Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ever Wonder If YOUR Way Could Be the Wrong Way?



On Friday my three-year old decided she wanted some Ritz crackers... and she wanted to get them HERSELF... so she found the scissors. [Enter Mom who finds nine partial crackers along with their crumbs spread out on the table like a dot-to-dot, along with a partial package of crackers that had been, um... penetrated.] When I open a package of Ritz crackers, I turn it on its end and pull in opposite directions with my fingers until the seam gives way and the crackers are exposed. But when I saw my daughter sitting at the table, absolutely delighted with her accomplishment, I picked up the package and studied her work. Impressive. Done with a flair that was truly her own. What occurred to me next caught me totally off guard: What if HER way was the RIGHT way? What if I have been opening Ritz crackers incorrectly my ENTIRE life.

That was when I grabbed my camera. Perhaps you are in my same boat. If so, I wanted to provide you with an example of a possible CORRECT way of opening Ritz crackers. You may want to give it a try. Sure, the edge might not be the same amount of jagged or the cuts not quite as long, but with practice...

I have confidence you'll figure it out... or if not, you might discover the OTHER right way.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Perspective is Everything


This afternoon I happened to be visiting with a handful of girlfriends, reminiscing about the "Good Ol' Days"... the 80's, that is. Our conversation began when I complimented one of my friends on the bright orange shirt she was wearing at church yesterday. She said how much she loved orange, and I immediately concurred... that, however, has not always been the case. As a child, I thought orange was among the ugliest hues on the color wheel. I couldn't believe that anyone would ever admit outright that it was their favorite color. This afternoon as I considered this childhood prejudice, I suddenly realized from whence it sprang... the 70's!

How could a teenager of the 80's have ever appreciated the rusty oranges and pea greens of a decade gone by? Oh, and let's not forget the mustard gold. (You will more fully appreciate the picture I am trying to paint if you will envision the aforementioned colors in SHAG.) On the other hand, I do have fond and vivid memories of my Grandma Wallentine sitting in her glider rocker, crocheting countless afghans and hot pads, all with at least two things in common: orange and brown.

Fast forward to today.

Now I love the color orange, especially the shades that I look good in--which, I might add, does not include the shade of the 2006 St. George marathon shirt. Just thought I would mention that. Orange Gerber daisies are my favorite. Orange is such a bright, happy, alive color! How could anyone NOT like it?

After my little epiphany regarding my former disdain for a color that had never really done anything to me, we moved on to weightier matters of a decade: Fashion. That subject led us very naturally to the subject of the 80's. I was never in fashion. Gerbeau jeans came up, and honestly, I have only heard of them. I couldn't pick them out of a lineup, and I can't picture the tag across the front. I was impressed that I spelled the brand name right when I Google searched them a minute ago.

The closest I ever came to being in style in the 80's was wearing a collared shirt with matching socks. I couldn't even bring myself to wear the collar up in back--outside of my bedroom, that is--for fear of someone thinking that I thought I looked cool. Banana clips played a significant role in my 8th grade year. Every day I would pull back one side of my hair with a banana clip (always careful to match my shirt and socks), and every day a girl in my AP History class would "fix" it so that it faced the right direction (!?). She may have viewed her service as payment for my answers on each day's assignment. (Never mind that my B+ was the lowest grade in the class. Go figure.) But now that I think about it, her services didn't come to an end when I quit providing answers, so she must have been doing it out of the goodness of her heart... should that make me feel better?

ANYWAY, after this walk down memory lane, I made my exit. As I walked home, I continued to consider the era of my life spent in junior high and I wondered, "If my teen years were made into a movie, would it be a comedy or a tragedy?" Perhaps that would depend if the audience consisted of my adolescent self or my adult self. Perspective is everything.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

National Entitlement Awareness Day



Linda and Richard Eyre will be releasing their newest book, The Entitlement Trap, on September 6. They are currently offering a great promotion for anyone who would like to raise less entitled children. Anyone? For details, visit the following website: http://entitlementtrap.com/giveaway.htm

AND Speaking of entitlement, I have a few thoughts of my own (don't I always?)...

...the online Free Dictionary defines the term entitle as "to furnish with a right or claim to something." So when we discuss Entitlement among the next generation (Isn't it always a vice of the NEXT generation?), we are referring to their belief that they have a right or a claim to something that they haven't necessarily done anything to earn. When played out, it isn't pretty.

As much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes see it played out in my own life. I feel entitled to buy butter instead of margarine, chicken tenders instead of whole chickens, and fresh blueberries instead of frozen. I feel entitled to have a car to drive, shoes to wear, and lip balm. I feel entitled to running water, cool air, and a loving husband. Wait. Stop. Check that last one. Actually, I have NEVER felt entitled to have a loving husband. Or have I? I nearly always feel grateful for my sweet, thoughtful, and attentive soul mate... but there are times that I probably haven't treated him that way... times that maybe he wondered if he was really appreciated.

And isn't that the saddest, most caustic symptom of Entitlement? Ingratitude. It is ugly from every angle. We like to feel appreciated. We like to know that our existence matters. By the same token, it feels good to appreciate OTHERS--to value their contribution.

How do we overcome or avoid the damaging effects of Entitlement? In a nutshell, I think LESS is MORE. Thankfully, my children don't have a lot of expectations when it comes to Things, and during this period of unemployment, I have been most grateful for that. On the first day of school, not one of my four school-aged children started with new shoes, shirt, or shorts. They didn't even complain. My oldest son was itching for a new backpack--he had used the same one from kindergarten through sixth grade--so he found one he wanted online, and we split the bill with him. He didn't complain. He just had to decide how badly he wanted THAT backpack.

The less we have, the more we value what we DO have.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Speaking of Unemployment...



I think I am stressed. My ability to focus is worse that it normally is. I am not sleeping well. In fact, lately I have been reaching the end of rather long days only to find myself lying awake thinking. Just thinking. I prefer my old collapse-into-bed-and-immediate-slumber self. These days I find myself trying to talk myself into sleep. It sounds something like this...

Self: Just go to sleep. It's late, and if you drift off right now, you are only going to get five hours anyway.

Slumber-resistant Self: But I'm NOT tired. Maybe I should get up and write in my journal. Or read. Or make a blog post about how I can't sleep.

Self: Listen to your body. You can do any or all of those things tomorrow. You are getting sleepy... VERY sleepy.

Slumber-resistant Self: I sure like my house. I hope we don't lose it when we don't find employment in our near future.

Self: I said, "Go to sleep!" You are such a cynic when you get tired.

Slumber-resistant Self: I wonder what living in a shelter with six children will be like. I wonder if it is worse than sitting on a bench with them BY MYSELF every Sunday at church. Probably only worse because it could turn into days, weeks, or months (heaven help me!) of the same.

Self: Did you know that when you dream, you can dream yourself anywhere you want to be? Try it--it will make you feel better.

Slumber-resistant Self: Who does the cleaning at shelters? Do they mark the entire place off, grid-like, and then hand out rags and assign coordinates? I wonder if it would give my children a new appreciation for Saturday chores. Another plus would be the de-cluttering that I would be forced to do before we moved out.

Self: YOU ARE NOT GOING TO LOSE YOUR HOUSE!

Slumber-resistant Self: Hey, keep it down--I am trying to sleep here.


So, yes, my husband and I are in the throes of unemployment. For the most part, it's been fun. With my paper route, I have become what we call the Sole Breadwinner. Isn't that an illustrious title? However, I can't really claim to be "bringing home the bacon,"--more like the beans... bacon and fat are luxuries. Remember that.

Plus, I have had full-time help. Every summer I have been tempted to hire a nanny (at least one day a week), but this is WAY better than that! We were both quickly amazed (especially when school was in session) how my job could keep two adults so busy.

April 1 marked our first "official" day of being unemployed. April Fool's Day. Hmm. I won't think too hard about that one. My husband resigned. Yes, you read that right. He wasn't laid off. Fired. Let go. He resigned. With the economy in the toilet, we decided it was the right thing to do. Actually, WE didn't really decide anything. Heavenly Father told us it was the right thing to do. We just trusted him. Just.

For the first few weeks, I can honestly say that I was giddy with excitement. I was excited to discover the adventure around the next corner... or the next... OK, maybe the next. Because really--who in their right mind just up and quits a perfectly good job? OK, "perfectly good" is stretching it, but still--we had bacon.

Since then, there have been highs and lows. I won't lie. As sure as I am that resigning was the RIGHT thing to do, I get a little nervous to find out why. I mean, I don't THINK Heavenly Father would want us to lose our house... but then I know some perfectly wonderful people (REALLY perfectly wonderful) who have experienced just that. Maybe He thinks we need to be taken down a notch... but then, doesn't everyone? OK, not EVERYONE.

