20 August 2012

Amid the Haste and Noise

Well.  I've just sent my kids off to their first day of school, and now there's a niggling little voice just behind my right shoulder that is trying to guilt me into updating this blog...so, here I sit.  But, I have nothing terribly groundbreaking or even interesting to say.

Tell them about your summer, then.  Recap, says the subconscious mouthpiece.

Cripes, I reply.  That'll sound trite.  Not to mention lame.

There's no response.  Just a insouciant shrug.


I suppose now, after sharing the above psychologically unsettling conversation with you, I've lost all credibility.  And I suppose that further means that, really, I'm at liberty to talk about what I want.

A summer summary, then.

1. I did not anticipate wanting to get (and then getting) a part-time job.
2. I did not anticipate having to spend a small fortune on clothing for school (chef-related, that is).
3. I did not anticipate being so....so anxious for the start of my new career adventure.
4. I did not anticipate spending so much time this summer discussing my children, money, and jobs with my husband...which is what perhaps adds to the anxiety mentioned in #3.
5. I did not anticipate signing up to run a 5k in October.
6. I did not anticipate beginning to train for said 5k in July.
7. I did not anticipate feeling so weird to not be reporting to an educational institution for work.

Even though I did not anticipate any of these, they happened anyway...which just goes to show that no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should (Thanks, Mr. Ehrmann).  Doors are opening, doors are closing, decisions are being made, and things are working out as they should.

22 July 2012

Little Earthquakes

For the record, one does not attend a major Midwestern US university in the mid-90s and NOT hear of the singer/songwriter Tori Amos.

As it was with me.  I even bought a few of her cds...one of my favorites being titled "Little Earthquakes".  However, today's blog post is not so much a review/rambling about that album, as it's about the reason why, today of all days, I am thinking of a indie musician's album title.

Geologically speaking, we know the earth changes daily.  It shifts, it spins, it elongates...this giant blue oval in space.  We can no more control it than we can control the sun (as much as we might try, however).  Every so often, our planet is rocked by cataclysmic movements...in the form of earthquakes.  People die, buildings topple, and lives change forever.

While these earthquakes can't really be prevented, many of the world's population choose to live in areas where they are less likely.  Less likely, but not impossible...and certainly not immune to "little earthquakes"...little tremors, little rumblings, little movements.  And while those little earthquakes don't completely upheave our lives...they leave their mark.  A tree dies, a hill crumbles, a landscape quivers.  Etc, etc, yes?

Two recent events in and around my neck of the woods turns this geological fact into a powerful metaphor.

Over a week ago, two young girls (roughly my youngest son's age) in a small town about two hours from here were riding their bikes from their grandmother's house...but they never reached their destination.  Family, volunteers, police, and even the FBI have been searching for these girls, to no avail.  Now classified as an "abduction", the search for the girls now involves questioning of suspects and alibis.  And as it goes with missing child cases, the more time that elapses, the more unlikely it is the girls will remain alive.

And of course, the second event, the one receiving an enormous amount of media right now, is the Aurora, CO movie theater shootings.

To me, these events are "little earthquakes".  Because of where I live, my involvement in these events is merely that of removed bystander.  However, despite that, they will certainly leave their mark on me.

The two occurrences provide a nearly imperceptible shift in my landscape.  I hang on to my children a little tighter these days (how can I not?).  I grow a shade more cynical about people and their motives (how can I not?).  I ponder the scary possibility that no matter how "right" I try to live, I can't prevent harm from befalling the people I love.

And suddenly the question of how then, shall I live? seems to have an unnerving urgency that wasn't there before.

How then, indeed?

15 July 2012

Vacation...and Now I Need Another One

Vacations are crazy little things, you know?  I've spent weeks and weeks preparing for vacation, reserving hotels, checking driving routes, buying toiletries, doing laundry, packing suitcases, gathering books, games, toys, and snacks for the kiddos...

And then, just like that...our week-long vacation is over.  And time to get back to the "real world".  But first, I think I need a vacation from the vacation. :-)  However, I don't think I'll be lucking out.

The bulk of the week was spent in Ohio, at Cedar Point amusement park.  The roller coaster capital of the world, there was plenty of thrills available to all of our children.  And while amusement parks are all fine and well, I'll admit that they are extremely child-centered...which, frankly, can be unfairly exhausting.

We also pit-stopped in South Bend, Indiana to visit the College Football Hall of Fame, the campus of the University of Notre Dame, and South Bend Chocolate Company on the way to Cedar Point.  Then, on the way home, we jetted an extra two hours down to Indianapolis to the Children's Museum...which touts itself as the World's Largest Children's Museum.

All in all, it was a great vacation.  Things went smoothly and the kids had fun.  But, I can't help wishing a little bit that I could spend a day or two in a bed and breakfast somewhere with my Kindle and my husband.

05 July 2012

How's This for a Fourth of July Celebration?

In honor of our nation's birthday, the family and I decided to watch History Channel's "The Revolution".   We actually wanted to know about the Declaration of Independence, but upon finding this episodic documentary on Netflix streaming.

And well, I know there's two sides of every documentary, but this one presented some new, interesting information that I recall reading in no history textbook.

The Boston Massacre of 1770?  Not really a massacre, per se.  A group of rowdy Bostonians were heckling and harassing a couple of British sentry guards, and chaos broke out when rocks were chucked by the mob...which then led to a willy-nilly firing of British muskets.  Eventually, five colonists were killed.  However, if you Google Images "Boston Massacre", you'll see the famous Paul Revere engraving of a line of disciplined Redcoats firing, at exactly the same moment, into a bedraggled crowd, who seem to be in the process of retreat.  It doesn't take long to research and find contradicting testimonies of what exactly happened that night.

But, it goes to show that even then, the media spin machine was at work.  Patriots in Boston took this event (referred to by British as the "Incident on King Street") and spun it in a way so that it appears that the British were looking for any reason to oppress and open fire on rebel colonials.  A means to an end, as it were. 

Washington’s complex character?  Through excerpts from letters written by the newly appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, we learned Washington often questioned his appointment and ability to fulfill it.  That might come off as humble...a noble quality.  But, he also then declares in an Order written in November 1775, that for his army, "neither Negroes, boys unable to bear arms, and old men unfit to endure the fatigues of the campaign are to be enlisted [in the army].  That's...not so noble.  On the other hand, he acts with tremendous poise and grace after unwittingly discovering his junior officers are plotting against him after his military defeats of 1776.  Will the real George Washington stand up please?  And not in the head boat that crossed the Delaware River (because, really, that didn't happen).

British reasoning?  As it turns out, the British have spent a terrible amount of money on defending us from French raids and Indian attacks.  To recover some of that lost fundage, the tax its colony, America.  Not a terrible thing or reason to want it, really.  But that's a side of the story I don't remember hearing in high school.

Often throughout the documentary, the British are referred to as the best army in the world.  That an untrained, ragtag group of colonists managed to unseat that army's power in this country....well, that's just freaking amazing.  And especially since there were a lot of close calls too.

Ultimately, maybe the truth doesn't matter.  Maybe what really happened is somewhere in between what the history books say and what the TV shows says.  Those really were the times that tried men's souls.

03 July 2012

Facebook Did Not Miss Me

This past weekend, despite sweltering 90-plus degree temperatures, my family (and in-laws) went on our first camping outing of the season.

I did not take my laptop, because a.) the whole point of camping is to detach myself (if only temporarily) from all social networking sites (read: Facebook). And b.) the campground has no WiFi anyway, so the point was moot.

This would also be a good time to mention that in the last two weeks, our family has switched cellular device service.  My husband dropped his Blackberry and its Internet, and so, that last bastion of technological connectedness was gone. 

And as it turns out, we're bearing the deprivation quite well.

Brent got through several hundred pages of his Stephen King novel, "Under the Dome", and I finished Jeffrey Eugenides's "The Marriage Plot and Debra Ollivier's "Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl".  And when we were outdoors in the crazy heat, we were talking, golfing, walking, eating, or refereeing kids' badminton games.

Now that's what I call face book.

26 June 2012

Parenting Is Getting Tough

I do believe my husband and I are about to leave our "halcyon days" of child-rearing behind us.  While I don't miss hauling car seats, diaper bags, and playpens around, those issues were minor compared to questions and concerns we face now.

1.  Our son recently turned 13 and received a Facebook account and a cell phone.  This is big time, you see...he is on the cusp of entering the young adult world.  About three days ago, he approaches us with a persuasive argument (typed up and everything).  He would like to purchase the game "Call of Duty" for his xbox.  This game is rated M for Mature by the ESRB (not to mention 17+ in several other countries), which is a red flag in and of itself.

