22 December 2008

Goddess Of The Hunt: Artemis

My fascination with Greek mythology has accompanied me for years. My favorite was always Athena. To me, she embodied female strength and courage and wisdom - three qualities I always wanted to have. Artemis, however, was the one deity of the entire pantheon that I ignored. She liked to hunt and she shunned men; two areas in which I was her polar opposite.

Until recently, when I purchased the book "The Goddess Pages" by Laurie Sue Brockway. The book introduces thirty-six goddesses from faiths and traditions around the world. Each goddess can be called upon for their unique strengths, and the reader is provided with activities and meditations to utilize the awesome power of that goddess. If you want to love yourself and draw others to you, you would naturally ask Venus/Aphrodite for assistance. Evoke the essence of the Greek goddess Nike should you need help achieving victories. And so on and so forth.

The table of contents proved to be an interesting read until I came to "Artemis: Pursue Your Career Goals". Because of my recent job discontent, pursuing career goals has taken a top priority. This section of the book nearly jumped right out at me. Upon reading this chapter, I discovered how much Artemis has to offer me, right now, at this point in my life.

Artemis is known as the goddess of the hunt, as well as an excellent marksman. She could be very cruel to animals and humans who stood in her way, and she represents the idea of aiming high, taking risks, and being true to one's self. She was a self-reliant virgin goddess, and made it very clear she did not need or desire the company of men, especially when in pursuit of her lofty goals.

Artemis has skills I would find valuable, no doubt, as I am a hunter as well. I am hunting a new job and a chance to find my true career calling. To obtain her prey, a skilled hunter must also have focus, a skill particularly useful in today’s world. Artemis is the ultimate embodiment of an independent, confident, powerful woman who is not afraid of doing and being what she loves.

The book then continues on with some easy methods one could use to call upon Artemis's help in this certain area of life. However, the words at the end of the section especially rang true with me. In order to embrace that which Artemis has to offer, remember that she is focus and action personified. She does not complain when she misses her target; she does not whine about how tired and stressed she is. She focuses on her task at hand and actively strives for a solution. It's no small coincidence she's well-known for hitting every target she ever set her sights on.

I think this is a wonderful revelation. Staying focused, not complaining, and maintaining positive, forward action are important keys to professional success, ones I look to implement in my career decisions in the months to come.

21 December 2008

Giving Is Getting

You know me and my issues with Christmas. I'm probably going to pass those neurotic tendencies onto my children. Cool.

Sooo...one thing I grapple with is promoting the idea of selfless giving with my children. For the past few years, we've done the Giving Tree at Walmart. The kids would pick a stocking, and purchase the items listed for the child. They enjoyed the shopping, but they never saw the reaction of the person who received it. To me, that's an important part of the whole experience...seeing the results of your giving.

This year, Brent did not want to give to the Walmart tree. I think this might have been due to an experience we had last year. Last year, most of the stocking tags listed items like socks, underwear, etc. However, more and more, there were tags that listed things like "PlayStation 2 games." The "needy" line had been blurred - since when did needy mean "in need of PlayStation games?" We felt disillusioned, for sure.

However, we weren't going to stop giving. So this year, we signed up for the Salvation Army bell ringing. For one hour yesterday, the five of us stood in the snow and cold, ringing the bell for the needy and greeting all kinds of holiday shoppers as they meandered in and out of the Walmart SuperCenter.

The lesson I hoped we all learned: Giving transcends all races, socioeconomic background, walks of life. We saw well-dressed and stylish people who passed us without a glance. Another gentleman not wearing a coat and who looked as if he might have been a burn victim stopped to drop in a couple of dollars.

It is disconcerting in some ways to see the amount of people shopping at Walmart, pushing heavily-laden carts of toys and food, and yet they can't or don't spare a little for people who really are in need. However, there are people who give - and that's what I wanted my kids to see.

10 December 2008

Yesterday's Snow Day Recap

But, first, a message of manliness from my four-year-old son. He wakes up this morning, crawls into bed with us, and then promptly bolts to the bathroom to use the toilet. Twenty minutes later, same drill. This is when he informs me, "Mom, when my peepee gets big, that means I have to go potty."

Ah, youth. If only it could be that simple forever.

Anyway, yesterday was the first full snow day of the year. The call came at 5:50 a.m. (first the delay, then the cancellation). I went back to bed for only about a half-hour, because I'm one of those freaks who can usually wake up just about once a day.

First came breakfast, and I used the rest of my frozen blueberries in my oatmeal. Then I leisurely shopped around for Christmas presents online...in my bed and jammies. Spencer got his shopping done as well. The rest of the morning was a mishmash of activity, varying from doing laundry to playing Dance, Dance Revolution. Brent then suggested that going out for lunch would be a good idea, so off we trundled (by the way, we'd dropped off Elliot at daycare about 9 a.m.). In the afternoon, I watched "Black Snake Moan" while the kids watched "Willow." Then I graded some papers, did some Taebo, and fixed an apple crisp. Brent made the chili, and we had dinner around 5:30.

The rest of the evening was grading projects and updating grades. I was able to squeeze in a few dances on DDR towards the very end of the evening. I don't know why I've been jonesing after that game. My husband and I retired to the bedroom shortly after that, and I won't titillate you here with the gory details.

30 November 2008

I Love Me Some People

I'm reading the nonfiction book "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer, and the main character is a young man who forgoes his privileged background to live off the land in the wilds of Alaska. He burns his money, abandons his car, cuts himself off from his parents and tramps across the American West before deciding to head way up North.

The author spends some time in the book discussing and describing other young men in this century who have done the exact same thing - shrug off the norms of society for the untamed, often cruel, wilds of nature. A common thread in all these adventures (besides the fact they usually result in death or disappearance) is that each of the men were middle class, somewhat privileged, young, and completely disillusioned with the human experience. They all came to the conclusion people lied, cheated, stole, and were generally oppressive. There was nothing redeeming about being part of the human race. However, nature was none of those things...she was heartless, yes, but at least that was known up front. No illusions.

