Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why I'm Not Blogging Tonight

So I was going to write something incredibly profound tonight, I really was, but:

1. my new glasses aren’t working right and I can no longer see the computer screen.
2. my sister called and sucked all my intelligence out by asking me to do math.
3. It’s Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) and for the last four years at my former job, I’ve had to attend a business networking event, so tonight I’ve celebrated my freedom by indulging in a margarita, greatly impairing my ability to type.
4. We’ve been shutting Gabe out of the living room each day (by blocking the hallway with his dog bowl stand) and he’s now giving me his sad brown eyes begging for attention
5. AMAZING RACE 9 PREMIERES TONIGHT!!! (Geeesh, you didn’t think I was going to miss that, did you? Poka Bean, wherever you are, I hope you’re catching tonight’s show, too!)

Gypsies

LM is well aware that his mother is a kidder. Every single time he has ever had a minor injury I have always proclaimed the answer to be “Amputation!” I've turned his minor tears into laughs when I head to the kitchen and start pulling out the "appropriate tools" necessary to cut off a toe, or decapitate a child. He used to scream "NOOO!!" until he finally got the humor and started to play along. Now, when he hits his head on his loft or stubs his toe he’ll say, “I’m okay, Mom, no need to amputate!”

Whenever he has done something wrong and we’ve had our discussion about it, I try to end the situation with laughter, hugs and lots of “I love yous”. It’s not uncommon, after all is resolved, for me to mutter under my breath. but loud enough for him to hear, “I guess I should take down the "For Sale: Child" sign in the yard before the gypsies come by.” I have even called my sister on occasion and asked her if she wanted to sell her kids to the gypsies as maybe we could get more money for three than just for my one. LM’s sense of humor has developed well over the years and he is now confident enough to know that I’m always kidding about this and will even chime in with his suggestions, “It's too bad they won't let you sell kids on Ebay, huh, Mom?”

We keep our grocery list on the refrigerator. We both add to it as necessary and do a weekly shop on Saturday. When I was adding “pickles” to the list yesterday I took a look at what LM has been adding to the list. “Napkins”, “Milk” and “Gypsy repelent”.

I guess it's evident to both of us that he's been in more trouble than usual this week, huh?

Monday, February 27, 2006

I Don't Know What (to do with this kid)

Last night, LM was giving me the tour of the "fortress" he had made on and around the couch. He showed me the boxes he had used to block out the dog, the step stool that served as the door, even the chirping bird that served as a doorbell. When he finished he said, "I don't know, Mom, I think it's missing that, je ne sais quoi."

"Je ne sais quoi?!"

I'm sending in his Harvard application.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Complete

We’ve rearranged and cleaned carpets. We’ve moved plants to new locations to catch the light as it comes around the corner of the house now. I got rid of the baker’s rack that I’ve had for far too long to be fashionable and we have found a new place to start putting the books I’ve read since the shelves are overflowing.

I made a huge pot of chili some of which I’ll freeze. In a short bit, we’ll make pizza and while LM has lost the privilege to have Movie Night, we’ll still enjoy a night cuddled up on the couch while the last of the living room carpet dries. I’ve washed all of our bedding, including the comforters giving us fresh warm beds to sleep in.

This morning, before even getting out of bed, LM declared, “I love our house.” So do I. I love it not for the things that we own, but for how it reflects the people that we are. I love it for the light that shines in the windows. I love it for the bird feeders that hang on the deck. I love it for the plants, books and pictures that abound. But I love it for the peace and comfort that it brings. I love it for being mine. I love that I pay the mortgage and I do it alone. I love that I provide this for my son. I love the pets we own and the love and laughter that we all enjoy together. I love my life. It feels complete. Just.The.Way.It.Is.


And yet…

Yesterday I started the book "The Time Traveler’s Wife" and I finished it in bed early this morning. I loved it. I savored it. I treasured the experience of reading it. It was the first time I finished the last page and nearly turned back to the front to start again. Love that transcends time and place. Love that endures all. Love through the good and the bad. Love that is enough and more.

I don’t know how it is that I can be so entranced by a story of such deep love and yet be so satisfied in my life without it. Perhaps that’s the way it is supposed to be. Peace without someone brings peace with someone. I don’t know. Maybe the story is a dream, a Hollywood version of love, but not to me. It wasn’t a description of easy love. It wasn’t a story of perfect, untested love. It was a story of true love. I have never wanted to settle for less.

Perhaps the peace that I feel is from the knowledge that I love my life plenty as it is and have no need to settle for a love that is less than true. I am content enough with all that I have and all that I feel without substituting something less than perfect. Perhaps finding contentment in the life that we have alone allows us the patience to wait for the love of our life to come along. Perhaps at the right place and the right time, the love that is perfect for me will enter our lives and bring our sense of contentment to a whole new level.

Perhaps it's just a reminder that loving someone doesn't "complete" us; that we are complete on our own, and coming together we form a union of life with two individuals. Perhaps having what feels like a full life does not exclude the idea that there are pieces yet to come. There are not voids to be filled; when love comes, we make room, we open our hearts wider, we make the circle bigger.

The Explanation

"Mom, does cousin Bocaj need glasses to keep his eye balls in?"

"Yep."

Four Eyes (and one tongue!) Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hit 'Em Where It Hurts

My grounded, privilege-revoked, comic-book-confiscated, chore-added, no-movie-night, threatened-within-an-inch-of-his-life child has shown remorse for his actions on Tuesday but has not seemed at all phased by his punishment until last night when he said, “so this means I don’t get to watch Survivor?”

I can take away his friends, PS2, computer, comics, Movie Night and even his Star Wars books but the thing that hurt the most? Not watching “Survivor”.

(The Good Cop in me set the DVR so he can watch the episode next week)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tuesday

Monday might have been President’s Day and a day off from work, but I think Tuesday didn’t get the memo and decided to play the role of Monday.

It started with an email to my ex just to confirm that he was going to Pittsburgh for Easter with LM. In his response, my ex not only affirmed that they would be going to see the grandparents but mentioned that LM will be getting baptized then as well. He went on to talk about the catechism books that his dad (an ordained minister) will be sending to us, and something else but I admit I stopped reading shortly after the baptism announcement. How can I have 75% custody and be the child’s mother and I don’t know that he’s being baptized over Easter?! J didn’t realize I didn’t know (what form of telepathy he thought we were currently using I’m not certain of) but we agreed to talk later that evening about the whole situation.

