Friday, December 20, 2013

Canine Elf - IHS Moment #8

Dear Diary,
I have made mention of him before, my Charlie. 

Our canine friends can be stinkers for sure (see Dissed by a Dog), so perhaps our little way of payback would be in the form of good natured ridicule.

(No dogs have been harmed in the making of this post.)

You've seen the pet shaming photos online:  guilt-faced dogs and a conviction notice in the foreground, toilet paper kerfuffle or exploding pillow innards in the background.

And here is another way in which we annoy our dogs: dressing them up.  And it sure puts a smile on my face!  Check out this one-minute, extremely professional video....


Ok, not extremely professional, but it is waaay better than dogs barking out the "Jingle Bells" song, which made some professional more money than they deserve. 

After all they put up with from us humans, don't let Santa forget your pets!


Monday, December 16, 2013

Why I Don't Drink Much Caffeine - IHS #7

Dear Diary,

I am having a love/hate relationship with my blog right now.

I love writing.
I hate that it is taking up so much of my mental time. 
I am neglecting my chores and my Christmas preparations, and am cheating my family of a Christmas spirit I desperately want to feel.

On December 9, I challenged myself to post a joy of my heart each day until Christmas.

I am reneging that challenge. 

It is no longer a joyful task.

Saturday's post did not get published.
I did write a post for Saturday, but the key idea was actually in a one-minute video I tried to upload.  And tried,
and tried,
and tried again. 
I wasted a lot of time. 
No Can Do. 

And I was more than a little irritated by it.

So, I need to have a reality check, stop obsessing and start living (and cleaning)!  I need to start organizing, wrapping, and panicking about my (lack of) Christmas card ideas.  I want to put joy back into my day, not just in one little gem I manage to pull out for these posts.

I need to chill.

So, while I will post more before Christmas, I am taking the pressure off of myself (which was soley put on by ME) to post every day.

So here is my IHS for today.  It comes full circle to my advent calendar I alluded to on the 9th.  It was homemade by church ladies, and it is adorable.  Felt people with googly eyes.  Hearkens me back to my childhood Sunday School days, with green felt boards and Bible story characters stiffly demonstrating the story at hand.

On this the 16th day of December, the procession of people and animals gathering to welcome the baby Jesus is getting quite large. 

Here is what I noticed this morning. 
Upon closer inspection, their googly eyes actually make them appear to have had a little waaaaaay too much coffee.

Yup. Wide awake.
I guess they don't want to miss Christ's coming.

Neither do I.  So I'll catchya later.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pick Your Own IHS (#6)

This is my sixth installment of a series of posts describing an IHS moment leading up to Christmas. For those of you not keeping track, IHS means Inward Heart Swell, the antithesis of the IMG (Inward Mental Groan). It is my attempt to highlight the joy in the mundane, run-of-the-mill, or not-so-noticeable side of the Christmas season.
Dear Diary,

Today you can pick your own IHS. 
I could have searched online for fabulous photos of a palm tree, crystal waters, and white sandy beaches, as well as the deep blue and pure white of an Alaskan mountain range or glacier.

Instead I chose a scene I see every day 'cuz it is my reality.  I have cold weather friends and fair weather friends.  Anyone who knows me knows which weather friend I am!  So rather than hog this page with what I want to see, I thought I'd make it IHS friendly for all.

Which photo takes you to your happy place?

Photo #1

Photo #2

Come back and visit this page anytime you need a pick-me-up.

You're welcome,


Friday, December 13, 2013

Just Like Grandma Made - IHS Moment #5

This is my fifth installment of a series of posts describing an IHS moment leading up to Christmas. For those of you not keeping track (mom), IHS means Inward Heart Swell, the antithesis of  the IMG (Inward Mental Groan). It is my attempt to highlight the joy in the mundane, run-of-the-mill, or not-so-noticeable side of the Christmas season. 

Dear Diary,

Church cookbooks are the best.  The are full of tried and true recipes that blue and silver haired ladies have been making for ages, and which have pleased the palates of the generations they serve. Orange Cake, All Day Stew, Sauerkraut Relish, German Chocolate Pie all tantalize the senses.

I have several of these books, and--heaven help me--they aren't all Lutheran!

The Lutheran cookbook does have a leg up on the other denominations in one area especially: Jello.  Jello molds, salads, and desserts are a staple of the Lutheran cookbook, along with the Potluck chapter and - my favorite - the This & That chapter, for recipes so undefined and random they have no place in the regular sections of the book. (Wild Animal Milk, anyone?)

I am lucky enough have a recipe book from the churches of both my paternal and maternal grandmothers.  They are special because I can find and use the recipes tagged with their names.  They are (even more) special because my grandmothers have passed on to glory, leaving the need to cook and eat up to the rest of us waiting our turn to attend the heavenly feast already prepared for us.

Recently I had the privilege of making my grandmother's pie crust recipe. 

I admit, it has been a while since I bothered (thank you Pillsbury!). 
But really, my grandma's recipe is excellent -- and it makes about 5 crusts so I can freeze the extra, just like the dough boy's!

Who knew pie crust could give me such joy?  But every time I pull one out of the freezer, I really do have a heart-filled moment. 

Happy baking!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm No Scrooge!

Dear Diary,

"Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully......You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which...will produce thanksgiving to God."**


Ask me what it means and I originally would have answered something like "the unconditional giving of material things."  (Think Scrooge's attitude, after the visit from the three spirits!)

I could name several friends who have a propensity for generosity. Although they inspire me, I envy their ability to naturally do something I find a bit more difficult to do.

Then I realized,  Bah, humbug, I'm no Scrooge!

To be generous is selfless.

It is loving and compassionate.

And, yes, I think unconditional is also a part of being generous (except for maybe the small favor of a receipt for tax purposes.)

And it doesn't have to involve money or a material object.

A person can be generous with their time and talents as well as their treasures.

A generous heart is full heart and, therefore, is a heart full of potential IHS moments. 

God bless us, every one!

**This IHS moment for today was brought to you with the help of:
The Bible, 2 Corinthians chapter 9
Charles Dickens
and Walt Disney.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Dear Diary,

I need to give a shout out to my folks for the Whetstone's hot chocolate mix.  Whetstone and I have a friendship that goes way back into my childhood.

But I digress. 

As much as I love Whetstones and my parents (in no particular order, ahem) my heart and tummy warming IHS moment today is actually brought to you by a stranger named Bob.

He is the maker of Sweet Stripes, a product I bought on a whim (and for only a buck) at WalMart.

Look at those dandy edible barber pole peppermint sticks! 
Imagine what a person could do with these babies!
For today, they were great stirrers for our hot chocolate.  They are softer than a candy cane, making for quicker meltaway action.
This is an IHS experience you just can't duplicate in July.
Sweetly yours,

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Feasting on Leroy

Dear Diary,
Hello! Here I am with my second IHS.  Hope I can keep this up!

The heart swelling Christmas joy I want to share today is courtesy of Leroy Anderson.

