Friday, April 28, 2006

The Rest of the Story

Okay, okay, I’ll tell about Pottery class, but I’m sure by now you’re imagination has formulated a much better story than the truth.

LM didn’t have to go to pottery. He WANTED to go to pottery. Keep that in mind.

LM learned at school that the daughter of my classmate was going to be there, too, so LM was really excited to have another kid at class.

We reviewed the rules. I reminded him that just acting silly could cause a pot to fall off a shelf and break and there.is.no.replacing.someone’s.unique.artwork. I told him that this was his fair warning that I wouldn’t give warnings at class. I reminded him that my classmate and I needed to actually do some work, and that he was more than welcome to create something with clay but it would NOT be fired in the kiln (we were running out of room, and I was terrified that his ‘thing’ would explode and take other valuable pieces with it.)

When we arrived at class, the daughter of my classmate was sitting quietly off to the side sketching. LM walked in, saw her, didn’t say hi, just started criticizing her artwork. “What is that supposed to be? Sponge Bob? His pants should be more square if that’s what it is. What is this over there? That’s not a tree. Why don’t you draw a picture of a spacecraft…” About 5 criticisms later, I turned around and said, “Jacob!” He looked at me like, “what?” My classmate introduced himself at that point and kind of looked at me like, “nice kid ya got there.”

I needed to trim the pots from last week, so I tried to get that done quickly. Then I got LM some clay to play with, thinking he would stay out of the way and keep quiet. But no. He kept walking around my classmate’s wheel, which was making the classmate VERY nervous. My classmate has made some very nice pieces. He has done pottery before and just used the class to get time on the wheel, really. He primarily makes big bowls, and LM wasn’t earning any points by pacing back and forth next to that wheel. One false move and the whole bowl could be ruined.

I finally got him settled doing his own thing. For the life of me, though, I could NOT get a pot to form with the clay (I wonder why). I had LM take some pictures, thinking that would keep him occupied. But trying to take pictures, LM kept getting in the way of my classmate and making my classmate very.very.nervous.

I decided I would just abandon the idea of making a pot on my own, and LM and I would just make one together as that would be really cool and would keep him still. We had talked about this as one of the cool things we could do together at class. He came and sat with me at the wheel and I shaped my hands around his to mold and center the clay. One touch of the clay and he was done. “Eww!! I don’t like this on my hands!! Are we done yet?! Can I go wash my hands yet?” We took some pictures to mark the occasion of the “Night that LM Did Not Want to Make a Pot With His Mother” and then I let him go wash his hands.

We had been at class only about 40 minutes by this point and LM has insulted both the daughter AND my classmate (“That bowl would look better if you….” “Why don’t you smash that down and make it into a…” “That would be cool if you put two necks on it and…”) My classmate was SO impressed with my child that he started telling about how he teases his daughter that when boys start coming around, there are some boys he will let in, and some that he will toss over the hedge. LM was quickly labeled a “hedge boy”.

Class normally lasts 2 hours. This week we were without the instructor so I was dependent upon my classmate who has a key to the place to lock up when we left. After 45 minutes of being there, he announces that he’s done and cleans up ready to go home. In less than 2 minutes they are cleaned up, packed up and ready to leave. I, on the other hand, was in the middle of desperately trying to make ONE.LAST.POT. and now I have to quit and go home? Finally, out of exasperation, my classmate says he’ll show me how to lock up when I go and he’ll just leave.

The moment they left I thought I would lose my mind. In less than 45 minutes, my child had offended an adult and a child so much so that they LEFT class altogether. I was so embarrassed. I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus on making anymore pots, even though it was my LAST.NIGHT.TO.MAKE.POTS. We cleaned up, packed up and went home.

The worst of it to me, is that, because I’m a single mom, I can go home and quietly and calmly explain what went wrong and what I expected of him next time, etc. But unless I prompt for it myself, I get no apology. I miss the days when his dad could take him aside and say, “You owe your mother an apology!” (We’ll just pretend for a moment that his dad ever did that sort of thing.) I just wanted a heartfelt “I’m sorry” for ruining my last night of class, but I didn’t get one.

LM asked at the end of the night if he could go with me again next week. ARE.YOU.KIDDING.ME?!

(See? Weren’t you thinking he broke everything I made or something?!)

There is the pottery story.

I will not take my child to pottery class again.

Creating Memories Together

For my entire life, the only vacations I have ever taken have been to see family. In 2007, LM and I want to take a vacation to a destination of our choosing.

