Saturday, December 31, 2011

Well, well, well. Siouxsie's back.

SOMEthing got me to thinking this morning about reflecting on the past year.

I remember mentioning awhile back that I'd be happy to see the end of 2011, and that I was looking forward to 2012.

In 2011, I learned a lot about teenagers and all their messiness. At first, I resisted the lesson.

It wasn't supposed to be like this, filled with jagged edges and rock faces to scale.. Looking back at my own teen years, I saw about 3 teaspoons of rebellious behavior in myself. (I actually think my parents would agree with this assessment, and the fact that I include that should prove my point.) So, having bypassed things like going to parties parents didn't know about, underaged drinking, and the sordid like, I was unprepared for some of the things teenagers do.

Took it all personally at first. "Where did we go wrong?" those sorts of questions. Angry I had spent YEARS homeschooling youngsters who still made decisions I disagreed with. Bewildered that we, as loving parents, as committed and happily married parents, as parents who listened and loved and taught and read out loud and drove kids places, and did all manner of Outstanding Parenting could have kids who wondered if they were really loved. Depressed that I had planned for smooth sailing in the teen years only to discover my three teenagers standing up in the boat, completely disregarding the life jackets I held out to them, perched on the gunwales rocking for all they were worth.

After Taking It Personally came the I AM WOMAN I CAN FIX IT stage. Hunker down, try harder, speak more persuasively, listen mo' better, give more, ask for less, hold their hearts and hands in mine, find outside help, grit my teeth REAL hard, click my heels, and BELIEVE. Short paragraph, but it seemed like that phase lasted forever.

There may have been other, just as effective, stages, but learning about the creature called "the teenager" and letting go of EITHER/OR thinking were the two experiences that transformed my reality.

Keep in mind I think my teens are wonderful, intelligent, thinking, caring, humorous, growing people. I love them forever, and I like them a lot (well, except for a few days back in February. And a few in March. And April. Maybe a couple in June). But before the big transformation in my understanding, I thought they were doing "it" wrong.

Since I didn't get the Teenagers Are Inexplicably Incomprehensible memo as a teen or as a parent of babies, toddlers, pre-teens and teenagers in the early honeymoon phase, I was continually taken by surprise, especially this year. It helped to read Bob Meehan's "Beyond the Yellow Brick Road," although I'm not sure what I think of him or his methods. I did think his book was helpful. Really helpful. It was the Teenagers Are Inexplicably Incomprehensible (AND THAT IS JUST FINE) memo I had missed. So I started embracing the ride, accepting it for what it was.

And it's been good. And it's been hard. And it's been fun. And I am so grateful for the teens who are in my home. They teach me things. Presumably I teach them things now and again. We laugh a lot and we have some pretty great talks. And I trust the process.

I am thankful for all of it. Now. It took awhile. Here's to you -- Valerie, Joel, Eli, and Anna-Jessie.

And even though this post is centered on the teenage portion of our show, I want to also thank Greg and Kepler for all the great things they bring to our family.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Intentional? Intuitive? Whatever.

Oh, the other day I posted about this cool new eating thing I had found that was very simple. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re satisfied. Somehow the concept of Intuitive Eating transmogrified in my tiny brain into Intentional Eating. I went on my merry way touting the benefits of Intentional Eating for several days. Yesterday, I realized that it was actually Intuitive Eating. And then I started to laugh as I imagined the alternative to Intentional Eating.

In searching for “Accidental Eating” on google images and on Amazon, I came across accidental tourists, accidental existentialists, accidental mothers, accidental babies, accidental sunglasses, accidental genius, accidental hero, accidental billionaires (how can I become one of those), accidental family, accidental survey, accidental creative (that’s a book written by a guy I know!), and the accidental athlete.

The one thing I didn’t find was any accidental eating going on. Which is to say, I think, that all the eating we do is intentional. Maybe we aren’t really paying attention, but darned if those cheetos are going to jump in my mouth on their own.

Tom Hanks was in a hilarious skit on SNL called “Mr. Short-Term Memory.” He was on a date in a restaurant and couldn’t remember from one second to the next what had just happened. Mr. STM at one point noticed there was food in his mouth. “There SOMETHING IN MY MOUTH!” he cried, wondering what it could be. But even, Tom, yes, Tom, put that food in his mouth, whether or not he could remember it.

So I thought I’d just mention that it’s INTUITIVE eating, INTUITIVE. It has to do with listening to your body, noticing your hunger, your fullness, that sort of thing. It’s not about whether or not the food in your mouth got there under your power. Let’s hope it did. Bon appetit!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dancin' on the Treadmill

Usually, when I exercise, it's fraught with guilt. Same song, 17th verse. I'm not exercising enough. I shouldn't have eaten that (whatever). I'm not exercising right. Yada. Yada. Ya. Da.

Intentional Eating addresses the area of exercise as well. But with a twist. Instead of exercising, you experiment with moving your body for the purposes of feeling good.

Tonight I felt ready to try this so I headed to the basement to our treadmill. After tracing all the extension cords hither and yon and figuring out I couldn't plug in a light if I was going to keep the treadmill and the freezer plugged in, I decided to listen to music instead of read while I walked.

I've always liked the info the treadmill gives me -- calories burned, distance covered, total time, miles per hour. I'm kind of a numbers chick. And tonight I glanced at those numbers every so often, but the experience was much more about walking, listening, and eventually dancing. I adjusted the speed a few times and got it up to a "good" pace, then when I felt like I needed to, I slowed it down, dancing all the while.

The best part of this paradigm shift is that I don't have to make any rules about EXERCISING. I don't have to feel guilty for not setting up a schedule, or for setting it up and then not keeping it. Oy. But as I listen to my body about being hungry and full, so I will listen to my body about needing to move and needing to be still. Or at least I did today. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

My playlist tonight:

Walk -- Foo Fighters -- Steven Manuel sang this at Crossroads this Sunday and it was electric!
Take Me Out -- Franz Ferdinand -- overheard this on Eli's computer one day and I like the energy of it.
Joe Satriani -- Is There Love in Space? and Flying in a Blue Dream
My Chemical Romance -- Planetary GO
downhere -- Hope is Rising

I think the treadmill said 35 minutes or so was my total time, but what a difference to just enjoy the process of moving, of dancing, experimenting with different gait paces based on the music I was listening to, and to feel the freedom that comes with enjoying movement.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Which Siouxsie Almost Throws a Hissy Fit at the Gas Station

Oh, excuse me, the ”fuel center.”

