Friday, September 28, 2007

Snapes On A Plane




I laugh at this every time. =)

Random Things

*Admits to shamelessly stealing current blogging idea from the more-than-capable hands of WandererinGray*

*Didn't ask permission first.*

*Ducks incoming fish.*


15 Random Things About My Week:

1. I have yet to convince my cat that when it comes to the litter box, it isn't the thought that counts.

2. My middle child has a wickedly sharp sense of humor. It's his saving grace that he can make me laugh. ;)

3. I don't have to visit my oncologist again until March! Yay! (unless, of course, I get the phone call instead of the post card but I think I'm in the clear at this point.)

4. I doubled the sit-ups and push-ups I'm doing. I've decided maybe I like pain.

5. I'm just twisted enough to celebrate the writing of a truly chilling death scene. (Yes, Katy, it's coming to you soon!!)

6. I'm reading a truly thought-provoking book: THE VOICE OF THE HEART by Chip Dodd.

7. My hubby caved and got me unlimited texting on my phone. Now I can write with my phone too! Life is nearly perfect.

8. I'm making progress on project Stop Doubting Yourself.

9. I've never seen anyone who can consume more carbs and sugar in one sitting than Mal. He's lucky he works out so much.

10. My new iPod is on its way (early Christmas gift from my hubby). Now I just have to figure out how to use it. :)

11. Why on earth did I say I could think of 15 things to say here?

12. I'm making a strict writing schedule for the next 3 weeks so I can finish Alexa (and yes, Katy, I do hear you screaming all the way from the Springs!).

13. I'm missing my daughter this week. This doesn't bode well for my emotional state of mind at Christmas!

14. I laughed my head off at a picture of "Snapes on a Plane". That's right up my abnormal little alley.

15. I am still head over heels in love with my hubby and we're closing in on 13 years.

On to the weekend!!

Truth

Truth is a curious thing.

You can argue with truth. You can fight it. You can ignore it, despise it, deny it. You can embrace it.

But you cannot change it.

Truth is like gravity. We can fly thousands of miles across the sky. We can visit the moon. We can jump from cliffs, hang-gliders strapped to our backs, and soar. But no matter how we fight it, gravity always brings us back to the ground.

I'm discovering that inside of our hearts, truth exists. When we scrape past appearances, dig beyond what we carefully show others, listen past the words we fumble through with those we love - we find the truth.

Maybe the truth is that we are hurt. Maybe the truth is that we are scared. Maybe we're lonely. Maybe we're angry. Maybe we float alone on a sea of hopelessness - convinced that no one could ever save us now.

Maybe the truth of our hearts would strike a familiar chord in others as it echoes the private longings, fears, and desires we all hold because we are human and we've been wounded. Maybe it would but we are too frightened to try.

We bundle the truth of our hearts into the darkest corner we can find and rush to create a blazing distraction elsewhere, lest someone get close enough to really see us as we are.

We don't want to admit that we need. Desperately. That we long for others to connect with our heart. To touch us. To breathe life into our dreams, listen to our pain, and offer the comfort of understanding.

We deny the truth that we are made to live in close relationship with others. We cannot live alone. We can survive, but we cannot live alone.

We get angry at ourselves for needing love. We convince ourselves love isn't worth the risk, the pain. We forget how often we've dealt pain to others and build walls around our spirits.

We tell ourselves it's better to feel nothing than to be wounded again.

We become cowards with the truth of our hearts.

And though we can argue, fight, ignore, deny, or despise the true state of our hearts, we cannot change it.

We are wounded. We are scared that no one can love us as we really are. We are angry that we need others when we think it's wiser to stand alone.

We could stand alone.

We could.

But the truth is that without opening ourselves to others, without the courage to be transparently honest about what we really long for, what we truly need, we never really stand.

We crouch. We tremble. We duck our heads and get through one more day.

I have felt afraid to need others. I have been angry at myself for breaking when I tried to stand alone. I have been wounded and convinced that feeling nothing was better than risking everything. I have felt ashamed to admit to those who love me that I need more from them than I ever take.

I still feel that way. But I am learning to recognize the truth of my heart. I cannot stand alone. I cannot live fully without letting others touch my heart, hold it, maybe fumble it a time or two. I cannot change the truth that I need others, that I long for friendships that wrap around me and love me as I am.

Since I cannot change that truth, I choose instead to embrace it.

I want to fully live.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bump This

Some hilarious bumper stickers I've seen recently:

Eat More Possum

I live in the South. That's really all the explanation you need.


Alaskans For Global Warming

LOL!!


And my personal favorite: located on the back of an ancient, pinto-like-mobile

DO NOT BUMP

Can't see that without envisioning the classic Pinto-left-fender-explosion scene from Top Secret!

It's A Twitch, I Swear It

Yesterday, I had a check-up with my oncologist (and before you associate the title of this post with anything that may have happened in the dr.'s office, I assure you he is still alive, having wisely neglected to recommend hormones to me again...though there was still a Bass Pro magazine in the exam room).

My dr. is located in a major hospital in downtown Nashville and so after my appointments, my hubby always takes me to lunch as compensation for enduring the latest search and siezure masquerading as a pap smear in an oncologist's office.

This time we ate at Logan's.

Our waiter was an extremely friendly young man (pulled up a chair and sat right at the table with us while taking our order) who made consistent eye contact with my hubby and not with me. As I had practiced personal hygiene and wasn't feeling particularly homicidal, despite my recent experience, I had no explanation for this.

Of course my hubby's charms cannot be underestimated...

Our waiter was an excellent server who checked on our table frequently, always asking my hubby if everything was fine. It's not that he deliberately ignored me. He always said, "You folks okay?" which clearly includes both parties at the table. It's that he always looked into my hubby's eyes as he asked.

Of course my hubby has beautiful green eyes...

Near the end of our meal, he swung by our table one more time and asked my hubby if he needed another Diet Coke. My hubby said yes and then, as the waiter hurried off to fetch it for him, turned to me with a look of embarassed horror on his face and said,

"I just winked at him."

Say what?