The reason he wants this game?  About four of his other friends have it, and in particular, one friend is very good at the game and getting "cocky" about beating my son at it.  Beyond that, there is no other logic.  We cannot think of a way that this game helps our son, or provides him any benefit (other than social).  From what we gather, he is not being ostracized for not having/playing the game. 

He recently wanted the Final Fantasy game, which is rated T for teens, and so we felt that was an appropriate step.  That was about two weeks ago, and it was his first teen-rated game...and now he wants to leap into the Mature games?  Nope, Mom and Dad need more moderation than that.

While we will probably say 'no' at this time, this issue is not black and white. I *do* feel that my son is able to discern the difference between a game and reality, and I don't think the game would make him violent.  Also, he does not spend hours on end playing video games every day.  These two reasons alone prompted me to almost say 'yes'...until I realized I needed to go with my gut feeling on this one...and say no.

2. Then, there's our daughter.  She's 11.  She wants to wear bras and shave her legs.  Already!  It's time to have conversations.  And in this complex society we live in, these conversation topics are not just the typical "birds and bees".  We must discuss things like vanity and the media and compassion and being a role model and technology and sexuality.

As with any conundrum I have in my life, I turn to books.  My initial search results prove a little disappointing: many of the books speak of raising strong, courageous, confident daughters (yay!), but these approaches and theories are heavily Bible-based (uh!). 

Suffice it to say that I really can't get behind a Christian-centered approach to raising my kids.  And I don't like the idea that I can't do it well without the Bible.  Thus, I will continue to search for reference materials that are more secular.  Of course, at some point, I must stop reading about it and just do it.

22 June 2012

Summer Has Begun

Just this last Wednesday, according to the Gregorian calendar, was the Summer Solstice.  The first day of summer...which I find amusing, because the time June 20-22 rolls around, we (us here in the Midwest United States, that is) have already had several days of uncomfortably hot weather.  You don't have to tell us it's the first day of summer!

Which leads (albeit loosely) into the question: what have I been doing with my summer so far?

And the answer would be: trying to keep a hold of my sanity.

It occurred to me late last month that 2012 marks my first summer of being what the government calls 'unemployed', but which I'd call 'in transition'.  I no longer have a place of employment, giving up my job at the college last month, and since I haven't started culinary classes yet...technically, I am shiftless.  And not just a temporary, on-summer-break shiftless either.  A kind of a hazy, in-limbo, maybe-temporary shiftless.

But.  It's also very likely that this is the last summer I will have that is completely at leisure.  See, next summer I'll be in class full time, and the summer after that, I expect to have a job.

So, I'm experiencing an internal struggle of sorts...I do feel like I should try to have a bit of fun and live it up a little with the kiddos...but I also feel this pull to be somewhat productive and full of purpose.

Because once August gets here and my new career course begins, life as I know it currently changes forever.

07 June 2012

"Bringing Up Bebe" Book Review - Part Deux

Oh, and there's more...

- While please and thank you are incredibly important words here in America, the French consider these to be only two of the four.  Hello (bonjour) and goodbye (au revoir) are critical as well because the French believe that greeting someone is the first important step in establishing a relationship, and it “acknowledges the other person’s humanity” (154).  And so then I think, well, yeah, why shouldn’t children greet their visitors on their own, as opposed to skulk under the umbrella of their parents’ welcomes?

- French people speak of something called le couple, which encompasses the general idea that the husband and wife’s relationship comes first, even before the children (186).  Americans speak of ‘Date Nights’ as a fix-it for a stressed marriage.  French couples find this interesting, because for them, date nights are every night.  The children go to bed early, they stay there for the night, and the parents have couple time.  This is a non-negotiable, whereas in America, a notion persists that parents must make the sacrifices of time and effort for their children, often at the expense of couple time.  And how does that affect a child's well-being?  Not positively, as the UNICEF study would indicate.

- The French speak of an idea called the cadre (84), an overarching framework of discipline.  Key pillars or areas of the cadre are non-negotiable (eating, respect, going to bed, etc), but within that cadre, French children have freedom. For example, they must report to their rooms at the time set by their parents, but once there, they may do whatever they like.  (Incidentally, I’ve tried this for the last few nights, and while my kids like the freedom, they don’t stay up much past the “lights out” time.)  French parents choose a few key areas to enforce in their cadre, and enforce them well.  ‘No’ means no, and Druckerman picks up the phrase C’est moi qui decide - It’s me who decides (226).  We have a variation of that in America - Because I said so.  But sometimes we don’t mean it, because we’re spread so thin from trying to discipline everything that we do all things half-heartedly.  Or, we become too authoritarian as opposed to authoritative.

- And the final point I’ll address here (believe me, there are many more) is the idea of praise.  French educational institutions often come under fire for being too austere.  Students receive  basic praise such as tres competente (very competent) or everything is fine.  Because, after all, children are not supposed to be creative, they’re supposed to articulate ideas (253).  This particularly hits home for me, as a former educator, because I do feel we overpraise (as well as mispraise)...then we wonder why young people have an out-of-whack sense of entitlement.  I’ve had many students (high school and college) over the years who could hardly compose a sentence, but they seem to consider themselves worthy of being listened to.

The author never does trash the American way of raising kids, and she never openly expresses a love of the French way.  She provides interesting insights, though, and anyone who reads the book can take it how they want.  To change the UNICEF assessment data for the United States seems like a Herculean task, but fortunately, Druckerman is able to provide (unwittingly, maybe) tips here and there for any American parent open-minded enough to know there’s always room for improvement.

"Bringing Up Bebe" Book Review - Part One

Only when I started typing this out did I realize how much I had to say.  I'll post it in two parts so that you don't feel like you're scrolling down the page here forever.

I’ve referenced this book several times in the last few days, and now that I’ve finished it, I guess I ought to offer a brief review and analysis.

Honestly, I can’t think of a non-food, non-fiction book that has made me think as much as this one has.

On page 122, the author, Pamela Druckerman, references a UNICEF document (abbreviated title: An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries) in which she declares that in spite of French children consuming “enormous amounts of formula”, they “beat American kids on nearly all measures of health”.  (For any readers who are interested, the chart illustrating this statement is on page 14).

Out of 21 developed countries, the United States fell in the bottom third in four of the six assessed “dimensions” (material well-being, health and safety, educational well-being, family and peer relationships, behaviours and risks, and subjective well-being; the US had no data for the last dimension).

Well, to say the least, I was shocked.  The assessment’s stunning results caused me to wonder, What are we doing wrong?

So, I’m almost halfway through the book, and I've come up with a pretty serious question.  Through Druckerman’s own research and interviews, she sheds a little light on this important issue.  Highlights (for me) include:

- “Suffering and self-sacrifice” seems to be the expectation for new American mothers (122).  Our babies sleep with us in the hospital rooms, we feed them on demand, we deprive ourselves of sleep...whereas French mothers regularly utilize the nurses and the nursery...and the French babies seem none the worse for the wear.   American babies, on the other hand, are well on their way to becoming used to a life of being waited on by their moms.  While we can maybe excuse this pandering at first because “they’re just babies”, it’s no longer cute when American moms cave in to their fourteen-year-old’s every whim.  

- French parents (moms, especially) strive to “get back their pre-baby identities”.  That is, they don’t wholly become absorbed in their children.  In fact, there’s a “universal assumption that even good mothers aren’t at the constant service of their children, and there’s no reason to feel bad about that (130).”  I found myself nodding at this statement, because I wonder how much time I’ve spent “in the service” of my children.  And then, my mind begins to dream up all sorts of crazy questions like, how much of that time has been ‘quality’?  How much of that time has been waiting for a sports/theatre/choir practice to end?  How much of that time have I been thanked for? 

- And while I’m on that subject, Druckerman relates the story of a French mother living in Brooklyn (140).  The mother is surprised at how American parents put a lot of stock in their children’s success at sports, not to mention an obsession with anything that might give their children an edge in competing (camps, private trainers, elite equipment). American parents are “constrained” in just every area of their children’s lives, not just sports.

30 May 2012

Kids: Can't Ridicule Them and Can't Kick Them Off Airplanes

Warning: It's highly probable that where I start and where I finish will be two totally different places.

Having a 15-year-old foreign exchange student live with us for the last ten months has been interesting, to put it blandly.  To have Instant High Schooler! in our house has sparked innumerable conversations between my husband and I on expectations, behaviors, restrictions, limits, and consequences (mostly for our own children as they approach the years ahead).

When our children were smaller, Brent and I were the United Front, mostly.  Bedtimes, naptimes, dinnertimes, playtimes...we were of like minds.  However, we've discovered that as our children grow older, our parenting philosophies begin to differ a little.  Our conversations have centered around attempting to harmonize the two... and it's easier said than done. 

