Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thinking about Mary

Yeah  Life has been busy.  Lots of lists, things to buy, how to budget the last few items I always forget about, extra good cleaning for overnight guests, how to share appreciation for all those around me who do so much to make my life better without going any further into debt, trying to remember just why it is we do all this preparation for this funny day so late in our calendar year.

I helped out with my church’s Christmas program this year.  It was quite honestly one of the most wonderful things I’ve done with children in awhile.  After all these years focusing on younger children, I had the chance to work with 5th graders.  Big kids. 

I helped them with the bible readings.  So for weeks before the program, I had the opportunity to go over and listen to the selected readings with these kids again and again.  The bible is definitely not a favorite book in my “arsenal”.  But the story of Jesus’ birth (as historically improbable the need to record people in their hometown is) makes me think. 

Being a mother, I’ve been lamenting over the story of Mary.  All that we know of her tells us that she was young, and held a very strong faith in God.  She was from a good family.  Okay.  So her fiancĂ© was about to ditch her when she said she was pregnant with God’s child through the Holy Spirit.  Nice.  Not that I wouldn’t have done the same; her story sounds crazy, but his reaction doesn’t put Joseph in any “holy hierarchy” light.  He only agreed when the angel (Gabriel?) came to him and told him to man up and marry her. 

Then this nutty, and improbable travel to Bethlehem came up.  Mary is “well with child”, she’s getting ready to settle down and prepare for the birth.  And Joseph takes her on a trip, for what must have taken a good couple of weeks, to make the government happy.  Away from her friends and any family who might have helped her.  I’m not thinking that Joseph was either or brought along a midwife.  Then, he obviously didn’t “call ahead” cause they couldn’t find a room to rent for their stay.  Really? 

And in the two nativity scenes I have at my home, and pretty much all those currently produced, Mary looks calm and happy.  She gave birth to her first-born son, who she strongly believes to be the son of God, in a stable with smelly animals.  Then they open their “new digs” to visitors, important ones even. Sounds like a fun time.

So we will be hosting my husband’s wonderful parents off and on during their stay in Minnesota.  My husband is currently on a trip, and will return the same day his parents arrive.  He has taken a new position this year, and has needed to spend extra time reorganizing the program and such.  My calendar has at least one extra event on almost every day until the new year.  And just because we're extra busy, the paychecks don't come extra often, and I continue to juggle when I need to.  So it’s been pretty much up to me to take on all that is Christmas.  (*He did do a wonderful job decorating outside and in - thanks, sweetie!) 

Every time I get down when I’m dealing with these crazy-long lists of “must haves” we create for ourselves, I think about Mary.  She (seems to have) kept her calm, and held onto her faith in God that everything would work out.  Really.

Now I’m not about to give birth and going on a long, arduous journey.  I do not have worries about my honor and marital status (as far as I know :) ).  My main responsibility is to make sure my family and friends feel loved and appreciated and most welcome in my home.  I have often missed that mark in the past, as I held my focus on the shallow ideals of having all the perfect “things” for Christmas.  I have become frustrated with many, failed to be appreciative of loads, and become angry and sullen right in the midst of what should have been a celebration of a new life (His and mine). 

Honestly, I’m still going to push myself too hard.  Stay up too late.  Worry about too many little things.  Freak out about timing and perfection at least twice.  But I am making a commitment to myself to remember to take a deep breath and remember Mary.  And then, say a prayer of thanks that my calling is not her’s.  I’m pretty sure I would’ve told that angel, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  And then where would we be?

Monday, November 8, 2010

what is a gift?

Well, the elections are over, and here in Minnesota, I hold hope for the future.  Being a Democrat, I know many offices are now housing Republicans or other more conservative peoples.  Though I am disappointed by that, I do honor the fact that these people jumped into the game of running this place.  (I also understand that in our current political climate, it's damn hard to accomplish anything you want to, so that does give me hope and a good laugh.)

But now that the campaigning and voting is over for the year, my thoughts turn to the holidays.  My son's 6th birthday comes in just over a week, and then Thanksgiving, cousins' birthdays, friends' birthdays and then the celebration of Jesus' birth.  All include presents, food and getting together with people we don't see very often.  Lots of fun times ahead, but also a lot of pressure.

This year, I've tried to take a little of the craziness out of this season by shopping for gifts and planning homemade things in advance.  Overall, I think I've got enough stuff to give away to fill about 2/3 of my list.  That is a great feeling of calm.  But then, I also don't give my own kids many gifts.

I think back to what my parents gave my siblings and me for birthdays and holidays.  I know that these times were always festive and fun, but I don't remember ever getting exactly what I wanted (or thought I wanted).  No Cabbage Patch doll when parents bum rushed the doors at Target as soon as they opened, then fought over whatever dolls were on hand.  No Members Only jackets, or Michael Jackson purses.  No Sweet Sixteen party at the Holiday Inn ballroom.  Sad life, right?  But I did receive lots of lovely presents.  A sweet "Jennifer" doll.  A Walkman radio/tape player with batteries that I used immediately to listen to "Wild Boys" by Duran Duran (the thought of which was always more intriguing than the real life versions).  A really good 35mm camera I used for YEARS until after I was married. Along with loads of time being outdoors together, learning about other cultures, celebrating with my huge extended family and my parents' lifetime friends... all things that have brought me joy and shaped my view of the world.

As a teen, I would be so upset, disappointed, angry, and depressed that my parents had not chosen to go into serious debt to fulfill all my material desires.  I understood that things weren't all that important, but I did really want them to throw caution to the wind once or twice and just buy what I told them I wanted.  Now, I understand that things are only things.  And generally, these are things that I will spend my years cleaning up or keeping updated (like this ancient iMac I write this on).  So I am thankful that I learned, not only that my lack of material things pushed me to get a job (paper route & babysitting at 13- always had a job since) but also to cherish the challenge of making my own fun.

I was pushed to write this because next week, I'll be throwing a birthday party for my son.  He chose the theme of Halloween.  We picked out things for the party on Nov. 1st (clearance!) and will do fun things like having a dress-up dance party in the basement.  He'll receive enough presents to keep him busy until Christmas, and will then get more.  I can't choose what he'll get as gifts, and that's good too.  But right now, this soon-to-be-6 year old is playing with his little sister, working on a big cardboard box my sister saved from her friend's recycling bin.  They are playing with my husband's set of Fisher Price Little People (choking hazard be damned) and having a great time.  The toys carefully purchased at the best toy store in St. Paul sit idly on the shelf.

Taking the new toy catalogs from the Sunday paper will give my kids hours of enjoyment: looking at the pictures, talking about what they like and don't like and circling things they think they want.  I could feel bad that we don't have the money to buy them the latest and craziest toys, but I won't.  Any disappointment they might feel when they don't receive all those pieces of plastic circled in the paper will be short lived.  We will put on jackets (and soon, snow pants and scarves) and go play outside.  We will find new treasures at the library.  We will visit friends and renew their joys in the toys already on their shelves as we play with them together.  And we will inherit new boxes to play out newly invented stories, and make memories of our own.

So if you are coming to a party at our house in the next months, and you worry about what present to get my little ones, remember that the best present you can give is time and creativity.  That's the gift I am giving my family this year (okay, a few awesome toys & things as well).  And it's the only one that is too precious to return, and always runs out too soon.  Oh, and to include a bit of spunk to this post, if you bring a crappy, plastic, noisy "just-to-bring-them-something" gift to my house, you may just get it back.  A roll of tape, pack of paper and something to write/draw/paint/construct with are so much better.

Kudos to all the people out there who taught me (and continue to teach me) that time with loved ones is more important than more stuff filling up my house.  (On this weekend of All Saints, I honor the hard work, love and dedication put forth for my benefit by my grandparents, who have gone forth without us; Mathew and Rose, Arthur and Ilene.  And my husband's grandparents; Herman and Grace, and Frank.)  Each of my grandparents taught me to reuse what I had, think hard before I buy something new and pass on whatever I no longer use to someone else who needs it.  Good things to learn then and now.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I am Thankful (really)

Okay, my last post was a little harsh.  My husband pointed out to me that it really had little to do with being thankful.  So true.  So I will rectify that misdead now.

I am thankful to live in a society that supports involvement in the government; that voting for officials is basically fair, easy and has many checks and balances.

I am thankful that so many citizens participate in politics and voting, especially in Minnesota where voter turnout is higher than in many other states.

I am thankful that so many people volunteer to be put in a place of scrutiny and judgment as candidates for positions of power in our government.

I am thankful that there are precious few who really believe in the slogan, "Love it or Leave it" but feel more passionately for the belief in "Love it or Work to Make it Better."  Sort of like marriage, I don't love everything about living in my community, state or nation, but I do passionately love most of what life can be like here.  I will always work towards making that life to be better for my family and for all people living here.  (Thanks, Husband, for always working to make me a better person!)

I am thankful that I can have and voice my own opinions, especially as a woman, without fear of facing retribution, attack and abuse in efforts to silence dissent. I am in awe of those women who do speak out with full knowledge of what will surely come after, for the right to free speech has never been a right for so many outside of our borders.

I am thankful for all those who went before me to provide my right to vote.  I honor those women and men by staying involved (as much as I am able) with national and world events and politics, and by using that hard fought right to vote each and every time it is available to me.

