Thursday, November 29, 2012

Crossing the Line

Dear Diary,
This is the last post I'll mention this.  OK, the last one for a few weeks, anyway.

As a parent of a toddler there are many firsts to record:  first tooth, smile, word, etc.  The trend of firsts does continue, it just doesn't get recorded in the baby book.  Since our firstborn is now learning to drive, it is a momentous first for this parent and household.  It is a novelty that won't soon wear off.  So, I must write, again, on the topic of driving.

I will admit that with a budding driver now by my side in our well- worn loved minivan, I am a bit more careful with my driving. 

I use my blinker light 100 feet prior to my turn. [Don't ask me how far that is.  Oh, too late, Sarah already did.] 

I make sure I come to a full stop at lights/signs.  ["Now see what that black car did?  That is what we call a 'rolling stop'.  Daddy got chased down by a cop for that once." Oh. Is she old enough to know that now?]

I don't text and drive, nor do I apply makeup, shave body parts, or play instruments.

The long-forgotten three second rule has also come to my attention.  It now becomes an obssession with me to count down the seconds between myself and the car ahead of me.  [Okay, he passed that road-kill; one....two...three...yup, I have established a safe distance.]

I am not a tail-gater, or (much of) a speeder.  [I will provide sunglasses to any who need protection against the glare of my halo.] But I do have one "glaringly" obvious flaw which has come to my attention only because I have a budding young driver watching my every move. 

It's the white line. 
Not the dividing line between lanes.  I mean the big, fat line at all stoplights and stopsigns. 
Yeah.  I roll right on past those -- but I do stop, thank you very much.

I will be working on that.  It's amazing how many of those I ignore on my daily routes.  Now that I am not ignoring them, it sure gives a different perspective to those intersections.

So while I have a renewed spirit of good driving habits, I would be remiss if I didn't include this link
Animal crossing signs won't ever be the same for me.

I think I will market a new bumper sticker:

Save a Deer, Move a Sign

Drive Safe!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I Can't Believe...

Dear Diary,

I can't believe Thanksgiving has come and gone.
              But I am grateful for the leftovers so that I can make my Turkey Florentine recipe tonight.

I can't believe it is November 25th and I am panicked about running out of time to buy gifts (I guess the early Christmas - I mean, "holiday" - marketing is doing its job).
              But I am grateful I still have exactly one month to get the job done.

I can't believe Lee got up at 3 a.m. for his super duper Black Friday Deal.
              But I am grateful he let me sleep in and do my shopping at 10 a.m.

I can't believe my oldest is learning to drive.
              But I am grateful there were no tears for her first hands-on lesson with dad.

I can't believe how many school concerts I "get" to attend in the next two weeks.
              But I am grateful my kids love to perform.

I can't believe how low my bank account is right now.
              But I am grateful my husband has a job.
I can't believe I am actually going to see my siblings-in-law in a couple weeks.
              But I am grateful we are all looking forward to the meeting.

I can't believe I am a no-good-lousy-sinner.
              But I am grateful that while I am yet a sinner, Christ loves me enough to be born a man,
              die a criminal, and make me righteous in his sight.

This is the season of Believe
I just need to make sure I Believe in the right thing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happiness is Thankfulness

Dear Diary,
I am a firm believer in counting my blessings.  I have a few friends who believe that too.  ;-)

If one is disciplined in this practice, I believe one's heart (mind, will, emotions) fills with optimism and happiness, crowding out self-pity, envy, and depression*.

In Jr. High, my chorus sang the song, Happiness, [click for link] from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.  It describes what "happiness is:"
  • five different crayons
  • two kinds of ice cream
  • knowing a secret
  • learning to tell time
  • finding a nickel
just to name a few!  What is this song really doing?  It is counting blessings.  Appreciating even the small things that happen, the little "niceties" we have.

While Charlie Brown and friends sing about happiness, they are really proclaiming that a thankful heart breeds happiness.  Which segues into another song, a la Veggie Tales [click for link]. 

Madame Blueberry is never satisfied with what she has, and therefore is (fill in the blank) .  Yes, children, the answer is unhappy.  It is the poor, simple family who reminds her that a thankful heart is a happy heart. 

People notice happy people. 
People envy happy people.
Envy no more. 
The answer is here. 
Be Thankful. 

Have a blessedly Happy Thanksgiving,

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.
1 Timothy 4:4

*Just clarifying so I don't get messages about this, I am referring to being depressed, not the clinical kind of depression, which can't usually be solved solely with the formula mentioned.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lessons from the DMV

Dear Diary,
Oh, Department of Motor Vehicles, let me count thy ways!

Really, you don't spend 1.5 hours of your life at the DMV without observing humanity at its finest. Or do I mean without observing the finest of humanity?

I step into that cold, cement-walled building with all the optimism of a 15-year-old getting her driver's permit.  (Did I mention my daughter was with me?) 