I'm much more inclined to say 'no' than Brent is...for reasons I can't always pinpoint.  And as I read Bringing Up Bebe, I realize it's part of our American parenting culture.  Pregnant American women inherently know that being with child involves homework.  Reading every pregnancy and baby book and magazine...as well as joining every online baby-related cohort we can is part of being well-prepared.  Within that literature (which reflects parenting philosophies like Dr. Spock's), is the idea that children are rational people who have all kinds of rights.  But, as Druckerman says, this concept has many parents (globally) thinking if they listen to what a child says, they must also do what s/he says as well.

Allow me to illustrate this kind of parenting indoctrination I feel I've undergone.  I came across these two news stories on Yahoo! today:

Eight-year-old gets 'Catastrophe Award' for Most Homework Excuses

Three-year-old Kicked Off Alaska Airlines
(By the way, search for this story...you'll find a few different versions.  Interesting, the media is)

In both stories, my knee-jerk reaction was one of mild outrage.  How dare a teacher poke fun at a student's academic shortcoming?  How dare a toddler be not allowed to ride on a plane?

But, then...maybe because I've been reading, thinking, and talking about this type of thing, my immediate reaction was different.  While giving a second-grader a jokey award for Most Homework Excuses may be tasteless ('cruel' and 'disturbing', the kid's mom claims), what's more disturbing is the child's pattern of not doing homework.  Shouldn't the mom focus her energies towards that problem instead?  Because that one's only going to get worse, not better, as the kid gets older.  The child's "right" to not do homework supersedes everyone else's right in this case, and what's worse, the child is being exempted from experiencing any natural consequences stemming from exercising that "right".

In the second story, a toddler didn't want to wear his seatbelt (or wouldn't sit still or whatever, depending on the version you read), so his family was asked (forced?) to leave the airplane they'd been on.  While I would need to know EXACTLY the kid's behavior was like to make a totally reasonable judgment call, I am in favor of the airline's decision, because: while it's too bad the toddler is uncomfortable (or cranky or sleepy, depending on the version you read), why do his rights supersede the rules of air travel?  More importantly, why does the parent even question the airline's right to enforce it?

All of us work and live and play on this planet under various parameters.  There are limits.  Children, if they are rational beings, need to understand this concept...and parents are the ones who help them learn it.  If parents don't teach their children that there are limits, what dangers (obvious and unimaginable) do we put them into?

It's a biggie...an issue that's getting kicked around a lot at our house.  Druckerman, in her book, speaks of the French idea of cadre - a frame.  Essentially, French parents choose a few key areas in which they are very strict...and then are relaxed about most everything else.  French children experience a tremendous amount of freedom...but within limits.  The philosophy is that children flourish when they know these boundaries.

This is not new information, I admit.  American parents have heard of the ideas of limits for years.  But, to ask myself: If there were only three or four KEY areas that I could be strict about, what would they be?  Now...there's a fruitful discussion.

24 May 2012

Things to Think About - Summer Edition

Today is the first full day of "summer" here at my house.  Yesterday, my children were let out of school 90 minutes early, and within the hour, the squabbling and bickering had begun.

This morning, my oldest's son first words were to his little brother, admonishing him to "please be more quiet when he wakes up".  This was, oh, around 7:30...and all three kids were awake.

And we have twoish more months to go.

Here's the paradox I face this summer: With a bevy of camps, classes, and activities at my disposal, I could easily schedule my children so that they wouldn't hardly need to interact with each other.  While that would cut down on fighting (maybe - no quantifiable data present), it also means I spend my summer taxiing my kids to their various things.  I suspect this route would alienate our family even further.

But.  All family, all the time?  No extra classes or camps?  No soccer tournaments?  I don't think that is totally desirable for the emotional well-being of all parties involved.

There's got to be a compromise.

I've just started reading Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting...and the author notices a "invisible, civilizing force" among French children and their parents.  No coercion, no fear, no ignoring, but French children behave AND interact positively with their parents!

So, it looks like that's my task for the summer.  Yeah. 

20 May 2012

Shameless Plug

My apologies for not posting here sooner.  School is out for me, and I've been finishing various long-waiting tasks.

Which reminds me...

My NaNoWriMo novel from 2009 - My Father's Daughter - has become available (like, today!) at Smashwords

It's a relief to finally have it converted.  Now...onto to other things!  This summer looks to be promising.  Our FES goes home in about two and a half weeks, and there will be some room shuffling that ensues after his departure.

Then, I've purchased a four-week unit study curriculum on the Olympics that I'll start with the kids in June.  Even though Spencer will go back to public school next year, I see no reason why all my kids can't spend some of their summer learning!

As for myself, I plan to read as much of the works of Mark Twain that I can.  I suspect my NaNo 2012 novel will have something to do with him.

30 April 2012

And Finally! The Tenth Secret

#10: Wisdom is Avoiding All Thoughts that Weaken You.

I can read and comprehend all the words written above.  I can even comprehend the meaning behind the entire sentence.  However, my brain stumbles a little every time I read (and reread) these words...and I think it is because the sentence above is a perfect example of an idea that is so simple and yet so complex.

Simple in its theory - yes, obtaining wisdom seems easy.  Avoid weakening thoughts.
Complex, though, in the sense that execution is difficult.  Paradox!

Here's the mental breakthrough I've had while reading this book.  Dr. Dyer's secrets to inner peace and success are truly accessible...if we are willing to retrain our brains.  We must think purposefully, constantly monitor our internal reactions to thoughts, and visualize what to do with such thought when they arise.

In fact, Dr. Dyer says, "Authentic wisdom is the ability to monitor yourself at all times to determine your relative state of weakness or strength, and to shift out of these thoughts that weaken you (146)."

In what might be construed as a little spiritual physics lesson, Dyer discusses the idea of power and force (as first elaborated upon by a Dr. David Hawkins).  Power involves thoughts that move us upward (the "high" energies - love, peace, kindness, joy, willingness, etc.).  Force involves the "low" energies that drive us downward (anger, apathy, fear, shame, and guilt).  The trick is to be aware when a "low" energy is acting upon you, and respond with a "high" one.

Empowering thoughts are healthy - not only in mind, but in body.  (Now that honestly I'm not 100% sold on...but the spiritual part I buy).  Ultimately, how we think, how we react - is totally our choice.  We carry our thoughts around with us, they are ours, we control them!

The quotes for this particular subsection stood out to me, so I'll share them here - along with one of President Abraham Lincoln's.

"Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create that fact." - William James
"Nothing is, unless our thinking makes it so." - William Shakespeare
"People are as happy as they make up their minds to be." - Abraham Lincoln

One last final observation on the book.  Many of Dyer's secrets work in synergy with each other...killing two birds with one stone, to use a tired cliche.  For example, Secret #1 advises us to let things go and be attached to nothing.  Dyer reminds us that it's okay for us to have thoughts but that we should immediately let them go.  This principle resonates with Secret #10...avoid weakening thoughts.  When we let the negative thought go, we move towards wisdom. 

I enjoyed reading this text with my husband.  We were provided with rich and meaningful discussion...not to mention mental awareness!

28 April 2012

Treasure Your Divinity - Secret Nine

Honestly, I was ill-disposed to this section's title upon first reading.  Until I realized Dyer is pushing God in the divine, general sense of the word, which may have nothing to do with the Christian church God (although it very well could).

Dyer speaks of being separated from our "source" of divine power, and that accompanying feeling of disconnection.  A particularly illuminating subsection here addresses egos.  Dyer says, "Your ego is nothing more than an idea that you carry around with you everywhere you go."  While this doesn't sound terribly harmful, our egos throw the following spiritual obstacles:

- it is formed by what you have, what you do...and it "tells" you this is who you are.
- it puts you in competition with others for various resources
- it fosters distrust and wariness
- it reminds you (usually not in a constructive way) of what you're missing
- it saps our energy by keeping us in a "constant state of fear, anxiety, worry, and stress"

I'm no psychology major, but I can see the validity in this concept.  Ego is what keeps society searching for ways to lose weight, stay young and be trendy.  On a literal level, it's a problem because ego is causing the world to develop a convoluted sense of entitlement.  It's our egos that keep us from being grateful or reaching out to "fill each other's buckets".  On a deeper level, it prevents us from questioning our true purpose in life.   Our ego chains us to this material planet.  Ultimately, in the end, what we have and what we do does not follow us into death and beyond.

Now, here's the fun part (for me, anyway).  We're all Divine creatures.  We're part of the Divine creation, and there is a spark of Divinity in everything around us.  Dr. Dyer goes so far as to state, "We are God."  While I might have trouble stomaching that, it's food for thought.  We are Divine - we go beyond the material - beyond the ego.  We are greater than it.