He is a talented American composer whose works include
The Typewriter,
                             Syncopated Clock,
                                                              and A Trumpeter's Lullaby.

But at this time of year I can't get enough of his......(drum roll)......... Sleigh Ride.
(Composed during a July 1948 heatwave in Connecticut btw!)

It is a feast for my ears. The percussion section has the spotlight in this tune. My timing is never quite right as I try to mimic the crack of the whip.  Syncopation is not my gift.

But listening to the romp of the trombone and the frolicking strings makes my heart delight in the buffet of sounds this song has to offer. All the pieces put together make one satisfying meal!

In case you want to take a couple of minutes to indulge, or just want a reminder of the song, take a listen to this recording from 2008.

Have a jolly day!

Monday, December 9, 2013

IHS Joys of Christmas

Dear Diary,

December 9th?  Really? 
Didn't I just put up the nativity scene advent calendar? 
   1 rooster,
   1 donkey,
   1 camel,
   1 cow,
   1 angel,
   1 shepherd, and
   3 sheep later,
it is nine days into the month.  Time flies....

With 16 days left until the Big Day, I wanted to challenge myself with a little exercise. 
No, I don't mean literally exercise -- heh heh, that's a good one on your part!

I mean I want to find and name a joy each day.
Not the obvious joys like eating Christmas cookies, or attending parties, or eating Christmas cookies, or singing carols with your kids, or eating Chri..... oh, you get my meaning.

I want to bring to light something that gives me the opposite of an inward mental groan (IMG). 
I call it an IHS:  Inward Heart Swell. 

When my heart swells, it is with one of two things:  pride (not always good, except when it comes to my kids) and joy.  Soooo, swallowing my pride (and cookies) for the time being, I will post a joyous IHS every day until Christmas.  That is what I mean by a challenging exercise.

Here goes.
Today's IHS joy is this:

An ornament I've had since bk (before kids) and is so random!  What does a cute widdle bear sitting in a baby swing really have to do with Christmas?  Nothing!  And yet it is an ornament that is simply irresistible to me.  Look at that face!  It's just begging for a push!  Since my girls were little enough to help with the tree, they, too have been drawn to its random cuteness and have spent playtimes pushing him in his Christmas tree swing. 
I guess it's a "he." 
Maybe it's the red bowtie.

Would love to hear about your little IHSs of Christmas.  Just leave a comment!

Until tomorrow!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Attitude is Everything

Dear Diary,

I have been at my new grade school job for about six weeks now.  I work only a few hours a day and in only one or two classrooms so my knowledge of who's who on the staff is is very limited.

My first week as the new kid on the block I practically smiled my ears off at anyone taller than 5 feet in my desire to be accepted, to make a good impression, and just because I like to be nice.

That included the crossing guard.  Upon entering school grounds there is a four-way stop manned by a lone crossing guard wearing a yellow reflective vest and holding her stop sign.  I get a good look at her because I have to stop there anyway. 

At some point during my first week I instinctively smiled and waved through my car window-- after coming to a complete stop of course.

Now it is six weeks later. 
About two weeks ago as I approached the intersection manned by our guard, I admit I groaned inwardly (IMG).  Here were the thoughts that went through my head.

Do I have to wave at her every morning now?
Smiling and waving every morning at this woman is getting so old.
I don't wanna have to do this every day.  I don't even have a good smile.
Does she even care that I wave to her?  I don't even know her name.
What if I just blow her off and look straight ahead.
I could just pretend I was very interested in the empty road in front of me and drive on by -- after I stop of course.

Whooooooaaaaaa, LJ. 
S-T-O-P those thoughts.

Months ago I had the opportunity to be a morning car door opener at my daughter's school.  I enjoyed the brief "hello" and "have a good day" moments with people I didn't even know.  Why would this be any different?  Why wouldn't this lady look forward to someone smiling and waving at her every morning?

With new determination, and with cheek muscles twitching like a racehorse in the starting gate, I approached the intersection, made eye contact with the crossing guard, grinned and waved at her amiably.

And it felt good. 
Somehow my little pep talk genuinely changed my heart about the issue and I now look forward to our little exchange of civility every morning. 

I can only hope she isn't thinking as my little silver car approaches the stop line,

Do I have to wave at her every morning now?
Smiling and waving every morning at this woman is going to get old real fast.......


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Is Vanilla So Bad?

Dear Diary,

It's true: we are our own harshest critic.  We are harder on ourselves than others.  I see this in my children.  When it comes to self-critique, they can be pretty hard on themselves. 

And I am not immune either.

There is a game going around Facebook, where a friend is assigned a number that represents the number of Little Known Facts that person needs to reveal about himself.  I have been enjoying reading these revelations from friends, but dare not "like" anything for fear I will be assigned a number. 

I don't want to face facts.

I am pretty much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of gal.  I am afraid I wouldn't come up with anything remotely worth anyone's time to read. 

I would sit and sit and stare dumbly at my computer screen, trying to come up with half a dozen little known trivia about myself that would be of slightest interest to anyone, and end up -- to borrow a great expression from a friend -- crying all over the keyboard.

My fear is: my life is not interesting enough. 
       Mission trips and movie stardom have yet to be realized. 

My fear is: my talents aren't talented enough.
        I can juggle; two balls at a time.  It impresses the preschoolers, but not many others.

My fear is: my skills aren't good enough.
        I can flare my nostrils, but I can't wiggle my ears.

My fear is: I am too vanilla. 
        There are no exciting secrets with vanilla.  No occassional chocolate chunk or caramel swirl to liven things up.

So, I avoid the game.
("Avoidance" and I are on too familiar terms I think.)

I don't mind vanilla. 
However I wouldn't complain if someday I fell into a vat of dark chocolate chunks or rainbow sprinkles.

Then I wouldn't have the fear to face the questions, or to share my delicious little nuggets of charisma.

Now where's the ice cream scoop? I'm getting hungry.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sweet Dreams!

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."   Walt Disney

Dear Diary,

I knew it would happen.

I ate two pieces of cake right before bedtime.

Moist, chocolate, single layer cake with no frosting, but baked with a few chocolate chips in the batter.

I figured eating two single pieces was like eating one double layer piece, right?

I think I was still digesting it this morning.

But more than that, I knew last night: My dreams would be very interesting!
And I did not disappoint.

In fact, I dreamt so much about folks from church and even a church service itself that when my alarm sounded, I thought it must be Sunday-- and why would I need to get up so early?

Then I chuckled this Tuesday morning and hit the snooze, remembering the crazy escapades of the night:
  • people bouncing on trampoline-roofed minivans,
  • a pastor preparing to preach a sermon entitled "Sweaters" while employing the high school youth to model Ugly Christmas Sweaters in the aisles as sermon illustrations.  Oh were they ugly!  (My alarm prevented me from hearing the sermon, so the Law/Gospel aspect is lost on me.)
I am a dreamer.  A night time dreamer.
And though Cinderella may croon "A dream is a wish your heart makes, when it's fast asleep," 
I really can't concur!

