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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reversals

Pin It What is the measure of a man? Of a woman, for that matter?

I had an opportunity recently to ponder these questions when my daughter had a sleepover with a friend she doesn't get to spend a lot of time with a few nights ago. In the course of picking her up in the morning and exchanging the usual idle chitchat, I became aware of some changes in her friend's family's circumstances.

Her mother announced, a sad twist to her lips, that they would probably be putting their house on the market in the next few months. "You know. Just to pay the bills." She was trying to make light of the situation, but it's not easy to cover something as heavy as financial stress with humor. I was startled--we'd been in a different school system last year, had been somewhat on the fringes of things, and I genuinely had no idea that they were suffering any reversals.

She explained readily enough. Over the last year or so, this family had--like many others--taken a beating by the economic downturn. Dad's job in the mortgage industry went to pot, and he was subsequently forced to take other less lucrative positions to support his family.

I left feeling slightly stunned. The financial bottom had fallen out of their world.

This couple had taken up the gauntlet thrown at them by circumstance unflinchingly, though, and had done what needed to be done. Mom had increased her hours in her own job as she was allowed. Dad was managing a local pizza joint--a step down that would be unthinkable for many that had previously held a position such as his, but one he made with good humor and the knowledge that not only was he providing in the material sense, but also in the sense of setting an example for his children. And now they were ready to sell their home to make things easier--to do, simply, whatever it took.

The bottom might have fallen out, but they were rebuilding it, one little block at a time. That, to me, spoke volumes about the measure of this man and this woman--this team. I don't think you ever truly see the measure of a person, or a team, until they hit rock bottom, and have to pick themselves up. Sometimes they lay there for a while, sluggish and disoriented, before they stagger to their feet and begin to climb. Sometimes they leap up like a runner sliding into home, carrying a trail of dust behind them. Sometimes they never rise, and thus never prove themselves.

I thought about this family a lot over the course of the last week. It was actually a very interesting week--one where tradition was upset by family illness and I ended up in a cabin in the Smokies, hoping to get all of my Christmas shopping done. Instead of a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal we ate at Cracker Barrel (gag--sorry, but their sweet potato casserole just does not measure up), and goofed off at MagiQuest and mini-golf and the movies. And then I waited until midnight, when the outlet center would open, waited for the mad rush and the jockeying for position amidst the lines and parking spaces and the shoulder to shoulder crowds.

I just couldn't do it, though. This family, and a couple of others that I'm involved with helping out for Christmas, just kept coming to mind, and I actually felt kind of guilty that I had money to spend, and the spirit to do it. The parking lot, which was full of people camping out at nine p.m., sort of bugged me. When midnight arrived, I sat down at my computer in my pjs, and did some half-hearted online special hunting for a while, then went to bed.

When I rose the next morning, I was clear-eyed. I had my list of needs for the two families I was helping with--seven children all together, four boys and three girls. It was okay that I had some money to part with...after all--here were some kids who had some needs. It was time to shop.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Those Were The Days...

Pin It GUEST BLOGGER: TRISH

Trish is the married mother of four girls and one lonely boy, but is sure it should have been the other way around as she knows nothing about being girly, growing up a tomboy herself. She is a transplanted Californian and will forever miss the ocean. The mountains in her present town are wonderful and majestic, but the beach will always be her home. Trish is a lover of road trips and all things Dr. Pepper; a volleyball mom, football mom and sometimes losing-her-mind-mom. But it's all good.



My teenage kids are going to hell (gasp)... and apparently, I am driving the bus.

Some may say I am a defacer, a vandalizer, a disrespector of shrubs and bushes... call me what you will, I take no offense. I was, once upon a time, the queen of toilet papering (with a few other queens in tow).

And it appears that the time has come to pass along the torch.

Now understand, I feel no shame in this. I actually quite relish the official-ness of it all. I take great pride in passing along my tricks of the trade, so to speak. I will even go so far as to drive the get-away car if necessary; that is, as long as I am home and tucked into bed by 9:30. Otherwise they're on their own.

No, I am not just trying to be the "cool mom"...although that does have a nice ring to it. Nor am I just trying to live vicariously through my kids (okay, that one is probably a lie). I am simply trying to teach my kids that there is more fun to be had than sitting in front of the boob tube or doing whatever else it is that kids are doing these days. And if you think about it, toilet papering is an art form, really. I guess one could say I am encouraging my kids to use their creative minds and at the same time exposing them to all things cultural.

