Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sometimes, It's Personal

I have no doubt that yesterday's post made some readers uncomfortable. In fact, I am sure within the nearly 80 readers yesterday, someone thought to themselves, "Why would she expose herself to the world like that?" Or, "Why would she want people to know so much about her personally?" Better yet, "It has been two years, shouldn't she be over this now?" "How long is she going to go on about this?"

The fact is, many of us have had similar experiences with death - sudden, sharp, deeply painful and life altering. You can read through my blog in January and February about the painful grief that I was revisiting, two years after the fact. It was a complete shock to me that the tears, crying, loss, loneliness and sense of abandonment rivaled that of the first month after her passing. I believe that other circumstances in my life brought this unfinished business of grieving to the surface at this time. A catalyst, if you will, to force me to toil through it. Grief is a never ending, in my experience. Maybe it goes away for periods of time, but it will always rotate back into play.

It doesn't take much to bring back just how big of a loss it is to my life. A friend was with her sister at a women's retreat and their interaction was bittersweet to me. I have needed a permanent helper with my scout group and realized this week, that she would have been my co-leader. My (step)brother is getting married in May and my (step)sister is getting married in June - celebrations at which she should have been in attendance.

Yet, at times I don't feel like I can share that with anyone. Why? Well, society says suck it up and deal. Life moves on even though we may not be ready to move with it. Even our employers think we should be fully functional after 2 or 3 days. Every one has their own stories, their own grief, their own lives...who has time to sit and listen to my sad song just one more time. Mine is but one of millions. Mine is not that special.

This is also not a call to the pity party, though Lord knows I can throw the best of them, complete with hats, streamers and a big ol' cake I devour on my own. And you can waller along not living life only so long. It will creep up on you and then you will be forced to deal with more than just your grief. Unfortunately, I speak from experience.

However, in my quest for transparency and authenticity, I find that the more I let it all hangout there, the good, the bad, the hilarious and the sad, the more connections and support I receive. People have a chance to know the real me and I am not afraid of that anymore. This means exposing my heart to those that know me intimately as well as complete strangers. People need and desire to know that others have had similar experiences, similar pains, even similar joys. It makes us all feel more normal. It gives us validation. It makes us feel that what we have endured has not been for naught.

It also helps to see how others cope. We must keep the mindset that we have all been created by a Creator with our own set of gifts, skill sets, and experiences. But in celebrating these differences, we can find strength in how God has woven Himself into these events to bring a greater good. We can find strength in knowing there is a bigger picture which we can not see. We can find strength in knowing that a finality of dirt and worms just isn't all there is.

A post like Remember the End, selfishly serves as therapy for me. The million-pound burden on my shoulders was lifted when I wrote it. The story was finally out, no longer at the surface in a constant state of bubbling. Stories like these bring people together, to laugh, to cry, to work through their own life's stories. And, maybe they draw strength to face their own giants.

So, yeah, it might have been a little too close for comfort, full with emotion and transparency. Highs, lows and in between...sometimes, it just needs to be personal.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rembering the End, Draft 3

Here is why you should care about breast cancer. Here is why you should never tire of hearing "just another" story about its victims. Here is why there is fear in my heart with every mammogram and MRI I have. Today holds such appointments. I will think of her, my sister and best friend, the entire time. This is the story of the her death on this earth, draft 3.

The call came in the middle of the night. As was the custom over the past three years, my sleep was light. Calls in the middle of the night always make you jump, fumbling for the phone. Knowing good news is highly unlikely, the ring gives you a quick stab in the stomach. This call was no exception. It was Todd. The hospital had called. Ansley wasn't breathing well and they thought he should come to the hospital. I could not decipher whether they had not given Todd clear information about Ansley's condition, or if he was holding back what he knew. He gave me the option of meeting him at the hospital. He also said he would call me once he got there and assessed the situation. I decided to wait. We hung up. I sat on the floor of my bathroom thinking. The floor was cold and I remember working through my mind if I should head over there or wait until the morning. I realized that I didn't feel well - my body was incredibly achy and my head hurt. My stomach was churning. Was it from the news or something else?

I went back to my bed and waited, not sleeping, not even close to sleeping. The next call came some 20 minutes later. I answered the phone before the ring had finished sounding. This time it was from Mom. She said she was going to the hospital - Todd had called. The information was still foggy and her tone was a little vague. I wasn't sure whether to go or not. She told me very clearly that I should go. I woke Jay from his coma-like sleep to tell him. I quickly got dressed and prayed that I would start to feel better.

It was a very chilly February night - I remember shivering and feeling my stomach continue its roller coaster. Halfway through the drive, ironically in my mother's neighborhood, I pulled over to vomit. My own body was fighting sickness. The drive was silent and lonely and long. The care never seemed to warm up and I drove, tense from the unknown and the cold. There was only one other car on the road and I realized that with its flashing lights that it was our pastor, Bill. My stomach and heart did another jump - it was more serious than I had worked in my mind. He must know more than me and I panicked at that knowledge. I no longer felt the sickness of my own body as adrenaline took over. We raced together down the empty streets, a tandem team, to reach someone before she was gone.

I walked down the silent hospital corridor and into ICU. My pace quickened as I neared her room which was more like a large open cubicle with some sort of sliding glass door. My countenance collapsed when I saw her for the first time. My hopes vanished. My heart hurting. She was gasping for breath, her defeated body shuddering and fighting each inhale. She was pale with her eyes closed. I cried, "Oh, Ainie." I was quickly given the update - it was still a little unknown but she was not doing well. This might be the end.

I stared at the monitors hoping to see some positive change - to see the numbers inch even slightly up to give me the tiniest bit of hope. Even with the oxygen mask she couldn't muster above an oxygen level of 85. My face fell. I cried softly.

I went to Ansley's side and held her hand. I told her that I was there. I loved her. I went in close and kissed her cheek and forehead. Her body not changing, recognition not there. I stayed in my spot, planted, holding the hand of the person I loved longer than any other in my lifetime.

Her hand. The hand that had dressed many dolls with me, had made me meals, who had patted me on the back, had angrily pointed at me, had held my wedding bouquet and Jay's wedding ring, had stroked my hair, had found buckets of seashells and shark's teeth, had punched me, hit me and loved me, had drawn pictures on my back to help me sleep, had created beautiful pieces of artwork and had held me crying from a broken heart. The hands that held each of my three children in the first moments of their lives. The same hands that would clap in excitement when great news was at hand. A hand that was pressed together when praying the sweetest, most heart-felt prayers to our Father on my behalf. The hand I never wanted to let go.

Her hand was soft from the lotion I had applied just a day earlier. They were always our connection, even when we were small. She loved to have her arms scratched and being the only sibling, that duty often fell to me. It seemed only natural that while during her illness, that need intensified. While we waited at countless appointments, during mind-numbing treatments, and most often when she was trying to brave the pain and suffering, that I would instinctively try to bring her comfort with my well-practiced strokes.

I had only been in her hospital room a short time - or so it seemed. I felt the strong urge to read to her from her bible. I opened up to Isaiah, her favorite book from the Old Testament. I began reading...