While there is much in this book that provokes my thought, two concerns continue to plague me.  True, I have not finished the book yet, but I've read ninth-tenths, which is enough to substantiate.

1. Specific ways to enact each of the secrets.  Sure, Treasuring My Divinity sounds great, but exactly how do I do it?  Maybe by Embracing Silence?  Meditating?  Unsure?  I'm of a practical disposition, and some things just honestly need to be spelled out for me.

2. Inaccessibility of some of the text.  Comprehension comes differently for everyone, and while I can read and understand all of the words on the page, sometimes, the ideas are too lofty or ethereal or esoteric...which can be off-putting at times.

That being said, I am glad I have attempted to recapture some of the thoughts here.  I hope to continue the reflection on and implementation of many of Dyer's ideas

26 April 2012

My Birthday in Links

When I Google the number '37', the first hit is a Wikipedia entry.  The number 37 has all kinds of importance in the mathematical world, like:

A prime number
The fifth lucky prime number
The first irregular prime number
The third unique prime number
The third cuban prime (of some equation I can't even begin to comprehend)


37 appears in the Padovan sequence
37 is a Størmer number
37 (Celsius) is the normal human body temperature
37 is the number of plays William Shakespeare is thought to have written


It's also how many years old I am today.  It has been a wonderful day.  Why?

Because I started my morning doing some service for others - namely, hand-delivering some birthday cake to my professional colleagues, presenting a "Cheap Places To Travel in Iowa" for a Mothers of Preschoolers group, and doing some volunteer grunt work for the professional theatre show in town.

The afternoon was then about me: a movie (the whole thing!  uninterrupted!), a finished D & D blog entry, and a pedicure.  Then, a walk with my husband before dinner with my family (at a place of my choice).  We just now got home from the professional show I volunteered for earlier - The Lowe Family.  Talk about a mind-blowing performance -  I am still processing!

A great day - giving the love and surrounded by it.

25 April 2012

Secret 7: There Are No Justified Resentments

With any concept, theme, idea - it hardly ever happens that the entire thing is accepted.  Parts of the idea or concept are feasible, while others are questioned or discarded.  And, as the late singer Ricky Nelson said, "you can't please everyone, so you gotta please yourself."

With Dr. Wayne Dyer's book 10 Secrets to Inner Peace and Success, Brent and I are finding this particular tenet to be true.  Some of the secrets speak to us more ardently, while others we have a hard time grasping.  

Today's secret - There Are No Justified Resentments - is one that jumped out, screaming for attention, at both of us.

You only need to be a conscious mind in this world for ten minutes to understand how the Blame Game works.  The media, especially, has made the most of victimhood.  Injustices are always someone else's fault.  Fingers are pointed, litigations are drawn out, and people just never get over it.

But, on a smaller scale, Dyer says, we carry around all these injuries: who's wronged or offended us.  And sometimes we never get over it!  And Dyer then makes a great point, "Any time you're filled with resentment, you're turning the controls of your emotional life over to others."

We let others be in charge of how we feel.  If instead, we accept it, we own it (regardless of who's fault it is), then we have the power to get rid of it.  But, if we wait for the person who hurt us to rectify the offense, we're totally dependent on someone else ... if and when they ever make reparations.

This is simple, but monumental.

Other highlights from this section:

- Take responsibility for your part in things.  This was a mulling point for Brent and I...how often we've thought of what the other person did to us, but hardly ever do we consider the role we played in the situation.

- Be kind rather than be right.  Wowee, was this a big 'un.  I know I certainly have that "I've got to fight for it" mindset at times.  But what's so great about being right?  Wait - let me rephrase that - what's so great about others knowing we're right?

- Try to respond with love, kindness, and peace.

- Don't waste energy being offended or put out.  Let things happen as they do, and then let them go.

- Thoughts of resentment, anger, and hatred represent slow, debilitating energies that disenpower.

And as I head over to the university today for my classes, I will keep this in mind.  :)   

23 April 2012

Getting a Grip

My universe feels quite out of control at the moment.  I woke up this morning, disoriented, and was accosted by an overwhelming, suffocating "to-do" list.   Not a big deal, usually, because, yeah, that's what being a mom, wife, and domestic goddess entails.  However, I'm mentally vulnerable these days - in the sense that I don't quite have a handle on my family's daily schedule, and keeping track of the chaos is difficult and draining.

Appointments come up, soccer practices are at different times than usual, this child has a meeting or that child has a group activity, etc. etc. etc. etc.  If we're lucky, all six of us eat dinner together once a week.  And that discomfits me.  A lot.  Also, with a VERY active teenage foreign exchange student in the house, we've begun to feel as if we're a waystation - just food and bed providers.

And I know, many of you right-minded folks out there reading this have the answer: prioritize, cut back on activities.  In theory, this is a wonderfully easy idea to advocate, but execution is more complicated.  That execution is the very struggle my husband and I are currently undertaking: to provide plenty of chance for interaction, involvement, and activity...but not at the risk of family sanity.  While we want our children to participate, we aren't willing to become slaves to it (the latest epiphany).

That brings me to a really pressing question: what is it exactly that we (our family) are doing for each other?  I cook, taxi, and keep the house clean.  Brent earns the money, maintains the house, and assists in all other parenting/household tasks.  And what contributions are the children making to our household?  That is the million-dollar question.  The two million dollar question is: what exactly do I expect out of them in regards to being a member of my house?

The three million dollar question: what do I do for others around me?  If what Dyer says is true, that serving others gives you purpose...well, then it's probably no wonder I feel a bit bereft these days.

18 April 2012

The Sixth Secret

Need to get back on track with a little spiritual growth talk here, right?

Dr. Dyer's sixth secret to Inner Peace and Success is: You Can't Solve a Problem with the Same Mind That Created It

On the surface, this seems simple and makes sense.  Sometimes it's better to step away, take a break, or put on a different pair of perspective glasses when faced with a problem.  Dyer proposes a different viewpoint - "Problems are simply illusions, or mistakes of intellect".

Is this radical or what?  That your problems are not really problems, but it's your mindset that makes it so?

I'm comforted, and yet, I'm disconcerted.  Just changing my thoughts will bring peace?  That's it?  To a certain point I do believe it's possible - at least with problems in our own lives.  I come back often to the first secret - be attached to nothing...when the thoughts come and I attach a "problem" label, I'm trapped.  But to actually execute the change of thought?  That's what disconcerting.  It's easier said than done.

But, life is about the effort, right?  The continual desire to try?  As Dyer says, "Change your thoughts and you change what you carry around in your head as problems."

17 April 2012

Accidental Experience: Watch Reality TV Without Sound

I don't watch reality TV.   Every now and then, my kids flip on 'Chopped' or 'Cupcake Wars' on the Food Network.  Oh, and there was that one time I watched an episode of 'Hoarders'...it was sometime before Christmas, I believe.

But, usually, no.

However, when the universe has something for you, you try to appreciate it...even if it is packaged up in a wrapping paper you don't really care for.

So, I'm at the local YMCA, logging some minutes on the elliptical to the frenetic tune of Guns 'N Roses's "Paradise City".  On one of the three gym televisions is the program 'The Biggest Loser', a show I'd normally refuse to watch on principle alone.  I know nothing about the show, except that there's a competition to lose weight.  Contestants are weighed every week (I assume), and progress percentages are noted.

Tonight, there were two green-shirted and one pink-shirted "players" (a man and two women).  For some reason, the green-shirted woman appears distressed just before the camera pans to the green-shirted man, who's standing on the scale.  His net loss this week appears to be ten pounds...and it appears that loss is so not what he was hoping for.  The camera shots alternate between his look of complete disbelief, his green-shirt partner's crying, and his trainer's (I assume) look of stoic disappointment.

This is where I realize I'd probably know what the hell was going on if the sound were turned on.  But, it's not, so I'm allowed to make own judgments.  (On a totally unrelated side note, I just realized I used the word 'appears' three times in the last paragraph.)

I'm trying to figure out in what crazy alternate universe ten pounds' loss is such a disappointment.  For someone who wants to lose it and who is doing so in a relatively healthy way, that is.

Then, I really realize the value of sound.  The green-shirted female teammate (I assume), begins to speak (no idea what's being said - I don't read lips) to the guy on the scale.  And, by the way she waves her hands and points her fingers, not to mention the indignant look on her face as she speaks...it's obvious that she is ticked off.

At what?  I have no idea.  My guess is that he berated her as she got on the scale a few minutes ago, and now it's a case of the kettle calling the pot black.  It's only a guess, and not a very informed one.