The problem with blogging about having a hissy fit is often said h.f. occurs a few hours before the blog can actually be created. In that time, a cooler head and a rational mind can often prevail. And/or, a cool quote from Seth Godin can show up in my inbox. From Seth’s post today, "We repeatedly underestimate how important a story is to help us make sense of the world.” Which then caused me to consider the story behind the hissy fit, aka “conniption” fit.

Yes, I am elderly enough to remember the good old days when one rolled into the gas station and heard the pleasant ding-ding as one drove across the ding-ding hose. Decisions at the gas station in those days amounted to “cash or charge,” “leaded or unleaded” and whether or not you wanted your oil checked. Ah, those were the days, weren’t they. Simplicity. And how things have changed.

Now I shall commence to make a list of all the choices we “get” to make at the gas station these days.

1. Will I be paying credit or debit or gift card?
2. Paying at the pump or at the window?
3. Am I a Kroger plus customer? yes or no.
4. If yes, scan card OR enter alternate i.d. number.
5. Do I want a car wash? Yes or no.
6. Now choose one of the three options of gas grade.
7. Do I want to use my gas discount of x cents? yes or no

Only seven short hoops and I am permitted to pump the fuel into my car!

Besides the above, there are many passive questions facing me.

1. Do I want to apply for another credit card that will save me more cents per gallon?
2. Do I want a snack? “Visit the kiosk!”
3. Am I going to believe the warning about my cell phone being able to cause an explosion?
4. Do I care how recently this pump was inspected?

And don’t forget all the questions zinging through my head about my day.

1. Is that man looking at my hair because I am really having a bad hair day?
2. Will I have time to put everything in the car before I have to leave?
3. Which way should I go home?
4. Will they reverse that fine?
5. What kind of snacks are in the kiosk?
6. And so on and so on.

Here’s what got me today.

See #7 above? It’s always a little surprise to find out whether I have any discount at all, or maybe 10 cents per gallon. Today, surprise! I had a 40 cent per gallon discount available. However, I also had NEW CHOICES.

1. Use my discount as is.
2. Use part of my discount.
3. Don’t use my discount.

I mean, really.

And Seth’s comment reminded me that it is my story about this that dictates my response. My story this morning was that these were unnecessary choices, just one more wildly unnecessary choice in a world filled with way too many choices -- my grocery store has, what, 300 different amalgamations of pasta, and by pasta, I am only referring to dry pasta in a box, not all the mixes, prepared foods, and deli offerings. My story is that these are unnecessary choices and unwelcome. But would I really be happy if I went into a story and there were 4 different types of pasta. I would say honestly, at this point, no. I’m used to having boocoo choices about all kinds of minor things. Maybe there are a lot of people who complained to Kroger and said they didn’t want to use the entire discount at one time. I wish I could understand under what conditions that might occur. But, it is what it is and now I get to also decide whether to use my discount as is, a portion thereof, or save it for a rainy day.

So, I’m changing my story just a bit. I feel blessed that I have the freedom to make so many choices in my life. I also recognize that there are very important areas where the choices are limited and sometimes one is as bad as the others (see: politics). But in the hope that this new option at the Kroger Fuel Center makes someone else’s life easier, I accept it with grace and will continue to wait for the fun surprise of finding out how many cents per gallon I might get as a discount today.

(But sometimes I still think it’s fun to throw a hissy fit now and again, as long as it doesn’t spill over onto innocent bystanders.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Kepler and I Made Today

Remember my post the other day about cat blogs? Yes, I do want to have a blog that inspires the masses, or at least some portion thereof. But, I’m still mostly a cat blogger.

So, yes, there are multiple blogs across the blogosphere that tell a similar story as this one, but there’s no other blog that tells THIS story. Kepler’s teacher sent home a blank book the other day and asked us to create a book together that they can read aloud. I set it aside and didn’t do anything with it. Yesterday, a gracious note came home asking that we go ahead and complete the book and to let her know if we had lost it and she would send another. I love his teacher. She always goes with the flow.

The note was all I needed to get off my cat blog duff and make the book with Kepler. And so I present to you: I Love Animals, by Kepler Taylor. All marker and crayon decorations, sticker press-downs, colored popsicle sticks, and yarn by Kepler. Please note: all printing done by Kepler but I was directing his hand. He’s still learning that whole printing thing.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Siouxsie’s reMembering, or The Little Red Hen, My Aunt Jeanie

Do you remember this story? No one would help the Little Red Hen with any of the jobs that needed to be done, so she just up and did them herself. This was my Aunt Jeanie.

Born the youngest of 4 children into the unending work of the life of farmers, Jeanie grew up and married a local boy. Wednesday of this week, her life ended after a short battle with cancer.

Last night, I had the opportunity to spend a little time at the local laundromat. Needed to wash a couple of those oversized items. As I waited for the machines to do their jobs, I had a flashback to Aunt Jeanie’s laundry room. The men’s bluejeans got really dirty in the fields and she would wash them with PineSol in the washer. Something about that smell and the memory of her laundry room reminded me of the work she did from morning to night, taking care of her family, feeding the men in the field, hosting her out-of-town nieces for the summer, contributing to her little community and church.

When a teen girl got pregnant in their little town, and the church refused to allow her baby shower to be held in the church facility, Aunt Jeanie went to work advocating for this girl’s shower to be able to be held there. She was persuasive, thankfully. Of COURSE the shower should be held at the church. I think it’s that love thing in action.

And that’s what I remember about her. She was love in action. And I’m so glad I was a recipient of that love and that I was able to love her in return.

Friday, October 14, 2011

In Which Siouxsie’s All Like “Methinks Siouxsie’s Last Post was too Subtle and Obtuse"

In honor of three of my family members attending CincyShakes’ MacBeth today, I used “methinks” in the title of this post.

In response to a panicked comment by Anonymous: Bacon isn’t the problem in Intentional OVEReating. It’s just one of many. Stay tuned for more on Intentional EATING and I think you will be pleasantly and baconly surprised. Oh, and if you DO open a restaurant called “All Things Bacon” I hope you will have pictures of Kevin as well as the pork version. I’ll be glad to review your place once it’s open.

Now, students, if I may have your attention up here at the board.

Because I am such a PROfessional at Intentional Overeating, I felt it important to give you that background first. Intentional Overeating is most definitely not the way to conquer your diet.

The best way to conquer your diet is to stop having a diet mentality in the first place.

This is not to say that you should commence stuffing your face with all manner of doughnuts and potato chips. That is not conquering, not to mention your stomach will hurt for awhile and then you’ll be ready to do it again in a day or so.

The diet mentality is all about control and restriction.

Intentional Eating is about, ready?

1. Eat when you are hungry.
2. Stop when you are full.

Those are not rules, even if they start to feel like it. When a baby nurses or takes a bottle, she drinks the milk until she is full and then she stops. She doesn’t have a rule about it, she just does it.