To that end, we are brainstorming where we would go in the US if we could go anywhere and we’re looking for insight from people who have ‘been there, done that’.

What would you recommend?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Maybe You Had to Be There

The office hosted a pizza party lunch as a send off to a departing co-worker. Our newest employee wasn’t familiar with the Guest of Honor and asked me for some background. I described him as “the quiet one” having heard no more than three words out of this man’s mouth in the 4 months that I have worked here. He keeps to himself, he is almost always holed up in his own office and you rarely see him conversing with anyone in the halls or in the kitchen. He’s just a quiet, reserved sort of person.

At the party, people were asking him about his new position (at a branch office of ours) and what sorts of projects he’ll be working on. I have no doubt this "party" was his worst nightmare. A room of 25 people all focused on HIM. His answers were extremely brief, often just one word and barely audible. I served as the speakers, as I was sitting next to him, repeating nearly everything he said for the rest of the room to hear. It’s not that he’s unhappy, he’s just QUIET.

One of our more garrulous co-workers tried to get the Guest of Honor to give a little speech in recognition of his last day with us. She finally conceded and suggested he just “tell us about your life in three words or less!” When that was met with awkward silence, she said, “Okay, how about two words? Fun and loud?” The sarcasm was not lost on the rest of the room as everyone chuckled, even the guest of honor.

Questions continued, people asking when the moving truck was arriving (2:30) and how big was it (just 14’) and which office would be his in Alabama (he didn’t know.) Finally, thinking they had thought of something to get him talking, someone asked him about his recent wedding and inquired as to how he was enjoying married life? Silence.

The same garrulous co-worker boldly suggested, “fun and loud?”



Diet Coke came out my nose.

Repeat After Me

I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.
I will not take my son to pottery class again.


That's all I'm going to say about it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Charity Up in Smoke

I am a huge fan of the Habitat for Humanity organization. I fully support their goals and methods of achieving them. I commend them for their requirements that recipients contribute to the sweat equity of the homes. I applaud them in their efforts across our nation.

I am currently at a loss, however, to understand how it is that one of my co-workers has qualified for a HH home. I realize, first of, that I do not know all the details. However. My position at my company is very near the bottom of the totem poles for salaries. Most of the people here have PhD’s, a few just have their Masters. I support those people, so I realize that I’m not going to be paid nearly as much as they are. The gentleman in question is also in a support position, but in IT, so I would think that he would make more than I do, but for the moment, I’ll assume he simply makes my salary.

He currently rents in a high-rent area locally. He currently “supports” his live-in girlfriend (who doesn’t have a job of any kind) and her five year old special-needs daughter. Let’s assume that she at least collects unemployment, but from the sounds of it, he is completely responsible for their financial wellbeing as well as his own.

This man has a daughter of his own. I have no idea what he pays in child support for her or if he pays, but we’ll assume it’s a little something at least. His mom currently provides day care for his daughter, so I realize there’s no day care expense being added.

If I took my salary and tried to support another adult as well as LM, and perhaps shelled out a few shuckles for child support, it would certainly be tight, I’m not saying it wouldn’t. But would I qualify for an HH house?! I don’t think I should. I pay a sizeable mortgage payment (that’s what you get for living on the East Coast) and I make a car payment every month, so certainly I have enough to pay the bills with.

The real kicker for me is that yesterday, this guy shared with me that he’s now worked his way back up to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. Not being a smoker, I inquired what that costs him a week. He said, “about $70”.

Now, if I took my currently salary and added about $300 a month to it, I’m fairly certain I could pay all my bills with a little bit of a cushion.

So how is it that he can qualify for this home?! How is it that volunteers are out there busting their butts and donating appliances (the fridge he is going to turn around and sell to the office because he doesn’t want one that doesn’t have an ice maker built in) – and he is smoking up $300 a month?!? If his girlfriend actually had to support herself (and I’m not sure he can claim her as a dependent since they aren’t married) and even if they had to rely on state funding to help her special-needs child, he would surely have plenty of money with which to buy his own place!

I am all in favor of organizations like Habitat helping those who cannot help themselves, but in this case, I am frustrated thinking that he is taking the generosity of this group and blowing it up in smoke.

I don’t even want to think about the money wasted if his girlfriend has a nicotine habit to support, too.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Unfortunately

The office bought lunch today, unfortunately I just had a cavity filled at noon and my jaw is too numb to eat without risking great personal injury. (I surrendered my hoagie to a co-worker who wasn’t offered a free lunch today.)

