Friday, December 31, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 30

Day 30 — Write a letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself.

See, now....these are the kinds of tasks I am horrible at.  When I was a senior in college, I asked one of my favorite professors for a letter of recommendation for my law school applications.  He told me to set aside an hour and meet him in his office. 

I walked in, figuring that he'd want to talk to me a little bit more before writing the letter.  Nope.

He had another idea.  He sat me down in front of his computer, a blank word document before my eyes.  And he told me to write my own letter. 

I'm not even sure what I actually wrote, but he took one look at it and said that it was terrible.  That I hadn't done myself justice.  That I needed to learn to embrace my abilities more and be proud of myself.  That I needed to learn to brag.  Then he threw out what I wrote.

He of course wrote me a glowing letter of recommendation later that day.  When he called me back to pick it up, he made me sit in his office again.  And he made me read it.  Aloud.

He told me that this was how other people saw me, and that I needed to see it too. 

I felt silly sitting in his office crying, until he told me that he thought I might. 

Humility, he said, was more important than anything else.  The whole letter writing thing was a test, and I had passed.

He was a brilliant man.

I've never been pretentious.  I've never been self-important.  My parents taught me to stay grounded, that people are just people and no one is better than anyone else. 

I didn't write letters to myself then, and I am not going to start now.

I guess this means I am not answering the question, but I'm okay with that.

Raise Your Glass

Today is the day for that backward glance.  To sum up what the year has been.  Wow.  What a year. 

I guess it is fitting that the 30 day challenge ends today for me, though when I began it, I didn't intend for that. 

It makes sense. 

It's been a good exercise for me, even if now isn't really the time when I need more reasons to analyze myself than I already have.

It's been a way for me to at least acknowledge, if not fully confront, some of my 500 pound gorillas. 

I've had more than a few people ask me why I started it.  I'm not really sure, except that I tend to see challenges and think I can take them on.  Once I start, I am too stubborn to stop. 

Even when it's excruciating.

But it's done, and I answered them all to the best of my abilities right now. 

I've also had more than a few people, other bloggers, express interest in taking on a challenge.  If not this one, another.  I encourage them, even if I didn't love every second of it.  I will probably do one of the photography ones next. 

This exercise has helped me not just look back on the last year, but on my life in general. 

A little perspective is a good thing, especially now. 

Sometimes I just need to be reminded of it, whether by a question, or a friend, or a phone call from my brother at 2am. 

I am blessed to have so many amazing people in my life.

I am lucky to be where I am.

For all my readers, you are so important to me right now.  I just want you all to know that.  I've used this platform I have to air my grievances, to share my stories, to laugh, to cry.  This...this right here...and all of you that are here with me...this is a huge help in getting me through. 

Tonight, where ever you are, whether you are surrounded by friends and family, whether you are sitting on a couch in the dark alone (as I will surely be), whether you are the center of the party or the one sitting quietly in the corner, I raise my glass to you. 

May you be loved and give love.

May you fail when you are supposed to, survive when you have to and succeed when you want to.

May you smile at that reflection more days than not.

May you find joy.

May 2011 suck less.

Happy New Year.


Thursday, December 30, 2010


Humans, as a species, are particularly well adapted for certain things. We are resourceful. We find ways to live in the harshest climates. We create.

And we avoid. We survive a lot by avoiding things. Even now, when the avoidance is the very thing putting us in harms way.

Back in the caveman days, we learned to avoid the things that were dangerous. Large predators were probably the first thing we actively avoided. We ran, we hid.

Then came weather, and our desire to avoid it. We built shelters.

Then came disease. We invented medications, water filtration systems, insect repellents.

We have developed complex societies. We've domesticated animals. We've built tools and technology that shape almost every aspect of life as we know it. And in the process, we've created many other ways to ruin it all.

Us humans, we are intelligent. And yet sometimes we are too stubborn to save ourselves.

We don't deal with the 500 pound gorillas in the rooms of our lives enough because it's too hard. We ignore the things that we know are wrong. We make excuses. We procrastinate. We wrongfully believe that we will always be able to right the wrongs tomorrow. Or the next day.

Since it's the end of the year and all, that time when you are supposed to be reflective and take stock of your life...I challenge you all to deal with whatever it is you are avoiding.

What's your 500 pound gorilla?

30 Days of Truth, Day 29

Day 29 - What is something you hope to change about yourself, and why?

I'm perfect just the way I am right? 

To be totally honest, I don't really hope to change much.  I don't have the energy to devote to a whole lot of self improvement right now.  Life is too chaotic otherwise.

I'm a constant work in progress as it is. 

Besides, I made my peace with who I am a long time ago.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 28

Day 28 - What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?

This one is just funny. 

I'd do what I did the last time I found myself pregnant. 

I'd take a deep breath, talk my husband down from the ledge and then I'd go buy another car seat.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What It Is

One thing that I've said too many times this year and listened to too many people around me say is this:

It is what it is.

And it is. 

Life isn't always pretty.

Life isn't always fair.

Life isn't always easy.

Life isn't always fun.

As much as life can test us, as much as it can put us through, as hard as it is, as cruel as it is, it is always something else too. 

It is always beautiful.

Take a minute to look at the people around you today, to just watch them be.  Watch them laugh, watch them smile.  Give them your undivided attention.  Give them your time.  Give them your love. 

Forgive them.

Share stories and share memories.

Cherish every second that you are given. 

Be grateful.

Embrace the moment.

Time is fleeting, time is short, so make the best of what you have.

Life is what it is, and it is beautiful.

30 Days of Truth, Day 27

Day 27 - What’s the best thing going for you right now?

Easy.  My family. 

I am blessed to have in laws that I absolutely adore.  In the process of marrying my husband, I got two extra brothers too.  Two guys who are far kinder and nicer than they'd ever want you to believe. 

I am spending more time than I thought I would be able to with my parents, my brother and sister in law and my nephew.  Yes, it was all thanks to a car accident, but I stopped believing in pure chance a long time ago.  Someone decided I needed to be here a while, and I am long since past the point in my life of fighting what needs to happen. 

Going with the flow, and enjoying the time I am here.

My children are my life, my inspiration.  My past and my future.  For as much as they challenge me, and at times drive me crazy, they are my hope and my pride.

My husband is my friend, my partner, my life. 

I am lucky to have them all.

The Reason

I figured out why we had that car accident last week.

Aside from the ice and the semi and all that, I mean.

We heard today that the soonest the car would be ready is early next week.  Later in the week far more likely.

The kids are going to miss some school.

The trip continues to get more and more complicated.

There's a reason though.

I needed to spend more time here

Flagstaff, you are almost forgiven.  Almost. Just be nice on the way home, would ya?

Monday, December 27, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 26

Day 26 - Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?

No.  I haven't.  There have been plenty of times that life has sucked, yes.  But never enough that I thought I couldn't take anymore.

Though I may not seem to be so, I am an eternal optimist.  I always hope that things will someday get better.  I have heard that saying "God only gives you as much as you can handle" so many times.   I've asked that he give me less more than once.

The thing is that everything I have been through in my life has made me the person I am today.  Every challenge overcome makes you stronger, really and truly. 

And at the end of every tunnel is a light.  It might be dim and faint, it might seem like its a million miles away, but it's there.

Dropping Bombs

I am pretty far from a prude when it comes to movies or music.  One of my all time favorite movies is The Hangover and I've seen just about every episode of Jackass.  I prefer the uncensored versions of the songs I listen to, almost universally. 

I abhor censorship. 

Me and my flaming liberal self. 

But I recently have stared at the radio and asked the question really??? more than once.  Not necessarily about the topics of the songs, or even the lyrics themselves so much.  More by who was singing them. 

I would think that at some point in a pop singer's career, they would settle into their fame.  Get to a point where they don't need shock value to sell records anymore.  Where they have a loyal fan base and don't need to always push the envelope so much. 

The first song that made me think this was by Usher.  I adore Usher.  He's one of the guys who can actually sing and dance at the same time without lip syncing, and I appreciate multitasking.  What I thought was amusing was that in one of his recent songs, he uses the word boobies.  