But the magical part about Intentional Eating is that you de-criminalize all foods. The IE crowd calls it “legitimizing” foods. I haven’t tried that as a process yet, but the first step is a paradigm shift.

I love pizza. Yes I do. I love pizza. How ‘bout you?

But I also have had a belief that eating pizza is BAD. BAD. BAD. Pizza should not be eaten by me. I, as a person, should not eat pizza. Eating pizza is not an activity I should partake in.

What does that thinking do? Makes me want pizza more than anything in the world.

But how about this? I can eat pizza if I want to. In a pizza establishment, should I wish to eat some pizza, that is just fine. Eating pizza is just an activity, not a benchmark for my worth and value as a person. So, hey, eat pizza if it’s what you want when you’re hungry. And then stop eating pizza when you’re full. Be aware of what you’re feeling and what you’re doing.

I’m pretty good at diets. I can restrict myself and even do it perfectly. Problem is, once the diet is over, there’s still pizza everywhere I look and eventually I can’t hold out anymore. And, personally, I am sick and tired of being so hard on myself.

At a store a few days ago, I was returning an item. A very distracted clerk was helping me. One of the things that was distracting her was her lunch plans. “I want White Castle today. I know they are the worst thing in the world to eat, though.” And do you think she was comfortable in her body? Maybe. I wouldn’t have been. She weighed 300 pounds. What would happen to her weight if White Castle was just another food that she could have it she was hungry? She might just find out that she didn’t really care for them, or maybe eat a couple and be satisfied, because she’d know she could have it again, no problem.

Remember, I’m an expert on this now, having followed this idea for 48 hours. Nah, I’m not an expert, just a regular person who’s convinced that there is more to life than following rules. I want to enjoy my life and now seems like as good a time as any to start. And I’m also convinced that life is a process and we learn as we go. I’ve had enough self-recriminations to last three lifetimes.

It’s time to begin living my life joyfully and playfully, even in the area of food. As Julian of Norwich said, "…All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Siouxsies Munching! Or How to Conquer That Diet!

I am a practitioner, a devotee, an advocate, a student of Intentional Eating. Having followed this philosophy for some 24 hours now, I am a veteran with much wisdom to share.

**See below for text of this food pyramid.

Before I share that much wisdom, I should tell you about my previous practice, Intentional Overeating. Practiced by many, I was not even surprised to learn the following statistics of people following IO:

Stay-at-home moms: 99.890467%
Basketball players, limousine drivers, Doormen, Supermodels, Jerry Seinfeld, Campfire Girls: .000023%
All others: .000000001%

Does that add up to about 100%?

Intentional Overeating has several interesting, and sometimes contradictory, tenets:

1. Intend to do better tomorrow.
2. Eat a lot of this bad food since it is definitely going to be the last time.
3. Never ever buy non-organic meat in the grocery store, but turn a blind eye to the meat at Wendy’s.
4. Really really intend to do better tomorrow.
5. Feel bad about every bite that goes into your mouth.
a. Bad food should make you feel bad because you are bad for eating it.
b. Good food should make you feel bad because you aren’t eating enough of it.
c. Neutral food should make you feel bad because you preferred bad food but couldn’t find any.
6. Be very sorry you overate and vow not to do it again.
7. Wish you had the decency to at least have an actual eating disorder instead of skirting the issue.
8. Know you are fat at all times, no matter what size you are wearing.
9. Follow the Intentional Overeaters Food Pyramid perfectly never mind it isn’t complete. Do it.

** All Foods that are unacceptable to eat because they are bad. These include all foods that taste good and every single food you want to eat. Also included are foods with protein, carbs, or fats. And meat. French fries. Pizza. Lord knows. Pizza. Dessert. Dessert menus. Food that is fun. Fried food. Partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats. Foods that claim to have no trans but must because they taste good. Comfort foods. Foods from your childhood. Restaurant food. Bagels. Muffins. Oh God doughnuts. Foods that come from a bakery. Foods not on the perimeter of the grocery store. Foods that will cause your blood sugar to spike! Anything that makes in your mouth. Anything that melts in your mouth. Food like Grandma used to make. Bacon. Cheese.

10. Intend to do better by Monday for sure.

So, the first step in conquering that diet is DO NOT FOLLOW THE RULES FOR INTENTIONAL OVEREATING. They’re a dead-end. More to come.

Siouxsie’s Moving! or How to Nail a Presentation

Maybe not in the way you think. We’re not moving to a new house or state or anything. The movement is more of a mental shift. That title just flowed, so I went with it. Y’know. Art and creativity and all.

I’ve been reading ALL KINDS OF completely cool stuff that has just been making my brain throw off sparks. Recently, I learned about three types of blogs, the first of which was called “cat blogs.” These are blogs that are just for the writer, and their 5 readers, and are basically online journal entries. Siouxsie’s Musings has been functioning largely as a cat blog, hasn’t it? Yes, indeed.

The other two types of blogs are called SOMETHING ELSE that I can’t remember, but the gist of them was a little more outward-focused. So, I thought I’d give this blog more of an informational-yet-oh-so-entertaining feel. Let’s give it a try ....

What prompted this post was the privilege this morning of observing Anna-Jessie present her Country Project in her geography class. But, how many million homeschool/proud-of-my-kid/this-was-fun posts do we suppose are already on the internet? And no matter how witty or wise this one is, in the end on my cat blog it would just be another one of those posts.


As I drove away after the class, I was reflecting on the experience. Several students did presentations, and you’d expect me to say that Anna-Jessie’s was the best (it was, of course), but again, what if there was something in this experience that I could teach others?

There is!!

How to Nail a Presentation

1. Start on the project early. I heard two students this morning tell the teacher they have not even started their project yet and they must present one week from today. Sure, most people can throw something together in a week, and depending on other responsibilities, may even be able to put together a stunning presentation. Those who start early have time to enjoy the process, refine ideas, get some feedback, practice the speech, and figure out the logistics of any papers or visual aids (more on this in number 4 below).

2. Love the one you’re with. Maybe you have to present on an assigned subject, rather than being able to choose it yourself. Find a way to enjoy the process of THIS project. How can you include subjects or activities you love into the project? Anna-Jessie loves art and she loves to cook. She made a creative and colorful presentation, as you can see above, and her country food was something she truly enjoyed making. Another example from this morning: the student who presented on Japan brought some “green tea chocolate balls.” I spoke with him and his mother afterward, and they both had pained grimaces as they explained what the food was, and I wondered why they made something that sounded gross to them, and ended up tasting, uh, interesting to the uninitiated. And how about the young man who walked in and said, “My country food is noodles and they smell really bad.” Figuring out a way to enjoy the process will not only enhance your preparation experience, but also your presentation and the experience of those listening to you.