Gabers finally chose to eat which means the antibiotics have kicked in and he’s finally feeling better than he has in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, while the weather is perfect right at this moment, we’re expecting thunderstorms right about the time I leave work and well into the evening. No trip to the bark park for us tonight!

I finally received my 2005 year-end bonus from my previous job after much ado about proving that I was actually employed through the last working day in December. Unfortunately, Uncle Sam took such a chunk out of it that it’s not nearly the sizeable chunk of “found money” that it might have been.

On the fourth attempt, I think my ophthalmologist has finally gotten my contact lens prescription almost perfect. Unfortunately, everyone at the office now thinks I look better with my glasses.

Two of my co-workers that share the “new” office space with me were out on Friday and Monday leaving me completely by myself for the duration. Unfortunately, the one that returned to work today is not the one that can funnel projects to me so I am bored silly for yet ANOTHER day at work.

My favorite pair of jeans is finally worn in enough that they are perfectly comfortable right out of the dryer. Unfortunately, this means they are also starting to wear THROUGH in certain places and I really should replace them before anything embarrassing occurs.

Following my friend Stacy’s good advice, I baked cookies and LM took them to our downstairs neighbors over the weekend in an effort to win them over. Unfortunately, the single guy that lives a few doors down wasn’t home for me to try the same approach!

Thanks to some of my co-workers for doing the necessary “homework”, I’ve been kept informed of all the hidden nuances of the show “Lost”. Unfortunately, the producers have decided to postpone airing any new episodes for the last few weeks and I’ve now forgotten what I need to pay attention to.

The orthodontist we originally consulted with was kind enough to let me take the molds and x-rays to another orthodontist for a second opinion (second confirmation, really). Unfortunately, the delay in getting the process started may mean it has to be put off since LM will spend much of the summer away from home (g’parents don’t want to deal with milkshakes for dinner and motrin every 4 hours for a month) – meaning his teeth that are trying to come in could continue to wreak havoc until the fall.

Last evening, while walking Gabe, a really, really, cute guy proclaimed what a cool dog I have. Unfortunately, the guy was riding by on his motorcycle and didn’t stop to chat!

As If I Wasn't Homesick Enough Already

"Little Bird" and "George"



Solomon and "George"
(I just can't decide which one I want to gobble up first!)

*A special thanks to Papa and G'ma Judy for sharing photos from their
trip to Michigan to see my neice and nephew!

Friday, April 21, 2006

His Word Against Mine

Mom's Version of the Story:

There is little evidence that LM is truly my child. I have stretch marks, scars and stories to convince anyone that I did go through labor but actually proving that he is mine biologically is another matter. There must have been a mix-up at the hospital.

I obviously love to write. I love to tell a story full of engaging details. I love for a reader to know what I’m saying through examples, analogies, and metaphors. I tend to go overboard trying to make a point.

LM hates to write. Or at least he hates to write when it is an assignment. Give him a pencil and paper or sit him down at his old word processor and he’ll gladly write a story about a command ship in Vector 12 encountering enemy aircraft. He’ll tell you how many missiles each has, exactly what they sound like overhead and the screams of the pilots. He has drawn over 30 “adventures” of Smilie Man Comics, his own personal comic strip hero.

But give LM a fourth-grade writing assignment or ask him to correspond with his pen-pal, Caleb, and I’m lucky to get three sentences out of him. In school, they not only write for the sake of writing, they have to write out how they figure out their math problems. They are instructed to use prompts like: “First I…”, “Then I ….”, “Next…” and “Finally I used…”. He would rather stick pins in his eyes. Math is easy. He can solve the problem in his head in seconds flat. But writing out HOW he figured out the answer could take an hour.

This is why his report card has always scored an “A” in Reading, an “A” in Math and a “B” in Writing. “Lack of details”, “Lack of organization” and “Not citing evidence” are some of the areas that have needed improvement. We’ve talked it through. We’ve practiced writing; we have outlined our writing beforehand. I’ve used every method I can think of to help him enjoy the process a little more. He loves to read, and I try to show him how it’s the details that make reading so interesting. But he refuses to translate this into his own writing.