The author then goes on to explain that these young men have been lauded as brave and spiritually superior; they were willing to dig past the capitalist trappings of current society to pursue truth. Others have criticized them for stupidly underestimating and disrespecting nature. It is not my goal here to dispute any of this, but I will say that I do not understand the ideas of the former.

To me, people are one of the main reasons we exist on this planet. I know I wake up each day because of people. I wake up to see my husband first thing in the morning, my children at the breakfast table, my colleagues in the workplace, my students in their desks, my parents at a restaurant (or wherever), and my friends everywhere.

Just about everything I do revolves around others. Maybe writing is the closest solo activity I can think of. I do enjoy solitude...no doubt that...but I know I would feel emotionally adrift if I were not connected to people in some way every day of my life.

One of the best children's books I have ever read is Jon J Muth's "The Three Questions." It's an adaptation of a Leo Tolstoy short story, in which the protagonist, a young boy, is attempting to find answers to his three most important questions:

1. When is the best time to do things?
2. Who is the most important one?
3. What is the right thing to do?

After visiting with a wise, old turtle (hey, it's a parable), the boy eventually discovers the answers:

1. The most important time is now.
2. The most important one is the one right beside you.
3. The right thing to do is whatever's best for the person/people around you.

Two of these three answers have to do with people and taking responsibility for their well-being. I think about the Dungeons and Dragons get-together last night...good food, good friends, good times. I don't need the Alaska mountains or Arizona desert to find meaning in life - it was in my kitchen.

27 November 2008

The Early Bird Gets The Screwed-Up DNA

I am my father's daughter.

As a youngster (like in my early 20s), I laughed right in my dad's face every time he told me rising early was GOOD, because then I had "a whole day to do everything I wanted". He chided me for "sleeping my life away." And I would laugh with the arrogance of youth at him, and his old-fashioned notions.

"You're not a farmer, Dad," I'd say. "You don't have to get up with the cows, man."

It was always a spirited bone of contention. "Early to bed, early to rise," was my dad's credo. So was "The early bird catches the worm." So was "Early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." Me, I didn't understand that. I WAS NOT going to bed at eight o'clock. And I'd get up when I freakin' felt like it.

But, you know, Mother Nature and her lover, Time, have a way of ruining a perfectly good young person.

As I rose through the ranks of the college-educated and career-searching, I became accustomed to waking early. In fact, I *needed* to wake up early...to feel like I'd gotten off on the right step. Pretty soon, six-thirty was no big deal. Then I had children, and time was precious, and the more of it I had, the better. So, when I could, five forty-five marked the beginning of my day.

Slowly, but surely, I have morphed into a female, less cantakerous version of my dad.

I arose from my bed this morning at 3:51 am. My mind was ready to go and start the day's tasks, but my body refused to comply. So I lay there in the cloud-like warmth of my down comforter, lounging, I guess you would say. That's when my father's words drifted into the consciousness of my mind. "...early to rise, greet the day, get some things done..."

*Mental Groan*

As it turns out, I only achieved two of the above three. I did rise early, but I did not get some things done. I flipped on the TV, and laid on the couch. I surfed...and learned there is nothing on television at four o'clock in the morning. After forty-five minutes of mind-numbing programming, I felt tired enough to go back to my bed.

So, there it was. The thumb-my-nose gesture back into the face of my upbreeding...I "wasted" three hours in bed after my paternal DNA had jolted me into a senseless early-rising.

05 November 2008

History Lesson...I Hope

Congratulations, Barack Obama!

I went to bed last night before the final votes were in, and my husband informed me this morning history had been made.

I cannot even explain the feeling in my heart - I think it might be hope.

Even though I'm only in my early-thirties, I'd consider myself pretty jaded and cynical about the state of our country. I won't launch into those various diatribes here, but suffice it to say, I just felt America the Beautiful...wasn't. I know it's unpatriotic, and people would condemn me for saying it, but I know I'm not the only disillusioned young person (!) out there.

This presidential campaign even further bolstered my belief that the American people, for all their self-proclaimed sophistication, was nothing more than a mob of backward-thinkers. I could hardly bear the juvenile mudslinging and sniping.

Last night, as I watched the electoral map change from gray to red and blue, I became disgusted. It seemed like a racial battle. The solid line of blue abruptly halted at the Appalachian states, and the red waves of grain flowed south to the Gulf of Mexico. I thought to myself, "this is what it's going to be. People are so prejudiced that we can't separate color and quality, and we might be doing this country a huge misjustice, all because we can't get past the stupid, narrow-minded issue of someone's skin color."

In an effort of self-preservation, I even went to bed trying to convince myself I didn't want Obama as president, because the American people would just be horrible to him...like when students misbehave when there's a substitute teacher.

So I woke this morning and received the good news, and a ray of light shot through my little jaded heart. Maybe there's some redeemable qualities still there...maybe we can get out of this funk we're in. Maybe things can change.

Maybe. It's a step from where I had been.

HSM 3 Leads to Suicidal Thoughts

OK, I'm not really serious. At least, I don't think. It depends.

Kirby and I had a special girls' night out tonight, and we went to see High School Musical 3. For those of you who are blissfully unaware, HSM3 is Disney's attempt to corner the pre-teen movie market, and is, I might add here, doing a good job of it. Good enough that they've been able to make mountains out of molehills in the merchandise market (how's that for alliteration).

But really, Walt the Third, enough is enough.