I suppose in my wakeful, daytime hours, I could spend more time uncovering and pursuing some dreams of another kind.  I have been blessed to be living my dream for 16 years:  raising my daughters. But time has a way of growing them to be the independent teens and tween they are.

So, Walt, while I am so thankful that night time dreams are not a wish your heart makes but sometimes are a byproduct of too much chocolate cake, I will endeaver to courageously pursue my wakeful ones, once I figure out what they are.

Sweet dreams!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Seeds vs. Nails

Dear Diary,

When they are in my mouth, I can't tell the difference.

Sure, one is pleasantly salty while the other is, well, hopefully plain.

I'm talking about pumpkin seeds and fingernails.

Come on, we've all chewed off a nail or two. 

You know how those nails feel in your mouth?
When you look for the nearest tissue box or garbage can?

It is the same with my indigestible pumpkin seeds,


Every year I try a new recipe, most which claim to be "tried and true."

I've gleaned, rinsed, dried/not dried.
I've seasoned, oiled, or buttered.
I've boiled, slow roasted, or flash baked.

They always turned out like fingernails. 
Only well seasoned with sea salt, and slightly more nutritious.

Admittedly, I've had some tasty batches, once cooled, right from of the oven. 

But to keep them longer than 12 hours means goodbye crispy, hello chewy.

Why, I asked myself this week, do I go through this painstaking, messy process every Halloween?

To pass on the nostalgia of unsuccessful pumpkin seed baking to my own kids?

Not a good enough reason.

Please remind me next year that it ain't worth it.

And pass me the Halloween candy.

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Monday Hurdle

Dear Diary,

I was almost barfed on today.

Good way to start a Monday morning.

The poor kindergartner did not have the words to tell me how he was feeling.  He just cried in my lap and then --- *urp*  ----- that initial sound of the stomach commencing its emergency backup plan.

Uh. Oh.

I looked around for the nearest garbage can and almost got him to it in time.  Almost.

At least it wasn't on me.  Just a skosh on the floor.

Sometimes Mondays are like that. 

Sometimes Fridays are like that. 

It is a moment where you hope you just sailed --or stumbled-- over your highest hurdle of the day.

And then you go home, pop a Halls Defense drop, disrobe, and throw your clothes in the washing machine.  Then shower or, at the very least, scrub surgically up to the elbows.

And see what the rest of Monday brings.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Does God's Waiting Room have A/C?

Dear Diary,

The weather is such a safe subject to discuss with friends or strangers. 
Lull in the conversation?  Talk about the weather. 
Meet a farmer?  Discuss the rain.
Got nothing to say to a three-year-old?  Talk about snow.
Need a blog topic?  Go no further!
It's the universal subject people can either complain about or revel in and not worry about being judged as a Lefty or a Righty.  (OK, perhaps I'd better keep Global Warming out of the conversation.)

As a warm weather-loving person, I still love my cool weather-loving friends.

My youngest, who is 10, is ready to move to Michigan. 
"Why?" I ask.
"There are no tornadoes or earthquakes, and there is a lot of snow," she immediately replies.  She has obviously thought this through.
Then I wonder if she was switched at birth because she is obviously not my child.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I was fine with winter.
Slipping my stockinged feet into orange, Holsum bread bags before shoving them into not-so-water-proof Mickey Mouse boots was a normal part of winter play preparations.  That -- along with a double layer of pants (snow pants were not the norm at my house) -- was tolerated because when else could a girl dig a snow tunnel and make a snow fort?  I also remember my bright red stocking hat with a pom-pom the size of a baseball.  I loved it!

(Contrast this with almost every Florida vacation picture of me as a August. 
Hair wild from humidity and sweat, skin red with angry sunburn,
my grouchy, grumpy, squinty-eyed face mirroring my every thought under that bright, relentless sun.)

Now, as an adult, not only do I mentally cringe at the change to a colder season, but my body rebels.
Scratchy, sore throat.
Sinus pressure.
Dry eyes and nose.
Watery eyes and nose.

Now I understand why the "older set" like to migrate to places like Florida and Arizona --
states which have been jokingly called God's Waiting Room.
Someday it will be my joy to hang out there.

As long as there is air conditioning.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Childish Thoughts

Dear Diary,

I knew I needed to take my walk this morning, but I also had to run an errand. So I combined the two needs and walked the 3 miles round trip, with the dog, to get the utility bill into the village drop box.  This took me exactly one hour.

Half of my walk was in a no-sidewalk industrial park.  So I was dodging work trucks, macks and semis.  That, along with a dog who likes to sniff/mark every tree, post, and shrub, certainly did nothing to improve my time. (I also may have stopped for 5 minutes to rest at the gazebo and stare at the geese in the pond on the way home.)

On the return route, I was getting thirsty.  Almost parched.  It was warmer than I expected and I had overdressed.  Though I took off a layer, I had not brought any water.  My mouth was dry.

I allowed my imagination to revert to childish thoughts.
I imagined I was in a desolate urban landscape, my dog and I the sole survivors of a devastating, futuristic war. 
We must find water. 
Maybe a crust of bread to save for later.
Ach, never mind the bread, we must seek water or succumb to death.
We can't... fail.....must.... survive...

Fifteen minutes after that thought I was home, running filtered water into my cup and planning lunch.

But that brief, childish thought got me thinking about games I played in childhood.  Often they were games of peril, but they were always powered by imagination.

Like the time I would pretend my bed was a sinking boat in a sea of sharks, and my only means of escaping their dangerous jaws was by stepping on randomly placed pillows and stuffed animals on my floor.  This scenario was played out in various forms of doom and demise, including red-hot volcanic lava or an alligator-filled swamp.

Or the time after the dinner hour, when the sun was setting, casting a golden trail between the close-set houses of my neighborhood.  Our front yards were bathed with light, but our backyards were dark save for the gold-paved "road" that led to our back fence. This was a scene just begging for me to link
arm-in-arm with my neighbor friend and belt out "Weeeeeee're OFF to see the wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz!" while skipping down the "yellow brick road."

Or playing board games or hide-out in a blanketed fort or backyard tent. 

Or saving a big refrigerator box and turning it into a play store.  This was a great game considering that my neighbor's dad was an office supply salesman.  Plenty of envelopes, paper clips and rubber bands for our store shelves, complete with carbon-copy receipts to write on!

This is where my mind goes when I am thirsty during an arduous walk. 

I hope this inspires you to take your own journey into childhood.
Just don't forget your water bottle.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Dissed by a Dog

Dear Diary,

I would call this story a Charlie Brown moment.
An embarrassing, this is not happening to me in front of all these people, kind of moment.

There we were, my daughter and I, in the lobby of the kennel pet resort, awaiting our beloved Charlie's release.

