Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hobbit ... in 3D

By now, the first showings of the Hobbit have happened and millions of people have seen this film. Many of them are counting down the minutes, hours, days and months to the next installment of the story. I understand there are two more installments coming. Whew.

My favorite part of this film was the fantastic beards. The dwarves don't just have beards; they have BEARDS with BRAIDS, BEADS, and BEAUTIFUL designs. Best part. Hands down.

As per usual, something that seems to be gobbled up by popular culture is something I don't really seem to have a taste for. I'm not sure what that's about. I know when I was a kid, my mom's philosophy was that we didn't want to "see ourselves walking down the street." Translation: do not wear what everyone else wears. When I was a kid, though, there wasn't a good enough reason I could think of not to wear those cool clothes that everyone else wore, except that my loving mother wouldn't buy them for me. Boy was I glad when I could afford my own CALVIN KLEIN jeans!

When our own children were younger, Greg used to read aloud to them most every evening. We read through many, many books, including the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbit, all of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Phantom Tollbooth, and many more. It takes awhile to get through all of the pages of Tolkien's wonderful stories. Somehow, through all of the reading aloud, the kids absorbed some interest in reading and re-read Tolkien, CS Lewis, and JK Rowling numerous times. When the original LOTR movies came out, Valerie, in particular, knew exactly which parts of the movies were faithful to the books, which ones weren't, and which ones were additions that didn't fit with the story.

Although I have seen bits and pieces of the LOTR movies, they were really too much for me visually, aurally and experientially. Somewhere along the way, those who run movie theaters made the decision to jack up the volume, perhaps to cover up the fact that what was on the screen was problematic in any number of ways, perhaps to keep the attention of the majority of us whose attention spans are shrinking. And, in the Hobbit the other night, the volume was up as per normal.

Overall, for me, the Hobbit was too long, too loud, and too unfaithful to the book. 

I suspect my opinion is the one held by a minority of movie-goers. As a matter of fact, probably the ones who don't like the volume, and who love books are the ones who tend not to go the movies anyway. (Not that moviegoers can't love books.) Be that as it may, I really didn't like the Hobbit as a movie.

The first film covers the first 110 pages of the book, by my estimation. The book is 304 pages long, so that is a logical break. And though Peter Jackson is truly a master filmmaker, there are entirely too many battles and chases, and too little portrayal of the creativity that Tolkien put into the dialogue and character development in this story. In the book, the range of emotions is broad. In the movie, the range was rather flat.

My biggest beef with the film was that I knew many younger kids would be seeing it. It got a PG-13 rating, but I would not want any of my kids under the age of 14 to see it. Way too much violence. Non-stop violence in several scenes. True, it wasn't gory or bloody, which I suspect was avoided to garner the PG-13 rating, but VERY violent never-the-less. Do we really want our children to watch violence in such a de-sensitized manner that such things don't really bother them?

How could anyone really absorb the emotional impact of the visual coupled with the dramatic music that just seemed to get louder and more intense as we went along? Even the young, agile brains of my sons who were along with me (ages 18&17) had to have at some point turned "off" in response to the ever-increasing demands of the visuals and music. I wonder.

What did YOU think of the Hobbit film? How did you experience the frenetic pace, the dramatic music? If you loved it, tell me about that!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Outcome of the Waldorf Visit

Still processing our experience at the Cincinnati Waldorf School this week.

It was arranged that Kepler would visit the school for the morning and spend it in the kindergarten room to see if he would be a good fit with the school. Although I was told that they have had a few special needs children in the kindergarten, I do not know what those needs were. I tried to prepare Kepler for the fact that he was going to visit the school, but I can see now there would things it might have been good to share with him, show him?

The very nice enrollment director told me they would be looking for the ability to follow directions, to imitate the teacher's physical actions, and one other thing along those lines. Kepler can definitely do those things, so we moved forward with the visit.

We had already visited the school on an Open House day, and I got a vibe from the teacher that she would not be interested in having Kepler in her particular classroom. I understood that not everyone is interested in working with special needs children, and the more controlled environment you are after, the more that may be messed up by the unpredictability of a child with special needs.

The Waldorf school is a very special and unique environment, which I find very peaceful and relaxing. Long story short, after the visit they let me know they do not feel Kepler is ready developmentally for their kindergarten. I had somewhat anticipated this, but I did realize that they actually were wanting MORE from him than they articulated.

I think it is interesting that what they felt like was not a good fit was the amount of freedom available to the kids, and yet it's a carefully defined freedom. They felt like Kepler couldn't work with the freedom that was available. I'm pretty sure there was no orientation whatsoever for him, just a plunge directly into the classroom routine, which was different from anything he had ever seen or done.

So, it seems to me like what they were wanting was the three characteristics they mentioned, PLUS the ability to come into an unfamiliar environment and figure out what to do, what not to do, and what was ok and what was not ok. My conclusion is that this was a lot to ask of Kepler, and I can completely understand him testing limits, checking things out, etc.

I do understand and embrace their decision, and was ok with either outcome. I am just glad I was willing to give it a try, something very unfamiliar and certainly outside my control. (Have I mentioned that I've enjoyed the illusion of being in control quite a bit?) And now I know -- this isn't a good fit for my sweet boy. And I can't help thinking of what they are going to miss out on, not getting to be with this amazing boy!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Today's Most Interesting Phone Conversation

I had the privilege of speaking with a mom today who is considering what to do for schooling for her son next year. She called me because I have "heap big experience." So I told her a little of this and a little of that.

And one of the things she mentioned was her concerns about schools teaching evolution without teaching "all four theories." I assume she was including creationism, intelligent design, evolution, and a fourth one. Can't think of it right now. But as she discussed her issue with evolution, she let me know she would plan to let the teacher know that her son would memorize the information presented in class but that he doesn't believe it. I'm usually a very good LISTENER, who offers murmurs of affirmation and little puffs of understanding. But, I noticed today that I felt like I wanted to dissent just a little from what she was saying. I tried to still listen and affirm, but I told her I personally wouldn't do that and I would wonder what she would want to accomplish by telling the teacher that her son doesn't believe the information. If she wants her son to learn "all four" theories, I suggested she just supplement at home.

The other thing that struck me was she felt strongly that children should not receive academic credit for bringing in supplies to school. And, again, I felt like it was important to gently mention that individual teachers are doing the best they can, and many are doing a fantastic job, and that teachers are all part of a district-wide system, and a state-wide system.

When she brought up the concern about whether or not the school system observes some kind of day of silence that has something to do with how gays have been silenced through the years, I just groaned inside. Is this really what Christians should be focusing on? I'd say no. How about supporting the teachers, the school, the administration, through prayer and volunteering and lots of practical outpourings of love.

I know parents just want the best for their kids. I understand that. And of course people have convictions. I also understand that. But I think when the convictions get in the way of loving other people, the priorities are skewed. I remember a song that says "They'll know we are Chrsitians by our love." Let it be so.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

750Words and HealthMonth -- 2 websites that are inspiring me

This is Buster Benson. I don't know him, beyond the detailed information on his website but he must be a very fun-loving guy, from what I've seen on two websites he has created that I am enjoying immensely.

First, there's 750words. Anyone familiar with Julia Cameron's "morning pages" will recognize that each page is about 250 pages of written words, and she recommends 3 pages per day, preferably first thing upon waking. Buster came up with the idea of providing a website where anyone can sign up and have a blank screen every day for the purposes of writing their "morning pages." He sends out a daily reminder, and he came up with a scoring system that is somehow related to the idea of strikes and spares in bowling, which gives you more points when you complete your words on subsequent days (and the day after that and the day after that). I have done Morning Pages in a spiral-bound notebook every time I've have periods of completing them, but I love having the computer availability for this. It's not a blog. I could relate to what he said about not wanting to put private thoughts on my blog in case I forget to mark them "private." Eek! While I think there is a different type of benefit to writing words down on paper which is also valuable, I love being able to put my lightning-quick fingers on the keys and get my thoughts out quickly. He even tells your wpm, your streak of days, and a few other bits of information. From what I am seeing on his sites, he must really know computers. And he clearly enjoys creating websites to inspire other people through fun.