About twenty minutes in, I wanted to beat my brains out on the row of seats in front of me. I wanted to drown myself in the eight inches of diet soda in the paper cup I was holding. I wanted strangle myself by my purse strap. I'm usually not given over to such fits of passion, but tonight, I was feeling it.

It's too bad, really, because I honestly enjoyed the first HSM. It was a cute plot with a few fun songs thrown in. HSM 2 was OK. The plot was still clever, the songs were OK, but the scene where Troy and Gabriella were breaking up and singing their goodbyes to each other gagged me like a plate of overcooked liver. HSM 3, however, was above and beyond. My gag reflex worked overtime. The plot was lame and trite (seniors contemplate final year's big decisions - whoa). Despite that, the plot *might have* worked had the director let the actors ACT instead of breaking out into song every ten minutes.

The songs! Oh, the songs. I think a drunken college student in a stupor slapped together some lyrics and pounded them out on his eight-year-old sister's Casio keyboard's demo track.

Zac Efron managed to look pissed throughout most of his singing numbers.

And while I'm thinking about it, here are a few other minor things that bugged me about this movie:

1. What's up with the big graduation scene (the play within the movie) where Troy announces he's going to Berkeley. His best friend, Chad, totally leaves the stage (in the middle of a show!), all pissed at Troy for not going to University of Albuquerque. Troy chases him to the basketball court, makes a few limp "friend-type" comments, then they run back to the play, friendship fixed. WTH? Chad has been living under the assumption the both of them are going to college together, and now Troy's just dropped the biggest, stinkiest turd of a bombshell on Chad's head...and Chad is angry enough to storm out in the middle of a theatrical production. Chad is a idiot. Troy is an idiot. So is Ms. Darbus. So is Troy's dad.

2. In one scene where Troy is torn because he's doesn't know what to do with his life, he drives to the high school, somehow entering the building, where he proceeds to run and dance around the entire school grounds trying to "find his way." WTH? In any other American high school, the cops would have arrested him, no holds barred.

3. Every scene Gabriella is in, she's wearing some gauzy spring dress number. And high heels. WTH? I know it's the Southwest US, but where are the more realistic sweatpants and flip-flops for god's sake? Everyone at my high school would want to kick her little fashionista ass.

4. We were duped by Sharpay. Again. WTH? In the end of every HSM, it seemed the bitch was going to change for the better and maybe act human. But, nooooooo. She went off her meds or something and suddenly became the East High Bitch Troll Queen once more. I just don't get why she's so popular.

5. Huh. As it turns out, all 1200 seniors at East High can dance, and hey, they all know the same dance routine. They also somehow know to break out into said routine at the end of Troy's graduation speech. Quelle surprise. Who knew? Maybe if my graduation had been intricately choreographed like that, my class reunion attendee turnout would be higher.

God, I'm exhausted. I haven't ranted like THAT for a long time. Of course, I don't think I've had ammo like that for a long time. God bless Disney...but seriously, please stop the HSM train now. Quit riding trying to ride on its coattails and let it go to college to become productive young adults. Please. Do it for all of us who parent an impressionable young girl.

If my daughter gets older and wants to relocate to New Mexico and become a "Wildcat", I will mercilessly persue you, Walt Jr., to the ends of the earth. For your blood.

26 October 2008

Another Nerd Weekend

Yours truly spent another satisfying weekend immersed in the nerd lifestyle.

First, on Friday night, I spent discussing the second half of the book "Just Do It: How one couple turned off the TV and turned on their sex lives for 101 days (No Excuses)." For those of you dear readers who don't know, I am one-third of a powerful literary organization known as...Universal Khaki. Roughly every two weeks, we meet (in secret) to discuss mind-provoking literature like Eragon, Stardust, et al.

Secrets that were unlocked and mysteries that were unveiled are far too powerful to speak of here.

So, then, Saturday. The crew assembled at noon for a rousing Dungeons and Dragons adventure.

Oh yes, I have now confessed. Complete nerd.

Due to the noctural habits of our junior players (one of them being our DM), we actually did not start the adventure until one-thirtyish.

We fought several enemies, and I leapt upon an Amulet of Fireball, taking negative points of damage (rendering myself unconscious). Don't be fooled, I didn't do it for the heroics. Everyone else but me failed their Reflex save and so I "took one for the team."

Being a monk, though, I can kill enemies pretty much with my bare fists, so I did a lot of that. Brent's character is a bard, so he did a lot of singing. Kerri was a sorceress, so she cast a lot of spells. Kimba's a ranger, so she did a lot of...rangering. I guess. The other guys are fighters and barbarians and did a great amount of hack-and-slash.

It was all good, and culminated in an utter defeat of 100 foot soldiers by us. We had pits and fire rings and piano wire and spiky things that hurt their feet. Yes, complete annihilation.

Our game plan for destroying the soldiers was so brilliant that I actually documented it.

Here we all our posing around the visual of our magnificent strategem, pointing to our character.

And here are two little mini-nerds in the making.

18 October 2008

No, I'm not talking about the political debates. I'm talking about one on a much more personal level.

The internal debate of whether or not to quit my job.

Ah yes.

Those of you who've ever been where I am now know what behemoth I am facing. This decision cannot be made frivolously; I am not in my early 20s anymore. I have three children, a house mortgage, and good community standing. A solid career flung to the whipping winds of discontent could end in so many bad ways.

On the other hand, I'm not about to spend my life feeling like I'm just surviving and trying to get through to the weekend. I want to do something that will make me happy and full of purpose.

But, I've got to have a plan. And I must lay the groundwork for that plan. So here goes...the first in an installment of two. My reasons for staying home.