By now, my twenty minutes on the elliptical are up.  And I'm thankful...because I'm perplexed.  People getting in shape, trying to living healthy, using the buddy system for weight-loss success, personal trainers...

These all seem like good things, yes?  The literature tells us we are living in scary times - obesity rates are on the dramatic rise, after all - and here's a show about people trying very deliberately to buck the obesity trend.   And a program that should be inspiring is instead depressing...losing ten pounds is not praiseworthy, it gets a guy yelled at by his teammate.  It's just not good enough, I guess.

Oh, make no mistake...I am inspired. To never watch the show again, accidental or not.  Sound on or not.

16 April 2012

You - Past, Present, and Future

Due to that little, teensy thing called a 'weekend', my discussions and summaries of the 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace continues today.

Secret #5 asks to do what seems like a simple thing: Give Up Your Personal History.  Which I interpret to mean: Stop Keeping Score.

Stop thinking about who's wronged you, who's hurt you, or who's offended you.  Accept that they happened.  Embrace them as part of who you are...TODAY.  Other insights:

1. What drives a boat?  The wake?  No.  It's what gets left behind.  Same thing with our past.  It doesn't (or shouldn't) drive us.

2. Hanging on to the past immobilizes your future.

3. Live fully.  Live in the now.  Don't let the past or future interfere with what (or who) is happening now.

4. Try to transcend labels (Democrat, woman, gay, etc.).  They limit you.

Reading this chapter was particularly profound - a good reminder to live for today.  I am strongly reminded of Leo Tolstoy's "The Three Questions" (or Jon J Muth's kid-friendly version here)...and these particular lines (paraphrased by me):

"Remember then: there is only one time that is important--
Now! It is so because it is the only time when
we have any power. 

The most necessary person is s/he whom you are with,
for you know now whether you will ever have dealings with any one
else again. 

The most important action, is to do him/her good, because for
that purpose alone are we alive!"

13 April 2012

Ommm...Embracing the Silence

Secret #4: Embrace Silence.

I'm not going to try to be noble here...this secret may indubitably be the most difficult to implement.

To shut out not only all the external noise, but the internal noise as well?  Seems insurmountable.  I can't stop the birds or the bulldozer guys' construction or the neighbor's lawn-mowing...but even more tricky, stopping the noise within myself.  Stop the thoughts that come a mile a minute?  Stop the mental to-do list in my head? 

We are a culture of noisy distractions.  Silence makes us uncomfortable, Dyer states, and that's why we fidget, we insert inane conversation, or we turn the radio on.  But, he goes on to say, we can find gaps of peaceful silence here and there...in between the pandemonium of our everyday lives.  It does require deliberate, mindful practice.  That's the hard part, really.  Other insights of this secret include:

1. Become aware of the gaps in your thoughts, and try to revel in the silence.

2. Consider a daily practice of meditation or other similar engaging with quietness.

3. Nature can provide a healing form of silence, try to get out in it as often as possible.

While we certainly understand the importance of embracing the silence, this is something we will just have to do the best we can as we go.

12 April 2012

Squeezing the Orange

No matter what method of pressure, what time of day, what type of orange...squeezing an orange will always render orange juice.


Because that's what inside of it.

For me, Dr. Dyer's orange analogy hammered home the essence of Secret #3: You Can't Give Away What You Don't Have.

You can't give away love if you don't have it inside of you.  If all you have is anger or cynicism or righteousness inside you...that's all you can give away.

Pretty darn illuminating, I think.  Brent and I have had many go-arounds about being more positive, and not so negative.  Why was it so hard to be positive?  It seemed like it should be so easy...but it wasn't.  And that was because we had negativity inside.  Until we deliberately strove the change the negatives into positives, the low energy would be all that would emanate from us.

Dr. Dyer anticipates the oft-asked question - if I want to give away love, but I don't have it, how do I get it?  How do I get more kindness?  Harmony?  Purpose?  His answer is simple: "Purpose is about serving.  It is about taking the focus of off you and your self-interest, and serving others in some way." 

At first, this seemed to smack of church or religious/missionary service...but it doesn't have to.  I often think that maybe I should ask myself EVERY DAY not only "what have I done for myself?" but also "what have I done for others?"  And maybe it's time to undertake some kind of "giving" challenge.

Today's prominent thought seems to be "I can't help others until I help myself."  And often, the idea of 'community' is limited to our homes only.  Maybe that is the first step in change. 

Other insights from this chapter include:

1. Dyer recommends that we change our inner frequencies to the higher ones of love, harmony, kindness, and peace...instead of the lower ones like anger, shame, guilt, or fear.

2. Love and support yourself.

3. What comes out of you is what's naturally inside of you.

4. Nothing in the universe is personal.  Tame your ego, and don't take everything so personally. 

11 April 2012

Day Two, Secret Two

#2: Don't Die with Your Music Still in You

This is not really a secret, per se, because I've seen it packaged as "Live life to the fullest" or "Take risks" or "Don't live a life of regret".

However, it's a piece of sage advice that particularly resonates with me and this hefty career change I'm making.  It also struck a chord with Brent, who is in that process of searching for his music as well.

Dyer begins this section with a bit of discussion about the left brain (the analytical) and the right brain (the creative).  He says, "listen to your right brain, it will lead you to your passion."  Your right brain is the little voice that encourages you to take risks, to jump, to go for it...but that voice is often squashed by the sensibilities of your left brain.  Dyer prompts us to listen to that right brain voice more often.

We all have special work to do in this life...there is special music playing within us, and that particular point reminds of Socrates's words: "Don't live an unexamined life." 

Other key insights:

1. Love and respect yourself when you follow the beat of a different drummer.  I am strongly reminded of Dr. Seuss's words: "Be yourself, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."

2. Ask yourself: what is the worst that can happen?  (Anytime you take a risk, that is)

3. We are afraid of failure, but failure is only an illusion.  Everything we do produces a result, and everything we do can be learned from...thus, it isn't a failure at all.

4.  Be enthusiastic.  Laugh at yourself.

I feel pretty lucky, because I think I've found my "thing"...the thing I'm meant to do while I'm living this life.  And I'm listening to my right brain (have been for awhile, I think), and pursuing my dream.  My husband's dream is a bit more complicated, though.  He would need to change jobs as well to fulfill his dream...and that's not really a good idea right now (with me going back to school).  Perhaps, he will need to chase his dream less ardently?  Or a couple years from now?

Dr. Dyer makes an exceptional point in this section; however, there must be a balance between risk and prudence.  As might be the case for our family right now.

10 April 2012

Ten Days, Ten Secrets

Lately, I've been feeling a bit like a piece of river driftwood, caught up in a force beyond my control, being carried along without regard to any kind of purpose.  Aimless, if you will.  And I suppose some would find a sort of freedom in that driftlessness...to 'go with the flow', as it were.  But not me.  I feel lost, at loose ends, undirected...and I don't like it.

The first place I go to when I need answers or help is my public library.  Books rarely let me down in my search for knowledge and enlightenment.  As I wandered the aisles, a small selection of Wayne Dyer books caught my eye.  A friend of mine (her blog here) is a fan of his, so I picked up a tome called Dr. Wayne Dyer's 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace

Success and Inner Peace - two things I certainly could use a bit more of.

Last night, my husband and I started reading the book together, taking just one "secret" at a time.  I took some notes in my personal journal, but I thought I'd summarize and synthesize those thoughts here for you...not only as an FYI for you, but a reinforcer for myself as well.  My challenge over the next ten days is to read/summarize/synthesize those ten secrets here at WYWH.  Maybe I will find the spiritual "guide" I think I've been missing.

Secret #1: Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.

At first, this sounds great.  And easy too.  But considering all the conditioning and "baggage" I come with...letting go is easier said than done.  Out of Dyer's dialogue regarding this secret, I've provided my mix of insights and highlights below.

1.  Revel in the magic of the everyday workings of the universe.  The sun shines, trees bloom, people smile, my body works - all of those things are miracles, really.  Recognize the amazing awe that comes with living on this planet.

2.  Resist being a pessimist.  Dyer makes an outstanding point - the universe is limitless, so how can we claim to know everything?  We can't - we hardly know anything compared with what there is to know.  Being cynical goes hand in hand with thinking we know everything.

3.  Whatever your mind is filled with (doubt, peace, anger, positivity) is what will manifest in your actions.

4.  Let go of your physical ego/self.  This was a critical point for me.  So much of who I am is wrapped up in my physical being: how much weight I've lost, what size clothes I wear, how many gray hairs I can count, etc.  And that is only a fraction of me! 