His second website is called Health Month and is one of the most creative and playful sites I've ever seen to track health habits i am trying to establish. He's made it into a game, which you can play with your friends, or just keep track of your own info. Checking in every day is part of the game and gives you points. If you complete your goal, you make it to the Wall of Amazingness at the end of the month. It's free to use, but if you want to work on more than three activities or habits in a month, he asks you to pay a small fee. All I can say is, both of these sites have really been encouraging me to get outside and exercise every day, to stick with the way I am eating, and to do my private journaling every day. It's only April 4, but the successes I am experiencing are building momentum, and I can see really completing the goals I have set for this month.

Sometimes in the day-to-day busyness, I can forget to look for and enjoy things that are fun, and I am really excited about having these two built-in opportunities every day to log in and smile. They are both extremely easy to use, and I highly recommend both.

Monday, April 2, 2012

An Experiment in Walking

The area where I live is primarily well-suited for driving. There are those who ride bikes as they can, and I do that a bit, but there are certain areas that are just too congested to ride a bike, in my opinion. I see people jogging along some of the roads around here that have about 12 inches of shoulder and I wonder why they choose those roads, as that seems unnecessarily risky to me. Anyway, I was headed off to a destination today that is most easily accessed by car. Indeed, I have never gone to this place any other way, even though it is only a couple of miles away.

As I am being intentional about implementing more walking into my routine, I decided I would walk to my destination today. I figured out a route that would leave me with the maximum exposure to sidewalks and less busy roads, and set off. At first I was going to play it safe. Walk straight up this road, turn left on that one, and voila I would be there eventually. But I really didn't think that it would be too enjoyable to walk on those roads, the ones with the twelve-inch shoulders. So, I put together a track that would go through a new, as-yet-unopened park, and then I'd cut through a really nice neighborhood, and walk through a couple of parking lots and I'd be there.

I had to intentionally decide to go off the beaten track. I'm not usually thinking about creating adventures for myself on a run-of-the-mill errand. But I figured I'd try. I had already lined Eli up to pick me up when the errand was complete because I knew the walk there would be as much as I wanted, or had time for. I could have him pick me up anywhere along the way if need be.

As I walked on the 12-inch-shoulder road, I stayed about 10 feet away from the road. And I noticed all this grass growing, recently planted, and bravely coming up and making the area green. As I walked down the new park road, I noticed the baseball diamonds there, much more grass, and a beautiful playground I had no idea was there. I am looking forward to the park opening so we can play there. I noticed that even being 50 feet from the road made the experience of being in that place completely different. I often feel like I am surrounded by civilization here and unending traffic and cars. Just that short distance gave me a little taste of being away from it all. I was amazed.

I had consulted the general birds-eye map in my head and thought I would come out on Road A on the track I was taking. However, I noticed that I instead came out at the back of the houses on Road B. Not a problem, exactly, except the good people of Road B all had fences along their back property, which of course prohibited me from making my way to Road B.

Well, I was in the middle of the woods, so I figured I'd just head along the fence line and either come out on Road B or Road A. I wasn't sure how a homeowner might feel when I emerged from the woods. But I got to find out. I startled a lovely man who was doing some gardening. He lives WAY back from Road A, so would hardly be expecting company, especially from the wilderness behind his house. I explained that I was experimenting with walking today and why I had come out on his driveway. He wasn't visibly thrilled, but neither did he call the police. I walked on, studiously avoiding doing anything that might look like I was "casing the place." Oh, Siouxsie, the criminal.

My next dilemma was about the lovely neighborhood I was intending to cut through. This is a gated community, but seeing as how the entire side was unfenced, I decided their concern must be more for cars than for people. I had to reassure myself though, "For crying out loud, I'm not a vagrant. I am wearing diamonds!" I debated about walking around the long way but it would have been about three times as long, and having just bushwhacked through the woods and with mud and straw clumped on my shoes, I decided I'd chance it.

Being me, I read all the signs before entering the neighborhood, just so I didn't miss any that would portend me getting arrested for this attempt to be a little more active in my lifestyle. Walking through that neighborhood was very nice and I got some good ideas for landscaping, since all the homes there had gorgeous and perfect landscaping.

Finally, I arrived at my destination. I am utilizing an app called MyTracks so as soon as I arrived, I checked out how far and how long I had gone. Then I walked inside and bought three appliances. But that is probably a story for another blog.

I could have driven to that store today. I probably could have driven it in my sleep as I've taken these particular roads thousands of times. But walking made it an adventure! I used my senses, and enjoyed the sensation of being surrounded by beauty. And I thought it was a good stretch to reach the edge of the woods that I wasn't expecting to see, and plough on through. I highly recommend it. And I highly recommend MyTracks. I would post my MyTrack from today, but this is the internet and the track gives too much specific information about my location. The picture at the beginning shows you what a typical track looks like. I'd be glad to share it with anyone privately, though.

What about you? Have you walked anywhere lately that you normally drive?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Short but Sweet

Envisioning something makes it exciting.

Planning something makes it possible.

Scheduling something makes it real.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Down syndrome and The Guardian

Thanks to Netflix, I can catch television shows that were on years ago, and that I had no time or interest in watching when they were available as first run shows. I recently started watching The Guardian, which aired around 2001-2004. There are a total of 67 episodes in the series and I've been just watching them one after the other.

The main character, Nick Fallin, is a corporate lawyer who is court-assigned 1500 hours of community service serving those who need legal services but cannot affordthem, mostly children, owing to a drug conviction. Nick may be the most emotionally repressed character I have ever seen in a tv show or movie. As a matter of fact, I wonder at how he is even able to have a relationship with a woman with as little as he says or admits to feeling.

His girlfriend, Lulu, gets pregnant. I realize this is a television show and there are writers behind the scenes trying to create something that will keep the ratings high, but I really had a deep appreciation for the episode when Lulu discovers the baby she is carrying will be born with Down syndrome. The season 3, episode 14 is entitled, All is Mended.

One of Nick's clients in this show is a 23year old man who has Down syndrome, and this is Nick's opportunity to understand a little more about what Down syndrome means. The young man, Mark, is preparing to audition for a Shakespeare play whose director always employs at least one person with disabilities. Mark prepares this portion of a speech from Midsummer Night's Dream:

"If we shadows have offended
Think but this
And all is mended"

Nick and his girlfriend take Mark to the audition, but Mark gets stage fright. Nick encourages Mark and walks him to the stage where he goes on and recites the lines.

Nick shows more emotion when around Mark than you ever see in any of the other 55 or so episodes i have seen thus far, and I think that maybe even the writers couldn't have anticipated what it does to a person who is open to loving someone with Down syndrome. I loved the depiction of Down syndrome in this episode, the reality of the struggle that many go through when they receive a pre-natal diagnosis, and how incredibly powerful it is to come face to face with a beautiful someone born with this condition, as opposed to what's "in the shadows" when a diagnosis is first given.

Certainly, parenting a child with Down syndrome is not easy, but there is something unique and deeply moving about loving someone like our son Kepler. I'm so glad for this reminder, especially today.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Whole Lotta Building Going On

I was watching my current netflix tv series, The Guardian, and thinking about today, and what I might write about tonight. Seemed like a very lazy day, with little newsworthy to share.

Then I remembered that my resident farmer, Farmer Greg, decided to build a new chicken coop. Mind you, we only have two chickens, and they have a lovely coop, but FG is ready to expand the herd, so decided to prepare a new home for them. He found the plans here and used Home Depot's handy online ordering system to rustle up the supplies for the project. Did you know that Home Depot will put the order together and then text you when it's ready! Technology is a boon to mankind!!