Reasons To Stay Home

1. I am fed up with education and its limitations, and I don’t think it will be changing anytime soon.
2. I would be a bigger part of my children’s before and after-school routines.
3. I would have more freedom in dictating how I spend my day.
4. Working part-time would allow me to be more involved in house management duties.
5. I would be in a better mood at the end of the day because all my “good stuff” wouldn’t have been sucked out by teenagers.
6. Weekends would be more productive and content because I wouldn’t be holed up for six hours a day grading papers.
7. I’m pursuing my dream of trying to be a successful writer, and I know I would regret not trying it.
8. I can’t happily imagine myself teaching in a public high school next year.
9. I’d have more energy to focus on important issues, my health, well-being, spiritual development.
10. We’d learn to become more frugal, due to a smaller income. Restaurant time would decrease because I’d have the energy and desire to prepare supper.
11. I'd enjoy a daily leisurely lunch, reading a book over a bowl of soup, instead of cramming prepackaged Jello and applesauce cups into 25 minutes of hurried chattering with colleagues.
12. I'm a good role model for my children - that when you truly want something, don't let fear hold you back. Taking risks can be OK.

I'm sure there will be more. I may come back to update if/when I experience an epiphany.

12 October 2008

The Experiment

Saturday morning: I rose early and ran in a 5K race. It only took me about 32 minutes. That's better than the one I ran in May. So, yay me. Physical enlightenment achieved.

OK, remember last week's grocery trip in which I trumpeted my victories at the supermarket, especially in the yogurt and diet soda aisles? Well, I had an epiphany that day, and I was finally able to put it into action today. And it was good.

Last week, as I was checking out, my mom and I noticed a couple putting their groceries not into the environment-hating plastic Walmart sacks, but into those cloth bags that are the rage now (maybe they're not the rage now, maybe I just noticed them, whatever!). I said to my mom, "You know what would be interesting? Seeing if I could feed my family for a week, just on whatever I could put into five of those cloth bags." She agreed that yes, it would be interesting. And we went on about our business, but, heh, those wheels were already spinning for me. I was going to do it.

Fast-forward to this morning. I explained the plan to my husband, and he agreed to go along, although I could definitely sense the apprehension on his part. A big part of his brain was wondering what kooky shenanigans I was up to now, and was it going to deprive him of his Diet Coke (cf. October 4, 2008).

To begin with, I shelled out $5.35 in the area of "Capital Outlay." We bought the five black Walmart cloth bags and went off in search of commodity enlightenment. Our first challenge came in the form of the $1 shopping cart, where a plethora of colorfully striped three-ring binder and Hannah Montana pencil pouches were on sale for the deliriously low price of one hundred pennies. Since my husband is addicted to anything that promotes paper organization, he snapped up five of the binders. For me, the pouches were just too cute, and would be useful in storing orphaned crayons and pencils.

One black shopping bag - gone. Four more to go.

I am happy to report that the rest of the expedition went smoothly. We stuck to items on the list, and soon things like yogurt, mouthwash, pepperoni, bananas, ground turkey, etc. filled the other four shopping
bags. Fortunately, there was not a whole lot of meat purchase, due to the fact there was still a couple of days' worth in the freezer.

As we strolled off towards the self-check station, I anticipated a lower cost in the total dollar amount, because we only bought what we really needed (three-ring binder and pencil pouches notwithstanding). The point of this exercise was to truly discern the difference between "vital" and "non-vital" grocery items. There was a couple of exceptions to the "whatever fits in the bag" rule: gallons of milk and 12-packs of soda did not fall under the bag rule. Also, ginormously packaged items like toilet paper and paper towels were exempt. However, we also attempted to practice of sense of moderation here as well; just because it was too big for the bag didn't mean it was OK to go overboard on bulk-sized purchases. Another key indicator of the experiment's success would be on whether or not we would have to visit the grocery store later on in the week. My goal was buy everything we needed today to eliminate a mid-week trip.

In the end, total bill: just a shade over $88. Bags filled: Four out of five (clever rearranging made for one empty bag). Feeling of Economical Righteousness: priceless.

Even Brent was excitedly chatting up "the experiment" on the way home, acknowledging the coolness we had just exuded. It occurred to me that the benefits here were two-fold; first of all, in these hard economic times, we had willingly monitored our spending and actively reduced it. Props to us for our Warren Buffett-esque behavior. Secondly, the experiment provoked interesting conversation between Brent and I in regards to what is a necessity and what is a luxury. When he could see the visual of the bags being filled (and what little it took), that is when he began to consider ways to cut back. The guy BEGAN TO SPEAK OF decreasing our soda consumption.

***Picture me agog****

If one trip to the grocery store could set THAT kind of chain of events in motion, what phenomenal things could happen if we did it every weekend?

We've already decided to try it again on the next supermarket excursion. Brent explained to me that he did not consider this week a "real" week, because he and the kids are leaving for Wisconsin Dells on Friday morning, so he claims the real test will be next weekend when we'll be shopping for a full week of meal-making and house-managing.

The floodgate is open, everyone, let the ideas for personal betterment commence!

28 September 2008

Lessons Learned From a 15-Year Class Reunion

Guess what I was doing this weekend? Visiting the wonderful world of Nostalgia.

1.People do not change much, relatively speaking. A pair of corollaries demonstrate this:

a.The girl who would have been voted Biggest Flirt (had your school done such shenanigans) would still be elected Biggest Flirt. However, it’s a much more dangerous title now because everyone present is of legal drinking age, and who knows what can happen.

b.The bar/grill/banquet room/picnic shelter/dance floor where the reunion is held resembles your high school cafeteria circa fifteen years ago. The athletes had their reserved tables, and the mortals sat somewhere else. The same is true at the reunion, except the mortals no longer give a rat’s ass about the athletes because the athletes have protruding bellies and receding hairlines. The male ones, too.

2.Inevitably, a drunken guy will shuffle over to the jukebox where you are picking some sweet tunes, and punch in a random number, completely usurping one of your plays.