Last night I had conferences with his teacher. It was “optional” but I chose to go, knowing some of the troubles we’ve had this year – more socially than academically. I adore his teacher this year. She’s incredibly young but she really seems to have a great understanding of the kids and has done a wonderful job with LM. Report cards come out today but they give you a copy at conferences to look over. I went over it carefully with his teacher talking about areas he has shown improvement in and areas that still need work before the end of the year.

When I left the conference, I met up with LM out in the lobby of the school. I looked at him sternly and told him to sit down right where he was, we needed to talk. I held up the report card and he said, “oh no.” I sat down next to him and followed the grades for writing across from the first quarter to the second to this third marking period. It took a moment before he realized….

LM's Version of the Story:

I got an “A” in Writing!!!

P.S. Mom took me out for cheeseburgers to celebrate!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

It Should Suck

I absotively posilutely have to get a new vacuum cleaner. My hoover upright (with bag) has been around for oh, about 8 years and has filled its duties and is now ready to retire. With a dog and two cats, there is a requirement that our household vacuum actually suck up fur and the Hoover has decided this is no longer in its job description so we need to part ways.

I have read rave reviews (on blogs) about the Dyson Animal. As LM's dad pointed out, it didn't get rave reviews from Consumer Reports. So....

I NEED INPUT!!

What do you have, what does your sister or your mom have? Do you/they love it? Do you have pets? Do you use the tools? Give me the scoop!
(Please?)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Reinventing at the Pottery Wheel

I had Pottery Class tonight. We watched a movie about an artist that made teapots that I thought were hideous. I suppose that’s part of art, isn’t it? I trimmed up some of the pots I made last week and made two new ones. One that I made tonight I wrecked, but it looked kind of cool so I kept it, even though it’s really a “mistake”. That’s art, too, isn’t it?

As I was getting ready for class, though, I was trying to think of what it was that I wanted to make tonight. I’ve made several pots. I’ve made several cylinders. I’ve even made a really ugly mug and a lopsided saucer. I just don’t know enough about what is possible with the abilities that I have.

To continue along the symbolic nature of my pottery posts, it has recently occurred to me that I don’t know what it is that I want to make out of the rest of my life, either. I had imagined that I would be married with several kids at this point and I wouldn’t have to consider my options until all of my kids were in school, but that ol’ curve ball that life threw my way has given me a chance to “redream”. What do I want out of the next five years? The next ten?

I am at as much of a loss to answer that as to what to make out of the mound of clay sitting on the wheel.

I’m not sure how it is that we figure out what is it that we really want to do. I can ask myself all kinds of questions, but I come up with answers that to some degree feel out of my control. I’d like to be married again. I’d love to have more children. But right now, that’s not a door that feels ‘open’. I’m nowhere near close to either of those two options.

Given my current life, what would I like to be different? What would I do for a career if I could choose any? Where would I like to live if I could live anywhere? What sort of hobbies do I wish I had?

My answer to all of the above is: I.Don’t.Know.

I remember when I went to college. I entered the doors with the determination to become an International Business major. Whatever that meant. I took all the typical freshman courses and in my sophomore year, when I took Macro and Micro Econ, Business Stats I and II, Accounting I and II and the like I realized I hated business. I switched to a degree in Elementary Education without a clue of what I really wanted to teach. Luckily, throughout your early courses in the major, you spend time in various classrooms and I spent a spring break at my step-mom’s elementary school going from classroom to classroom until I realized that I hated the really young learn-to-tie-your-shoes classes, and really enjoyed the older, we-understand-metaphors ages. I student taught 6th grade and loved every second of it.

I wish I could do something similar now. Dabble in marketing. Try out photography as a hobby. Visit several states to see where I might like to grow new roots. But how does a person do that with limited money, vacation time and experience?

I.Don’t.Know.

I’ve decided though, that I need to really spend some time in thought. I really need to look inside and get a grasp on the direction that my dreams are leading me. I could waste the next ten years just being a mom and biding my time or I could take life by the horns (thanks, Dodge) and make it what I want it to be.

And, just like class tonight, I might find that when I try to turn my dreams into reality, I might make a huge mistake along the way. If so, I intend to still savor it, laugh, enjoy it and chalk it up to experience. That’s kind of like art, isn’t it?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Love Is...

My Handsome Little Man

Happiness Is...

Sprouts Growing in Springtime


A Happy Dog

The Process of Removing Spider Angiomas...
-Before-
The Day Of The Procedure

-Healing-

-Gone!-
My Brave Boy


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Hunting for the Right Egg

Happy Easter everyone!! Christ is risen!