Just after lunch the secretary for the office paged me saying the principal for LM’s school was on the phone. If you’re not a parent, let me explain that moment to you. It’s the only moment in your life when you actually wish your child was injured on the playground. Any other reason for the principal to be calling isn’t a good one. And this one wasn’t a good one. Turns out he wasn’t injured at all, but had chosen the wrong reaction to a girl kicking him and ended up in in-school suspension. So, I spoke with the principal and then called J and let him know all about the situation.

Tuesdays are typical a “Dad Day”, so J was planning on picking LM up after school and I wouldn’t see him again until after school today (Wednesday). J is not exactly the best disciplinarian. A simple scolding is about the worst that LM would hear and J wouldn’t raise his voice or even try to convey the seriousness of this situation. I asked if he could stay in the area after he picked up LM and wait for me to get home so we could all talk about it together (presenting a united parental front despite being divorced is important to me). He agreed but didn’t know what they’d do for dinner since they normally eat out and he didn’t want to reward LM with eating out… so somehow I hear myself offering to make dinner for all of us and we’ll just eat and have a family meeting.

My Tuesday nights are usually spent running any errands that I need to run and spending time with the dog and catching up on laundry or whatever needs to get done. Nothing major, but certainly a far cry from sitting down to dinner with my ex husband and my delinquent child!

The result was that we talked through the in-school suspension issue and I think the message was conveyed rationally and yet strongly so that LM might understand. He’s a very intensely smart child and with that comes a very intense personality that his anger sometimes takes control of. I never see it at home, but there’s very little at home to provoke him. He’s an only child and I think that has given him trouble coping with the little nonsenses that elementary kids do to each other. It’s something we have to keep working on.

We talked through the baptism as well and I think we’ve reached an agreement that while we are all THRILLED that LM initiated the idea of wanting to be baptized, this does not mean he has to be baptized in his grandparent’s church in Pittsburgh, but that he can wait until we find a church ‘home’ that we enjoy locally. I did not want to offend the grandparents, they are very good with LM and very generous with their time in regards to him, but their church isn’t our church and the process and ceremony for the baptism aren’t how I would like to have it performed, if that makes any sense.

After the boys left to head to Dad’s for the night, I enjoyed some down time with Gabe. He loves to snuggle with you on the floor and he enjoyed the companionship while he chewed on his bone and I watched some of the Olympic coverage.

The highlights of the night, however, were some comments that my ex made. Upon arriving home, LM is to practice his trumpet, complete one chore (of his choosing) and then do his homework. J and LM hung out at my house after school until I arrived home, so LM set to his usual routine. J commented later on how surprised he was to see LM get out the broom and sweep the kitchen floor, then vacuum up those crumbs and finally Swiffer the whole thing clean. He said all of this while he watched LM help me make dinner by putting together the Caesar salad and dishing it into bowls. He didn’t know that LM was so “helpful”. I just stared at him. The child is 10. I’ve always taught him responsibilities and that he has to contribute to the household as well.

The prize comment, however, came at dinner. We all sat down to eat, choosing from some pork chops or a few little steaks that I had grilled up. LM chose a steak, cut it up and was about to eat when J said, “Wait a minute!! Look at your plate!” LM and I both stopped short and stared, not being able to figure out what in the world was wrong with LM’s plate. J said, “Explain to me exactly why it is that I’m still cutting up your waffles and pancakes if you can cut up your steak just fine!?!” I almost fell off my chair laughing. I replied, “Because LM obviously has you trained well!” (I haven’t cut up my son’s pancakes for probably 6 years now!!)

It was quite a night, I have to say. I’m glad that my ex and I have the sort of relationship where we can come together to talk through any matters concerning LM. I’m also glad that God fills moments of tension and anxiety with humor, if you just pause long enough to see them.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Update

By the way:

The dog. We've been working with the Halti collar (just like a Gentle Leader) but to no avail. It helps to pull him back in when he does lunge, but it doesn't really prevent him from barking and lunging in the first place. We went to the Bark Park again on Monday and I watched Gabe very closely. He saw another dog approaching the area and he came to me and sat at my feet. The other dog came through the gates, the owner unleased her and let her go, and she ran all through the fenced area and Gabe never moved, never barked. He eventually went over to say hello, but then came scurrying back with his hackles raised because the other dog spooked him. Gabe is clearly NOT an aggressive dog. I spoke with the vet when I was there to pick up heartworm meds and she said that dogs like the mastiff, rotties, some labs, can be aggressive on a leash. It's just part of their sense of defending their owners that comes through. Would have been useful information when we were picking a mastiff as our breed. Never ever once read such a thing in all the research that we did, but it's something we have to live with. He is otherwise not at all aggressive but on the leash we may always have some issues. She recommended doing what we've been doing, correcting when he barks or lunges and to keep correcting and moving on past the other dog. At some point, she said, he may only need one reminder to "leave it!" and he'll do fine, but he'll probably always think of another dog as a threat when he is leashed. Oh.Joy.

I was talking with LM last night about Love Languages. I had my suspicions about what he was, but wanted to see what his thoughts were. We were sitting on the couch, snuggled up under our warm down throw as I explained all the languages and gave examples for each from our family. As I explained that I am "Quality Time" he reached over and patted my leg with a smile and said, "So am I." Just as I thought. :) It was so sweet!

My boredom at work led me to read two lengthy Russian novels, but it bothers me to read on a computer monitor so I have now turned my attention to Sudoku! LM's best friend does these puzzles all the time so I thought I would give it a whirl. Man, that mathematically analytical side of me loves these things! I've only attempted the "medium" ones thus far. I'm a little nervous to try a "advanced" one!! (I'd still rather be busy doing actual WORK at WORK - since that's what they pay me for - but despite all my efforts, I still have nothing to do.)

5. Is anyone else as totally uninterested in the Olympics as I am? I've never been a huge fan, I'll admit, but it seems like the only reports I hear about the U.S. and the Olympics are people whining and complaining - athletes who seem to be perpetuating the name of Americans as being cry-baby rich kids. I'm sure there are some feel-good stories, too, but overall, it's yet another example of why I'm sometimes not at all proud to be an American.