I am thankful to my teachers; those found in school buildings and those found in the rest of my life, that have taught me that politics are important.  Not the "daily dish" stuff that is so often in the news.  But the struggles between groups of people to uphold their own values while working together to make a better society.

And I am thankful that those teachers also taught me that MY participation is important.  That what I think, value, support and vote for matters for my society to be strong.

So what my previous post really meant to do was share that with you.  What YOU value matters.  What YOU believe will make our society better is important.  How YOU vote will impact what happens in your community, state and nation.

So please, go vote.

(Thank you.)

You may find these links helpful in learning about who will be on YOUR ballot the first Tuesday of November:

National League of Women Voters Website - there are places to enter your location information to learn about who and what will be on your local ballots.

National Democratic Party Website - national information with links to your local party websites.

National Republican Party Website - national information with links to your local party websites.

National Independence Party Website - same stuff as found on previous two links, so if you are not in support of the two main political parties, this one may be for you!

National Constitution Party Website - if you are looking for a party that is still different, in a more conservative way, this may be the one for you.

National Green Party -a political party focused on common sense solutions that support a government "ruled by the people, not by Wall Street" which may speak to your convictions!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

November is coming vote or MOVE

I don't mean the title of this post to cause any sense of fear that the cold months of the year are just around the corner. Not my intention at all. But there is a building fervor over the impending election (please vote Tuesday, Nov. 2nd) and what the outcomes of said election might be. Because of my upbringing, and my subsequent awareness of all things political, I am getting a little tense with the thought that many people who share my citizenship will choose not to vote. Oops. I just threw up a little. I know, I wrote, "will choose not to vote."

I've met quite a few people, in a variety of generations, who, for whatever reasons they duly list out, don't vote. They "let it slide" and go with whatever happens. Now, I'll describe why that's simply insane.

I will explain up front that I am a card carrying Democrat. (Okay, no I don't really have a 'card' but I am on the list.) Personally, I wouldn't describe myself as liberal, since I have clear and concise opinions about loads of issues, but as society stands today, those opinions place me in the "Liberal" crowd. I would never knowingly seriously date or marry a Republican, and haven't, though my lovely and caring father-in-law is one. I also, possibly because of my clear and concise opinions, consider myself a Feminist. Whatever that means to you, good.

But I do honor and uphold the value of those with convictions that differ from my own. I mean, if I ruled the world, I'd be pretty bored if everyone agreed with me. (Yawn.) I love a good debate. I love to learn what someone else believes and how they would like things to change to uphold those beliefs. I just really dislike (almost hate) when people don't have an opinion. I mean, pick a team. Make a choice. Have a backbone. No matter how crazy the convictions, HAVE SOME. Change them if and when you feel the need, but get involved in the world outside your front door.

I'm a little amped up right now because I am re-reading Garrison Keillor's book, "Homegrown Democrat." With his graceful text, he sends forth a mighty war cry to rally the forces of democracy (especially those within the Democratic Party) toward a new mission. It was released in 2004, and we can all remember that it was not a positive "election cycle" for a few Democratic candidates on the ballots out there, but loads of people got involved. INVOLVED. And things changed because of it.

I also live in a school district that is dealing with a major budget shortfall in the coming school years, and many of us in Minnesota can also lay claim to that. There doesn't seem to be a better time than right now to become involved in choosing who is going to lead the citizenry and what sort of budget adjustments our already ailing cities and schools will need to make.

So I am writing all this down and sharing it with you to let you know that it is 1) cool 2) sexy 3) powerful 4) important 5) responsible 6) crucial and 7) exciting to vote. But mostly, because you owe it to everyone you share this nation with to take part. I mean, what else does our democracy stand for? Why have so many fought for YOUR right to vote if you don't even care about it?

I mean, what else can you do where you spend a short amount of your time, and zero money to change the course of our community/state/nation's history?

So for all those who say they don't want to vote because they don't know enough about the candidates - go to the League of Women Voters website. It is an impartial information location where you can find out WHERE you will vote, WHO will be on your ballot, and WHAT they are about. Ask questions, get answers, and GO VOTE! If you need a ride to the polls, check around. If you can't find anyone close by, ask me! My minivan has plenty of room.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Grace in a land of Fear and Fury

I've been thinking a lot lately about what might be wrong with the way we, as citizens of the United States, see the world. I mean, there are plenty of examples of "what not to do" going on right now. Terry Jones' actions set off a new wave of anger and hatred toward Americans. The fear and subsequent bigotry toward those of the Muslim faith show in a million small and large ways, as in the calamity over the Islamic Community Center planned for Manhattan.

Reading yesterday's Pioneer Press Editorial section gave me a moment of pause. I read the submission by Mr. Tom Meek, "What I learned from the Dayton's bombing." Now this was a bombing in the department store Dayton's back in 1970. I wasn't born yet, and don't remember ever learning anything about this or any other types of "homeland terror" during my childhood. Especially here in Minnesota, known as the Nice state (we're just that passionate) it doesn't seem possible that a person could set off a bomb that would surely harm innocent people. I mean, good Minnesotan just don't DO that stuff. And not in a beloved Dayton's store, either. But I digress.

Reading the article brought forth something else to think about, other than, 'Yes, people in Minnesota CAN make that choice.' Mr. Meek's mother was right next to the detonated bomb, and was subsequently severely injured. She never fully recovered, and yet spent the rest of her life working to help the plight of those who set off the bomb. 'What?' Yes, she understood that the people who set off the bomb were doing so in retaliation to circumstances caused by greater forces than mere people. She saw the truth in the frustration and anger behind the creation and use of the bomb. And she knew that she had a choice in how to react to her own, newly altered place in that situation. She showed an amazing sense of grace, and the love of God for herself, her family and those who caused her life to change so drastically.

Places all over the world are dealing with groups of people who are frustrated and angry; generally over many lifetimes of not getting enough of their basic needs met to feel stable. These groups cause chaos and fear through bombs and attacks on innocent people. For many years, many decades really, our nation (and many more) have retaliated by focusing their counterattacks against those who are rising up. But I wonder if it wouldn't be more effective to focus a counterattack against those who are causing the frustration and anger in the first place? I mean, as a mother, I can see a child being naughty/making a poor choice, and I can focus my discipline against that inappropriate act. This may change the situation for a moment or more, but unless I figure out why the child is making this choice (that they surely know will get them into trouble) then I will be forced to repeat the battle again and again and again.

But if I realize that the child is hungry or tired or sick or bored, I can offer new opportunities for the child to meet those needs in a more appropriate manner.

I fully understand that adults who choose terroristic acts are far from those of a child. But are the influences behind terroristic groups that complex? It doesn't seem to be the case in those I've seen so far.

I pray that those who act out in fits of anger and frustration who spread terror and pain are somehow touched with the love of God (under whatever umbrella is available to them) and that their needs are met. And I pray for all those working toward ending those acts of terror, who rely on the direction of those in power far from the areas being attacked. I pray that more people can share in the grace that Mrs. Meek lived. That more people can see the humanity behind the terror; the struggles of all people to have food, shelter, safety, love and dignity.

There is never an acceptable act of terror. There is never an acceptable act that causes pain, harm and death. There is never an acceptable excuse for choosing to commit those acts, but there is always a place for understanding, empathy and sympathy for our fellow human beings, which we all, imperfectly are.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Am I done, yet?

I know I've said it before, but I still feel the same way, so I'll say it again. Being a stay at home mom is really tough. I love spending most of my waking hours (and a few of my non-waking hours) with my children. I mean, I'm a preschool teacher by profession (graduate school really pays off in this area... ha ha ha) so I am totally dedicated to making the most out of childhood. Really. But there's a bit to this vocation that I would like to avoid. Now, as I shower kudos to those wonderful moms who work for pay outside the home, I've gotta give a disclaimer. A "working for pay" mom is also really tough, but in a different way. Let me explain.

As a stay at home mom (which I am 75+% of the time) my day starts either when my little ones wake up or when my alarm goes off. I dress and feed everyone, and make sure our supplies are ready for whatever our day consists of. I shuttle little ones around, shuttle myself & my littlest one on errands, and make sure everyone in the house has the best of whatever they require (budget allowing).

I spend a good chunk of my day cleaning up the house. I come from a long line of tidy but not super organized houses, and my own home reflects that. A few years ago, I attended a baby shower at a cousin's home, and I honestly didn't believe that the family actually LIVED there, because there wasn't ONE thing out of place. No stack of mail, errant laundry basket, no pile of chewed up dog toys. The house looked staged. It was lovely, but without the slight mess of living, it didn't feel very homey. And I know this was just my weirdness. (Yes, I am weird).

I've found "" which has helped me tremendously in organizing how I spend my cleaning time each day. She's great at making the most awful tasks a little bit more fun. But I am never finished.

My husband is a finisher. He glorifies in starting and finishing a project. He does a wonderful job, and doesn't start on something until he has the time and focus to complete it. (This wonderful quality does have some sour points, but we'll focus on the positive today.) My day, in contrast, never has a beginning or an end. I will clean the bathroom today, and tomorrow, and every day there after for eternity. I will wash a load or two of clothes today, and no matter how quickly I fold, sort and store them, I will have more laundry to wash tomorrow. I will always have dishes to wash; children to supervise, play with and discipline; checkbook registers to balance & budgets to tinker with. And THIS is what is making me crazy today.