As some of you remember, I have chosen not to include Santa in our Christmas celebrations in an effort to keep the true meaning of the holiday in the forefront of our hearts and minds. To that same end, the Easter Bunny is not part of our family celebration this weekend. We have a bunny-shaped basket, sure, and there might be a little bit of chocolate to put in it, but there is no belief that a rabbit hid eggs around our house. I wanted LM to wake up on Easter morning thankful that Christ died and ROSE AGAIN for HIS sins, not to wonder how many jelly beans and marshmallow eggs he could eat in an hour.

I'm not here to tell you how to celebrate the holiday. I just realized (and I probably should have shared this sooner) that some fellow Christians may be interested in how we've come to make Christ the center of our celebrations even in the midst of a hunt for eggs.

We have come to use "Resurrection Eggs" as our "egg hunt eggs". They each contain a small token that corresponds to a story told in the book "Benjamin's Box" that tell the story of Christ's journey to the cross. The eggs and the book are both available at Amazon.com or at any Christian bookstore, I am certain. They truly are a great way to tell the greatest story.

Have a great holiday everyone! And may God Bless you all!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Speechless

Are you sitting down? Are you sure? Are you drinking something? You might want to stop. Do you have children or are you thinking of having any? You may want to reconsider reading this post. I’ll just say this as a warning: I had a consultation with the orthodontist today concerning LM’s mess of a mouth. This post is about that meeting. If you are not sitting down, are sipping something you don’t want sucked up through your nose in shock or spat out at your computer monitor, or if you’d like to enjoy your children without a thought towards their dental expenditures, please stop reading now.

Seriously.

They took molds and x-rays three weeks ago. Tonight was a meeting to tell me how they recommend we proceed. It started with an explanation about the condition of LM’s mouth. Just looking at the x-rays I suspected I was in for a doozy. He explained that LM had some issues but it wasn’t a horrible scenario. He recommended an expander for the top and a gadget for the bottom that will tilt his teeth forward as they should be. They will be on for about nine months. When they are taken off, we’ll probably have to extract his two bottom eye teeth (he had three baby teeth extracted on the bottom already when the permanents failed to push out the babies, which is what’s happening with his eye teeth). We’ll wait for his twelve year molars to come in along with the other permanents that need to arrive before proceeding with the actual braces.

I asked how much the initial expander process would cost.

$2000.

I asked how much they would estimate the braces might be (although we obviously won’t know the true extent until we see the effects of the expander and his teeth coming in.)

$4500-6500.

I told you to sit down first.



Can I apply my Roth IRA towards orthodontics?

Seriously.

Over the River and Through the Woods

A year ago at this time, I was giddy with anticipation. I loaded LM up in the car and drove 11 hours to my sister’s home in Michigan. We arose early the next morning, loaded all 6 of us into a rented mini-van (much to Bear’s disdain) and drove 5 hours to my grandparent’s home in western Illinois. At the time, due to limited vacation days and a lack of funds, I hadn’t seen my grandparents in 6 years or more. When I had lived in Illinois, they were a short two hour drive, one I would frequent with the baby in tow just to spend the day with Gram. Now, it took a series of logistics to get us there with the limited time that we had and the very limited funds, but it was a priority of the highest order.

On the drive, we sang songs like “Sweet Home Alabama” and “We Will Rock You” at the top of our lungs. We giggled and laughed and told stories from our childhood days. LM had been 2 ½ the last time we had see my grandparents, so we took the time to familiarize him with the stories, to get familiar with people he didn’t have a mental image for other than through pictures.

As we drove across the flat, patchwork farmland of Illinois, I traveled back to my youth, to days of going to Bobby Walter’s for ice cream. A tradition so entrenched that the owner would even be sure to have lemon ice cream on hand if he heard my mother was coming to town for a visit. We saw the pharmacy where we used to stop to see my aunt.

We hadn’t told my grandma that LM and I were coming. She was expecting my sister and her family, they make the journey twice a year to see her, but I was along for the surprise. She wasn’t at all certain who I was at first, despite being the only redhead in the family. She said later she just couldn’t for the life of her believe that I was there, all the way from Pennsylvania.

We spent a very short two days there, but they are days I will not soon forget. I can sit in my grandmother’s kitchen and close my eyes and hear my mother when she talks. Without saying it aloud, we all silently miss Mom together. She is there, with us, bridging the generations. I can see her smile as she hugs her mom, I can hear them laugh together. I can see it all come back together, if I just close my eyes and listen.