The monitor began to display ominous signs of the end. The warning alarm of a condition that would normally bring in the nurses was turned off. Flashes of memory of that time - Pastor Bill praying over Ansley, John asking questions to the nurse, Todd whispering his love to Ansley in her ear, my dad and mom standing across the bed from me - both of them with red eyes, tears, and contorted hurt and pain on their faces - coming together to say goodbye to one they created together. Pastor Bill and Tammy at the foot of the bed - Tammy crying quite audibly.

Was this it - is the day I had imagined and begged never to arrive, finally here? I am so unprepared, God. This can't be happening. No, not now. I wanted to scream. Someone do something. She can be saved for a few more days. No - no - no.

The weight of the moment was too much for me - I was overwhelmed. My head, heavy with sorrow, bent over and drooped onto the bed and Ansley's legs. I could only mutter, "no, no, no." I never wanted to raise my head and body again as if I could somehow suffocate this moment away in the sheets of her bed. I found the strength to force myself to straightened up. My tenuous composure barely hanging on. The monitor slowly descending. Mom was telling Ansley to run to Jesus. My Dad telling her he loved her. Todd telling her to go. My mouth was silent as I felt paralyzed from the tears in my eyes. The only desire of my heart was to have her with me forever. I couldn't give her permission to leave as I didn't want her to go.

Her breathing became less labored. The elevated sound of painful grasping was replaced by fluid, smooth soft, sighs. It was slow and peaceful. Her body stopped fighting for life. The mood in the room changed from urgent to inevitable...from crisis and on edge to knowledge and peace.

Completely unexpectedly, she opened her eyes just slightly and appeared to strain under heavy lids to look in my direction. She knew we were there. We all declared our love for her. The monitor reached the end. She was no longer breathing, but her heart continued for a while. The strongest part of her pushing to the end, symbolic of who she was. Then nothing. The nurse marked the time. It was silent except for sniffles and a phone call being made. My dad slumped in a chair in the room. His voice eerily several octaves higher than normal as he strained to tell Terry that Ansley was gone. We left the room for a brief moment while they removed all of the wires and tubing that had fought to keep her going, but comfortable. I realized that I had not felt sick once arriving at the hospital. I knew I needed to call Jay and struggled to find words to verbalize my new reality. We were allowed to see her again, to say goodbye.

I walked back into her room. I held her hand, our connection over 35 years, for the last time. I recognized with brutality and cruelty that coldness was creeping in. It was a shock of reality to my body that she was gone. I talked to her for a short, short while. It was my deepest and most difficult moment. I leaned in and kissed her still warm head. The stubble of the hair that was just beginning to show again pricked my lips. I didn't want to leave her. I would never see her again on this earth. I walked away. Alone.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Never smooth
The divots and bumps without pattern
Shapes too small for her
Little pinches begin
Irrational snips

Eyes blinded by the bright sun
Her hand raises to the sky
It can't block the rays
They penetrate deeply

Stumbling, the barbed wire tears
Softness removed
A little less of her now
Bit by bit, taken away

Easily moldable
Now able to fit the form that was
never meant for her.

The Art of Hobbies

I have been on a bit of a roll lately in the kitchen. For the last month or two, I have not duplicated a recipe in my dinner preparation. Now, for those that don't don the apron often, this isn't too difficult to achieve. But for our family who eats dinner at least 6 nights out of the week at home, it is something of a milestone.

I have always enjoyed cooking. As I continue to dabble in the kitchen, it becomes easier and easier. I don't use the measuring cups and spoons quite like I used to as I have developed some eyeball accuracy in this department. I am also learning how to experiment and substitute missing ingredients. This is not to brag upon my abilities, because they are not innate, I can assure you. It is only through years of following recipes to the letter that I have gotten to this point.

I owe a lot of this developed hobby to my husband. He hails from the Netherlands where the standard meals are as bland as eating a piece of paper. Have you ever been to a Dutch restaurant outside of that country? Didn't think so. The only exception to this plain palate would be the Indonesian restaurants, a by-product of Dutch-colonial rule. After much exposure to this type of food while growing up, my husband turned his tongue away from Dutch and Western food in general. In fact, he declared that he could cut the world in half at the equator and never eat anything from the Northern Hemisphere again. You can imagine cooking for him has been quite interesting.

After attempting and slightly mastering several Asian dishes, I decided it was time to throw myself into it full-force. I purchased this cookbook yesterday - all 720 pages of it. Jay saw it on the dresser and was giddy with anticipation. I can't really imagine making my own sushi, some 50 pages dedicated to its category in the book. And, we will definitely forgo recipes with seafood and bean curd (ick). Despite those eliminations, there is still plenty from which to choose.

Hobbies are like for me. Periods of complete obsession, consuming my thoughts. I can chalk scrapbooking up as one and of course, the cup du jour, writing. I discovered why I tend to do this in this post. I am a scanner. Like most, I have a list of other hobbies I want to tackle. Each, I am sure, will be the subject of intense focus at some point.

What has your attention these days? If you don't have something you are dabbling in, what is on the list, you know, what have you always wanted to try? Why are you waiting? Let me know.

Funny Friday

Is there anything cuter than a little girl and her sleeping puppy?

Until you see this...

Life is short. Pick your choices carefully.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's a Heart Matter

The biggest challenge for me, as a parent, is to teach my children that it is simply not enough to respond to my commands in a robotic fashion. You know, "do it, because I said so." Additionally, I don't want them to perform because "God says to do it," either. Rather, I want them to develop a heart, a desire, for choosing to do the right thing.

I grew up in a house where I was to be the "seen, not heard" child. Good behavior was not optional. A response of any sort to a verbal command was dealt with severely. Performance was the only road to success. I can remember extreme frustration with never being able to voice an opinion, come to a compromise, or freely talk about my feelings. This is not a slap in the face of my parents, as the above things have situational merit. Additionally, they did a whole heap of things right that I have passed onto my own. With the exception of a rebellious college and young adult life, their parenting produced a relatively decent outcome.

No child struggles with this matter of the heart more than my dear Sadie. She is the pot stirrer, the envelope pusher, the strong-willed, yet, she is my creative genius, my leader and my most responsible. The dichotomy of her personality never fails to puzzle me.

Therefore, with her spirited personality, it was clear from the beginning that using the iron-fist to force her into obedience just wasn't going to work. Instead, I wanted to teach her how to use her words, calmly, maturely into telling me how she was feeling. I had hoped that given this opportunity to express herself, we might decrease fit throwing, flailing, crying, screaming and other non-desirable behaviors. She needed to know how to express herself. And this week, she did.

She told me that she didn't want to put her clothes away. It was too hard. She didn't want to do chores anymore. It makes her angry. And, the key to it all was this statement: I am tired of trying to have self-control. I applauded her efforts at verbalizing, calmly, what she was feeling. I affirmed them as understandable. She still had to finish her job, but her confession opened the door for some great dialogue.