I understand that I am feeling this way right now because I have recently finished working my "big summer" hours teaching kids about science & engineering. Work is such a fun and rewarding experience - and I LOVE starting a week and finishing the week and having something new to look forward to. (This is the point where I share how I am a little bit jealous of my mom friends who find wonderful people to care for their little people while they spend their days working on things they actually finish, alongside lots of other grown ups.)

Right now, I have my mom's groups to attend, odd get togethers and book clubs, and always the husband & my date nights. But I will never finish everything I have set before me in my house. My children will be grown and gone and I will still be planning meals and gathering foods and cleaning up my own mess along with someone else's.

So now I take a deep breath, and dive back into the ocean of activities that I can choose from today. The first one of those being "change a poopy diaper." Yes, being a mom DOES make me feel like a glamorous rock star.

some quotes i thought fit my mood today: taken from which is an awesome place to find cool & interesting quotes...

There is joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.
Henry Ford (I guess he never had the "joy" of keeping his house clean.)

Ya gots to work with what you gots to work with.
Stevie Wonder

Weather forecast for tonight: dark.
George Carlin

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
Buddha (I try my best NOT to concentrate on the present moment when I scrub around the toilet, thank you.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pregnant? Seriously??!!?

So I'm wondering, when did it become acceptable to ask a woman if she is pregnant? I mean, I was ALWAYS taught, by experience and by mentors, that you NEVER ask any woman "Oh, are you expecting?" or "So when is your baby due?" unless she has said directly, while rubbing her extended belly, "Ooh, this baby is really moving around in there." or some such statement.

I've never been very thin. And I've never been very fat. Just a jolly middle ground. Then I had two gigantic babies. Delivered by cesarean. The second cesarean surgery done by a much more friendly surgeon than my first, but I'll take competent over friendly any day. Then my second child was a much lighter eater than my first, and I actually gained weight while nursing. So what was once my small buddha belly has become a hodge podge of scars and fat.

My summers are also my most hectic, crazed season of life - squeezing in travel, work, get togethers, fairs, concerts, date nights and anything else that might come up in this warm weather season. So my drive to go get some exercise completely dissolves. But while I was at the doctor recently, I found I had only gained 4 pounds. That would've felt like a triumph after this summer's antics, but I've had three random people ask me if I am in fact pregnant. I mean, I'm 38, completely satisfied with the two beautiful people who call me Mom, and have struggled through years of fertility treatments. If I ever was pregnant by normal means, I would take out a frigin billboard announcing it - and would be wearing a button or t-shirt at all times proclaiming our surprise and joy.

But it is nice to know that random strangers are helpful enough to point out the fact that I do not carry my extra weight in my butt. I do not carry my extra weight in my thighs. But I do carry all that lovely squishy fat in my belly.

I will always take the high road and gracefully smile and say, "No, I'm not pregnant" and then have daydreams about punching the commentor in the face. But please remember, unless the woman is screaming in pain that her water just broke and she needs an ambulance ride to the hospital to deliver her baby, don't ask. Wonder all you want, but don't ask. Seriously.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Grandpa's eyes

I spent the evening with my extended family as my gorgeous young cousin married her sweetheart. I almost chose not to go. I am sure I could have found a few other ways to occupy my time, but I needed to see these people again right now. There have been so many moments in my life that I have chosen to be consumed with my own life and have missed out on making real connections with those wacky people who share my gene pool. What a gift the night was to me. "Thanks, Jennette, for getting married!" (The photo is part of my family, just not from tonight).

A bit ago, I read a few books by a local author, Kevin Kling. He writes in a similar but much more Minnesotan style as David Sedaris. Kevin wrote a story in which he traveled to a country from his ancestry, and was shocked to see people walking around with what he told his mother "all had Grandpa's eyes". It brought tears to my eyes while reading, and does again as I think about this experience tonight.

My grandparents have all passed on, and their faces, stories and comments are but memories for me now. As I looked around at my family tonight, I was struck dumb by how so many of us had the same eyes. Slightly hooded (especially with age), light in color, piercing but framed in laughing wrinkles. No matter what I do, I will always look like my father's sisters, and I sound like them too. Tonight I realize that it's a precious gift. I can look into the faces of a whole crowd that look just like home.

My own father was there tonight. I am especially thankful for that, because he recently had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. His prognosis is very good, and the surgery was the only treatment needed. His own father died in his fifties. I don't know if he thinks of it often, but each day he breathes air is another gifted day he has outlived his own father's life. Selfishly, I would like to keep him around forever, of course. But I also understand that he will be out of reach for me at some point, so I cherish every day he's here and every moment I spend with him.

Both my parents have influenced my personality, and my tendency toward sharing my opinions possibly a bit too freely, with my dad having the stronger impact. Like my mother, he can take on a hard-edged, my way or the highway type attitude with those he's "debating" with, but most times I love how open he is to hearing me share my thoughts.

I am thankful for all those patient, kind people in my family who have given me the benefit of the doubt countless times. I am full of self-righteous, aggressively opinionated thoughts and actions that surely push people away. While I work on being more gracious, quiet and caring, I wonder if my personality quirks aren't also, in part, a product of my enormous family. We're all a bit out there (not in the same ways, of course) with what we hold sacred.

And now, as I look at my own body, all it's shortcomings (or overcomings, depending on what you focus on) seem a bit better. My short and wide feet look like my grandpa's. My small hands look just like my mom's. My voluptuous chest is a gift from my maternal grandmother (thanks for that, really I love it). My short stature comes from both sides, but the design of my face comes straight from my father. And that's wonderful. And my eyes must be a gift from the grandfather I never really got the chance to know. My dad's father died when I was very young, and I don't remember him at all. But as I looked out at all those people tonight, I saw his eyes all over the room.

Thanks, Grandpa. And all those other wacky people who just went along with the natural flow of life to help create me and all those people I call family in that room tonight. I do hope that those eyes keep passing along. It sure is nice to look out and see a piece of my family history. And it's a little easier to look out and see all those eyes, because they are all at about the same height as mine.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I am one of those people who find connections between just about everything in life. Most times, it's super annoying and distracting, but sometimes it's a fascinating peak into the similarities we all share.

Take, for instance, spiderwebs. I seem to walk through more than my fair share of them, and no matter what I'm doing, the moment I become entangled in the creepy, wispy, tickley thing, I turn into a spastic fool. Some might wonder what difference that really makes in my normal appearance, and to them I say, "walk through a spider web and TRY not to jump, and flinch, and groan!" (And a big, F U as well).

I don't think you can. I've never known anyone who is able to just step unknowingly into a spiderweb and continue on their way without a spastic reaction. Are you able to? Can you just remove the strands of webbing and continue on with no comment or reaction?

So instead of allowing myself to be completely grossed out or to slide down the slippery slope of paranoia that spiders are ganging up on me to take over my house, I'll relax in the community of fellow spiderweb spastics. We are all in that club, surely worldwide. That feels so good to know that my fellow spiderweb spazzes are walking through webs every few minutes all day long, jumping, flinching, groaning, and screaming, in every nation, tribe and neighborhood.

United through spiderwebs. What a beautiful world we live in. Now someone needs to come over with some more tissues to do some squishing...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

taking a dip into a few crazy pools

I haven't written in awhile, mostly because summer is my busiest time and because this summer has already been a ride of insanity that I can't seem to get off of. Therein lies my theme, or at least the lens that I"ve been looking at the world through lately.

I may have mentioned before that my mother is a little more than wacky. My father is on the more fun side of madness. My in-laws have their own version of what qualifies for reality. My siblings surely have jumped beyond normal, as well as most of my friends (mostly why I love them so). Then my husband and I have our take. Over the last few years, and more and more these last few weeks, I have developed a theory that we are all completely bonkers and only the best ones of us know it (and wear that title proudly).

I've been spending a good deal of time with all these people mentioned above. So as not to call any one person out, I'll just lump you all together. You are nuts. The guilt; whether implied or outright, stinks. The lack of communication between those you love is sad. I am not a phone operator or newspaper columnist. If you want to talk to someone, meet up with them or call them. If you want something, tell me outright. Otherwise, I don't care. (Blog-dumping ends here - sorry about that bit.)

But I do care about what you do. I want to know about it. About how you feel about it. About what you love to do. About what you really think and what you really care about. I love spending time with you, because I love you and you are a fascinating human specimen. Really. Why do you think I got a degree in psychology? Because I love to study people. So don't get mad when I over-analyze and all that. It's what I do everyday of my life. Because I am crazy too.

I just watched Tim Burton's take on the classic "Alice in Wonderland." I LOVED it, by the way, but it connected all these bits in this line of thinking. I love this story, and Tim Burton's telling of it, because it supports that ideal that you can only do what seems impossible if you are a little bit nuts.

I'm also reading "Running with Scissors" by Augusten Burroughs which makes me think that someone who dives too quickly and deeply into the belief that impossible is possible may just mean you need some serious therapy and medication. But then, through all that he went through as a child and young adult, Augusten has persevered and become an acclaimed author and seemingly successful, adjusted adult. Not sure if that gives me hope, or just makes me feel bad for Augusten.