Right this minute I am feeling more optimistic than not. Hopefully, that optimism can get me at least one good night's sleep. But if not... at least I know how to blog a post.

At any rate, one thing I have learned over the past four months is...


It's not about the house, which reminds me of one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right, and stopping the leaks in the roof, and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably, and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to?

The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of– throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”




I must admit I had gotten quite comfortable with the cottage plan.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Running My Race



I ran 4 miles this morning. When I started (by walking to the corner), the air felt cool and crisp... well, as cool and crisp as air can feel in this desert in July! Then I started running. Thankfully, my bones didn't creak as much as they usually do, so I was off to a good start. By mile 2, I was really feeling good--a major plus, considering that I only had 2 miles to go.

Saturday I ran 15 miles. Yes, you read that right. FIFTEEN miles. Five miles into that run, I happened to look down at my feet. I was wearing my blue running shoes. My blue RETIRED running shoes. I wore them to deliver papers that morning, thinking I would change before I went running. Oops. Well, five miles into a 15-mile run is no time to run home to switch shoes, so I kept running...

Running is such a funny sport. Do you ever see people running along the side of the road and wonder what on earth they are running from? After all, they are rarely smiling. They are sweating. Profusely. Obviously exerting obscene amounts of energy. Surely there is a carrot being dangled ahead of them SOMEWHERE.

Actually, some people really do run for FUN. I am not one of those people. Running for the sake of running is a prescription for me to roll over and get another hour of sleep. I want to get somewhere. Do something. Have something to show for it. I signed up for the St. George Marathon this year with three objectives in mind:

1. To get in shape to hike rim to rim of the Grand Canyon in November.

2. To jumpstart my metabolism in hopes of losing the extra weight that resulted from my sixth pregnancy.

3. To finish the marathon and obtain my third St. George Marathon medal.

Some of the women I have trained with this year have a much loftier goal: Qualify for Boston. As we started running together, I quickly surmised that they were out of my league. Way. Out of. My. League. Suddenly my enjoyment had been replaced with dread, exhaustion, and self-doubt. It was time to pull back and re-evaluate.

While I enjoy running with other women for social and safety reasons, my favorite runs are by myself. I hope that doesn't make me anti-social, but I enjoy plugging into my tunes and being alone with my thoughts and my pace. When I run with my Soon-to-be-Boston-Marathoner friends, they sometimes ask me questions to which I respond, "GASP, Can I-, GASP, answer that, GASP, at the next, GASP, water break...?" And of course, their water breaks are never long enough for me to answer their questions with the depth that I would like. Of course.

When I am by myself and running up a hill, I mentally chant the mantra, "I can do hard things. I am strong. I can do hard things." When I start out with a group that eventually leaves me in the dust, I remind myself that I am not running THEIR race. I am running MY race. I choose to begin where I am and work from there. Boston has never been my goal, so I am not going to be disappointed when I don't get there. Each run that I finish is cause for celebration.

It's a great parallel to life really. How often do we try to run somebody else's race? They may be prettier, have an impressive career, cook amazingly well, have the most gifted children... and good for them! Good for THEM. They are running THEIR race. But what is YOUR race? What part of you will you share with the world?

You don't have to answer now... I'll wait until the next water break.;)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fabulous Realities


I was introduced to fabulous realities in my English class my first semester of college. Fabulous realities are, as the name implies, realities that stand out because they are somehow unique or sometimes ironic in their presentation.

We were given the assignment to find five of them over a week's time. I don't recall all of my fabulous realities, but I do remember two of them. I observed the first on the second floor of the David O. McKay Library where I usually went to study (except when I was trying to scope out the cute boy that worked on the third floor). I noticed a student absorbed in a book entitled How To Read a Book. That was my first fabulous reality. I noted the second one in the living room of my apartment as my roommates gathered around the TV watching one of their favorite primetimes. I overheard one of them lamenting, "I just wish I had more TIME!" Don't we all?

Fast forward several years. I deliver newspapers to a fairly well-to-do neighborhood... that is, if the houses are any indication. One house appears to cover the span of two lots. The second lot houses a pool, a basketball court, and a little pool house as near as I can tell. After driving past it for over a year, I had the thought, "Where do people get so much money?"

As I asked the question, I turned the corner and noticed a name in bold letters on the side of a mailbox that had NEVER before caught my attention. The name?



BANKS.

Fabulous. Really.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Standing Out



Let me just start out by saying that I heard the initials T.M.I. put together for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and it took me a day or two to surmise what the letters actually stood for... That being said, you need to be warned that this post contains T.M.I. (Too Much Information, just F.Y.I.).

I went to Girls Camp this past week with the 12-18 year-old girls from our ward. The theme for the camp was "Stand Out" coupled with Survivor-type references. My title of Camp Cook is what won me a spot on the island. I actually did a lot of slicing and dicing and organizing, but the only time I even approached "cooking" was when I placed my foil dinner and banana boat in the coals from the fire... it was better that way.

Back to the theme of "Stand Out." I had an experience at camp where I stood out in a way that puts every other embarrassing moment of my life to shame...

The last night of these camps is always set aside for a testimony meeting--an opportunity for everyone to share their thoughts and feelings about how they have grown or what they have gained during their time at camp. It is often a highlight of the week... for most.

Friday night we weren't very far into the meeting when I decided to stand up and share my testimony.

This is where I need to interject a little confession. I am approaching my 39th birthday and I have borne six children--naturally. Consequently, my body is known to occasionally take liberties that, frankly, I wish it wouldn't.

After my fifth child was born, I started having the oddest episodes of bubbles releasing from my vaginal opening. (Hey, I warned you and you kept reading anyway!) I might have mistaken these as flatulence only they didn't stink and they were LOUD and LONG. Besides that, I was powerless to stop them. It might have been extremely embarrassing, but I took great (read: ENORMOUS) comfort in the fact that these episodes nearly always happened in the privacy of my own home.

[Note: My doctor has informed me that this condition is more common than most people realize, because who is ever going to talk about this... besides me... on my blog... for all of my 13 followers to read?]

So back to my testimony. I stood up and noted that it was more quiet than most campfire gatherings. As I stood up, my body had something to say. Something loud. And long. I ignored it, because really--what else could I do? Once my body had its say, I proceeded to share my testimony. Then I sat down, at which point, my body took a few seconds to have the last word.

Thankfully, no one said anything and the meeting moved forward as though nothing had happened, so I opted to do the same. That false sense of security was short lived...

That night after turning in, I lay in my sleeping bag unable to sleep. I could hear the younger girls giggling in their tent. Then I heard the older girls speaking right outside my tent. [Note to the world: Nylon tents don't even approach sound proof.] They were talking about flatulence, and I heard my name connected with a third-party description of my experience.

I. wanted. to. die.

Then I wanted to go out and set the record straight--to explain to them what had actually happened, that I was powerless to control it, and that maybe, just MAYBE, they should be more selective about when and where they talk about other people.

But I didn't.

It just goes to show the merits of always keeping a blow horn handy--you just never know when you might need it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

If There's One Thing In My Life That's Missing...



Over a month since my last post. I HAVE made a couple of attempts, but the final draft never surfaced. I could say I have been busy or distracted or just blank. But perhaps it would be enough to just say, "It's May!" The end-of-year craziness has never hit me before in the way it has hit this month... and I have even had my husband home to help. [He resigned from his job at the end of March and our search continues.]

Last week was particularly crazy. At the beginning of the week I received an email offering me a discount on a retreat that was to take place at the end of the week. I had really wanted to attend the retreat, but had several reasons to reconsider:

1. Nursing baby

2. A Mother/Daughter Activity for 15 moms and 15 daughters that I had committed to host at my home on Friday afternoon

3. The Scout campout on Friday night that my 12-year old son and his dad were planning to enjoy together

4. A family game night that I had RSVP-ed for on Saturday night

5. The 300-mile trip to get to the retreat

6. My paper route

7. Six children, including the nursing baby, the daughter participating in the aforementioned activity, and the Scout, that needed to be cared and accounted for

Yes, I had plenty of reasons NOT to go.

In fact, the only reason I had for GOING was the realization that I needed it. Badly. I was long overdue for some time away. I knew this and yet the hurdles seemed insurmountable.

Finally, I decided that if I waited for a time when it was convenient or that there was nothing going on, I might NEVER EVER get away. That was Wednesday night. I had started feeling compelled to attend this retreat and I couldn't shake the feeling.