Don't we all feel that way at times - tired of self-control? I'll admit it, I frequently feel constricted by my own vision of self-control. Self-control of my actions, my feelings, my emotions, my relationships, with food. The list goes on and on. We fight this battle independently, even though it isn't expected that we manage this all on our own. The pressure to be always under control, to perform, can be so intense and futile that at times we decide to throw in the towel. Usually that is where God finds us, at the point of no hope. I have totally rambled here. Back to topic...

There is a fine line between the performance mentality and acting from the heart. I think most of us vacillate frequently between the two. As I work through this with Sadie, I have to evaluate my own heart and motives. How much of what I do is performed, but without heart? Finding that pure balance is tough enough in my own life. Trying to teach it? That is a whole other heart matter.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Gauntlet Has Been Thrown

Well, there's a new title in town and boy, I just can't wait to start clawing my way for the esteemed honor. Of course, all I have to do is get a little plastic surgery, spend thousands on my wardrobe and have nanny, errand girl, taxi service, cleaning service, hair stylist and most likely anti-depressants and sleeping pills. Tell me, have you heard, we are all supposed to be fighting to be called "momshells." You know, hot mamma bombshells.

Because, let's face it ladies, that is all there is to life. We should be ashamed of ourselves if we are not running on that treadmill, appearing to effortlessly balance our children, husbands, finances, community service, all while looking fab-u-lous. Tightrope artists at the circus are asked to do perform this death-defying feat a mere 20 minutes or less per show, but our society asks us to work it 24/7. The final result of all that hard work is to showcase to the world that we are perfect human beings with no flaws, no problems, no stress and while we are at it...no character, no inward reflection and clearly no reality.

How dare society continue to put this pressure on us to add just one more level of idiocy to the long list of perfections it already has created for us! Don't buy into this or any other ridiculously sinful label society has thrust upon us. And just what does that confirm if someone is labeled as such? Nothing. Not one thing about their parenting, their love, their devotion, their compassion, their patience, their instruction, the volunteerism, their selflessness.

I say...give up that facade, Jessica Denay, author of the "Hot Moms Handbook" and possible lead promoter of this filth. I would love to ask her, "What are you hiding from, Ms. Denay? Do you not want anyone to actually know you? Who are you deep down inside? Do you want anyone to hear your heart or know your, (gasp!) mind? What are you so afraid that people will learn about you if you stepped out of this plastic perfection and let the real you be heard." As a mom, I want to know your fears, your failures, your goals and dreams, not what you have done to become lust-worthy.

A friend and fellow blogger was prompted to write the following to me when I informed her of this garbage: "This new title just kills me-momshell-the key part of the word is the most revealing-"shell". A shell's only purpose is to protect the living, growing creature within. This title implies that we are only interested in the care and upkeep of the surface-the shell. Our society as a whole is guilty of just looking at the surface and making the assumption that if the surface looks good then the inside must be good as well." Amen, sister!

In fact, let this be a challenge to every one of us. When we wake up in the morning, as we choose our clothing for the day, as we speak to our children in public and in the privacy of our home (because how differently we chose our words in these two places), when we are shopping, when we speak to other parents on the soccer field, when we make choices for dinner and when we kiss our children goodnight. Ask yourself, why am I doing this? What is my motivation behind my choice and my words? Defined by the world or defined by love.

Let us fight the world today. Let us not find our identity in it anymore. You may be wondering where then, should you find your strength, your definition of self. Well, my choice today is to find it in Christ alone. Because, ladies, only He gives me the freedom to be.

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Whirlwind. Whirlwind. Whirlwind. Borderline tornadic. I don't even think that is a real word (and I think I can write a book). But it feels appropriate in describing my brain the past few days. I have a million little pieces of paper, random words in my journal that I keep in my purse, emails to friends, comments on blogs all wrestling for order and understanding. I figure this will be my life for a while until I understand where this is all headed.

Oh, and if you were looking for "Confessions of a Real Mom," click here. Comments are still welcome and always will be (just click on the word comment after each post). If you are a new reader, feel free to browse, comment, follow or lurk at random.

Yesterday, Ethan, Sadie and I were coming home from soccer practice. Ethan began this conversation about "things that creeped him out." It ended up with each of us making a list of the things that we thought were creepy or scary. I think it was very productive seeing that it occurred in the car, while it was still daylight, rather than right at bedtime when scary things are usually brought to light, thus giving multiple excuses for not going to sleep. Here is a sampling of what brings us much fear:

Ethan, age 8
1. Some character named Cyrus, a lizard-like "slinky serpent" found on "Dragon Tales." My research indicates that he often tries to steal others' eggs to eat. Ethan would be horrified if he knew that I posted this for the world to see, but well, which one of you is going to bring that up to him? I didn't think so. It also says something about how an innocent show on PBS viewed at the age of 3 can linger in the darker areas of your brain. Sure, Ethan can watch Star Wars and Indiana Jones and not bat an eye. But, give him a cartoon lizard and he falls to pieces.

2. The boa constrictors in Riki Tiki Tavi. Or, as he puts it, "Riki Tiki Tacky." The point here is that a) they watched it in class at school (thank you for that well-utilized tuition money) and b) I found it creepy (not scary) as well at that age, in the same exact movie when I was in 3rd grade. Genetically connected in that part of our brain? Maybe.

There was a smattering of other things...including some Naria character, but really, I am beginning to believe that reptiles are just not Ethan's thing.

Sadie, age 7
1. The blame for this one rests solely on my in-laws. Jay took Sadie, then 3, to the Netherlands to visit the in-laws while he was on business there. My in-laws are a bit on the snobbish side, musically, often only listening to classical music. Well, I take that back. My father-in-law has some thing for Tina Turner as most European men his age, but I digress. Anyway, they bought the CD of "Peter and the Wolf" along with a book with graphic illustrations to peruse while listening to the music. I am not sure what my in-laws told Sadie about the book - maybe a mistranslation occurred? That is not clear. What IS clear is that the book and its illustrations and the music nearly make her cry. Sadie could not bear to think about that book being in her room one night and I tore apart her room, looking for the book in order for her to sleep. Keep your judgments to yourself - I know I indulged her.

2. The Hawk in "Seven Brothers." This is actually a movie my mother owns and it stays at her house. Now that I think about it, ALL the grandparents are to blame for the terrifying moments in Sadie's mind. Interesting. In the movie, the hawk swoops down to gather and kill the little baby rabbits. It is an intense moment. I know Sadie was subjected to this movie at least 5 times as my mother thought it was just so cute and sweet to see the relationship between the puppy and his adopted rabbit family. Meanwhile, my daughter won't sleep for days after viewing this movie. Thanks, Mom.

Kelsey, age 37
My main source of terror as a child was none other than Darth Vader. I am sure this was perpetuated by my sister who would hide in my closet at night, mimicking his heavy, labored breathing, causing me to intensely clutch my covers and whimper. I would also conjure up Darth Vader hiding in every corner of our house, just waiting to kill me. At night, I would hold my breath as Vader passed by my room with a "life detector." Why I felt I was so important to Darth Vader is unknown. I certainly didn't have the power to use the Force to bring down the Empire.