Besides the chicken coop getting started, FG also reinstalled the rain barrel, cut the grass, bought popcorn from like six different stores, and took Kepler to tennis. Between all of us, we managed to grocery shop, play some b-ball (My opponent did NOT let me win, but I won anyway!), shop for spring clothing, lift weights, cook dinner, wash dishes, walk on the treadmill, watch 7 episodes of The Guardian, jump on the trampoline, and run errands. Just a regular Saturday in the lives of Siouxsie's family, but with the wonderful addition of Valerie being home for Spring Break. She goes back tomorrow, but it has been lovely to have her home.

Kind of a quiet day, but we enjoyed it as a family, and that's one of the best things there is.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games

Thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and give my two cents worth on the event of the week (in some circles, anyway.)

I guess I'm going to have to admit at some point that I'm not in the major demographic audience for teen fiction, although I actually read a teen novel yesterday. I actually checked out the first Book of the Hunger Games trilogy way back when. I read a little of it, but couldn't really get into it, so returned it without even getting through half the book. Fat lot of good I'd be at forecasting books that will be made into movies that bring with them crazy anticipation.

As for the concept of books being made into movies, I have almost always preferred the book to the movie. And for some of my favorite books which really sparked my imagination, such as the Chronicles of Narnia, I didn't even want to see a film version of them. After I saw Dustin Hoffman play Willy Loman in death of a salesman, I couldn't ever hear the Loman name again without Dustin's crooked smile coming to mind. I will say that I loved, loved, loved the film version of Les Miserables, even though Liam Neeson will forever be Jean Valjean to me. There is, of course, incredible lasting power in the visual image, and the images of forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation in Les Mis were absolutely beautiful to me.

I'm not sure why I was so adamant about keeping the Narnia story alive in my imagination, without being influenced by Hollywood. I just know that I found the written stories to be beautiful and powerful and I didn't see how a movie could improve on that.

Another subject I have been pondering this week is this fascination I'm seeing with going to midnight showings of these big blockbusters. I admit, I have stood in some very long lines to see my beloved U2 perform. That makes plenty of sense to me. But there hasn't been a movie, maybe ever, that I've been anticipating enough to want to stand in line for hours and stay up half the night to watch. Even when going to the actual theater was a weekly thing for me, I was content to see movies when they had been out for awhile. Maybe these days, going soon after opening is the only way to preserve the newness, the freshness of the movie just come out. I suppose it might be a good thing that these days we can access a hundred reviews of a movie with just a few keystrokes, but maybe a lot of it boils down to personal preference.

I think I'll give the Hunger Games trilogy another go. I like to be aware of what is current, and it's nice to have a coherent, intelligent contribution.

I'm glad for people who love these books and are loving the movie and enjoying the anticipation that goes along with it. But I'm not too sure I really understand it. And there you have it. Two whole cents worth.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The timeliness of considering distractions in my life

My friend, Shelly Wildman, has a blog I subscribe to and very much enjoy. Here is her latest post, entitled Digitally Distracted which coincides with an experience and conversation I have been having as a result of being in Wheaton for the last couple of days.

Without admitting the embarrassing number of electronic devices we have between the seven of us, suffice it to say each of is well-endowed with multiple opportunities to plug in any old time we want. I think it's excessive, myself. I've wrestled with the "generation gap" between what my generation thinks about electronics and what my kids' generation thinks. Clearly, for this younger generation, normal everyday life includes a cellphone, computer, and music generator of some sort at hand, and with more than one item in use. As far as I can tell, they have no idea what it really means to unplug, to be unconnected digitally to their friends and to enjoy the wonders of silence. (No offense intended to my offspring.)

My rationale for being plugged in all the time, at least to my phone, is that I am often apart from one or more of the kids, and the expectation from schools, etc., these days is that parents are accessible. As Greg is on the road so often, i feel it is important to be the available parent. Besides the schools, I think it is important to be accessible to my kids when I am away. There are a select few times when they know they cannot reach me by phone, but those times are few and far between. More than one of my kids has texted me late at night, and at this point, I recognize that I want to be available to opportunities to communicate with them. Having my phone along all the time enhances this communication.

While in Wheaton, though, I found myself in a couple of places where I absolutely did not want to disrupt anyone's experience, so I turned my phone to silent, which was a drastic step for me. I almost always leave it on vibrate, but in this particular setting, I didn't even want that noise to occur. During that meeting, I received a phone call from my daughter, 350 miles away, in charge of my young son. While I surreptitiously texted her, she called again. Then she called Greg. This is completely understandable, as she knows that I often miss calls, even though I am trying to be available. She received my text and we were able to work out the problem. But during the time I was texting, I missed what was happening in the meeting. I was digitally distracted.

Normally, I consider myself pretty able to text or talk and do other activities at the same time. I wonder if that is because some of the activities I do are not particularly compelling or meaningful. The meeting I was in was both meaningful and compelling, and it was good to notice how much I missed by attending to something else.

While in chapel at Wheaton yesterday, I again put my phone on silent and just checked it periodically in case one of the kids had texted or called, but I did not text at all during the service. Truthfully, at my own church on any given Sunday, I often use my phone for non-service related activities. Our church auditorium is dark, like a theater, but they condone use of phones and iPads during the service since many people do use their phones to access their electronic Bible or take notes on the service. At our church, sometimes there's even something worth taking a picture of.

I think what I learned is that I want to be sufficiently engaged where I am so that my phone stays in my purse. I'm recognizing that failing to engage with what I am doing short-changes me and whoever I am with. I do so much waiting every week, at this appointment and that, that my phone is a welcome companion during those times. But, again, for me, it's time to consider what these digital distractions are taking the place of.

I dare say the example I am setting has been caught by my kids, regardless of whatever I may have taught. Sometimes the prospect of figuring out the path I need to take, as well as figuring out the parenting piece of it, can be a bit daunting. That's why I love having resources such as Shelly's blog, which address the parenting piece of it as well.

What about you? Do you have anyone who is dependent on you? What do you think about being unavailable to them at times?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Human Dignity, Personal Dignity

Being here at Wheaton again has been such a breath of fresh air. It's a beautiful spring day, with a slight breeze, sunshine, the bluest sky, and the trees are in bloom. Coupled with the beautiful campus, I'm having a much more refreshing time than I might have anticipated.

We drove up on Tuesday and since Valerie didn't have anything scheduled until Wednesday, I got the bright idea to check out the calendar of events, just in case there was a play being performed. Although there was not, I did read about a lecture by Dr. Gilbert Mielaender, of whom I had heard, but about whom I knew nothing else. (I am sitting in the Wheaton College English Department lobby, so I am trying to be extra careful about grammar and punctuation.)

Greg was excited to hear about the lecture, because he is very familiar with Dr. Meilaender, through the Mars Hill Audio Journal, a monthly interview series dealing with matters of culture and faith. Dr. Mielaender has been interviewed multiple times by Mars Hill founder, Ken Myers.

Valerie expressed interest in attending, and I was personally excited because the topic was "The Dignity of the Human Person." Having read stories over the years about how and who human dignity is and is not afforded to, I had a deep thirst to hear such a brilliant Christian thinker discuss the issue.

After references and/or quotes to or by the likes of Kant, Hobbes, Chesterton, Kirkegaard, Aristotle and others, I felt my brain come alive with my long-dormant joy of learning, of being stretched in my thinking, of wrestling with deep and important issues of life.

I came away from the lecture with a deeper understanding of human dignity and personal dignity, which are rather two aspects of a larger unity.