We had returned from a most fabulous weekend, a most memorable weekend, with my parents and family.  A rare opportunity for the family to jet set to southern climes and return home in a record two nights.  But celebrating the 50 years of marriage of two people we love tremendously calls for such adventure.

We arrived at the "resort" at our appointed time slot on a Sunday; a one-hour window in which to check out our canine before being charged another night.  We found ourselves in a line with other owners anxious to see their "babies" again.

We smiled in anticipation as leashed dogs were brought through The Door, tails wagging and tongues licking as they made a beeline to their people. (The Door = the only portal connecting the lobby from the elusive but noisy back rooms where the dogs are kept.)

It was fun to see what kind of four legged creature would emerge next for a happy reunion with its owner.

Then came our turn. 
Payment made. 
Personal effects handed over. 
Retreat behind The Door.
(A moment now to imagine our happy hound's reaction to seeing us in the lobby.  I guessed it would be similar to the Kermit and Miss Piggy scene in the original Muppet Movie, where they run through flowered fields for an embrace.)
The Door opens.
Charlie bounds through, and then scampers right past us to investigate the others in the lobby awaiting their turn.

I think I may have turned red with embarrassment.  I gave my daughter at look.
Charlie, we missed you, did you miss us?  Huh boy?  Huh?
Even my enthusiastic baby talk did nothing to turn his attention back to us, his own people.
No wagging at our feet, no jumping up on our legs.

Not exactly the reunion I was anticipating.
Flat out apathy from man's best friend.

A time when I can look back and say without a doubt,
Yup, I was dissed by my dog.

Good grief!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Cups and Oreo Cows: Illustrations of Futility

Dear Diary,
Take a look at what I see on my kitchen counter every night before bedtime. 

So many cups.
Adult cups.
Kid cups.
Cups with lids.
Breakable cups.

Except for a fresh cup at dinner time, I try to establish a one-cup-per-day rule.  It is simple.  Drink from a cup, then keep it for use the rest of the day.  With a family of five, it just makes sense.  Without this rule, my dishwasher's top rack would hold nothing but cups. But, as illustrated, even with this rule I have a plethora to deal with at the end of a typical day.  Probably because I don't want to drink wine out of my coffee cup from the morning or send a kid off to school with a glass of water!

While I do believe this one-cup rule helps rather than hurts, it almost seems like a futile rule judging by the amount I still have stranded on my counter.  This observation makes me think of other recent activities in my life that are examples of futility.  Things that do not provide effective results and are not worth the time and effort to do.  Here are some of those things:
  • Shaving when I have goosebumps. 
    We are entering the chilly morning season.  Showers are hotter and longer and, sometimes, goose-bumpy.  Not the best time for a razor-sharp blade on the skin.
  • Training the husband to pick up his clothes pile in the bathroom. 
    The result won't be long term.  In fact, I give it an hour.
  • Looking for a contact lens that is, in actuality, still adhered to the eye. 
    Yes, I was convinced it had popped out and bounced all over the bathroom counter/sink/floor; especially since I had already mauled my eye trying to determine if it was still there.
  • Pointing out to the girls anything of interest while on a road trip. 
    "Look at those Oreo* cows!"
    "Look at that pink house!"  or
    "Look at the monkey dancing on top of that firetruck truck throwing $100 bills at passersby!" 
    ........are all a waste of breath when the girls are so engrossed in their electronics.
  • And not to appear too jaded, but lately my job search falls under this classification as well.
I could go on and on.
But it is getting a little depressing, no?

Listing everything that seems futile in life is not the way to go about living.  At least not happy living. 

I don't want to be an Ecclesiastes kind of a person.  You know, "all is for naught" and that kind of thing. 

I don't want futility to break me, to see me end up listlessly lying in the backyard hammock eating from a box of graham cracker Scooby snacks.  (Don't ask.)

I want to live with an attitude of feasibility, not futility. 

Feasibility makes the world go 'round!

Feasibility helps me to get up out of that hammock!

OK, and a ringing phone does too.

Crushing the futile,

*Oreo cows are actually Belted Galloways, a breed one won't find in too many places in the US, though there are a few farms with them not too far from where I live.  Thanks to Wikipedia for this picture.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why I Sit in Front

Dear Diary,
Choosing a seat in the front of church has its advantages. 

In some churches those first few pews are often empty and forlorn. 

But in my church the brave come boldly forward via the center aisle to pick a front or near the front pew to sit in.  For me, sitting in the front provides a better worship experience; it is a matter of less visual distraction and better focus.  Sitting in the front of church keeps me blind to such distractions as:
  • the pew jumping, hymnal scribbling, cracker munching (and cute as a button) toddler, (don't get me wrong, I encourage youngins to come forward...if it helps me focus, it couldn't hurt them!)
  • the shirt tag flipped up from the collar of a woman’s blouse in front of me. And me, spending what should be corporate prayer time, daring to reach out and tuck it back in with bonus kudos points if she doesn’t notice, or
  • the many backs of heads I need to look past or through to view the action at the altar.
Front (or near the front) pew sitting focuses me on my task, on my worship.  It also gives me a clearer view of my husband tucked in the corner doing his percussion thing, and of friends who are song leading.  How I love to give them a goofy smile while they are in proper performance mode, singing like angels and trying to avoid eye contact with me.  =)

In the front, I am in the thick of things -- primo baptismal font viewing, first up to the communion rail, first to see the “please rise” hand motion from the worship leader.

And first to get the larger than life view of our preacher in his finest hour of the week, with his sweat beaded brow, or the spittle spewing from his mouth during a particularly brimstone part of the sermon. 

Perhaps I should ask the church elders to provide plastic poncho protection that can be retrieved as needed from the Hymnal/Bible racks, like at a Blue Man Group or Gallagher performance.

Sitting in front can also have some disadvantages.
In order not to appear overtly rude, one must master the over-the-shoulder-just-checking-for-the-time-on-the-back-wall-clock congregation scan.  This survey is good for when I feel the need to:  check the source of a screaming baby or a chatty family, or just see if a friend is in attendance.

I can also get slightly paranoid that I’m the one with the shirt tag out, or my skirt has too much static cling, or my watery eyes will be perceived by those behind me as emotions instead of allergies.  (Really!)
But the everlasting spiritual advantages of the front pews outweigh these trivial matters. 

And so my family and I sit near the front. 
And if my tag is out, feel free to just tuck it back in. 
Bonus kudos points if I don't notice.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Job of the Heel

Dear Diary,

Almost every school day morning, the first thing I do after I get up is make the girls' lunches.  In my PJs and -- if the family is lucky -- my faded pink robe, I saunter into the still-dark kitchen to pull out the "samwich" supplies, which includes bread of some sort.  On a good day it is usually a choice between bagels, sub bread or sliced sandwich bread.

Inevitably, when I choose to use the loaf of sliced bread, I remember a scene at my cousin's house a few years ago.  It is funny what tidbits of information stick in my head over the years.  I often can't remember an occasion, but I can remember a moment.