The nostalgia of it all warms my heart. I think that this is a memory every kid should carry with them... even us big kids.

It is harmless fun, after all...

Isn't it, mom?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Playing the Fool

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With a direct nod to yesterday’s awesome “key” post by Gerb, I think I’d like to go down the same road a little bit today because of a similar experience.

Number two son and I stopped at a convenience store the other evening. It was dark, and getting colder, so while the boy ran into the store I stayed in the car to keep it warm. After a minute or so there was a knock on the car window and a young woman’s face peering in.

She was asking for money.

Did I have just $10 so that she could buy formula for her baby?

I never know what to do when that happens…and it’s happening more and more often; The young man asking for spare change outside the grocery store doors; the older man with the cardboard sign in the corner of the mall parking lot; the young woman outside the Maverick with a story about a fight with her boyfriend and a hungry baby.

Because of the stories that I’ve heard from the kids I work with and because I watch the news, I know that there’s a decent chance that I’m being scammed. There’s a chance that that young man outside the grocery score is trying to get enough money to score an oxycodone at the park across the street. The older man with the cardboard sign declaring himself to be veteran could just be a veteran of too many trips to the liquor store. And the young woman tapping on my window could be…who knows…working for someone else or simply playing a game to see how much money she could collect that evening.

But I find that even though thoughts like this filter through my head (along with a decent wave of fear like Gerb said) when confronted with this type of request. At the end of the day I don’t care. Maybe I am being played for a fool – but maybe I’m not.

For me, asking for help is really, really difficult. It is only by the grace of a benevolent God and good friends that I am not pushing all of my belongings around in a shopping cart. If these people have gotten to the point where they are asking for help from strangers for whatever reason, I can’t put myself in the position of judging the purity of their motives because I recognize that mortification can exist in the asking.

There’s an old proverb that says “Charity looks at the need, not the cause. And another that says in this world we must help one another. Their motives are their own and mine is not to question why. It is little enough when truly, I have been so blessed.

I gave her $20.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Knowledge Is The Key

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photo from ehow.com


Yesterday I had to run some errands at a local SuperStore. As I exited my car and tried to shove my keys into my purse I discovered that they would not fit. The keys were so bulky that I could not get them to fit inside my pockets, either. Dumb keys, I thought to myself as I threw them into the child-seat of my shopping cart.

Once my purchases were complete I made my exit. As I approached the corral for the shopping carts in the parking lot I noticed a man in tattered clothes sifting through a trash can there.

"You have a Merry Christmas!" he said to me, smiling. I grabbed my purchases from my cart, responded with, "You too!" and pushed my cart into the corral, hurrying towards my car.

I heard a voice from behind me.

"Miss! Wait! Miss!" the man called after me. I glanced over my shoulder and confirmed that it was the poorly dressed man who had just wished me a merry Christmas. To be honest, I was initially a bit frightened. Why was this man rushing towards me? Was he going to ask for money? Should I rush to my car and get inside?

I stopped near my car, turning to face him. "Yes?" I asked, still somewhat nervous as to his intentions.

"You left your keys in the cart," he said as he handed them to me, still smiling.

I sighed. I was grateful and told him so.

"I used to have keys," he told me. "I remember how much I hated to lose them."

In that moment it seemed as if a million questions passed through my mind. What had happened to bring him to his current state? Did he lose his job? Did he have a home somewhere? A family? What sorts of locks did he open with the keys he no longer had now?

But before I could say another word, he was walking away. "You have a good day, now," he said with a sideways wave.

"Thanks again. Thanks so much," I called after him.

I looked at my keys. Keys to my car(s!) and my home; keys to closets and safes. So many keys. Keys that I complain about when really, each key represents a comfort or blessing in my life.

I had never been so thankful for a bulky set of keys.

And thankful to the man who reminded me that I take too much for granted.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I never noticed that I no longer noticed

Pin It ...until the day it was gone.

Funny how that works out, isn’t it? Something in life becomes so commonplace that—after awhile—you simply no longer even perceive it anymore. For instance, that ring that you wear on your finger as a reminder of promises made, or the bottles of vitamins in the medicine cabinet that you should be taking each and every day.

That’s the way it was with the house.

I’d been driving on a particular stretch of road for the past 5 or 6 years on my way to work; after awhile, the road became so familiar to me that I’d be driving and my thoughts would wander. Before I knew it, I was pulling into my parking stall with little or no recollection of the events which had happened in between.