Dude has been singing for over a decade and made millions of dollars.  He's filled concert arenas and won industry awards.  I kinda think he should be past the point of using lyrics like boobies just because it rhymes.

I thought about writing about this when that song first came out, but I decided that it was more silly than offensive.  I mean, how many grown men use the word boobies at all, let alone sing about it that way?  I thought it was laughable, and to be honest I thought it was a little sad.  Plus, like everything else Usher sings, I like the song otherwise.

Then Enrique Iglesias' new song started heavy rotation on the airwaves.  You may have heard it, though depending on where in the country you are and which station you listen to, you may have heard the silenced version, the dubbed clean version or the real version.

The chorus in this one?  Tonight I'm f***ing you.


Again, dude has been singing for what seems like forever.  He is famous around the world.  He's got more money than most celebrities could ever dream of.   He doesn't need controversy to get his place in the spotlight.  He's not hanging on to the edge of fame.  He's not an aging pop star, at least not yet. 

Then, why?

I just want to ask them both. 

I know that my writing about it, like all the other people who have sat up and taken notice, will just get these songs more publicity than they already have had.  That it just encourages it.   I know that. 

I guess there is no such thing as bad publicity, right?   Even if it means you have a drop a few F bombs to get it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Where My Girls At?

You know how I wrote about my husband seeing some of his best friends the last time we were in California and how great it was?  About how I missed so many of the people who I've been close to over the years and hardly ever get to see now?

People move, life gets complicated, more and more time passing between the moments we can see each other.  It just happens. 

During the scheming phase of this quasi-secret trip, I didn't say much to anyone about it.  I didn't want it to get back to my mom that we were coming.  It was supposed to be a surprise.  I didn't even tell people who live in a state different than my family does these days.

Until one of my very best friends in the whole wide world mentioned that she'd be in California for Christmas.   I can't even remember the last time I saw Blythe, and there is something very wrong with that.  Granted, now a days, I live in the middle of the country and she lives in the middle of the ocean.  But still, I haven't seen her in a long time.  Too long. 

As soon as she said she was going to be here, I spilled it that we were too.  Maybe we could set up a time to meet?  We'd both be busy, sure, since we're only here for a little while.  But find time we did. 

Then I texted Kim.  And I emailed Shannon.  They live in California still, but I don't even get to see them when I make trips out here all that often.  I wondered if they might be able to get together too. 

The four of us met in the dorms in college.  We've been roommates and bridesmaids and godmothers to each others kids. 

None of our kids have met each other (at least I don't think so).  We haven't all been together since Blythe got married almost 7 years ago.  Back then, I had two babies.  Between the four of us, we've added five more kids since then and there is a set of twins on the way now. 

Today is the day.  We're all meeting in the middle, nearest the one of us very pregnant with that set of twins, today.  Today! 

This would be one of the reasons I was insanely, dorkishly excited last week. 

I can't wait.  I need to see these ladies.  I need to talk to them in person and share smiles and laughs.  I need to hug them.  Just a few more hours...

30 Days of Truth, Day 25

Day 25 - The reason you believe you’re still alive today.

Funny the timing of these questions. 

The most immediate reason I am still alive today is a literal one. 

I'm alive because we were only driving at about 20 mph a few mornings ago when we hit that semi.  Had we been going faster, I would not have been so lucky.

The passenger side of the hood was what hit, and I was in the passenger seat.  

If I told you I had a weird feeling and locked the door a few seconds before the accident, would you believe me?   

It's the truth.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Airing of the Grievances

Happy Festivus!  My apologies to those of you that didn't watch Seinfeld as much as I did.

Drum roll please....

It is time for the Airing of the Grievances.

It is so past time.

It is 10:30 Christmas night and I am sitting alone in my parent's family room.  Everyone else left, not that I blame them.  It smells nasty in here.  Aidan barfed.  All.over.the.rug.

Because nothing says Christmas like vomit.

I am pissed off that my car is in the shop in another state. 

I have a headache, and my stomach has been tied up in knots for days now.  The stink in the air isn't helping.  Told you there was a reason everyone left the room.

I think I am done.  I'm trying not to let the events of the last few days spoil the magic of Christmas. 

I'm trying.

I'll be more upbeat tomorrow, after the barf stench fades a little. 

30 Days of Truth, Day 24

Day 24 -  Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs.

Hmm, who to make a playlist for?  I did one for my husband a while back, You can read that one here if you want.  Forgive me, I wasn't so good at creating links back then.  I've warned you all about my technological incompetence before....

I've written about quite a few other songs that remind me of other people.

Today, though I am going to make a list dedicated to someone I haven't even seen in over a decade.  Someone that I reconnected with online, and am probably closer to now than I ever was back when we saw each other all the time. 

Someone who will completely appreciate this.

Merry Christmas, G. 

Hallelujah, K.D. Lang- quite possibly the most amazing live version of any song I've ever heard, from the Olympics.  This one makes me cry every.single.time.

Put Your Records On, Corinne Bailey Rae - let your hair down.

Umbrella, Rhianna - you can stand under mine. 

Move Along, All American Rejects - enough said.

Learning to Fly, Tom Petty - aren't we all?

The Dog Days Are Over, Florence + The Machine - man, I hope so.

Raise Your Glass, Pink - we can always party on our own.

Fragile, Sting - one of the most beautiful songs ever written about humanity.

Return to Innocence, Enigma - we could all hope, right?

Not Afraid, Eminem - when you gotta do what you gotta do.

What Goes Around, Justin Timberlake - because sometimes karma is fun to witness.  :)

In My Daughter's Eyes, Martina McBride - not sure you listen to Country at all, but this is what I imagine your relationship is with your baby girl.

Just Breathe, Anna Nalick - because sometimes that's all you can do.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - it just has to rain first.


Friday, December 24, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 23

Day 23 - What is something you wish you had done in your life?

This one is pretty easy to answer. 

I wish that I would have done a semester abroad when I was in college.  At this point in my life, I don't know when I'll ever get to travel.  I had the chance to explore the world before I was a wife and a mother, and I wish I would have. 

Worth Everything

Today I will sit and talk with my father.

Today I will cook with my mother.

Today I will tease my brother.

Today I will laugh with my sister in law.

Today I will see my children play with my nephew.

Today I will put gifts under a tree with my husband.

For tomorrow, it is Christmas.

The Christmas worth driving through snow and rain for. 

The Christmas worth scheming and planning for.

The Christmas worth everything.

I am thankful.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 22

Day 22 - What is something you wish you hadn’t done in your life?

Oh, the irony the this is the question I have to answer today. 

There aren't many things I truly regret having done in my life, and my answer is something that I really only partially regret doing. 

I did it for the right reasons, I did it because I needed to, I did it for my kids. 

But, it had consequences.   And I've kicked myself a bit for doing it every single day since we did, some days far more than others. 

I wish I hadn't moved away.


I've made my list and checked it twice. 

I've wrapped and sorted and packed.

I've been checking the weather maps obsessively for weeks.

I've had my kids write letters to Santa informing him of their plans.

I'm doing something I haven't done in too many years.

I'm going home for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 21

Day 21 - (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?

This is one of the questions that puzzles me a little.  I'm not exactly sure what it's asking.  I'm going to have to make some assumption about the question.  First, that the friend is in an accident I am not involved in.  Second, that they are hurt, but alive.  Third, somehow I find out about it right away.

Based on my assumptions, the friend would presumably be in a hospital somewhere. 

And, so would I. 

I'd do whatever I had to do to get there, to be with them.  Regardless of whatever it was we were fighting about.

Why Santa Claus is a Woman

I decided this last night.

It's a lie, all of it. 

I think Santa Claus is really a woman. 

Would a guy have designed this hat?

I mean, really....once you look at it the way I did last night there can't be any other possible option.

Santa Claus knows what is sitting beneath the tree for all the kids on the good list.  Actually knows. Like, before Christmas morning.

Santa Claus has never forgotten Christmas.

Santa Claus will let kids sit on her lap

Santa Claus can get everything done while everyone else is sleeping.