5. Detach from outcomes.  It's okay to desire and dream, but keep yourself separate from the outcome.  Practice "what will be, will be".  I was strongly reminded of Max Ehrmann's
"Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."

6. Let things come and go as it will.  Let thoughts arise and then let them go.  Holding on to them, developing an emotion to go with them creates attachment.

7. Love people for who they are, not for what you think they should be.  This particular point resonated with my husband.

8.  Perhaps what I felt to be the key idea of Dyer's first secret: "Never make your happiness or success dependent on an attachment to anything, any place, or any person."

Obviously, reading the chapter and writing some notes on it are a far cry from implementation into daily life.  But, it's an awareness and it's a start.

08 April 2012

An Extraordinary Easter

I honestly can't remember the last Easter I had that was so terribly satisfying as today's.

Does that sound sacreligious at all?  I'm sure it does.  And it'll sound even moreso when I mentioned this particular Sunday did not involve Jesus Christ at all.

The day began for me at 6:40 a.m....when I woke up (the first time).  Usually, once I wake, I'm up for the day.  But, today, I managed to fall back asleep until 9:00 a.m...arising *after* my husband for the first time in A LONG time.  With me just waking up, the foreign exchange student still in bed, and everyone else still in their pajamas - and with our church's Easter service beginning at 9:30, it's obvious we won't be attending it today.

So, Plan B.

After a trip to the grocery store for the week, we packed a picnic lunch and headed off to the park.  Once we'd feasted on cheese, summer sausage, crackers, fruit and carrots, Brent and I hid the plastic Easter eggs we'd brought with us (filled with money and jelly beans).  Then, we watched as the kids (even the 15-year-old South Korean on his first Easter egg hunt ever) scampered in the sunshine to collect their eggs.

Then, it was time to return home and tackle some of the yardwork chores that have been piling up the last few months.  The kids were resistant at first, but they soon were helping out with the raking of many, many layers of fallen leaves, sawing of dead, in-the-way branches, and toting the brush to the truck.  After two hours, I could notice a definite improvement in the way our yard looks!

While my daughter worked on a school project, the boys (including Brent) sat down to play a board game while I did my most favorite thing - work in the kitchen.  I spent an hour and a half preparing this meal:

Fresh sourdough bread, green beans amandine, apricot-glazed ham, mashed potatoes

And, because I had the spare time:

Zucchini cake with a light vanilla glaze

My heart, head, and stomach are content and peaceful tonight.  Bright blessings to you all!

02 April 2012

Abnormal Fear?

I went to my first-ever chiropractic appointment today.

This is not earth-shaking news.  Hundreds of thousands of people visit one every day.  So, why was I apprehensive?

Two reasons.

1.  I deliberated on whether or not I should go for some time.  At worst, I imagined the doctor informing me that nothing at all wrong was with me and I should instead think about a psychiatrist visit.  I am not debilitated, and I am not in pain for even a major portion of the day.  It's a dull, deep, niggling type ache in my neck, shoulders, and mid-back.  It's really nothing I can complain much about, especially when I am a daily witness to people with conditions and injuries far more serious than mine.

But, in general, I'm tired of feeling old.

2.  No, I am not on any kind of medication for my discomfort.  I do not take over-the-counter painkillers for the pain.  Because I have no desire to become dependent on foreign chemicals to feel healthy.  Concurrently, I don't want to become dependent on a chiropractor to feel better.  I'm worried about becoming "addicted".

This all is just a damn, stupid reminder that I'm getting older.  I haven't come to terms with it yet.

28 March 2012

Thoughts on Death

"Let us live so that when we die, even the undertaker will be sorry."  - Mark Twain

The grandmother of a friend of mine passed away recently, which, as usually happens with an event I am not intimately involved with, allows me the opportunity to reflect and ponder.

Naturally, I thought first of my own parents.  My dad is 63 and my mom will turn 60 this summer.  For the most part, they are still mobile, active, mostly able to do everything they've always done.  I hear reports every so often (mostly from my dad) of high blood pressure, gout, and a sore back, while my mom is plagued every now and then with a migraine.

General old people malaise, you know?

No cancers, operations, strokes, heart attacks, terrible accidents, ad nauseum.  And what I realized today is, I'd better enjoy that time with them the very best I can.  I live near my parents during a relatively healthy stretch of their existence.  I'd better not squander it!

Thinking of my parents' health naturally leads to me thinking of my lifestyle choices.  Am I active everyday?  Am I doing something with my brain everyday?  Am I living every day? 

I hope so.  I'm trying.  After all, when I die, I want even the undertaker to be sorry that I'm going.

06 March 2012

More GBNB (Get Better, Not Bitter)

To know more about the meaning about the acronym and phrase above, see this post here.

I have struggled mightily with this concept in the last several days. 

First, I frequently have let others frustrate me.  And then, I'm like an egg...once I become cracked, even a very little bit, my fragility skyrockets.

Consequently, I've indulged in a little self-scourging because of the above behavior.  I know my happiness does not depend on what others do or don't do; I mean, I can't control them...but recently, I've also felt like I can't control my own reaction to them either.  And I've really hated feeling this way...like I'm solely sustained by other people, instead of being my own independent person.

So.  Today was a bit of a breaking point.  I'm thankful that I know people who remind me to step back, rethink, and let it go. 

Anyone who spends a fair amount of time here knows how much I love my quotes.  So, I'll chuck two up here (probably been used before) that seem to encapsulate a new WYWH mindset.

From Dr. Seuss:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”

From Eleanor Roosevelt:

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."*

I'm not going to give my consent anymore when it comes to letting others make me feel inferior.  And, I'm going to do what I always do, without any expectation of response, action, or acceptance from somebody else...unless they matter.

(*a website called www.quoteinvestigator.com claims this quote cannot be traced to Roosevelt, with research to prove it.  But, the website is maintained by a Garson O'Toole, who has a PhD from Yale in Computer Science.  According to the website's "About" section, Dr. O'Toole "diligently seeks the truth about quotations."  Remember - anyone can say anything out here on the Internet...so caveat researcher.  Let the researcher beware.)

04 March 2012

I'm 17 Years For a Moment...

Oh wow.  In preparation for the new KING-size bed set that arrives to my house today, I've been cleaning, dusting, and pitching things like mad.  I'm not a hoarder by nature, so I thoroughly enjoy the pitching and purging process.

Except, I came across something I will not throw away...because it's just too darn hilarious.

It's a list of 35 goals I made for myself a long time ago...

The date?  January 15, 1993.  I was four months shy of my eighteenth birthday.

Here's my legend: an asterisk (*) means it's been accomplished.  A number sign (#) means I haven't done it yet.  A (@) means a fail.  Got it?
As they say in New Orleans: Laissez les bons temps rouler!  (Let the good times roll!) 

1. Move to Oregon (#)
2. Travel overseas (*)
3. Have 3 children (*)
4. Read all 30 banned books on my list (# - it's probably longer now)
5. Graduate from college with little debt to pay (*)
6. Skydive (#)
7. Send my parents on a Caribbean cruise (# - it might just be my mom)
8. Lose virginity (* - heh)
9. Go to all my class reunions (* - so far)
10. Visit at least half of all the US states (#)
11. Get a job with a salary over $25,000 (* - yes, but then I quit)
12. Be a regular on Saturday Night Live (#)
13. Meet Christian Slater (#)
14. Watch a San Francisco 49ers football game in real-life (#)
15. Watch a Los Angeles Dodgers game in real-life (#)
16. Go to the Olympics (#)
17. Whitewater raft (#)
18. Build my own home (#)
19. Have respectful and disciplined children (* - work in progress)
20. Live till I'm 100 (* - working on it)
21. Purchase a mediocre expensive car (* - ha!  Obviously I did not know the meaning of 'mediocre')
22. Own a hot tub (#)
23. Weigh 120-125 pounds by graduation (@)
24. Marry a basketball player (* - I did not specify professional or what.  Brent played in high school...ACCOMPLISHED)
25. Not get pregnant before college graduation (@ - I was about four months pregs when I graduated from college.  Maybe it's a FAIL, but I'm okay with it.)
26. To play professional golf (#...but it's likely to be a @)
27. Get braces (#)
28. Learn a musical instrument (#)
29. Go to a music concert (*)
30. Climb Mt. Everest (#...and I've lost the interest, so @)
31. Grow long hair (* - No specification on length)
32. Act on Broadway (#- See 26)
33. Stand on Mt. Rushmore (# - Must check.  I may not be allowed close enough to actually stand on it)
34. Visit all Seven Wonders of the World (# - Did not specify Ancient or Natural or Modern)
35. Meet Jean-Claude Van Damme (# - Ahahahahaahaaaaaaaahahahahahahhahahahaaaaaa!)