Kind of scary to be honest—but that’s the way it can sometimes be with things which are all too familiar.

A year ago I left on a trip for a hefty chunk of the summer, and when I returned I drove to work to get ready for the new school year which would be commencing in just a few weeks. As I drove along the once-familiar roadway, it felt strangely unfamiliar and fresh to me. It was like I was seeing it for the first time with new eyes.

When I reached a crossroads where I usually made a right turn, I looked straight ahead and noticed that the house was gone…I’d looked at this house for so many years, it had become a sort of permanent fixture in the surrounding landscape. To see it gone was bizarre.

I paused for a moment and stared at this now-vacant lot. The double story was at that instant, nonexistent.

I immediately thought of the family who’d once lived there; not that I’d ever known them…because I hadn’t. However, I had seen them having get-togethers during the long, lazy days of summer, and I’d seen their children occasionally standing out in the frosty mornings, awaiting the bus to take them to school.

A car horn sounded behind me, giving the prompting to complete my turn. As I drove, my mind catavaulted through the memory banks of time, and all I could recollect about this house.

However, the barren lot soon became the new permanent fixture in my mind’s eye. I forgot all about the house which had once occupied this space, and seeing the empty area became my new reality.

That is, until the day I noticed the garden.

Somewhere in the weeks and months which had flown by, someone had planted a garden where the foundation of the house used to be. Tall rows of corn reached toward the heavens while buttery-colored pumpkins and rosy tomatoes swelled to perfection. The garden was occupying the same space the house had. It was surreal. The two images seemed to flicker back and forth in my mind, like one of those holographic pictures which shows you one thing and then another, but both in the same space.

As I watched this garden grow over the ensuing months, I noticed the subtle changes as time progressed steadily onward. It was this garden which set me to thinking. (It seems that I do my best thinking in the early mornings while on my way someplace—usually work).

I thought of the garden growing in the place where the house had stood, and the family which had lived on that very piece of ground—like that garden, a family had once grown therein.

A family garden.

I found myself wondering about that family—wondering about myself. What kind of growth have I had over the years? What is it that I will reap at the harvest of my existence? Like that garden growing from the rich earth, the only things of value which will really come of it will be those things which I sow. Where there is no labor, there will be no reaping.

But for now, I can only hope when I’m no longer noticing…I’ll start to notice.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful

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I recall standing before the ornamental fruit trees at Lowe's in the classic cliched agony of indecision just a few months ago. Which would it be--the crabapple or the cherry? It was going to be one or the other; I had made up my mind that the patio required a vertical element to be truly complete. I was not leaving without a tree and a pot.

The kids were getting restless, monkeying around on the wooden risers that the trees were displayed upon and offering their opinions. I tuned them out, standing silently before the trees, arms crossed over my chest as I did a mental eenie-meenie-miney-moe and waited for the answer to hit me. There was something about that crabapple...something that appealed and yet repelled all at once. The cherry was scrawny and feeble looking, with spotty leaves. It tugged at me, though.

I picked up the cherry and plunked it in the cart.

Months later, as I stand outside on the patio and marvel at this whacked out Virginia weather, I have to smile at my cherry. Virginia hits us with seventy degree Mondays, thirty-four degree Monday nights, and Tuesdays that are in the forties and spitting indignant rain. Wednesday heralds a stalled out Hurricane Ida and the return of sixty and seventy degree temperatures, albeit accompanied by gusty winds and rain. My poor cherry tree can't quite wrap her seasonally-challenged mind around it all, apparently thinks it's spring, and has burst into beautiful pink bloom.

Which is fine, as long as she blooms again, when she's supposed to. I feel a little sorry for her...this eager little Charlie Brown tree singing salutations to Spring and headed straight for a smackdown with Winter.

But believe it or not, that's not totally my point. I've gotten a little off track. It occurred to me today, as I was admiring these beautiful pink cherry blossoms, why the crabapple tree just wouldn't work. Why it repulsed even as it twisted the gut with a strange sense of familiarity and comfort.

When I was little, my brothers and I used to spend time at "the Farm," the place where my dad and his brother, Harvey had grown up--a wonderland of crops, cows, properly stinky pigs, strawberries to pick warm from the sun, sleepy kittens to hunt in the hayloft, tractor rides smelling of diesel...it was paradise, setting sparks to my imagination along with the occasional stubbed toe and skinned knee.

There was a twisty, gnarled old crabapple tree near the back-door to the farmhouse, right above the well. I used to climb on the cement-covered top of the well and pretend it was my throne, or stage, or castle wall. My older brother, Chris, would climb the crabapple tree. It was the perfect height for climbing. Crabapples don't grow too big, and their limbs are just right for a child's hands to grip. He was climbing that day, while I was playing just below on the well.

My recollection of the ensuing events is somewhat fragmented; it begins slowly and then gathers speed and momentum until everything blurs together into the muzzy blink of a dream sequence--sort of like the gaining lurch of a locomotive's wheels as they barrel toward you down the track. There's a sense of inevitability, but that train seems so ponderous as it begins its journey.

I remember Harvey coming out of the house and pausing on his way to some errand in the barn. "Boy, get down from there and stop playing around..." He stopped, perhaps wondering why Chris didn't respond to him. I remember looking up into the limbs of the crabapple, and seeing him dangling upside down amidst the tight little green apples that were bitter to the taste, pinkish blood bubbling from his nose. I remember a sort of slow-motion tumble out of the tree, halted as he was pulled into the waiting and panicked arms of his uncle.

He'd been electrocuted.

Grabbed for a branch and grabbed a power line instead. Every place that his body had touched a branch or leaf was seared, with the current exiting through his foot. He was lucky, though--he escaped relatively intact, bearing a silvery map of scars, a few skin grafts, and a couple of webbed toes as the remnants of his ordeal.

My cherry tree doesn't seem so pathetic suddenly, bursting into song as it is. As I ponder the subconscious reason behind my choice, its November blossoms take on a different character. One of thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Changing up

Pin It This post brings to mind a recent discussion I had with my class about the horrible outcome of gossip and rumors; we talked about the atrocious things which can happen to a person when things are said about them which may—or may not—be true.

This is post to set the record straight before anyone jumps to conclusions, and finds themselves lanquishing in the mud, anxiously awaiting to sling it and share among their friends and acquaintances.

As you probably have noticed, we have a new Perspective listed on our sidebar: Lori. Now, undoubtedly some of you are wondering, Hey, what happened to Val? and now thoughts are probably already cavaljulating about your head as you drum up all the possible explanations of why she’s been replaced.

To surmise: with the advent of this thing called life, and all that it brings in its mysterious tow, Val came to the conclusion that weekly posts were just a bit too much for her at her particular stage of living; however, rest assured that Val will be returning occasionally in the vein of guest posts.

Whew, rumor squad situation averted.

This post is also for the purpose of giving a warm welcome to Lori, the newest addition to our little blogging family. While I could go all out and tell you everything there is to know about her, it would just be easier to let you head over to her bio on the 'About' page.

And yes, we’re all still friends.

P.S. I made up the words lanquishing & cavaljulating—just thought you’d all want to know.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Daylight Slayings Time

Pin It GUEST BLOGGER: LINN

Linn is a mother to four and wife to one. She has a BA in Elementary Education, but has been known to take money, on occasion, from people who hire her as an organizational consultant. She loves teaching organization seminars, reading, running, blogging, photography and organizing anything and anyone who will let her. But mostly, she just enjoys being a mom to four children who have not yet realized she still has no idea what in the world she is doing.


With the end of Daylight Savings just two weeks ago, I am already feeling the dread of what will happen this coming March. In honor of that constant dread, I share with you a letter I wrote this past spring; having received no reply the first time, I plan to send it again this next year...


Dear Daylight Savings Creator,

How do I say this respectfully? Have you lost your ever livin' mind? In all of my thirty-two long years of life, I have never been a fan of Daylight Savings. But just when I think something is sufficiently terrible, you go and pull a little thing like moving up the date that Daylight Savings starts and moving back the date when it ends. Do you understand how many of us feel deep irritation toward you right now? Does it even matter to you? I'm not sure it does.

I have this weird feeling that you have moved to some remote island in the ocean where time means nothing to you. I bet you don't even own a clock. But that you do own large flatscreen where you watch the rest of us walk around in our completely sleep-deprived state trying to go to work. Or tend our children. Or worse, waking up our entire family at what was 5am the day before to get to early church meetings. You must be having the time of your life. You and your clock-less little life.

And just so you know, the rebellious part of my soul is about seven seconds away from changing my clocks back to what time it should be and dealing with the ramifications. Having my husband late for work, my children late for school and the entire family late for church doesn't seem like such a bad idea...as long as I am late and rested. Do you know how many people read my blog? Tens of people everyday. It's true. (And don't even try to pretend you are not impressed.) I feel confident I could convince three or more to follow me. Take that I say.

In conclusion, you are killing me. You really are. And I thought moving from San Diego to Boston was bad. That was a little picnic in the park compared to your ridiculous let's-have-Daylight-Savings-for-nine-months-of-the-year idea. Not good. Not good at all. And if I were not so utterly tired to the bone, I would continue this little rant. Lucky for you, oh wait, because of you, I'm too bushed to continue. Just know I'm on to you. Yes indeed. You might want to watch your little watchless self.

With exhaustion and weariness,
Linn

PS. Now that I think about it, I am betting money you are also the creator of the Snuggie. I mean really. A blanket with sleeves? Normal people don't come up with that. Only someone with an infinite amount of time. Say someone without a clock? Hmmm, I thought so.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

From the Mayflower to the Moon

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May your stuffing be tasty

May your turkey be plump,

May your potatoes and gravy

Have nary a lump.

May your yams be delicious

And your pies take the prize,

And may your Thanksgiving dinner

Stay off your thighs!

~Author Unknown

I’ve been trying to inject a little fun into my life, my job and the school day for the boys at my school. Chocolate is always the first thing I turn to for fun (well, chocolate and ice cream, but chocolate is easier at school). So I’ve been stuffing my brain and theirs with Thanksgiving Trivia and stuffing my pockets with mini candy bars to toss out to the guys in return for their right answers. I have to admit that I’ve learned a few things I didn’t know before about Thanksgiving and all that goes with it. So here’s some turkey nuggets (so to speak) to toss around your table this thanksgiving.

Did you know the original Plymouth Rock has cracked multiple times and is now about the size of a car engine.

Did you know that a ripe cranberry should be able to bounce at least 4 inches high?

Did you know largest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds – about the size of a large dog (and I thought my thighs were big).

Did you know that because of breeding, turkey breasts have become so large that the turkey’s fall over? (I didn’t actually share this one with the guys at school ‘cause I just couldn’t see a way around the “B” word without…well…you know, they’re teenagers.

Did you know California consumes the more turkey per capita than any other state? (Combine that with the previous fact and I”m sure there’s a plastic surgery joke in there somewhere, but maybe I shouldn’t dig too deep).

Maybe you already knew as I did that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird of the United States. But I didn’t know that it was Thomas Jefferson who opposed him and it is believed that Franklin then named the male turkey as 'tom' to spite Jefferson (I kind of love stories about the Founding Fathers being snippy with each other – makes them seem more real somehow).

And, speaking of real, it is kind of amazing to think of the people – the real people that started this long-lived tradition. 102 Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower in 1620. Even with the help of the Wampanoag Indians, only about half of them survived to celebrate the Thanksgiving Feast a year later in 1621– and only 5 of those survivors were women (who still had to do all the cooking).

Over three and a half centuries ago, linked by faith and bound by a common desire for liberty, a small band of pilgrims sought out a place in the New World where they could worship according to their own beliefs.

How could they have imagined that 300 years later Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren, the first men on the moon would eat their first meal on the moon inspired by the Pilgrim’s first day of thanks - a roast turkey dinner out of foil packets.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Past, Present and Future

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photo from harrypotter.wikia.com

There are some memories which I would prefer to forget altogether, yet there are others I would love to step into and breathe all over again.

Have you seen Harry Potter? I am fascinated by the idea of owning a pensieve. Have you noticed that people will often remember the same event—yet with differing details? Well, a pensieve would solve that problem. One could simply slip back and glimpse at what it was that really happened.

In my own life, I can think of so many memories that I would love to slip into yet again... not just to remember, but to actually re-live. What I wouldn’t give to be back under the old porch on 5th Avenue in Iowa, playing make-believe games with my little brother. The moments of dancing with my dad when I was still his little girl, and then again in the moments during the last weeks of his life. I would love to re-live the feeling of magic as I performed on a stage—hearing the thunderous applause of the crowd at the conclusion of the performance. Or better yet, to once again breathe in the sweet smell of grandpa's pipe smoke, and watch more closely as he worked his magic with paints and pencils, bringing a blank canvas to life.