3. Look! There are people out there! When the presenter has facial expressions that are not carved in stone, when there is a spark in the eye, and when those eyes look at the audience, the presentation is more fun to give and to listen to. Without adequate practice, presenters sometimes present the back of their head, or the top of their head, or keep their eyes absolutely glued to their notes. Talk to your audience!

4. Figure out logistics.Thinking of an example from this morning, does your presentation flow better if you can pick up the cool Russian hat from the table right next to you? How does that compare to a. realizing you need the hat and it’s back at your desk, b. stopping the presentation to walk the 8 feet to your desk to get said hat, c. picking up hat and returning to front of room, d. talking about hat?

5. Practice ahead of time! Make sure you know how to pronounce difficult or unusual words. Vary the words you use to start sentences or sections. Avoid simply reciting facts, especially when they include numbers. A student this morning gave a statistic this morning to the TEN-THOUSANDTHS place. It wasn’t a microscopic measurement - it was a percentage of the population who live in a certain area. I would have been ok with him rounding it off.

And there you have it. 5 simple preparation tips to help you pwn that presentation!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Ocean's Response

1. Ride the waves.

2. Enjoy the ride.

Do Not Blog While Grumpy

This is probably sound advice.

I think I've been on Facebook too much lately.

I'm realizing that I am not getting any more used to all the profanity, homosexual banter, and angry rantings. Rather, I am finding that I feel like I am taking a bath in very dirty water. Now, what to do with this dilemma. I actually care about the people I am friends with on Facebook. Want to be a warm and accepting person in re other people. Just wondering how it came to be that unwholesome (now there's an old-fashioned word) communication is apparently not only acceptable but even preferable.

When I think of parents that I have looked up to, I know they would not want their children to be using profanity regularly and lightly, joking in relatively graphic terms about homosexual topics, and dismissing the world or parts thereof with acerbic, bitter, or caustic comments. Of course, most of the parents I look up to were heavy into parenting BEFORE the Facebook era. (BFE)

I want my children and other young adults i love to care about protecting the sensibilities of others by caring about what they are posting. The ocean comes to mind, since i am on the beach. i stood in the waves yesterday and felt their strong pull -- both shoreward and out to sea. I could no more stop those waves than I could create the ocean. So, digging my heels in to stop the waves wouldn't have the desired outcome. I do get weary of "going with the flow" all the time, but there must be a sense in which taking a stand for a minute, to at least stand strong against the waves, can have an affect on me, even if the waves do not stop. The whole analogy, for those who cannot read my mind, is about the tidal wave of language on Facebook, both word choice and usage.

Do other parents intentionally steer clear of their kids' Facebook pages so as not to know, keeping their head in the sand, as it were? I hate the feeling of sand in my ears, eyes, mouth and nose, so that doesn't really work for me. Do other parents steer clear of their kids' Facebook pages because they believe "kids will be kids" and the kind of communication happening on Facebook is just fine?

So what do I want? I want to be in communication with my own kids and their friends. And I'm realizing that just reading status updates is not being in communication, even if it may be what passes for communication these days. I suppose it's up to me what I read on Facebook, as I do have options to hide and de-friend people. And I want to be an actor, an originator, not just a receptor and reactor.

As usual, this blog entry helped me think through what it is I want, and I just shared it with those few people who also read this blog. Never a dull moment for those who are simply trying to live life as people who love and care about others.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

There's a Reason Why People Always ...

write about the sea.

Between Hemingway and Melville and lots of other people, plenty has been written about the ocean, so I hardly think I'm going to add anything particularly original here, but the ocean is just so rife with meaning and beauty and grace and experience.

Man, I love the ocean. I love the expanse. I love the depth. I love the Mariana Trench. I love the waves and the tides and the beach and the sand. I love the lantern fish. It's all just really beautiful.

I know. I wax eloquent. But I got to introduce Kepler to the ocean today. I remember when our older kids saw the ocean for the first time and that was a sweet time, but Kepler's experience is quite a bit more present to me.

I think of the ocean like I think of love. When you experience genuine love, you want more and more of it, like the ocean. The ocean draws you in little by little like love does. The ocean is wild and dangerous and exciting, like love is. Love, like the ocean, has meaning and beauty and grace and experience. And there ya go. Love and the ocean. Both irresistible. Both larger than life.

Think I figured it out.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Got Momentum?

That's a big 10-4, Good Buddy.

After Eli and I attended Unleash the Power Within, I absorbed even more of Tony's teaching in his Time of Your Life time management course. I, too, had been to the time management courses that taught me how to prioritize my to-do list (A, B, C), and instructed me to be ruthless about doing the things on my list in the order proscribed. That particular ABC course was in 1986. I was a young college grad working for the College while Greg did his graduate work, and I actually found the concept pretty helpful. But nowhere in that or any other course until this one was the question of fulfillment addressed. TR points out that you can complete everything on your list, yet if you end up no more fulfilled than you were when you started, it's simply a to-do list. Tasks without meaning behind them are nothing more than tasks.

Contrast that with first figuring out what you want, and why, and THEN figuring out the how's, or the to-do portion of the list.

Valerie graduates tomorrow. A few weeks ago I heard she and the other seniors were going out for dinner tonight. That sparked an idea for me to host a dinner for them in our home. Well, first of all, we have a really. little. home. Big yard, yes, but small home. Where was I going to put them all (total of 13)? And from that stress-inducing question, I could go into major "how" mode, and probably come up with a plan, and probably be a-stressin about it every step of the way. Instead, I started with "What do I want?" and realized that I wanted to provide a space for the students to share a meal, make memories, laugh, and have fun together; with a menu, layout and agenda that would empower these students to be launched into their future; celebrate their accomplishments by giving them a place to just be together without any pressure to perform.

The second piece, the "why" of the "what," is also essential. It's the piece I need to have in place to refer to in the process of bringing the vision to fruition. The answer to the "why" was because I believe that making memories is a valuable, worthwhile, meaningful activity, especially when the memories involve laughter, fun, and joy.

It was at THIS point that I felt sufficiently focused to come up with the "how."

The dinner was last evening. Even though Greg was still out of town and I was therefore responsible for all the logistics myself and/or for enlisting the help of several others such as my sisters and b-in-law, I enjoyed the entire process from start to finish. Planning the menu, communicating with the students, shopping for and preparing the food, enlisting the help of Eli and two of his friends to be my "wait staff." (They were adorable, hilarious, and added a lot of fun to the proceedings). Decorating the table. Using some of the beautiful things I have (china, goblets), and enjoying the eclectic nature of the table since everything I have comes in sets of 1-8, but certainly not 12 or 13!