3.The guy who was the dark horse Prom King candidate turns out to be a lawyer.

4.You will meet people that inspire you, like the person who freelances for a living or the person who is moving to Zambia in, like, two weeks.

5.The B-52’s “Love Shack” will be played at least once on the jukebox. Which is fine. The 25-minute B-side by The Doors is not.

6.Being sober at a function like this is way more fun than the alternative.

7.You realize the popular kid you elected your Class President is not a very good organizer, and thus you should have nominated somebody who had a vision for the future.

8.The guy you had a crush on is no longer as appealing as he was back in 1993.

9.Those of you who attend the reunion realize you should elect a Reunion King and Queen, and preferably, these people should not have gone to your high school.

10.People you haven’t spoken to you for fifteen years will all of a sudden want to sloppily hug you as you leave for the night.

22 September 2008

The Great Contemplation

So, here I am. White, middle class female. Three kids, stable marriage, nice house, solid income, able to enjoy most comforts of life.

I work as a teacher at the local high school. I would say my job is fairly secure. It has its ups and downs, but for the most part I would categorize my work life as OK. I don't hate it, but I don't love it.

And that is why I am thinking about getting out.

This year, for the first time in my life, I was not energized by the first day of school. I was not looking forward to school starting. The kids have not changed drastically, but I don't enjoy being with them as much anymore. Colleagues that I normally enjoy socializing with have recently begun to get on my nerves. I feel that I have become less of a teacher and more of a facilitator...or some other word that really is not that cool. It's all about the test scores, or getting off THE LIST, or another initiative designed to help kids, but is actually too complicated and cumbersome to really implement.

There are a lot of other things coming into play here, but my dissatisfaction with my job is top of the list. And I don't see it changing soon. I feel like in someways I'm seeing the writing on the wall and getting out before it's too late and I become bitter.

However, not being a fancy-free twenty-something anymore, there has to be a plan. Brent says there was to be a plan. I can't just quit, and wander aimlessly in the wilderness. There are bills to be paid and kids to be provided for.

So - the question is now: What do I want to do for a living that will allow me to be a good mom and wife, and yet will contribute to the GNP in some way?

Well, I know what I'd like to do for a living. This. Write. Obviously, I probably wouldn't get paid for blogging, but freelance writing might take care of some of the bills, yes? I love to write, and I even fancy that I'm moderately good at it. But could I do it professionally? There's the deep jump into the unknown.

I don't have all the answers yet. But times, they are a-changing.

31 August 2008

Here's A Depressing, Disrespectful Post For You

OK, I'm sure it isn't, but I know I'll sure feel bad after I write this. Like I'm not capable of keeping my big, fat mouth shut and remember that "there are things you say, and there are things you think...and a smart person knows the difference." Brarrrrr!

We got home about a half-hour ago from visiting my husband's grandma in a Care Center. She's been there about three weeks since breaking her ankle...but she's slowly declining anyway with Alzheimer's. She tells us she'd had no visitors today and did not go outside at all, even though we know Brent's parents came and took her to church. It's just sad, you know, because in her mind, everyone has left her and she has no idea where she is...and so I get to wondering:

Is there anything good about getting old?

Because I sure as hell am at a loss.

1. What happens when you reach that stage when you just can't quite manage living totally on your own? You get put into a Care Center, nursing home, rehabilitation facility, or whatever. The name of the place doesn't matter...because everyone knows what it is and why you're there.

2. Pretty much everyone is living their own lives and don't have much time to come hang out with their relative who sits all day in a nursing home. Hence, the relative gets a.) lonely or b.) bitter. Either way, it sucks.

3. I just cannot stand to think of the day when my faculties (mental and physical) start to go. When I am able to do nothing but sit in front of the TV all day long, I hope someone will have the decency to shoot me.

4. I know, as a pagan, one of the key tenets my faith is the idea of the Triple Goddess. The maiden, mother, crone. That this is all part of the circle of life and that life is cyclical. I KNOW! But I'm having a hard time figuring out, exactly, what I will have to offer this world when I am a crone besides a nasty stereotype.

Yeah, so that's it.

21 July 2008

The Monster I've Created

Hmmmm....parenting dilemma #125: Equal treatment of all children.

This morning, Brent took Spencer and Kirby to the Y for basketball camp. This was from 8:30-Noon. That left Elliot and I to run errands.

Now...we've been trying to potty-train Elliot. So, everytime he uses the toilet by himself, he gets a sticker on his chart. When the chart is full, he gets a treat. The chart has about twenty spots on it, and if he pees in his underwear, I cross out a sticker and he needs to make up for it. Anyway, it's been a big deal, and he's had his eye on a Go, Diego, Go backpack at Walmart.

Which we finally got to get for him today! Yay Elliot! Potty Prince!

Back to the story. When I picked the kids up, Spencer told me how he had trouble keeping his shoes on during play. They're the zip-up kind, and they actually functioned as his gym shoes during the last year. Needless to say, between gym class and regular wear this summer, they're pretty shot. So, we went to the shoe store to buy new shoes for him.

Guess who's upset because she gets nothing special??? Kirby. Elliot got the backpack and Spencer gets new shoes. She didn't talk to me all through lunch and had tears in her eyes whenever she'd look at me.

My first reaction was to tell her: Look, sometimes you get things and the boys don't. That's how it goes sometimes. What I snippily wanted to add, but didn't was: Sometimes you're more special on some days than others. Get over it. But then, I started to feel bad for her - WTF??

After I said my above piece, I went ahead and ignored the silent tantrum, and eventually she did get over it, but it got me thinking. Have I been so worried about making sure my kids all get the same stuff, that now they expect things when they don't need or deserve it? Christmas is a good example. In the past, we've always tried to spend the same amount of $$$ on the kids. Well, the older they've gotten, the trickier that's become. But, they're still young enough to raise a fuss when one child has more presents than the other...so we buy a couple of "filler" presents for the child who's got the least to alleviate the problem. Soon, the belief prevailed that if "she got something at Walmart, I should get something too." Yuck. I'm raising greedy little yard gnomes!