When I mentioned my childhood fear to my children in the car, they laughed. Yes, they LAUGHED at me. They just couldn't see it. They saw nothing in the world scary about a man in a dark suit who underneath was "just Luke's dad," as Ethan put it. He is right. When Vader takes off his helmet, he really just looked like Uncle Fester on steroids. To their credit, however, my children have had the benefit of knowing how he evolved into Darth Vader and that he died in the final movie.

I think that is where I am right now. No, not still fearful of Darth Vader (well, maybe a little). Life would be a little less scary if I knew all about this "writing stuff" I am doing - from beginning to end, start to finish. I am not completely clear on what I am writing and it is partly-cloudy as to whom. All I do know is that I am writing. Revelations are coming quickly and yesterday it hit me like a TON of bricks...in writing a book about relationships and transparency, I would have to be totally transparent. And, someone might actually read it! Ack! Am I ready for that? Frankly, this is, as my children put it, creeping me out.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Sunday Morning

Silence is golden. That little phrase sums up my weekend in several ways. I was treated to the most coveted of situations for a mom - a day and night at home ALONE! Yes, the husband gathered up our brood and took them camping with the cub scouts amidst some excitement and protest among the campers. Right when they were leaving Sadie announced that she DID NOT want to go. Here is the conversation that followed:

Me: You are going and that is that.
Jay: Well, I am fine with that. She can stay home.
Me: (Seeing my weekend crumbling before me) No, she is going. No discussion.
Jay: Kelsey, this is not about your weekend alone.
Me: It most certainly is. She is going.

Lily walked around the house for about 30 minutes prior to leaving wearing her backpack. Ethan lugged everything to the car. Sadie, had a fit about which shoes to wear. Despite having three choices, none worked for her. A definite sign of pre-teen years worming their way in to our home a little too early. Everyone in the car, I waved the family off with a little too much exuberance, shut the door and jumped back into bed to plan my day.

I'll go ahead and get the embarrassing part out of the way - I played Rock Band. Only for about 30 minutes as my own behavior actually ended the session. After each song, I would make some comment out loud like, "Wow! That was tough," or "Well, that stunk," or "Oh, that was cool." I began to creep myself out with this "talking to no one blather" and turned it off.

I ventured into the scraproom and worked on quite a few layouts. A friend came to work on her album as well. As usual, we ended up talking more than we got done, but like a modern quilting bee, that is part of the process. Still three years behind in the documenting our lives department as I just completed Lily's first steps. For perspective, she will enter kindergarten next year.

Late in the afternoon my fantabulous stepsister came over to leave for dinner. We shuttled through the city to pick up a couple of more willing "hen party" victims and flew into Greensboro. Dinner and conversation flowed nicely. It was a great dynamic because no one knew each other. I was the only common denominator. Not that I need to be the one in control, but no one came with an agenda or deeply connected past. Well, that is not entirely true. I had an agenda, but will write about that in a moment. I suggest, that throwing together a mix of ladies that are usually not connected can bring a very delightful outcome.

Ok, so my agenda...I have been thinking a lot about my post, "Confessions of a Real Mom." It was my most read and most commented entry. Clearly, it is a topic that deeply resonated with other women. I knew I wasn't finished with this topic, but wasn't sure how to proceed. Then, I had a few ladies comment to me personally or via email about their experiences and they encouraged me to continue along this vein, possibly in a longer format. In my prayer time, I had asked God to make this happen because honestly, I am clueless. I can't work through the details or timing or gather my thoughts in a coherent way.

Hang with me on this, there is a point to this. In the meantime, I found out Wednesday night that I would have Saturday and part of Sunday sans family. I sent out the "girls' night out" flares to see what might transpire. Amazingly, God made it possible for the three ladies who had been the most prolific commenters on that particular post to attend. And one was from out of town. We had a productive conversation about our struggles as moms, the performance and expectation traps that snare us so easily. Clearly, God is giving me the encouragement, the information and support and confirmation that I am, indeed, to write more about this topic, in the form of a... book. There, I wrote it. It is out there. No taking it back now! Here's to a new journey!

I will refer to this project every once in a while, but will keep the majority of the writing on another site. However, I do need help. My short list follows:

1. Will you link to my blog? If you feel comfortable doing so, email this link to your friends, families, whomever. The more, the better. I need a larger audience to whom I can pose some questions and receive feedback. My world is fairly homogeneous and I need it to be more varied in multiple ways (geography, beliefs, seasons of life, culture, race).

2. Be part of my research. I will be hosting several, multiple, maybe hundreds of round table discussions. Would you like to participate, even if in only one discussion? Or, would you be willing to answer some interview questions? Don't worry, I won't make "an good or bad example" out of anyone in the writing. I will respect the privacy of those willing to assist.

3. Would you be a reader? Are you a good proofreader? Do you have editing skills. Nothing professional, but are you easily NOT offended? Let me know.

4. Will you pray with and for me? Above all, I want this book to be what God wants it to be. There are multiple directions I can take and varying audiences I can address. I am easily discouraged and frequently filled with self-doubt.

I need you, the question is...will you join me on path?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nearing the End

Wow! What a response from you readers! Thank you for the hilarious, tear-inducing comments, the votes of support and for forwarding on the link to my blog. It obviously struck a chord with many of you. I have been working on "Confessions of a Real Mom, Part 2" in my mind over the past couple of days. It will be written, but unfortunately, not today.

I had a phone conversation with my father this morning regarding my 89-year old grandfather. He has suffered from Alzheimer's for over 10 years. That is an incredibly long time over which your mind and body to slowly deteriorate. His time on this earth has been prolonged solely because of the complete devotion of his caregiver, my grandmother. You can read about their incredible relationship here, in a post I wrote last April.

Sadly, my grandfather is losing his ability to swallow, his pacemaker the only catalyst keeping his heart beating. And, because of 3 weeks in the hospital, he can no longer sit up on his own. We are nearing the end. He is being moved back to the "home" where he has resided for the last 5 years and Hospice is being called in to make him comfortable. My heart is breaking for my grandmother. Simply breaking.

Some of you have had the privilege to meet my grandfather, Chip Aulbert, when he was still thriving. I have no doubt that you recognized that his small stature vastly contrasted with large volumes of love and laughter that he brought to the world.

He was crazy funny. One time, he hooked the video camera up when no one was home and recorded himself singing several songs. Actually, it was one song, a made-up song, just sung in several different octaves. The name of the song? "Pine Tree." The title being the only words of the song...just repeated over and over. Why did he do this? Simply for entertaining our family, bringing hilarity into our lives and giving us an experience to chat about for years.

This man had no high school diploma, yet became the head of engineering at Thomas Built Buses where he worked his entire life. He could invent and then fabricate anything. He was visionary.

He called me K.T., the only one in the family to do so. It always made me feel extra-special, most loved. He took me and my sister to our first and only circus show. Having an incredible addiction to sugar himself, he would constantly take us for ice cream, often at Swensen's at Friendly Center when we spent time at my grandparent's house. Much to our delight, he would, covertly, slip us candy. He helped me move into and out of college apartments, came to rescue me when I drove my truck into a lake and hugged me fiercely when my parents declared they were divorcing.