Is it possible that I am more crazy than those that drive me bananas? Is it my problem that I can enjoy 90% of my time with someone and go right off the cliff by that other 10%? Do I always need to be the one to make adjustments or accommodations for the neuroses of others? Is it acceptable for me to allow my irritation to slide into rage and share my frustration with those causing it? Does everyone have these impossible internal dialogues going on all the time?

To all those questions, probably not.

And for the most part, I calmly and caringly accept that we're all doing the best we can with what we've got at our disposal. Man, I hope that's true. But if anyone else wants to share their own version of crazy with me, could you please wait a few weeks? I'm all full of crazy here.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"My Mom" or "Why I dislike the Bible"

As I said in my last post, I have a great relationship with my Dad. Not so with my Mom. We don't fight, but I almost feel like it would be better if we did. As soon as a conflict appears, she shuts down. Stops the conversation. Changes the subject or stops talking. She doesn't do this because she is just a sweet person, not wanting to bring angst to anyone. From my perspective, it seems she just doesn't want to listen to anyone else. Nice.

She is a very intelligent person. She has an unending thirst for knowledge. She just seems to enjoy driving me crazy with her black and white view of life in the world. sigh.

From what others define me as, I am quite liberal. I consider myself to be more common sense based, but whatever. I do believe that for people to work best in a society, we need to consider the probability that most of us do what we do because we think it to be the best choice for all involved. Too vague? I think it's best to be polite and friendly because it makes me feel better, and I hope it makes others feel better dealing with me. I know many people who are very conservative who believe the same things that I do, (ie. human life needs to be protected) but believe in different methods of doing so (ie. I believe the human lives currently on the soil of Earth should be protected through social services and laws; others believe that unborn human life should be protected through laws and "on the soil" lives are whatever they turn out to be).

So I try to keep an open mind when I speak to people about different issues and how they view them (in other words, I try not to immediately think other people are idiots).

My mom stopped over to our house yesterday to bring my husband a late birthday present and a couple of fun "just because" presents for our 2 year old. We chatted about completely mundane stuff for awhile, but I struggle doing that and ventured into deeper topics.

I brought up the struggles that my book club had when reading and discussing the book "The Faith Club" (the authors are three women, each of different religious faiths, who got together to find ways to create books or resources for children of all faiths when talking about how to live peacefully together). My mother, being who she is, said something along the lines of "that's just some liberal ideal that would never really work". My irritation started, but I wanted to learn more about what she meant, so I kept going, and asked her if she meant that they couldn't create a book resource for kids, or something else. She said that "people with different world views can never be friends, at least not close ones." The end. Oh great.

So I continued on. "Well, I think that most people I know are the faith they are because of the culture and family they grew up in - not because they searched around and chose a faith against all others because it was the one they thought was best." She agreed that was probably true. (What? She agreed I could be right?) "I think it's too dismal to think that no one can be friends because they have different religious beliefs - I mean, especially in this country where, though most of the culture is Christian, all religions or non-religions are welcome." She brought up the Bible. (Here's where I get my hardened heart against studying the Bible.) "Then you need to go to the Bible and learn what you should do. It tells you how to do everything needed in life: marriage, divorce, remarriage, neighbors, laws, children, everything." Oh good, I can't make up my own decisions, but need to consult an old book to tell me how I should live my life, each and every step. Ahhh!

I asked her about the beliefs found universally in all the main religions. "What about the beliefs in doing your best to be a good person and doing things like caring for those less fortunate?" She said, "only Christianity and Judaism hold those beliefs - Hindus believe in family killing." "I think family killings are more a cultural problem, not something found in Hindu religious writings." "I don't know about that." End of conversation. She wouldn't keep talking about any of this because I had gone too far into an area that she had already decided was impossible. I can completely understand why my parents' relationship ended the way it did (in abuse, argument, and a coldness that still persists).

I pray everyday that I can keep an open mind about religion and politics. Both my parents have such narrow views of what is possible that it drives me mad.

As a kid, I thought that it was my problem that I couldn't get along with my mother. Maybe that was true then, and still is now. But the thing that scares me the most today, is that I don't have that special sort of connection with my young daughter. Most times, I don't understand what she's thinking or why she does what she does. And I pray that that lack of understanding doesn't mean that I will also be unable to develop and maintain a close and open-minded relationship with her as she grows into a woman.

Monday, June 28, 2010

See the Good

I have a great Dad. We seem to think the same way; have a similar life view; are both mostly happy go lucky with a tinge of the macabre. I have always enjoyed being around my dad, okay, maybe for a few years during my teens neither of my parents were really on the top of my list of people to hang out with, but the forced contact was usually quite nice.

My dad was recently in a pretty serious car accident, and while the doctors were checking him over with tests and scans, they discovered that 1) he was relatively unharmed by the accident while his truck was totaled and 2) he had a cancerous tumor on one of his kidneys. What? I guess doctors don't usually discover this type of cancer until it has spread and taken over other areas of the body, so his car accident was really a miracle.

We talked on the phone tonight - mostly about my little family's trip to the U.P. of Michigan (WOW! So amazing! More on that later) - but we also talked about faith and religion. About how so many people in our world use religion to tear others down and spread hurt and fear. My dad is such a wise and loving person; such a good role model; such a great person to talk to.

The subject of hatred and fear through religion keep coming up for me lately.

I just read the weekly email from our church and this is what is read:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

1 John 4:18

"Amor omnia vincit. This old Latin saying means, "Love overcomes all things." There is no obstacle or any destructive force so great that love cannot overcome it. I am reminded of the words of the old French carol, "Now the Green Blade Rises" - a song that speaks of Jesus as a grain of wheat:

In the grave they laid him,
Love by hatred slain,
thinking that he would
never wake again,
laid in the earth
like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again like wheat arising green.

Hatred is one power in this world that seeks to slay love. The rest of the carol is equally vivid in its description of other destructive forces in our lives: grief, pain, and, as 1 John points out, fear. But the power of love is pure and indestructible. The resurrection was proof of that. Perfect love casts out not only fear, but hatred, grief, and pain. The final line of each verse of the carol offers vivid testimony: no matter what we face in life,
"Love is come again, like wheat arising green."
Love overcomes all things.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, sometimes the harsh realities of life make me fearful and anxious. Thank you that your love always springs up in my life and gives me hope. Amen."

I'm still not sure if the faith that I have, the love that I share or the prayers that I give truly define me as a Christian, but tonight I know that I don't care one lick about what I am defined as by others. I know that the peace I feel in my heart is the way I determine how well I am following the path the God I believe in has set before me. I know that everyone has the opportunity for that peace and joy - and by everyone I mean every single person on Earth. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Athiest, Agnostic, or in search of a flock.

However you see Jesus' role in human history, most agree that he was a great man who shared love and respect with everyone he came across in his short life. Man, that is so difficult! But it's a good example to strive for. See the good in everyone. A new mantra for my meditations. Especially when I find myself bristling against someone - see the good.

I hope others return the favor. (Thanks Dad)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Super Pause Power

I like to read about other moms who are very much "making it up as they go along" just like I do. Reading a "Writing Workshop" post by the author of Sleep Is For The Weak I have taken on the task of coming up with what superpower I would like to have. (Another thought on this topic was to write about what superpower you already have, but I don't think staying one step ahead of total chaos really counts.)

There are so many cool superpowers to think about. Super speed. Invisibility. Time travel. Super Strength.

I think, since I am in a constant battle to live in the moment, that I would really just enjoy having a PAUSE power. In so many situations, I would love to have a moment to collect my thoughts, clean up my house, take a nap, take a pee alone... the possibilities are endless.

I'm sure my husband would enjoy this new power of mine while we argue and I end up saying something hurtful, just to get a few moments to think through what I'd like to say.

My kids would love me to have this power so that, while they are requiring my attention, I could give it to them - instead of being like the dog, Doug, in the movie Up!, always distracted by whatever seems shiny at the moment.

Even my dogs would love it, since they might actually get a walk every once in awhile!

I could find time for myself as well as meet the needs of everyone who relies on me. Maybe I could even find time to get together with friends I seem to only stay in contact with on facebook; a sad replacement for actually talking to people who have made my life such a rich tapestry of experiences.

Ahh. Pause Power. What a cool dream.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ways to show I love myself.

Ways to show I love myself. Sounds kinky, but I'm taking this seriously. What do I do to show myself that I am a valuable, important, deserving human being? Okay, maybe I'll take out Deserving, because I think the word Deserve has lost all meaning, but that's another topic.

I was reading my daily message from (If you have any home cleaning issues, it's a great resource for conquering clutter, limiting the overwhelming chaos, and feeling empowered). Part of today's message was about different ways to renew your spirit and provide yourself moments each day of love toward your best (and sometimes worst) lifemate.

Flylady said:

Dear Friends,

How do I love me, let me count the ways!

On our "Renew your Spirit" day we can do this in many ways. This is all about you and what you need and like. Here are some ideas for you to try. You get to pick and choose.