21 June 2008

The Call Of The Sea

Well, now I feel a bit like the Elves in the Lord of the Rings books, who, once they perceive the Sea, are forever filled with the desire to be near it and even sail over it.

Anyway, yeah, I had one of these sublime moments today when I felt the definite pull of a force other than my own heart.

We reached Myrtle Beach around 2:30 today and made plans to take the kids to the ocean. However, there was a heinous storm cloud moving in, complete with thunder and lightning. So, we settled for hustling the children to the beachfront, if only for a quick toe dip. Hahaha - right. Naturally, they wanted to frolic and cavort. Naturally, they got just about soaked and sandlogged from head to foot. Oh well. We carted them off the Captain Bennett's Seafood Buffet anyway...as is.

After dinner, we dropped off my extremely crabby father and took the kids to "Hawaiian Rumble" - a miniature golf course. It was a lot of fun, actually, and Elliot (the 3.5 year old) even got two holes-in-one! I'd better Tigerize him and get him on the PGA. It was after all this, about 7:30, that we decide to go back to the beach. The clouds had cleared off by then and it was nice, so why not? When in South Carolina, do as the South Carolinians do. Go to the beach!

The kids, of course, loved having full rein on the sand. They could run and kick and shriek to their hearts' content. All we had to do was shout at them a few times to "not go so far out" and keep little Elliot from being knocked over too many times and drinking too much salt water.

But, there I am, contentedly standing on the shore, letting the gentle tide wash over my feet. And, weirdly, I can actually feel the sand underneath my feet being washed away. The ground I'm on is rapidly eroding, leaving me a bit unable to stand properly. It was the oddest feeling...like I was drunk, but I hadn't been drinking anything at all. No matter what personal issues I have, the world keeps on turning and doing what it does best.

So, after several minutes, we begin to round up the troops. I am walking in a diagonal fashion, in a beeline for our towels, and with the way I was walking and the pull of the tides, I experienced the oddest sensation. I was actually being pulled out to the ocean with the ebbing tide. Like the ocean did not want me to leave. It made my heart feel tied up a little, I tell you.

I tell you what, though, get me a comfy chair (i.e. Adirondack) and plop me out on that beach, with that soft white sand, and I would be set for life. There's something about that huge expanse of water that reminds of how I am but a small bit of this universe. I am in it.

08 May 2008

Book Club: Universal Khaki

A recent little development in my life is the formation of and my participation in a book club.

I know you all will find it hard to believe that I teach English and yet my reading for fun is so dismal. However, I usually get caught up in living, eating, parenting, working, and all that other jazz before I'm able to sit and read a good book. I do sneak them in occasionally, though.

Anyway, two theater friends and I decided during play practice about a month ago to form a book club. Because: we like to read and we like to talk about what we read and we like to socialize while we talk about what we read.

We decided on an interesting format. We meet in two weeks' time to discuss the book, but the catch was, we were only to read HALF of the book. Then we could discuss theories and ideas up to that point. In another two weeks, we would meet again to discuss the rest of the book. It's clever, actually, reading half the book, talking about it, then reading the rest.

Our first choice was "Eragon." Not one of the three of us had read it, we'd all seen the movie, and it seemed a good place to start. So off we went (the book is BLAH, lots of flaws, but that's neither here nor there). We had our second meeting last night...so the book is done.

And it was so much fun! We had excellent book conversation, and great other-topic conversation otherwise. I feel like for the first time since we moved here that I've found girlfriends I have lots in common with and enjoying being with.

So...the next book "Stardust" by Neil Gaiman.

21 April 2008

If Every Sunday Could Be Like Yesterday

Yesterday was one of those days that no matter what else went on in the world - things were right and happy in my corner of the universe.

We started off the day at church, which, by itself, is not so monumental (in fact, that's something I need to post about). But then, after church, the kids went to Sunday school, and Brent and I snuck off to the local coffeehouse to have a soda and some conversation...instead of going to the adult Sunday school. Sacreligious, I know.

Then, we stopped at Subway and picked up some subs for lunch, picked up the kids, and then went home. There, we saddled up everyone for a 15-minute bike ride to the elementary school playground. We would eat our subs there and play awhile. A very nice ride - Spencer rode by himself, Kirby rode tandem with me, and Brent pulled Elliot in the trailer. We were quite the convoy. Anyway, the weather was nice, clouds were clearing out and temps were reaching into high 60s.

After about an hour, we ride back home. Because of the nice weather, and the absolute need, I spend about an hour power-washing our screened-in deck, followed by another half-hour of deck washing, followed by another hour of power-rinsing. I also hosed off the deck furniture and part of the house. Brent did some other outside stuff.

I come back inside, and take a break by grading a little bit of homework. Within the hour, though, it's time to start supper. Kirby and I had decided earlier this weekend to have banana pancakes, sausage, and hash browns. Now I enjoy cooking, so I liked the three-ring-circus-challenge of doing this meal...between the flipping and pouring of pancakes, stirring of hash browns, and microwaving of sausage, I was having a ball. Not to mention watching the clock, because timing is everything!

After that, I took some provisions over to my school for this coming week, and we went out for ice cream.

So it was a productive and fun weekend...but most of all, I felt like part of a family. With all this play stuff the last six weeks, I've felt a bit alienated from them. However, one more week to go and I'm done with community theater.

19 March 2008

Chocolate Jesus

Hmmm...there are so many options. I've had a lot on my mind lately, like...