Here's what I got out of it: there are of course distinctions among humans when it comes to abilities, or how fully a human is flourishing. To the extent that someone has a greater ability to flourish, and is doing so, that person has a greater amount of human dignity. But, personal dignity is afforded to every human, regardless of abilities, or even possibility of accomplishment. Every person is afforded personal dignity by virtue of the fact that each of us is equidistant to God. Dr. John Crosby said something along the lines of this: our innate unrepeatability brings about a kind of equality among all persons. You can read more about that here.

The most immediate application I see for this is in regard to children perhaps like our son, Kepler.

There are those thinkers, notably Peter Singer, and others who are probably firmly ensconced in their insulated ivory tower, who believe that some people are not worth keeping alive. There's never been the slightest question in my mind that every person deserves to live, regardless of their abilities. Dr. Meilaender's "ethical Christian reflection" (to quote a comment made by Dr. Roger Lundin today) put this huge concept into beautiful words of life, humbly connecting many great think thinkers throughout the ages, with grace and humor.

We each have personal dignity because we each stand in relationship to our Creator. This thought will inform my responses now to things I read about the concept of dignity and the worth of different types of human beings, or individuals. And I am so looking forward to investigating the many books and authors he mentioned in his lecture. I may not be able to fully understand Camus, but I can certainly digest the portion shared last night which speaks to this issue.

As we return to Concinnati tomorrow, I will be on the lookout for other opportunities to participate in this type of ethical Christian reflection.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On a College Visit!

And not just any old college, either! Greg and I have brought Valerie to visit our alma mater, Wheaton College. Such a beautiful campus and so many great memories of our time here. There's something so sweet about rounding the corner and seeing the big Wheaton College sign on front campus.

Since the majority of Valerie's scheduled events occur tomorrow, we checked the event calendar for tonight and discovered that Gilbert Mielander was speaking tonight, in a free lecture on campus. I didn't exactly know who he was, but I had heard his name. His topic: The Dgnity of the Human Person. I will let the meat of that lecture stew overnight and blog about it tomorrow.

Valerie loves this campus so far. She's going to visit classes tomorrow, experience Chapel, have a campus tour and spend the night in a dorm.

She will find out the outcome of her application in early April. If accepted, she will transfer here as a sophomore this fall. We are praying toward that end.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Hand Surgery That Wasn't

Today was the day I was going to have the cyst removed from my finger. But I didn't. All I can say is I had a dream about the surgery that left me so troubled that I decided to listen to what my gut was telling me, which was, Today's not the day for this. Don't know why, but I know I'm glad I didn't have the procedure done.

It's not like anyone else would really notice it, or if they did, that they'd care. It's not green, or hairy, or shaped like a troll. It's not painful. It's not going to get worse. There's just something about the fact that it is THERE that troubles me. It CAN cause some deforming of the nail. I just find it interesting that for almost everything medical, I take a big time "wait and see" attitude. Most things resolve with time, it seems. And yet, I was ready to jump right into a surgery less than a week after this was diagnosed, and I just think that is interesting.

What I wonder is whether the idea of doing something to resolve A problem with my hand was bringing me relief from the ongoing tension I experience about the fact that I seem to be developing some arthritis in my hands, and a couple of other hand issues. I know that when I heard there was such a thing as a hand specialist I was Amazed and Excited. I didn't know such a specialty existed. I made the appt and planned to bring up the other hand issues during the appointment. Instead, I came away only with information on what the surgery would entail, including the possible side effects, which included numbness and stiffness in the finger.

I have a sense of something I need to do nutritionally, which may not affect the cyst, but very well may impact the health of my joints. Time again practice asking my good questions. What result do I want with my health? What am I willing to do to make that happen. The answers to these questions will require me to step up and engage and really show up. That can be very challenging for me since my story is that I have a lot of stress in my life, and that nutritional "thing" will require me to handle the stress in some other way.

Just another reminder that this life is a journey, and that it is filled with opportunities. This is an opportunity, and I want to make the most of it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crossroads church, 3 years later

Three years ago, I visited crossroads church after an invitation (or invite, or "ask" in cooler parlance) from my personal trainer at the time. He invited me before he violated the terms of his drug arrest parole, and completely disappeared from the scene. He was at my first service ("at service" was how he said it, dropping that pesky article) and introduced me to the friends he was with. It was nice to be known by someone in such a huge group of people. I was swooning at the music from the get-go, struck by the hipness of everyone on stage and I seem to remember that the talk (no messages or sermons here!) was filled with humor, transparency and even some Scripture!. A few weeks later Greg and I attended our first Super Bowl of Preaching service. I joyously cheered at the amazing creativity, and marveled that Moeller High School's marching band swarmed in at halftime and put on a "dope" show.

In a couple of months, i was chomping at the bit to become one of the "thousands of volunteers who keep this place going." Four months in, I began to volunteer at the Info Center. And soon enough I was attending a service on both Saturday AND Sunday, volunteering on Saturday, attending the service on Sat and then going a second time on Sun, amazed every week at all i was getting out of the service, the message. Soon I was creating a custom message guide for my family, complete with personalized application questions, after each Saturday service so they could use it on Sunday morning. I was SOLD on the Crossroads brand!

One could imagine that I might hearken back to my teen years and remember what effect it had on me to change churches in my junior year of high school to a church all the way across town. Being across town made getting there a time and traffic nightmare. Being new to the youth group brought about the challenge of breaking into a new scene at a point where I was getting close to being finished being in a youth group. For the first time in my life, but unfortunately not the last, I was faced with the challenge of assimilating into an established group. After about a year, I was off to college, as were the other kids my age, and the tenuous connections I had made were weakened by distance and infrequent visits to church on rare weekend visits home.

And yet I blithely put my own kids into the same position. My life as a teen had basically operated around a nucleus of the local church, and so I was motivated to try to become a part of the new, already established group. My own kids, however, had grown up in a different church environment, and so the chances were almost none to none that they would assimilate into the giant youth group called Crossroads Student Movement. They preferred the "mainstage" service anyway.

I felt so sure that the huge "congregation" (not a word I ever heard at Crossroads) was manageable if I just kept on the prescribed path for getting "connected." (a word I have heard quite often at Crossroads) Along came the first "all-church journey" and I said YES! What a great idea to get everyone in a group for six weeks, all going on a carefully and creatively crafted path together. Didn't hesitate for a second to join a group and participate to the best of my ability. I was excited to be a part of the some 50,000 people all doing the same study! Wow! How ecumenical and inclusive and stuff!

We loved our group. 4 married couples, and the occasional single lady who came a few times. At that point, nothing bothered me! It was all good! At the last of the six group meetings, Greg and I expressed how much we had loved the group and let them know that we would love to continue, that we needed this type of connection with people in the busyness of our deep-in-the-midst-of-parenting stage of life. I was pretty surprised when the rest of the group demurred, asking for some time to recover from the 6-week group before we had to meet again. Needless to say, the group did not continue. We met for dinner a couple of times in late spring and early summer, and I realized that without the structure of the group process, we didn't have quite as much in common as I had first imagined.

Although still technically a Crossroads attendee, I no longer volunteer. I am no longer so enamored with the edgy, with-it people and processes. I think there is a wonderful depth to Brian, the senior pastor, and Chuck, the associate pastor, or co-pastor, or whatever he is called. I know there are loving, caring people in this church who genuinely want to see people grow, and especially see children really embrace The idea of following Jesus. There is clearly a clarity in the stated purpose of the church, from its facility usage, to decisions about who is allowed to give out information, to choices about exact wording and gestures to use to be as welcoming as possible, kind of like I think Walt Disney World employees might do it. Yep. All that's true. And this isn't about whether or not some place is perfect, because no place is or can be or ever will be.

Maybe it's partly knowing I will never be a part of the Inner Circle, that my station in life and age and background and needs maybe really aren't the kind of station, background and needs that get the attention and focus of the big-picture planners.