Santa Claus has a predetermined route, all planned out and everything.

Santa Claus is the one driving the sleigh.

Santa Claus gets children the things they actually want, as opposed to what is on sale, what is easy to find or what they need.

Santa Claus knows the sizes the kids wear.

Santa Claus will stay up all night making sure the gifts are wrapped.

Santa Claus knows that you have to wear a black belt if you're rocking the black boots.

Santa Claus won't hesitate to sneak a bite off the plate a kid left.

Santa Claus has a pair of fat pants...this might be related to that last one.

I'm sure that there are more reasons that Santa Claus is a woman....I just can't think of any more right now.

Much like Santa Claus, I've got a million things to get done in the next few days.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 20

Day 20 - What are your views on drugs and alcohol?

This is an awfully vague and generalized question, or at least I think so.  I mean, I guess my answer depends on what your definition of a "drug" is and which ones specifically you are referring to.

Plenty of people consider caffeine to be a drug, though I wouldn't ever go that far.  It is a stimulant, but you have to consume fairly massive quantities of it for it to do anything make you spontaneously jump out of your seat in class one day with the jitters and want to run laps on the track in the pouring rain.  Not that it ever happened to me or anything.  ;)

I am actually not all that qualified to have an opinion on most drugs being as I've never used any of them.  Sure, I've been in plenty of marijuana smoke filled rooms before, but I've never smoked it directly.  I've never used anything else.  I know, right?  I'm a goody goody that way. 

I've known plenty of people that smoke pot though, and can say with complete honesty that the only negative side effects I saw were the munchies, laughing a LOT and increased apathy about going to class.  That, and it took this one guy I know about 3 hours to get to my house one night when he lived less than 10 minutes away.  I'm not sure where he went, but I am pretty sure he was high that night.  No names of know who you are. 

Having kids now, I want to tell them that drugs are bad.  I do.  Really.  But I know far too many people who benefit from marijuana's medicinal use, whether technically prescribed or not.    I see pot as a relatively harmless, sometimes beneficial drug.  Having said that, I will still try to keep my kids away from it. 

Other drugs though, they scare me more as a parent.  Especially meth.  I've seen what that can do too, and it's not pretty.  Talk about majorly messing up your life!  The thing that scares me the most about meth is that it is so easy to get and so addictive, sometimes the user is hooked with the first use.   Any of the hard drugs scare me that way, and I will do anything and everything in my power to steer my babies away from them. 

Prescription drugs aren't any better these days, some very susceptible to abuse.  I've tried to teach my kids that you only take medication if you really, really, really need it.  That there is a time and a place for it, and that you never use it if you don't truly need it. 

As for alcohol...I have to admit that I drink.  Not every day, and usually not more than one drink at a time.  I know that I have a predisposition to developing alcoholism, which I unfortunately have probably already passed to my children.   Yay genetics!  That scares me far more than drugs ever have or will.  

I know that I have thin ice to walk on with alcohol and try very hard not to go out too far.  I don't ever want to feel like I am not in control, and the thought of my kids ever being there terrifies me.

Monday, December 20, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 19

Day 19 - What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?

Where to begin, where to begin?  I've not been looking forward to this question. 

They say that you should never discuss religion and politics, and I've found that to be true.  The vast majority of people have their minds made up about both topics, and the vast majority of those aren't really in the mood ever to change those opinions.  It doesn't do anyone much good to talk about them, I'd suppose.

This question asks me to discuss my opinions about one or the other, which is a virtual impossibility.  Religion and politics are intertwined in this country, even though there is a supposed separation of church and state.  That's one of those things we like to say a lot in this country, but everyone knows it is a bold faced lie. 

It is impossible to talk about one, really talk about it, without at least giving a passing mention to the other. 

So I guess I will bite the bullet and share my views on both.

Here's what this science loving liberal girl thinks. 

As for religion, I have opinions.  Oh, do I have opinions.  I truly do not mean to offend anyone by them, I wholly respect each and every person's right to practice whichever religion they see fit, or not practice anything, as the case may be.  I'm not asking anyone to agree with me, I'm just answering the question.

First and foremost, I think it is entirely possible to be a spiritual person and not be a religious one.  The two are not necessarily related.  A belief in a higher power doesn't mean that one needs to be encumbered by the confines of any one religion.  Whether that higher power is God, Allah, Buddha, Mother Nature, whatever, is really of no consequence.  You don't need religion to be spiritual. 

Second, I take issue with the claim that almost every major religion has to superiority.  That it's my way or the highway.  Like we have a direct path to God, but those other guys don't.  It's a fallacy.  No man-made religion is any more divine than another.  It's just a ploy to get people to join the team.  To quote Bill Maher from the film Religulous, "It's like the lotto. You can't get saved if you don't play."

Third, organized religion developed thousands of years ago not as a belief system necessarily, but as a way to control the growing population.  The leaders decided back then that in order to live in a civilized manner, people needed rules.  And they needed to feel some kind of eternal consequences to get them to behave accordingly.  Thus, religion was born.  It is a means to control people, to dictate their behaviors, to constrain their acts.  Plus, it's a great way to make money.

Fourth, I do not subscribe to the idea that morality can be taught only through religious means.  It is possible to be a good person, a truly good person, and be agnostic or an atheist.  Charity, integrity, friendship, kindness are all qualities of good people, and they can be learned outside a religious setting.  Granted, for practical reasons, it is often easier to teach children these things in a structured environment that religion provides. 

Fifth, just because someone claims to be religious does not make them so.  Standing in a building on a regular basis doesn't automatically make you a better person.  It just makes you habitual.  Plenty of bad, bad people have convinced themselves and others they were trustworthy by standing in one of those buildings. 

Sixth, and this one will stir up controversy, I don't believe everything in the bible.  Gasp!  I don't.  If the stories had been written down in an objective format when they took place, they would be a lot more credible in my opinion.  But, as any one who's ever played the game of telephone knows, the stories can change.  Anyone who's been witness to how stories told by their own family members can evolve over the years has seen it too.  The story that emerges after one generation is different than the real story.  Now, multiply that by hundreds or thousands of years, then write it down.  Surely, it can't be relied upon word for word.  In addition to that reliability of information issue, the bible is also subject to translation, and word selection can make a huge impact. 

As for my personal beliefs, I would consider myself a rarely practicing cynical Catholic.  I have issues with the church.  Many issues.  Many, many issues.  Frankly, I'm not sure why I still consider myself Catholic to be honest.  Yet, I am a self professed hypocrite.  Though I haven't stepped foot in a church since my nephew's baptism, I send my children to religious education.  I want them to learn about god, and I want them to be taught by someone more strong in their convictions than I am.  I can't simultaneously teach my children about god, and teach them to question the system.  I need a third party.  A partner in crime, so to speak.

I don't buy the whole celibacy argument.  I distrust a system that requires that from people.  It doesn't work anyway.  I take issue with the institutional flaws that led to the sexual abuse of thousands, if not millions of children.  I don't agree with how the church requires confession to include a priest, I believe that my sins are between God and I.   I disagree with how the church has shunned homosexuals.  I take issue with the stance on birth control.  I could go on and on about the things I don't agree with the church about.  Ultimately, though, most of the issues I have involve the human constructs.  The rules people put in place. 

I could also write forever about my opinions about other religions.  I won't.  All I will say is that I object strongly to the current trend in this country, in large part brought about by the mega church movement.  The creation of paranoia about anyone that is different, the instigation of political action, the gross funding of propositions on ballots, all in the so-called name of God is shameful.  Hatred is not something I think God would sanction in his name.   I'm pretty sure on that one.

I am a science person.  I like proof.  I don't do blind faith well.  Things like evolution, carbon dating and evidence of the simultaneous development of several civilizations around the world make me doubt.  Is there a God?  I believe so.  I hope so.   

I believe in heaven, but that conflicts with my other belief that some people have been here before.  I'm not saying I think all living things are reincarnated or anything, but it sure seems like this isn't the first trip for some people.  I think there probably is a hell, but I also think it's a place reserved for only the very worst.  I am not so sure about purgatory, and I certainly don't subscribe to any belief that unbaptized children who die go there automatically (as say the Catholic teachings).  I refuse to believe than any higher power would be so cruel. 