INFJ (If this means something to you, skip this whole blog!)

Writing about Love Languages reminded me of how much I learned when I did the Myers-Briggs Personality Typing. I don't really believe people fit "categorically" into categories but I do think it's insightful to know why people do what they do.

I took the MB test when I was in college, as part of our Resident Assistant training. More than just learning if you're an introvert or an extrovert, the test helped me to understand my staff and why some of us wanted to stick tightly to an agenda at meetings and others seemed to always be off on a tangent. Basically, in another "short but long" explanation, MB determines four personality types within 4 groups.

I/E The first is Introvert/Extrovert and is determined by where you find energy, not whether or not you are shy. If you are around a lot of people and find yourself energized, odds are you're an extrovert. If you're exhausted after a party, and want some down time, you're probably an introvert.

N/S The next set is to determine whether you are intuitive or sensory (denoted by an "N" or "S" respectively). If you wanted to re-arrange your bedroom can you do it in your head, or do you need to physically move the furniture? Can you tell how someone feels just by a "gut" feeling or do you need physical or audible signals?

F/T The third classification is whether you tend to be a "Feeler" or a "Thinker". Pretty self-explanatory, are you emotional or rational is really the question, or at least, what are you MOSTLY?

J/P The last category is a Judger/Perceiver, which is a bit deceiving by title. I like to describe Judgers as those who constantly want to narrow the options and Perceivers as those who always want to broaden them.

I can best illustrate the last category with a little anecdote from my past. My ex husband is a "Perceiver - always broadening his options. I am a "Judger" always trying to narrow the field. During our college years, there was an ice cream shop that classmates and local frequented. Kind of like a Cold Stone Creamery, Whitey's was privately owned and was the coolest place on earth. Any concoction you could dream up, they would make for you. Do you want a snickers malt with strawberry ice cream and chocolate chips TOPPED with a banana split? Okay!

Each time we'd go, I would walk in the door and order my "usual" - a small triple-berry yogurt with homemade vanilla yogurt and fresh raspberries, strawberries and blueberries blended before my very eyes. My ex would still be deciding when I was long since done eating. He would think and wonder and suggest and then ask what I thought and wonder aloud what this or that might taste like. The poor high school kids behind the counter would keep offering to help him, whenever he was ready, he was just never ready!!

One night, when we were there, shortly after we took the MB test and I was all full of great personality-type information, he was standing at the counter as befuddled as always over what to order when I said, "This is all because of your P-ness!" which, as you might understand, caused quite a stir behind the counter!

All things considered, however, I learned from all of this why some people are constantly late, why some people cannot "imagine" the outcome, why some people will keep offering suggestions when you Just.Want.Them.To.Decide!!! I quickly learned that my husband really didn't care where we went for dinner, but I often did so I would just speak up.

I am an INFJ, which is no surprise at all if you know me. I would much rather spend time alone than with huge groups night after night. I can tell you the room would look much better if there was a plant on top of the bookshelf. I react to most situations with my heart before my head and I am absolutely totally a narrower when it comes to choices (tell me what restaurant we're going to and I can probably tell you what I'm eating long before we even get there!)

Maybe with all of my interest in learning about people, I should have become a shrink. I do think it has gone a long way in helping me to know what sort of person I could live the rest of my life with, however. My ex was such a "P" that it drove me insane. I wanted him to have an opinion, to feel passionately about SOMETHING and to be decisive. He isn't and he never will be. I also know that someone who wants to be out and active and hanging out with other people more often than not will wear me out. I like my solitude. I like to see people, sure, but then I want to go home. I'm sure I could handle a man who can't picture in his head the bedroom furniture until I have it all laid out for him, but I realize I need someone who at least teeters on the border between thinker/feeler or he'll never deal with my emotions well at all.

So take all this, add in the Love Languages, stir up a bit of family dysfuntion, pour in a large amount of "how you were raised", sprinkle in some "experiences better off forgotten" and you'll have a great idea how and why the people around you tick!

Friday, February 17, 2006

What If...

Shh...I'm watching Sliding Doors. I love this movie. Shhh...come back later, maybe I'll write something profound. Shhh....

If you must stay, bring me some popcorn, will ya...

Now hush!!

Link

Here's the book (at Amazon) for those who were interested.

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Speaking the Language

When my son was 18 months old, my husband and I took a parenting class. During the class we were introduced to a book called “The Five Love Languages” by Chapman (if I remember correctly.) The ideas in this book have been enlightening to me in all my relationships and have really helped me to be a better friend, mother, relative and girlfriend.

I encourage you to find and read the book, but by way of introduction:

The premise of the book is that there are 5 general ways in which people tend to express and understand love from one another. It varies from person to person, but for the most part, we all have one primary language and perhaps a secondary language for love. That is to say, that there is one predominant way that we tell people we love them and that we understand from them that we are loved back.

The love languages, as stated by Chapman are:

1. Physical Touch
2. Quality Time
3. Gifts
4. Words of Encouragement/Appreciation
5. Acts of Service

Now, don’t get me wrong. We might all translate “I love you” to mean “I love you” but we don’t all necessarily see the act of our significant other taking out the trash as a sign of their love for us.

When we first were introduced to this idea, my husband quickly wrote down on a piece of paper “gifts – you” and handed it to me. It seemed SO obvious!! I love giving gifts and I love getting gifts and he and I both thought that must be me. But after awhile I realized that’s NOT me, and when I realized my true love language, it made so many things clear in my life.

I am a “Quality Time” girl. That means I feel loved when people choose to spend time with me. And I express love by spending time with people. I used to drive home from college to surprise my mom. I have driven 12 hours to Michigan and not told my sister I was coming. Likewise, I can remember so vividly examples where someone in my life has given me their time and it has meant the world. The reason my husband and I thought that I was a “gift” person was because when someone gives a gift, they have invested time and thought into it. So when I give gifts to my friends, I’m really giving them my time. And likewise, when someone picks out something just for me, I am delighted to know they spent the TIME to do so. So, a gift, a letter, a visit, a call, all tell me that someone cares.

