hard with that little love who says, "Mama, come play with me?", and I am not thinking one bad thought about our broken air conditioning and the 90+ degree weather that is on its way.

I will let myself feel a little unsure today; but tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll feel sure.

::

One Small Step (but hopefully they're fast ones)


I love to run, as most of you know by now. Here's what I'm gearing up for this spring/summer:

Survivor Harbor 7

Baltimore 10-miler
Utica Boilermaker (my first and favorite race)

::

Splurge Spring

I've been hoarding all the watermelon at the grocery stores. I just can't get enough of this "it's definitely summertime" treat.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Little Dose of Ava

Dose #1

We found a new playground. We found it a week before we used it, but it was raining when we found it so we tucked it away for another day, which happened to be this past Saturday.


On Friday night, the night before the Saturday we used the new playground, if you had asked Ava what she would be doing on Saturday morning, this is what you would've heard:

First, Ava wakes up. Then Ava, mommy, and daddy go to coffee shop (shebop) and have daddy's muffin. Then go potty.... and then (excitement is building that she absolutely cannot contain) go to new playground to go slidin and swingin'! (The finale is about ten spinning circles followed by one big not-quite-jumping-jack, but close).

So when you are at a new playground, how do you possibly decide what to do first? You don't decide; instead, you do everything for milliseconds at a time so that it feels like you're doing everything at the same time. Eventually, you land on the couple things you know you really love, and that you always knew you really loved (sliding and swinging) but you had to try out the new stuff too, just to be sure.

After a little bit, a little girl, about four, on a sparkly purple bike with pom-pom-like handle bars pulled up to the really big slide. She got her daddy's okay before getting off her bike and climbing the slide.

It didn't take long at all for Ava and the little girl to start following each other around; eventually there was hand holding and ant watching.

At one point, they were on the swings together. Once they got off, Ava turned square to her new little friend, grabbed her at the shoulders, looked her square in the eyes and said, with excitement she could barely contain, "Wanna go slidin'?"

Friendship.

Dose # 2

We were visiting with some friends and there was another little girl there, right about Ava's age. Ava was playing with a little foam bat that the little girl also wanted to play with. The little girl began to grab at it and her parents scolded her. As you can imagine, at two, she got pretty upset and didn't understand why she couldn't have the bat.

Without hardly any time passing, Ava walked over to the little girl and handed her the bat. Just like that. No words, no explanation, no trying to make her feel better, just doing what she knew would.

Compassion.

One Small Step

Putting all my folded clothes away. Today.

Splurge Thursday

Oh, I don't know. Maybe an ice-cream cone tonight?

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Spot on the Horizon


It is not true to say that I dust this speech off each Memorial Day; the truth is, I tuck it nearby so that I can read it any day, sometimes every day. Six years ago my dad wrote and delivered this speech at our hometown Memorial Day services, the first after 9/11. I will admit my bias, but still, I think it is the best speech I have ever heard.

Memorial Day—May 27, 2002
Norwich, NY

J. Philip McGuire, guest speaker
Combat Medic, 2/502 101st Airborne
Vietnam—1969-1971

Good Morning Friends and Neighbors—

Here we are again. Come together on a day in May to remember, to
recall the images of men, mostly young men, who went away for that
flag flying over us; men who didn't come home.

If you're like me, and I suspect some of you are, memory plays tricks
and the film in our head is hazy—filtered through the lens of our own
lives, and the vision of events and people past form dreamlike and not
always real.

The men that I remember were young. They didn't talk politics or
causes and they weren't always fighting for the same reasons they were
sent… Mostly they talked about home, about girlfriends, family, the
job they left—and girls.

Young men of course are the best soldiers. I guess not only because
they are strong and vigorous but because the recklessness of youth
lends itself to soldiering. Often the youngest volunteer to walk
point. For the young, death is a spot on the horizon—it's there, but
it's not today's concern.

Many of these soldiers were months earlier playing high school
football and wearing stiff leather shoes to the prom…they did
heroic things—exposed themselves to enemy fire and threw themselves on
grenades.

The cruel confusion of war takes some in random chance. War shows no
favorites. Our best and brightest… hopeful men that today are forever
young—frozen in time, unfinished lives.

We recall the astonished look on the faces of the hurt and bleeding: a
look that says, "I'm only 19—I can't die."

The wounded and dying don't talk of the cause or the campaign. Most
ask to go home. They ask for mom—tell her I love her, that it's
okay...

But please don't leave me on this god-forsaken hill.

It has always been so. From the carnage at Gettysburg—the bloody
beaches of Normandy—the frozen Chosin Reservoir—to the steaming jungle
of the Ashau Valley.

Our best and brightest have marched into eternity with one request.
Please don't forget us.

On last September's bright blue day, horror came out of the sky and
our enemies cut down the innocent only to give names and faces to
heroes. Men and women challenged death in falling towers and doomed
airliners that others might be spared.

Abraham Lincoln observed that it's too great a task for us ordinary
people to memorialize these brave Americans. Lincoln noted their
sacrifice was too great, too magnificent, too noble for us, caught up
in our everyday lives, to honor in a meaningful way.

But do we daydream and imagine that if the opportunity presented we
too would do the heroic thing? Don't we think we'd storm the hijackers
on our doomed plane? Race into the collapsing skyscraper? We'd face
enemy fire to save a friend--- wouldn't we?

These things we ponder—we pray for courage. As the daydream fades we
find ourselves paying the same bills, worrying about our children, and
wondering how the man in the mirror got this old.

The job of honoring our fallen warriors might seem too great until we
remember them as ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

The truth for us is that we will probably never be thrust onto the
stage of great things.

Those everyday people who fell for us weren't thinking of great ideas
at the end—not of the cause, the campaign, or the issues.

They talked of home. And home is here. Home is
you and me. Home is where we live, work, love, and join the human
condition--the USA, where we pray for God's grace to make a place for
us at the end.

Here is where we honor our fallen. By doing things denied them when
they were cut down in the spring of their lives.

What can we do? First, let's imagine them as they might have become.
Maybe he's a mechanic who would fix our car; maybe he'd be driving
that truck or patrolling our streets, or planting a field of corn.

Then, let's do this: Let's do kind things in their name. Let's be good
citizens, let's volunteer and be optimistic. Let's encourage a young
person and visit an old one. Let's do ordinary things in a special
way.

We can do it for them and thank them for their sacrifice. So let's
meet here each year and remember them. Let's carve their names in
granite and visit their graves. Let's also carve their names in our
hearts and honor them by living our lives in a way that they might
have lived theirs.

Thank you.