That night I said a prayer: "Help me find a way to make this happen or dismiss it from my mind."

Thursday morning I awoke with a plan. First I responded to the email about the retreat to make sure there was still room for me to attend. Then I waited all day for a response. That was maddening as I was unable to really move forward on anything else until I knew.

Thursday evening I received a confirmation email, and my plan went into motion.

Child #1 would go on the campout with his dad. Child #2 would travel with me along with Child #5 and Child #6 to help keep them happy on the drive up to my sister's home where they would spend all day Saturday while I attended the retreat. Child #3 and Child #4 would spend the night at their grandparents until their dad could pick them up for their final soccer games and the Primary activity on Saturday morning. My husband would somehow cover the paper route. Easy enough, right?

Friday was CRAZY. In a word. Wake up. Deliver papers. Spin class. Laundry. Clean house. Carpool. More laundry. Make lunch. Clean disgusting (gross understatement) bathroom. Make cookies for Mother/Daughter Activity. Confirm plans for Mud Run for Girls Camp in two weeks. More laundry. Almost forget carpool. Pack. Mother/Daughter Activity. Load van. Drop Child #3 and Child #4 at grandparents' house. Scarf ham sandwiches graciously made by said grandparents. Leave St. George at 7:00 PM. Arrive at sister's house at 10:30 or so. Get children settled into portable cribs and couch. Collapse into sleep after being awake and moving at full speed for 20 hours.

Saturday started at 5:30 AM and ended at midnight. The retreat was fabulous, but by the end of the day I was completely spent. I felt like someone had completely wrung me out. I have yet to know why I felt so compelled to go. I probably sacrificed brain cells to sleep deprivation. (A day asleep in a hotel room might have served me just as well.)

On the other hand, my sister LOVED having three of my children for a day (She uses pictures of Child #5 and Child #6 as her screen savers), and my children seemed to enjoy being with their cousins--as well as my sister, of course. The grandparents seemed to enjoy having time with just two of our brood. Father and son survived campout.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Rude Awakening


Yesterday my dear husband took care of my paper route for me. When he volunteered to do so, I quickly fell back into a nearly comatose slumber and did not surface again until 6:58 when I heard my almost 10-year-old son's desperate cry, "Mom, have you seen my Scout shirt?" Talk about a rude awakening...

As a matter of fact--yes, I HAD seen his Scout shirt. He wore it on Thursday (two days prior) to his den meeting. As I recall, he had a hard time finding it then too. When he came home from Scouts that day, he put his shirt on the kitchen table and immediately went about the business of finding something to eat. Later, either before or after dinner, I asked him to put it away... NOW. He immediately picked it up and walked out of the kitchen. I had high (albeit unfounded) hopes.

"Put away" obviously changes meaning from one generation to the next. I am only beginning to understand this. My generation would not have been searching frantically for their Scout shirts two minutes before they are supposed to be at their meeting point for a Webelos Day Camp. My son's generation seems to prefer living on the edge... the very edge.

Even as I was rushing and ranting and looking for his Scout shirt, I was desperately trying to remind myself, "This is not your problem. Do not make this your problem. He didn't put his shirt away. He never puts his shirt away. Do not make this your problem." No doubt this is the mantra repeated at the weekly meetings for Mothers of Losers Anonymous. (No, I am most certainly not calling my son a "loser" except in the most literal sense of the word.)

My favorite "loss" is that of THE important paper that needs my signature. Right now. Or actually five minutes ago, because somebody is going to be late. Never mind that it was handed out over a week ago.

"Have I seen it? Probably. It was yellow? Well, I HAVE seen a yellow paper--or ten. Could it have been among the 97 stray sheets scattered around the office floor looking like they "just missed" their wastebasket destination?"

A sigh.

Oh--then maybe I haven't seen it.

Seven o'clock. "They are going to leave without you if you don't just go. WEAR SOMETHING ELSE--YOU HAVE GOT TO GO!"

What I meant was, "Why don't you wear something else. You really ought to get going."

Note to self: Remember--this is not your problem?

He rushes downstairs to find "something else," and I stroll into the office and spy something behind the wooden trunk. Something blue. I pick it up. I walk downstairs.

"Oh, NOW you remember what "put away" means... Would that be for your generation or for mine?"

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Little Won't Hurt



On occasion, I have had fellow mothers tell me that they don't have time to read. Really? No time to read? Not even a little bit? My husband would agree with them. In reality I don't really have time to read... but I do it anyway. I find that I have to be somewhat selective, though.

Last night (actually this morning) at 12:30 AM I finally finished reading The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. All 482 pages of it. I had to stay up and finish it, because I knew sleep would elude me until I did.

I have had my head buried in this book for the better part of a week now. I knew that reading it would be no small task... but I did it anyway. It started innocently enough (as all good temptations do)--I downloaded the sample on my Nook just to see if the subject matter would be of interest. And it was. The next thing I knew I was downloading all 482 pages--and the rest of my week was history. (My dearth of journal entries and blog posts confirm this.) Sigh. The book was one mystery upon another mystery, and if that wasn't enough to keep me turning pages (which it was), the chapters were relatively small (51 chapters in 482 pages) so I could nearly always convince myself that I had time for just one more chapter... "It won't hurt--just a few more pages... It will make you feel good--and probably answer some of your questions." The only redeeming quality of this little temptation is that it eventually comes to an end--until I get the hankering for another fix.

Funny how non-fiction books don't pose the same threat. I can usually set those aside for weeks (or months) with good intentions. In the meantime, they get lost in a stack of "highly recommended" non-fiction that I intend to get around to someday. Whenever someday is.

Since finishing the book, you can probably imagine that I have been at a loss for what to do with my time... besides catching up on all that I have left undone for the better part of the week, I mean. As it turns out, my washer and dryer are still in working order and I suppose I could say the same thing about me. For now.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Death of Our BBF


I mean, Death of our B, BF--that would be our Betta, Blue Fish. We adopted [bought] Blue Fish on April 20, 2007. That was the day after my second son's sixth birthday. For some reason I let him have a fish. I wanted to name him Charlie--the fish, not my son. My son wanted to name him Blue Fish. Obviously, I lost.

Bettas live between 3.5 and 4 years in captivity--that is, in fishbowls. They are the ONLY fish suited to living in bowls, because they breathe air as well as water... Also, they don't play well with others... and this is where my knowledge of the species ends. I guess I won't be writing a book.

In November we thought Blue Fish was seeming a little lethargic and that he might die over Thanksgiving weekend, but he bounced back. Lately though he has been hanging around the top of the bowl, seeming unable to swim to the bottom. Many of his food pellets were laying bloated on the bridge with him showing no interest in their consumption.

Last night I looked in the bowl and wondered if Blue Fish was still breathing. This morning my son was sure he was dead, so he touched him with the end (not the prongs) of a plastic fork. Blue Fish darted away like his fins were on fire, but the start probably gave the old fish a heart attack. He was floating, tail down and lips to the surface by this afternoon.

After dinner we gave him a proper burial in our garden (a generous term, for sure). I wrote and my husband read the following eulogy:

Here lies Blue Fish,
A fish always true to his name;
He lived in humble circumstances
Never seeking fortune or fame.

Clearly his life was well-rounded...
Ever living in a bowl.
Given the chance, he would
Likely claim to have lived mostly "half full."

The depth of his life was 10 inches--
From top to bottom, at most.
Surviving nearly four years
Like that surely deserves a toast!

In the end, he grew weary
And his stroke lost its speed--
Yet he continued to hang on
Until he could no longer feed.

He made a grand centerpiece
And a conversation start,
But making a petless boy pet-FULL
Was his most cherished part.

So we bid a fond farewell to Blue Fish and wish him well in that big ocean in the sky where we are certain all bettas go after they die. Au revoir!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

If One Is Compelled To Niceness, Is She Really Nice?


Today I got a compliment on my route sheet: "Thank you for your good service." No tip. Just a compliment. That's nice... but I prefer tips, if I am being honest and that seems to be the only way I know how to be, so there it is.

The thing is that I am COMPELLED to give good service. When someone requests their paper on their porch, it makes me want to throw it through their window. Seriously. But I don't, and when they send me notes (and tips) at Christmas time telling me how much they appreciate it and that they are 80 years old and that I am the best paper person that ever walked the planet and that they named a star after me... well, it's all worth it.

But there are those who just EXPECT great service. Can you believe that? Nervy. They just want their paper delivered to their table along with their Starbucks JUST BECAUSE. Like it's my JOB or something. Too bad those people have windows made of steel... or something.