Maybe it's partly understanding that the emphasis on getting everyone engaged in the "all-church journey" precludes really focusing much on getting people connected to other Christians in a small group setting. The people onstage all seem to be connected in small groups, and I am happy for them, but they must know something I don't know. Maybe with such a large staff, it is fairly easy to do life together. Such a cool place to work. Such outside-the-box thinking. Obviously really creative people at the heart of this thing, people who know how to get things done.

Maybe it's partly that their focus on not being religious has left an empty space where religion used to be in me, and that I'm finding some new, very alive things to fill that space. Getting rid of the false guilt, leaving behind the drive to always be focused on what I "should" do, and shifting my focus from behavior to character and joy -- these things have been part of my experience at Crossroads, but I wonder if the powers that be would be happy those things are gone and sad that I haven't found the non-religious aspect of Christianity to be fulfilling.

Just recently, I visited my main childhood church for a 50th anniversary celebration. Little has changed there. They preach sermons based on Scripture. They are not trying to be emergent or seeker-friendly, although they are certainly not trying to be seeker-unfriendly. They serve Communion exactly the way they did 40 years ago when I was there. And they seem to still have the type of community I remember being a part of. It's a smaller church, so those types of relationships become more possible, at least for me. I was not part of the decision to leave that church -- we kids just got in the car and rode to where our parents took us for church. I wonder what it is like to be a part of a place that seems to be more "religious." I don't want the religious piece, but it would be nice to share regular times with people through the focal point of church. I think.

I'm still at Crossroads because my two youngest kids are finding community and connection there. As long as they are growing, we want to provide that opportunity. But this strikes me as a great opportunity to ask myself some good questions right about now. I acknowledge that we will probably always be a very small fish in an extremely large pond as long as we are there. I don't need to be a big fish. I'd just like to be a fish that swims well with others, that enjoys the wonders of the ocean together, that has occasional adventures like jumping UP! out of the water and then back in. Not sure I see that ever happening where we are. Sure, it can be complicated to sort through the issues and possibilities, but I feel more prepared than ever to see this as an opportunity and a gift, and to believe that figuring out the WHAT and the WHY of that what, will make the HOW clear and possible.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Random thoughts

I haven't watched any college basketball this month. I think it's cool that there are people who have the time to do so, especially with a completed bracket!

I spent the evening at the Cincinnati Waldorf School Gala, of which my beautiful sister, Mindy, was the co-chair. I was there as a volunteer and observer. My volunteer duties were slight; I enjoyed my observations. Seems the school has some pretty special things going on. They are lucky to have Mindy.

When Kepler and I go to library twice a week, he checks out five DVDs and ten books. He doesn't usually watch all of the DVDs, but I enjoy checking out many books and movies in order to do what I can to boost my branch's circulation.

My hand surgery is scheduled for Monday morning to remove that mucinous cyst. I wonder what it will be like to have limited use of that finger for a couple of weeks.

I know this post is less meaty than usual. I have a goal to blog on a daily basis, so some days are going to be great blogging days, and others might not be. I can tell you that blogging before the clock strikes twelve is not a surefire path to brilliance. But I am doing what I can at the moment. Hang In there. I know there will be improvements very soon!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Learning to ask better questions

Have you ever had one of those times when a few annoying things happened on top of one another, and as they occurred, you found yourself bringing to mind other annoyances and irritations, and feeling, well, annoyed and irritated? I have.

And the truth is, sometimes I prefer to stay annoyed and irritated rather than doing what it is going to take to put myself into a more resourceful place. For me, I always have such complicated "logistics" with my family, that I don't always respond well when my logistical efforts are thwarted by finding out I had insufficient information when planning.

Today, when that happened and my darn Bluetooth was acting up just as I needed to make a telephone call, I just wanted to keep feeling annoyed and irritated. It was my right! I deserved to be mad!

Some really unhelpful questions arose in my mind: Why does this always happen? Why shouldn't I feel angry in this case? And then, a really helpful question was suggested to me.

Does it serve me to remain in the anger and annoyance?

Nope. It didn't. Holding on to the aggravation wasn't going to really give me what I was wanting. Getting in touch with what I DID want made it so much easier to let go of the aggravation. I was reaching for something else. Going toward something.

Do you ask whether something serves you? (or words to that effect?) What do you think about trying it?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

-- Reinhold Niebuhr

calm ... calmness ... tranquility ... peace ... composure

These are synonyms for serenity. Some days are frenetic ... fast and uncontrolled in a rather wild and uncontrolled way. Today ... hailstones pounding this morning ... a little boy, feverish with a hurting belly ... a BIG grocery shopping trip, after a ... small, emergency grocery trip for applesauce and crackers for the little guy with the sore tummy ... a surprising phone call ... a mid-afternoon trip to the airport (about 90 minute round-trip) ... kinda frenetic.

So, all I have to share tonight is this beautiful prayer, which says it so well ... what belongs to me, and what belongs to others, and the wisdom of knowing and accepting which is which.

Peace to you, friends.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

National Pi Day

That was today, in case you missed it. With the advent of Facebook as a ubiquitous presence in our lives, I have become more aware of these government-designated days. People wished me Happy National Pi Day today.

Did you know that the Congress of the US of A made this an official National Day in 2009? This designation was an attempt to draw attention to improving math and science education. So let me ask you. Were you more aware of improving math and science education today? Do you see a logical connection between designating national days and increasing awareness?

And then there are foods that have a national day, at least one per day all year long. And diseases get entire months. I wonder what it means to raise awareness. March is National Kidney Month, National ColoRectal Cancer Awareness Month, and National AutoImmune Diseases awareness Month. Did you know that?

I wonder if this is an attempt to draw attention to something by pointing it out among the thousands of things vying for our attention every day.

I think Pi is seriously cool. I love numbers, and especially patterns in numbers. But for me, it's too general to ask me to focus on the importance of math and science education. What does that mean for me? What does it mean for you? I work much better with more personal information.

If it were me, I would make it National Pi(e) Day and link something yummy (pie!) with something academic, and I would define what it is we are wanting in regard to math and science education.

Our good intentions. How they tantalize us.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

74 things I like about my mom

Today's my mother's birthday. Since there are still 82 minutes left on her special day, I thought I would devote this blog post to her.

1. She's a great laugher. She laughs easily and often.
2. As a great laugher, she is great fun to be around.
3. She taught piano when we were kids to exotic people like Holly Cassell, Steve Melink, and Alan Stubbs.
4. She made it through Bob Jones University and hasn't had to send back her diploma yet.
5. She recovered from BJU in just under 20 years. Of course, this put the FUN in the dysfunction of our little family.
6. She had the good sense to be from Oklahoma.
7. She once killed a spider on the wall above her head ... With her foot.
8. the one time I remember her going to a Reds game, she took along a book to read. Not about the Reds.
9. She is an amazing cook.
10. She loves variety almost more than anything.
11. She would totally not be mad at me if I didn't actually come up with 74 things tonight.
12. She has a boss grand piano.
13. She totally did not kill me when, as a kid, I threw something hard across the living room and actually put a gouge in her brand new boss grand piano.
14. She denies telling me that my dad was going to spank me when he got home ... With a 2x4. Think I'd deny that one too.
15. She thinks I'm amazing.
16. An amazing sense of decorating and design.
17. That you can see throughout her beautiful home.

43 minutes left and I'm only on number 18. Hey, I'm a mom of 5. What can I say.