At my cousin's home, we were putting sandwiches together for some reason.  I assume it was for a cheap lunch option for our airplane ride home from the Sunshine State, but I can't be sure.  I reached into the bag to pull out some slices, which were quite a few for my family of five.  I reached the bottom of the bag and grabbed the heel. 

Being the sacrificial mom that I am, I knew that the sandwich with the undesirable heel would be my own.

After assembling said sandwiches for the family, enter my cousin.  She is frugal minded, like me, and had the foresight to offer us her food for our comfort on the (equally frugal) plane ride.  But when she saw my heel-clad sandwich, her eyebrows furrowed. 

"Why are you eating the heel?" she asked. 

It's my job, as a mom, to eat the heel, I thought. 

In actuality, I didn't have time to reply before she said, "We only keep the heels in the bag to keep the rest of the loaf fresh.  We don't eat them."

Boy, were my eyes opened to new wonders.  Not eat the heel?  What kind of luxury is this?  Do I really have permission from my economically like-minded cousin to discard the heel for a fresh, fluffy slice of bread?

Every morning since then, as I reach for the slices to make a "samwich" for my girls, I remember her comment and bypass that heel and go straight for the center cuts.  

I have a new job for those heels:  to protect the freshness of the inner loaf! 
And when their job is done, I toss them. 

Yup.  I do.  Unless I am hungry for a piece of toast. 

Heels do make pretty good toast.

Love to my cuz,

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day's Love is Not Lost

Dear Diary,

Today is the first Monday of September: Labor Day. 

Yup, it has crept up on us already!

For over 100 years, America has been celebrating Labor Day.  This blogger is grateful for a day off of the normal Monday routine. 

Poor Monday; such a hated day of the week.

I dare say that if all American adults were asked for the origin of Labor Day, the majority wouldn't know, and I would be guilty-as-charged.  I would have said that it was a result of a law passed in the '50s to honor America's laborers by giving them:  a day off; an excuse to shop really great deals at local retailers; a reason to pig out at backyard bar-b-ques.

I wouldn't have been completely wrong.  According to the US Dept. of Labor, the holiday was nationalized by Congress in 1894 and
"is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."
On such a celebratory day, I don't want to dwell on the feeling I get from today's government and the divisiveness it propagates for class and labor divisions.  It seems that plenty of bitter union leaders and minimum-wage earners get all the press coverage these days.  The cynicism can be seen in cartoons such as this: 

I am happy that we have workers in all classes, and that America allows for the freedom to better ourselves in our work.

So, now that I am a little bit smarter for it, I am happy to celebrate Labor Day in honor of America's workers.

Bring on the food, retail savings, and subsequent four-day workweek!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Ducks and Monkeys

Dear Diary,

I like having my little duckies in a neat row. 

I get deep satisfaction from those days when I can review my appointments and to-do list and systematically check off each item from those lists after its fulfillment.
  • Lunches bagged for three kids:  check
  • 7:30 band drop off:  check
  • Walk three miles: check
  • Side trip to peruse the clearance at Kohls: check
  • Various household duties:  check, check, check, aaaaand check
  • Pickup from volleyball practice: check
  • Fix dinner -- and make it nutritious: check(ish)
  • Bake zucchini bread: check
  • Carpool to high school evening meeting: check
There are always things accomplished in between the listed items, and sometimes they even get written down and checked off simultaneously, just for the superficial satisfaction of doing so.

It gives me the allusion that I am in control. 

The luxury of free time does exist, about an hour or so before bed. 
Usually it is nothing preplanned; just a part of my day when I don't follow a list. 

I can follow my own whim.

At dinner my husband will usually say, "Whatcha got planned for tonight?"
Not a thing! 
Yay me!
It is a time for me to relish a book, write in my Not-So-Secret Diary, or sit down to my crochet-and-TV nights that will start up as the weather turns colder. 

Heaven forbid I should have a ducky step outta line; an unpleasant little surprise during my day that disrupts the disciplined march/waddle of accomplishments.

A sick child,
a stressful phone call,
a sore back,
an empty jar of peanut butter.

I am a big girl.  I know not every day will be ideal.  I know that I am not in control.  (In fact, Twila Paris' song "God is in Control" has been blasted in my car or home many a frustrating day.)

I just really, really appreciate the days when life is good and my ducks are in a row.

I also realize how boring life would be if it was just a continuous line of ducks. Throw a monkey into the line and watch how lively and out of control it gets!

It's the monkeys that make me appreciate the ducks.

To my friends with too many monkeys right now, I feel your pain.  You can borrow my Twila Paris CD (how old-fashioned of me) or give me a call.  I will be happy to realign my ducks to accommodate your monkey.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What's So Striking About That?

Dear Diary,

I am having writer's block.  I haven't written in 9 days, and with the kids back to school and me unemployed, I'd think I'd be in writer's heaven. 

Not the case.

I tend to write about what strikes me.  I have an "aha" moment, scramble to write it down on a scratch pad before it escapes me, and then remain restless until I find the time to sit and write an entry about it.
I just haven't been struck lately.

I do have some "aha" moments and quirks that have been noteworthy, but they don't seem quite big enough to make the cut for an entire diary entry.  Here are some of them:

The sweater dress. 
Man, was I surrounded by those at my last school.  Young, svelte teachers looking smashing in their sweater dress and scarf, complete with boots and leggings.
I want one. 
I think I'm afraid of what will happen in the dressing room when I try one on. 
Perhaps I am better off in my capris and flats.

British Bands. 
How do they sing with no accent?

My eyebrows. 
Why are they disappearing from above my eyes and showing up under my chin?

The answering machine. 
A dreaded thing, really. 
It's not the listening for messages; it's the leaving messages. 
I really need to be on my best game when I leave a message. My ramblings can't be taken back. 
"So, I was hoping to catch you at home, and uh, yeah.....well, I'm around if you want to call me back-- but not between 1:00-3:30 or 6:00-8:30....So, you can call me back if you want -- or I can call you back when I can --'s cool if you don't want to talk to me....I can send you a letter or just see you whenever....OK, have a good day!  Bye!  -- Oh, it's LJ by the way -- bye again!" 
I'm lucky not get cut off with a BEEEEEP in the middle of that award-winning speech.
Most cell phones have the delete option, thank goodness. 
But those house machines:  merciless.

Birds that fly into windows. 
Well, it is on my idea list, but I no longer remember why that struck me.

My attempt at running. 
It is so cool and hip to be a runner these days. 
At least all my running friends are cool and hip.
I want to be cool and hip. 
After a summer of trying, I guess I won't be cool and hip. 
It's too hard.

My preoccupation with license plates
Take me on a trip out of state and I get a nerdy preoccupation with all those plates on the interstate.  "Oh look, a plate from New Mexico!"  Such a rare sighting!  "Hey, that one says ILV CHOC !"
Trouble is when I get back home I am still reading plates for days afterward.  It's annoying to read only plates like X32 699 and BCK OFF while driving to the grocery store.  Where are all the people from Virginia and Kansas?  Not going to the grocery store here, that's for sure.