Actually the woman who took the time to call in a compliment (Bless her! Seriously.) left a $10 tip in an envelope stuck to her door around Christmastime. Then she called to make sure I had found it. During that conversation, she told me that she appreciated my efforts to get her paper on her steps.

The woman also mentioned that she just had heart surgery, so her husband (who had some other ailment) was the one who collected the paper each morning. She even went so far as to TELL me that she didn't expect me to get out of my car, that she just appreciated my throwing it as far as I could. (You see where this is going, don't you?) She obviously knew who she was dealing with: Guilt Complex Superstar. So Ella, I mean--I have been getting her paper to her front door ever since.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One Word: C-H-A-R-A-C-T-E-R



In February of 2009 we were on our way to a small town in the middle of Utah. It was 8:00 p.m. and dark. I signaled to take the town's exit when I saw lights flashing in my rearview mirror. Oh, bother. I pulled over. The officer approached (on the passenger side), and I surrendered my driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. He went through the formalities of asking me how fast I thought I was going and then telling me how fast I was going--10 miles more than I THOUGHT I had been going. Apparently, our speedometer needed a lube job. As he glanced at the registration, he said, "This is a '96? Hmm--it looks a lot newer than that."

It sounded like an accusation, and I was unclear how best to present my defense. So I just shrugged and offered a sheepish smile. I would have been interested to hear his arguments, considering the facts as I saw them: 1) It was dark, 2) We were packed in there like preserves with barely enough air space to exhale, and 3) Upon closer inspection--in daylight--he could have easily ascertained that the van was at least 13 years old. Maybe more.

We drive a 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan, and frankly, we pride ourselves in that fact. Or at least we did until the passenger side window went down (automatically) three days ago and gives no indication of ever wanting to go up again. While our van, admittedly, falls short of being a luxury mobile, it does serve many worthwhile purposes--like developing the character of every passenger humble (or desperate) enough to embark, for instance.

We entered the proud class of minivan drivers on September 30, 2002, two weeks after our third child was born. To date, that minivan is the only vehicle that my husband and I have purchased in our nearly 13 years of marriage. We also drive the 1995 Toyota Camry that I purchased before we even met. So 4 1/2 years and three children later, we made our first joint vehicle purchase.

When we bought the van it was in perfect working condition. No bells and whistles (i.e. CD player, DVD player, custom hubcaps or steering wheel cover). It was just a reliable way to get us from here to there and back again. Well, it DOES have power locks and windows... sort of, but I am unclear if those qualify as bells or whistles since my six-year old speaks covetously--seriously, in a state of true wonder--of cars that actually have "HANDLES that you can turn to roll down the windows!" Amazing.

But back to building character... Within 18 months of our purchase, I had a slight run in with a metal rod that was sticking out of a truck as I tried to maneuver around it. All it did was dent the front passenger-side door enough to make it impossible to roll down the window... until three days ago when it spontaneously descended, that is. Living with it up seemed less character building than living with it down.

Next the rubber seal on the same door came detached. If I didn't position it just right when I shut the door, it hung through the seam of the door. Having my limitations (believe it or not), I eventually convinced my husband to find a way to "just glue the stupid thing in place." He did and it worked swimmingly.

Our tape deck apparently qualifies our van for Vintage status, considering that one of the kindergartners in my carpool asked, "What is that!?" like it was a foreign contraption that she ought to be wary of. I gave her a little history lesson and then promptly texted her mom to be sure she asked, "What did you learn in carpool today?" when her daughter walked in the door.

The glove compartment (did anyone else call these "jockey boxes" growing up?) was a casualty of leaving a three-year old to find his own way out of the van one day. He must have misunderstood and heard "bum compartment" or something and they are not built to hold three-year olds... at least ours isn't. It's still in place and it still holds its contents, but if you don't hold it open its contents will end up all over the floor.

While we can boast power windows--well, window anyway--and power locks, the rear passenger door handle has given way to the yanking of little hands when it was still locked. Consequently, it can no longer be locked with the touch of a button. Now it must be MANUALLY unlocked. The truly unique quality--and this is where the CHARACTER comes in--is that when we reach a speed in excess of 15 mph, that door locks automatically with a sound effect not unlike that of a machine gun. While we have grown accustomed to this sound, first-time travelers always request an explanation. Apparently, they are not accustomed to hearing a round of open fire as they drive exit the neighborhood. I guess that's a good thing.

Our van was made to seat seven passengers. In our four-is-the-new-six society, that suits most families very comfortably. However, in our we-didn't-get-the-memo-about-four-being-the-new-six family, it doesn't quite work. Prior to the birth of our sixth child, we found ourselves in a quandary. Were we ready to part with our Dodge Caravan? After 7 1/2 years, it was practically part of the family besides being the source of so much character.

We searched online and in the papers for a new van-just to see what was available, but nothing promised anywhere near the character of the van we already had. (Well, except my sister's red 29-passenger van, but it wasn't for sale.) So, we did the unthinkable--we PRAYED. The next thing I knew, I was searching the internet to see if a three-seat bench could replace the middle two-seat bench in our van. Pay dirt. We managed to find a three-seat bench for $100 at a salvage yard--and it was even relatively clean.

You can probably imagine the relief on our children's faces when we informed them we wouldn't have to part ways with our van just yet... yes, I'm sure they were sighs of RELIEF.

In case you are wondering whether or not I got a ticket on that dark night in the center of the state... I am uncertain whether it was the stellar condition of our van or the fact that we were packed in it like preserves--or the officer's desire to flirt with me over my husband who was seated next to me (tears of laughter here), but I did get off with a warning. Miraculously, I didn't even have to cry. Character, I'm telling you.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mr. Wind


"Mr. Wind is a mischief; Mr. Wind is an gnome. He blows my hat, he blows my coat 'til I wish he'd go ho-ome..."

Those are words from a song I learned growing up. Believe me, you would appreciate them more if you could hear me sing them (wink, wink). This morning I pulled out of my driveway at 4:40. Then I pulled out again at 5:40, and my papers still weren't delivered. But they WERE folded.

The wind is a menace, and I suspect that before the world was when we were all choosing sides, the wind chose the DARK SIDE. Sad, but true. I just google searched "purpose of the wind." The first official source explained what causes wind but failed to list any real purpose for it. I already know what CAUSES it... Satan! Below the seemingly official response, someone had listed the following possibilities:

1. It dissipates bad odors.

2. It takes odors of animals to the animals that need to feed on them, so they know where their prey is and can eat and survive.

3. It spreads seeds to propagate plants.

4. It soothes us and calms us when it's gentle.

5. It cools us when the sun is warm.

Good to know that it might actually have a Purpose (or five) besides just annoying a paper girl who is just minding her own business. I must, however, take issue with #4. If it soothes and calms, it is NOT wind. It is a breeze, and breezes fall in another classification entirely. Breezes can make 105 degree weather bearable. Wind does nothing of the sort.

This annoyance resulted in transforming what is normally about a 65-minute task into a 95-minute CHORE. Oh, bother. Mr. Wind IS a mischief. Of course, with Mr. Rain threatening to rendezvous with Mr. Wind, I also had to bag all the papers which contributed to my delay. Then, not surprisingly, Mr. Rain never showed up--can you blame him? Who wants to hang around an old blowhard anyway?

On the bright side (and there is always a bright side), the delay did score me a $20 tip. The generous woman who leaves $20 tips on her door has been sleeping in the past couple of months. (I know this because I see her at the gym and we talk.) This morning she was up by the time I came around, and taped to her door was an envelope complete with a "Thank You!" and a smiley face and a $20 bill.

Even Satan couldn't spoil my morning entirely.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Name Is Rebecca and I Set Goals...



It is March 18th. I just ate my first pretzel M&M since January 31st. It was delicious... and brown. Then I ate an orange one, and I am still savoring it... Oh, I just ate a red one. They are as yummy as I remember them. I am about to pop a blue one in my mouth. There it goes. Oh, yum. Now green. How did I give those little beauties up for 46 days? It just goes to show that I am the epitome of self control. Well, sure I could have gone 47 days, but what would have been the point? I mean, what am I trying to prove anyway?

On March 10 I actually broke down and ate candy. Chocolate covered cinnamon bears. I was sending 40 of them to my friend in honor of her 40th birthday, and I wanted to make sure they tasted, well, fresh. You know me--always willing to take a hit for the team. It was delicious... and fresh. Consequently I have managed to consume an entire bag of them since then.

All candy is not really a temptation to me, believe it or not. I tend to be very selective. For example, I say "pass" to hard tack candy and cheap chocolates. No problem. Most candy bars will grow stale in my cupboard--unless I think of a good reason to share them with my children. Frozen miniature Reese's peanut butter cups are a delicacy, but the thought of eating a Reese's peanut butter cup shaped like an egg sort of grosses me out. Not sure why--I think the chocolate-to-peanut-butter ratio is a little off.