If I could combine the pensieve with the time machine from Back to the Future, my life would be truly awesome. I could sort out my memories first, find the ones that needed a bit of ‘tweaking’ and head back in time to fix them. I would make it so that I had never worn that humiliating outfit on my first day of high school. I would return to the pageant I was in, and answer my final question the right way. I would become better friends with the guys I was interested in, instead of wishing there was more there. I would have...

Actually; when I come to think about it, it is all of these experiences which made me who I am today…

When I was bullied, I learned to stand up for others.

When my heart was broken, I learned that I'd never want to inflict that same pain upon any other human being.

When I made mistakes, I learned how to do better the next time around.

There are so many lessons I have learned; I don't think I'd want to change my past - because even the slightest change could alter my future and who it is that I have become.

So on second thought, forget pensieves and time machines, I will instead be who I am and live for today - taking things as they come.

Bring on the experience.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh, the Places I Went

Pin It My thoughts tonight are blowing around, like the gusts of snow cast up by the icy November wind outside against a murky sky—I find myself caught up in that shadowy atmosphere as I gaze out my window at the night and the darkness which covers the outside world like an ornamented shroud.

Inside, the glow of the mulled cider candle illuminates the room; its guttural flame flickers back and forth, casting a thousand twisting shadows to the walls and ceiling in an elaborate dance; the smell of fresh cider wafts about the house.

It seems as of late that my life is a smorgasbord—a smorgasbord of moments—a culinary feast positioned together in a mottled buffet, awaiting the perusals of the ravenous comers and goers, heaping their saucers and bowls with something—hopefully of substance—to fill them.

I stand in line, waiting to be filled as well, here at my usual place at the dusty-blue counter atop a high-backed chair. I reflect on my life up to this point, all of my yesterdays—all those moments which are now irretrievable.

Life is such a fragile thing, really.

I find myself contemplating moments, and where they would have led me if I would have but taken different roads to the present, rather than those which I did choose. One cannot help but question just where that other path might have taken them; what other sights they would have afforded…

In my ponderings this evening, I found myself searching out the book given to me years ago by a friend, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, and reading over its words with silent awe. I share a few selections with you, which as I read them, seemed to leap off of the page and move about mind like the shadowy dancers…

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy
who'll decide where to go.

Oh, the places you'll go!
There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored.
There are games to be won.
And the magical things
you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est
winner of all.
Fame! You'll be as famous
as famous can be,
with the whole wide world
watching you win on TV.

Except when they don't
Because, sometimes they won't.

You won't lag behind
because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang
and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly,
you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go,
you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike,
And I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

Kid, you’ll move mountains!

So...
be your name Buxbaum
or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van
Allen O'Shea,
You're off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So, get on your way!


So now I find myself sitting,
And pondering more.
The words of the Doctor,
Which have me puzzling sore.

The words which he penned,
So eloquently here.
These words are the words,
I so needed to hear.

I find myself knowing,
For knowing I do.
My life was the one
To do what I choose.

And could it be different,
From the way that I lived?
Yes, it is true
But I gived what I gived.

So content I am now,
Content to be me.
This was the way,
I chose it to be.

So I finish my post,
And run it instead.
I am off to dream now
Sweet dreams in my bed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shoes Baffle Me

Pin It GUEST BLOGGER: JULIE

Born and raised in Provo, Utah, her dad picked her husband for her (really). She and her sweetheart have been married for 17 years. They are the parents of three sons, one a teenager and the other two in gradeschool, and one daughter, who at 19 months old rules the house with her chubby fist and gap-toothed smile.

Yes, you read that right. Shoes baffle me. Don't get me wrong--I love shoes. The more comfy, the better. And if I don't have to tie or buckle or lace them? Perfect. But there is one thing I don't understand.

Why do I see stray shoes on the road?

And it's never a pair of them. I realize that shoes can come off a person's feet in tragic auto-pedestrian accidents, but I'm pretty sure the officers on the scene clean those up. I'm talking about the single shoes you see in the middle of or off to the side of the road. Where do those come from?

I've always assumed that those lonely shoes are the casualty of a move. You've seen the college students with their little hatchbacks stuffed to overflowing with all their belongings. They're bound to lose something on their way to independence, finals, and rent payments. Or maybe the shoe has been thrown out the window by a child having a tantrum. I could see that.