1. Seeking medical attention
2. Return to Paganism
3. Easter gifts and philosophy
4. Home remodeling
5. Energy draining of pointless committees
6. How "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" is, in fact, a thinly disguised critique of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.

Well, Chuck, I feel like seeing what's behind Door Number Three. Easter.

OK, you all know me, and how hard it can be for me to celebrate Christian holidays without a vomitous feeling in the back of my throat at the hypocrisy of it all. You all know that I think it's a complete farce that the entire month of December (practically) consists of annoying radio jingles, insane toy advertising, holiday special reruns, potlucks, and fattening sugar cookies - all in the name of celebrating a "man" whose birthday was actually in the spring...nowhere near December 25th.

And on that special day, I'm supposed to forget all the aforementioned items and focus on the "reason for the season". Whatever that is.

Now before I'm labeled a Grinch, I'd like to state that I do not wish to abolish Christmas. Personally, I love Christmas music and Christmas food. I like shopping and Santa and wrapping presents. I concur in my heart of hearts with the Christmas theory of being generous and giving. But, I abhor the veneer of self-righteous of religious fanatics who wave their propaganda at me, asking me to believe in a lie (the previously mentioned "Jesus Came on a Midnight Clear).

You, who know me so well, will know that I can't participate in such hypocrisy without losing my self-respect. And wanting to bake my head in the nearest microwave oven.

And now, Easter. To me, this is the time of the year when we all should be celebrating THE EARTH. The ancients had it right when they took part in festivals welcoming back the Sun God (whom, by the way, is ageless, so there are no raging debates about his birthday). For the Greeks, the Goddess of Agriculture's daughter is returning from Hades...the weather is getting warmer, crocuses are budding, the sun is brighter...I mean, spring is in the air. I feel that happy burst of life that impels me to open my windows, run outside, and listen to the birds in their nests. I mean, it's a time of rebirth and renewal.

It's an uplifting time for me. I'm not really in the mood for a macabre story about the darkness that lurks in the heart of man. You know of whom I speak. Pontius Pilate and his band of nail-drivers. Not to mention Judas, the champion of backstabbers the world over.

But, you know, whatever.

And now, to my real point. We are not getting the kids Easter gifts this year. We've been sporadic about it in the past, and have decided to chuck the whole thing altogether. My husband's reasoning is that the kids receive too many gifts and goodies anyway, so it won't hurt them to miss Easter. Frankly, I'm glad because that means I won't have to buy them damned chocolate bunnies and Cadbury creme eggs that I would just end up scarfing myself anyway. I also won't have to explain the connection between Easter eggs and chocolate and Jesus dying on the cross (Although, this potentially could be cleared up if all candy/chocolate companies began to manufacture Chocolate Jesuses).

But most of all, I'm glad that we've jointly decided to not fall victim to parental peer pressure of getting gifts in commemoration of a holiday that, in general, we're pretty lukewarm about.

Instead, we'll probably just hang out as a family and balance eggs on their ends on Friday (the equinox...seriously, you can really do that). Now, that's something tangible I can celebrate. Balancing eggs, balancing Earth, balancing life...a return to better times.

05 March 2008

Whoa - Been Awhile Since A Day Like This...

First off, my apologies to anyone who might have been expecting great things out of me today/tonight - it's just not going to happen.

So, OK. I live in middle America. I have three kids, a dog, and a minivan. I work at a high school. Most of my days are pretty even and noneventful - and most of the time, I'm OK with that. Every now and then I shake things up by taking an exotic European vacation, buying leather furniture, or fighting with my husband.

But most of the time, my days continue pretty much according to my plan, and I am in control of the events of those days...most of the time. Most nights I fall asleep thinking, "Yeah, pretty good day."

Today was NOT one of those days. Today was one of those days where I thought WTF? Why is the universe taking a crap on my head?

Brent left this morning for MN. He goes there about once a month to check in at work. So, I'm in charge of the morning routine. No problem. Now. Because of all the snow days we've had, the school has adopted a new school day schedule. We will start classes ten minutes earlier and extend the day fifteen minutes later. I assumed this changeroo also meant an earlier bus time for all elementary kids. Seems logical, yes? So, I bring my kids to their bus stop ten minutes earlier than usual...no bus. Either bus is gone or bus hasn't come yet. Either way, I have no idea what the hell is going on.

Therefore, I run the kids out to the school. I am now late for work, and will stress at the "rushed" feeling I will experience as I get ready for my day.

Eventually, the day begins, and things get much better. I am starting "The Odyssey" today - I am very excited to be doing my job.

Shortly after lunch, I get a call from the elementary school. Kirby has a fever. She had strep about two weeks ago, and since then, this pesky little fever has persisted off and on. I hurriedly call our school's secretary who gets a sub to me as fast as she can. Now I'm trying to teach a class, while get my things together for the sub who's coming in to cover my last two periods of the day. Again, I feel rushed and stressed.

Soon, I'm leaving the building, heading for the elementary. On the way, I call the doctor's office and try to schedule something for Kirby. Turns out the only thing they have available is "work in", meaning they'll get to me when they can. Humph.

Crap, I just totally hit the wall. That means I will crash on my pillow in about five minutes.

Gotta go fast now. Pick up Kirby, relax at home for a little bit, venture back out to elem. to pick up Spencer (which is a whole other madcap adventure), pick up Elliot at daycare, drive to doctor's office. We sit for about twenty minutes when it dawns on me that there are A LOT of sick people in the office right now and very few of them are scheduled appointments. Which means they're like me - work ins. Greeeeeeat. I happen to overhear a receptionist complain that there are currently seventeen work ins. Knowing that I just walked in minutes ago, I realize my daughter is towards the bottom of that pile.

Eventually, I get up and leave. I do not want to fight a two-hour wait in a waiting room with three cranky, tired, and, pretty soon, hungry kids. I'll just pump Kirby full of Tylenol and Sprite and she how she feels in the morning.