So I conquered February's goal and practically attained Warrior status by sticking it out NINE extra days. March's goal to do my own paper route every single day is coming along nicely as well... except that I am tired. Very tired. I am starting to believe that mothers of six were never intended to rise at 4:30 every morning... and neither was anybody else, for that matter.

My husband quit offering to get up and deliver my newspapers after our friends spilled the beans about my goal. They had been reading my blog; he had not. He still WANTS to do me a favor, but now that he knows about my goal, he also knows that offering is a moot point. Besides, it just adds to the torture of putting my feet on the floor every morning, because then I lay there and am reminded of what I stupid goal I set this month. On the other hand, every morning it proves a little triumph as well. "I am Warrior--hear me ROAR!" Or something like that.

Now it is March 31st. I have done my paper route every day. All by myself. (Except for the time it was raining outside and I was behind schedule and I took the papers back to my garage and my dear husband came out to help me fold them... except for that.) For 31 days. Can you believe it? So I can sleep in tomorrow, right? Not quite. Would you believe one of my associates (I'm sure that's what they are called) asked my husband to substitute his paper route for SEVEN days. Starting yesterday. How is he supposed to do my route and somebody else's too? I guess I know what it means to do my own work. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stops & Starts



Each morning I go to the "dock" to pick up my newspapers. Each stack of papers has what is called a route sheet on top of it, identifying the route number. (Would it surprise you that I am Route #001--as in NUMBER ONE?) Next to the route number is the number of papers that I will be delivering that day. Today is was 122. Below that are the stops and starts for the day (vacations, terminated subscriptions, vacation restarts, etc.). I make a mental note of the changes and then implement them as I deliver the papers.

Today I had two stops and one start. One of the stops came with the following message to the carrier (that's me): PLEASE DO NOT DEL PPR UNTIL SATURDAY MARCH 19TH. CUSTOMER WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PICK PPR UP. THANKS FOR YOUR HELP.

Well, that was specific, wasn't it? After all, that is the definition of a Stop. I don't deliver the paper because the customer will not be home to read it. It struck me as funny.

Another notice I sometimes get is called a Vac Pak--that means I am to SAVE all of the newspapers between that day and the day the person returns from their shinanigans--er, I mean vacation. I secretly wonder (well, not so secretly anymore) if these people are packrats that have hoarded EVERY issue of The Spectrum since 1963. (That is when they began publication--I just looked it up, because I DON'T have every issue since then.)

As an added bonus, I saw six deer on the street while delivering papers. As I drove toward them, they ran onto a lot. When I got to where I thought they had run into someone's backyard, they were all huddled in the back of an empty lot. I shined my lights on them and counted them, then they went down the slope on the backside of the lot.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Supers


I have an idea for a new comic book series. The civilians in our tale are tall, witless humans who are under the mistaken impression that they control the world. The Super Villains and Super Heroes are little people who run around creating havoc or making peace depending on which side of the villain/hero coin they happen to land that day (read: side of the bed they exited that morning).


The list of potential Super Villains is surprisingly long compared to that of the potential Super Heroes, if that gives you any indication of how my day has gone. The list of Super Villains might include the following:

1. The Exaspirator - constantly putting the tall, witless humans in a speechless stupor
2. The Instigator- ever seeking to stir things up
3. The Thrasher - prone to tantrums
4. The No-No-Nator - "Mary, Mary Quite Contrary"
5. The Humiliator - this identity can be adopted by any Super Villain when in public
6. The Sassinator - never at a loss for words
7. The "I-Do-It-Myself"-or - generally strikes when time is of the essence but occasionally doubles as a Super Hero
8. The Evaporator - "Now you see her, now you don't"
9. The Stinker - this Super Villain's favorite uniform is the one he was wearing yesterday... and the day before that... and the day before that (while most Super Villains and Super Heroes APPEAR to wear the same outfit daily, they actually have an entire closet full of the same costume)
10. The Screecher - needs no introduction

Now for our Super Heroes:

1. The Harminator - often at odds with the Instigator
2. The Incinator - generally eats any food placed in front of him
3. The Paginator - a voracious reader who fills out reading logs as a mere formality
4. The Shadow - makes for pleasant company and always willing to lend a helping hand
5. The Snickler - can bring comic relief to a tense situation with a ready smile or a contagious giggle
6. The Clincher - freely hugs others at request and often heals wounds on contact
7. The Deliberator - prone to think before he acts, is valued for his intelligence

As for the tall, witless civilians (TWC)--they are likely to remain as such since the Super Heroes and Super Villains have the advantage of changing roles at the drop of a hat. Consequently, the TWC continue their struggle to weed out the villainy while allowing heroism to thrive. May the Force be with them!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Message In a Bottle--er, I Mean Diaper


When my son who is now six years old was a baby, I was changing his diaper when I discovered a barcode. Face up. In his diaper. I immediately called my husband to inform him that there was no turning back. Now that he had lost his barcode, we would have no chance of sending our baby back. Good thing he was a keeper.

Yesterday as my 10-month old sat in our great room, I looked at her and noticed she was sort of gagging. She obviously had something in her mouth that she was having a hard time manipulating. By the time I picked her up, the culprit had disappeared... down her throat. I guessed it was probably a piece of paper, or possibly a rubberband, due to the ease with which it seemed to go down.

"I wonder what it was--I guess we'll find out tomorrow," I said to my husband who I had called over to do a fingersweep (definitely HIS department).

Well, the message came through today in all its mustardy yellow glory. My baby pooped it out. It was neither a rubberband nor a regular piece of paper. No, it was actually a sticker with a brief four-word message.

Now one has to wonder about a message that has to be delivered through such means. Messages can be delivered through a myriad of vehicles, i.e. messages in a bottle, clouds of smoke across the sky, postcards in the mail (perhaps you've heard of those), fortune cookies, etc. We all place different weight on messages depending on our desire to embrace their messages. For example, if a fortune cookie were to read, "You will take a long walk off a short pier," I would likely take it with a grain of salt--and quickly discard it. On the other hand, if the fortune cookie predicted wealth and happiness, I would save it and use it for a bookmark for many years to come.


But messages in my baby's diaper? The question I have is: Are those messages intended for me or for my baby? Probably for me, since my baby can't read yet and The Powers That Be could predict with near-perfect accuracy that I would be the one changing the diaper.

So what was the message in the diaper? I know you are dying to know, but more than that you are probably wondering whether it came out, face up, and ready to read OR if I have to fish around in the yellow mustard to decipher it. Well, I will leave the latter of those inquiries to your imagination. The message, on the other hand, I will gladly share. Because, who knows--maybe the message was also intended for YOU via my baby's mouth, her digestive system, her cute little bum, and my rambling blog. One never knows. That being said, the message in the diaper read...

(Drumroll, please.)



"YOU'RE ON THE WAY!"

Yeah, Baby!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

If "Cooking Is Love Made Visible," Then I Need To Step It Up A Notch


Last night I attended a recipe swap. The nice thing about a recipe swap is that you can swap recipes and still retain all that you just gave away. Plus, none of what you acquire will need to be dusted! Keeping what you give away proved rather an epiphany for my daughter. When I told her that I was going to a recipe swap, her face fell and she exclaimed, "No... No! You can't give away all your recipes." Now I wish I would have quickly inquired as to which recipes she would be sorry to lose.

Cooking isn't really my thing. While I enjoy creating something delicious for my family to enjoy, I really do not like putting forth the effort only to be met with complaints. Just putting dinner of any sort on the table is a big enough sacrifice/investment for me that it should only be met with praise, accolades, and an occasional standing ovation. Nothing less.

At the beginning of February several women were invited to keep track of their meals for the whole month. Then we would meet at the end and share our lists as well as two recipes from that list. Easy enough. I started my list. Then after about five entries it got buried behind everything else that was posted on my refrigerator.

By the way, can I just say that women who have refrigerators that look more like bulletin boards in a grocery store than refrigerators are kindred spirits in my book. I post recipes, grocery lists, artwork, invitations, announcements, and everything else on my refrigerator door. In case you are wondering--yes, I have curiously strong magnets. And stainless steel doors? Well, I have a conspiracy theory about them as well as their inventor.

But that is beside the point. The point? Which is...? Oh, yes--the recipe swap. I suppose it would more accurately be called a recipe SHARE, since we don't exactly swap in the full sense of the word... for those who might want to get technical. And I seem to want to, don't I?