My sister is an “Acts of Service” woman. For her birthday, if you gave her a certificate for a free house cleaning she would be thrilled! The fact that Bear takes care of everything to do with her car is a way that she knows that he loves her. When you go to her house, if you help load her dishwasher, or help fix a meal it means a lot. Likewise, when she comes to my house, she DOES things. She cleans, she fixes, she tells Bear to hang shelves for me… she wants to give me her service. Whenever my sister's "love tank" starts to get depleated, it is easily filled by "doing" things for her. Likewise, she spends every weekend doing things for other people. When you realize this is her primary love language, it really makes more sense. (Take into consideration our trip together to go see my grandparents last year. Upon arrival, I want to sit and TALK to my g'ma. I could do it all day. My sister wants to make a list of things that need to be done. She wants to go to the store, she wants to clean and fix and arrange. We are both "loving" our grandparents, but in very different ways!)

My ex husband was an Acts of Service guy, too. He will call me to this day and tell me he’s going to Costco, do I need anything? It’s his way of saying he cares about someone.

Physical Touch is an easy one to understand. There are “huggers” in this world who get it!! Physical Touchers want to hug after a fight. They want to physically be near you, they are cuddlers and hand-holders. They are people who readily are offended and hurt if they go untouched for several days. They need that.

Gifts is also an easy one to spot, but isn't necessarily as superficial as it sounds. There are people who LOVE to get gifts, and by getting them, they truly do feel loved - likewise, they love to give things to people, too. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be a BIG gift to impress a gifter. Just buying someone whose love language is “gifts” a small token can mean everything to them. It’s not really that they are after the tangible thing, but having something given to them specifically means a lot to them. And likewise, you need to appreciate the gifts they give you, as they are meant as an “I love you, I care about you” and not at all about what they just spent.

Words of Encouragement also seems self-explanatory, but really consider it. My best friend told me he thought his language was physical touch. But I knew better. It was really all the words that came from his gf's mouth when they sat close and cuddled on the couch, or when they were intimate together. He wanted to hear that she supported him. He wanted to know she was proud of him. It's hard for some people to openly express their feelings this way, and so it can be hard for someone who has this as their primary language to feel loved if they are in a relationship with someone who's more withdrawn.

Now, let’s think of how this works in relationships. Let’s say you have a wife who is a quality time girl and a husband who is an acts of service guy. They get home from work and she wants to make dinner together and talk about their day, and sit down to eat together. She wants to spend TIME together. He wants to get the trash gathered up, change the light bulb in the den, fix the garage door opener and get the oil changed in the car. He’s trying to DO THINGS for her because he wants to show that he cares by taking care of these things. She spends the night frustrated because he won’t just sit down and TALK to her and he spends the night frustrated because he’s trying to get these things done FOR her, and neither feels loved even though they are both sort of “screaming it” in their own way.

It is important to figure out what you are. It is likewise as important to figure out the languages of the people around you. It won’t necessarily come easily for someone who is a physical toucher to try to give gifts, for example, but to do so will mean even MORE to your loved ones because they will know you’re going out of your comfort zone and doing it for their sake. Men will stand awkwardly in Victoria’s Secret trying their best to give just the right thing, all the while knowing that simply a kiss from their girl and they’re good to go. They are trying to cross from their primary to their loved ones’ primary language so they might speak their feelings loudly. They know that she wants something from Vicki's because she loves gifts. She feels loved with them. He just wants to be intimate - he wants her physical touch to feel loved.

I say all of this in light of the comments posted on my blog about Valentine’s Day. If you don’t want gifts purchased for you, if they seem frivolous or unnecessary, take into account the giver. Recognize it for what it is. And likewise, when trying to communicate to someone that you care, try to recognize their language and give something that would speak your feelings loudly. Those of us who are “quality time” or “gifts” or even “physical touch” might love days like Valentine’s Day. Those who are Acts of Service might appreciate you taking their car to be washed, or to walk their dog for them. Someone who thinks V-day is a Hallmark holiday is probably NOT a gift giver. It is important for them to recognize if the one they love IS, and to speak that if they can. Likewise, when I call a friend and ask if they want to have dinner together, and they turn me down for whatever reasonable reason, I have to keep my feelings in check and make sure I don't take it as a personal slight. They aren't saying they don't care about me because they aren't spending time with me, they simply have other plans. It's a two way communication in two different languages that needs constant translating.

I don’t know if any of this is making sense. The book actually does a terrific job of it, but at least perhaps, it’ll have you ‘hearing’ and ‘talking’ to each other differently.

When you know your own love language, and you recognize the language of the people in your life, it will open your eyes. When you begin to communicate these things to each other, it will truly change your relationship.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Choose Your Battles

I witnessed various people protesting the holiday yesterday and I just have to say this:

Do you refuse gifts of love on Christmas? Do you ask your loved ones not to celebrate your birthday? If your kids give you a mother’s day card, or your brother sends you a gift for Hanukah, do you return it? When grandparents send a little care package to grandkids for Halloween or Easter, should we exclaim that Hallmark made them do it? If you are single does that mean you are unloved? Do you have to spend money to demonstrate love? If you don't want a card, chocolate, flowers or diamonds, does that mean you can't participate in Valentine's Day?

No. NO NO NO NO NO!!

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love. Along with 364 other days in the year.

Enjoy it. Embrace it. Have fun with it.

Enjoy each other. Embrace each other. Have fun with each other.

Let’s add more days of showing love to the world to the calendar, instead of boycotting the ones we already have.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Love

There was a time in my life when I supported the Death Penalty. I could give reason to the consequence for acts of violence beyond comprehension. I was able to justify in my mind the killing of a man for the decisions he had made to take the life (lives) of others. Later on, I changed my view on the matter, but I am still to this day, able to hear arguments for both sides and understand the reasoning.

I have never supported abortion but in my heart I can imagine circumstances where the option would seem viable. I can put together the pieces of rape and find an excuse then, although I still stand on the side of life. I can hear, I can understand, I can even agree with the argument made.

I have never been an unbeliever. I have never in my life believed there wasn’t a God. I have been a Christian from a very young age and while I have been angry with God, and have wondered how on earth he could allow such horrible things to happen to people, I have never had a length of time when I did not believe He existed. And I cannot for the life of me understand how people explain Him away.