One good thing is that my parents call me and say to bring the kids over because they've bought KFC for dinner. Yummy. So we eat, then I head off to play auditions (I'm co-directing the latest community theater play). On the drive over, I decide to go ahead and get a sub for tomorrow, because I am just sick of this come-and-go fever/sickness that Kirby has been experiencing. She needs to see a doc, and so we'll go tomorrow.

Problem with a sub is...juggling schedules and figuring out what to do when I'm not going to be there. I gotta keep is easy for the sub. And frankly, nobody explains it better than I.

Ooooh, bedtime. Battery power has nearly expired. Am running on reserve. Anyway, crappy day. Going to bed. New day tomorrow.

Hope you havee ljdlfgjpojlkdfjgljlkjgzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

24 February 2008

Major Achievement!

I have just finished grading my last freshman research paper!!!!

High-fives all around!

The trimester ends this week, and so I was working under a slight time constraint. Going into this weekend, I only had two of my four periods graded...but I used my time wisely yesterday afternoon and today and finished them all.

You cannot even imagine how it feels to be finished with this task. But let me try to illustrate with examples from pop culture and beyond.

1. You all know Odysseus from "The Odyssey", right? The guy who takes twenty years to get home after the Trojan War? Yeah, I feel like that.

2. Odysseus's wife, Penelope, has been waiting, faithfully, for him to return. For twenty years. Yeah, I feel like that.

3. How about reading all seven books of the Harry Potter series, one right after the other? Yeah, I feel like that that.

4. Try watching the extended editions of "Lord of the Rings." Back to back to back. Yeah, I feel like that.

5. Twelve minutes of pure hell in high school physical education on "Run the Mile" day. Yeah, I feel like that.

6. Giving birth. Three times. Without drugs. Yeah, I feel like that.

7. Waiting for the last day of school to end. Yeah, I feel like that.

It feels pretty sweet, actually. I think I'll ask my husband if he has ideas on how I can celebrate this achievement.

05 February 2008

Blogging Is Like Exercising

The later in the evening I do it, the worse the total result is.

Early on in my jogging-on-the-treadmill-every-night days, I thought I was being pretty wise by running later in the evening. I was emulating Chuck Norris by roundhouse kicking my earlier-eaten dinner right in its smug little face. However...

But as I continued along in this vein for awhile, my workouts began to be less productive. It became easier to slack off because I was tireder or fuller, or whatever lame excuse appeared at the time. So, I bumped my running to right after school, and sure enough, my workouts have made like Emeril and kicked themselves up a notch.

Which brings me to blogging. The later I wait, the suckier my entry is (or so I feel...it could possibly be the same brilliant drivel to you). Right now, I'm pretty sleepy and I'd like to go to bed, which is affecting my word judgment, I'm sure of it.

So I will. Go to bed, I mean. You can all talk bad about me and my lack of literary talent after I leave.

Just to warn you all, though, we're supposed to get five+ inches of snow here tonight. It's very likely that I won't have to go to work tomorrow...but I bet you will.


28 January 2008

Attaining Minivana

OK, so those of you familiar with Buddhism know that the ultimate goal was Nirvana, which was the supreme state of peace of the mind. You probably also know about the Eightfold Path, which was a guide to the path to Nirvana. You achieve the eight steps, you achieve the highest form of peace and enlightenment possible.

I've obviously condensed this all, of course.

OK - so what does this have to do with anything? In my own life, I feel that I am well on my way to an enlightenment of my own. For the last month and a half, we have gone through the process of preparing for the purchase a minivan (I know, three kids and we haven't joined The Club yet - scandalous!).

This weekend, however, I feel we will finally achieve the state of supreme enlightenment known as "Minivana."

Let me describe my journey for you. I will present the Eightfold Path and how it has been achieved in my house.

1. Right View: To see and understand things for what they really are

Minivana: My husband and I have come to see and understand that our four-door Extended Crew Cab Chevy truck is not enough anymore. Our kids don't have enough room to spread out and constantly are in each other's physical space.

2. Right Intention: A commitment to improvement

Minivana: Over Christmas break, we committed to making a new minivan purchase, and buying it in the near future. It's no longer an idea, it's on its way to becoming reality.

3. Right Speech: Using words genuinely, kindly, and effectively

Minivana: We did a follow-up email to the minivan salesguy after we'd visited the lot one weekend, asking plenty of good, effective questions. We did this in a kind, respectful manner as well.

4. Right Action: Wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind

Minivana: Brent spent a week after the salesguy emailed us back crunching numbers and poring over financial records to find out when would be the best time to buy.

5. Right Livelihood: Wealth is gained in a healthy, legal, and peaceful

Minivana: Brent is a software engineer and I am a high school English teacher. Both are very peaceful professions.

6. Right Effort: Focusing the right kind of energy, making the right kind of effort

Minivana: We are exercising a fair amount of restraint, which is uncommon for us. Usually, if we want to do something, we'll just do it. However, this time around, we are truly making a great effort to not rush into the decision.

7. Right Mindfulness: An ability to conceptualize the "big picture"

Minivana: Because of our research, we are picking minivan models now based on future needs. Growing kids = more legroom = buy the bigger minivan now, etc, etc, as opposed to just getting something now that we'll be dissatisfied with later. This is not just an impetuous, "now" purchase, but one for the future as well.

8. Right Concentration: All mental energies are directed and focused on an object.

Minivana: This is where we are now. Brent and I will be focusing all of our energy on this one task; we are mentally, physically, and economically preparing for this event. For example, Brent entirely cleaned out the car we plan on trading in. This shows extreme concentration and foresighted preparation - a focus on making this one event happen.

Say it with me now...Ohhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmm.