31 December 2010

The Ghosts of New Years' Past

In regards to my typical end-of-year post, I am doing something different. I am drudging up bits and pieces of the last four years’ worth of end-of-the-year posts to see if I’ve learned anything new, glean any interesting insights.

Here goes:

Dec 31, 2006:

>>Well, here it is, New Years Eve Day, and I really have nothing to say.

>>Then we hung about the house for a couple of days, playing video games and whatnot. I can't even really tell you what we did, I don't remember. It must not have been anything major.

>>And there's part of me that feels absolutely worthless. I mean, this vacation should be about accomplishments. I have so many projects I could have been working on...painting, scrapbooking, sewing, etc...and I have done nothing but sat on my fat butt. I can't even begin to think about the weight I've gained.

I love how I start with “I really have nothing to say” and then proceed to while away two hundred words. I did notice, though, that thread of hopelessness and waste that seems to permeate this post.

Dec. 30, 2007:

>>I can hardly believe it, but I really haven't done much in the last few days that are worth writing about.

>>About the most exciting thing is that Brent and I have gone minivan shopping...but, we're waiting until March to do some serious purchasing.

>>We got the Nintendo Wii for Christmas so we've been playing that. I'm kinda hooked on Guitar Hero III, so I've also been melting people's faces (well, figuratively, it's just a video game).

>>We've seen a bit of family and friends. But mostly, we've remained in our little house, eating leftover chocolate and wearing sweats.

Again, that notion that my break has been spent in meaningless, forgettable pursuits. And…another comment about eating and weight gain.

Dec. 31, 2008:

>>This year, I propose we do less!

>>1. Lay aimlessly around the house less.
>>2. Lose temper with family less.
>>3. Smoke/drink less.
>>4. Spend less time doing housework and other energy-draining chores.
>>5. Eat less sugary foods.

An indirect, slightly less hopeless way of tackling the inactivity, the sloth, the food, the weight gain. As you can see, these are the topics that seem to take up most of my energy.

Dec. 29, 2009:

Last Christmas, we took the family to Las Vegas, and basically, the last post of 2009 was a recap of that trip. It’s too bad, really, that I did not find the time to insert something thoughtful and intelligent before 2009 came to an end.

Dec. 31, 2010:

This year, here’s what I feel good about:

That I can make no complaints about overeating and weight gain this break, because we’ve been watching our intake and exercising nearly every day this week and a half.

I can make no complaint regarding productivity because we’ve gotten a lot done. In fact, I got a couple of substantial tasks done before the break, so my burden was reduced even more.

Unlike previous New Years', this time around I can’t complain at all. About anything. This whole month of positivity has culminated here – the fact that I can’t be negative about anything! Why? Because I’ve taken the appropriate action! I can’t complain about my weight gain...because there hasn’t been any. Why? Because I’ve eaten right and exercised during these days off. I can’t complain about being overly lazy…because I haven’t been. Why? Some of those long-awaited tasks have been completed or are in the process of being so.

So, here’s my one resolution for 2011: Less talk, more action. Keep on keeping on.

Have a great New Year’s Eve!

13 December 2010

Dear Earth...

This is your mother speaking.

This message is for the children primarily within the Western-Northern Hemisphere section. America, that's basically you.

I understand that you are not very appreciative of the several inches of snow I sent your way this past weekend.

Why is this? You always complain about not having a White Christmas, so I tried to oblige this year. (Damned that Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby anyway.)

And, if my spies inform me correctly, you have a heap of charges to lay at my feet, including:

1. Ruining countless birthday parties, baby showers, weddings, and graduation commencement exercises.

2. Forcing many families to "hunker down" in the warmth and safety of their houses.

2.5 Forcing same families to wear pajamas all day long and eat lots of food and watch a lot of television.

3. Preventing thousands from finishing up their holiday shopping at those places called malls (Ha! When will any of you shop for me? I'd like a mended ozone layer, please.)

4. Forced hundreds of males to rev up their snowblowers...or worse yet, dig out their shovels.

5. Forcing thousands of children out into dangerous conditions to go sledding or build snowmen.

Have I missed anything, kids? Ruined, forced, prevented, impelled, did I? That is the pot calling the kettle black, methinks. What do you think you do to me on a daily basis?

Apparently, children, you missed the point: It's good to stay home, not spend money, wear comfortable clothing, and get fresh air.

Learn it. Love it. Know it.

That is all for now,
The Great Mother

07 December 2010

Gem #1

I have figured something out!

For a college class I teach, we are reading the non-fiction work "No Impact Man" by Colin Beavan. Essentially, Beavan (and wife and child) go "off the grid" for a year, trying to live a year of low-to-no impact on the environment. Naturally in a book like this, lots of environmental issues are discussed, but I am pleased at how many spiritual and psychological issues are illuminated as well.

A motif that runs throughout the book is the question: How do we not feel so hopeless? How do we not feel like we're swimming upstream most of the time?

I really like the answer of Mark Vonnegut (son of late Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.) - "We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is."

If I may modify Mr. Vonnegut's words a little, I'd also add that we can prevent feeling hopeless by creating our own high points, our own special moments. We give ourselves something to look forward to, instead of just waiting for it to happen.