Yes, there is a sea of humans seated in the waiting area behind the glass wall dividing my line from their masses; but, no, I don't let that sway me.  I don't falter.  I stride up to the first DMV checkpoint.  I have my file folder full of every ID paper known to me and my daughter.  And the first thing we are asked is, "Do you have the blue and white form the driver instructor gave you?"  Blink.  What?  Huh?  Blue form.  A few moments of shuffling past the credit card bill, school report card, birth certificate, and voila!  I find a white form with blue ink:  the permit application.  Phew! Crisis averted. Not exactly a blue form, but it's mute now, let's move on.  We are given a number and told to "Please take a seat.  Computers were down for a bit this morning, so I'm not sure what the wait is."  (Why do I feel like the "computers were down for a bit" every time I walk into the DMV?)

LESSON:  Be prepared.  Show confidence.  And don't hesitate to clarify what is asked of you.

Well, the wait is thirty-plus minutes of sitting with the masses, staring at the number board along with everyone else. Numbers are called, and we all peek with envy at the person who stands up in response, a pleased-as-punch look on his/her face.  And the calling system was not exactly numerical, so we waited for the next number posting with eager anticipation. Are we next?  I remember years ago when I was getting my permit.  We didn't have the luxury of sitting down to wait our turn.  We had to be herded, weaving around the room Disney-line-style, to the next available clerk.  Only this ain't Disney.

LESSON:  Sometimes waiting is part of life. [For more on this, reference The Cell Phone Lot, 9/15/12]  In a lull? Anticipate.  Be ready when your number is called. 

Our number was called, and with our "pleased as punch" expressions, we approach checkpoint #2. I can tell this guy is a seasoned employee.  But he is a pleasant fellow, not a bitter one.  Nice to banter with.  First-time-permit-obtaining-mom type of banter. 

LESSON:  Pleasant encounters lead to good impressions.

Checkpoint #3 was the payment line.  A very quick, no-hassle line in which to hand over our cash. Not hard to find a lesson in that.

On to checkpoint #4: The Written Test.  This is the first emotionless, blank-faced employee we've encountered. But this is the written test! This is the time we need assurances that everything will be alright!  We need that warm smile, those kindly eyes, telling us:  "I don't know you, but from the looks of you, I'm sure you are smart.  You will be fine.  Don't let this colorless, windowless, room full of old desks intimidate you.  I'll be here for you when its over."

LESSON:  Sometimes our success needs to be determined by our own will, because we may not always get encouragement from others.

This is getting long, so I'll wrap this up.  My daughter passed, and we breezed out the door with a driver's permit in hand. 

LESSON:  When faced with an unpleasant task, get the hubby to do it.

Most patiently,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chores I Could Do Without

Dear Diary,

Here are a few chores I really would like to limit to just an annual occurrence.  Believe me, I have more, but I am keeping it to three so that I can get to bed at decent hour tonight.

I have my ironing board set up in my bedroom.  I place all of the wrinkled clothes on hangers, which I then dangle from the edge of the ironing board to await the day they will join the other, wrinkle-free clothes in the closet.  I figure the pull of gravity on those wrinkles can only help me while they wait.  Which is a really ---  long --- time.  One way I keep the ironing chore to a minimum is by keeping the ironing board in the bedroom.  I am only there a couple of times a day. When I wake up. ("Gotta get myself showered and out the door.")  And when I go to bed.  ("So tired, gotta read my Grisham under these glaring lights and turn in.")  Yup, outta-sight, outta-mind really does help keep the ironing down to a minimum.

Cleaning the tub/shower.
I love my Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, made specially for the bathroom.  It "erases" away all the soap scum and buildup on those walls.  I keep it handy right there next to my Zest bar of soap so that I can just use it spontaneously when needed (HA!).  (Let's hope I don't magically erase myself one day by grabbing the wrong "bar.")  Oh, and "magic" doesn't mean it will turn into a self-powered sponge, like Mickey's enchanted mop in The Sorcerer's Apprentice.  It just sits there, unless someone picks it up and scrubs with it.  Darn.

Changing the bed sheets.
With four beds to change on a "regular" basis, this can tucker me out. I am working out a rotation system so I don't strain myself.  (Hey, being over 40 does have its hangups.) That's a lot of  peeling, piling, putting, washing, softening, drying, folding, pulling, tugging, and smoothing just for one bed.  And if bunk beds are involved, boy, I'd need to be Mary Poppins to enjoy doing that while balanced atop the tiny step ladder.  The reward is the fresh sheets at the end of the day.  Too bad that's only a one-day kind of moment.

Well, now that I've gone on about that, it's time to stop stalling and do it.  Well, maybe not all at once.  Pacing oneself is a good way to get through the icky chores of life.  I just happen to be a slow pacer. 

Where's Mickey when you need him?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Just Reach Out

Dear Diary,
Life is full of surprises, isn't it?

Back when my peers and I were in our prime fertile years, finding out the gender of the baby-under-construction was starting to become standard.  A question that was once never an option and only a guessing game from old wives tales was creeping into our language:  "Are you going to find out what it is?" 

In answer to this question, a friend once told me, "There are few, true surprises in life."  (And I think she meant happy surprises.)  She and her husband would wait until due time for the gender of their baby to reveal itself.  Ahhhh, delayed gratification... a topic for another day, I'm sure.