18. She's always excited about something she is learning.
19. I love making music with her.
20. Wait, was that one something about her?
21. She birthed three beautiful babies.
22. She played the ukulele on most of our drives out to Oklahoma.
23. She's cheerful. Note: I did not appreciate this during my teen years.
24. She loves to organize and make everything neater and more today.
25. She's great at pitching in on many different types of,projects.
26. Her enthusiasm is quite infectious and can make even the most curmudgeonly curmudgeon smile.
27. She loves to garden.
28. And she wants chickens.
29. I'm counting 1 as two separate things, as of now.
30. She never met a vitamin she liked for very long.
31. She never met a medication she liked for even one minute.
32. She is the BEST to walk with at Symmes Park.
33. She has a super big mailbox.
34. She managed to have all three daughters living within one mile of her and liking it.
35. Her basement is a treasure trove.
36. She tends to see the best side of everyone and everything.
37. She looooooooves Tuesday Mornings.
38. She's always keen to learn new things.
39-73. You'll have to check with me in person on these.
74. She loves life and makes it fun for those around her.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you!,

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Light Bulb Moment about Entitlement

Here I've been thinking that the opposite of Entitlement is Gratitude, and what was needed to shift an entitlement mentality was a healthy dose of gratitude. But, noooooo. The opposite of Entitlement is RESPONSIBILITY.

I admit, I do know some people who seem to feel entitled to what they have, and more! And I kept thinking I needed to get them to focus on how much they DO have, how GOOD they have it, how people in so many other countries have it SO much harder. But, I noticed that those efforts weren't actually shifting that sense for them. How do I know this? I was reading the comics yesterday morning and this comic was written for me, aka She-Who-Takes-on-Responsibility-That-Belongs-To-Others:

I hearkened back to my childhood, something worth hearkening back to, and I remembered how I was expected to contribute to the running of the household and the care of myself. I cleaned house, cleaned my room, kept my car filled with gas, participated in church activities, school activities, and studied for tests. I starting working at age 11, because I had the opportunity to work with my dad, but I was always interested in working, even scrubbing the kitchen floor, on hands and knees with my sisters one time, for the princely sum of $9.00, to be split three ways.

But I wouldn't say I was grateful. I complained because my mom didn't want to buy me the same clothes everyone else was wearing. My first Aigner jeans were bought with my own money. I complained because I wasn't allowed to go places at all hours. It was distinctly unfair that we weren't allowed to watch MTV. Church morning and night?? OMG, parents.

I would definitely say, though, that I was responsible. And because I was not only responsible, but ultra-super-overly-extra responsible, I did that human thing and ricocheted to the other end of the spectrum as a parent. Tried to say yes whenever I could. Did nice things for my children. And thought they would catch responsibility and gratitude. Au contraire. It is the delegation of responsibility onto a young person which is gradually assumed by that young person and ultimately creates a responsible adult.

Important note: This post is about my understanding of the entitlement mentality and may not reflect the views of others in my home.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Siouxsie Reviews "The Artist"

It's been such a long time since I had a movie that I really, really loved. One that moved my soul, that stirred something deep in me. I wanted The Artist to be a movie that brought about that response. But, it wasn't.

I admit, I thought it might be boring, from reading the description. But I put that thought aside as I bought my ticket, "One for The Artist, please." It takes some planning ahead for me to get to a movie. By myself. In the middle of the day. Now is a fine time for a hat tip to Greg Taylor for graciously providing some time and space for me after a 6-day stint of single parenting this week while he traveled for work.

The last movie I saw at this theater was The Lorax. Complained about how incredibly loud it was. I still wonder why they had the volume so high. The Artist was shown in the smallest theater, and with the dozen or so "One for The Artist" moviegoers, there was plenty of room. I found myself wishing for a little MORE volume on this one, since a nearby patron perhaps was unhealthy and made distracting little breathing, sniffing, and coughing noises every few minutes. (Oh, and she did go ahead and take the call she received so she could tell the caller she was at the movies.)

I know, I know. First, it's too loud. Then, it's too soft. I wondered if I would have had the same response to it had Kevin Kline been in the starring role. Some of the movies I have loved had him in the starring role, but I wondered what it would be like to see him in a silent role. Berenice Bejo (Peppy Miller) was delightful, beautiful and full of life. I believe that many moviegoers found this to be a wonderful experience, and it was a very well-made film. [But], to paraphrase Randy Jackson, 'I just wasn't feeling, it, dawg."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Micros Business for Teens

I had the distinct privilege last evening of attending the Cincinnati premiere of the PBS special, Micro Business for Teens: Starting a Micro Business. My friend, Carol Topp, a CPA and mom of two homeschooled students, has written a three-book series by the same name, and was invited by the PBS station in Akron, Ohio, to make a PBS special about it. Press release

Carol did a fantastic job in her presentation and I am so happy for her success. There were multiple interviews with local families, some of whom I know, whose teens are running successful businesses. The entire presentation was very inspirational, and I came away with the MicroBusiness for Teens workbook, which looks to be a great resource for anyone wanting to start a micro business.

I even learned some things about why a recent business idea I had and ventured into, fizzled. Seems there is a bit of preparation necessary that I overlooked.

I've been watching Carol's progress for quite awhile. Her youngest daughter was in my eldest daughter's graduating class, so we have had plenty of opportunities to share time at meetings, on car trips, and socially. For more information on the books, and other resources about starting a micro business, visit her website: Micro Business for Teens.

Proud to say, "I knew her when."

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Eureka! Moments in our Lives

I love when the light bulb goes on, when I have an epiphany, when suddenly I Get It!

While living in Australia, I saw an old Tracey Ullmann sketch where Tracey plays an Australian golfer who's in the US for the "June Allyson DEPENDS Open." You can watch it here. I loved the show so much, I went to the trouble and expense of having an Australian-format video transferred to US-format, so I would always have it. Didn't know at the time the internet would almost make videos a moot point.

So Kiki has TWO epiphanies in the sketch, and I have had an epiphany about epiphanies today. I am a deeply kinesthetic AND visual learner. I learn by doing, but I really learn by doing AND seeing. You can tell me you are going out of town next Tuesday and will be back on Friday. You can even tell me the flight arrangements. You can even use the dates. And I won't get it nearly as well as I will if you write that information down on a piece of paper (or email) and show it to me.

Funny thing is, I have been viewing this learning style as a disadvantage! When recently planning a novel undertaking, I felt stressed about all the things I wouldn't be able to think of ahead of time, because I learn by doing and by seeing. But then I had this light bulb moment. There are very few people, if any, who can pull something off the first time without the benefit of past experience. Learning by doing is part of the learning process itself!

Of course I love experiential learning, and it fits strongly into my educational philosophy. I wonder what my experiences are going to be like when I embrace this learning style, when I welcome it, and when I start to realize the benefits of such a style. Eureka!

What do you think about learning by doing? What made you laugh in the video I linked to?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Blogging while Uninspired

Sitting down to blog every day is similar to taking time to work on a book every day. Both involve writing. Both are for the purpose of communicating something to an audience. And both writers have days where the most important thing is to put pen to paper, or fingers to keys.

Today was largely unremarkable. I returned books, lots of books, to the library. (Oh, how I love that drive-through drop-off.) Stood in line to return an ill-advised purchase. Met a friend for coffee. Think I might have experienced a hot flash.

As with several other universal experiences, I had decided not to experience this whole hot flash thing. The other times I have politely declined to experience what so many others before me have experienced, my intention did not line up with my reality. Somehow, I have expected a pass from certain common experiences. Some aspects of parenting teens come to mind.

It is when I choose to focus on what I am grateful for that I am reminded that every day is filled with gifts of all sizes and shapes. Today, the rain misting while I put Kepler on the bus. The gift of my new office space. The blessing of a mother who senses my exhaustion and whips up a tasty dinner for my family. The blessing of my husband and children. And I am reminded once again that my story about my story is the one that makes my experience what it is. I want to be sure to have a story that includes lots and lots of gratitude.

Sometimes the act of recounting the sources of my gratitude is enough to inspire me to move toward what is right with my world.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How We Do One Thing is How We Do Everything?