Anyway, we started with introductions. I got to go first. "I'm Rebecca." That's it--that's all I said. Then we went around the room and everyone shared their first name and ONLY their first name. Are you impressed? I was quite the trendsetter. I could have said, "I am Rebecca. I hate to cook. I have six children who get cranky if they don't eat, so I consider it a necessary evil. I think this loathing developed in seventh grade with an ornery home-ec teacher, but it might have also stemmed from growing up with a mother who wanted me to learn how to cook but wasn't sure how to teach me (because I was a little ornery, too)..." I could have gone on and on with an introduction, but I refrained and everyone else followed suit. Sometimes less is more. (I would do well to remember that more frequently than I do.)

Next we played a game. As we went around the circle of 17-20 women, each person was to share one item from their list. If you had the same item on your list, you were to announce that and then cross the item off your list. A few items from my "list" (which was actually the pages from my weekly planning notebook where my family shoots out ideas of things they might like to eat for dinner that week): BLTs, chicken noodle soup, spaghetti, sloppy joes, chicken pasta salad, raspberry chipotle chicken, and deli sandwiches. Pretty straightforward and plain jane. Like I said, I am just lucky to get food on the table. [The raspberry chipotle is a marinade from Costco that my neighbor introduced me to--"we" grill the chicken and then eat it on a salad.]

My list had to be the most ordinary of all the lists there. I couldn't believe how adventurous some of these women were--at home in their kitchens! One woman and her husband decided to eat vegetarian five days a week. I think that is highly admirable... not to mention healthy. I just hope my family never gets wind of what is happening in kitchens all over my neighborhood (i.e. COOKING) because when they do my cover will be blown. They might accuse me of "just getting by," and worse... they might be right.

YAAAAAWN!


Our alarm went off at the usual time this morning: 4:26. I immediately went into denial... along with the rest of me. I was so tired. My whole body wanted to disappear into the mattress and never surface. I inwardly begged Rob to say those magical words that would release me to return to that state of blissful slumber: Do-you-want-me-to- do-the-paper-route? Nine simple but beautiful words. True poetry. A pause... A very long pause. My body tensed, not knowing if the words would be forthcoming. Hoping but not daring to hope. Maybe the long pause was just for dramatic emphasis. My body begged for relief... pleeeease?

Finally. FINALLY! The silence was broken. The words were spoken. All nine of them.

"Do you want me to do the paper route?" Poetry, yes.

I paused. Inner turmoil. My shoulder dwellers (who should have been sleeping, I might add) were amazingly alert and attentive for 4:26 in the morning. (Does that even count as morning!?) They insisted on battling this one out. Sigh.

Angel: Just get up. The car is in the shop. You don't want your husband to have to deliver the papers in the VAN--it's a big pain. Plus, in 10 minutes you will be glad you're awake and moving. Besides, didn't you set a secret goal to deliver the papers EVERY day this month? Didn't you? It's only the 2nd day of the month. Now get up. Get up!

Devil: He offered--I heard him! All nine words. Tell him "yes" and roll over. If he didn't want to do it, he wouldn't have offered. This might be your last chance to sleep in. Ever.

It's a wonder I listened to the angel. She is so darn pushy, but I succumbed. She must have been the loudest.

"No, I'm all right," I said (yawned) not very convincingly. Then suddenly my feet were on the floor and I was feeling my way into the bathroom. Even as I stood in the bathroom preparing to don my "uniform" of navy capris, a T-shirt, a sweatshirt, and sneakers I couldn't figure out why I was up. I was SO tired that every right-minded part of me should have said "Yes! Yes, please. Oh, that would mean so much to me!" Apparently, those parts of me were still asleep.

And this morning it took at least 20 minutes for me to be glad I was up. Take that, ANGEL!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

On Your Mark...


I have had plenty of friends and acquaintances express the sentiment that they just don't "get" runners. As I sit here this evening icing the inside of my right arch and reflecting on the day's run, I must admit that I don't really "get" them either.

A friend and neighbor of mine invited me to join her running circle a couple of months ago. She faithfully sent me texts the night before they were going to run, and while I have generally considered myself a social runner, the morning chill all but froze that desire. Besides, I often found myself at the gym on an elliptical where I was trying to retrain my knees and ligaments to stay in alignment. When I finally did join the running circle for some street running, I was happy to find my knees and ligaments behaved themselves.

Then we did an eight-mile run that left every part of me from the waist down, especially my arches, very fatigued. Then we ran 10 miles last Saturday in the rain. It wasn't fun. We dared to hope for fairer skies for the Dogtown Half Marathon that we were hoping to run this morning. It was not to be.

Due to the un-fair weather, the course was changed to include two out-and-back portions that just about did me in. Frankly, I don't really want to run past all the people who have already reached the turn around point and are on their way back. I also don't want to dodge all the trucks and trailers headed out on the same road I am running on to attend a Big Truck-Trailer-and-Four-Wheel-Drive Rally (probably not the OFFICIAL name, but likely more appropriate than the official one).

May I digress for a moment to confess my prejudice against big trucks? Their drivers seem to have something to prove to the world. They drive around with an attitude that seems to say, "Stay out of my way, because if we collide we both know who's coming out on top." To be fair, they probably believe that the drivers of minivans cop the attitude of, "Move out of my way, I have a van full of kids that need to be in six different places in the next two minutes!" They would probably be right.

So back to my run, I ran with my three girlfriends for about 5.5 miles. Then they slowed for Gu and air probably (we were on a hill). I just kept going. I had to keep going. All I wanted was the finish line. I have enjoyed runs at different times in my life, but today's run was not to be enjoyed. Cold. Wet. Repetitive. Plus, the signage was pathetic. I want a blaring sign at each mile marker that I can look for and run toward. These were hidden amidst similar signs that read, "Runners Keep Right" and "Watch for Cars." I could have used something more inspiring. Something along the lines of "IHOP this way" or "If you stop now, we'll take you home." You get the idea.

After our 10-mile run last Saturday, my arch was giving me grief. I was a little swollen under my right ankle. I had serious reservations about running the race this morning. Unfortunately, we had buy-one-get-one-free coupons for our entries, and there were four of us who had "committed" to run. Consequently, I hated to back out. I registered, thinking $22.50 was a small price to pay even if I bailed. But still, who wants a T-shirt (or shorts as in this case) from a run they never did? Not me.

I showed up. I ran 13.1 (actually 13.3 miles, according to my Garmin) in 2:15:57. Funny how those race organizers always place the Finish Line based on their convenience more than the point at which I might collapse--because, I must say, if they were trying for the latter, they were about a mile too long.

Doesn't it make you want to go for a run?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Snip, Snip


I just got a new haircut. So did Justin Bieber. Mine looks nothing like his, although it is closer in length to the "old" cut than the "new" one. Naturally. The length isn't the only difference, though. Tens of thousands of adolescents aren't wishing they had been there to sweep my hairdresser's floor on Saturday morning. In fact, I can't think of even one. Not only that, but I can't imagine that ANYONE will be Googling "rebecca kohler new haircut image" in the next millennia. (But if you do, know that there are 83,400 results and not a one of them is the real ME.)

My hair has always been my nemesis. OK, "always" might (I said MIGHT) be an exaggeration. But allow me to elaborate. As a girl, I had long straight blond strands of beautiful hair. On Sundays my older sister would roll them in hot rollers and form ringlets all over my head. (Mercifully, she would cram a foot of toilet paper between my scalp and each steaming demon, but it was still a miserable process... for both of us.)

In second grade, I stood on the top row of the bleachers for class pictures wearing a red quilted jumper (my sister made in 4-H) and a blouse. My hair was curled in gentle ringlets, and I looked cute... I know this because at least two girls came to school after the pictures were sent home and said, "My mom said you were the cutest girl in our picture." (If you are wondering WHOSE mother would say another girl was the cutest... I was wondering the same thing, even at age 7.) Looking back, I wish I had known to live out those two days of admiration, because that's pretty much all I ever got...

In third grade, I learned how to covet. Her name was Carrie Stanger and she had hair that FEATHERED. Besides that, she was CUTE. Knowing that the secret to her cuteness lay in her feathers, I wanted my hair to feather, too. So I told my mother.

Let me rephrase that, I told my practical, frugal, and attentive mother... and she took me where every practical, frugal, and attentive mother would take a daughter who had requested feathered hair: the beauty school.

At age 8 I learned to hate beauty schools and all they stood for. In fact, this one experience is probably responsible for every extravagance I have ever indulged in. My mom took me to the Meridian Beauty School, got me set up with a student, and left! She left me to explain my vision of cuteness to a beauty student. It was 1980, and I would have thought that "feathered" would have meant something to people so recently party to the 70's.