Evolution has never made sense to me. Not to say that we haven’t adapted as species, or developed as necessary for our surroundings, but that all life comes from some cell, some fish, some monkey turned human? No, I cannot make it seem reasonable. I cannot look at the world, at the way the entire universe operates, at the big and the small picture and say it just happened with a “bang”. I cannot. I nearly laugh, the thought is so ludicrous to me. It is the one area of my life that I am completely unable to stand in an agnostic’s shoes and see their view even if I don’t agree with it.

Last night, LM and I watched, “March of the Penguins.” At the end of the movie, LM and I talked for quite awhile about how amazing it is that God gave even the smallest creatures a soul, that they might demonstrate compassion, sorrow and joy. That more than just instinct, more than anything science can explain, we can witness the artistry of God’s imagination. That we can see the love that abounds in everything in our life. I cannot for the life of me imagine what a movie like that feels like to someone who doesn’t believe in God. How do you explain the soul, the nurturing, the sense of family, obligation to offspring, the distance and endurance these animals overcame….I could go on and on. It is more, I think than science alone can explain. It is more than simply reproduction for sake of continuing a species. They mourn. They love. They in many ways demonstrate a greater commitment to parenting that many people do today.

I once watched a special on elephants that moved me in much the same way. I remember the narrator explaining the mourning that the herd goes through over the loss of a member. I will never forget the images of the elephants running their trunks over the bones of a deceased elephant, over and over caressing as if to remember, to immortalize. It was powerful. It was much the same experience as watching the penguins last night.

If you haven’t seen this documentary, I encourage you to do so. It’s a love story that reminds us of the Love of our God, our Creator. If he has given the penguins such heart, if he has provided for them the instincts and compassion necessary for survival, for family, for life, think of how He has blessed us all the more.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Kodak Moments

Oh.My.Gosh.

I have turned into my sister.

I reached into my purse to get my cell phone this morning and found a roll of film. Undeveloped. Waiting to be processed.

It took me a good many minutes to figure out this roll of film is from CHRISTMAS.

Oh.My.Gosh.

This is not like me at all.

But this is.exactly.like.my.sister.

Be afraid, be very very afraid.

Next thing you know, I’ll be on the phone with my brother while I holler at my son.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Fortunate

I read "Kite Runner" a couple weeks ago and this weekend I watched the movie, "The Constant Gardener".

I'm struggling to feel deserving of all the blessings we have in America. I need to be doing more, I need to be doing something. I'm on a search for a way for my soul to help those who need it most. I'm not sure that I even know where to begin, but beginning may be the hardest part.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Enough

I have come to realize lately that my life feels so very simple. It doesn’t feel harried or chaotic, it feels serene and uncomplicated. I don’t know that I have ever had what I would describe as a ‘hectic life’ but even more so lately, I have noticed that my happiness seems to come in what looks from the outside to be the most mundane things and events.

Last evening was LM’s night to cook, but neither of us was hungry enough to warrant the effort of a full meal, so we decided to piece our way through the night. When LM finally got hungry enough to ask what there was to eat, I started to pull odds and ends of things out of the fridge in way of options. There was a small serving of baked beans, about as much macaroni and cheese, there was a piece of London broil leftover and I could make up a Caesar salad if he wished. He finished off this and that and as he did I put dishes in the dishwasher and wiped down the counter. By the time he was done, I felt so satisfied that the odds and ends in the fridge were consumed and the space was cleared out and straightened, ready for our weekly trip to the store on Saturday. Everything was in place. It just felt like the simplest of joys.

I thought to put a load of laundry in, but there wasn’t enough to do, I was already caught up. LM had vacuumed the living room and dining room as he chore, so the house seemed straightened and fresh.

I finished Anna Karenin (I have always thought it was KareninA, but this listing omits the ‘a’ http://www.bartleby.com/316/) today and feel accomplished by having done so. I filed my taxes last week and will have the refund end of next.

This weekend we are expecting a foot of snow on Saturday evening, news that will excite LM to no end when he hears and Gabe when he sees it. I have no plans, I have no place that I have to be. The snow will in no way dampen our weekend nor will it prevent us from any activities. It can fall and be enjoyed without a thought otherwise.

We will head to the grocery store for our weekly shop this evening and we will be surrounded by families stock piling for the winter storm, a concept I do not understand in an age when within a couple hours after a snow storm of ANY size, we are able to get out and about, but the fearful amongst us will be out hoarding bread and milk as always. We will pick out a movie for Movie Night and perhaps will stop to get the needles and yarn I need to start learning to knit now that my how-to book has arrived. We will put the Gentle Leader collar on Gabe and see how he does with it, optimistic that perhaps our days of lunging at other dogs are over.

On paper, it doesn’t look as though there is much going on in our lives. We aren’t rushing off to basketball practice, or running errands for the duration of a day but life feels full, it feels good, it feels like it is “enough”. Which is all I could have ever hoped for.

I wish you ‘enough’ today and everyday.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Comment on Commentators

At first, I was overjoyed with the news. ESPN was taking over Monday Night Football. YES!! Visions of Chris Berman and Tom Jackson becoming part of my Monday Night Football routine was beyond anything I could have hoped for. And, clearly it was just that. Beyond my hopes.

Here, you can read it for yourselves. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11235692/

NBC will now host my favorite night of football, Sunday night, and have decidedly RUINED it by having Michaels and Madden host. Oh.My.Lord. How I hate John Madden in the broadcast booth. They tried to coax me in by putting Bob Costas there as well, but as much as I love Costas, I cannot for the life of me make that even out my extreme dislike of Madden.

And now, even worse, the ESPN crew taking over for Mondays will include PTI's Kornheiser, whom I cannot tolerate. Kill me. Kill me now. Theismann is fine, Tirico is okay, but Kornheiser?!?! Are you kidding me?

The only good news to come out of it all is that MNF will be starting almost a half hour earlier, which means I might actually stay awake well into the third quarter. Maybe.

If you need me, I'll be in mourning. Not only has football season ended for this year, but I have no Sunday Night Football to look forward to next year if it means I'll have to listen to Madden.

Maybe it's not too late to like hockey.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Errors and Omissions

Ammendments from previous posts:

One: I regained my senses and hid my profile on Match. All it took was one moment without the aid of a glass of wine to realize I have no desire to go back into the world of dating. I'm sorry for the false alarm.

Two: I may have to recant my statement about V-day. Tonight, LM and I grabbed dinner and then braved Wal*Mart to get the necessary Valentine's for his classmates and for relatives. LM knows how much I hate Wal*Mart, so he knew to be quick. V-day isn't his favorite holiday, either, so he saw the option of Narnia cards and knew that was safe (safe means NOT MUSHY!!)We went to the card section to buy cards for my neice and nephew and so forth and LM handed me the ones he picked out and said, "don't look, one is for you!" I was so proud of him for thinking of that all on his own, and for picking one out. He wrote in it tonight and set it aside. I was just so touched. I might not hate the holiday after all!

Three: Suzan recommended I try the "Gentle Leader Collar" for Gabe. I have one, we just put it aside when the trainers gave us different ones to use. We're going to get it back out this weekend and see how that goes. She swears by it, so I'll keep you posted. If we find success, you'll all be the first to know!!

By the way, while my sister has yet to set eyes upon my blog, she seems to get reports from Bear about the "important matters" or at least what he thinks is critical in my blogs. My step mom has been here so I'd like to say hello to her and I'd like to give a shout out to two of my friends from my former life in Illinois, Hello to Stacy and Suzan!!!

That's all. More crap that I'll probably have to recant will be posted tomorrow. I'm sure you'll be waiting with baited breath.

Sit. Stay. Read. Comment.

I can’t sleep. It has everything to do with the caffeinated Diet Coke I had today, but while I’m restless, I’ve been thinking over my dog-walking issues. Gabe has been through two obedience classes and has had two personal training sessions. He can sit, stay, come, heel, halt and sometimes will even leave it, depending on how truly tempting the item in question is. He has a great time at the Bark Park and enjoys playing with puppies big and small, but on a leash, walking around the neighborhood, he cannot, for the life of me, learn to demonstrate manners when seeing another dog. It is as if he is a Navy Seal on high alert, scanning the horizon for another dog infiltrating his territory. From 50 yards away, he will not only spy another dog, but will pay attention to absolutely nothing else until he no longer sees that dog. He will crane his neck, he will pull in that direction, he will lunge if necessary to go say hello. And, being 200 pounds, it doesn’t usually make such a great impression on the dog and owner he’s approaching. There are usually screams, sirens and I end up with a dislocated shoulder. Okay, it doesn’t really come to that, but the potential is certainly there.

The training we’ve undergone has worked primarily to get his attention on me, which works just fine unless we’re talking about seeing another dog and then I’m completely forgotten. I could be holding a steak in my hands and Gabe will not even look at me.

So, here it is, 3am, I’ve been up for well over an hour and I was thinking about whether or not I was going to schedule another training session, and was trying to articulate in my head what it is that I think needs to happen at these sessions (i.e. it might be helpful if there were other dogs there…) when an idea hit me.

Perhaps what Gabe needs most is time spent walking in OUR neighborhood with another dog. Perhaps if I can find a walking partner who has another dog, I can get Gabe more accustomed to the idea that we can, in fact, walk with/near/around another dog without having to create havoc.

And this idea, as most of mine do, branched into an even grander idea of organizing a “Group Dog Walk” at the park near where I live. I live in a subdivision of condos/townhouses and twins (duplexes for those of you who don’t live out East). Lots of folks have dogs, and so I thought maybe if I put up signs in my neighborhood and invited people to come socialize themselves and their dogs at a little Saturday morning Dog Walk, that this might not only give the neighbors a chance to meet, but would give the dogs a chance to socialize, and MAYBE give Gabe a chance to get it together. Maybe some folks would enjoy it so much that it could become a regular event, and not just a one-time thing. Or maybe the police would have to be called in and I would be hauled off to jail for such insane ideas.


So, I’ve been mulling this over, and trying to see the pros and cons and while I realize that Gabe might not handle himself well, and might completely embarrass me in front of my neighbors, being a mother of a 10 year old, this would be nothing new to me. And while I’m certain there are inherent risks involved when 20 dogs get together on leads, I also realize that many animal-related organizations host “Paws for a Cause” sorts of walks every year, so I can’t be dreaming up something totally insane. Well, I could be, but maybe not this time around.

I guess I’m looking for feedback. Am I nuts? Is this bound for failure? Should I just stick to paying a “professional” to train him to “leave it” when it comes to other dogs? Or is socializing my dog on and off (off at the Bark Park) his leash a better idea? If you have a dog (or imagine that you do for a moment) would you participate in a neighborhood dog walk? Maybe you've attended one of these "Paws for a Cause" events? Do you have a dog with similar issues to mine? I just find myself so incredibly envious of people who go to the park with their dogs (on or off lead) and can walk around the place without a single concern to their dog meeting up with another and reacting badly to it. I want to go to a picnic with my dog and not have to ask if another dog will be there. I want to go watch the teams play football and baseball at the park and not have to yank my dog away from the other ones he comes across. I want to be a HAPPY CANINE OWNER!!!

Okay, I’ll try to get some sleep. I know, I obviously need it. Although, by morning I might have solved all world issues. Maybe.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Blame it on Hallmark

Maybe it’s because V-day is a week away. Maybe it’s the glass of wine I had tonight. Maybe it’s because I watched “Legends of the Fall” and then “City of “Angels” this week. Maybe it’s because I’m reading Anna Karenin.

I browsed through the profiles on match.com tonight. I know, I know, I SWORE never again. But I did not subscribe!!! I didn’t!! I swear!! I did make my profile active again, but I did NOT subscribe, I promise!!

The thing is, so many of the photos that came up from my search, I’ve seen before. These men are STILL looking. That scares me. Is there truly no hope? Isn’t there some sort of a time limit on trying to find your match? Can’t there at least be the comfort of “at least I know two years is the MOST I’ll have to wait”? I guess not.

I don’t know that I’m really ready to date yet. I really don’t. But I guess there’s a part of me that wants to put a foot out the door and entertain the notion that maybe just maybe it will go well. I realized, in a conversation with G the other night, that it has been months since I have gone out, and well over 18 months since I’ve had a date. Maybe it’s time to at least test the waters. Maybe.

Or maybe it’s just that V-day sucks.

Maybe.

Don't worry, I'll recover quickly. Tonight I'm watching "The Untouchables".

A Novel Idea

I have this thing about books. I really didn’t even put my finger on it until I was pressed to explain it to someone once. The conversation had come up about getting a book from the library and I simply stated I never read books from the library. I mean to say, I did as a child, but once I reached an age where it was up to me to determine where my books came from, the library has NOT ONCE been the choice.

As I tried to explain why, I began to realize the lengths to which I had gone in college to not spend time in the library and certainly to not actually read something from the library. If I had to find 5 journal articles on a topic and then write a paper, I went, found them, COPIED them, took them home and wrote the paper (keep in mind, the internet wasn’t around just yet, not around as it is now anyways or dear god I would have never left my dorm room at all!)

Books to me are a sacred experience. They tell a story, move a person, relate in some manner by similarity or complete lack thereof to my own life. A library book clearly shows wear, it’s tarnish surface tells me that someone else has read this book (duh, I know) and that someone else has already HAD this experience. And therefore, I don’t want it. I want the experience to be my own. I want to hold it and read it and relate to it and know that it was personal, and just for me. A library book feels used, tapped out, emotionless. A new book is waiting for me and ONLY me to pick it up and read it.

This is not to say that I don’t like to hear about people reading books that I have read. For example, if someone were to say, “Did you read Kite Runner?” I would be thrilled to know that they read it and to have someone to talk to about the book. But I can only do so knowing they didn’t read MY copy of Kite Runner. Lending someone my book is an easier task, however, than me borrowing a book. I just won’t do it. If you say it’s a great read, then I’ll go get my own copy to read. (I also realize you don't italicize book titles, but I can't figure out how to underline...)

And I realize, this isn’t very frugal of me at all. You’ll have to forgive me this luxury. There is a certain sense of accomplishment, however, when I look around my house and see all the books that I have read.

Another issue I have with books is knowing too much before you’ve even started. I’m much the same way about movies. Tell me it’s good and tell me nothing more. When I shop for new books, it’s by one of two ways. One: I browse Barnes and Noble and pick up books simply because I’ve read the author before, because the title catches me, or because the front cover is somehow intriguing. If I read anything, I will read the inside flap and ONLY the first sentence. “She was an African women by heritage, now living in Bangkok…” that’s all I want to know. If I were to read the entire flap, I would know half of the book’s plot before I even started reading. I don’t want to know!! I don’t want to hear that her brother was a missionary and was killed by locals in a remote forest in Asia. I don’t want to know that the book’s main point is to drive home the absurdities of stereotypes. I don’t want to know the lesson, the moral, the plot, the character, any of it, until I’ve read it. The other way is to log on to Amazon.com and see what they recommend for me. I update the list according to what I own and what I have no interest in and they tell me other great titles I might enjoy. Voila! Recommendations without me having to know anything at all!

So, not only will I only read a new book, I will only read a book that I know very little about. Which is why I cannot, under any circumstances, read a book with “Oprah’s Book Club” stamped right on it. Millions of people are currently reading that very same book, and just turning on the tv I will hear more about the book than I want to before I’ve even started it. Too trendy, too popular and too much information. Not for me.

So, considering all of this (and thank you for not sending me to the nut farm just yet), paired with my extreme boredom at work, I recently found books online and decided to read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin. Why not? I’ve never read it and here it is!

While I am really not in favor of reading a “book” on the computer, it has had its advantages. First of all, there is no appearance at all if someone else has read this “book”. There is no binding to be broken, to pages to be dog-eared, nothing. And secondly, I have no idea how long it actually is, or how close I am to the end of it, so as I progress, anything and everything is possible. I’m not reading quickly because I know I’ve reached the “wrap it up” part, I’m not plodding through looking for clues in every statement knowing that I’m at a critical juncture of the book. I’m reading it as it comes to me and I’m enjoying it tremendously.

Now, all this said, it’s killing my eyes and my back and makes me miss being curled up under warm blankets, propped up by oodles of pillows on the couch just to spend the afternoon reading, but it’s passing the time nicely and better yet, it isn’t costing me a dime! (In fact, I’m technically getting paid to do it!)

So, here’s to online books! Now, back to Tolstoy -- I have to go finish it before someone tells me what happens!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Bear

I remember meeting Bear for the first time with my Dad. I think we had driven my sister part way to school and then Bear was meeting us to take her the rest of the way. We pulled into the parking lot and Bear came out to meet us and the first words he uttered were, “Hey Jules, guess what movie I seen last night?” I still shudder. He liked country music and Nascar. He ate ketchup on everything and by everything I mean mashed potatoes and Pringles included. A plate of 6 cheesey hot dogs was a single serving for him, not a dish for the whole family to share. He was from a small town in Michigan and coming to visit us later on in Illinois might very well have been the first time he was out of his own state.

Within a few years of Bear joining our family, Bear became the big brother I never had. He broke the ice by saying things in front of my dad that none of us would dare say. He teased my little brother to no end, picking him up and putting his feet on the ceiling until he begged for mercy – then doing it a hundred times more when G begged for more. Within a few more years, I started listening to country music myself and after buying Bear tickets to go see a Nascar race, I got hooked on the sport, too.

Bear has introduced my family to some of the most politically incorrect sayings of all time, along with many others that will make you laugh until you cry. Ride with him (there is no such thing as driving with Bear in the car with you – he always drives) just once and you’ll learn a hundred new ways to exercise road rage verbally. There have been times when LM has gone directly from time with my family at Julie and Bear’s house to spending time with my ex’s family, and during the ride in between, I am reminding LM not to repeat ANY of the things he heard Uncle Bear say during the last few days.

All things considered, from my first impression of this grammatical nightmare of a man, Bear has been such a fun brother to have around. Family get togethers are more fun because he’s there (mainly because he’s not afraid to speak his mind). I am glad he’s a part of our family, and I’m so thrilled to call him my brother.