So there.  Whew.

Now, on to politics.

For as long as there has been a United States of America, there have been politics highly motivated by religion.  This country was founded on the idea of religious freedom, yet today, even in the year 2010, people of different religions are not accepted.  Looked upon suspiciously, is more like it. 

One only needs to utter the word mosque in a crowded room to know what I am talking about.  Yes, this country was attacked by religious extremists in 2001.  But what about Timothy McVeigh?  He was a home grown white man, raised in the church.  It's easier to vilify something you aren't a part of, I suppose. 

Religion has been used as the justification for discrimination against all kinds of people in the past, and I am sure it will continue to be the sword and shield used in the years to come. 

Politics and religion cannot be separated, it's just not possible.

As for my personal political beliefs, I am pretty left leaning.  At this point, that's probably pretty obvious.  I am a liberal, and as some would say, of the bleeding heart variety.  You name the topic, chances are that I'm on the left.  I don't really need to say too much there, I guess. 

Though I know I am too old these days to still be one, I am an idealist, at least in terms of my political views. 

I do believe in fairness and equality. I believe in opportunity. 

I do believe that our forefathers wrote our Constitution to be a living, breathing document.

I do have the audacity of hope.

I do think we can be better than we are. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 18

Day 18 - What are your views on gay marriage?

I've written about this exact subject already, so anyone who's been around for a while already knows the answer to this one.  You can read it here if you are interested.

In case you missed that one (which to date has the most feedback of all my posts, since it riled up a few readers quite a bit), I will lay it out for you, basically summarizing what I've said before.

I am 100% completely in favor of gay marriage.  Totally.  Give it to them.  All of it.

I believe in equality.  I believe in fairness.  And not just the fence sitting moderate liberal variety.

I know that human sexuality isn't something within any one's control.  (this point seemed to incite the most ugly commentary before, sadly)

I have witnessed with my own eyes what happens when reality is squashed back and people live a lie.  Too many times.

I am well aware of the fact that straight people have yet to master marriage.  We can't very well lay claim to it, hold it up on some alleged pedestal when the divorce rate is 50%.   

I can't wrap my head around why it is perfectly acceptable for one person to marry 8 times just because they are straight, yet a homosexual couple who has been together for decades cannot marry once.

I think the current paranoia about gay marriage is largely a construct of the bully pulpit.  (For more of my views on religion, stay tuned.....the next one of the 30 days of truth asks me to write about that.)

I could go on for days about this subject, but I will spare you. 

I think it's pretty obvious where I stand.

The Necessity of Laughter

After yesterday's post, I am sure that there are people out there who think I am nuts.  Maybe I am.  At this point, I probably am not in the best position to be judging that anyway.  

Truth is, there isn't much in my life that is funny right now.  Being a grown up sucks.  Feeling like the weight of the world is always on my shoulders, like no matter how hard I try, I can't make things right. 

I want to go back in time.

I envy my kids a little for that.  They are still there, in that place I long to return to.  They still think that Santa can magically bring them anything they want.  They still believe that their parents are invincible.  They've never had reason to think otherwise.  They are innocent and happy.  Life is still fun.

If only it were possible to recapture that. 

So, yes, life gets complicated.  That old adage about life not being fair....well, it's spot on.  These days, I find myself desperately clinging to the humor in life to survive.

I know that some people probably don't understand me.  To them, all I can say is that I have to do what I have to do sometimes just to get through the day.  I'd rather it be laughter than any of the other crutches I could turn to. 

I've been asked too many times this week how I am managing.  Partially, I really do think I am just on autopilot.  I do what I have to do because I need to do it. Period. I have too many little people relying on me for things, and as much as life is disappointing me right now, I want to protect them from all that.  I do what I need to for them.   The rest of my day to day survival can be attributed in large part to laughing. 

I laugh because if I don't, I will cry. 

If we lose the ability to laugh, no matter what else is going on, we begin to take ourselves far too seriously.  We start to resent the reality when what we really need to do is embrace the opportunity.

Sometimes that means you have to find ridiculous humor in things that shouldn't be funny.  Sometimes that means you have to be willing to laugh at yourself.  Sometimes it means you smile when your heart is breaking. 

As I've said to at least one friend before, you only get one trip around the might as well enjoy it.    Don't spend all your time regretting not getting on a different horse.  Don't think about what you left behind, the things that couldn't make the trip with you.  Don't live in woeful anticipation of the ride coming to an end.  Enjoy it while it lasts.  Let yourself ride.

My Dad, sticking his tongue out at me.
Throw your hands in the air, let the wind whip your hair around, and just ride. 

Just ride.

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
~e.e. cummings

Saturday, December 18, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 17

Day 17  - What is a book you’ve read that changed your views on something?

I am sure that the point of this question is for me to answer it with something that managed to persuade me to think differently about something as a result.  Trouble is, I'm not an easily persuaded person.  There are pivotal books in my life, this is true, but I'm having difficulty thinking of one that changed my views on anything.

There is one book though, the only book that sticks out clearly as a game changer in my life.  It was the one I was reading the night I realized I needed help.

The night I confronted my postpartum depression head on. 

The night I admitted it to my husband and to myself.

It wasn't because of anything really in the book, though it wasn't a pleasant story to read anyway.  If you've not read it, it isn't for the faint of heart.  The words of the story were not the problem, I was.   I was internalizing everything, my brain turning it into disturbing visions in my head. 

I read a passage from the book and cracked. 

That book, it broke me. 

I couldn't kid myself anymore.  I couldn't hide what I knew was wrong.  I had to tell him.  I had to say the words out loud. 

The book?  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. 

Blowing Sunshine and Other Funnies for Your Saturday

Bah Humbug. 

I've been told that I need to write things more upbeat.  Put on the happy face.  All that jazz.

Merry Christmas or whatever.

I'm not normally one to blow sunshine up anyone's ass, but I'm too tired to argue about it at the moment.  So I will tell you all the funny things that happened this week.

Apologies for my abrasiveness.  Well, not really.  I'm not terribly apologetic about it, I'm just saying that because I am supposed to.  I have a short fuse lately, and my censor button seems to need repairing.  So if inappropriate humor makes you fidget in your seat, it's best to stop reading now.  Or up there in that last paragraph, where I was talking about blowing sunshine up your ass. 

Anyhow.  Back to the funnies. 

* I bought leggings this week.  With zippers on the sides.  I am a 33 year old woman.  What the hell was I thinking?  Granted, they were $3.74 on the clearance rack at Target.  But still.  Needless to say, I haven't worn them.  You should stop wearing leggings by middle school.  Yes, even if you are a size 2.  I recently came across a woman older than me wearing leggings and a regular shirt (not a tunic or dress thing, just a shirt).  Even though she definitely had the body to pull it off, it's not something that should be attempted past the age of 10.  Just saying.

* A wonderful stomach virus made it's way through the house earlier this week.  I realized how bad it must be when one of my children (who will remain nameless for their own well being) told me that their pooper was angry.  Seriously, I cannot make this stuff up.   You don't want an angry pooper. 

* I got my drawers moistened.  While I was in the shower.  I was taking the mom equivalent of a shower, many of you will know what I'm talking about.  You know, how you can shampoo and condition your hair, exfoliate your face, wash your body and remove all undesirable hair with the shower door half open in exactly 3 minutes?  That shower.  Anyhow, I should have known the boy was up to no good when he shut the bathroom door.  When I got out, I opened the door.  No one was screaming, the house wasn't on fire and I could hear all 4 of them, so I figured there wasn't a problem.  Then I walked around to my side of the bed and realized that he had squeezed out the entire tube of hand cream.  On the nightstand, on the carpet and all over the inside of the drawer that once contained said tube of hand cream.  That drawer was getting a bit chappy.

* I went to 4 stores that sold bread in one day, knowing full well that we were completely out of it at home and still came home breadless.  That takes a special kind of skill.