G’ma’s house has a certain smell to it. It smells old, but in a comforting way. Her table is always set the same way, meals will always include Jell-o. Granddad will always fall asleep in his wheelchair. And after the meals are complete, G’ma will dump the leftovers into a pot, mix in a little milk, warm it just enough and take it outside for the kitties. She used to do this everyday on the farm and has continued to do so even now that they live in town, feeding cats that are no longer her own.

My sister and her family are on their way again this year. They will go make sure that all the jobs that need to be done around the apartment are taken care of. They will go to Wal*Mart and make sure they have the clothes and supplies that they need. They will treat them all to Hardee’s or maybe a pizza. They will stay two towns away as it’s the closest motel, one with a pool for the kids. They will drive through the towns that defined the phrase, “nothing to do”. Small towns of no more than 500 people and a post office. And before they leave, G’ma will give my sister a box or two filled with items that she wants us to have. Some items of no consequence at all, but tucked unnoticeably inside will be something precious. Last year, we found the wedding bands of my g’ma and her mother both, tucked inside a little handbag. Slowly, she gives us her life’s mementos. And we treasure every part.

I miss her today. I miss the way my granddad smiles when George does something mischievous. I will miss talking with my uncle, the only child left of three, the one who maybe said three words to me as a child and now will talk on and on. I miss the three great-grandchildren going outside to sweep off the porch, doing the little things they know how to do to help out.

I will even miss George’s water bottle, filled with orange cracker backwash.


Today I am homesick.

You Might Think It's Funny, But It's Snot

Apparently God means for me to be surrounded by phlegm. Not only do I have to listen to my co-worker (see previous post) but my dog has caught Kennel Cough from the Bark Park. For those who don’t know about Kennel Cough, it means that my dog sounds like an 80 year old, three-pack a day’er with his wheezing and coughing and hacking. He gags and coughs and appears to be on the verge of puking but then doesn’t. Except that last night he did.

So. There’s the cough. And then there’s the puke.

This is my life.


The vet will prescribe medicine and beg me not to bring my dog in with his contagious cough and we will not be permitted to go to the Bark Park until he is cured, despite the fact that the park is where he caught it from to begin with.


There go my weekend plans.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sucking the Snot...er..Life Outta Me

The man in the office next to me, our newest, latest employee, is doing that thing men do when they suck the snot out of their throats and into their mouth where they can just hack it out only he’s not getting to the hacking part just that God-awful sound of sucking snot.

I might not last the day.

Monday, April 10, 2006

George's First Million

George and Little Bird were on spring break last week (although I thought spring in Michigan came sometime in July?) anywho –

While Little Bird went to her favorite day camp, George spent a few days at his friend Jimmy’s house under the care of Jimmy’s mom. At some point during the three days, she bribed the two boys to go pick up sticks in the yard, promising a penny for each and every stick they picked up. (Anyone who has spent a couple of days with two five year olds would understand the necessity of this bribe!)

After several minutes, she peeked out into the yard to check on their progress. George’s pile of sticks was at least twice the size of Jimmy’s. Suspicious, Jimmy’s mom watched for a few minutes to see what was causing the discrepancy.

Turns out, George has figured out how to make a buck. Before placing his stick in his pile, he broke it in two.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Force


Three quarters of the way through watching "The Fugitive",
LM declared,
"That guy's voice sounds just like Han Solo."

May the voice, er, I mean, the force be with you, Harrison.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Nothing to Bark At

The vet recommended a trainer for Gabe when I was there last week. She hadn’t used him personally, but was interested in hearing what I had to say if I did choose to use him.

I visited the website and found it to be a franchise company with branches in 8 countries and across the nation. Training came with a lifetime guarantee and that was applicable to any location you moved to as well.

I called the local guy and we talked for several minutes about Gabe and about the problem I was having with him (leash aggression). He asked me a lot of questions related and unrelated to the problem to get a general feel for Gabe’s personality and demeanor. Does he bark at the doorbell? (I dismantled the doorbell when the kids downstairs damaged it). Does he jump on people when they come into the home? (No one ever comes into my house except my ex husband and Gabe knows him.) Does he steal your shoes? (No, but we keep them in the closet.) Does he counter-surf, stealing things off the counter? (Um, no, but I nearly beat the tar out of him the one time he tried that as a puppy so I doubt it’s likely to happen again.) Does he tug on the leash when you walk? (No, but we’ve used a choker, then a prong choker, then an elastic choker, and now a Halti collar to curb pulling.) He and I both agreed that it sounded like Gabe is a pretty well socialized, balanced, happy dog without many issues, but that the problems we have out walking are something that should be addressed through training.