My hubby doesn't even wink at me. What's he doing winking at our waiter?

"It was an accident." He says.

"How do you accidentally wink at someone?" I ask and collapse into laughter, nearly choking on my hamburger in the process. "Especially someone who so clearly finds you the most fascinating person in the room!"

"It must be Tourrettes." He tells me, not a shred of humor on his face. "Late-onset adult Tourrettes. There's no other explanation."

Of course. Makes perfect sense.

The waiter returned with my hubby's Diet Coke and I watched in some amazement as my usually calm, cool hubby used his fingers to pin both sets of eyelashes to his brow.

He didn't wink.

He did cause several diners to give him strange looks.

But he didn't wink.

I laughed until I cried. It's the first time I've ever had my sense of humor so quickly restored after a visit with the oncologist.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Love

This is what I believe.



7 Wonders of This Past Weekend

1. My youngest, Starshine, is writing his own story on the computer. The first page reads as follows:

"Star Wars by Starshine. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away - dun du du duuuuu du dun du du duuuuu du."

Nothing like a little background music to set the mood as you read. =)


2. A man I waited on asked me if the Chicken and Dumplings came with dumplings.


3. Two of my closest friends stopped arguing and made up. =)


4. I plotted out most of the rest of the first Alexa book and can see the whole arc of the series now.

Yay for creepy villains!


5. My hubby proved once again to be the perfect man for me by indulging my penchant for wandering aimlessly through Borders for an hour and then sitting through a movie he knew he'd hate.


6. Mal's eyewitness account of a cat being chased across the road by a tiny field mouse.

Brave soul.


7. I discovered by reading the fine print in an email that the color brown is trademarked.

Dibs on red. ; )

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mop It Up

This morning, as I was cleaning my kitchen, I heard what sounded like gas hissing.

We don't have gas appliances (and anyone who has read my post on the fiery fiasco that was my experience with a Bunsen burner knows that this is truly for the best).

I listened closely and realized the sound was coming from the refrigerator. My first thought was that the ice maker was going haywire (friends recently had theirs turn against them and destroy their kitchen floor...). However, when I stood next to the refrigerator, I realized the noise was coming from behind it.

I peeked behind the fridge and didn't see anything amiss, at first.

Our fridge has a water dispenser on the front and because I refuse to drink tap water, I have a water filter hooked up to the water line at the back of the appliance.

The noise was coming from the filter.

You might be asking yourself, "Can a filter make a hissing noise?"

The answer is "No." The filter cannot make a hissing noise. The hose attached the filter, however, can.

I discovered this as I began to pull the fridge away from the wall.

The thin, clear hose connecting the filter to the water source in the wall came flying out of the filter, spraying enough water to put an average garden hose to shame.

This was a problem.

The hose is a good two feet long (perhaps for those households who like their fridges to rest in the middle of their kitchen?). High pressure water spraying through two feet of hose turns that hose into a writhing snake.

This was a bigger problem.

In the few seconds it took for me to yank the fridge completely away from the wall, the hose had twisted and turned and shot water all over the kitchen, the wall, and into the entryway - coating both the hardwood floor and my front door.

I snatched the hose but it kept twisting, spewing cold water and hissing like some demented feline.

Now I was as soaked as the floor.

I wrestled the hose into some semblance of submission and put my thumb over the opening, hoping to slow the water long enough for me to figure out how to stop it.

My plan had serious flaws.

The water didn't stop, it just changed directions. Instead of one continuous stream of water, I now had jets of water arcing in every direction.

I dropped to my knees, hugging that writhing hose to me, and tried to stuff the end back into the filter where it belonged.

It refused to go.

Abandoning all thoughts of fixing it, I followed the hose to the wall and found what I sincerely hoped was the cut off valve.

It was.

The whole incident took less than a minute but my kitchen was a lake, my walls were soaked, my entry way looked like I'd thrown a few buckets of water around and I was dripping from head to toe.

I headed off to grab my mop and my cat decided to do her daily run through the downstairs, the dog hot on her heels.

How do you warn a cat that the floor is slippery?

Besides, she's a cat. It's not like she'd listen anyway.

She hit the lake in the kitchen, flipped into the air, landed on her back and skidded into the wall. The dog hit the puddle, scrambled madly to keep his footing, and shot into the entryway where the front door was kind enough to stop his forward momentum.

It took nearly twenty minutes to mop up the water, change my clothes, and apologize to my pets.

The cat is still mad at me.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

When Estrogen Attacks

The past few days, I've been a little sensitive to things that normally wouldn't faze me in the least. This has some of my friends (those of the male persuasion), a little perplexed.

I was discussing this with Mal last night (in the course of apologizing for taking his playfulness completely wrong...*sigh*) and he said that he'd noticed that all the women in his life got "like this" now and then. He gently suggested that hormones might be to blame.

I think he could be right. I also think he has no idea what he's saying (and I make that statement with love). No man really does.

I thought I would help them out.

"When Estrogren Attacks"

A fortress exists inside my body - full of tiny gremlins armed to the teeth. For days on end, they marshall their forces behind their walls, posting sentries, climbing watchtowers, and diligently sending reports to their command post. Off-duty gremlins polish barbed armor, load bazookas, and studiously scour the dictionary for an arsenal of offensive words effective in ripping the enemy's armor to shreds.

Adrenaline is a low-grade, constant fever in the gremlins' blood as they wait for the inevitable.

Once a month, it happens. One tiny gremlin, clinging to a watchtower, sees it coming and screams the alarm.

Estrogen is on the move.

Commanding officers bark orders and entire squadrons of gremlins gnash their teeth, grip their semi-automatics, their spears, and their dictionaries, and pour out of their fortress to engage in noble battle.

With the gremlins running rampant through my body, I wake in the morning thinking that yes, today is the day I will kill someone.

"Who" I will kill doesn't seem to matter. I'm not choosy. Just breathing my air without permission is reason enough.

I am violently angry with inanimate objects when the gremlins have control. I kick my refrigerator for it's lack of non-healthy breakfast items. I nearly wrench the back door off its frame for having the temerity to "stick" when I want it open. I take one look at my hair in the mirror and decide to end the life of my hair dryer by dunking it in the bathtub.

This seems a reasonable plan.

So does eating peanutbutter straight from the jar.

With the gremlins in control of my body, I cry over toothpaste commercials, smash my lying, I-have-a-death-wish scale to pieces with my hubby's sledgehammer, and invite telemarketers to contort their bodies into positions that are technically impossible to achieve.

When I have errands to run, I muscle my '94 Dodge minivan into position on the highway and dare other drivers to get in my way. Cut me off today and I'll run you into a tree. Tailgate me and I'll slam on my brakes and let you buy me the new vehicle of my dreams.

On gremlin-battle day, I am patently unable to bypass a Starbucks. I whip through the drive-through and order the largest dose of sugared caffeine money will buy.

The gremlins welcome the caffeine as it hones their warrior instincts.

I enter the grocery store, glaring at those wise enough to give me a wide berth and plotting the demise of those who don't.

Lingering in the middle of an aisle with your half-packed shopping cart, carefully perusing the 43 flavors of Doritos, oblivious to those of us who want to get to the Sun Chips? Prepare to be rammed.

Standing between me and the chicken tenders? I hope you have health insurance.

And don't even get me started on the consequences of cutting in front of me at the check out. Nick Nolte will look like Miss America compared to you when I'm finished.

Those who have to work with me on gremlin day can read the attitude in my face.

Few are still foolish enough to try to adjust it.

I have no patience for stupid questions, condescending morons, or, truth be told, people in general. I find myself mentally advocating population control, Smith & Wesson style.

Put me on hold on gremlin day and I will physically crawl through the phone line and down your throat.

Sass me on gremlin day and the gremlins whip out their dictionaries and line up a veritable barrage of insults guaranteed to flush out the weak and make them cry.

Touch me on gremlin day and hope that you either a) don't bruise easily or b) are wearing appropriate protective gear like jock-straps or chain-metal armor.

If I love you, the gremlins are conflicted and send mixed messages to my brain. Should I yell at you? Stay away from you? Fall into your arms and cry?

The gremlins cannot tolerate multiple battle commands and so the various messages morph into one and I become a woman who gets angry over nothing, keeps my distance though you can see I need you, and then falls into your arms to cry only to yell at you when you comfort me with words instead of a pint of Moose Tracks Ice Cream.

Sensitive.

I hope that clears things up.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Purpose

I stand at the ironing board, my hair still damp from the shower, steaming the creases out of my uniform with swift, practiced movements, one eye on the clock, both ears straining for the sound of the school bus.

I have just minutes today with my children. I want them to count for something.

I want to count for something.

I slip my apron over my head, grab my mascara, acknowledge the dog's persistent presence in my bathroom, and try again to subdue wildly curly hair into something that looks more like style and less like I decided to experiment with electical currents in my spare time.

What spare time?

I yank shoes on, thinking quickly through dinner options and homework projects, and wondering if my cell phone is charged.

The bus is coming.

I hear the low, throaty growl of its engine surging as it tops the small hill beside my house. My heart leaps as I stuff tic tacs, a pen, lip gloss, and my keys into my apron pocket. I grab meat out of the freezer, snatch ongoing homework packets out into plain view, alert my husband to the presence of both and then rush to the front door.

They tumble off the bus, three boys growing so fast somedays I can't believe they are truly mine.

The youngest is talking, though no one is directly around him. Maybe he's finishing a conversation he started on the bus, even though the friend he talked to is still inside. Maybe he's just talking to himself. His adorably crooked glasses slide down to the end of his nose and he leaves them there, staring at the world in his own wide-eyed wonder, one eye looking through a lens, one eye peering over the top of the frame.

The oldest walks off, a boy's body thickening into a teenager. I stare at his shoulder span as he nonchalantly tugs on his backpack and plans a skateboarding rendevouz with a neighbor boy - too cool to carry his pack on his back anymore - and I wonder how long I have before he uses that studied nonchalance on me. My arms ache to absorb every freely given hug he has left inside of him to give.

The middle child launches himself off the bus, catching significant air time before landing on his feet. While the youngest wanders slowly onto our grass, now squinting at the sky, glasses stuck to his forehead, and the oldest casually walks toward the porch as though coming home is just one more thing on the list of what he does this day, my middle child looks up and sees me, standing just inside the glass storm door.

He runs to me.

I wouldn't trade this moment for all the money in the world. He scrambles up the porch, plays the password game to get me to open the door (What's the password? "I love you"...), and suddenly I am holding a warm, squirming boy who decides that his mama needs a "squeeze" hug.

It won't be too many more years before a "squeeze" hug from my boys will crack my ribs.

I squeeze back and look up. My other two have seen me. My youngest brightens, starts talking though I'm still too far away to understand him; my oldest grins and increases his pace - not running, not anymore - but fast enough to lose the edge off his cool nonchalance.

It's enough for me.

I hug them and listen as the details of their day tumble from them in colorful profusion ("We're playing with frogs in class!", "I wrote a story today about gummy bears taking over the world!", "I missed you!") and I know that I am enviably rich in ways that matter more than any other.

I smile, ask questions, remind them that backpacks, shoes, and dirty socks do not belong in the middle of the floor, grab snacks and dispense kisses and hugs to my hubby and my children as I ease my way out the door.

It hurts a little to leave. It always does.

I drive away, chased down the driveway by my oldest, so brave to play chicken with a car going in reverse. My youngest scrambles across the lawn, racing me to the edge of the yard. I let him win and he laughs, delighted to be faster than my car.

I ease around the corner and hug those brief moments to myself. I wanted them to count for something. They did.

I wanted to count for something.

My heart cherishes the memory of three pairs of little-boy arms wrapped around me, squeezing, wanting to hear that they are mine. That they are strong. That I admire them. That I am always, endlessly, in love with them.

Nothing I will ever do in my life counts for more than that.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Our Future

I cannot watch this without crying. I cannot wait to make my own video as we bring our daughter home.


Beautiful

Beautiful

I cannot hide what I am
Covered in scars old and new
You reach for me and I am
Suddenly whole with you

Inside my heart are the pieces
Of who I thought I should be
You gather up all my false beliefs
And show me what it is you see

In me

Chorus:
And I’m beautiful
When you look at me
I’m invincible
When you stand beside me
I’m everything
I wanted to be
Cause I’m beautiful
When you look at me

I feel the darkness calling
It knows the way to my pain
Just when I think I am falling
You rush to my rescue again

My spirit feels like it’s tattered
But then you look at me
And in your eyes, nothing’s shattered
Not the way you see

Me

Chorus:
And I’m beautiful
When you look at me
I’m invincible
When you stand beside me
I’m everything
I wanted to be
Cause I’m beautiful
When you look at me

Bridge:
And I am not torn
Not the way that you see me
And I am not broken
When you love me completely
You love me completely

Chorus:
And I’m beautiful
When you look at me
I’m invincible
When you stand beside me
I’m everything
I wanted to be
Cause I’m beautiful
When you look at me

A Peek Inside My Heart

I was thinking about beauty this morning, a sometimes dangerous thing to do. It's hard to let go of the images of paper-thin, perfectly air-brushed women crowding my television, my movie screens, and the check-out aisle at my grocery store. I can drive myself crazy believing I somehow need to measure up to what isn't real in the first place.

Or, I can delve deeper and discover what true beauty means to me.

There are many things I find beautiful: a sense of humor, a passion for Christ, a protective heart. But above all, the precious Chinese orphan and the incredible process of adoption resonates for me as truly beautiful.





China is a gorgeous country full of centuries-old traditions and craftsmanship but they have sacrificed the heart of their nation on the altar of communism. In the name of population control, they have wrenched apart families and taught a new generation of Chinese that girls are worthless commodities to be thrown away and forgotten. In a land where children used to equal wealth, the staggering abandonment of over 1 million girls each year should bring us to our knees in grief.

It does me.

I cannot imagine nurturing a child in my womb, agonizing over the delivery, counting ten perfect fingers, ten wiggling toes, and receiving the trusting gaze of my newborn child and then wrapping up this girl-child, this disappointment, this one who can never do for my family what a boy-child can, and dropping her off at the local bus station in the middle of the night.

Doesn't your heart ache to imagine this?

If I could, I would open my home to them all.




I am often asked questions about adoption from those who do not understand what moves our hearts to seek our daughter in another country and from those who feel the first twinge of awareness that there is another precious child who belongs at their dinner table.

I welcome the questions. I welcome any format that allows me to plead the case of the orphans. Some of the most common questions (and our answer!) are as follows:

1. Why are you adopting from China and not from Tennessee? Those already engaged in the adoption process can tell you that it is unlike anything you've ever experienced. We looked into Tennessee and into other nations besides China but both my husband and I felt an inescapable pull toward China. We believe it is because our daughter, who was chosen before the foundation of time for our family, is from China. Who knows where our next adoption will take us?

2. Don't you think you have a responsibility to take care of American orphans before taking on the children of another nation? No, but if that is your heart, I can show you how to get the process started! I believe that we as humans are responsible for orphans, it doesn't matter where they are born.

3. How can you take another person's child into your home? I'm not. I'm bringing home our precious daughter. Love binds a family, not blood.

4. How can you pay $18,000 for a child? How can I not? It's a ransom to free my daughter from an unspeakable future and bring her home where she belongs. $18,000 is small change to save my child's life. I would do the same for my boys.

5. Don't you worry about what you're getting? No more than I did during my pregnancies. You never know what you're "getting". My boys could have physical or mental problems. They could have personalitites that disrupt our home. They could prove to be challenging (okay, they've proven that!). I trust that, as with my boys, my hubby and I will learn to parent our daughter as we learn her unique personality and place in our home.

6. Why do you want to adopt when you already have children "of your own"? Because all of my "own" children aren't home yet. She is mine. Just as my boys are mine. I see no difference. If you knew you had another child out there, what wouldn't you do to bring them home?

7. Why are so many children abandoned in China? China has a 1 child law per family. Rich families in the cities can pay a fine each year (the equivalent to what we pay in gas each year!) for a second child but now the government has announced it will crack down on these families by publicly embarrassing them and raising the fines to discourage multiple children.

Girls in China are not given the right to own property or inherit businesses so having a girl means all the family property/businesses will go to her husband. Having a girl is called "watering your neighbor's lawn" and so they are abandoned at bus stops, parks, and hospital steps while couples try for the son and heir.

Boys who are not physically perfect (those with cleft palates or other surgically-correctible conditions) are abadoned as well and labelled as "trash" because they are not the epitome of physical perfection. Often, babies with medical conditions (most of them surgically correctible) are left to starve rather than offered medical help. To rescue one of these precious little ones, you can adopt from China's "Waiting Child" program.

8. Aren't you afraid your daughter won't bond with you? There's always uncertainty in any new situation but I love my daughter with an unshakeable mother's love and we will form the bond that is right for us.

9. I'd like to adopt but I can't afford it. How did you do it? We held fundraisers: garage sales with all of our friends donating items and helping us run it and an international dessert auction with our friends again helping and inviting others. We took on extra jobs and put everything we saved toward our adoption account. And it helps that the process is drawn-out and the fees come one at a time so you don't have to have it all up front.

10. Where does the money go and don't you think that China is making too much money off of this? Most of the money does go to China. Some goes to our agency (they are responsible for translating our documents, arranging our travel itinerary and interpreter, and running interference between us and China) and some to our Home Study process but most of it goes to China. A chunk of that is for the child's orphanage. Yes, some officials in China make money off these precious babies and it's a crime but leaving them there to die or get kicked out of the orphanage at age 14 (!!) is a crime too. I don't care who gets the money as long as my daughter is safe.

11. I want to support adoption without adopting. How can I help? There are several ways. You can give to a local adoption fund or a family you know is raising funds for their own adoption. You can get involved in a local orphanage or in an overseas orphanage...they always need volunteers and supplies. And you can be a voice on behalf of millions of children who have none. You can educate others and maybe you will light the fire in another family to realize they are not yet complete.




I believe once we truly open our eyes to the plight of the orphan, we cannot look away. We cannot ignore these helpless children who deserve a childhood with decent food, education, and most of all, unconditional love and an indestructible sense of belonging to their forever family.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fun Song!

My friend K.B. sent this to me and I love it. Such a fun song. (and yes, my strange sense of the ridiculous is showing but again...MY blog.) ;)


The Results

Earlier, I posted a list of what I needed to accomplish this weekend. Here, in no particular order, are the results:

1. I didn't quite catch up on all the laundry but I am today. I have too. My children are complaining about their lack of underwear.

2. I didn't catch up 1/2 of the ironing. Or even 1/4. But I will today. I swear it.

3. We managed the skate party and all of the kids' homework on Thursday night and it was fun.

4. We managed a sleep-over, me working til closing, and whatever else happened on Friday without losing our sanity. Always a bonus.

5. I took my oldest out to run errands with me Saturday morning and bought a bunch of new shirts for him (yay Goodwill!!) only to discover this morning (when the weather changed enough to warrant wearing pants) that he's grown out of his pants too. *sigh*

6. I didn't finish writing 8 chapters of Alexa (sleep claimed me...finally...it's been another few days of burgeoning insomnia) but I did get some new material done that I truly love and the wheels are turning and the characters are speaking and I can see the novel taking its finished shape. (Oh happy day!)

7. I'm nearly done critiquing K.B.'s book (again, fell asleep early last night, but I'm not complaining!) and will finish by tonight.

8. Went to the housewarming party. Ate food. Brought a cake and it was a hit (as is every cake my hubby makes)

9. Went grocery shopping after church on Sunday. Possibly forgot to buy a few things but since I have three boys, I'll be going again soon. By myself. Always, by myself.

10. Managed to delegate the mopping to my hubby but since I ended up cleaning the boys' bathroom, I'm not sure it was a good trade.

11. Had 28 people over and it was fun, all went smoothly, and there was plenty of food...although now my youngest is missing his glasses...Starshine and keeping track of glasses do not a good combination make.

And the highlight of my weekend: Mal and his fiancee went to lunch with us after church and he was pushing my buttons (as usual) so I retaliated with some limp lettuce down the back (you know me and produce...) and the next thing I know, he's wrestling me for that lettuce and he knocks over his HUGE cup of Mt. Dew...right into my lap.

Very cold. And since I was wearing jeans (and thankfully NOT the white skirt I originally planned on wearing!), it was fairly awkward trying to walk.

To send sympathy cards or flowers to his funeral, contact me - I'll put you in touch with a local florist.

So, yes, it was crazy busy, as my life usually is, but it was also productive and I spent a lot of time with family and friends so I feel relaxed going into this week. I'm even ready to tackle the ironing pile which (if you can believe it) when placed on a chair is taller than me. Yikes!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kids Say...

Tonight, as we were driving to the skate park, my middle child began discussing a favorite movie of his (one of the 1960's Godzilla...he's unique, what can I say?).

My oldest piped up that Godzilla had a cuss word in it. I said, "Well, you know better than to say them, don't you?"

And my middle child reassured me with: "Don't worry, Mom. I don't even know how to use them in a sentence."

It's nice to see a child of mine concerned with proper grammar.

Later, in that same drive, my middle child became upset at my youngest and told on him: "Starshine interrupted me!"

Whereupon Starshine started to cry and yelled, "He used my name in vain!"

My hubby and my oldest soon had to apologize to Starshine for laughing at him.

Life is just never dull around here.

What's On My Plate

To Do By Sunday Night:

1. Catch up on all laundry...double checking the toy box, under the beds, beneath the couch cushions, and on top of all ceiling fans for stray socks and underwear.

2. Catch up on all ironing. Or at least 2/3 of it. Okay half. Half. Call upon Captain Jack for help if necessary.

3. Write 8 chapters of Alexa. Pray that the new plot line works smoothly. Resolve not to tear out hair if it doesn't. Nobody likes an author with bald patches.

4. Buy new t-shirts for the oldest child who simply refuses to stop growing.

5. Sweep, vacuum, and mop all floors. Or delegate to hubby if I can catch him by surprise.

6. Go bowling with co-workers. Use bumpers. With pride. Take care not to do another belly flop with those silly rent-a-fungus-apparently-traction-isn't-necessary-for-running-on-a-waxed-surface-shoes.

7. Clean all bathrooms except the boys'. Make them clean their own bathroom until they learn the proper definition and use of "toilet paper" and "flushing" and "capping the toothpaste rather than squirting out excess and leaning the tube against the mirror".

8. Go to a house-warming party. Buy a gift first. Hope they know how to set out a decent spread as that will have to count as dinner Saturday night.

9. Close Cracker Barrel Friday night. Refuse to wait on any obvious idiots.

10. Consider closing Cracker Barrel Saturday night too...check energy level before committing to that.

11. Finish reading and critiquing K.B.'s book. =)

12. Have 28 people over Sunday night. Thank God for sitters who can keep 16 children quietly occupied upstairs while the adults have time to themselves.

13. Cook food for Sunday night.

14. Take kids to a skating party. Fit copious amounts of homework around that party.

15. Check sanity levels...if running low, call a friend for help.

16. Send out birthday cards to hubby's grandma (late again, darn it!), my sister, and my grandma.

17. Sleep at some point. I hope. Or, as my hubby always points out, I can sleep when I'm dead. Somehow, I doubt mothers actually sleep, even when they're dead. I think once you break a habit so completely it just never comes back.

Should be a busy weekend. =)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Creative Writing

My friend and fellow writer K.B. posted a challenge on her LiveJournal today to finish the following sentence:

It was a dark and stormy night...

Naturally, I couldn't refuse to participate in such a fun exercise. You won't be surprised to hear that I finished the sentence with several paragraphs instead of just a few words. =)

Here is what I wrote:

It was a dark and stormy night - the wind an incessant howl of endless misery - the rain a lash of cruel destruction. Skeletal trees, blackened by the streaming skies, covered the hillside where I stood watching. Waiting.

Before me, Castle Lochnimoor rose in a sudden jagged bulk, hugging the cliff and raising fearless spires toward the furious heavens. The sparkling white marble walls flashed with blue as lightning ripped through the clouds.

I faced the south and the thick stone wall surrounding the castle. Legend said the stones were taken from the First Wizard in a game of chance, transferring the ancient protective magic running through them to their new owner, forcing the stones to keep safe the abberration that thrived inside Lochnimoor. Legend said the First Wizard, upon realizing the gravity of his mistake, challenged the owner of Lochnimoor to another game of chance, winner take all.

It had cost the First Wizard his life.

Legend also said the penalty for crossing the stone wall uninvited was death.

I approached the wall and placed both hands on it, feeling the gritty stone, the rain water, and beneath it, the throbbing power of caged magic.

The magic rushed to meet me and I pressed my lips against the stone, whispering ancient words taught to me by my father.

I felt the brush of death as the magic encircled my hands and pulled me into the wall. For a moment, darkness, thick and oppressive, pressed against me. I couldn't breathe. Couldn't speak. Couldn't stand the pressure that built until I thought my bones would shatter from the force of it.

And then, I was melting through the stone wall, very much alive. I pulled my wand from my cloak and faced Lochnimoor. The storm slashed at me, howling and pushing - screaming for violence.

Legend said Lochnimoor was impenetrable. Impervious. Indestructible.

Legend hadn't counted on me.

Crawl Back Under Your Rock

I know I've ranted here before about the pet peeves I've developed as a waitress.

I've said I hate it when I'm interrupted. When I'm treated like a faceless, nameless "it". When I'm run off my feet by a table too stingy to part with more than $2 (which is NEVER an acceptable tip, no matter what you ordered).

But honestly, all of my pet peeves come down to one simple thing: I detest being treated with disrespect.

Last night I had one of the rudest guests I've EVER had (and that is saying something). Another woman might have cried when he got through with her. I just got spitting mad.

This man complained incessantly about the size of everything served to him (even when he actually was given a larger portion than usual)and raised his voice at me when I tried to placate him. He demanded and demanded (never asked) and nothing I did was good enough. He snapped out incredibly rude answers to innocent questions (like me asking, "Do you want one check or separate checks?" and him saying, "Do I look like someone who wants separate checks? No? Well then I guess you'd better just give us one, hadn't you miss?") He was so awful to me, the manager and the other waiters still on the floor told me not to go back to the table...they would handle him instead.

He was dining with a friend. The friend was polite. When they got up to leave, Mr. I-Developed-My-Social-Skills-In-An-Outhouse walked out first and his friend turned to me and said, "I hope I left you enough to make up for how badly he treated you."

Excuse me?

I counted up the tip and it was $9, a generous amount for two people.

But no, that doesn't make up for it. Not one bit. You want to make nice with me and be a gentleman? Speak up and stop your friend from yelling at me, from being unspeakably rude every time I'm in a ten foot radius of your table.

Being a gentleman doesn't mean you toss money at me after the fact and hope I'm so hungry for a dollar that everything else gets washed away. I'd rather be treated with dignity and respect and get $3 any day.

Is it really that difficult to offer others the basic courtesy of respect and good manners?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In Remembrance

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks against our country. While it is very important that we remember, truly remember, that men embracing hatred and violence against anyone different from themselves killed civilians in a cowardly act of war, there is a grassroots movement to do something even better.

To remember the outpouring of compassion and generosity that day and the days that followed as well.

250,000 have signed a pledge to do something kind and sacrificially generous for others (often strangers) on this day. (For the full story, click here)

This is a fitting remembrance for those who lost or willingly gave up their lives on September 11.

We can turn terror into hope. We can look boldly into the face of irrational hatred and not back down; not apologize for our freedom. We can pull together and show the cowards who strike at women and children that, for all her flaws, America's strength lies in the tenacity, the generosity, and the heart of her people.

We do this and the terrorists fail.

There is no more fitting remembrance than that.

Monday, September 10, 2007

22 People. Three Days. One House.

This weekend, my family and I went on a retreat with two other families to a lake house a couple of hours away. We had six adults, two teenage sitters, and 14 kids ranging in age from 12 years to 3 months.

Here are a few things I learned:

1. Teenage girls have an emotional range rivaled only by opera stars and 50 year old women hopped up on estrogen pills and St. John's Wort.

2. Going to a Predators hockey game is quieter than 14 kids in one room trying to watch Monster's Inc.

3. When wiping down the outside eating area at night, surrounded by a cloud of gnats and moths, it is best not to inhale with one's mouth open. Actually, it's best not to inhale at all.

4. One cannot walk down the steep (!!!) ramp leading to the dock with "traction-less" flip-flops on one's feet. Unless, of course, one enjoy's exfoliating one's posterior in full view of everyone on the lake.

5. Spiders like bedsheets.

6. 22 people. Three bathrooms. Do the math.

7. When playing Yahtzee (after the kids are finally asleep. Yay!), one must carefully watch the sweet, mild, quiet types. Something about the act of tossing five dice onto the table turns them into sneaky, competitive, somewhat violent people who will stop at nothing to annhiliate those they love.

8. Nacho Libre is a truly funny movie. (Get that corn outta my face!)

9. Boys take risks like rowing across the lake in an inflatible raft and exploring the rocky shore without wearing shoes.

10. Grown men take risks like detouring from their hike along waterfalls to run fifty feet out onto a railroad bridge where their only options, should a train come along, are jumping 125 feet to their death or getting crushed by a locomotive racing full-speed ahead.

It was a fun weekend and much more relaxing than I've made it sound here. We're looking forward to going again next year. =)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lessons From The Tenor

Luciano Pavarotti, owner of one of the most amazing vocal instruments our world has ever heard, died today at 71. There are many stories circulating about his life now but one interested me more than the rest.

When Pavarotti was still in school, developing the discipline, technique, and sacrifice that would make his dream of being a world-famous vocalist a reality, one of his music teachers told him that if he expected to earn a living with his voice, he would starve.

We chuckle now at that and think that instructor must have skipped his Wheaties that morning but I bet at the time Pavarotti didn't see the humor. How could he? His dreams were still in that tender, nebulous stage where they existed solely within him with nothing but his courage and his belief in himself to give them life.

I bet those words struck a blow. I bet he looked in the mirror and wondered. Wondered if he was wasting his time. If what he heard was so different from what others could hear. If he would sacrifice so many years of his life only to become a spectacular failure.

How many others have wondered the same in the aftermath of a harsh review, an instructor's words, the advice of a family member or friend? How many artists have we lost because fear, that mortal enemy of our dreams, took root and festered, crumbling self-confidence, discipline, and artisty from the inside out?

I bet we all have one of Pavarotti's music teachers in our past (or maybe in our present). We all have someone who doubts us, who points out the obvious risks, the odds, the chance for failure. Maybe we even do that to ourselves.

The trick isn't to be fearless. The trick is to silence our fear by writing one more chapter, painting one more canvas, singing one more song. We can use our fear of failure to push us to be better, be more disciplined, extend our creative boundaries beyond their current limits until we see we are capable of the breathtaking, the astonishing, and the incredible.

Pavarotti did that. He silenced his internal fear. He closed himself away from those who would rip at his confidence. He clung to discipline, technique, and talent and eventually, he silenced every critic on Earth.

May we follow his example.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I'd Rather Starve

There's a reason I no longer grocery shop with all three kids. Ever. Even if the cupboards are bare. Even if the refrigerator offers only a rotting tomato and some bbq sauce. Even if I have nothing to make for school lunches in the morning.

This wasn't always the case.

Last summer, deprived of the benefit of having at least two of them at school during the day, I announced to the boys that they needed to get shoes on as we were going to the grocery store. This ellicited a chorus of excited chatter as the grocery store is home to their one source of free, non-Mom-approved cookies. I sent them to their rooms to hunt down their shoes, slipped on my own, and headed for the door.

Ten minutes later, we had one pair of shoes and five spares between all three boys. My youngest was sporting a large glob of smeared toothpaste that stretched from the corner of his lip to his hairline and beyond. My oldest was shirtless. My middle child was screaming about someone running in to him on the stairs.

I summoned all of my motherly patience and directed my oldest toward the clean laundry pile, hushed the middle child with promises of certain death to the other two if they touched him again, and suggested three more possible shoe hiding places all the while dunking my youngest child's head into the kitchen sink.

Five minutes later, everyone had shoes, shirts, and was toothpaste-free. I unlocked the van, pried a hammer out of my youngest's hands ("But Moooom! I just want to play with it!") and directed everyone to get their seat belts on.

The trip to the store was filled with the boys trying to annoy each other to death ("He's copying me!" "He's putting his feet on my seatbelt!" "He's breathing on me!" "He's looking at me!") and me trying to referee while I dispensed with all pertinent last-minute instructions:

1. Do not scream, yell, or fight with each other in the store.

2. Do not grab anything off the shelves.

3. Do not ram the shopping cart into other people, especially people we've never met.

4. Do not whine. Period.

5. Do not run, jump, or attempt to practice karate in the soup aisle.

We arrived at the store and perused the vast sea of shopping carts. Sprinkled among the nice, roomy, normal carts were a few bright, colorful racecar carts which are of the Devil. The racecar carts sport two kid steering wheels, two kid seatbelts inside a small plastic racecar shell, and wheels designed by people who secretly find pleasure in watching young mothers strain to keep their recalcitrant carts from swinging round in haphaazard 360's.

We chose a racecar cart.

I loaded the two youngest into the racecar with promises to my oldest that his turn would come. We sucessfully perused the produce, the meat, and snatched free cookies from the bakery. We'd had no fights, no crying, and no karate chops at displays of chicken noodle soup.

I was feeling hopeful.

Then it happened. I let my middle child out of the racecar to give my oldest a turn. This was a bad idea on two counts.

1. My oldest was eight. The racecar cart is designed for children ages 1-4. Maybe 5.

2. My middle child has no filter between what he thinks and what comes out of his mouth.

As my oldest settled in, I tried to push the cart down the baking goods aisle. It listed significantly to the left. I braced my legs and heaved. No good. The cart spun slowly around in circles. I put one foot on the right side of the cart and yanked. The cart spun while I huffed and strained.

Meanwhile, a man entered the aisle and stood near us perusing cake mixes. He was in his forties with receding hair, double-chins, and a beer belly that managed to look like he'd swallowed a beach ball.

I wrangled my cart back into position and slowly inched it forward, fighting to keep it in a straight line. My middle child looked up and saw the man in the aisle next to us and said, in a voice that only carried throughout half the store,

"Hey! I didn't know a man could have a baby!"

I haven't been so mortified since the previous year when we were standing in line at the bank and a woman built like Shaq started talking to the teller in a deep, gravelly voice - whereupon my middle child announced loudly into the hushed, "money (not much of it yours!) is present here" atmosphere with the now-infamous: "You sound like a man!" line.

I am a devout Christian but no matter how often I pray for it, the floor never opens up and swallows us.

I didn't even look at the man standing in front of the cake mixes. I snatched my middle child with one hand and shoved at the cart with the other, trying desperately to escape the aisle before any other embarrassing little gems could escape my son's mouth.

I was unsuccessful.

The cart slammed repeatedly into the side of the aisle. My middle child was asking me how that man could have a baby. Didn't only mommies have babies? My youngest began yelling that he didn't like sitting beside my oldest who was hogging the steering wheels.

I changed tactics.

I yanked my youngest out of the racecart and stuffed my middle child in. I braced my legs against the slippery linoleum floor and heaved for all I was worth. It worked.

We shot out of the baking goods aisle, turned on two wheels and skidded into the cereal aisle.

My oldest began listing for me all the dangers of irresponsible shopping cart driving.

I listed for him all the dangers of ticking me off any more than I already was.