Life is monotonous, no doubt about it. But isn't it a little more bearable when you schedule tea with a friend? Supper and card games with friends? Ice cream with family? A romantic overnight stay at a bed-and-breakfast with a lover? A fact-finding trip to the library with children? A walk around the block?

Our family (my mother and father included) is about 98% positive that we are flying to Alaska this summer to visit my brother, who's in the Air Force there. My dad, enthusiastic in the beginning, has begun already to balk at the ordering of plane tickets. Yes, it's expensive, but with a little tightening up of the purse strings, it's manageable. That's why we're booking so early - to save up.

I am looking forward to the trip in so many ways, and I can't fathom why my dad is reacting the opposite. He's not a fan of flying and he'll definitely experience some discomfort at being so far home from home for ten days, but really? A trip to Alaska? A place he and my mom will never visit again in their lifetimes? To see his only son?

I mean, seriously, if he can't get himself together enough for a super-special trip like this...what else in his life is worth getting out of bed for?

See, back to Mark Vonnegut...it's this trip and the people I'm traveling and visiting with that helps me get through this thing, whatever it is. It's what will keep me going when I get bogged down by schoolwork or naughty children or grouchy husband or life in general this winter - that I have something cool to look forward to.

And, while I'm anticipating, I try to make the best out of the days in between here and there. And just try to get through this thing.

Whatever it is.


I attended a writers' group meeting at the public library tonight. Kind of on a whim, kind of in response to a parent who mentioned it to me in passing last week. It's a very informal thing. Small group. I guess everyone in the group has ongoing projects that they are working on. The leader had two prompts for us: 1. Write a 20 line poem about a favorite piece of clothing. OR 2. Write an accidental interaction between you and your favorite fictional character. I started with #1, finished it, and started #2. I didn't finish, but I most certainly will. I'm really very poor at writing poetry, so why not climb that mountain first?


For Kerri

Winter, beware.
I have now donned my scarf.
What are mittens and hat?
Nothing, compared to a warm neck.
I'd wear my scarf in the summer,
 if I could with comfort.

A birthday present from a crafty friend,
 a hand-knitted rainbow of subtle colors.
Tasselly fringes dangle at the ends.
Is it wrong to want to worship a piece of clothing?
I loop it in a complex knot
 and feel very cosmopolitan
 in this small town.

My daughter asks to borrow it,
 and I, like a cat, hiss 'No'.
She's only nine.
 She'll lose it or rip it or stain it or
(God forbid) stretch it.
But, one day, if she's nice to her mom,
she may receive it as a family heirloom.


06 December 2010

After One Week Of Examination...

I am trying to look for the good in people/things for the entire month of December, and I am here to tell you that it is difficult stuff. I'm online a lot and everywhere I'd go was news of international tensions, murder, sabotage, disloyalty, infidelity. It is enough to make one feel desperately hopeless.

However, one week is enough time to provide one nugget of knowledge (well, maybe two):

1. While people are usually the ones destroying this world, it is filled also with people committing selfless acts of sacrifice and kindness.

2. The farther one travels from a central community, the more destructive people seem to get. Naturally, there are anomalies, but I'm finding the further removed people are from a community, the less impelled they feel to "do the right thing". From here on out, I will refer to this as Nelson's Law of Proximity or Nelson's First Law.

To me and mine, this means we will feel the most content and satisfied if we stay close to home and stay local. I don't mean to ignore world affairs (although for my own sanity, maybe I should) or shut myself off from the rest of the world. But, if I have a problem with education or politics or our culture, I should start small.

Quote Time! Because you know I love them!

William H. Johnsen reminds us, "If it's to be, it's up to me." And I think maybe I love Theodore Roosevelt's words the best, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

So, does this mean I should not donate monies and assistance to Haiti, Kenya, Africa, or another place in dire straits? Yes, for now. Because I believe that when I fix myself and those around me, the effects will begin to ripple out to others. How I can fix other countries, other peoples when there are so many in need right in my own hometown?

01 December 2010

Rough Start To A Month Of Positivity

Today is December 1st. Remember that I proposed to blog about nothing but positive, life-affirming things?

Looking like a test of mettle on Day One.

I shouted, yelled, shrieked - very loudly - at my oldest son this morning. I had asked him to unload the dishwasher (his daily chore) this morning. Ten minutes later, it still hadn't been unloaded, and he was downstairs, currently in the process of aggravating his younger siblings.

So, yeah, I cut loose with, "Spencer! Get up here and unload this dishwasher. NOW!"

By golly, then, he moved pretty quickly.

I suppose there are a thousand more positive ways I should have handled the situation. I could have pleaded, begged, cajoled, joked...but no, I opted for a good ol' scream down.

I realize that I have no positive mantra for the month. I have no techniques, no strategies to bring forth the positive thoughts. But here's something I'm going to keep in mind:

Number 9 on Monday's post is: Purge Negative Thoughts. This seems insurmountable, and maybe even unnatural. Any Taoist will tell you can't have the good without the bad, the light without the dark...and the same is true for positive and negative.

So, I think I'll be focusing less on the purging, and more on the doing - because I think it's what we do when we have that negative emotion that counts more than anything.

For example, this morning, the negative emotion I experienced was irritation and annoyance. Those things are hard to purge. But, how did I react? By screaming. Bad reaction.

In short, natural emotion, unnatural reaction. I think I know where I should channel my energies!