I read this quote several months ago. It was attributed to the author of this linked blog post. The statement was made, and followed up with a question: What might it mean for you if this is true? Such a gentle question invited me to consider the quote, giving myself compassion and patience for whatever came up for me.

Directly across the street, my neighbor is getting his house re-shingled. This is my neighbor who cares to make sure that every blade of grass is the same height. Retired now for several years, he takes perfect care of his home and yard. I thought of this quote when I saw his roofing crew show up yesterday. They drove professional vehicles, worked consistently and without any talk radio or music accompanying their work, and piled the bundles JUST SO on the roof. Carefully. In lines. Organized. I smiled. He found roofers to do the type of job he himself does.

What do you think? What if this statement is true? What can it teach us?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

About that Extended Warranty

This printer is almost identical to mine. For all intents and purposes, let's just say it's the same. I bought it from a VERY helpful and knowledgeable OfficeMax employee named Dan. I'm very loyal to OfficeMax. I like being familiar with the layout and product line of a store. I can shop in unfamiliar stores, but for office supplies, it works just fine to stick with OfficeMax, and eschew Office Depot and Staples. Another thing I have typically eschewed is extended warranties. I've bought a few, but never used one. Today I decided to utilize the benefits of the e.w. I bought for this printer. So far, I have found out that I have a replacement plan, not a service plan; they reimburse me the original cost of the printer, but not until after I ship it back to them and then they issue a store credit for the cost, so guess who's without a printer for minimum two weeks; and if I want to *fix* the machine, I'm on my own. So, what to do.

The issue is the yellow ink. And while the black ink may be extremely cost-efficient, the company makes up for it in the price of the colored ink. I traded in a printer at the time of purchase, so I would already be getting back $50 less than the purchase price, and I have found out that OfficeMax no longer carries this product.

What do I want? I want this printer to work. Knowing that helps me decide exactly the course of action to take.

Voted today. Got the sticker. My favorite part of voting, honestly, is seeing a friend of mine who works my polling place. It's always nice to catch up with her, and today she was making a beautiful quilt for a baby. "You know how you get invited to baby showers at the last minute, and you don't have time to make something nice?" she asks. Oh, yes, I say. But the truth is, I don't know when I last went to a baby shower. Been kinda out of the loop for awhile.

Continuing to set up my new office. Wishing my girl Val was a squeakier wheel. She has been dealing with allergies, especially in her room, for quite some time. Today, I finally figured out that it's probably very dusty in here. Brought the air purifier down here and am enjoying being able to breathe. (I, too, am allergic to dust). Actually, Val was probably squeaky enough, and I just didn't give that squeaky wheel grease. Sometimes it takes me awhile to catch on.

And a weather update: Had spring on Sunday, winter on Monday, and we're back to spring on Tuesday. That's Ohio for you. This year, anyway.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Intentional Blogging

As part of the path I am on to become a certified life coach, I am starting today to write a daily blog post. Ideally, I'd know just exactly what message to focus on, but I am starting today without all the details perfected.

Found out today i have a mucinous cyst on my finger. This resulted in being referred to a hand specialist, whom I will see next week. I'm definitely seeing the silver lining here though. I believe I am developing some arthritis in my hands. Who better than a hand specialist to discuss that with. My thumbnails also are giving me fits, and again, seems like a hand specialist might be just the ticket. My GP said hand specialists go through a many years of training, work only on the body from wrist to fingertips, and are always busy.

Tomorrow is the Ohio primary. My voting place is probably 100 yards from my home, so getting there is easy. What to do once I'm there is more troublesome. I will definitely vote, but I wish there was a comments section where I could let "them" know how mixed up the entire system seems to me.

I have paint on my toes, paint on my sleeve, paint on my arm, paint on my cell phone, paint on my jeans, and a little paint on the walls of my new office. I'm co-opting some of Valerie's bedroom to use as an office space. I painted the entire room today and already love having dedicated space. We'll see how it works for Val and me to share the space when she is home.

Last but not least in today's news, I expect to register tomorrow for a training program, to be held in May in Florida, for aspiring Life Coaches. I feel like I did when I first stepped over the edge to rappel near Lake of the Clouds in the U.P. I loved rappelling, though, once I actually took the first step, and that's my intention with this step as well.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Some Girls Have all the Fun

I believe I have heard of a blog that is called "Poop and Boogers." A blog only a mother could love, I would say. And if ever there was a mom blog post, this is it. As a matter of fact, today's post could be a guest post on a blog called "Poop and Poop." Why would I want to write about such an, uh, odoriferous subject? Well, because of the sheer magnitude of the story. Which probably will evoke more than a few "Cool story, bro." comments, at least in the minds of the beautiful people who post Facebook status updates about traveling to international countries, and spying Bruce Springsteen at a trendy little place in Soho. But, I know that there are at least one or two readers among my five readers that will be able to appreciate this.

Believing that there are entirely enough blogposts in the world about potty training, I have kept related things to a minimum. After all, this started out being a blog about decluttering, and quickly devolved into one about whatever happened to be on my mind at the time. Or maybe it evolved.

Having four children for quite some time, and then tagging on a splendid fifth, some of the details of events from the early years were forgotten, and experienced with the little guy as New, and sometimes Improved. Potty training was most certainly New, but I wouldn't call it Improved because it didn't seem to come naturally to us this time. Eventually we received help from some Magic People called Kelly and Kelly, and in a week, voila, peeing and pooping into the right place (and more importantly, not into the wrong place) like a pro. They told me that kids can have accidents for even as long as a year after training. My fuzzy brain remembered no more than .6 accidents between all four of the olders in the collective years after they were trained, but I knew things could be a little different this time.

So, yeah, a few accidents. Sometimes it's just too dern fun to keep playing Angry Birds, and the couch is just as convenient, or moreso, than the bathroom which is like 20 feet away. Sometimes we try to get there, but don't quite make it. All in a day's work, right? Yep.

But then came last night.

Last night, I stayed up way way past anyone's bedtime because I was balancing the "checkbook." Another someone had been in charge of this activity, but possibly had done it that loosey-goosey way that includes kinda looking at it to see that it's about right. Apologies to Loosey-Goosey if more effort was put into it. But, according to the little "reconciled" column, nothing had been officially reconciled for over a year. Once I FINALLY figured out how to use this particular money program's reconcile feature, I was excited to move it along and catch up to the current statement. So, I was hard at work late last night. Went to bed, knowing it would be a short night, but didn't know it would be as short as it was.

Splendid Boy comes into our room every night/morning at some point and finishes out his Splendid Sleep in our bed. Many nights he is dry, top to bottom. Lately, we've been have some wetness in the bottom area. I'm pretty good at taking care of business while asleep, so I can pretty much help him into dry things and into our bed while my eyes are closed. But this morning, I got a little whiff of something, so I gingerly reached around behind him and could feel a sort of bulge. Well, these things happen. I got up and opened my eyes, and also my nose and realized we had a Major Incident on our hands. I was so flustered, I went into Anna-Jessie's room and woke her up for the day. (Turns out it was only 5:30 a.m., but I had thought it said 6:30. She forgave me.)

I don't know quite what happened in there. But it required stripping the bed, stripping the boy, scrubbing him down in the bathtub, and believe me, scrubbing was required, then pre-washing the blanket and sheet like someone who has to do all the laundry by hand in the river. All I could say was wow. And how? And wow. Scrubbed him off, dressed him and tossed him into bed with Greg. Finished the hand pre-washing, then lugged everything down to the washing machine and threw it all in. Ran back up and scrubbed the mattress. Scrubbed up like I was heading to surgery (I know how to do this because I have been watching ER lately). Finally fell back into bed for a little while.