1. Go to church
2. Listen to wonderful music that you don't hear often
3. Watch a movie that you love
4. Read a book
5. Go for a walk or a hike
6. Sit quietly in your favorite chair with your eyes closed
7. Take an extra long bubble bath or shower by candle light
8. Make a pot of soup for supper and let it simmer all day in the slow cooker while you relax
9. Take a nap
10. Go for a drive
11. Turn off your phones
12. Sit outside and listen to the birds
13. Take your dog for a walk
14. Curl up on the couch with a magazine
15. Build a fire or light a candle
16. Do a crossword puzzle

How do I love me? Let me count the ways!

Slow down and enjoy the moments by doing something you love to do and not
feel guilty over it. It could become a habit to each day. Peace is

Loving yourself is all about reducing the stress in your life one
moment at a time.


What a great thing to work towards in life! Doing something for yourself each day - not spending money, not being selfish, just doing something that will bring joy to your heart while doing it, and while thinking about it after.

This weekend, the husband and I took the kids and the dogs on a camping trip to Wabasha, MN. It's not too far a drive for us, and generally in the opposite direction of most weekend travelers in the Twin Cities. Wabasha is the town where the story of the Grumpy Old Men movies is based, and many places around the town were featured in the movie. That's a fun thing to note, but Wabasha is also a cool little town! It's on the banks of the Mississippi River, with loads of things to do both in town and in the surrounding natural areas as well.

We spent a great deal of our time at a campground called Pioneer Campsite. For camping destinations, it was pretty good. They had a pool (filled with well water so it had a slightly rusty but clean color), a huge Rainbow play system playground area, and is right next to a boat launch for the river. We had a great time, but as with all campgrounds with a large number of seasonal sights, the facilities were a little less than clean. They were far from gross, but I never saw proof that the bathrooms were cleaned during our stay and the men's room never had hand soap. All that aside, I had the opportunity to enjoy many of my favorite summertime activities.

I took the kids over to the pool for a dip. The shallow end was still 4 feet deep, so I got in to the Whoo-Hoo Cold! water and held onto the kiddos while they had goose bumps from the chill and squealed with delight. Check One for Fun.

I took a walk under the stars. It was only up to the bathroom after everyone went to bed, but it still counts and it was amazingly beautiful. Check Two.

After everyone else went to bed, and I had showered, I snuggled up and read a book with a little flashlight. Listening to the night noises while reading a book (though I wish that book had been a bit better) was magical. Check Three.

We spent one full morning walking around the Lark Toystore which has to be one of the largest and most amazing toy stores in the world! We rode a hand-carved, absolutely incredible carousel, played a fun game of mini-golf, enjoyed some fudge, and played with so many fabulous toys that the husband's head was literally spinning. He had to take a break and walk the dogs along the grassy area outside. The kids were in love with the entire experience. I loved that it really only cost us the price of one toy they could share, a cool picture the husband wanted for the basement and some inexpensive fun times. *Lark Toys* makes their own line of natural, wooden children's toys that are so cute and fun! I wish I had more money to send them out to everyone. Check Four.

We then drove toward the town of Pepin, WI and found a fun restaurant called The Pickle Factory nestled in between the train tracks and the river (or Lake Pepin, it's hard to tell where one starts in that area). We watched the boats and the trains while enjoying a tasty lunch. To get there we had to drive through the wetlands surrounding the Mississippi. I have never seen such a beautiful, intriguing natural area. It would be perfect to kayak around through the natural waterways through the woods to see what no one on any motorized vehicle could ever see. Check Five.

The husband and the kids built great campfires (very safely, of course) and we had great times sitting around, roasting marshmallows (that no one ever ate) and enjoying the moments. Check Six.

Oh, and we even went on TWO hayrides around the campground. The resort owner, Paul, took out the tractor and wagon and took anyone who wanted to go on a bumpy, dusty, fun ride around to see all that the campground offered. Everyone riding on the wagon took on the role of a member of a float in a one-float parade. I had the chance to chat with other campers (adults and children alike) and see what everyone else was up to. It was such fun. Check Seven.

Great trip. Even while I was making sure everyone else was safe, sunscreened, bug-repellanted, fed, washed, and having fun, I found moments throughout the days to do things just for me. Or to live in the moments we were enjoying together and take a mental picture of that wonderful spot during our time camping.

I'll look back on those moments now that we are home, and I look forward to our next camping trip (heading back to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan- Porcupine Mountains!) where I hope to hike, nap and play more, but always find moments each day to remember the joy in my own heart - to celebrate that fierce love I have for me.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Calisthenica" or "Exertionis"

If people can eat, walk, have sex, fight, drive, and talk while they are blissfully sleeping, can we also sleep work out?

I'd like to sign up for one of those exercise classes. I know I could fit it into my schedule. I wouldn't have to line up a babysitter or work around my husband's schedule. I could choose a different style of exercise each night, and never get tired of it. (oh, ha ha. good pun.) And I could have loads of different coaches and instructors and trainers - maybe Johnny Depp one night for fun and my high school gym teacher, Mr. Sprute, for fear and degradation on another.

I think I've really stumbled onto to something here! Maybe I could work with the scientists who design those fabulous sleep aides that produce the dangerous, embarrassing, and fattening side effects and have them tweak those effects a bit.

I think there'd be some serious lines at the clinics around town if we saw commercials promoting "Calisthenica" or "Exertionis" sleep aides if a strong side effect was participation in an hour-long spin class while remaining asleep.

Can't you just see the commercials now? Roundish adults with sleep disorders drifting off to sleep in a softly lit, white room. Upon waking, they see a suddenly slimmer self in the mirror, well rested with tight abs to boot!

I've gotta get ahold of some of those pharmaceutical companies and have a chat with those researchers. There's gotta be some combination that would get us there. Somehow.

Or maybe I'll just sleep on it.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Okay, I know I said in a previous post that I would work on being less serious. I'm still working on that, but I want to share something very serious for everyone to think about.

I read the article, "Tragedy in the Backseat" by Melissa Balmain in the June 2010 issue of Parenting magazine. It discusses how mothers and fathers of young children are more likely to forget that their child is in the car; leaving them in a closed, sweltering car while the parent goes about their normal day without knowing how catastrophic their mistake will be. We've all had those strings of days - sick child or sick parent, little sleep, busy schedule, changes in normal routine, small child asleep in their car seat - and just one moment of forget leads to the loss of a cherished child.

It was over 90* here today, which is extraordinary for this state. Along with making me long for fall, the heat does help me to remember to send out a reminder to everyone, which I will do every year, to look into the cars you walk past in parking lots and curbsides to check in car seats. Pets are at an advantage in the "locked in the car" situation because they are able to move around, creating more to notice. Small children are so much smaller than the seats they are strapped into, that it would take effort to notice if a child was present or not.

While I was living in St. Cloud some years ago, a teacher had a string of days I described above. The teacher was a parent of a young child, about 18months, and took over driving this child to daycare on this day, which was out of the ordinary. It was a beautiful spring morning- sun shining and puffy clouds with the joyful finish to the school year only weeks away. This teacher left home and drove to work, surely thinking about the day of teaching ahead. Parking spot found, settled into their classroom, taught a decent day of quality learning. Walked to the car again at the end of the day, and realized they made one seemingly small but horrific mistake that day, forgetting to bring their formerly sleeping, beautiful little toddler to day care.

There isn't one week that goes by that I don't say a prayer for that parent and that family. I'm more disorganized than a good many, and have a slew of experiences leaving something important in the exact worst place. I know that I could easily have this sort of a life changing "small mistake" but I am blessed with the option to stay home with my children. By not having a daily car commute scheduled into my day, I am saved from the majority of those chances.

So as I wipe the tears from my eyes yet again, I ask each of you to reach a helping hand to those overtired, harried parents and their precious cargo. Every time you walk through a parking lot, or past a car parked at a curb, peak in the backseat. It takes an extra 5 seconds and the mental space to think, "Oh, there's a car seat!" If we could save the life of one child, no amount of effort would go to waste.

These aren't parents who are abusive or neglectful in other situations. Just those who are experiencing extraordinary parenting requirements and drop one of those "task" balls.

So share the message with everyone, and PEAK IN THE BACKSEAT!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This child is exhausting

Last year, life was different. My daughter was about 1 1/2, and having great difficulty sleeping through the night. I am not one to "let her cry it out" so I spent lots of nights trying to creatively calm her back into a deep slumber. (Thank you, author Elizabeth Pantley for the great advice and motherly support! And to Julie O. who went through the same ordeal.) Overall, I don't need more than 7 hours of sleep, with 4-5 hours a minimum for a day or two. I have had so much experience walking through the house in the dark, doing my best to avoid all the really squeaky floor boards and scattered toys, that I am amazed when my husband stubs his toe on the leg of our bed in the dark. (It hasn't been in any other location for eight years.)

Between both my children's infancy's, I spent hours of painful awake-ness (?) in the dark, praying that this crazy creature would just give in already and sleep for gosh sake. Anyone else experience that overwhelming full-body pain I felt by just being awake and trying to calm a baby back to sleep? It's insane. No one ever talked with me about it, so I can never tell. But then again, no one ever told me about all the gross things that happen during pregnancy either, so I think it just goes with being a mom. (We don't talk about that stuff because either it's embarrassing or we know that we all go through it so who's gonna care? I personally would have enjoyed knowing that "cheeseburger crotch" was completely normal before I showed my swollen cootch to my old man OB.)