He called the light in the refrigerator and the high beam light on the dashboard of the car, the "Hootie." They would "magically" come on because of the mysterious "Hootie" and we believed every word. I can't believe we were so naive, and even as I write it, it doesn't make much sense!

And now, my grandfather, who brought a guaranteed smile to my face with just the mention of his name, is withering, deteriorating away. He is choking on his own saliva and there is nothing we can do, but watch and wait. My mind can only see the cruelty of what he has become and I am struggling with seeing the bigger picture. Lord, please take him home. Take him quickly and painlessly. Prepare my grandmother's heart and mind. And, in doing so, protect my grandmother from all-consuming grief and pain. Hear my heart, Lord, but let Your will be done.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thoughts of Africa

I read this blog today. I suggest you do, too. It tugged at me. It highlighted a little hole in my heart. The hole created by the piece I left in Africa over 14 years ago and made larger by a second trip 6 years ago.

My heart sinks when I read about the calamity that has befallen Zimbabwe. A country of such promise and hope in the early 90s. I wonder what the slums of South Africa have become since the fall of apartheid. And, I dream of holding the little orphan girl in Ghana again in my arms while the harmonic sounds of the orphan choir sing His praises.

I don't know anyone who has ever been to Africa who wasn't deeply moved by the tension between beauty and despair. It is a continent that quickly creates passion and carves a lasting mark in the hearts of every visitor. A place that exists, defying the odds on so many levels. I loved every minute I was there and I long for more of it. I never think about those places without believing one day I might return on a more lengthy basis. How, where and why, I do not know.

Here's to possibilities...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Confessions of a Real Mom

You know what? I am fed up. I am tired. Ladies, we are all guilty of what I am about to write and it is time for it to stop.

What has gotten me all riled up, ruffled my feathers and helped me onto my soapbox? The comparing of ourselves to each other, the judgments we put forth onto each other...the super-erroneous belief that any one of us truly "has it all together."

I am laying it all on the line, here. I DO NOT have it all together and frankly I am ashamed for all previous attempts to appear as such. Any time I have behaved out of the fear of the rolling eyes of others, made choices because of how pious or holy I might be seen, hidden the dark secrets of the pursuit of self, well, I express my deepest apologies. I stand in defiance of the social pressure and the ridiculous codes that are unspoken but well-understood by wives and moms. We allow the grade of passing to be nothing but 100%, and why? I declare today, I will not do it any more.

So ladies, here's to the time I allowed my kids to watch the "Transformers Movie," ignorant of the fact that it was rated PG13. Not only did my two oldest watch it, so did 5 other little boys who were spending the night as guests of my oldest, most of whom have not been back to our house. As a direct result of this movie, I was asked by my children while riding in the car home from school what "Master-bathing" was. In my innocence, I thought they had seen a Re-Bath truck. You know the company, the one that can reglaze, reglamorize your bathroom? Oh, but no, after the third time of hearing the word, "Master-Bathing" it dawned on me. My voice went up about 3 octaves and I nearly lost control of the car. Imagine my delight upon hearing the answer to my panic-muttered question, "Where did you hear that word?" Sadie repeated, verbatum the four lines prior to and the four lines post the "word in question." Ethan blurted out...It was in Transformers, Mom, you know, the movie you let us watch at the sleepover? If you really want to know how bad this movie is, click here for the parental guide that I most definitely should have read. I am horrified.

While I am at it, here are some more confessions...Here's to unwanted facial hair and the battle it takes to have it removed. Here's to starving myself a day here or there to maintain a ridiculous weight that I didn't even have in high school. Here's to insane contemplations of getting cosmetic procedures at 37 that didn't exist 10 years ago.

Here's to the time I accidentally left my middle child at home ALONE for at least 30 minutes when she was only 3 years old. She survived. I survived. But it was terrible.

I buy clothes at Wal-Mart, wash my face with regular bath soap about 75% of the time and eat a hot dog, loaded, with fries and a Diet Cheerwine every Tuesday at the Dog House on Main Street. I use harsh chemicals to clean my house because I love the smell and haven't invested the time or money into shopping organic.

I try to recycle but every once in a while just chuck the bag at the main dumpster at the dump. And, I have used the dumpsters at High Point's largest church for my bags of refuse when I realized that the trash dump was closed and I had a car load of stink. Because of regular trash dump runs, I had a mouse living in my van, make that thriving in my van, for over a week. My van is filthy, littered with fast food nibbles and stained in varying shades of muck that I don't even want to know its origins.

I claim to be active on doctor's forms and insurance forms, but I never exercise. Even though my back surgeon gave me the green light to go skiing, I still use my back surgery for many excuses to get out of moving anything remotely heavy or for doing any yard work. Basically, I am lying.

I have been "working" on the same bible study for over a year now, despite the "glowing reviews" that I give to other people about it. It is good, I just haven't finished it. In fact, I have led numerous bible studies, counseled and mentored ladies, but have yet to read the entire bible. Sure, I strongly desire to read all of it, but haven't. I have about 5 scriptures memorized and repeatedly use them with as much authority as I can muster.

I don't volunteer at my kid's school very often and think that is just fine. And, frankly, I don't particularly like watching other people's kids, though the older they get, it is easier.

Pets and plants have a very low survival rate in our house. The stories coming from the house of horrors are disturbing, I'll admit it. Cats, dogs, hermit crabs, love birds...none are immune.

My kids have sat in front of the television ALL afternoon watching junk that should have never been produced under the umbrella of children's television. Additional abominations include their repeated references from infomercials, like "peel and press crown molding," the "snuggly," the mini hamburger "sliders" maker. They have a strange affection for Billy Mayes and complain that he yells through the tv. And, we have interesting conversations that center around the difference between Nationwide, State Farm and how you can save 15% on Geico Insurance. All courtesy of their television viewing.

When they were younger, I let my kids stay in diapers long after they should have been changed, let them eat stuff dropped on the floor, and lied to them about dates for birthday parties that they were not going to attend. My kids occasionally go to bed and to school without their teeth brushed or hair combed. Every morning I give thought to allowing the kids to skip school and for all of us to just sleep in. If not for the fact that we carpool, I might just do it, too. This school year, I struggled with serious, serious pride issues because my oldest got his first B this year, eliminating him from the much publicized all-A honor roll for the 2nd quarter. Pathetic.

I don't like doing crafts with my kids. There, I said it. The idea of created permanent works of collectible art is very utopian. But, in fact, the mess, the chaos and the end results are never worth the effort in my mind. I do it solely out of peer pressure.

I have regifted, parked illegally and not put my shopping cart back into the corral. I rarely separate my lights and darks while doing laundry and feign ignorance when my husband complains that all his undershirts are dingy. I have read only two complete novels in the last year.

I have yelled at, screamed at and berated my children. I have had days where I hated being a mother, hated my children and plotted my get away plan.