* AJ got playdough from his auntie for Christmas.  They have been playing with it and cleaning it up, so I haven't taken much notice of the colors in the set.  I can tell you there is pink though for sure.  I've pulled out two globs of pink playdough from his nose.  Tom pulled one out too.  Ok, so maybe there isn't much pink playdough actually left at this point...

* My dear husband inappropriately texted the wrong guy at his office party.  He meant to text dude with the same name #1, but accidentally sent it to dude with the same name #2.  Which would have been fine if it wasn't intended to remind him to put his cell phone away during dinner through the use of the not-so-subtle message "Keep it in your pants".  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, he is mine.  All mine.  Fortunately dude #2 laughed.  Because if he hadn't....well, this might not be so funny.

* At that same party, we took some really awful white elephant gifts for the exchange.  Like so bad that I can't believe Tom actually went to a cash register and paid for them while his daughter was with him!  The peel and stick invisible boob lifts...really?  Really???  Believe it or not, we brought home something worse.  This.   Underwear actually designed to make your ass look bigger.  No, I'm not kidding.  Thankfully we got a case of wine to go with our new Booty Pop panties.  If I'm going to make my ass bigger, I'd prefer to do it the old fashioned way, thank you very much.

Have a wonderful Saturday.  Or don't.  Whatever.

After I torture my two year old by taking him to visit the dude in the red suit today, I'll be settling in for some adult beverages.  That is, of course, assuming I am not struck by that lovely stomach virus in the next 12 hours.  You really shouldn't drink with an angry pooper.

Friday, December 17, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 16

Day 16 - Who is someone or what is something you definitely could live without?

Sit back and get cozy.  This could be a long list. 

I wouldn't even know where to start.

Oh wait, the question isn't asking for everything, just something

Well, then. 

Just the one? 

Right now, something comes to mind pretty easily.  It's something that could be banished from the world forever and ever and I would be just fine with that.  It's something that I hate for existing in the first place.  Something that has reared it's ugly head in my life more than once, altering the course of events drastically and changing everything. 

It's something that I pretty routinely proclaim can "suck it" on my Facebook status. 

Cancer.  You can go away.

Go ahead.  Go.

Don't let the door hit you.

Insufficient Glitter

We haven't had hardly any snow here this year yet.  Normally, I'd be itching for snow by now, wishing for a huge storm to blow in. 

The kids are officially antsy.  Ashley woke up one day this week angry.  She looked outside expecting to see the world covered with a wintry blanket and saw the same old stick trees and brown grass that had been there the day before.

They want to go sledding and throw snowballs.  They want to make snow angels and snowmen.  They want to build the driveway ramp and catch snowflakes on their tongues. 

The weather isn't cooperating though.

As much as it would normally bother me, I could care less this year.  It would take a miracle to get me into the Christmas spirit, and though snow would be a good start, it wouldn't be enough.  Not even close.

I haven't baked hardly at all.  I haven't wrapped a thing.  There is a box of lights that has been sitting on my back porch for weeks now.  I just don't care about whether they get put up enough to do it.  I avoid Christmas music, changing the station as soon as a song comes on. 

Today is the huge frenzied school party run back and forth between the classrooms day.  I was up late making treats for class because the kids asked, but will be the first to tell you there is no joy in it for me this time around.  I am actually dreading the class parties.  T minus 2 hours and 30 minutes.  Normally I wear red or green.  Not this year.  I am wearing brown. 

Sitting here on the couch, forcing my youngest to take a nap early, I am looking out the window.  Tiny little snowflakes are falling from the sky, not even close to enough to stick, but fall they must.  It's sunny and snowing.  Welcome to Colorado.  The sunlight catching on the snowflakes creates the illusion of glitter coming from above. 

I can't lie, it is beautiful. 

But it's not enough.

10 Minutes

I spent pretty much all day today going.  And going.  It's almost 10pm and I just sat down.

It's that last week of school before break, the kids will be home 24/7 soon, I still have a million things to do before Christmas kind of panic. 

I found the unfindable in the unlikeliest of places, the thing that is going to make me an awesome mom come next week.

I scored a pair of jeans for myself for less than $10. 

I got my baby boy the thing that I know will drive me crazy but that I know he will adore.

I wrote out almost 100 envelopes for Christmas cards.

I think I managed to get all the gifts taken care of for the teachers and other special people at school.  I hope so anyway....I am out of time if I missed someone.

I made, cut, frosted and decorated 117 tree shaped peanut free brownies for the parties tomorrow.  I keep waiting for the day that my kids ask for something easy and simple. 

I did all those things because I had to, because I needed to. 

And for 10 minutes in the middle of the craziness of my day, I sat in my car and cried until there weren't any tears left.

Guess I needed to do that too.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 15

Day 15 - What is something or who is someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it?

Halfway done.  Whew. 

Thank goodness this one is easy.  And anyone who knows me well enough already knows this answer. 



I drink a lot of it.  Like at least half a pot a day.  I know, right?

The kids know that mommy needs her coffee.  I've trained them well. 

I had to laugh at the Christmas party last night.  Someone commented on how huge the coffee mugs were, and I was simultaneously thinking how small they were.  I like my coffee big.  What I drink it out of at home isn't a petite little coffee cup.  It's a huge beast of a cup, more like a bowl than anything else. 

I've tried to quit many times.  I've even attempted to phase it out in the bizarre Catholic self punishment that is Lent more than once.

I switched to decaf when I was pregnant, desperately trying to retain some cosmic psychological benefits.   Thankfully none of my kids were ever sensitive to coffee when I was nursing.  I'm not sure how I would have survived the sleep deprivation without the good stuff. 

I often wonder about the person who stared at a bean one day long ago and thought...hey, I could do something fantastic with this.  I love that person.  Seriously. 

Speaking of coffee....I need a refill.

Fancy Me

So I bought this black sweater dress a few years ago with all the best intentions in the world.  I was going to wear it and it was going to be awesome.

Don't you hate it how the magic of the fitting room mirror seems to fade the minute you bring something home?

That dress is still sitting in my closet, still has the tags on it. 

I even bought leggings to wear with it today.  I was going to wear it to Tom's company Christmas party tonight.  I has visions of how cute it would all be.  And then I put it on.

Turns out that sweater dresses aren't my thing.  Shocker, I know.

The look on my husband's face told me that it just wasn't going to work.  It's okay though, I already knew what his face was saying.

I'm not that cool.  I'm not that trendy. 

We both used the excuse that it wasn't dressy enough.  Whatever works, right?

I wore old reliable, also known as my go-to little black dress. 

It's cute and all, very flattering and pretty.  I just always end up wearing it.  Every time I think I am going to branch out, push the envelope of my personal style, try something new...I end up in the dress. 

At least it sparkles.  And it does the ladies justice.  You women know what I'm talking about.

So I put on old reliable.  I engaged in the annual curling of the eyelashes.  Pulled out the beautiful antique jewelry passed down from my grandmother.  Put on the heels. 

Supposed to be proof that I curled my eyelashes, but it's too dark in here because everyone is asleep.
 I'm not so much in the mood for parties right now.  Or fancy.  Or associating with other humans in general really.  But you gotta do what you gotta do.   And tonight, I needed to be fancy. 

As we walked into the party, I instantly holed up in the corner with the people I can actually talk to at these events without wanting to gouge out my eyeballs.  Then I complimented one of them, a perky, trendy young woman on the adorable sweater dress she was rocking. 

She can wear it.  I can't. 

And I'm okay with that. 

My sweater dress didn't do the ladies justice anyway.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 14

Day 14 - Who is a hero that has let you down?

Sigh.  Yet another one I don't really want to answer.  Next time I take on one of these challenges, I am going to make sure to read through all the days first.  There's a photography one floating through cyberspace...maybe that one wouldn't be so bad.

If it wasn't for my resolute stubbornness, I would quit this challenge.  Throw in the towel and be done with it. of my more annoying personality traits. 

You see, the trouble with answering this question is that I have lived almost my entire life without heroes.  Almost.

Back when I was a little girl, I had heroes.