This concept -- getting clear about what I want, and why -- has empowered me to go beyond the mere crossing-off of things on my list. I was trying to remember this Nietzsche quote: "If you know the why, you can live any how." but I think that quote has a different emphasis than the point I'm trying to make, which is: "If you build the why, the how will come." Having a how that is fulfilling a why? That really works.

The senior dinner was easily the singularly most relaxed entertaining I have ever done, and I made all the food myself, including homemade bread! (H/T to Costco, though, for the super cake). And when I look back at the description of what I wanted, I realize I got every bit of that. And the why? Yes, it was the reason I hosted the dinner, and I think, the reason it went so smoothly.

Check it out. Time of Your Life. The Cincinnati Public library system has a few copies, and it is WELL worth listening to the CD and watching the DVD. Of course, when I came to this course, I had already been converted to this mindset of going TO something, the idea of PULL motivation, so TOYL made perfect sense.

I created a tangible memory for the seniors, which you see in the picture (to be posted later). I used the Hobbiton font that Valerie loves. On the back of the page, I put the lyrics to City of Blinding Lights. And oh, the kids looked SO beautiful last night in all their youth and potential and yet-to-be-ness.

At the end of the day, many small decisions I had made over the course of the past few weeks had come together in a lovely harmony of homemaking and hospitality.

Congratulations, Class of 2011! I am so proud of all of you!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Can See Clearly Now!

My cousin asked me to blog about my recent Lasik eye surgery, and I started a post the other day. I had to stop when I realized that my focus was on some of my past experiences with glasses and contacts, and that most of those experiences were painful in some way. Maybe those painful experiences will be a blog post sometime, but they weren't where I wanted to go.

I've been thinking about getting my vision corrected for years, since the early 1990's, when it was still RK and PRK, before Lasik even came along. I had my first Lasik eval in about 2002 but rejected the procedure because it was explained to me that my short-distance vision would be lost. What that meant to me was that I would never be able to see the faces of my babies and loved ones clear, at a close distance, and I simply could not give up that sweet closeness.

I decided to check into it again about a year ago, and started the process by getting mono-vision contacts to simulate having one eye corrected for distance and one for close-up. I liked the mono-vision, but wearing contacts was less than desirable to me, so I wore them infrequently, although enough to know that the MV would work for me.

After UPW (the Tony Robbins event I attended in March), I decided to take the next step, a full evaluation by my eye doc to determine how appropriate Lasik would be for me. They said all systems go, as did the eye surgeon, and surgery was scheduled for a couple of weeks out.

I felt very confident about having the procedure done ... until the night before the scheduled time. That's when I read the consent form, and I got very nervous about all the "what ifs" that were flying around in my brain. The main problem? I believed there was no possible way I could put myself out of commission (if something were to go less than optimally). I don't really have time right now to be sick or unable to drive or having to focus on some physical symptom. Valerie's graduation is coming up, Greg and Anna-Jessie's trip starts Thursday, GO Cincinnati is this weekend, and oh did I mention I have five kids, a husband, and a home to care for? And I've got the most marvelous momentum going, and I think my biggest fear was that the surgery would slow, stop, or actually reverse that momentum.

What got me to the table was remembering something I recently heard: If you CAN'T do something, you MUST do it. I understand this to mean that courage is called for in the face of fear. And so I dug down and found some courage and texted Greg that I thought it was going to be ok. And went to sleep.

Friday morning, we arrived early and went through a few details and then I walked into the operating theater, and Greg sat in the observation room, and actually watched (and VIDEOed!) the procedure.

The actual operation was pretty straightforward and easy. My biggest job was to remember to breathe and to keep focusing on that little blinking light. It was over almost before it started. I walked back into the examination room and sat in the patient chair. I could see out into the hall, and I was able to focus on the shelves that were 20 feet away, something I haven't been able to do for 6/7 of my life, and I almost cried at the miracle this was to be able to see.

Friday was a resting day, a sleeping day, a recovery day. Friday was a smooth day, but the night was not. The disturbance in the night was unrelated to my vision or the surgery, but demanded courage of a different kind. Maybe a blog post about that sometime; we'll see.

Saturday morning was the 24hr follow-up and all looked great to the doc.

Fluctuations in vision during the healing process are normal. Blinking usually clears things up, and I'm quickly forgetting what dependency on glasses feels like. I love being able to see. It's been a dream for years, to be able to see the world without some type of external lens to focus through, and that dream has now been realized.

As for the issue with the close vision, it's different than I thought. When I wore glasses, they corrected my nearsightedness and my farsightedness, but I had this precious close vision where I could see without any glasses at all -- a clarity unmatched by any corrected vision. Now I have the ability to see close AND far, and I can actually see close-up as well. There are some conditions where I can't see completely clearly, REALLY close-up, but I didn't actually lose the precious close-up vision, I gained a heck of a whole lot instead.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

That's my Grocery Bagger!

A buncha years ago, my groceries were sometimes bagged by Judy, a woman with short black hair, and the tell-tale features of Down syndrome on her face. I remember one day she was letting her mood direct her contact with my produce and bread, and it seemed to me they were getting short shrift. I remember feeling irritated with her, because MY produce and MY bread should only be treated with the utmost care. Right? Well, whatever. Then along came Kepler, and my understanding of and appreciate for Down syndrome changed dramatically. I guess Judy moved on because I didn't see her anymore. Until today.

This morning, I took Anna-Jessie to my mom's church at Mom's request. Her desire was for her entire extended family to be sitting in the second row at her church to celebrate this special day in the Christian calendar. Oh, I had plans for my entire family to be there, yes I did. And Gina was bringing her family, and Mindy was bringing Joelie. Our family would stuff a pew! Reality set in this morning, and long story short, Gina's family wasn't there, so it was just Mindy, Joelie, Anna-Jessie and myself. Mom's church is more traditional than Crossroads, but I know their music is awesome, having worked with the director at another church many years ago. Not to mention I know when my mother is excited about choral music, I tend to appreciate it as well.

And they sang . . .

The weight of sin, the sting of death
Were swallowed up by righteousness
Vanquished by the Son of God
It was finished on the cross
It was finished on the cross

And we rejoice in victory
We lift our eyes to Calvary
Before the battle has begun
By Jesus’ blood it has been won
It was finished on the cross

His gift of grace our heart betrays
With urge to merit or repay
We need not live to pay the cost
For it was finished on the cross
It was finished on the cross

And I sang it too! I couldn't help but sing along with every song as the music was stirring, the chord progressions were harmonious, and the message was pure energy.