So, data analysis:
12 out of 35 goals - ACHIEVED
21 out of 35 goals - HAVE NOT YET ACHIEVED
3 out of the previous 21 - HAVE LOST DESIRE TO ACHIEVE
4 out of the previous 21 - HIGHLY UNLIKELY GOAL WILL BE ACHIEVED
2 out of 35 goals - FAIL

I guess now I know what I've got the rest of my life to work on!

01 March 2012

The Finale - Dream For the Future

A dream for the future, eh?

Well, it is then this:

I (as well as my husband) am retired (or semi- or pseudo- or not, if I love my job).  My children are grown, out of my house, and are living happy and successful adult lives.  I'm sure there will be grandchildren at some point for us (although, if not, life will go on).

Due to modern medical advances, we are quite in excellent health for our ages...in fact, a complete physical checkup in the last week (for both of us) turned out extremely satisfactory results.  We are on no medications, eat healthy and not to excess, and get some kind of exercise every day.

Because we made good financial choices in our twenties and thirties, we now have some reliable fundage to keep us going well into our nineties and beyond.

And with that, Brent and I purchased ocean-side property on some island in the Aegean Sea.  We spend most of our time there, basking in the Grecian sun, eating dried-out octopus and other such local fare (which I cook up in amazing ways).  Thanks to my lucrative best-selling novels and cookbooks, we have the money to fly our kids and any grandchildren to Greece every December for Christmas and New Year's.

Not too shabby, eh?

29 February 2012

Day 29 - Hopes, Dreams, and Plans for the Next 365 Days

Whew.  Project and predict one year into the future.  For someone who lives pretty much just into next week (maybe month), this is a difficult concept to fathom.  But I shall try...

1. I hope to go confidently in the direction of my dreams, and enroll in a culinary arts program at the local community college.

2. I also hope to stay encouraged and excel at said culinary arts program.

3. Spencer will return to public school next year, and I hope he acclimates well.

4. I hope Kirby will have a seamless transition into middle school.

5. I hope Brent and I will transition (seamlessly) into being parents of a preteen girl.

6. I plan to write another novel in November.

7. Brent and I hit 15 years in August and I plan to travel somewhere exotic (British Virgin Islands to visit an Auntie, perhaps)

8. I plan, hope, and dream of living a life with purpose...where I make every minute and every person matter.

28 February 2012

Day 28 - Handbag Contents

I keep it pretty simple, really.

* Keys (house, cars, office, gym)
* Wallet (typical fare: cards, receipts, cash license, Black-Eyed Peas concert tix stub)
* Two tubes Burt's Bees Lip Balm (Acai Berry and Mango Butter)
* Checkbook
* Gold Bond Ultimate Restoring Skin Therapy Cream
* "Books Checked Out" slip
* Baby fingernail clippers (see yesterday's post)
* Boston Rewetting Eye Drops
* Ibuprofen
* A pressed powder compact
* Tube of Revlon ColorStay (Overtime Wine)
* Tube of CoverGirl NatureLuxe Balm (Clove)
* My daughter's turquoise wristwatch
* 50k NaNoWriMo button
* Tube of Campho-Phenique
* Six pencils
* Five pens
* One Sharpie marker (brown)
* Cell Phone

It looks like I've got a thing for writing instruments and lip implements.

27 February 2012

Ugh. Do I really want to talk about this?

Or more importantly, do you really want to know?

My worst habit?

Ugh.  Okay.

Whenever I go to a nail salon, I get a pedicure.  I love pedicures and having my feet pampered.  Inevitably, the pedicurist asks if I want a manicure.  And I'm flooded with a sense of shame as I say, "No, just the pedicure today."

I am embarrassed to let the nail technicians work on my hands, because I'm positive they are the most disgusting hands on the planet.  Iowa's dry, cold, chafing winter weather is the worst...my skin dries, peels, and drives me insane.

To top it all off, though, I am a picker.  If I'm prepared, I've got nail clippers handy and I can easily remedy any wayward cuticle or flap of skin without any pain.  However, often enough, it happens that I don't, and then I pickpickpick the little annoyances away. 

That's when it usually hurts...when I peel skin too far (not Black Swan too far, though).  Then, the next time I wash my hands, I'm in agonizing pain.

Obviously not enough to learn my lesson though.  It's a mindless habit, I'll do it when I don't even realize I'm doing it.  It's terrible, and I've got to get it under control before I even think about any kind of degree in the culinary arts.

26 February 2012

Day 26 - My Week

How mundane is this?

Since early January (and the start of a new term), my weeks have been roughly the same.  I've settled into quite a lovely routine.

Mondays: I wake about 6:30 to shower, caffeinate myself, prepare breakfast, and herd children off to school.  I also get Spencer started on his schoolwork for the day (Logic, Foreign Language, Reading, Vocabulary, History, Math, and Writing/Blog).  Usually from about 8:30 to 10:30, I work on my own schoolwork (grading or reading or lesson planning) or meal preparation (usually a crockpot something or other).  At 10:30, I toodle off to the college, where I usually make copies or get other things in order for my 11:15 class.  From 11:15 to 1:05, I'm teaching.  After class until 3:00 are my office hours, where I usually grade, read/annotate, or plan.  I pick up the children at 3:30, and I might either go work out or come home and finish meal prep.  We eat an early dinner on Mondays because I go to yoga at six (unless there's a community theater board meeting or special event - Mediterranean dinner, etc.), and Brent has bowling at 6:30.    Beyond 7:00 pm, I return home to read or hang out with kids until they go to bed at 8:30 or 9:00.  Then, I either blog, read, write, surf the Net, grade homeschool work, or spend time with my husband.

Tuesdays: Same morning ritual, but I have the whole day free from teaching/office hours.  Tuesdays (and Thursdays) are for bread-baking, laundry, light housecleaning, or extra schoolwork.  I'm able to grade Spencer's work immediately (his schedule: Geography, Writing, Math, Reading, History, and Science).  In the afternoons, I try to get to the YMCA for a half-hour workout.  Then, it's home with the family and various supervision of homework and meal preparation.  At 6:30, I'm off to writing group at the library...and then, there's a repetition of evening events when I come home.

Wednesday: Same as Monday.  Except the only evening commitment is yoga at six.

Thursday: Same as Tuesday, except I get Land Transfer/Marriage/Dissolution information from the courthouse (it's a side job I do for the local newspaper).

Friday: Similar to Monday and Wednesday except there's no yoga.  Usually, we'll do something as a family (watch a movie, go out for dinner, play games).  Sometimes (this is becoming more frequent), Brent and I will go out by ourselves for a couple of hours (dinner, movie, etc.).  Kids stay home to watch a little TV, play Wii or Starcraft.

Weekends are pretty open.  If there's no obligation, we stay home in our pajamas, hang out, do various odds and ends around the house, etc.  Usually, the groceries get done sometime on a Saturday.  For my recent Saturday, refer to yesterday's post.  Sundays are sometimes church days, sometimes Dungeons & Dragons days, sometimes whatever strikes our fancy days.  After dinner, kids get bathed, and prepare for the week ahead. 

And then we start it all over again!!!!

25 February 2012

My Day (In Extraordinarily Great Detail) - Day 25

Today was an atypical day.  Usually, Saturdays are rather laid back...depending on the time of year.  Fall and spring we are cheering on the children at their respective soccer games, but winter is bereft of any such crazy weekend activity. 

But, like I said, this was an atypical day.

We enjoyed the luxury this morning of being able to sleep in.  To 7:30 am.  The kids, however, had been up, reading, since 7:00.  After a breakfast of pancakes, my husband played the best prank ever on me (in the shower), and then he and I did the week's grocery shopping.  We packed a lunch in the cooler and we were off...

to Iowa City to watch our foreign exchange student compete in the State Robotics competition.  While the boys were enthralled with the robots' antics and such, Kirby and I snuck away for a little girl shopping at one of the best consignment stores ever, Stuff Etc.  A new pair of khakis and a couple of tops for me, and a flouncy pink skirt for Kirby.  But the shopping wasn't done...

we visited TJ Maxx, where Kirby was lucky enough to come across a new swimsuit for the summer (a non-bikini two-piece!) and a cute top.  After that, our energy levels flagged a bit, so we stopped at Bruegger's Bagels for a bagel and cream cheese (Blueberry and Honey Walnut for me, Pesto Cheddar and Onion n'Chive for Kirby).

Then, we were ready to return to the University of Iowa Memorial Union for the semi-finals (both of the high school teams made it).  And about forty-five minutes later, both teams had been eliminated from the competition.  Thus, we left and made our way to HuHot for dinner before driving home (a hour and a half).