Happy Birthday, Bear!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Lunch

Today, LM bought hot lunch for the first time. He remembered his PIN number without any trouble. He had a hot dog (no cheese), baked beans, broccoli (which he claims he ate a “little” of) a “homestyle” cookie and chocolate milk. When asked how it was, he said, “It was GREAT!! 999.999 out of 1000! It was a “small” serving of baked beans, but still good. And I ate the WHOLE THING!” He said, “I kept saying to myself, ‘I bought. Did I just buy?! I just BOUGHT LUNCH!!”

Today, it was a GREAT day to be nine!

Looking Busy

The New Job rocks! It really does. And I love the paycheck (even if I only get paid once a month). It’s just really slow at the moment. There was previously one person who did this job before and they hired me to help her because she was too busy. Apparently right at the moment, she isn’t busy at all, which means I’ve made a new profession out of twiddling my thumbs. Literally.

I’m trying to be patient, I know it takes time, and I’ve only been here a month. But in those four weeks, I’ve done all the things I can think of to do-at-work-when-you’re-supposed-to-be-working-but-have-no-actual-work-to-do. Thus far, I’ve:

1. Researched all new doctors since ours were closer to my old office which is now an hour away.
2. Made eye doc appointments for both of us.
3. Made dentist appointments for both of us
a. Jacob’s dentist being closer to his school and home
b. My dentist being right next door to the new office
4. Made annual doc visit appointment for me
5. Made a dermatologist appointment for LM
6. Made an ortho appointment (initial consult) for LM after much struggle to try to understand why orthodontists will only schedule consultations between the hours of 9am and 3pm. Aren’t most of their patients school-aged children?!
7. Wrote and sent letters to our former physicians to get our files transferred to the new ones.
8. Researched on the internet causes for my foot numbness when I work out.
9. Researched sneakers.
10. Balanced my checkbook each week.
11. Created a draft of a new budget, subject to change upon receipt of actual paycheck.
12. Researched tax prep options and decided to do it myself this year with the help of TurboTax.
13. Wrote letters to my grandmother
14. Caught up with old friends via email.
15. Checked my free annual credit report (www.annualcreditreport.com) and sent out letters to all the companies who should have closed my account but thus far haven’t.
16. Updated my blog from time to time.
17. Read a million other blogs during the course of each day.
18. Read MSN news, CNN, and ESPN websites each day.
19. I have utilized my industrial strength office shredder to destroy all my outdated and useless information that I had in my files at home.
20. Played over 100 hours of Las Vegas style Solitaire on the computer.
21. Researched hotels in Orlando, FL for our vacation.

I’m beginning to think I could surely be pursing a second degree or something online while I sit here. They frown upon me actually reading a book (even though she’s aware that I have NOTHING to do). Surely there are books online that I could sit and read. I’ll have to look for some. Anyone have suggestions for what I should do in February?

Gratuity

LM and I don’t go out to dinner often. Maybe once every three or four months. He goes out to dinner with his dad for nearly every meal when he is with him, so it’s really my own sacrifice, not something he’s missing out on. $30 on dinner out is a chunk of our grocery money, so it’s rare for us to splurge in that manner.

That said, when I got my new job and the raise that came with it, LM asked if this meant we would eat out more often. I agreed that we might eat out once a month or once every couple of months now that we had more “padding” in the budget.

Last night was our night out.

We drove to the BIG mall, which is about 40 miles away. We really went for two very specific stores that are unfortunately not located much much closer to home. One: The New Balance store to find the sneakers my physician recommended for me (which, as a side, I haven’t tried out yet on the elliptical but they are absolutely 100% the most comfortable shoe I have ever worn in my life!) and Two: LM’s favorite comic book store. We agreed that while we were there we would stop at Crate and Barrel to get a few more of our drinking glasses (I cannot explain what happens to them, but glasses vanish in our house) and we would enjoy a nice dinner out.

After our successful and quick shopping, we headed off to the Steakhouse in the mall only to find the menu posted outside declaring appetizers cost $20. We saw a Houlihan’s and while I’m not big on chain restaurants, LM remarked at what great goat-cheese bruschetta they have and so off we went. (He has eaten at a more local Houlihan’s many times with his dad, it would seem.)

Let me say this about eating out as a way of preface: Not going out to eat very often and being the person in charge of shopping, cooking and putting away breakfast, lunch and dinner EVERY DAY, eating out is an event worth savoring in my opinion. We usually prefer to try places we’ve never been to. I encourage LM to order something we cannot fix at home. We usually enjoy an appetizer with our meal and sometimes even dessert. Eating out, in short, is not to be taken lightly with us.

The problem is, most times, the server doesn’t get this memo and we are but a thorn in his/her side as s/he eagerly awaits to be dismissed for the night. Certainly the caliber of restaurants we normally dine at all offer about the same menu and about the same quality of food. Three steps up from a Pizza Hut but not quite $20 appetizers, either. It’s the atmosphere, the service, the quality of the experience that makes or breaks the night for me.

Last night, our server was Andre. He was SPECTACULAR!! Do you remember that scene in Ocean’s 11, when they are giving advice to Matt Damon’s character when he has to fill in? “Be funny without being memorable. Be personable but forgettable.” These are the keys to a great server in my book. Be attentive but don’t hover. Be cordial but don’t act like you’ll be joining us for the evening. Cater without indulging. Simply put, serve me and make me feel great about my night without me ever having to pinpoint exactly what it was that made the night so great. “It was just so many things…the food, the restaurant atmosphere, the laughter with LM….”

Andre seemed to just inherently know this. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner. Packed up half of LM’s to bring home for tonight and left with a feeling of success instead of the usual frustration and me proclaiming to never dine out again.

This morning the first thing I did when I arrived at work was to pull out my receipt from last night and write a letter of praise and gratitude to the manager of Houlihan’s in King of Prussia, complimenting Andre all the while.

So often we find ourselves upset by the bad things that happen around us that we forget to give recognition to all the good. It’s easy to leave a bad tip when service is miserable, and even though I left a generous tip last night, I wanted to really spell it out to Andre AND his boss why we enjoyed ourselves so much.

In LM’s words, “I have two High’s for today. One: That we got to watch ‘Shiloh’ in class today. And Two: this evening out together!”

Thanks, Andre.