So I hope something strikes me soon. 
I'd like to do some writing while I have the time.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Efficient: A Bad Word?

Dear Diary,

As I continue to fill out job applications, touch up my resume, and prepare for interviews, I am reminded of all the adjectival words I need to have at my disposal, so that I can give glowing self-accolades to potential employers while simultaneously showing my humble side.

One such adjective is the word efficient. It does describe me well.  Throughout my adult years, I have always looked for the most efficient way of getting a job done. My days of church work come to mind, which included the menial --but worthwhile-- task of stuffing envelopes and preparing them for the mail.  I actually got a kick out of trying to find the quickest way to seal hundreds of letters in the least amount of time.  Let me tell you, licking a long row of envelope flaps spread out along the conference table is not the best way to do it.

This leads me to the question:  Is being efficient equal to being more productive, or more lazy?

Take my grocery list for example.  Occasionally I get strangers at the store oohing and aahing over it.  For years I wrote lists of items needed on a notepad, scribbling almost-legibly-most-of-the-time, and in no particular order.  Which got annoying at the store when the last item to scratch off the list was in aisle 2A and I was now in aisle 42Y.

One day, after writing "Worcestershire sauce" on the list, which was a lengthy process since spelling it is about as easy as pronouncing it, I'd had it.  I'd had it wasting time writing every item down every week. 

Who has time to write food words? 
Apparently not I at the time.

So I started typing a list.  I mentally took a walk through my most frequented grocery store and tried to group food items together and list them in accordance with the route that I walked.  So, since produce is first in the store, this is what I listed first.

Once the master list was typed and tweaked over the next weeks -- voila! -- personalized grocery list!

Now I just print out a sheet, hang it on my fridge with a highlighter next to it, and when we run out of applesauce--
pink highlighter and 2 seconds later I can move on to the important things in life.

Now I ask, is this productive or lazy? 

Efficient is what I'd call it.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Visiting Death and Shopping for Bargains

Dear Diary,

There is a reason the title of this post makes you scratch your head in wonder.  Let me explain.

This summer I had the honor of attending the visitation of someone dear to my church congregation.  Someone who had been a member of the church his whole life, and whose children and grandchildren still attend. 

Grief aside, "visiting" death is good for the heart and soul. 

It gives life to the senses, and gives the sensible a reality check ruler with which to measure life.
(And hopefully knocks some sense into the senseless.)

There is nothing more sobering than to look upon a bodily vessel, lovingly formed by the grace of God, which has now been emptied of its most valued contents.

After I left the visitation at my church, I drove across the street to my children's school, which was having its annual rummage sale.  I marveled as I wandered around the aisles of stuff that filled the gymnasium.

Here were the old discards,
the devalued,
the cheap, and
sometimes even dirty,
items of our lives.

While, across the street, the family of a man was celebrating the gift of his life. 
and eternally valued.

Never had the span of a street given me such a juxtaposition of life. 

It was weird being in that gymnasium, which I originally thought would bring on my usual bargain shopping buzz.

My heart, at that moment, much preferred the somber visitation room, which created a more meaningful buzz inside me -- one based on hope, peace and salvation.

Peace out,

Monday, July 29, 2013

Confessions of a Snorer's Wife

Dear Diary,

My first 20-or-so years of marriage have been blissfully absent of snoring, the cause of so many spousal spats and fitful nights for other couples.  But in recent years, my husband -- God bless him-- has developed some upper respiratory problems which affect his nighttime breathing.

Now, my evening's repose includes sounds ranging from a purring Chewbacca, to an angry sow, to a monotone dolphin, whistling through its blowhole. It is an unwelcome cacophony as I try to get my well-deserved rest at the end of my day.

Being the genteel person that I am, I do not do what I envision some wives may, which is to straddle their husband, take him by the neck, and shake him awake while yelling, "Stop making all that racket!" 

But that scenario is purely speculation on my part.

No, no.  I take a much more passive aggressive approach. Subtle. Innocuous. That's me.

The goal is to startle my husband enough to change his sleeping position and/or interrupt his sleep cycle so that his breathing/snoring changes. Even the methodic sound of Darth Vader's asthmatic breathing beside me would be a balm to my ears at 1 a.m. 

Here are some of my coping mechanisms.
  • The cough.  Utter a well-timed quick, loud sound, such as a cough or yelp, to startle the snorer.
  • The position change.  This entails shifting my body in such a way as to create a large bounce or jiggle in the mattress, allowing physics to carry the energy to his side, thus giving him a cushioned jolt. This also can be accompanied by a cough and an exhuberant fluffing of the pillow.  Well, really more like a punching of the pillow..... 
    Note: Having changed to a Sleep Number bed, this technique is not as effective.  You know, wine glass... bowling ball....
  • Bodily contact.  This includes a quick jab of the elbow or kick with the toes.  It is not meant to be prolonged, but enough to startle the snorer without making him aware that his spouse just performed an act of aggression on him.  Sometimes the act can be accompanied by an innocent sounding "Sorry, honey."
  • The earplugs.  This is my last resort before changing bedrooms.  It is a last resort because I don't like them. 
    First, it goes against all my motherly instincts.  I have three children and a dog.  What if they need me in the night and I can't hear their terrified pleas for help, their inconsolable cries for mama? OK. I may be exaggerating.
    Next, once inserted, said earplugs allow me to hear, well, nothing, except for my own breathing and swallowing.  Magnified.  Kinda weird. 
    Last, the earplugs serve as a nice quiet backdrop for my tinnitus to come screaming into my consciousness. 
    Bottom line, it takes a lot of effort for me to relax with earplugs in.
Which leaves me with the last resort: The guest bed.  This is effective only if the bed is made up.

Which reminds me, it's time to take the sheets out of the dryer,

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What's in a Name?

Dear Diary,

This is not a big deal.  But then I guess most of my posts aren't a big deal. 

I consider myself the female blogging counterpart to Jerry Seinfeld's "TV show about nothing." 
I do like to find the lesson or humor in otherwise ordinary things. (Though I think Jerry's focus was only on the humor.)

In the past year I have come across two names that have never left me.  My impression was not necessarily for the person behind the name (because I don't know them), but for the name itself.  I just thought they were the coolest names ever.

First, the girl's name:
How does this seem both old fashioned and so modern at the same time?  I came across it while reading a post she wrote as a guest on a blog I read often. In commenting on her post, I had to throw in my admiration for it.  Had I come across this name several years ago, I could be mothering a child of the same alias.
OK, now the boy's name.  It is what I believe to be the ultimate in masculinity.  Maybe it's because it takes an already macho name like "Dave" and couches it inside testosterone-filled prefixes and suffixes. 
I had heard this name on the radio, in reference to an up-and-coming football player at USC.  When I heard this name I was struck by two things.  The creative first name, and the way it acts as an antidote for this guy's really, uh, joke-of-a-last name. 
Because the name Jadeveon Clowney is an oxymoron, agreed?
Of course most of us have stories of why we are named the way we are.  Mine came about because my dad was a teacher and he wanted a name that didn't remind him of any of his students. 
I know, so nostalgic, right?
Sometimes I get fancy with my name and spell it out, rather than using just two initials.
That said, I remain always,
El Jay

PS Go ahead and comment on cool names you like!