Projects? Do I have half-finished projects? There is a set of unfinished chairs in our basement that I have "promised" to polyurethane since before Jay and I even met. Our financial files are a mess despite the purchase of a new filing system in the last couple of months. I have three long years and growing of photos waiting to be archived. I have a room full of scrapbooking supplies which no human could ever possibly consume. Yet, I continue to pick-up a roll of ribbon on sale or a pack of the latest paper designs.

My second to the last spiritual gift, according to every assessment I have ever taken, is mercy. Therefore, if my child comes to me, multiple times with the same issue, chances are, I am tuning him/her out. I just don't have it to give. Most likely, I exhibit the same behavior to the adults in my life.

I sometimes listen to non-Christian music, drink a beer or two on the weekends and enjoy a night out on the town. We have "skipped" church a couple of times in the last several months and I don't think that changes my status with God. I am tired of running that performance race as well. God knows my heart. I talk to Him every day. He knows I love Him.

I ask, where is our confidence, ladies? Just what is the ruler by which we measure ourselves? There are going to be successful days and days of massive failure. But averaging it out, I think I am doing the best I can with what I know. I will strive to improve, gain a little more insight, but always with that knowledge that I will never achieve perfection. I will never again measure my success in my home by the yardstick from another home.

Whew! I feel a lot better. Here's your chance. Get it all out. Post it in the comments section, anonymously if you want. And never, never again feel the guilt of your actions because you didn't do what Miss So-and-so did.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Goodnight Sweetheart

The sweetest time for me with each of my children is the brief time I get to spend with them each night when it is time to tuck them in. It is usually just the two of us, alone, in their own beds. Our most precious conversations occur then. These are the chats that remind me that maybe I did something right that day, even if small. They are the exchanges that give me energy to keep going, the encouragement to stay on the parenting track.

Our night time ritual has varied very little since my first was born nearly 9 years ago. Nine, wow, that is a long time for a habit. Early on, I was the one doing all the preparation for bedtime, often in fits of fighting and tears. Getting children dressed, brushing teeth, and doing the last pick-up at that final hour was wearying. By the time we reached the actual reading and tuck-in part, I was done. All I wanted to do was get it over and get downstairs, signaling the hopeful end of my day as a mother. But over the last several months, my youngest child has now transitioned to complete independence in this area. This leaves me with only the most enjoyable parts - reading and the official tuck-in.

The official tuck-in. A time of reassurances, kisses, hugs, love, prayers, and conversation. A time of undivided attention (less the occasional scream of when-are-you-coming-into-my-room-mom from another one). A time of understanding my children and who they are growing to be. A time that they do not have to battle to be heard over the chaotic noise of our home. A time of snippets of spiritual instruction and exchange.

It is a time of deep introspection for Ethan. With the house quieting down, he is finally able to focus on his thoughts which usually lead to spiritual ponderings. Around the time of his aunt's death, these inquiries lingered on her life, her walk with God, and the whys behind it all. Tough questions when the day was winding down, children tired and emotions a bit heightened. He produces a lot of questions in general, but more so when the sun is setting.

My middle girl's heart and words burst forth in plans and goals of the coming days. We often review the day's behavior and her successful attempts at self-control. As a true spirited child, Sadie has been a challenging joy. These moments when all is calm, really bring out the best in her. She shines in explaining all the grandiose inventions she has devised and in verbalizing complex interpretations of the social dynamics of those around her. Even in our most difficult days together, this is the time when I receive her true remorse and heart-felt apologies for her day's transgressions.

Little Lovey's time with me is spent doing her favorite thing, snuggling and whispering words of affirmation and unconditional love. She desires to be as close to me as possible, seemingly crawling under my skin. Her lids blinking more slowly while the tight-fisted hand rubs her eyes fighting the sleep that is coming. Butterfly kisses, deathly tight hugs and the rubbing of her belly are her usual requests. Throughout it all is her need to hear the promise that God is with her, protecting her, keeping her safe through the night.

I used to think of our nighttime ritual a bit begrudgingly, the last chore of the day. During those long, lost days of mothering 3 children, ages 4 and under, I frequently wanted to just crawl back into my bed. The ready for bed routine signaled the end of the day. Relief was near. It was the transition to one of the most sacred and coveted times for me, sleep. Fighting all exhaustion, mentally and physically, I would lean in for that last kiss and my attitude would soften. Something exchanged between me and my children in that moment. The tension simply dissipated. Then, my children would adorn me with the most sincere love and admiration that had been absent, forgotten the previous hours. Their sweet, kind words tumbling forth into undeserved declarations like, "You are the greatest mom, ever." They didn't know the full impact of those words during those darker days. They don't know the impact of them even today. They make me love being a mom. They make me believe I can do it again, if for just one more day.

Goodnight, my sweethearts.

Crafty Saturday

In my hiatus from blogging and writing in general, I have reorganized the bonus room. I de-cluttered the toys which resulted in a trunk full of treasures for goodwill and two drum liner bags of trash. I reorganized all the craft supplies and set up a new area for the kids to make masterpieces. I have just a little more tweaking to do and the space will be complete. In the meantime, I have been searching around for some websites/blogs with easy, yet great craft projects and ideas. I know I was a bit stale in the creativity department so here is what I found inspiring.

Flipflops and Applesauce

I have posted her link in a previous post.

Skip to My Lou
Can't wait to use some of her party ideas and her Teacher Appreciation Ideas.

The Crafty Crow
This is a sorta catch-all for great craft sites from moms.

4 Crazy Kings
I think we might do the life-sized people today. I found a large roll of paper from the local newspaper office in the bonus room when I was cleaning out. Perfect!

Let's pass around the ideas. What are you inspiring sites of late - craft, home, whatever!

Friday, March 13, 2009

His Name is ....

As I tucked Lily into bed I decided to have a little "God" talk. I was going on about how much God loves her, that He is always there for her - even though she can't actually see Him. She can see His work in all of creation, even in her.

Then I said, "And you know God's son. What is his name?"
Now, before I continue, please understand that we attend church regularly and she attends a Christian preschool.

Her answer: Ummmmm, Kevin?

I thought I was going to fall into the floor.
Holding myself together, I asked: "Kevin?"

Lily: Yes, the boy from my class.

Me: Ummmm, no.

At that point, we had a coming to Jesus meeting right there in her bed. I have no idea how she confused our Savior and the boy from her class, Kevin. But, rest assured, she is super clear on that now.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


"The more you run, the more you are a runner."

I imagine you can insert any hobby, sport, occupation in that quote and feel confident in its accuracy. Definitely, there are varying levels of success in that quote. Some are better runners than others. But what makes someone a runner? Is it because they diligently take a jog every other day? Is it that they can survive a minimum 5K without collapsing? I believe it is all self-defined.

Can the same be said about a writer? The more I write, the more I am a writer? I am doubtful. I went to a party this weekend to celebrate a pending family marriage. Most of the guests were people of my father's generation. People I had not seen in over 10 years, since my own wedding. The natural flow of chit-chatty conversation brought forth the question - so, what do you do? What are you doing now? And you know what? I didn't really have an answer. I mean, I know I am a mom. I know I am a wife, but yet, that didn't really seem to be a satisfying answer.