I was a different person back then, very different from who I am now.  I was happy and innocent as a young child.  The cynical jaded person you all know and love today didn't exist yet then.  Back then, I'd never known loss or disappointment, heartbreak or sadness.  

Then one day I did.  

My Pap, one of my heroes, died. 

I was five.

I know that he didn't let me down on purpose.  I know that he'd have given anything not to have that heart attack.  He was young and strong, I know he wasn't ready to go.  He had a whole lifetime still ahead of him.

Something in me changed that day.  From that point on in my life, I stopped elevating people to hero status.  People were just people, flawed and broken.    No one was invincible.  No one was perfect.  No one was forever.  I knew then that someday, eventually, they would leave, they would walk away, they would be gone.   And it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference if I was done needing them or not.

It's a hell of a lesson to learn at five.

I wonder sometimes just how different I'd be if he hadn't died when he did.  If it would have mattered if he'd seen me sing in concerts, play softball, graduate, walk down the aisle, have children of my own.   I can't help but think I would be different. 

I miss you Pap.

The Myth of Choice

I'm just in the mood to touch third rails these days.

What I am about to write about is something that I feel very passionately about and fully expect people to disagree with me about.  It's an issue that I am torn on myself in many ways, at a loss of what I will do when the time comes that I have to cross that bridge.

It's about school choice.  Or the myth of it.

I call it a myth because it isn't really something that many people have a real choice about.   Sure, there is a vocal group of parents who preach about the virtues of it, who hang on to the notion that their children deserve the best, that they know what is the best for their children. 

I'd like to make an argument that school choice is actually not a good thing for most kids.  And it hurts the quality of the education received by just about all of them.

Before you all go grab your torches, hear me out. 

Back before we moved here, I was in a credential program.  I student taught in a public school in a low income neighborhood.  The school had a fabulous reputation, all the employees at the university nearby would attempt to open enroll their kids there.  So you had this socio-economic dichotomy of kids.  One end of the spectrum next to the other.  We had kids with parents in jail sitting next to the children of associate deans. 

I taught there.  It wasn't a good school.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  The teachers were disinterested.  Uninvolved in what they were doing.  They pandered to the parents of the kids that mattered, the vocal ones who would raise hell if they didn't get their way.  The other kids fell by the wayside.  Sure, a handful of the kids got a great education.  Most of them didn't.  You can probably guess which parents were the ones raving about the school, getting it the reputation it had.  Little did they know.

When we moved here, part of the draw was the school system.  Not wonderful, but far better than the one in the area we lived in at the time.  At least on paper.  The schools we left didn't allow open enrollment.  The schools we moved to did. 

At the time, we were naive enough to believe that was a good thing.  I see how it isn't now.

Sure, you can handpick a school that excels in the area your child is interested in, which presumes that any 10 or 14 year old really knows what they want to be when they grow up.  It also assumes that you can just get into the school you think is best.  That there aren't ridiculous waiting lists or test-in requirements.  That the open enrollment period doesn't mean that parents who have the desire and ability to sleep overnight in the dead of winter outside a door should be the first to get their kid on the list.  It also assumes that the parents can get their student to and from the school that is best for them, assuming they get in.  Working parents, you might be out of luck here. 

My biggest issue with open enrollment is something else entirely though.  Something that most people never even think about when they are thinking about the best interests of their child.  It is this: the very idea of open enrollment removes a certain degree of investment in the school by the parents and children who are supposed to go there.  There isn't as much motivation to make it better, to work on flaws, to revamp curriculum, to raise money....well, because if we don't like it we can always just go somewhere else.  Pack up my stuff and leave.  It doesn't force anyone to care as much as they should. 

Alright, got your torches fired up yet?  I thought so.

Now, don't misunderstand me.  I am not saying that parents should stop being focused primarily on what is best for their child individually, but there is a slippery slope that starts when the pursuit of what is best for "me" begins.  At what point do the schools fail to offer the same quality of education because one is labeled "good", the other "bad"?  At what point do parents hide behind other justifications for their choice, and the schools become racially segregated?  What about the kids at those schools?  The ones there because their parent couldn't sleep overnight in a parking lot, or drive them across town every day, or pay for tutoring to get them to test into a special elite program.  What about them?  Are they less deserving of a quality public education?  Of course not.

This is the problem with school choice.  It is a myth, available only to those with the means and knowledge to truly pursue it.

Now, I won't go into which schools are which in this district.  I'm not about to make accusations about anyone.  I don't point fingers.  I don't judge what one parent does for their child, especially if it is done in the name of their best interest.  What I take fault with is the system that allows this in the first place.  The system that, in fact, encourages it.

School choice came about as a way to improve schools.  In a lot of ways, it's only stratified them more.  But, like so many things in this society we live in, once that power is placed in the hands of the masses, it's virtually impossible to take it away.  Can you imagine the uproar if open enrollment was discontinued here?  Good god

I have another year before I have to cross that bridge.  Before I have to decide whether my oldest will go to the school in the boundaries or whether I attempt to open enroll him somewhere else.   More likely than not, he will go where his friends go, assuming I can get him in there.  Wherever there is.  Middle school without pre-existing friendships is not a torture I will subject him to.  I lived it.  It was hell. 

I find it laughable that the school choice expo here is held after the start of open enrollment.  It's almost like the district is just throwing a bone to the parents who don't really have a choice, trying to convince them they do.  By the time the expo was held this year, the coveted spots in the so-called desirable schools were gone. 

So you see, there really isn't so much choice in the choice as advertised. 

Unless you know how to game the system. 

And that, my friends, isn't what public school is supposed to be about at all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 13

Day 13 - What is the band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days?

As much as I love music, there isn't really one band or artist that I turn to.  There is one song though. 

This one. 

Wheels, Foo Fighters

I find myself playing this one a lot. 

Ironically, the very first time I heard this song I was on a plane. 

Flying back home from California at the end of February alone. 

Flying away from where I felt like I should be. 

Flying back to where I knew I needed to be. 

Flying away from some of the the hardest days of my life.

Flying into the unknown future.

Flying away from one part of my life to the other.

Getting on that plane took all the strength I had.  It took the acceptance of the fact that there were things out of my control.  It took the realization that I still had little lives depending on me, no matter what else happened.  It took faith and it took hope. 

At some point mid flight I managed to stop crying, and when I did, this song came on the in-flight radio.  At just about exactly the time in my life that I needed it. 

Funny how that works.

Monday, December 13, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 12

Day 12 - What is something you never get compliments on?

Just when one of these questions is easy, wham, a hard one.

There are three different ways to approach this question. 

1.  Answer it the way it is intended to be answered.  There are two things hard about this question.  First, you have to conjure up all the things about you that are awesome.  Second, you have to figure out which one is something that other people, at least theoretically, would compliment you on if they knew.  Or noticed.  Or bothered saying anything about.

2. You just decide that you aren't worthy of compliments, whether in a self deprecating humor sort of way or in a real and sadly depressing way.

3. You find something you are just bad at, and say....well, people will never compliment me on this because I suck at it. 

It actually seems like most of the people writing this challenge are doing that last thing.  Which, I suppose, is one way to answer the question.  Me, though, I like a challenge.  So I am going to go with the first option.

The trouble with answering this question that way is that my tendency would be to take the second or third option.  Me and my self deprecating self, we could answer it that way.  But I won't.
I guess my answer will be my intelligence. 
At first glance, I'm just a stay at home mom with a boatload of kids.  Whatever it means to be "just a mom" anyway...  No one here ever has ever known me as anything else.  I don't dress up, I don't have a fancy car, I don't have a lucrative career.  There's no reason for anyone to suspect otherwise.

Besides, I have spent a good part of my life suppressing my intelligence.  Ever since I was little, I knew that it was better to just keep it under wraps.   It's hard to see where the line is between smart and dork, genius and evil genius, intelligent and head case.  So I try to stay away from that line.  Contain the brain.