Now my dear daughter is a little older than two. She is funny and smart and does so many things exactly like her dad (good and not so good) and she is so independent, during the day. At bedtime, she still requires a bit more attention than I'd like to give her most days. She cried for ten minutes tonight because I failed to put her preferred amount of toothpaste on her brush, and after she wiped what toothpaste I had put on it onto the side of the sink, I refused to reapply toothpaste. (No I did NOT give in to the diva.)

Then, she pushed her brother out of his spot on his bed while we read him a book and was unwavering in her selections for her own stories to read next to her crib. She's getting so good at falling asleep with me just next to her crib, but tonight needed LONG hand holds and lots of shushing. She seems to try my patience at my most impatient moments, and I am thankful for that - it's strengthening my patience, but MAN, it makes me reminisce about those long years of our lives before we had kids, and all that sleep I got.

My daughter is currently in LOVE with he Olivia books.
There is a line from Olivia's mother in one of the books. After an especially tiring day together, her mother gives her a kiss and says, "You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway." And Olivia gives her a kiss back and says "I love you anyway too."

I think my little girlie and I will have many moments like this one in the years ahead. I am so happy to be the mom of this child, but man, she really wears me out.

Maybe I just need to eat more chocolate.

I think I've been a little too serious lately, which happens sometimes when I have too much time to think about things and not enough time to talk things through with other people. I've probably always been a little too serious, but I'm working on that. Sorry if I've bummed anyone out.

Maybe I just need to eat more chocolate. Not being able to talk a lot to other adults is one hazard of being a stay-at-home parent. Even though my 5 1/2 year old is wise beyond his years, he can't really hold up his end of a conversation about fair taxation or what the government's role should be in social welfare. Which are also not really topics we cover in the mom's groups I visit with, or things I get to very often while I'm at work (on those rare and golden occasions.) So I blog about them, and bum people out. Or tick them off. Or make them like me less, which I would rather people not like me than like me for something I'm not or don't believe.

Or maybe I just need to eat more chocolate (dark chocolate, of course). I think I'll go try that out today.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

what "marriage" means: my opinion (which is the one I think counts most for me)

As I have mentioned before, I am married and have been for almost, ummmm, 12 1/2 years. (I had to stop and figure that out for a minute, and even then I'm still not positive). When my husband and I worked it out that being married would be awesome (living together was just not enough for us) we talked about how I would NEVER divorce him. My parents divorced, along with most of my friends' parents, and I had figured out that divorce sucks for everyone, and my man and I were good enough friends to work out pretty much anything. (I did add that no matter what, I wouldn't divorce him, so he'd better be sure he wanted to spend the rest of his life with crazy old me).

So we signed on the dotted lines and stood up in front of everyone and I cried through the whole ceremony, mostly out of sheer exhaustion from not sleeping much the night before and being stupid and planning HOURS of pictures before we walked down the aisle. After all these years of wedded bliss (and wedded not bliss) we are still very much in love. Awwww. (*bleck) I know.

I live in a state that is currently working to pass a law/ constitutional amendment to define what exactly "marriage" means here. Well, I've got a few thoughts on what a marriage means.

To me, marriage means working together in a loving and supportive relationship, one of us providing most of the finances and the other providing a comfortable lifestyle within those finances. To a friend, marriage means financial security and a pleasant relationship. To an aunt, marriage means an attempt to find something in another person that is needed (she found some amazing people but never what she was looking for). To my parents, marriage in the past meant fulfilling a cultural expectation with a "nice enough" person. To my father, marriage today means spending life filled with love and adventure. To a neighbor, marriage means living your own lives in a parallel relationship.

I know each person out there has a different take on what marriage means to them. And all those takes on what marriage is (or is not) are true! All of them are part of our collective reality.

Reading articles and websites regarding what "should be done" with the issue of what legal definition is acceptable has solidified that take on the situation. I've even read polls that lean both ways for how the people of my state feels about the issue. (I think most of the media out there is really just crap dressed up.)

Here's what I've found to "support" the idea that marriage is designed for one man and one woman:
* it is for procreation
* it supports the need for a father and mother in a child's life
* it helps build a strong society
* a million little petty things that in a dream world occur in a marriage between a man and a woman, but rarely do in real life.

Here's what I think:
* Marriage itself supports and strengthens our society. (A solid home life for two adults, in support of each other, makes all those around them more solid.)
* Two adults are best to raise children. (Two adults working together to create a stable and loving home for children works best. But I myself would love to have another adult around on occasion, so maybe I would like to add on that having a stable home with a supportive network of other adults makes the best environment to raise children.)
* The separation between church and state needs to be just that, and a state sanctioned marriage is not dependent on the approval of a religious organization. (My father married my mother as a Catholic. He remarried, but never annulled his first marriage so in the Catholic church, he is still married to my mother. The state didn't really care much about that, as it shouldn't have.)
* Positive relationships between men and women are wonderful, but they don't just occur in the boundaries of a marriage. (So there.)

So personally, I think the legislators should just pass things along themselves and make the law say that any two consentual, able-minded adults can enter into a legally binding union "till death do us part". But I am also accustomed to not seeing what I want come to fruition, so I would almost be okay putting it up to a vote. But I also have trust issues, and control issues, and I just want everyone who wants to join the insane club of "marrieds" to get the official okay.

Because really, if the inclusion of gay and lesbian couples are to be the true downfall of marriage, then I think we need to revisit just how messed up a good number of the marriages around us really are. I don't think any of those problems were caused by a gay or lesbian couple asking to join the fray. Maybe the promiscuous neighbor, but not the quiet gay man or lesbian woman down the street.

Or if the inclusion of another group will be marriage's downfall, then it shouldn't be upheld anyway, since it isn't strong enough to include everyone.

I say, join the club if you want. Go ahead. So many that I thought shouldn't did anyway, and so many that I think should have turned it down. Commit and stick with your partner forever, and you will uphold the intention of what marriage is really about. And have a wonderfully happy life along with the rest of us!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Saving Money?

So I'm a home-based mom, married to a public school teacher. My husband makes a very good salary, but it is a stretch for me to stay home and still plan to have any life outside of it. Lately I've attempted to seek out more and better money savers. There are so MANY bloggers who share wonderful coupons, freebies and sweepstakes - and I envy their excitement for buying name brand products for pennies.

My inner cheapskate gets so excited for great deals! I snagged six Degree deodorants for my hubbie for 39cents a piece awhile back, and I was giddy for ages. But then, as I came back down from that "high" I realized that I was only happy because my husband actually USES Degree deodorants. I could have probably found lots of other cheap purchases, but I didn't pay any attention to them because we don't use any of them.

I am one of those people who is aware and sensitive to chemicals and what they do to our bodies and the nature around us. I make most of our own cleaning products, and avoid most of the synthetic products found at stores. I don't buy much in the line of beauty products. I don't buy many breakfast cereals, snack foods, or other highly processed foods. I don't really shop for new products very often, unless it's food products of the highest quality. (Like my favorite brands of dark chocolate!)

So I'm still trying to find great deals, but I'm getting less and less impressed by the "good deals" I'm finding online. I think my best deal as of late is the money I spent at the local greenhouse when I bought seeds and starter plants for our garden. I can't wait for our strawberries to ripen, our carrots to grow deep, our potatoes, beans, peas, tomatoes, zucchini, and pumpkins are ready to eat. The best quality produce and a fun family activity all in one! (Who needs a gym membership when you till your garden with one pitchfork?)

Friday, May 14, 2010

my computer is somehow connected to my kids

So it seems that there is some weird connection between my efforts to compose any writing for this blog and the demands for any contentedness for my children.

one interruption before this, and now, yes, there's another. awesome.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Feeling Thankful, my inspiration

Feeling Thankful, the title for my blog, is taken from the title of a wonderful children's book that I purchased through Scholastic book orders while I was teaching preschool. I chose it because I liked the title, but I read it each week (to my kids but also for me) because I love the message it gives.

The book is a picture book with a simple poem of joy in keeping a heart open and thankful. The back of the book holds the description, "Feeling Thankful invites young children to consider the warm, happy feelings they have about the people, places, and things that make their world feel safe. It is an invitation to smile and be thankful. It was written by Shelly Rotner and Sheila Kelly, Ed.D. and should be given to every child and parent in our nation.

My favorite lines of the poem are:

"I'm thankful for me."
"I'm thankful I have a home and good food to eat."
"I'm thankful when I walk in the rain."
"I'm thankful for the moon and the morning, when it comes."

I know that our nation is going through a transition to a more thankful attitude. This blog is my own focus on my journey to remain thankful for all that I experience in life, or at least my attempts at being thankful.

The book reminded me again tonight, that I have so much to be thankful for. And that so many in our world, nation, state and city need the help of those who are able to have the most basic joys in life. Check it out. It may be at your library, used book store, new book store or on the bookshelf of a friend.

And find something in your life to be thankful for right now.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

thoughts on Johnny and his boat.

So, I found this article while checking my emails. It meshes my recent trip to Puerto Rico (an island in the Caribbean) along with my 23 year long love affair with Johnny Depp. (What could be better?)