So then he elaborates about the lifetime guarantee for training and goes on to say that the first visit is usually 2-3 hours long and then he would come back as many times as necessary for that problem or any other problem that I ever have with Gabe.

My mind starts ticking away. Hmm…so it’s a flat, one-time rate that will last me the lifetime of my dog, how much is this gonna set me back?

Five.Hundred.Dollars.

Yeah, well, dude, let me call ya back…..

So I go back to the website and I read articles from various newspapers about local franchise openings and such and I try to read between the lines about the actual training that they do to figure out if it’s something that I think would warrant Five.Hundred.Dollars.

One of the articles read:

“Tycocki explained what we were going to do. When the dog, at the moment it was Zoe, does something bad, you growl Bahhh! at it. Again, I wanted to laugh, but I was willing to believe anything because my puppy had driven me to desperation. Zoe began to lick my hand, and Scott quickly growled BAHHH! It worked. Her ears were back. She stopped. She was looking right at Scott. ‘This is good,’ Tycocki said, ‘exactly what you want. She’s submissive and completely paying attention.’”

I read several other articles just to be sure I was getting this right. This company is all about communicating to your dog as your dog’s mother would have trained him, to use dog language to train your dog, not treats or punishment.


To be perfectly clear then, this company wants me to pay Five.Hundred.Dollars to teach me how to GROWL at my dog.

GRRRRRRRRRR!!!!


Just saved myself Five.Hundred.Smackaroos.

Sight

I arrived at pottery class with minimal expectations and a complete lack of enthusiasm. Our instructor sat down at the wheel and showed us a new technique for a pot, which actually seemed like something I might be able to do (unlike the mugs she was proposing last week). Charlie was already itching to get on the wheel and didn’t even give her the respect of sitting down and listening to her. He had brought his 10 year old daughter to class and she was more attentive than he was.

When it was time for me to wedge my clay and sit down at the wheel I did so absentmindedly. I was frustrated with my lack of skill at the wheel. I was feeling as though I would not be able to conquer the walls, I would never make a pot with sides or depth or height. I was worried that my ‘successes’ would be at the hands of my teacher, who was able to fix all my errors with a soft, gentle, mindless touch.

I centered the clay and tried to focus my energy. I pushed my thumbs in and began to make space, make room, to delve into the heart of the clay. When I moved my hands to either side, positioned them to mold the clay between, my teacher said, “close your eyes, Amy”. Without even thinking long enough about how dumb it sounded, I did.

I just felt.

I felt the clay, the thickness, the softness; I felt how it swayed between my fingers and held there until it ran smoothly. I let my hands tell me when to move up and let them guide me as I brought the clay up and up and up.

And when I opened my eyes, my pot had walls.


I made five pots last night. Now that I have walls I have a new struggle of trimming the lip without killing the rest of the pot, but by night’s end, I was feeling accomplished and proud of my silly pots. They are far from perfectly symmetrical. They certainly aren’t the same thickness throughout, but one demon was quieted last night. One voice stopped talking and let me create.

Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I begin to really see.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

That Sort of Day

I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. It wasn’t so much just a simple reluctance to come to work again with nothing to do. It felt more like the sort of day where I want to pull on my favorite blue t-shirt and slip my comfortable faded black sweatshirt over the top, (even though, or perhaps even because, they don’t match), to put on a pair of sweats and never leave my house kind of a day.

But, I do that nearly every weekend. So why did I need it today?

I got up and took the dog out and checked my email and thought about calling out from work, but I realized there was nothing at home that was going to delight me any differently today than it would on a typical Saturday, so what was the point?

As I drove to work I realized that what I really wanted was to linger around and do nothing with someone. I really wanted to call up a friend and go for a long lunch, or to lay on the couch and watch back to back movies with someone snuggled next to me, or even to just sit with a little child and play. I wanted a slow, easy, comfortable day, but I wanted it shared.