I told the student that I wanted my hair to feather. The student began rolling it. In curlers. I watched in horror, not really believing that any of this was going to result in a happy ending, but not knowing how to stop the nightmare. (I didn't learn to be assertive until many years later.) She rolled. I cried. I remember the student chatting away with another student and I distinctly remember hearing, "I hate doing kids' hair." Then why didn't she STOP!?

Finally, she was done and my mother returned. When she asked the student why I was crying, the student replied, "I guess she wanted her mommy." I was too shy to ever speak up for myself, but I am pretty sure that experience is one of the defining moments of my life. When I returned to school, Carrie was still the cutest girl in my class. I just got shocked looks of horror. Sigh. Defining moments.

It took two years for my hair to recover. By fifth grade my long straight locks had returned. Then I went to my mom's hairdresser with a picture of a cut I liked. The next thing I knew, my hair was 8-10 inches shorter and I looked like a boy. (If I can find a way to post these pictures, I will.) So much so that my friend (who I was holding hands with at a school rollerskating party) was asked, "Who's your boyfriend?" and we had no idea who that person was talking about. Then we realized it was ME.

Prior to seventh grade, my mom decided I needed a perm. She obviously missed the memo that straight bobs were going to be in fashion THAT year. Yes, she did. I got a perm that summer--and straight bobs made their debut that fall. My hair has been curly ever since. I think the permanent and puberty must have lined up in much the same way that the earth and moon line up for a lunar eclipse, and my life has never been the same.

So Saturday I tried a new stylist--one that might take some liberties with my hair. Going into it, however, I warned her that I am the mother of six children and don't have a lot of time for "maintenance." She gave me bangs, more dramatic layers (LAYERS--the word I wish I had known in third grade), and some styling tips. How is it that I still need styling tips?

Oh, well--at least I have HAIR. Right? Right?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

De. Light. FULL.


I have had a couple of moments of pure delight this week. De-Light. Tuesday morning I decided that I had a little errand to run at the bookstore, so I packed up my two-year old, hopped in the van, and we made our way to the bookstore. I need to paint the town more often with my little two-year old. She is delightful.

In the bookstore, we had two mutually exclusive missions. Mine: Find a copy of One Thousand Gifts and buy it. Hers: Find the "choo-choo" and play with it. Naturally, mine took precedence. Not sure why though, now that I think of it. I guess it was THE reason we were in the bookstore in the first place; on the other hand, it probably would have waited for a visit to the choo-choo.

At any rate, I bee-lined it for the Customer Service desk where a kindly young gentleman asked if he could help me. I told him what I was looking for, and he promptly looked it up and lead me to the rack where... it wasn't. Next stop: a New Release table. Not there either. [Note that my two-year old and I were following this swift-footed gentleman from one location to the next with my daughter saying, "Choo-choo" in mild-mannered distress. I kept reassuring her that it would be our next stop... OK, our NEXT stop.] The New Release was finally located on a cart in the Religion section where it was about to take up residence. Not so fast.

I thanked the helpful (and swift-footed) gentleman for his services. Then as I turned to help my insistent and done-waiting two-year old locate the children's section and the choo-choo, he said, "Oh, we don't have the train anymore." I couldn't imagine what he was talking about or why they would have gotten rid of the train, but I led my daughter to the children's section anyway because I had said I would... and we found the train--in the same spot that it was the last time we were there (which had to be months ago, and I have no idea how my daughter remembered it). Swiftfoot must have been thinking about the OTHER train.

Anyway, she played for a few minutes. We looked at some children's books. I paid for my book and we left. After a ride on the quarter-operated ice cream truck in the mall--for her, not for me (I exceeded the weight and age limit!), we returned to the van. Once we were buckled in, I realized that I was thirsty so we went to Orange Peel, a smoothie shop for which I happened to have a $5 gift certificate...

As I approached the counter, the young woman behind the counter asked, "What can I get for you?"

"Something YUMMY!" I said.

"Well, the Mello Yellow is quite delicious," she said and then proceeded to guide my eyes to its description on the wall behind her: mango, peach, banana. I'll take it. Once it was ready, we were given two ginormous straws to go with it--on yellow and one pink. I let the two-year old have first dibs. She took pink. I WANTED pink, but she got it. After all, I got to be first at the bookstore. Strangely, the smoothie seemed to taste just as good in yellow.

Actually, it was delightful in every. sense. of. the. word. My daughter and I passed it back and forth, sipping from our individually colored straws. The sun was shining on us. We were enjoying a yummy treat. She had on a clean diaper. It was delightful. I loved being with her, sharing my smoothie. The flavor was enhanced in the sharing--I just know it. Otherwise, it would have been too much. We finished the last slurps just shy of being overindulged. Perfect. As we passed the cup back and forth, I wished I had a camera. It was that good. The two of us and our smoothie.

Yesterday I took my nine-year old out to lunch. After a rough morning, I decided he needed some reassurance that I love him. I took him out of school. We went to the Pizza Factory and SHARED a lunch special--or a special lunch. He got the pizza. I got the salad. Not too much. Delightful.

Today my friend invited me to come over for a visit. Me and my two "littles"--My two-year old and my 9-month old. While there she made us lunch--a turkey pita with avocado and sprouts. Then she served us a bowl full of cut up strawberries and fresh pineapple (Seriously, who needs candy?!) to SHARE. I started by manning the fork, but when my two-year old wanted the driver's seat, I surrendered it with little resistance with the understanding that we were still going to SHARE. She then proceeded to alternate between our two mouths with bites of fruit. It was fun. And delightful.

As I further reflect on the week, I realize that two other delightful images center around food. One is my Valentine's Day gift from my husband: a dozen chocolate-covered strawberries. (Not candy--isn't he brilliant?) A circle of mothers surrounding a table of fruit pizza, mango salsa and chips, and a vegetable platter.

When I buy that XXL bag of pretzel M&M's (Answer: I NEED Candy!), I am going to try sharing them. I can't imagine how they could taste any better, but I'm willing to give it a try.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vanished Almost Rhymes With Famished

I gave up candy this month. I know I have mentioned this before, but I feel the need to confess it again. Maybe in some strange way it can explain (read: justify) all my shortcomings of late. Offhand, I am not sure what those are, but if a list happens to be forming in your head... well, I'm candy deprived.

But I am only candy deprived. What this "fast" has done for me (besides miraculously turn February into the LONGEST month of the year) is make me more resourceful. I didn't give up sugar. (Thank goodness!) I just gave up candy. In some ways I wish I would have given up all sugar--except for candy, because I have yet to look with disdain on pretzel M&M's. In fact, I plan to be at Costco first thing the morning of March 1 to snag an XXL bag of those little yummies. Better yet--I will buy one on February 28, so that I am prepared come 12:00 AM on March 1. (Poor smokers--their addictions STINK. Mine, on the other hand, has cute commercials.)

So candy deprived and craving sugar, I went grocery shopping last week... and came home with three packages of cookies: Chips Ahoy, Keebler Chips Deluxe Coconut Cookies, and generic vanilla sandwich cookies. I don't even like sandwich cookies. They were for the kids' lunches. Yes, they were. Of course, they opened the sandwich cookies first. (In the interest of health and provident living, I encourage my children to take a serving size of any treat for lunch--as opposed to half the package.) The cookies were gone the next day. Darn Kids.


Yesterday was Valentine's Day. This is last night's special dessert--er, I mean the pan from last night's special dessert. The ACTUAL pan. It was yummy. Obviously. My hips (and my children) thank me for not eating the entire pan all by myself. My tastebuds want to tell my hips and my children to take a hike.

How do you like the photography? Perhaps the actual dish would be more appealing, but doesn't this picture tell you more about the dish than a picture of the actual dessert would? It was GOOD. Really GOOD. It's gone. I won't be throwing any of it away next Tuesday, because it DISAPPEARED.

Why do food blogs always post pictures of the dish BEFORE anyone has tasted it? I know--it gives us the vision by which we determine if it is really worth the effort. Perhaps they should consider photographing food with a bite or two missing. Then we, the at-home chefs (I wish!) would recognize that someone just couldn't wait for the lens cap to be removed. They just HAD to taste it RIGHT NOW--it looked and smelled so good. In reality, the dishes are probably guarded by pandas and they only eat bamboo.

So about last night's dessert (in case you can't tell from the picture), it was a vanilla-wafer crust, cream-cheese-and-whipped-topping middle, and raspberries and Jell-O on top... and did I mention YUMMY?