Monday, July 22, 2013

What Were They Thinking?

Dear Diary,

It is mid-summer.  The heat has kicked in. 
Even the dog abbreviates his beloved pastime of barking at the lawn mower to find quiet rest in the shade.

It is time to look forward to my vacation, the timing of which will mark summer's end and the beginning of a new school and work year.

In the midst of planning this getaway, I envision sweet time spent with the family:  no homework, no practices, no distractions, no work.
The hardest job on this trip will be to decide where to eat our next meal.

That said, last week, I heard the most appalling, shocking, and yet so laughable, advertisement on the radio.  Really.  I thought it was a farce at first.

It was a dialogue between a husband and a wife who were on vacation, promoting an IT (information technology) networking product which "keeps you connected to your work wherever you go."  [It is unfortunate I can't find a link to the ad itself.]

The advertisers decided that using a vacation setting with the wife and kids was a great way to promote this technology.

The jovial wife is so happy her hard-working husband can stay connected to his work, even while blowing up the kids' water toys, and during their additional day-cruise.

I realize that, here in the 21st century, the Internet has created a "smaller" world, and is creating workaholics nationwide. But----

Who markets their products to disrupt perhaps the most sacred of family traditions? 
The time when wives most nag their husbands to get off their phones and off their laptops!  (And so as not to be sexist, here, perhaps husbands do some nagging too?  Nah.)

I have a husband who needs to be connected to his work, who travels worldwide, and needs to be reachable at all hours of the day.  So I understand a product like this can be useful. But NOT during vacation. 
No way.

As I get reservations made and itineraries set up for my little family trip, I find this ad quite laughable. 

Yet somehow I'm not laughing,

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Candy Jars and Florida Rooms

Dear Diary,
I'll be forthright.  This post is mostly for my own indulgence. 

I had quite the trip down memory lane the other day -- no, literally, I was driving, so I was on a literal trip that took a figurative turn down memory lane.

I drove past a home that triggered my earliest childhood memories of visiting grandma and grandpa's house when I was still in the single-digit age.

In my early childhood, I actually had the benefit of having both sets of grandparents in the same 'hood.  So if we visited one, we usually got to see the other too. (And we got to walk down the block to church, where my granddad was the pastor!  So novel!)

Seeing this house immersed me into a daydream about my grandparents' homes and what I remembered, tangibly, about each one....

Climbing the backyard fruit trees and playing outside in the concrete window well.

The room the adults oddly called the Florida Room, but my young mind was confused at this label since we were in the middle of the Midwest!  I can still smell the vinyl from the indoor/outdoor furniture in that room, and remember listening to the ocean from a conch on an end table.  (Yes, the room does seem obviously named, but you aren't seven years old, either.)

I remember a special stool in the kitchen we cousins would sit on, and loved the icy-cold feeling of an aluminum cup in my mouth, which offered up water or lemonade on a hot summer day.

My other grandparent's home had the water bed.  A jiggly, gurgly, rockin' and rollin' kind of bed from the '70s, which really could make a kid nauseous trying to sleep on it. Even reaching to scratch an itch could cause a tidal wave effect for the surfers sleepers.

I remember drinking Pepsi at this house. We were Coke and Tab kind of people so Pepsi was such a fizzy, sweet treat!  My grandparents had a fridge where ice and water came out of the door!  That was a novelty to me. 

I also remember the green glass candy jar with chewy, sugar coated jellies in it.  The fragile nature of the jar ensured I had to ask an adult for candy, rather than sneaking one myself.  I am the lucky owner of that jar now.

I also remember a naked lady lamp.  Well, maybe in my maturity I would now call it tabletop Greco Roman light-up art.  A Grecian style female was the centerpiece, surrounded by 360 degrees of wire pillars, which dripped beads of oil so it looked like water was constantly raining down around her.  I remember it glowed a soft yellow and I couldn't resist touching a drop of oil occasionally. 

I am not the owner of that piece of memorabilia.  (Maybe my brother nabbed it?)

I was so lost in thought on my trip down memory lane that I emerged from my past only when I found myself pulling into my present day driveway. Ever wonder how you got from Point A to Point B sometimes?

For folks blessed enough to grow up with visits to grandma's house, I hope this instigates candy jar and Florida Room memories of your own!

And if you still are reading this,
thank you for indulging me.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

His Story - My Story

Dear Diary,

Recently I read an article about the deeds of a tattoo artist.

I never thought it would put a tear in my eye.

The reasons for my emotions are two-fold. 
     #1-- His story is a cool one. 
     #2 --I want to have a story like that.

His Story
You wouldn't know it by looking at him but tattoo artist Chris Baker, a well-inked, tough-looking dude ya wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley, actually has a heart for the less fortunate.

A year ago he had an idea: to cover or remove the branding tattoos of former gang members and sex trafficking victims at no charge.  A year since, his idea was so well-received he was invited to attend the US State Department's international meeting on Trafficking Persons.  His idea, coming from a talent he already has, and from a heart that reflects his love of God, has grown bigger than anything he thought possible, and has resulted in his founding of a ministry called Ink 180.

My Story
Chris and I share a love for Jesus and a desire to help the less fortunate.  But that is where the similarities end.  He and I don't share the same talent.  It has taken me decades to figure out what mine are, and I still only have general ideas.  I feel like a "jack of all trades but master of none." 

When I read a success story like this one, my emotions are at play because Chris embodies (tats and all) an ideal I want to live up to:
An everyday gal using her resources and talents she already owns, to share her blessings and somehow provide a better life to others in the name of Jesus.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not going around searching for the meaning of life. 
I like what I do, and I know it is worthwhile. 
And my ministry to my family is foremost and has been full of successes and blessings indeed.
But reading stories like Chris's gives me an itch.  A desire that there is more I could or should be doing.

I believe the most golden ideas are simple ones; ones that use the resources and talents already at hand, like Chris did. 

It is a special person, indeed, that must move mountains to get the job done.  That person I will never become.

Which is why I love reading about the everyday guy or gal who whispers an idea in his basement, only for it to grow into a voluminous shout to the persons who matter.

Idealistically yours,

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Scary Shoes

Dear Diary,
Today I have a visual aid.

This is typical shoe "cacophony" just outside my mudroom.  Notice the nice shoe cubbies in the background my hubby made.  (Should have made twice as many!)  A family of five generates a lot of shoe litter!

But I digress.

There is something in this picture that gives me sweaty palms and tightens my throat with fear.

See those white-ish, softly worn tennis shoes in the foreground?

They scare me.