But don't people notice that something has fallen out of their car? What do they do when they unpack or arrive at their destination and realize they or their child no longer have a complete pair of shoes? Would it bother them enough that they'd retrace their route to find the errant shoe? I can see myself doing that.

Missing things bug the crap out of me. I can't stand it. The thought of losing a single shoe would be enough to put me in the funny farm. Losing a sock in the wash is cause for a near nervous breakdown. I will hunt feverishly to figure out where that sock has disappeared. I just like to have paired things in pairs. Call me compulsive or obsessive, but that's the way I am.

Enter my three sons. Fortunately for my sanity, I no longer count every Lego block as it goes back into its container to make sure all are accounted for. I gave that up when son #2 got past the Duplo stage. I still do it with the Duplo Primo container because hey--20 pieces of huge Legos aren't that hard to keep track of. I had to give up keeping track of all the Matchbox/Hotwheels cars, though. I swear those things multiply in the dark when left unattended.

When it comes to keeping track of stuff, my sons are horrible. This is annoying to me. I can tell them exactly where their stuff is. I can give them specific directions to find something that is in plain site on top of their dresser. They go to find it and come back in less than a minute, claiming that "it wasn't there." Drives me nuts. I walk them back in the exact location and, lo and behold, there it is. Exactly where I said it was. I would like to assume that it's a boy thing. However, I'm forced to be realistic and admit that it's a personality thing.

I don't know why I am anal retentive in this way. I don't remember not being this way. I could find any one of my toys as a child because I knew exactly where they all were. And it wasn't because I was a particularly neat and organized child. My dad used to tease me about bringing in the garden tiller to clean my room because there were so many piles. But I knew what was in each pile and could find what I wanted when I wanted it. I'm weird that way.

So can anyone explain to me the mystery of roadside footwear? Has anyone actually lost a shoe this way? C'mon. Enlighten me. I really need to know.

In the meantime, if you'll excuse me, I need to find my husband's missing sock.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thankful

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(A glimpse of the mountains on the way to my kids' school. Don't you think the view is... cool?)

The sound of waves on ocean shore,
A laugh, a smile, an open door,
A bird in flight, the dreams that soar,
These are the things I'm thankful for.

Sunrise, sunset, a garden gate,
Freshly baked cookies on my plate,
Some time to read, write and create;
These are things I appreciate.

Great times with family, friends and food,
Songs which dispel an awful mood,
For falling rain, for clouds that brood;
For all these things - my gratitude.

A donut topped with maple glaze,
To bask in sunshine's warming rays,
The insights gained in passing days;
For all these things I offer praise.

Busses and Boys

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I had my first kiss the summer of my 15th year.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was talking to some of my little delinquent boys at school ( I work with the ultimate “at-risk” boys). I don’t often find myself with the opportunity to just chat with these guys. But this particular day someone was having a problem in one of the other units and everyone just had to stay put for awhile.

So the lesson was over, the class period was over, but we were all just waiting around for the all clear and we got to talking. It’s not usually a good idea to delve too deeply into personal things with these guys, but as the conversation drifted around to girls (with a group of 8 or 9 teenage boys it’s a topic that’s bound to come up) I found myself thinking about my first kiss as I was trying to explain a few things about girls. And since this kiss happened a few decades ago now, I decided that I could use it as an illustration to show that a guy might not always know what a girl is thinking.

I guess the impetus for this event was less about young teen-age love and more about the fact that I have two older stepsisters. I would go down to Arizona to visit each summer and by the summer I was 15, almost 16 (my stepsisters 17 and 18), I had hit an age when I was anxious to grow up. I got along alright with my stepsisters but I always felt like I was lagging behind – especially socially if you know what I mean. My sisters were very pretty girls that didn’t have any trouble getting boys to like them. I also didn’t have any trouble getting boys to like me, but in the most depressingly platonic way imaginable (an ability, I have to say, which has only gotten more pronounced with age). I can’t tell you how many boys would suck up to me just to get close to my pretty sisters. Through the ages of about 12 to 14 I was ok with this – attention is attention after all. But by the time I was sliding into the magical age of 16, I was really beginning to feel like the perpetual buddy. Because I was comparing myself to my stepsisters, I felt like I had a list of things I was supposed to have done by that ripe old age that just weren’t happening. I had never had a boy hold my hand, I’d barely had a slow dance and hadn’t even gotten close to being kissed. I decided that I really needed to do something about it.