Suddenly, in the middle of the song, I noticed Judy. Right in the center of the front row. Singing these words with all her heart. Raising her hands in worship and praise. And it touched my heart so deeply. To think that a women who has the disability she has, with experiences in her life no doubt of being rejected and sidelined, has the opportunity to stand with other Christians and sing her heart out, affirming that her battle has been won. Tears rolled down my face as I considered how much love Christians give to others, how they include the marginalized and welcome them in with open arms.

Later, when talking with Mom about this, she told me that Judy actually sings in a monotone voice, yet she is welcomed into the choir. I love that.

I'm glad I saw Judy again. I didn't have a chance to talk with her today, but I was thankful for the opportunity to see her in a different light, one more loving and accepting than the one I had the first time I saw her many years ago. Again, I am thankful for Kepler. Again, I love the journey I am on.

Happy Easter.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Could it Mean?

I have a friend and fellow blogger who recently wrote a post on the commodification of water. I read posts like that and realize that there are definitely different types of blogging. His post was intellectual and dealt with big picture, important issues. But I'm really not so much about big-picture type things, other than the piece of the big picture that I can contribute to. Hopefully, at the end of the day, or the end of the post, I do contribute something to the big picture, as that is my heart. The best way I can do that is to express who I am.

Today, I'm writing about the Christmas cactus given to me by my grandmother about 10 years ago. When she gave it to me, she told me it was over 100 years old, which I found amazing, as it had been passed down through the family, and here it was, in my home, connected to all those people. I believe she said my great-grandmother had brought it to Oklahoma with her when they came for the Land Run of 1889. It has bloomed faithfully each year at least once, usually around Easter. I love the beautiful flowers. I treasure my Christmas cactus.

Recently, I noticed my cactus leaves were withering. Greg and I decided to re-pot, and sped to Lowe's to choose a larger pot. Came home with a large, ceramic pot, and Greg gave it all new soil and a new, fresh environment. He trimmed and pruned and we wished it well. But, the cactus still isn't thriving.

Another long-standing idea my grandmother passed down to me was the idea of not being enough. Don't get me wrong -- she never told ME I wasn't enough, but she clearly believed that she wasn't. Grandma created a beautiful life, and shared her creativity in so many ways with her family and friends. Each of my children has a homemade Raggedy Ann/Andy doll she hand-stitched from start to finish, including the clothes. I have written elsewhere about the privilege it is for me to have her china cabinet in my home. She was a inspiration for me, a strong woman, capable on the farm, a wondrous cook, full of humor and fun, patient with untangling the marionette strings we tangled up day after day, patient with grandchildren asking for help removing the ubiquitous Oklahoma stickers from our feet.

Grandma's fear of not being enough wasn't unique to her, but I bought the idea hook, link, and sinker. In my younger years, I tried hard to contradict the belief she had about herself. I saw her as a marvel, a light, a beacon, and I wanted her to see herself like I saw her.

I never convinced her.

I recently attended an event called Unleashing the Power Within. Part of that event includes addressing limiting beliefs. My mind finally understood that the belief of not being enough has been in my life, and has wielded great power. Yet, somehow I left that belief behind when I left the Greater Ft. Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center.

Is the Christmas cactus a picture of the belief system that she passed down to me, with love? Is the cactus no longer thriving because the belief system is no longer thriving? To the extent that the cactus represents the limiting belief Grandma embodied and lived, I am ready to let it go. Even if the cactus revives, the belief system is gone. Whatever happens to the cactus, my life has changed and will never be the same.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Stuff

It was a dark and stormy night and we embarked on a long and winding road to get to the Newport on the Levee for the screening of the Adjustment Bureau. The pre-movie announcements scared me sufficiently to keep my phone off the whole entire time, because I really didn't want to get sent to the principal's office, and that's what was promised. So, I worried every so often that one of my children might be texting me with a really important question (Where are the paper towels?) and I would miss it. Finally, I plunged my phone deep into the recesses of my purse, covered the screen with my hand and a lens-cleaning cloth, and pressed the button which would show me if I had any texts. None! Whew!

And I sat next to a famous person, who overheard my comment about how I wouldn't have come to this if it weren't Adjustment Bureau, and he broke into our conversation and said "Me, neither!" His famousness is relative, and pretty much limited to Crossroads, but still.

And I was on my first date with the mom of my son's girlfriend. (Did you understand that?) We're about the same age and have a gosh-darn lot of stuff in common, so it was a LOT of fun.

Oh, you want to know about the movie? It was very thought-provoking, quite well done, not predictable in the slightest, and a very interesting story.Written by George Nolfi, who also wrote the Bourne Ultimatum, it's based on a short story by Philip Dick. (I just did a little internet surfing and see there is quite a body of literature by Mr. Dick. I will be checking some out at the local public libes.)

Two lines from The Big Chill are apropros for this film. One: "You just have to let art ..... flow ..... over you." and "I think the man in the hat did something terrible." (both lines were spoken by Williiam Hurt's character, the druggie, Nick.)

From the opening frames, where Damon's character, David Norris, stands inside a building waiting to go out and give a speech, to the frenetic chase near the end, doors and windows feature prominently in this movie. For me, they represented movement, choice, and faith. There was also a sense of being somewhere ("in or contained") and moving toward more freedom and openness. I loved the scenes where the characters went through doors and came out somewhere other than where you would expect. It would be like me opening the back door of my house and stepping into the Little Sahara desert. It seems to me like those who endeavor to live by faith are forever stepping through doors, not knowing exactly what they will find on the other side. It's kind of exciting and dangerous, just like I think faith is.

I'm a big Matt Damon fan. I remember being amazed at his story and his creativity in Good Will Hunting, to being blown away by The Legend of Bagger Vance, to simply enjoying the Bourne series. So, without knowing ANYTHING about this movie, when I received the invitation, I said yes to Matt Damon, basically.

Lots to think about in this movie -- does God intervene in our lives? Does He somehow change His mind based on choices I make? Is He outside time somehow so that He responds to my choices without it meaning He is changing his mind? What might it look like if I could see behind the scenes of my own life? Can something be "wrong" when every single bit of my being tells me it is "right?" How important are feelings in the scheme of things? Do I have free will?

This is a movie that needs to be watched multiple times, and I will be doing just that!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A day in the Life

About a year ago, a 17-year friendship ended by mutual decision, but her parting words to me were a prediction that I was going to have a lonely life due to my inability to be a good friend. We each had one child when we met and proceeded to have 9 more between us. I hung in there through difficult times for the sake of our kids, but finally it became apparent to both of us, in different ways and with different conclusions, that we would be better off apart than together. It took awhile to let my heart unconstrict from her criticism. And because she had pointed out my shortcomings many times, I wondered if her words might be true. A certain someone close to me assured me that her characterization of me was off-base and wrong. But I, ever the self-flaggelator, JUST IN CASE, took this loving person's words with a grain of salt. What if she was right? What if my inability to be a "good friend" as she defined it was TRUE? Would I ever have another good friend?