Once people get to know me well, though, they realize that I'm not just a uterus. 
Every so often, like once happened on a cruise ship in Alaska, even people who know me better than anyone in the universe should, realize just how intelligent I actually am.   One evening on that boat, I found myself in a conversation with highly educated people from another country and the conversation meandered down the path of health care policy.  I just couldn't help myself.  Big fancy words were trickling out of my mouth, intricate arguments were invented, pointed questions were asked until eventually I looked around the table to see my own family members with their mouths hanging open.  They know I'm smart and all, but damn. 
My actual intelligence, I hide it well.  So well that my own family often doesn't even know. 
It's pretty hard to compliment someone on something so actively and intentionally suppressed.

The Tale of the Headless King

Over the years I have acquired at least five nativity sets, not including all the figurines and nightlights that are single pieces.  I'm talking five separate sets of people.

By now you all know about our vast Christmas collection.  

The first nativity I got was when my cousin was selling for a home based group.  I bought a set from her with glass figurines and a mirrored base.  It was small and simple, and it served the purpose I needed it to when I was in college. 

The second one was a gift I got from my aunt at my bridal shower.  The third was the set that my grandmother used to display in her house, and it was passed to me the year she died.  It is one of my most cherished Christmas items, and the kids know it is important to me.  They know they can't touch that one.

When Aidan was a baby, my mother in law made a set from tiny terra cotta pots.  It's adorable, and no matter what I tried, the kids always wanted to play with it.  As with all the other sets, I'd shoo them away and direct them towards the special toys and books that came out at Christmas time.   I had other figurines for the kids to keep in their rooms, but they always wanted to play with the people in the sets. 

About three years ago, back when I was actively ebaying, I came across a ceramic nativity set at a garage sale.  All the characters were children, the colors muted and soft.  The pieces weren't in perfect condition, but the set was complete.  I bought it initially planning to sell it.  I should have known better.

As soon as I brought it home, Ashley found it.  She carefully took the little statutes from the foam box and set them up on the table and began to play with them.  Ally noticed and started to play too.  Aidan came over and told the girls that the baby wasn't just a baby.  He was Jesus.  They looked at him, not really understanding what that meant, but figuring he knew what he was talking about.

I didn't sell it. 

I figured that it was better for the kids to have a set that they actually could touch and feel and play with.  That they could set up and read books to and tell stories about.  Through these tiny statues, they have learned the story of Jesus' birth, the tale of the Three Kings.  They have learned what Christmas is really about.

Every year, we need to do some repairs to the pieces.  A natural by product of little kids playing with ceramic statues is that sometimes there are accidents.  Sometimes something breaks. 

Sometimes someone loses a head. 

As we were unpacking the decorations a few weeks ago, I noticed one of the kings needed his head reattached.   It's okay, though.  They invented super glue for a reason. 

Just like I found this nativity set for a reason.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 11

Day 11 - What is something people seem to compliment you the most on?

This one is pretty easy to answer.  It's nice that at least some of these questions don't require hours of soul searching.  Makes up for the emotionally exhausting ones to occasionally get a simple one.

My eyes.

Laundry - Strategies, Stain Removers and More

One of the most annoying side effects of having a herd of children is the laundry. 


Inevitably the second I put the last item in the washer, fill the container with detergent and push the button, someone spills something.    I gave up hoping to ever be done with this chore a long time ago.  A very long time ago. 

I can't ever declare victory.

I've tried all kinds of strategies with the laundry to see what works the best.  I just about have it down to a science now.

Don't attempt to wait for your husband/boyfriend/significant other to do the laundry.  They won't.  I've performed this experiment a few times, each an abysmal failure. 

Don't rely on your children to tell you that they need this shirt or these pants for school tomorrow.   Or that their soccer uniform is dirty.   Or that the only tights that match that dress are rolled up in a ball under their bed.  Or that they threw something into the hamper sopping wet, leaving it to mildew and stink.  Even if you are not doing laundry every day, you should inspect for these things. 

I generally do laundry twice a week, otherwise I end up doing laundry every single day.  Even splitting the chore up into two portions leaves me with about 8-10 loads at a time, not including the days when sheets are changed.    Six people generate 2-3 loads a day.

Sometimes you have to do a load or two even if you weren't planning.  We all know that there are things that can't sit and wait a few days.  Most of them involve stains.  Wash them now.   I will put a stain remover guide at the bottom of this entry for you all.  I've learned through years of stain removal to always have a small arsenal at my disposal.

I sort the clothes, but not in an obsessive way.  I do lights and darks.  New denim and anything red tend to go with into a load of their own with other very dark clothes just in case they bleed a little.  Color catchers are lifesavers when you have to mix colors that have no business in a washing machine together.  You know, the white shirt with red trim, the sweater with multi colored stripes, those things.  Get a box of color catchers and save yourself the headache later on trying to fix the clothes.

I avoid dry clean and hand wash only clothing like the plague.  I adore wrinkle free clothes, and will totally justify the extra few bucks they cost to avoid the extra work.  Tom's entire work wardrobe is wrinkle free for that reason.  I don't iron.  Like ever.   I go to great lengths to avoid it.  Clothing that has a tendency towards wrinkling or having hems roll gets hung to dry out of the washer and smoothed out.  This works especially well with all the girls pleated skirts and crisp cotton dresses.  For items that are dry already and have a few wrinkles, there are spray wrinkle releasers that work great.  Spray, stretch out the item and smooth it down.  A quick toss in the dryer for a few minutes will usually do it too.

Anything with screen printed images, glued on sparkles or glitter needs to be washed inside out, which is almost never a problem.  You see, everyone I live with seems to have this habit of taking their clothes off so they are turned inside out.   Even the socks and underwear.   As much as it drives me crazy, it is better for the clothes in the long run.  Washing and drying wears them out faster than actually wearing them does. 

In my house, the laundry room is downstairs but all the bedrooms are upstairs.  Makes no sense to me either.  Because of that, and the constant nature of laundry here, I fold laundry straight out of the dryer and put it directly into baskets for each person.  I hang all hanging clothes and put them on the closet bar we installed in there.  About once a week, it all goes upstairs. 

I don't use fabric softener very often, dryer sheets are cheaper and work as well.   I never use regular bleach, only the color safe stuff.  Get yourself a decent laundry detergent, and no it doesn't have to be the expensive name brand stuff.   Right now I am using the eco friendly high efficiency liquid sold at Costco. 

I don't fold socks.  It's time consuming and my least favorite chore.  They get put in a sock bucket that gets sorted and folded when people start to run out.  And that part, everyone helps. 

Here is a list of stains I have conquered and how to get rid of them.  Most important tip with stains is not to put anything stained into the dryer until you are sure it is out.  Heat will set many stains.

- Small, but noticeable stains on white clothing - bleach pen.
- Grass - liquid detergent straight on stain, rub in until stain lifts, repeat if needed.
- Fruit juice - soak immediately in cold water, pretreat with liquid detergent.
- Tomato based stains - soak in cold water, pretreat with liquid detergent.  If colorfast, pour white vinegar over stain and let sit a while, then wash.
- Milk based stains - soak in cold water, rub with Dawn liquid soap and let sit, then rinse with cold water to remove grease.  May need enzyme stain remover.
- Blood - enzyme stain remover all the way.  Love that stuff.  Works wonders.
- Tape and sticker residue - wash in warm water, pick off the residue by hand.  Use goo gone if persistent.   Do not dry until all removed.
- Gum - goo gone or nail polish remover. 
- Ink - nail polish remover.
- Red wine - pour salt over the spot and let sit to soak up the wine.  Rinse in cold water and repeat until clean.
- Grease spots on dark clothes - liquid Dawn soap right on the spot, let it sit and wash like normal. 

If you have another stain you need help on that isn't listed here, ask me...chances are I've battled it before.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 10

Day 10 - Who is someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know?

I am a firm believer that each and every person comes into our lives for a reason.  Sometimes you can't see it at the time.  Sometimes they only bring you drama or pain or heartache.  Sometimes they create a toxic environment.  Sometimes they make you question yourself, do things you are ashamed of. 

Every one of those experiences is something you learn from, though.  Whether it's a lesson about life, yourself, or other people, it's a lesson you wouldn't have learned without them.

My answer really is not intended to be a cop-out at all, promise.

I just happen to believe it to be the truth.