If you ask really nicely, I might be persuaded to post the recipe but if you want a picture you will have to search the internet because our dessert is ALL GONE.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rubber Bands vs. Rubberbands


So Monday started out well. The last rubber band in the bag went on the last newspaper of the day. How often does that happen?! Never... except that one time when it did. As I attempt to glean some meaning from that once-in-a-lifetime-so-far experience, I wonder does it mean I should quit my paper route NOW... or that a shortage of rubber bands is in the future... or that I should bag the papers more often. Most likely it means that I need more sleep, but I didn't need a sign to know THAT.

Are you wondering at my spelling for "rubber band"? Doesn't it look odd as two words? I really think it should be one word, but the little red line beneath it insists that it isn't.

Upon consulting Google, I typed "is rubberband one word." The first line of the results page read, "Did you mean: is rubber band one word?" Yes, I suppose THAT is what I meant. Then the first three results declared that rubberband is, in fact, one word. So maybe that wasn't what I meant after all. Obviously, I am not the only one caught up in this dilemma (but I MAY be the only one losing sleep over it).

But the red line persists.

Who is the real authority on such matters? First there were bands. Then there was rubber. Then someone put the two together to form rubber bands... but WHO decides if they should be put together to form RUBBERBANDS? It's a mystery.

We could ask the same questions about car pools or carpools. But as we know, THAT is a discussion for another day... when we have more time.

Monday, February 7, 2011

If You're Not 10 Minutes Early, You Might Still Make It


As a teenager, I remember my dad dropping me off at a church activity five minutes early. The church was mostly dark. We sat in the parking lot and waited for someone else to arrive. I was bugged that my dad had been on my case to hurry so that we could be 10 minutes early. (Obviously, I compromised.) He adhered to the school of thought, "If you aren't 10 minutes early, you're late." Much to his chagrin, I had bought into the philosophy, "If you get there five minutes late, other people will be there and you won't have to stand around waiting--or looking like a dork."

My philosophy has mellowed in the past several years. My current philosophy is "Do your best to get there before the bell rings OR the opening prayer OR the lights are dimmed, but if all else fails--Just get there!" Occasionally I am early, but it isn't on purpose.

I am the mother of six children. As such, I track several different schedules on any given day. Those include (but are not entirely limited to) four different school schedules, piano lessons, gymnastics, naps and Scouts as well as two different carpools. Compound that with a baby and a toddler in need of diaper changes and naps, and you might appreciate that my "On Time" card has more tallies than my "Late" card.

I am the newest member of one of the carpools. At the beginning of January I moved my daughter from the local elementary school to a nearby charter school. Shortly thereafter I was invited to join a carpool with a few of my neighbors (who I know) and a family in another neighborhood (who I do not know). The carpool would include eight children from five families. I would drive on Monday.

The arrangement seemed straightforward enough. My 9-year old would still be home with my little diaper changees while I drove the carpool TO school, and my 11-year old would be home with them by the time I left to pick them up AFTER school. I quickly signed the deal.

TODAY as I think back to that original conversation regarding said carpool, I have a hazy recollection of an over-the-shoulder warning that may have involved the words uptight, punctual, time, and Nazi--but like I said, it's hazy.

Fast forward a few weeks.

Today is Monday. That means it is MY day to drive carpool. I have delivered my newspapers, exercised for an hour, and showered--when the two diaper changees wake up at 7:40. School starts at 8:15. Diapers are changed by 7:44. I could leave right then, but I still have 31 minutes before school starts. The school is a mile and a half away, and it takes all of 12 minutes to gather the carpool and get there. My baby hasn't eaten for several hours and will be S-A-D if I leave without feeding her. No problem. I've still got time. I decide to feed her. Then I go pick up carpool, and deliver them to the school with at least a full minute to spare. All's well that ends well, right? Too bad it didn't end there...

Perhaps an hour later, my phone rang. I answered it. One of the sweetest women you will ever meet was on the other end. She began something like this: "This is going to be kind of an awkward conversation..."

Hmmm. That can't be good. [Note to self: When a conversation begins with the words "going to be an awkward conversation," cut the cord, pull the plug, scream and hang up, whatever--just know that you aren't about to receive a warm fuzzy.]

The gist of the "awkward conversation" was that I was somewhat tardy this morning, and SOMEBODY (who shall remain nameless because I can't remember how to pronounce her name, let alone spell it) experienced a little anxiety because of it. The funny thing is that I already knew of her anxiety because it was written all over her daughters' faces when they entered my van this morning. They had very obviously received the tongue lashing that was probably intended for me. [On the bright side, they were probably that much more eager to get to school, right?] After I picked up her girls, she got on the horn to our sweet mutual friend and inquired, "Who is going to call and talk to HER?!" Meaning ME. Poor messenger.

Well, things happen. I could call "FOUL" on the grounds that having four other children at home at desired point of departure makes a clean getaway nearly impossible... while SOME PEOPLE (still nameless) have none. I COULD... but I won't.

I won't apologize either. All eight children made it to class "on time" (read: BEFORE the bell). As illustrated by my experience with my dad, that definition is subjective. I told the messenger that I will TRY to do better, and I will. Meanwhile maybe I could prescribe a little Zumba for SOMEONE who might need a little loosening up. Maybe.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Shaking My Booty


This morning my husband and I attended a Pilates class. It was great--totally worth getting out of bed (again) for. When it was over, a friend of mine came in for the Zumba class that immediately followed. That was all it took to possess me to stay.

As people, mostly women, trickled in I asked a woman next to me (on the BACK row), "Is this the area for the rookies?"

"I don't know about rookies, but it is the place for dorks."

Cool. I was ready.

To start off, the teacher asked, "Is anyone NEW?"

Now I figure they do this for two reasons: 1) So everyone attending for purely entertainment purposes knows who to watch and 2) So that the newbies have the opportunity to say, "I KNOW that I don't know what I am doing, so you don't need to feel sorry for me."

With that understanding, I raised my hand. Actually I kind of put it out in front of me so the teacher could see it. I didn't wave it around over my head or anything. No sense in getting the show started earlier than necessary, right?

Later I thought, "Can you only be new once?" If that is the case, then I am TOTALLY not "new" to Zumba--and by raising my hand, I lied. That was actually the third Zumba class I have attended. Ever. Over the course of three years. But if I am not new, I would be interested to know what class my experience bumps me into. Novice probably. Same thing, but at least it SOUNDS a little less new than NEW.

Anyway, Zumba is fun. I won't deny it. But as I "shaked" my booty, or tried to, I realized something. I Zumba like a runner... or an accountant, if that helps paint the picture. My booty shakes are like unto those of a robot, a bit too calculated. Rather rigid. I needed to LOOSEN UP! As this epiphany hit me, I realized that I would do well to learn to shake my booty (a.k.a. "loosen up") a little more in other areas of my life as well.

Sorry, no pictures.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Miss Recycling 2010


Upon digging for something in our royal blue recycling container, my husband proclaimed, "If there was a contest for Miss Recycling--you would be It." Well, thank you--thank you very much. I think it complements my Paper Girl persona rather nicely.

I'll admit that I probably am a little over the top. Small scraps of paper, receipts, and lids of almost every size and proportion end up in our bin which is conveniently positioned in our garage right outside our kitchen door. Since obtaining our bin, the garbage man usually only picks up one half-full container from our house each week. (Pretty impressive, considering the fact that we can't recycle diapers.) By contrast, our recycle bin is stuffed to brimming for its every-other-week pickup. We can't use the bin to recycle glass, so those just travel around in the van with me until I have the opportunity to deliver them to a glass recycling bin in town. So maybe I am a little OCD--I'm not denying it.


But I am not the only Earth-friendly inhabitant to frequent this abode. My husband is a pretty faithful composter. In fact, I would happily nominate him as Mr. Composter Universe. Although we have taken a winter hiatus from composting, it is about time to start it up again.

Next there is the subject of water--perhaps a topic better saved for its own post--I am continually amazed by the clean water that flows from my kitchen faucet. Maybe it's weird, but I rarely turn on the kitchen faucet without thinking of people in other corners of the earth that must pump their water from a well--and oftentimes must travel several miles before they can even do that. I am fortunate enough to have it in great abundance right at my fingertips. (It makes the whining over showers not being warm enough seem that much more absurd, don't you think?)

Besides the accessibility of water, the purity of it astounds me. The very idea of having a perfectly clear liquid that can be used to purge or clean just about anything is nothing short of a marvel. It isn't juice from a fruit or sap from a tree--it is sodium-free, calorie-free, cholesterol-free, fat-free, and refreshingly--well, refreshing. Suddenly I'm feeling thirsty.