I am happy to say the answer is yes, yes, and more yes. I have a dear friend, Ranee, who loves me, accepts me, enjoys being with me, and for whom I do the same. She has been a rock for me --- understanding and empathizing in so many situations.

Today, I had coffee with a new friend, Suzie, and dinner with another new friend, the Incomparable Miss L. I enjoyed both of these people immensely and these connections came on a day I needed to connect with some warm and loving folks. It was actually a good day in many ways, but I was given news this evening that was difficult to hear and is going to require significant effort to get through, not just on my part, but the part of others of my family members.

I believe my ex-friend and I tried to treat each other as we would want to be treated. I think one of the big problems was that we wanted to be treated in different ways. I was looking for a type of authenticity she was convinced that I did not really want, and she certainly did not want. Be that as it may, with Ranee and Suzie and Miss L, I feel a connection that comes naturally. I don't feel like I have to figure out how to be someone other than Siouxsie. They all seem to like Siouxsie just fine. True, we haven't been friends for 17 years yet, but I have hope that we *could* be long-term friends, and that we *will* be. So here's to you -- Ranee, Suzie, Randi -- and all of you wonderful people I don't know yet. Thank you for being a friend! (Who hears Leo Sayer singing that line!?! - you and I can be friends, too!)

PS. There are many others I am privileged to call friend -- you know who you are! Love you all!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hey Y'all!

Tonight you get blog post without clever illustration. Typing with one finger on my iPad plus it doesn't look like I can upload photos from my iPad to my blog. So, use your imagination.

Have freed up other hand so now typing with two fingers.

Anyway, it's been a quiet week in my hometown. The flu which was roaring through our home targeted me specifically on Tues evening, Wednesday all the lifelong day, Thursday, and by Friday things were finally getting back to normal for me, but now Kepler was full-on feeling quite puny with upper respiratory goings-on. Trip to the doctor Saturday morning after rough nig Friday night.

Our little home has always mystified us in some ways. Specifically, we wonder and marvel at decisions that the builder made. Even in 1957, some of these decisions seem crazy! Who puts the light switch BEHIND THE DOOR? They do! Who wires the electricity crazier than a loon? They do! And so on!

Anyway, one of our hobbies for the past 11 years has been to figure out how in the world to use the space in this house. There have been several remodeling projects which have improved things but the layout and room size have always been challenging. Many homes I walk into these days seem to have space, and more space, and the public space is way separated from the private space. Not here! Walk in our front door and you're pretty much in the heart of family life right away. I have gotten used to that and have realized that of the people who come here, 99.8% of them could care less about cluttered counters and a giant pile of shoes by the front door. Indeed, I do want guests to feel loved and cared for here. (just had Deja vu when I typed that -- maybe I have mentioned that before.)

But, as the kids have gotten bigger, these rooms have shrunk. The dining "room" was the trickiest. Only a few feet larger than the table, and a major, thoroughfare, we've had to scoot around the table M.A.N.Y. times. Can be tricky at night In the dark. But Greg had brainstorm today which we carried out. I should add that I had also had part of this idea previously, but his rendition was more complete.

You know those Homearama houses that have every special touch you could ever want? I like those houses. It would be entirely too boring for me to tell you about all the "special" touches the builders put in here. But I have noticed them! And we have addressed many of them.

When we moved in, the dining room had gold carpet, and a couple of short walls which were topped by these planter things which the previous homeowner had adorned with plastic flowers. To each his own, of course, but in short order we had removed the flowers, planters, and soon after, the short walls. Left to wonder how they managed to make the wall crooked, we painted and caulked and drew the eye ceiling ward so as not to notice how the wall and baseboard slanted outward at one point. We put doors on the kitchen doorway to put some noise boundaries between the dishwasher and small group meetings. We took down the wall of mirrors, and just shook our head at the floor of the coat closet (tall enough, but the floor had been built up. On a slant. So stupid.

And now? You'd never even know that was supposed to be a dining room. It just looks like you walk into a lovely, large living room when you come in the front door. So come on over and see the new arrangement! We'd love to see you!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

And Another Thing!

Raise your mouse if you remember what this blog started out as. No one? Well, it has been awhile. I started this blog to share with the world my "exciting" and "effective" decluttering process. But so far, there's been more "clutter" than "de."

However, I was working in the basement this morning and guess what I found. My copy of "Soonerette's Country Pride Cookbook." This used to belong to my grandmother and her contributions have her first married name on them, which she had up until 1981. Wow, does this bring back memories. And the names of the contributors! Ora Lee, Treva, Pearl, Hallie, Midge, Lena -- most of whom I knew.

Put together with a typewriter by hand, this is the real deal. And my grandmother made notes by some of the recipes "Too rich;" "Don't try this;" "Very good."

Sweet thoughts at the bottom of the pages:

"Take time to help and enjoy friends -- it is the source of happiness."
"Take time to laugh -- it is the singing that helps with life's load."

4 cups of Love
2 cups of Loyalty
3 cups of Forgiveness
1 cup of Friendship
5 spoons of Hope
2 spoons of Tenderness
4 Quarts of Faith
1 Barrel of Laughter

Take love and loyalty, mix it thoroughly with faith. Blend it with tenderness, kindness, and understanding. Add friendship and hope, sprinkle abundantly with laughter. Bake it with sunshine. Serve daily with generous helpings."

What a treasure this is to me. I will probably try a few of these recipes, and probably not try a few of them. But I will place it in my cookbook cabinet and treasure it. It's not clutter. At all.

Friday, January 21, 2011

There's No Place Like Home, or: That's Why I Love Kansas

Just LOOK at those nice straight streets. For this easily over-stimulated brain, those straight streets are a breath of fresh air.

Did you know that I decided as a teenager that I would be marrying someone from the midwest? Especially Oklahoma or Kansas? The adolescent me felt a deep connection with the normal life and environment of the farmer, familiar with fields of wheat and other grains. So, when I was falling right in love with Greg at Wheaton, I noticed with satisfaction that he was from that part of the country, and figured that had to be at least part of why I was so attracted to him.

Our recent trip to Wichita was a huge undertaking, and I wasn't sure how all those hours in the van were going to be. As it turned out, we spent much of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday on the road, since it is 900 miles out there and back. "Why didn't you fly???" we got asked. Because for a family of seven, sometimes flying is not the best way to travel, especially in light of potential weather delays.