I am cycling through a period of change. Clearly, I am being asked to relinquish a heavy amount of control I have fought to constantly administer throughout my life. And, it stinks. Really, really stinks. It makes my life undefinable at present. I always had control of that definition and now I don't. I am teetering on this razor sharp edge between two worlds and it seems that I just keep getting little nicks and cuts. For someone who has drawn every bit of her energy and drive from this type of behavior, it has left me dizzy, nauseous and a bit crazed. Doesn't that sound appealing?

In the meantime, you might see me here a little less often. I'll admit that my computer time has taken its toll and I think I am missing out a bit on lessons I need to learn in the environment around me.

Prayer for Sarah and Jon

I was asked to say the prayer at a dinner/dance honoring Sarah and Jon and their pending marriage. Here is what I said.

Father God,

We thank You for the God that You are.
A God who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us,
A God who longs to hear from us and have a personal relationship with us,
A God who delights in creating beauty for us and bringing love into our lives,
The love we experience being only a glimpse into what Your love looks like.

God, we thank you for Sarah and Jon.
We ask that You guide them on their journey together.
Lord, help them to remember to put You first in their lives.
Remind them that love is not a feeling, but a commitment first to You and then to each other.
Bless this union abundantly.

God, for this evening we are thankful.
You have provided abundantly for us.
This place, these people, this food.
We owe it all to You and receive all that You give with thanksgiving.
May we use it to Your service and to Your glory,
That we may be an accurate estimation of who You are.

In Your Son's holy name, Jesus.

Two Quick Takes

Said this to my stepmother when she spent the night:
Terry, Terry, the stars are sleeping. It is time to get up.

Discussion about his first summer camp experience to occur this summer (09). Colby was talking about how they don't make you take a shower until the last night. (!!!) Being the tweens they are, they concurred that this fact was "awesome!" I inquired why this is such a good thing. Ethan said, What's the point of taking a shower anyway, you are just going to get dirty the next day. Colby chimed in with, "Yeah. They have a swimming pool and lake, ya know." I can't imagine what filth will accompany my son home from this "first time away from mom" event. Obviously, I am the only one who cares.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Things That Consume Me

Not trying to be narcistict, but I think a lot. Probably way too much. I mull, consider, meditate, toss, turn, work, brood, analyze, deliberate, reflect, ponder, and stew things until frankly they are all-consuming at times. I would like to believe that it is because I am a "creative" type, but, the more probable reality is that I am obsessive. My brain is constantly putting together connections between the experiences and information that comes into my atmosphere. I thought if I write out this list then maybe I will be able to de-clutter my brain and I become a productive member of society...at least for a day or so. Here is what has been on my mind lately:

1. Really misinterpreted lyrics to songs. When I was little, I thought the song, "Jet Airliner" by Steve Miller really said this: "We Go Jam at the Diner." Never mind the rest of the song makes NO sense in relation to that complete failure on my part to actually hear and interpret correctly. Why was I thinking that this morning? Because I heard the song, "She's a Bad Mamma Jamma" after taking the kids to school. Figuring I had more mistaken lyrics in my head, I came home and googled it. Nope. I have it right. But what in the world is a "Mamma Jamma"? Obviously, in his mind, Carl Carlton sees this as a "good" thing as a mamma jamma has all the things a man likes. Worldly? Yes.

2. Why is it ok to not return phone calls and emails? I need to let this one go. I am fiercely loyal and have learned that throughout my life, I cannot discern healthy and unhealthy relationships unlike most folks who can. Therefore, I tend to stay in relationships that are destructive and unhealthy for me as a result. I always need more closure, to have nothing left unsaid. For once, I need to digest that enough has been said. Time for strength and resolve.

3. Costumes, costumes, costumes. I worked like a woman possessed on Sadie's "Cindy Loo Who" costume for Dr. Seuss day at school. I scored a fiber optic Hannah Montanna wig at WalMart on clearance for $3. Taking a coat hanger I wove the hair into braids and ultimately into that cone shape on top. There are two takes on the Cindy costume - retro cartoon Cindy with those little antenna and pink Mortisha Adams pink dress or Jim Carrey movie Cindy with the funky hair and clothes. We went with the latter. Jay took a pic of me wearing the wig. With my mustard yellow sweater vest, I looked like something slave girl #2 would wear out of Star Trek. Next up...Ethan's costume as... get this...Wilbur Wright of the Wright Brothers. All I can think of is a coat, knickers, bow tie and pipe. I know he won't be caught dead in knickers like I fashioned in 5th grade (thank you, mom), but maybe I can find a bow tie at WalMart on sale.

4. Do I ever want to diligently work on getting a few of my pieces ready to send to publishers? Tough call. My pleasure at the moment is this random, thoughtless writing. Where is my motivation? Where is my muse? Missing for the moment. Or, is this like Rock Band? Just because I play the songs on the Hard level, doesn't mean I can become a drummer.

5. Is everyone on some sort of depression/anxiety medication? I ask this honestly. I think almost every mom I know is taking a pill - Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Xanax, etc. I am not judging anyone as I have partaken at one time, but are we collectively that miserable? What is different from our mothers' lives that makes our emotions totally unpredictable and whacky? Were they just better at hiding it? Can we chalk it up to busy, demanding lives or even simpler, too much hormone in our milk? Please don't think I am judging, as there is certainly a time and place, but the fact that each of these meds have their own websites strikes a dischordant nerve with me.

6. Guilt. Tons and heaps of it. Some misplaced and false and some well-deserved. First and foremost is the RUSH gym membership whose payment is drafted from our checking account each month and with whom I have a ridiculously long contract. In fact, I know I should have run right out the door the minute they presented it to me. But, I didn't because this time it was going to be different. Ha! It has not been utilized since hmmm, October...maybe? I have NO excuses. The kid are in school every morning and even if they weren't they have free childcare. I even have friends that go there. Every month around the 14th (the day the draft takes place), the guilt comes anew. Why don't I just go? Guilt. Definitely a list I should make separately.

7. Food. Particularly Doritos. I haven't purchaed them in years. Yet, yesterday, under the flimsy and thinly veiled excuse of purchasing them for my niece and nephew who are visiting this weekend, I grabbed a bag of Doritos Collision. It combines 2 flavors in 1 bag. In this case Chipotle Ranch and Zesty Taco. Did you know their slogan is, "Prepare to take snacking to a whole new level"? Yeah, I hear ya Frito Lay, a new level of addiction! What do these people put into these chips and cheese dust that draws you in like crack cocaine? Check out the link I included...there is definitely something sinister there. Maybe now I can view them in the light they should be...the predawing of the anticrhist. You have probably guessed by now that my niece and nephew will not be able to partake in the eating of said Doritos, because I finished off the bag this morning.

8. Multiple posts on this topic and it still haunts me. Ironing. Loathsome. But today, necessary. Or is it? What if I just didn't do it?

9. Read this line. Wish I had written it. The worst of our world at the moment: " the celebration of celebrity and novelty over authenticity and seriousness." Marinate on that for a moment.