His boat called Vajoliroja. The name is a combination of two or three letters of each name in his family, ending up with a name that sounds somewhat like "The Jolly Roger". Okay, so I guess Johnny went a little deep into the character of pirate, Jack Sparrow. They were good movies, and must have been fun to make (along with the fat paychecks) so I guess naming your boat that transports you around the Caribbean, to and from your private island, isn't that strange. It actually sounds amazing.

I think Johnny is actually a pretty normal person with a good sense of humor, but has to come off as quite an odd person to deal with being famous. Or maybe, because being famous is so odd in and of itself, being a normal person in that role always comes off as "odd."

I get nervous when I go out all "shlumpy SAHM-ish" in case this day is that ONE time I see someone important I know when I'm in ugly sweats and ratty hair. (Why don't I ever see anyone when I'm all dolled up and feeling fine?) I can't imagine the stress of going out and having a crowd of camera-wielding nuts trying to capture an unattractive shot, not to mention the fears celebrities must have around psycho fans (no, I am NOT a psycho fan - just, well, committed).

The weather is getting warmer here, and I'm happy to know that Johnny will be floating around the ocean in this "little" paradise in the sun. Now I'll have to think up a name for the thing that transports me around in my own paradise - my gold minivan. I can think of a few names for it that I don't really want my kids to repeat, so maybe this will take some more thought...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

always the questioner

Here's the back story on what I'm thinking about...

I have always been intrigued by logic. In college, I loved my Logics class and the use of the "If, then" statements in arguments. i.e. If my paycheck arrives, then I can buy food. The whole concept of logic just helps me to make better sense of the crazy world I live in. At least sort of.

I was raised Catholic. I come from a LONG line of Catholics, such that it was considered "racy" to marry someone NOT Catholic. I have always considered myself to be a Christian, though I question many facets of Christianity and uphold, even celebrate, the value and integrity of those who are not Christians. I attend Lutheran church services fairly regularly. I share Bible stories with my children and talk about my faith in God, along with my own questions. I pray so often it could be considered an almost constant conversation.

So at my latest mother's group meeting (which is held at my church, thank you very much) a mom shared her testimony about how God has touched her life. To shorten it a bit, she shared how her family of origin failed to give her love, support and hope for her future. She shared how people outside of her family reached out to her and shared their faith in God, and gave her the chance to find her own faith in God through Christianity. Her testimony was beautiful. But she made a few comments that have put my mind to work on this logic these last few days.

She read a passage out of the book of Romans that spoke to how reading the Bible and living by the Bible made you a Christian (along with taking Jesus as Lord and all that). She said that if you didn't study the bible, and just lived by your own interpretation of God, then you were worshiping idols or false gods. Hmmm...

Now I haven't read any large sections of the Bible in years. I have read the entire Bible a few times, so it's not like it's foreign to me. But I have never studied it and find that thought a bit abhorrent. My parents fought over many, many things before they divorced, and religion and the Bible were a common favorite. And I think parts of Catholicism go against putting all your "eggs" in the basket of studying the Bible. (There are all those cool religious traditions and high holy days and confession and venial and mortal sins and limbo and penance...that might get lost in the varying translations of the big book.) So I think I have a bit of a grudge against the book. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. There have been plenty of "books" not published in all the bibles that were there in the beginning collections and each "version" paints a different picture of how life was and now should be. So who am I to say that the book I currently have on my bookshelf is everything God wants me to know about life?

So I question, Am I really a Christian?

I do believe that Jesus died on the cross for me and for all humans. But I know that, if I were born into a family of another religion, I would live by that religion instead. I believe that Buddha also had a divine connection to bring understanding and enlightenment to the people on Earth. I pray to God each day, but don't believe that those who are not Christians will not be allowed into whatever wonderful afterlife there might be. I believe that Muhammad was a divine prophet and his message connects everyone on Earth to the goodness and hope that faith in God brings. I also hold valuable the concept of reincarnation - the chance to come back to Earth many times and work towards a better life. And I believe that humans are fallible. That even those who seek to bring joy, hope and love to others through the messages of a religion should be questioned and never taken as a divine messenger.

So does my open heart and mind mean that I am not a Christian?

Can a Christian study or think about only the Bible passages that come up in church services or other discussions and not the whole book?

Can a Christian know in their heart that being a good and honest person; being one who works a lifetime of service toward others; being a person who shares ones gifts and talents; being a person who takes time each day to appreciate and protect the beauty that surrounds us in both nature and in other people, that these qualities are more important than reading and studying a book that has so many versions, and so many conflicts within its pages?

I walked away from Catholicism because of the falsehoods I found in the religion and the contrasting realities of life. I will always be a Catholic as a sort of birthright. I now practice Catholic-light, or Lutheran Christianity. Maybe I'm really just practicing, but even if I'm not really a Christian, I am a blessed child of God, in whatever form that it is.

And I know in my heart, that the woman who shared this path of thought was celebrating something good in her own life, and not condemning something in my own. But damn it, it sure felt like it.

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." ~Buddha

Ah, Buddha. He must have had a divine connection to God, Jehovah, Allah, the Creator, to share such wisdom. His words always give me peace. Not always direct answers, but peace none the less.

So Christian or not, I am always thankful for today. Thankful for the beauty that surrounds me. Thankful for my ability and opportunities to share love with others. Thankful that I have a strong connection with my Creator. And someday, to have a joyful connection to all the books written in God's name.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


someday sleeping through the night will be normal for me.
someday the stress of being finished with dinner, kids ready for bed and the house in a calm hush by 8pm will be a memory.
someday my daughter won't need me to gently hold her hand as she falls asleep.
someday my son won't ask for a snuggle, and a book, and a back rub, then tell me he really is not tired.
someday i'll clean the dinner dishes and be amazed by how much food i am not throwing away.
someday i'll be able to stop at more than two stores in a row on errand day.
someday i'll be able to send my kids out of the house to play and feel okay that i can't see them at all times.
someday i won't have to schedule my day around naps.
someday my son won't scream when i wash his hair in the bath.
someday my daughter won't freak out, thrashing and screaming, for what seems to me no real reason.
someday i'll be able to watch the news or a sitcom without jumping for the remote to change the channel while trying to figure out how to have a talk about what was just on the t.v.
someday i'll have a job i go to everyday where i have full conversations with adults.
someday i'll be able to call someone without having to run to lock myself in the bathroom or bedroom when a screaming fight erupts.
someday my daughter won't be obsessed with wanting everything her brother has, does and says.


but then,
someday my kids will be doing their own thing, leaving me to wonder and worry about what that actually means.
someday i'll have to try to balance working my own full-time job with family time.
someday i'll lose sleep over a child missing curfew.
someday i'll have to force my kids to schedule their day to include me.
someday my daughter will scream at me and i'll likely still not know what she's freaking out about.
someday the dinner dishes will only include my husband's and mine.
someday my son will turn down a PDA from his mom.
someday my daughter will feel too independent to hold my hand.
someday my kids will be living their own lives and will need special days to remember to catch up on each other's lives.

so for today, i'll breathe deep when my kids demand one more round of backrubs at bedtime, when i have so much more to do.
i'll make sure to plan times to stay connected with my friends so i don't feel completely out of touch with the adult world.
i'll accept the fact that i have limited time, energy and attention to spend on shopping, cleaning and other outward-appearance activities.
i'll give up a bit more of what i want to do today so that i can make sure my kids and my husband have what they need.
i'll make sure to stay connected with my husband so we can lean on each other when one feels ready to lose their mind, and so we can still lean on each other when our kids are on their own.
i'll remember that childhood is short and this crazy love i have for my kids and my husband will last for forever if i remember just how fast it's all going by.

and when i just want to curl up and cry about how tough this mom job is, i'll remember how funny, how interesting, how joy-filled and how humbling it is today.

how far i've come as a mom.

how blessed i am to have such wonderful kids.

how thankful i am to know so many fabulous moms.

how lucky i am to have a husband who loves being "mr. family man" even when we argue about what that name really means.

how fortunate i am to be able to stay home with my kids today.

and i'll be thankful that today is just today, and that someday is still pretty far away.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


So I've been staying up way too late as of late. I'm thinking it has something to do with the fact that "late at night" is the only time I have any time alone, which I really need right now. I have no answers for what's going on, nothing life or death or too horrid. So I'll pass on sharing that.

But lastnight something weird happened.

I read a lot of fantasy or science fiction novels. A LOT of them. I was raised Catholic, in a family rich in superstitious traditions. I now practice at being Lutheran (sort of a lazy Catholic), but I still pinch spilled salt and toss it over my left shoulder. I do my best to avoid stepping on cracks on walkways. I pick up pennies on the street, and toss them away without watching where they go if the coin face is down (bad luck). I don't really like cats and my husband is severely allergic to them, but I do my best to be kind to them, especially black ones. I do all these quirky little things, not because I really believe that breaking a ritual will cause me harm, but because I have a thousand family voices whispering in my ear, "Just follow the steps, what harm can it do?"

So my imagination is filled with fairies & other magical creatures, vampires & werewolves, and all sorts of craziness. Our home is in a quiet neighborhood in an area at the edge of suburbia and farmland. It is almost shockingly quiet here at night. Last night, it had started gently raining and I was walking around the house shutting things off and closing up the house before I went to bed. The streetlight at the corner of our yard has been switching on and off intermittently for awhile (I keep forgetting to call for them to replace the bulb). When I looked out the front window, it was almost black dark. No biggie. But then I saw a huge, white, long-haired dog trotting across the driveway, passing through our yard.