What's the point of this story? I suppose I'm just noticing how I took this all in stride. I remember when the big kids were little and how stressed out I was most of the time. I suppose that is understandable since there were four of them, and one of me, and they were little question machines, and I always wanted to give great, educational, complete answers to their questions. Plus, enjoy this time that everyone said was going to go really fast but seemed to me to be dragging along. Looking back, it really did fly, and if anything, time has sped up even more, but I *think* I have begun to learn to enjoy the journey. Even when it involves middle-of-the-night poopfests. Not to worry. It's much more the exception than the rule that there is an accident at night and the fact is, Splendid Boy is such a blessing to us, so my plan is to savor all of it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Look Who Came to Town!

SORry about the glare on the photo. I'm a writer, not a photographer. Ha.

This blog has gone through many permutations, but it started out as a decluttering blog. And it's kind of come around again to that theme. So, I've been tearing through cupboards and the basement (and would tear through closets if we had any LOL) paring down, sprucing up, shifting around, and moving out.

One time, many moons ago, the man of the house decided it would be a fine idea to buy a 100-count package of shish kebab skewers. It probably was a good idea, although I think we still have about 97 of them. Anyway, recently I freed them from that cabinet and set them on the counter (I'll just put this here for right now). I kept looking at them, trying to decide what to do with them (excitement abounds some days). Then, my friend Randi, RAN(di)OMLY posted on her facebook about how she uses skewers for all manner of tasks around the house. Eureka, I cried!

I'd always appreciated the skewer's little cousin, the toothpick, for cleaning jobs, but I could see what a boon to mankind skewers would be for the careful, albeit infrequent, housecleaner.

The skewers have a raison d'etre in my home now. Maybe someday I'll even make shish kebabs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Just (don't) do it!

Let us count the ways I am not like an NFL player:

My shoulders are nice, but I wouldn't call them broad.
My weight doesn't begin with a 2 or a 3.
My height doesn't begin with "6 foot."
No one is planning to give me a $28 million bonus. (Go, Payton!)

Let us count the ways I am like an NFL player.

I'm a decent football player, albeit retired now. (1968-1970 Kill the Man with the Ball, Steve Schaub's backyard)
I like to do a little dance when I cross a goal line.
I have a coach. (Hi, Dave!)
My team depends on me.
And, of course, as of 7:45 a.m. January 9, 2012, I have now been concussed.

It was a dark and stormy night. No. It was dark, but not stormy, and it was morning. Having suddenly become a two-car family over the weekend (car #4 at college with daughter #1, and car #3 sold for cash on the barrelhead), we decided I would drive Greg to work so Joel and I could each have a car this week instead of leaving the egg in the Toyota parking lot to maybe have her catalytic converter stolen again. On Mondays, though, I also need to drive Anna-Jessie to PEP, so after dropping Greg at work, and taking the scenic route out of the parking lot (pesky hidden exits), I picked up Anna-Jessie and we headed to PEP.

Normally, I drop her off at the door and keep right on going. Yesterday, I decided to stop in and say hello to everyone. As I'm already always striding purposefully forth, I was going at a nice clip when I decided to leap ahead and open the door for Anna-Jessie. My croc got stuck on the sidewalk, which propelled me forward, running at warp speed about 6 feet right into the door, headfirst.

About 12 hours later, after a day of knowing my head hurt and taking it easy, I was at the doctor's office where I found out I had a concussion. His prescription: 24 hours of doing *nothing." Nothing mentally challenging, not even reading. No physical activity either. I suggested we post-date the 24 hours and start them at the time of impact, but he didn't think that was a good idea. Then, after 24 hours of nothing, I am to do 24 hours of mental activity only, but still no physical. Then 24 hours of mental and light physical, etc. Fortunately, he was preaching to the choir about the importance of eliminating the symptoms of concussion, so I gladly undertook 24 hours of nothing. (ok, 20).

During the day yesterday when I was unaware of the actual diagnosis, I had put on my new nike outfit so I could get warm. The tights have "Just Do It" printed on the side. Somehow I don't think Nike meant that to apply to doing nothing. But that is what I needed to just do.

A few reflections::

I noticed that my concussed brain can tell the difference between my own original thoughts and dreams, and the words and images that come from outside, and that it's nice sometimes to just be quiet with my own thoughts.

I observed that I am quite attached to my phone, with facebook, texts, words with friends, and my kindle all at my fingertips, and I missed all of those things! I love the contact I have with people, even if it's virtual!

I experienced that taking it easy, doing nothing, was a really good idea for my brain and that I feel better having had some rest.

I decided that lying down in a public place on a tile floor is not the least embarrassing when I feel like I am going to faint.

I had it re-affirmed that my kids are super troupers.

I recognized that I need to pick my feet up higher when I wear my crocs, if I'm even going to keep wearing them.

I saw that my instinctive question "Why did this happen?" was about wanting to find some sort of control in the situation.

I noticed that this experience threw me off of what I was expecting and planning to do yesterday, today and this week, and I'm curious about what these days will hold instead.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy New Year! Let's Get Moving!

This isn't my house, but isn't it pretty? I'm not sure I'd want to go the whole nine yards on minimalist decorating, but I do love the clean look.

As I've considered lately what I want to create in our home, I've been imagining a home with a feeling of space in it, even in a 1500 sq. ft. home filled with 6 active people full-time, and a 7th who visits between semesters.

For me, a feeling of space comes from ...

Clear surfaces
Natural light
Few things in any particular area

The first four were no-brainers, but I was a little surprised by Movement. Living things move. I looked up the six characteristics of living things, and the first one said that living things are highly organized, from the smallest part to the largest. Well, my doorbell isn't alive, but there is a sense of life in a living, warm, comfortable home, at least in my imaginings!

Movement shows up in all sorts of areas in a home. For instance, food. Ideally, food is carried into the house by my strapping strong sons, put away in the refrigerator and cabinets, and then cooked (or not) and eaten. The remains of the packaging are trashed or recycled, possibly composted, and the food disappears one way or another -- like it's supposed to! That's what food it for. There is movement in that process. Contrast that to bottles of salad dressing in the refrigerator door with expiration dates from two years ago, or taco shells that have been in the cabinet for, like, a year (true-life example, that one).

Thinking of movement brought up the contrasting condition, where an item comes into the house and then stays . . . and stays . . . and stays. One jar of verde sauce in the cabinet? No biggie. Multiply it by 200 or 500 things throughout the house (and garage), and there's a super-duper recipe for clutter.

I suppose we've all read those decluttering tips: (read in Martha Stewart's voice) 1. Box up items you're not sure about. If you don't need to get into the box in 6 months, you can donate it without ever looking iin it again! (Peter Walsh now) When you switch out your seasonal clothes, hang them all with the hangers backwards. At the end of the season, anything that hasn't been moved goes out the door. All kinds of clever ways to tell yourself whether or not you need something. I would say that the most current decluttering advice is more like to address the more philosophical and spiritual issues, but there's quite a boatload of information out there to plow through.

So I'm on the lookout for things that have gotten "stuck" in our home.

While I'm finding the stuckies and moving them along, I am also thinking about the things that will inevitably come in the front door. For food? I want to buy products that are destined to be used because I have a plan for them. I haven't been doing any meal planning lately. Just couldn't muster up the energy for it. But I'm connecting planning meals with having the food on hand we need AND leaving the food we DON'T need at the store (or on the internet, my most favoritest shopping place in the world).

Past attempts have focused on the "thou shalt not's" and efforts to find some list of 10 fool-proof ways to keep your house decluttered. What a breath of fresh air to be looking at the "yes do's!!"

Not everything is going to come in and then go out. Some things are going to come in and stay in one place, but be used every day (furniture, appliances); some things will come in and just look lovely and that will be their entire job. But if it's going to be here, I want it to either be something I believe is beautiful or something I know to be useful. (said by one William Morris waaaay back in the 1800's).

Happy New Year! Let's Get Moving!