10. A random selection of other thoughts without detail...Ethan's possible ADD, my weight and healthy eating, picking up Lily on time today, the curious little piles of dirt all throughout the kitchen and dining room, massive colony of ants found in the dining room attracted to Dixie's snacks, calling the lawyer about stock set-up issue for our company, the 10 reasons I need to go to Greensboro for errands, my grandfather's health as he is still in the hospital, how my grandmother will cope if he dies, the "letter" I must read next week to my counselor, wondering how it will go with my niece and nephew this weekend and what they have endured since the last time I saw them, what I would do for a massage and pedicure. I could go on and on and on. Actually, is this anxiety? Let me check out that Xanax again...

What consumes you today?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Life cycle

Have you ever listened to the sound of tennis shoes in the dryer? I mean, really listened? Thump. Tha-thump. Da-da-dump. Banging and thumping around? Slightly unnerving and completely nonrhythmic. At times you think they have hit their mark, creating a steady beat and pace. And then, something trips them up and they go right back to the slamming and clashing against the drum of the dryer.

I listened to this noise for about 30 minutes today and recognized that my life has been a bit like banging around a hot, uncomfortable place lately. Every time I turn around it seems that there is another bump to crash into. As the hot air is forced through me, I am enduring bruises in order to mold me into what I am supposed to be. But that is life, right?

Strangely, it was a comforting sound. I realized that like the dryer cycle, this too shall pass. It won't last forever. The final buzzer of this cycle will sound. It won't last forever. Then, I will be cleaner, better and ready to hit the ground running.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Death of Words

I read an interesting article here. It is about the oldest words in language and how language evolves. The article, for the most part, is complete bunk, but I became fixated on one part of the piece: Words that are evolving rapidly, and likely to disappear. According to Mark Pagel, a researcher, the following words fall into this category:

Dirty, squeeze, bad, because, guts, push (verb), smell (verb), stab, stick (noun), turn (verb), wipe.

His rationale is that these already differ greatly between related languages, such as English and German, and are good candidates to evolve into new forms. I think the man just randomly picked a group of words that he heard parents say on a daily basis and branded them as such. Well, ok, so maybe not stab and guts - that he got from playing Call of Duty too many times.

I'll throw out that it is the advent of texting that is creating a whole new language and means of communication. "Because" evolves to "cause" evolves to "cuz"? I offer this link of texting abbreviations as some flimsy evidence for my theory (which I am sure is not new or enlightening). I only have a few committed to memory and figure I will never learn to be an extensive texter. Really, when am I ever going to need to know how to text EMRTW (Evil Monkeys Rule The World). Speaking of, I am going phone shopping this week. Since they no longer make a car charger for my phone, I gather my phone is obsolete. I lag behind the technological times.

I have a friend who teaches communications on the college level. She recently posted that she has students who actually answer questions on papers, exams, etc. with texting abbreviations. Clearly, we are regressing. Sad.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Hitting the Slopes

Skiing, in its entirety, goes against every fiber of my being. I blogged about my various fears and quick to panic moments here. Those that heard we were taking a family ski trip this past weekend must have thought about that post and wondered if I had completely lost my mind. It just screams panic for me, doesn't it? And here is why:

1. You must drive into and out of the mountains in order to actually participate in the sport.

2. You must ride a seemingly rickety and ratty chairlift to various drop-off points, high above the ground separated only by a metal bar that is completely controlled by you at any point in time.

3. You must propel yourself down a mountain with little or no control as a beginner.

4. The feeling of being out of control is like nausea, coming out of nowhere, with no warning or preparation. But, you know it is coming with each new decline.

5. You must use muscles you have not used since that one extreme yoga class you swore you would never attend again.

Despite all of this working against me, I remembered how much I love to ski. I know, it makes no sense. I actually drove up to Sugar Mountain (don't you just love that name) while Jay worked on his laptop, via his mobile phone/wireless connection and speaking to his office on my phone. What propelled me over the fear of being in control of a vehicle in the mountains is that I listened to TobyMac on Ethan's mp3 player. I was in the zone with nothing to think about, but the words to his songs. I know it is illegal to have headphones on while driving, but I believe the general population was way safer with me clued into TM than fixated on the steep drop-offs and my ability to drive straight down them.

I have never really thought too much about chairlifts. I remember several years ago Jay and I took the kids to Tweetsie Railroad. You could ride a chairlift up to the top of the mountain where there was a petting zoo and maybe a couple of other rides. We all got into one lift (I don't know how), but guess who starts freaking out? Jay. So much so that he made us all ride the school bus shuttle down the mountain rather than get back on the lift. He couldn't believe we were allowed to bring small children onto that "death trap." I hadn't really given it much thought until this weekend. Jay and I decided to leave the kids back at the condo with the sitter and head out for some night skiing. While in the dark and fog, Jay decides to recount the story which brings rise to panic for me. Finally, when we reach the top of the mountain, my legs are already a little jiggly just from thinking about the stinking chairlift's safety. Then, I had to start skiing down a more challenging slope from the top of the mountain. That was a long, long way down.

I am not an experienced skier. In fact, I took an hour lesson to brush up on what little knowledge I had gained from the last time I went skiing...15 years ago. As a beginner, you teeter between control and out of control constantly. In two days/nights of skiing, I fell. It wasn't a lot - maybe 6 times, but when I did, it wasn't pretty. Face forward falling never is. The best bit of skiing I did was at night, probably because I couldn't really see just how steep the intermediate slope was. And, try as I might, there were times when I knew my arms were flailing, my legs fighting to plow (or make a pizza wedge as they call it now) and I just wanted to let myself go...go right off the side of the mountain rather than fight against my body any more. Despite all of this, I can't wait to go back. The beginner slopes were easy and fun, almost too simple and I can see where as your skills progress the more advanced slopes will be, too.

I do understand the allure of staying in a place with a hot tub. Sunday was a little slow getting out of bed. But by Monday...whoa. Jay and I have hobbled around the house easing out little moans and groans as we traverse the stairs. I still don't get how my arms are as sore as they are...unless the flailing was much worse than I imagine. I know, flailing makes it worse, but sometimes you just can't help it.

The kids did great. Ethan and Sadie were zipping down the intermediate slopes by themselves by the end of the weekend. Sadie liked to know I was behind her. Little did she know I would not have been able to help her if she needed me, but there was comfort for her in that ignorance. I did have an interesting conversation with Sadie on the chairlift:
She said, "Mommy, are you scared about skiing?"
Me: "No, not too bad, why?"
Sadie: "Because Daddy said you were a scaredy-cat."
Me: "He did?" (thinking I have something to say to him)
Sadie: "Yes, but I told him you weren't. You are brave, you know, for a Mommy."
Me: "And, what did he say?"
Sadie: "That maybe you were only a giblet bit scared."
Me: "Well, he is probably right about that one."

Lily was not quite strong enough to make turns, but did manage to stay above her skis. She was a cute little bundled up snow bunny. Next year, she will be old enough to be in ski school. Jay and I agreed that we may finally have found something that the whole family enjoys doing together.