Now that we've arrived, kids are getting shuttled off to bed.  Naturally, I'm updating things here, but I should probably grade some papers.  We'll see how *that* goes...

24 February 2012

My Hometown - Day 24

Aren't I lucky?  The town I live in happens to also be my hometown.

Oskaloosa, Iowa is the gem of Mahaska County in the heart of...

Okay, okay, enough with the touristy babble.  I live in the town of nearly 11,000 people.  And, it's certainly small enough to be able to:

1. Know 75% of the time whom someone is talking about when a "You know, the *---------* family?"

2. Drive across the entire town in about 10 minutes with traffic lights, 15 without, 30 when the train's coming through.

3. Enter any of the three grocery stores on any given day and be able to recognize and say 'hi' to about 50% of people I encounter (this increases significantly when I'm with my dad).

4. Have access to sufficient shopping without sprawling mall configuration.


1. Everyone does not know everyone else's business.
We have two grocery stores and a SuperWalMart.  Retail is basic, nothing fancy.  Churches outnumber restaurants, which outnumber bars (barely).  We have a nice coffeehouse and bookstore, but I wish we had a upscale, classy "bar" and a Target.

Religion is pretty conservative around here, which causes me to miss the Universalist Unitarian church in Minnesota.  Many of us are tolerant of others, but many are stuck in their old ways and aren't as much.

There are no clubs, not much nightlife to speak of, which the college students here in town lament widely.  Oskaloosa is home to William Penn University, a small liberal arts college of maybe 900.  Education is pretty linear: one elementary (huge), one middle school, and one high school.

Culturally speaking, there's not excitement here.  Mostly Caucasian, ruralish population, and our businesses reflect that.  However, our state's illustrious capital is less than an hour away, and it is possible to get away to a play, nice dinner or evening out, or place to shop.

23 February 2012

Day ? Something - A Youtube Video

I can't say I access the youtube very often...but when I do, it's usually to watch "My Drunk Kitchen".   It's a "weekly" program that is now in its second "season".  Essentially, the woman (Hannah) attempts to cook something, but she drinks alcohol as she does it.  

So.  It's a combination of things I really like: wine and cooking.  I find Hannah hilarious, and I am amazed how she is able to maintain some semblance of lucidity in the kitchen even when it's obvious she's "had a few".

Enjoy this most recent video - the first episode of season two - in HD, too, no less!

22 February 2012

Day 22 - A Website

Hm.  Websites I visit everyday include Facebook, Yahoo, and Google.  But...I don't think I'll waste your time talking about those sites.  :)  There's also the NaNoWriMo board I visit every now and then, but again, there's not much there that would be of interest (unless you're going to write a novel this coming November, in which case, go sign up there right now!).

Instead, let me point you to a food website I visit often.  www.allrecipes.com

I've had a very good success rate with recipes here.  I can search by recipe or by ingredient, depending on my need and situation.  Personally, I love reading the reviews and how each cook tweaks the original recipe.  Favorite recipes can be stored in a 'Recipe Box', and there's an interactive 'Menu Planner' that looks useful - but it charges a monthly fee, which eliminates that option for me.  Also, poking around there just now, there's a fun Nutrition Search option.  So, I can click the Nutrition Search button and immediately I'm given the calories, carbs, fat, protein, cholesterol, and sodium information for that food I'm looking for (chili, chocolate cake, etc). I guess so I can walk into my choice, with my eyes open, as it were.

Two successes I've had there include: Cheese's Baked Macaroni and Cheese and Jenny's Black Forest Cake.

21 February 2012

Day 21 - A Recipe

I am currently (really) in love with this book:

"To Thine Own Self, Be Food" will contain a book review at a later date, but for now, suffice it to say that the recipes I've done so far (eight, maybe?) have been simple and tasty.

Some are downright kindergarten simple - for example, Pizza Potatoes?  Baked potatoes with pizza sauce, mozz cheese, anything else that might go on a pizza.  Hardly qualifies as a "recipe"...but yet, it was a huge hit here at my house.  So, then, who cares if it's a real recipe or not?

I've taken two recipes from this text for today's blog; one has awesomely, pleasantly surprised me, and one is on the menu for tonight.

Last Thursday, we prepared Pork Medallions in Mustard Sauce (my apologies - no pictures).  Don't shy away if you're a mustard-hater, but instead skimp on the mustard measurement I've given here:

1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon
1 tsp parsley (I love my herbs, so I measure with a heavy hand)
4 tsp spicy brown mustard

Combine these four and set aside.

1 pound pork tenderloin (fat trimmed and sliced into half-inch slices)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Season sliced pork and brown it in the oil (medium-high heat in skillet).  After pieces are light brown, remove into a separate dish.

3 garlic cloves (again, another ingredient that gets a heavy measuring hand)

Saute garlic in skillet for a minute.  Stir in mustard mixture, loosening any brown bits in the pan.  Bring to a boil, before reducing heat.  Simmer uncovered for 5-7 minutes.  Return pork slices to pan, cover and simmer over low heat for 4-5 more minutes (or meat is cooked through).

1 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water

Combine these two in a small cup, stirring until smooth.  Add to pan, cooking and stirring for another 1-2 minutes until thickened.

This recipe here makes four servings, so of course, I doubled it to feed my brood.

I was perfectly content to ladle extra mustard sauce over my medallions, where the kids simply ate the meat plain.  The flavor was excellent, and the meat tender.  I'd definitely consider making this for company...I think it's fancy enough.  It's certainly tasty enough!

Tonight's meal (and recipe) is Linguine with Gorgonzola Sauce (four servings).

12 oz.  linguine
1 bunch fresh asparagus (trimmed, cut into 1 inch pieces)
1 cup half and half
4 oz. Gorgonzola cheese (or blue cheese)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Pretty simple here.  Cook noodles, adding asparagus during last four minutes.  Meanwhile, combine half and half, 3/4 cup of cheese, and salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 3 minutes, uncovered (stir often).

Pour melted sauce over cooked noodles, toss gently to coat, and sprinkle with remaining cheese and walnuts.

I will provide pictures and a judgment later on tonight!

Later on tonight:

YUM!  Everyone liked!  It's definitely got an Alfredo taste to it, but the asparagus is a nice, springy touch.

20 February 2012

Day 20 - A Hobby

Here it is:

This picture is a symbol of a hobby I have come to love in the last year.  Baking, cooking, anything to do with food.

In fact, it has become such an integral part of my life that I may be making a foray into food as a career sometime soon.

19 February 2012

A Talent? Hm. (Day 19)

Over halfway through with this 30-day blog challenge, and honestly, this one's tough.  I mean, what exactly does it mean by talent?  Something I feel I'm good at?  Something I've been actually told I'm good at?  Something I've actually received an award or accolade for?

No matter what criteria I go by, you (as the reader) get an inaccurate picture.

For example, I feel that I am good at singing (relatively), but I've never received any corroborating testimony or evidence from any quarter.  Thus, I would not consider it a talent.

Though I've received no prizes or multi-million dollar book deals, writing is another thing I feel I have a flair, a talent, for...even if I don't measure up to society's "standards".

I distinctly remember beginning to write as an elementary-school-goer, when my parents let me get one of those blank, color-it-yourself journals from the Scholastic Book Club.  My seventh-grade English teacher wrote "Keep Writing!" in my junior high yearbook, and I wrote scads of love poetry through high school (probably semi-plagiarized, no doubt...I was highly impressionable).

College was a bit more of the same, although the poetry slowed down a bit.  I found being in love much more preferable to writing poetry about it.  Per the requirements for my major, I took Creative Writing.  I distinctly remember one group writing exercise.

Teacher: In your group, write a "description for the senses" of the word I give you.
Group: Okaaaaay.
Teacher (to Heather's group): Your word is 'Lust'.  Who's tackling what sense?
Heather (after much jockeying around): I've got smell.

Minutes later...I'd written four words to describe what Lust smelled like: sweat, wet heat, and monkeys.  Surprisingly, my teacher thought it was great!  Evocative, she said.

But then, I left the fun, carefree bubble of college and entered the real world.  Career, kids, marriage.  Writing came in a distant fifth...sixth, maybe?

Until I began blogging here, oh, about six years ago.  Then, three years ago, I did NaNoWriMo...and well, the rest is history (documented somewhere here on the Internet, no doubt).

People had always said they admire the "voice" I write in.  It's casual, believable, and genuine.  Also, people will comment on how I use humor in my work...and it's true.  It's quite difficult for me to write a wholly serious piece without some humor.  I do really, really wish, though, I'd taken more classes about writing, kept in touch with it during the lean years.  Then, I wouldn't feel like such a noob at times.