Anyway, I always remembered her statement.  And I have a terrible memory, so it must have been worth remembering.  It is said that death and taxes are a sure thing.  That leaves pretty much everything else in life on shaky ground, right?  Hence, life's little surprises.  Of course I'm not going to name them all here.  That would be boring and depressing, and I would certainly overlook a multitude of experiences others have had that I have not. 

Suffice it to say that we all experience times of lulls.  Our solid ground times.

Humdrum, comfortable predictability. 

Then BOOM! 
A phone call, a comment, an election, a doctor visit, changes the solid ground into:


In one week, I have seen two examples of desperate people who couldn't handle life's surprises anymore.

I can't even fathom the helplessness and hopelessness they felt in order to make the decision they did. 

Surprises were meant to be shared. 
The happy ones are easy.  Usually they are hard to contain, like some bubbling, carbonated liquid, which by nature, must spill over. 
But the surprises which are sad, bitter, and hard need to be shared too. 

Reach for a phone, a friend, a minister, a Bible.  Just reach out, and spill it.  There will be relief --solid ground-- again.

Firmly planted,

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:1-2

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Post-Election Day Post

Dear Diary,

This is a bit lazy, but to me it summarizes the emotions of the day.  I have friends on both sides of the aisle.  So this should be a nice, safe, non-offensive, totally PC post.  Oh, except that I put God into this.  For that I don't apologize.

It is from Jon Acuff's Stuff Christians Like blog.  On days like today, God's word is especially comforting.


P.S. Oh and you wouldn't believe what happened to me on the way to the voting booth. 
Imagine being told you already voted when you give Table #2 your signature on the paper you signed at Table #1.  Yup, something fishy going on in the major metropolitan area of the midwest city near which I live. 

Double Uptight,

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Luxury I Love

Dear Diary,
I love the library.

Lately, as one of our "filling time" activities [see post on Filling Time 10/26] I head to the library with or without a kid in tow.  Thankfully, the library is in close proximity to our school, the locale for most of my kids' time-filling activities.

Now, reading is a luxury for which I can find some uninterupted time during one of these moments:
  • My lunch -- a blissful break during which I get to simultaneously do two things I enjoy:  eating and reading.  I open a book over my sandwich and hope I don't get orange Cheetos smudges on the pages.
  • In bed -- a quiet break during which I can't find a good, reclined, reading position without the overhead lights glaring into my eyes like some inquisition torture chamber.  So then I have to use the book as a light shield, which shades the pages and really tires out my arm.  Feelin' sorry for me yet?
Right now I have two books that I am working on. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Good Nearby, if you must know.)  I can't read two books very well, let alone get some quality daily Bible reading in.  (My DailyBible app is great!  A random verse a day keeps the guilt away!) But I digress.

I was at the library today and decided to pick up yet another book -- yes, a third, if you are keeping track -- and a couple of DVDs (Carousel and The Artist, if you must know-- and don't even ask how I will find time to watch them.  My Netflix dvd has been sitting by my TV, unwatched, for over a month.)

2 + 1 = 3 books I now need to find time to read.

But the library is like a candy store for the brain!  How could I not get another when I am surrounded by shelves and shelves of delectable, delightful pages of escape?  Historical fiction -- queens and castles, spies, horses and the guillotine; mysteries -- cloaks and daggers, lawyers, detectives and clues; dramatic fiction -- estranged spouses, unexpected illnesses, and trips to secluded cabins, or Europe -- or secluded cabins in Europe -- to become a writer and find one's self.

Yes, the library is a luxury of leisure.  If I had to play the "Would You Rather" game, I would rather be locked up in a library than, let's say, a craft store. 

Well, would you look at the time!  I think bedtime may come a little early tonight!  Maybe a baseball hat or sunglasses will do the trick.

Inquisitively yours,

Thursday, November 1, 2012

And the First Runner Up Is.....

Dear Diary,

How can I not write about this on the heels of yesterday's post?  Yesterday I noted that I was waiting for a call on a job for which I interviewed twice. 

Well, it came while driving my kids to school.  I was in both a school and construction zone, and in Illinois that is a double no-no for cell phone use.  So yes, I did pull over to park and talk.  I knew this would be a serious phone call.

Being told you are second choice is never easy. 
Sure you got the smile, cheerful demeanor, and "thank you very much" attitude, but inside your gut is squeezing your heart into your throat.  I new there was a reason I didn't put on mascara today.  I thought it was because I was under the weather.

Out of 88 teams, second place is really great, right? 

Well, I know the answer to that.  My daughter's volleyball team had a great tournament recently in which they ended up with the first place trophy.  Yup, that second place team didn't feel good to be second best I can tell you that.

Grocery shopping was on my to-do list after dropping the kids at school.  Probably not the best idea when you are on a downer.  But boy I can't wait to dig into those pumpkin pie pop-tarts!  I did see a friend at the store who was quick with the hug.  Thank you!

So now I take just a few more moments for self-pity.  Then I shall dust myself off (at least no mascara racoon eyes to worry about) and roll up my sleeves.  There is a pantry that needs cleaning out.  I bought a few extra items I need to make room for. 

Count Chocula Treat anyone?