I was cleaning out the shoe cubbies several weeks ago and uncovered them.

I'd never seen them before.  Where did they come from?
Based on the coat of dirt on them and worn look, they had been worn plenty. 

I set about locating their owner, but alas, like Cinderella's step-sisters, the shoe didn't fit any family members. I was the Cinderella!

I tried to make an excuse for their existence in my house, like, maybe a friend left them here by mistake.  Yeah, and absentmindedly went home in stocking feet?  Don't think so.

Panic began to well up in my chest.  I investigated further.
They are a brand sold by Walmart.  Well, I could have possibly purchased them since I am not above buying shoes at Walmart.

Yet I don't recall ever buying them, much less ever wearing them.
That is why they scare me.

They have since been reluctantly adopted by me as outside shoes.  I wear them when I do manual labor, like mowing, gardening, etc.  They are sturdy and dirty -- great for digging holes!

But I shudder every time I slide each foot into its gaping mouth and tie the laces.
Because they are a reminder that I think I am slowly

Unwittingly yours,

P.S.  If anyone is missing a pair of size 8.5 shoes with the likeness above, give me a call!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Life in the Twilight Zone

Dear Diary,

The last two times I turned on the TV, something oddly coincidental happened.  Odd, because they were unexpected and unusual events, and coincidental, because they happened while I was watching a show that directly reflected, or foreshadowed, the incident.  Let me explain.

The first coincidence happened yesterday while hangin' with my two teens and a friend who brought over her collection of Alfred Hitchcock.  We adults decided it was time to introduce the girls to this classic, suspenseful director.  Rather than start with his widely known film, "Psycho," we decided to ease into the genre with "The Birds." 

About half way through the feature, there was a knock at my front door.  It was a late matinee so it was still daylight.  I opened the door to my neighbor, who asked, "Are you missing a white parakeet?" 

"Can I borrow your wheelbarrow?" is really the question I would have expected. 
Or "Can I have my power sprayer back?" 

But never, "Are you missing a white parakeet?"

So we paused the movie, with its murderous, pecking flocks of seagulls and crows, in order for me to investigate my neighbor's parakeet find, sitting atop his roof.  It was pretty-- white with blue breast -- but it wasn't going to be caught.  It flew to a nearby tree, looking down on us with suspicion and curiosity (Yes, truly! I have been a parakeet owner for eight years, I know their looks!) 

I shared with our neighbor the irony of watching "Birds" at that moment. 
It was kinda creepy, actually.

Fast forward to this morning.  I had the luxury of few hours to myself. This was ME time!  But I chose to do something real exciting like cleaning and picking up the weekend debris.  So I treated myself to a little TV time while I worked; you know, to instill some entertaining drivel into my dreary chores.

I turned on "Let's Make a Deal," the show where Wayne Brady tells a lucky contestant he can have what is in The Box....or behind Curtain Number 1! 

While washing the dishes and watching the negotiations for the cash-in-hand or the envelope marked "Volcano," I got a phone call. 

It was from my current employer.
Telling me my past position was no longer available.
Telling me I could take this other job she proceeded to describe.

Or I could turn it down.
And take all the risks associated with turning down the only job offer I have.

The cash in hand.
Or the curtain.
That is my choice.

That is irony.

So while I believe that TV reflects life, I have to look at these back-to-back, coincidental "life-reflecting-TV" moments as anomalies.  And I will be praying that it will become clear which curtain to choose.

But at the risk of sounding superstitious, I will be really careful of the TV program I choose to watch next. 

Any suggestions?


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Too Much!

Dear Diary,

I'll just come right out with it:  I have too much stuff. 
And by I, I mean we - my family.

Even with the best intentions, I cannot satisfactorily weed out enough stuff.  I hang on to things "just in case." 

Just in case I shrink two sizes.
Just in case I need a box that size.
Just in case I paint the walls again and it fits into the new-old color scheme.
Just in case my husband can fix the little doohickey that's broken.

While staring at my piles, I started obsessing over the phrase too much.
It can turn seemingly normal activities into ugly scenarios.

Drinking (too much)
Eating (too much)
Talking (too much)
Sleeping (too much)
Working (too much)

Ok, so what if I use positive words/actions? Will that make too much any better?  Let's try:

Playing (too much)
Laughing (too much)
Singing (too much)
Partying (too much)
Kissing (too much)

Nope.  Too much is negative verbiage even with wonderful words.

What if I use too much with a good thing?

Nope again. 
Too much of a good thing is still too much.

So, despite my inner desire to justify having too much stuff, I haven't been successful in proving that too much is not a bad thing.

But I'll keep trying.
Because I want to keep my stuff.
Just in case.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dressing Room Moments

Dear Diary,

Today let's get beyond the magnifying mirror suctioned to my vanity (read A Beauty-filled Season), and go straight for the full length version, multiplied by three for multi-angled viewing!  (Have you ever seen that mirror room in "What Not to Wear?"  Ooh, gives me the willies!)

I'm talking about dressing rooms.  Rooms which, up until this year, I didn't have too much of a problem being in.  Where trying on cute dresses and tops and crops really was a fun experience.  Until I grew a size bigger. 

Recently I shopped the racks for at least half an hour, and with optimism and excitment at my finds, brought several summery outfits into the dressing room, only to take off every piece in discouragement. 
Why was nothing fitting right? 
Oh, gee, could it be I was shopping last year's size? 
This is a new year and a new size, sistah!
In fact, not to brag, but I am the heaviest I have ever been outside of pregnancy.

Returning to the rack to browse a larger dress size had deflated any sense of fun this spree had brought me.
It was a tight-throated, purse-lipped experience. 
Go ahead, purse your lips right now. 
Brings on the tight throat and bleak outlook doesn't it? 
That is when shopping -- and the dressing room -- became a thing no longer desirable.

Call it middle-age spread, or slower metabolism, or just plain weight gain, it all means the same thing.  No matter the person, to "graduate" into the next size up is not an accomplishment to be relished.

These days, though my left brain is telling me, Don't eat another cookie! or Get up and get some exercise!, my right brain is trying to find a less "painful" way to make try-ons a more positive experience.  And I think I have it figured out. 

The next time I take a trip to that dreaded room dressing room, I will have on some emotional
(under)armor to protect me from that image in the three-way mirror.

It's called Spanx.

See you at the next foundation sale!

P.S.  Here are some other random dressing room moments.
  • One of my girls lost her first tooth in a Target dressing room. I think I was trying on shorts.
  • During one of my more recent and discouraging dressing room experiences (trying on several pairs of black shorts with my pasty white thighs decorated with squiggly purple lines is not a day brightener), I got a text from my daughter that our pet parakeet, Jayda, had finally chirped his last. I've mentioned my brave, feathered 'keet in Lessons from a Bird Brain. Little did I know in September that the cause of his initial lameness was a tumor growing in his abdomen. It caused many problems at the end. Now we are all at peace. And I am managing to get through the early summer season without any black shorts.