I have pottery class tonight and I honestly don’t want to go. I don’t want to go hear about how good Charlie used to be and about how he has people begging him to make him something (even though he only just last week at the tail end of class completely a single pot). I don’t want to go and struggle with getting my blasted walls to come up again. I don’t want to endure my instructor telling me how to make god-awful mugs that I wouldn’t be caught dead with. I want to sit and do something that feels familiar, to laugh, to cry to just be, but to be with someone.

I used to go over to my friend Suzan’s house. More than 8 years ago now. We used to play gin rummy by all the wrong rules (we thought we were doing it right!) We would laugh and talk and play cards for hours. We talked about topics that were deeply serious and topics that had no relevance to life at all. And all of it was good for my soul.

That’s the sort of evening I need.

Funny thing is, I don’t have a single person of that sort in my life anymore with which to do such things. My relationships now all seem to be centered around something, not just carefree like they were back when. I have work friends, I have hang-out-at-the-bar friends, I have friends I could go to dinner with on the weekend, but who live too far to just get together for a bit after work. My family is all at least 10 hours away from me. I have great friends that I could hang out with, if only we didn’t live 4 states away from each other.

I didn’t grow up in PA, I didn’t go to high school or college in PA, my family didn’t live in PA, and until about 6 years ago, I had never even held a job in PA. How is it that given such circumstances, people make casual but lasting friendships? Or why is it that I can have such superficial relationships now, but nothing that delves any deeper? Nothing that cuts to the chase and gets to the point so we can just exist without pretenses?

I don’t want to invite someone over that I feel like I need to a) clean, b) cook or even c) shower before they arrive. I want to just have people in my life that can stop by unannounced and we can have a ball together doing nothing. Is that possible as an adult? Do people actually do this? Am I just dreaming about wanting to be on Friends?

Sigh. I guess it’s just that sort of day.

Anyone up for a game of gin?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Book Smart

The process of sorting through my books is a process of sorting through the stages of my life. I found, nestled inside the pages, the questions (typed on a typewriter) for my American Novel 326 final. Inside another text I found my handwritten notes for the very same final. I have found post it notes with questions about the text. “- similar theme mentioned in the opening – sig?” There are books that have spurred passionate discussions, vividly drawn to mind as I flip through the pages. In one book I found a name and an address of someone I don’t know. I have a stack of Agatha Christie paperbacks – some of the first books I fell in love with as a young adult. They were before my college days, before I met Jen who taught me it was sacrilege to break the binding of a book. I learned from her that to love books is to handle them with great care. Most of my books look brand new.

There are a few books I’m not sure how I ended up with – they were my husband’s, although I am certain he doesn’t miss them; he read because I read. It’s easy to see my favorite authors, and how varied my tastes are. I have several books by Chaim Potok, Barbara Kingsolver, Louise Erdrich, and Nicholas Sparks. I have the books to represent my college coursework in American Novel, Contemporary Lit, Shakespeare I, II, III, Classical and Children’s Literature.

What I’m learning most, however, is that the process of listing my books hasn’t been as difficult as I thought. I’ve sold and mailed two books thus far and found a sort of joy in knowing someone was going to enjoy the books that I have loved as well. I know the Art Center where I take pottery classes is having a book sale in the summer and I have several books to donate to that cause, too. As I sort through a stack each night, separating the sell-able from the donate-able, I have come to realize that there is a distinct separation between owning books and loving books and one does not directly imply the other. I can love books for the rest of my life and not own shelves of them. At least I’m going to try!!

I found a couple more books that I love and just can’t part with - there haven’t been many that I’ve staked my claim to, but thus far, in addition to the ones I mentioned earlier, I’ve held onto “East of the Mountain” by Guterson and “The Good Husband” by Godwin. I’ll let you know if there are more as I go.

I know I won’t be banking my first million by selling my books. I also realize most of them probably won’t even sell. The lesson that God is teaching me isn’t about financial gain from personal sacrifice as it is about the emotional gain when I break my unhealthy relationship with these material objects. I still have a lot to learn. Tonight, I am grateful that God is a patient and loving teacher!

Story Problem


If a 203 pound Mastiff runs at the speed of a yard a second towards his owner who is standing 10 feet away and rams his basketball-sized head into the inside of his owner’s knee as she steps forward to (stupidly) try to cut him off at the pass, her knee will:

A. have a bruise the size of a grapefruit;
B. hurt when she walks, sits, stands or lays down;
C. turn the most atrocious shades of purple and blue within an hour;
D. not heal for the next month, during the onset of ‘shorts season’; or
E. All the Above.

Some lessons must apparently be learned the very hard way.