We tried to rent a 12- or 15- passenger van, and were assured "We have PLENTY available," at the point of actually renting, we found out they had NONE available. Instead, we were blessed with only having a conversion van available to rent. The Magical Van, I call it, since the kids traveled beautifully, including Kepler. Nothing like a long car trip to make everyone either hate each other, or give everyone some pretty good family time. Of course, it helps to have a driver such as Greg, who rivals any standup comedian, especially early in the morning or late at night. For instance, Thursday morning as we waited in the Starbucks drive-through, he finished up his, what did he call that Fairfield Inn coffee, "blackened, crusty stew-water." Valerie seems to be very good at remembering things and being able to act them out, so she treated us to plenty of Brian Regan routines as well. Basically, my family is good at turning everyday life into hilarity, which makes for a good trip.

The visitation and funeral were done the old-fashioned way, and there was a family lunch at the church afterwards, prepared by one of the Sunday school classes of older folks. Ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans, bread, and church dinner salads. Iced tea, coffee, cake. It was the same dinner we had for the family lunch after Greg's mother's funeral. I guess I'm just an old-fashioned kind of a girl, because I felt comfortable there in the church. Loved hearing the hymns sung, and deeply appreciated that lunch lovingly prepared by people who see this as their ministry.

All in all, strangely enough, the trip energized me and helped me out of a funk I had fallen into of late. Our ties to Wichita are mostly over, but I will always love the town, the people there, and that part of the country.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Kicking against the goads

Have you noticed how many times you are asked to verify your "information" these days?

When call the doctor to make an appointment, I am asked to verify address and telephone. I am asked again at check-in. I am asked whenever I call to ask a question. Multiply this by the pediatrician, ENT specialist, eye doctor, allergist, primary care physician, insurance company, Verizon customer service (i might be making that up) by seven people and six phone lines. I know they are going to ask me to verify this information every single time, and while I am sure there must be scads of people who move between the time they make a doctor's appointment for this afternoon and the appointment itself, but really. It really bugs me that I must spew this information out over and over and over. I suppose it is the impersonal nature of it that gets to me. When I call my sister, or send a message on Facebook, she is able to respond to me without needing to make sure I have the same address and phone number because we have a relationship and people I have relationships with would presumably know if Greg and I moved to a new home. So, even though we have been with the same doctors/practices/health insurance company/phone service provider for a minimum of 5 years and in many cases 10 years with absolutely no change in our "information" we must verify it every single time.

Along with that is the incessant paperwork, and signatures required, every single time for the same thing. I suppose again there are people out there whose situations change and can't or won't sign on the dotted line. I'm just not one of those people, I guess. Somehow, the professional establishments have decided that it is best practice to require this information over and over and over. And over. I suppose I would be somewhat mollified if I could just shorten it a bit. As a matter of fact, I am going to begin asking if it is enough to give them the street name, rather than house number, street, city, state, zip. Wouldn't you think that if the street name is the same the rest of it probably is, too? Why the high need to verify the info? What am I missing?

I believe I am going to begin to not be as compliant and see what happens. Well, aren't I the radical rebel?

And, yes, dear blog readers, my name, address, social, and telephone number are the same as they were the last time I posted, in case you were wondering.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Christmas Tree that Kept on Giving

OK, personally I find insects kind of revolting. I talk a good story about being kind to spiders for they are our friends (yes, I know they are not insects, but they are surely buglike). For the most part, I can let bugs live outside, and can even tolerate such things as crane flies inside. But some bugs are just simply not welcome in the Taylor casa. Mi casa ain't the bug's casa.

Our Christmas tree apparently did not get the memo. We bought a real tree this year, going to the special nursery to choose a good tree, and bring it home amongst much hilarity and jollity. Ah, how we enjoyed the lovely fragrance.

Christmas morning, we all chose our spots, and piled up the prezzies nearby. Anna-Jessie reached for one, and threw it down suddenly since it was covered with black bugs. Eek! Handily storing my vacuum in the living room, I put it together and vacuumed off the present. Then we noticed there were more, many more, of the bugs under the tree and on the floor. Between vacuuming the floor and the presents as people opened them, I pulled out my ipad and discovered that these bugs were harmless cinara aphids and wouldn't hurt our plants or our home or anything. But, STILL!

I kept that vacuum busy, and as soon as the last present was opened and oohed and ahed over, i ran the tree skirt outside, we ripped the lights and ornaments off the tree, and got it out of the house. Then I proceeded to vacuum every square inch of the room to make sure they were all quite dead and gone.

The tree lay in stark repose outside for several days. On a particularly warm late December day, another bunch of aphids hatched out, but this time they were outside.

Apparently, this is not strange or unusual, although it was the first time I had ever heard of it. I can tell you the kids may not remember every present they got this Christmas, but they will never forget the Christmas Tree that Kept on Giving!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Seven Lines of Text

The other night, we were doing our traditional family New Years Eve activity where we record memories from 2010 and hopes/goals for2011 on a big piece of posterboard. I went to look back through my blog to be reminded of all the events of 2010. Oops. Only 12 posts.

I love sharing my thoughts with my readers and so enjoy the responses from people. To experience that satisfaction, looks like I'm going to have to POST something on here.

Instead of setting goals like "I will post every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday," I decided that I would post seven lines of text today. It's always ok if I go beyond seven lines, but that's such a doable goal, I decided to go for it right now!

Seven lines of text goes along with the FlyLady's theme for 2011, which has something to do with seven. Seven tasks, seven things to give away, etc. She had been encouraging people to work for 15 minutes on tasks, 15 minutes of decluttering, but decided that "seven in 2011" made sense.

There have been 2 days in 2011 where my family were off doing their normal work and school things, and both days I have spent taking care of 7 things at a time. Counting the items reminded me of how much I enjoy jwalking when I am counting my steps (200 walking, 200 jogging). Mundane? Of course! But my brain seems to respond well to counting -- what can I say!

For me, putting away 7 things, clearing 7 things off the counter, removing 7 unneeded things from my sewing box, putting away 7 dishes, gets A LOT done; actually, it gets about 7 times as much done as trying to tackle everything at once.

A fellow blogger mentioned that many bloggers choose a word at the beginning of the year as a theme. I can't imagine any word that I could choose that would continue to have meaning throughout the year, besides love or grace. The best word I can think of right now as a theme is the number seven.

I've always loved the verses in Matthew where Peter asks how many times he should forgive people -- "Seven?" he asks. Jesus says not seven, but seventy times seven. Every time I think of seven, I remember how wonderful it is to forgive and be forgiven.

Happy New Year, everyone!