As a result of this belief, I have to say that I don't have an answer for this question. 

I learned a long time ago that everything happens for a reason, and that sometimes it takes years to understand what that reason was.  I'm not about to try and second guess that.

If and when people are supposed to leave my life, they do.  And that's not really up to me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 9

Day 9 - Who is someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted?

This one is a tough one to answer too.  Through the modern marvel that is Facebook, lots of people that could have been in this category aren't anymore.  There are a handful of people that I've lost contact with and not been really upset about.  You go your way, I'll go mine, good?

Then there are the people that this question makes me think about.  The ones that I really wish I could see, could talk to.  The people who I would love to be close to again, but for some reason it just doesn't happen anymore.  Ironically, some of the people on this list are actually family members.  They can't ever go anywhere for long, and never permanently (the blessing and curse of being related I suppose), but there are more than a few of them that I used to be closer to than I am now.  Then there are the other people, the friends. 

A couple come to mind straight away.   This one I miss the most.

The day I moved into the dorms as a freshman in college is one of the days I think I might always remember with clarity.  I met so many people that day, probably more than I'd ever met in one day in my life.  A few of them ended up becoming some of my best friends in the world. 

Most of the girls in this group of ours lived on the same floor, but not all.  There was one, Janis, who lived a few below the rest of us.  She was gorgeous and had a confidence that most people could not fathom ever possessing at 18.  She was who she was and you took her or left her the way she was.  I love that about her.

Over the college years, we had some good times.  We had some damn good times.  

She was in my wedding along with several of the other girls I met that day, and for as long as we lived in San Diego, I'd drive up occasionally to see her.  She'd come down by car, by bus, by train, to see me.  Then I moved here and she moved back home to Wisconsin.  Like everyone else it seems, life had gotten more complicated for her.  Family health problems, messy relationships.  You know, those things people don't warn you about when you are all excited about becoming a grown up.  

Since we've been here, I've seen her only once.  She travels here for conferences for work every few years, and when she does, she almost always calls.  The last time she was out here, I had to cancel on her.  I had two kids sick with the flu.  

She got married a few weeks ago, and though I was invited to her wedding, I couldn't afford the trip to Wisconsin.  There have been too many trips West this year and all our extra pennies have gone for those.  I wish I could have gone.  

Of course, if she'd just cave in and get on Facebook like everyone else, we wouldn't have this problem.  ;)

I miss you, J.  

Teacher's Gifts

One of the inevitable side effects of having kids in school is the twice a year buying of the gifts ritual.  Two times a year, all parents are expected to do something nice for the teachers.  Holidays and end of the school year.

Where exactly this expectation comes from, I am not totally sure.  I think I can say with a fair degree of certainty that most teachers don't go into the profession for the gifts.  The kids, for the most part, would probably opt to make a nice card or draw a picture for their teachers.  Who then is the real reason that we parents feel so compelled to buy gifts for all the teachers twice a year?  The only culprit left to blame is us, the parents. 

If it wasn't for the fact that reality often follows the Keeping Up With the Joneses mindset, it might not be such a big deal.  In my experience, though, parents seem to jockey for bragging rights with gifts, often putting the teachers in an uncomfortable position.  If it wasn't that way, parents could get a small, modest, heartfelt gift and be done with it.  And some people do. Up until this year, I've resisted the peer pressure and baked cookies for teachers.  The kids help bake the cookies after we find out which ones the teachers would like, then they help package and deliver them. 

This year, though, I am not sure I will get to all that baking.  Then again, I'm just not sure I want to.  And the classroom teachers the kids have this year are all different than we've had in the past, so there is no expectation of home baked goodies.  And to be honest, I am fine with that.

I am going in on the class gift, organized by one parent, in one class.  The others...well, I haven't thought much about it yet. 

In order to keep the gift giving at a manageable level, I think it is best to set a dollar amount you will contribute per teacher and stick with it.  Whether you are going in on a group gift or buying a gift card to a coffee place, keep the amount the same.   Personally, I keep it at $10 per teacher/aide/school employee. 

Class gifts can be the simplest, easiest way to get a teacher something that they want and that means something from the kids.  The precondition here is that whoever is organizing it actually knows what the teacher would appreciate the most.   A $150 gift card isn't awesome if it's to a store you never go to.  Keep the requested per child contribution low.  $5-10 at most.  If doing a class gift, please take into consideration that there will always be families that can't contribute.  Do not exclude those children from signing the card, though.  If you are worried about racking up brownie points with the teacher, offer to volunteer or something else, don't try to do it in dollar amounts. 

If a class gift isn't being organized or you don't want to take part in it, the same rules apply.  I guarantee the teachers don't want or need 20 apple themed picture frames or 30 coffee mugs.  Don't buy them things like that.  Also, don't buy them things they won't use or don't want.  For instance, don't get a coffee gift card for someone who doesn't drink coffee!  Don't get a massage for a person who can't stand them!  Most teachers would love classroom donations - feel free to ask what they need!  I am sure they will tell you!  Keep the dollar amount in the same neighborhood though.  $5-10.

Don't forget the other people involved...the art teacher, the music teacher, the PE teacher, the office staff, the janitor.  They deserve recognition too!  This is another reason that the dollar amount should be kept at a manageable level.  You probably have more people to get things for than you realize. 

As with the classroom teachers, though, I don't think that most of the people who work in any capacity with your children at school do so with the expectation of lavish gifts.  They do it because they love it.  And to be honest, many of them would be more touched by a handwritten note or a picture drawn by the kids than a gift they will never use.

So, as a summary:
1. Keep the dollar amount low, manageable and within your budget.
2. Only get them something they actually want and can use.
3. A little something with meaning means a lot more than a big something with no heart.

Resist the urge to spend a lot of money on teacher's gifts.  And please, please, please do not attempt to organize a class gift that requires a contribution of more than $5-10 per child.  The teachers don't expect it, the kids don't have any real investment with it, and there are a lot of people who truly can't afford it.

The biggest smiles I've ever seen on a teacher's face involved hand prints of the kids on canvas bags, pictures and cookies.  And those things, they sure didn't cost much.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 8

Day 8 - Who made your life hell, or treated you like shit?

Well now, that's not a loaded question or anything!  One thing I have come to appreciate about these questions is the complete lack of subtlety.

This is yet another one that could be answered so many ways...most of which I would never actually write about. 

I have to say that there is a very short list of people that come to mind when I think about this answer though, and the funny part is that many of them are complete strangers.  My only experience with these people was so bad that it's stuck in my mind forever.

This one is the winner.

I've written here before about all the things my cousins have that I don't, namely their beauty, their metabolisms and their gorgeous blond hair.  Me...well, I'm the stumpy brunette.  Always have been, always will be.

I adore my cousins completely and miss them all, but I have to tell you that growing up next to them was hard for an awkward kid like me.  There were six of us girls in a four year span.  I was the only one of the group who had super dorky glasses.  The only one that a perm made look like a poodle.  The only one to have acne.  You get where I'm going with this. 

My grandfather passed away after a massive heart attack, and it was a shock to everyone in the family.  The man was still very much in the prime of his life, or so we thought.  He could still hold himself out perfectly perpendicular to the tether ball pole in their backyard!  And then, just like that, he was gone.

His funeral was hard enough on us all, the group of us huddled in the front pews leaning on each other sobbing through the entire mass. 

But if I had to tell you one thing I remember more clearly from that day than anything else, it was the words of a woman I didn't recognize. 

All us girls were up hugging Grandma Helen at the front of the church after mass and a woman came up to offer her condolences. She said she was very sorry and all that, looked at the group of all us girls then asked who I was.  Grandma of course introduced me as her granddaughter. 

Then, this woman, one I'd never seen before and have not ever seen since, said this:

Oh really? I never would have guessed.  She doesn't look like all the rest of them.

The words of that one woman, a total stranger, did more damage to my self esteem in 10 seconds than anyone or anything else ever has.  My being, my soul, my family, my grief...none of that mattered to a person who judged me on one thing alone.  My looks.

Do not ever underestimate the power of your words.  They can do far more damage than you imagine.

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