What was that? A very large white, long haired dog, trotting around alone at 12:30 at night. I ran to another window to see if I was hallucinating or if it was truly running through our yard. I saw it go to the far edge of our yard and then turn around. Freak me OUT! Ahh! It came back to the driveway and stopped. Delilah the mallard duck was hiding out under the bushes, I'm sure not moving a bit. I wasn't sure what the heck this creature was doing in my yard, so I yelled out the window at it to go home. (I was afraid that it might try to attack Delilah, right before her eggs would hatch!) It was dark in the room I was standing in, with an open window facing a dark outdoors, so the dog faced my direction and just stared. It may have even done that funny dog look of tilting its head.

After a minute or two, it trotted off towards the park behind our house.

Then I started to feel bad. My sister is a serious animal person. She works at a vet clinic and has a herd of creatures at her house. I thought of what she might have done for this dog. It was likely lost, walking around in the cold rain, late at night.

But then, I worried about what this "vision" of a white, wolf-like dog really meant for my life. I said a little prayer that, if this was someone's dog, it would have safe travel back home to dry off and warm up. If it was a vision to tell me something of my future, then what the H-E-double hockey sticks did it mean?

Ahh. I'm hoping something positive. I'm hoping it was a guardian creature, protecting me from harm. But man, that freaked me out so bad. If you have a pet, keep it sheltered and safe, not just for the pet, but for anyone who might come upon it at a weird time of day, in a weird state of mind. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

just Ducky

We have a female mallard nesting in our front bushes this year. I'm not sure how long these ducks live, so I don't know if she is the same one who has nested in various places around our yard through the years, or if we've had the luck of different mothers each year. Either way, this one has chosen a bold and comfortable location for her nest.

Our house makes a sort of L shape, creating a little courtyard area tucked in the space at the front of the house. Our drier vent exhausts onto a small area of shrubs. If I was more fastidious a landscaper, this area would likely be free of old leaves and such, but I'm not, so there you go. Mama Duck seemed to appreciate my lack of effort, and made a fabulous little nest between two bushes where she'd also catch some warm air from the drier vent. Already, I know she's a brilliant duck mother!

I think mallards sit on their eggs for about three weeks before hatching, which means Mama Duck (or Delilah as I like to call her) will soon be sneaking off in the wee hours with her newly hatched brood. We've watched so many other nesting moms for weeks to wake up one morning and find everyone gone, this time it won't be a surprise. We'll be sad to see her gone one day, so to celebrate how thankful I am to have her here now, I'm taking pictures.

She looks like every other female mallard. There are loads of mallard couples around this neighborhood. Not sure why, but there are also a good dozen "spare" males hanging around too. One male & female mallard couple stops by fairly often, apparently to sit and chat with Delilah. I was thinking it was something like my grandparents did, when they went to visit with their neighbors and chat about life. My husband wondered if the male mallard just had a couple of "ladies" instead of being monogamous. I think we are both projecting our own little home life fantasies. (I think mine is a little less titillating, but we're still talking about ducks, so I won't digress too far.)

I'll be sad when Delilah has moved on, but I'll be able to plant flowers in the big planter behind her. I'll be able to move into Spring mode. But I am sad. I don't know what next year will bring in my life, so I am sad that this may be the last Spring nesting that I see of our little ducky friend. Happy. Sad. Anxious. All mixed together. happy spring.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not the only one to feel THE HAND in feeling thankful

I've been super busy with life (I know, who isn't) and have two or three posts hanging in the "drafts" folder waiting to be finished. But just now, I read a post from one of my all time favorite bloggers and radio personalities, Sheletta. She shares my perspective on keeping a thankful heart, and she's brilliantly funny.

In case you missed her recent post, you can link to it here: "In all things, be thankful"

And then, once I get passed this weekend of hosting Easter and shopping with my sister for some slightly more hip "attending a wedding" wear, I'll work on finishing my languishing posts, all the while being thankful for all that I have, love and know.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Rediscovering Love

I tagged along with my husband during a trip to Puerto Rico. The trip consisted of quite a bit of down time, along with a perfect array of tours to see historical sites and different ecological variations that this tropical island holds. I had never been anywhere south of Florida before this trip, and never been to any Spanish speaking nation before (the west side of St. Paul doesn't count).

So I am a 37 year old mostly stay-at-home mom. I work out by walking the kids and the dogs, not at a gym. I have housed two huge babies, birthing them through two crazy c-sections so my body is battle-scarred. I also come from a mixture of northern European nationalities, all of which consist of peoples who thrive in the cold weather (and who apparently are covered with what I would consider less-than-feminine body hair). So, though I do believe that I am beautiful, I am far from any magazine cover.

My man and I have been together for the last fifteen years. I was never committed to any man before I met him, and I have never faltered in my commitment to him since we met. He is my best friend and all that mushy stuff. He loves me in such a crazy way that I never doubt it will last a lifetime.

All that said, I do enjoy witnessing the beauty of other men. Being raised on a steady diet of Benny Hill, Monty Python, Vicar of Dibley and such fine British comedy, my rather lewd sense of humor takes over and I fall into imagining people nude while I wait for life to get more interesting. No one would ever know, especially since I've realized that I have, for the most part, become indistinguishable from the crowd of other SAH moms that drive generic minivans filled with the required 2 or more young children to the routine destinations of the grocery store, preschool, church and playgroups. If anyone would ever care to extinguish their own feeling of sex appeal, live my life for a month. I've been living it for the last five and a half years. There are many days where I am amazed that my husband can see anything sexy in anything I do or wear. But my dirty-little-secret acts like a buoy of hope in my sea of a-sexuality. And then, I arrive on a six day trip, sans kiddos, to a beautiful tropical destination with my amazing husband...

The island has a definite rhythm to it, maybe being so close to the Bermuda Triangle has something to do with it, but it's there. Along with being free of my obligations to my life back home, I was immediately swept up by the pulse of the island life. And so many of the men there are beautiful! Having lived my whole life in Minnesota, the land of the pale and the blonde, walking around in a sea of dark, handsome men was a little more than I could handle. I spent the first few days just enjoying all there was to see and do beside my husband. We had a blast together, like we usually do. But while he was being "Band Director Guy" with his students, I had time to sit back and enjoy the view. And my "dirty-little-secret" just made me blush. Seriously. I've really gotta break that habit someday.

As my "soft" little self walked around, I had no intention of attracting any attention. I haven't done so back home for ages, so it never crossed my mind. But then, Puerto Rican women are known to be blessed with "junk in the trunk" and apparently curves are much beloved by the men there. Whoo Hoo! I suddenly felt so sexy that I was giddy. The husband loved it (to his defense he gives me compliments all the time, which I usually brush off) and I noticed that my walk changed, along with my attitude about myself.

The day before we flew home, we were sent out on a catamaran tour around the smaller islands that surround Puerto Rico. I wore my new one-piece suit that takes 10 minutes to put on because it does so much work for you. I was nipped and tucked and ready for some sunshine! I took two motion-sickness pills too, just in case, because there would be no turning back for my sake with two boats full of high school students and the adults in charge of them.

We met our Captain, Arturo, and his First Mate, Willard. Arturo was cute in a Campbell's soup kid sort of way, and Willard looked like he just stepped off the stage of either a Latin music tour or the set of a sailing calendar photo shoot. I know, the things I put up with for my marriage!

Two minutes into the trip, I started feeling sick. I had Willard filling cups of ice for me while I sat back and tried thinking settled thoughts. Nothing seemed to work very well, and I resorted to sitting on the deck of the front of the boat. (I've never been on a sailing vessel so I have no idea if it's the Poopdeck or what.) The 360* view and the fresh air helped tons and I started having a great time just sitting. We anchored in a bay so those who wanted could go snorkeling along a coral reef. I took great shots of my man in the water, swimming happily close to eels and all sorts of fish.

We pulled anchor and everyone on the boat moved all around. I had company for a bit from my husband and the other adults aboard, but I had a good time being calm by myself. Then Willard came and sat right next to me. At first I thought I was in his way, and he was being polite before asking me to haul my butt somewhere else. But then, he started chatting me up. Like I said before, I've been with my husband for 15 years. I hadn't had that much experience before him, so I am not any smooth sort of flirt. I tried to nudge my connection to my husband into our conversation as much as I could, but it seemed Willard either didn't care or didn't understand. I had the most exhilarating 5-10 minutes of conversation, knowing full well that I was more-than-happily married and knowing that this gorgeous man was flirting with me. His sailing duties called him away and my husband came up to sit next to me again. But that 5-10 minutes with Will (doesn't that sound better?) will be a moment I think back to for ages to come.

Now that I've been back home for a bit, and have had some time to get past the initial exhilaration and move into a mild giddiness, I know that this trip did more than give me a change in scenery. This trip gave me a chance to renew my love of myself: body and all. I had lost that during these years of marriage and children. It had been so lost that I never even thought about it as a loss, but now, I've rediscovered my mojo and damn it, I've got my Groove Back!