He became silent.

I wish I could say the same for my youngest. We call him Starshine (a fitting nickname lifted from one of Johnny Depp's lines in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) because he lives in his own universe most of the time. Starshine looked at the cereal aisle, crammed full with shoppers of every description, and announced to one and all that he could burp his ABC's.

He proved it.

Once a boy has gulped down air with the intention of belching, there is no stopping him. It's nature. What went down must come up. I tried to hush him but the burps kept coming. I discovered I'd much rather have them sound like the alphabet (Hey, at least he's educated!) than like a forcible expulsion of stomach gas.

Other shoppers were staring at us as I shoved and heaved and yanked my listing cart along the aisle, two children inside fighting over the lack of space and my youngest trailing off at the letter "m".

Mothers of boys were nodding in sympathetic understanding and giving the gimlet eye to their own spawn lest any of them take up the symphony of involuntary bodily functions.

Mothers of girls were staring in stricken horror and fervently thanking God for giving them nothing but estrogen to worry about.

Childless couples were hastily checking their birth control supplies.

I swung out of the cereal aisle and headed for the personal care aisle. Deciding I was done with my cart's whole "I-don't-want-to-go-there-and-you-can't-make-me" attitude, I hauled my oldest out and installed my youngest.

Now I could steer the cart easily and we breezed along the aisle, searching for deodorant and soap. As I paused to consider my deodorant options (Who knew "Ambition" was a scent?), my oldest was busy reading the packaging on the display behind me.

An older lady was behind me reading it too.

Grabbing my deodorant of choice, I turned around in time to have my oldest ask me, "Mom, what's 'Absorbent Underwear'?"

I gave a quick smile to the lady beside me, who now clutched a package of Depends in her hands, and hurried to another aisle.

By the time we entered a line for checkout, I was physically and emotionally spent for the day. I ordered all three boys out of the cart, unloaded my groceries onto the little conveyor belt, and moved forward to pay.

I figured all disasters were done for the day.

I figurered wrong.

The boy bagging our groceries was maybe seventeen but genetics had either not kicked in yet or were just flat-out unkind. He was scrawny, had hair hanging to his shoulders, baby-smooth skin, and a voice that was higher than mine. I had a moment to think that, except for his Adam's apple, I would think he was a girl and then, my middle child took notice.

"Are you a girl or a boy?" He asked. The last time I remember being this mortified at a checkout lane, I was balancing a toddler on one hip and a baby on the other while buying yet another pregnancy test.

The bagger looked angry and said, "Look at these guns." And flexed non-existant arm muscles. "You think a girl would have these?"

"I don't see anything." My child said.

I tried to hush him (again, the floor refused to swallow us) and smiled at the bagger. He was not mollified.

"Are your children too stupid to tell the difference between a boy and a girl?" He asked me.

I forgot about feeling sorry for him. "Actually, they are extremely observant." I said and headed for the door, all three boys in tow.

I was tired. My back hurt. My teeth were permanently clenched. I just wanted out of the store.

My children were agreeable to this and there was no fighting, no jockeying for position, no anything they weren't supposed to do. Even the cart was cooperating. All of us, in a perfect line, streamed full-speed ahead toward the automatic door.

It slid halfway open and stopped.

I didn't.

It was too late. I was already committed. I had timed the opening of the door to the last second so that I could sail through without once slowing down.

I rammed the door and knocked it completely off its track.

My children were visibly impressed.

As the door is located in its own little alley, out of sight of anyone else in the store, I spent a few futile seconds trying to correct the problem.

It was hopeless. The heavy, sliding glass door was knocked so far askew that only God or a team of brawny men would be able to put it right.

So far no one had noticed my situation. I planned to keep it that way. I snatched the cart and rallied my children with a cry of "Quick! To the van!"

My oldest thought we had to hurry before the police came and arrested me for destruction of property. My youngest was confused to find that our shopping trip was already over and he'd missed most of it. My middle child wanted to ram the door again just for fun.

And that is why I never go grocery shopping with all three of my boys anymore.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Excuse Me? *said with attitude*

We have Aflac insurance (yes, the one with the ads featuring that annoying duck). To my understanding, the way Aflac works is that you choose various situations and pay for coverage for those only.

For example, based on our coverage, if we have major surgery, we're covered. If we contract leprosy, we aren't. Things like that.

One of the "situations" we have covered is cancer.

This came in very handy three years ago in helping us pay my medical bills and cover my nearly five months of missed work as I recovered from cancer.

Aflac is all about being proactive in managing your health so they send us a letter every year offering us a $60 bonus if I've had a cancer screening within the last twelve months.

Of course I've had a cancer screening. Until this year, I had to go in every THREE to FOUR months to have an exam. Now I go in every six months. Calling the procedure that I endure a "pap smear" is like calling the Sears Tower a tall building: it just doesn't do it justice.

In a regular pap smear, a gynecologist uses a metal speculum roughly the size of a plantain. My oncologist uses a metal speculum more suited to examining a full grown elephant. I make sure I have a fairly empty stomach because I don't want that thing shoving along my lower intestines and causing any embarassing digestive upsets.

In a regular pap smear, a gynecologist makes appropriate small talk about your kids, your hobbies, and the weather. My oncologist asks about lumps, bleeding, and spouts off stark statistics about my increased odds for contracting breast cancer.

In a regular pap smear, a gynecologist uses a swab roughly six inches long to take a cell sample. My oncologist uses a cotton probe long enough to activate my gag reflex if he isn't careful.

In a regular pap smear, a gynecologist does a gentle examination that is over with inside of twenty seconds. My oncologist examines me thoroughly enough to comment on the size of my spleen. When he's done with me, my ovaries ache, my abdomen cramps, and I can't do anything worthwhile (especially work!) for two days.

So, when Aflac sends me their little "cancer-screening" form, I proudly mark off "pap smear/pelvic exam", send it back, and wait for my check. After all, I've more than earned it.

My check came in Saturday. It was made payable to my husband. When he proves that he can withstand my oncologist in full pelvic exam mode, he can cash it.

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