So, to make a long story short I picked one out of the perpetual gaggle of gentlemen callers that surrounded my sisters and actually seemed interested in what I had to say most of the time and kind of went to work on him. Surprisingly enough my victim seemed to be relatively willing to help me check some things of my list. He obligingly held my hand on a fairly regular basis and we even managed to snuggle up on a few slow dances throughout the summer. But the summer was drawing to a close, I would be heading back to Utah and the big moment just hadn’t happened.

The moment finally came when we were coming back from a youth conference on one of those infamous charter buses. Since the days of my misspent youth I have put in a fair amount of time as a chaperone on busses full of teenagers and I can tell you I was a lot more vigilant about the PDA’s on the bus than any chaperone I ever had as a teen. But there I was in the back of the underchaperoned bus clumsily trying to position myself in such a nonchalant-come-hither-way that this boy would be able to easily swoop in for a kiss if he felt so inclined. FINALLY after about 250 miles he actually inclined and there it was - my first kiss. I’d like to say that I had a Brady Bunch moment and saw rockets and fireworks. But in reality I remember being kind of outside the moment and trying to decide if I should move my lips, hold my breath or tilt my head. But we managed to not knock our noses together for about 20 seconds or so and it was….nice. The moment had finally happened and it was nice and I had checked another right of passage off of my imaginary growing up list.

Unfortunately, I think the poor boy was pretty confused. I can remember after the kiss broke, I kind of smiled at him and then kind of moved away from my strategic please-kiss-me lean back into my own seat, pulled by blanket up to my chin and closed my eyes for a nap.

After a minute he leaned over and asked me “Are you mad?”

I was surprised. “No, “ I answered. “I’m fine.” “Are you sure?” he said. Yes, I was sure, I was fine, just kind of tired and ready to sleep for awhile. It was seriously a couple of years later before I realized why he thought I was mad – he wasn’t done yet! I had experienced my first kiss, checked it off the list and closed up shop for the night. He, on the other hand thought that he’d found a girl he could make-out with in the back of the bus. Looking back, I can’t really blame him. I had given every indication that I was up for al little kissing. Problem for him was that I really meant just a little kissing and that was it.

Most of my little delinquent boys definitely took the side of the confused boy admitting that they too would have been confused if a girl they just kissed decided that a nap was the next thing on the menu. What can I say? I was in a hurry to grow up, but was still pretty na├»ve about a lot of things. That was kind of the point I was trying to make with the boys – girls may be throwing out some signals, but that doesn’t always mean what you think it does. So make sure you get to know each other on a lot of levels before things get physical and people get confused.

Of course that’s what I said as the mature voice of experience and I believe that – I really do. But I have to admit at this particular point in my life, that sometimes….not all the time but once in awhile, I do wish that I had done a little more kissing in the back of busses.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hibernation

Pin It The frosty mornings have been far more frequent as of late, and they serve as a reminder to the stockpiles of memories I’ve laid up against the cold and icy winter months which undoubtedly lie ahead.

Summer.

It seems to be nothing more than the passing of a dream, really. What was once in the here in the now seems so long ago, left beyond the barriered months of autumn. The distinct bite in the air is an admonition to certain creatures that the time of slumber is rapidly-approaching. You’ve got it, my friends…

Hibernation.

There are times when I wish I were like the varied species of mammals which bed down for the lengthy months of winter, and find themselves in a deep sleep, only to awaken once more when the arctic snows have begun to liquefy, and the world finds itself yet again burgeoning with life anew—not unlike the scene in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe; when all of Narnia is finally freed from the spell of the White Witch and magic of spring is freed yet again.

Ah, to sleep away the cold winter months like the raccoons and skunks, as well as chipmunks and bats which nestle down in a warm cocoon of sorts. Wait; make that more like good old Ursus Americanus—the American black bear. Not only with the constellation, Ursus Major illustrating it in the sky, but also boasting a pretty impressive catnap record to boot.

Did you realize that the black bear can go for as long as 100 days during his sleepy period without drinking, eating, exercising, or even going to the bathroom?

Now that is the life for me.

I think the bears are onto something.

So I say bring on the winter lethargy and days filled with nothing but the slow, dream-filled slumbering away of the cold and snow! Let the sleep move us past the immovable cars and slick roads! Bring on a siesta through the frozen walkways and nipped noses of January! Forget the infinitesimal moments of December 24th to enjoy a Christmas Eve, but instead bed down for a four-decimal-five months or so until April, with the budding flowers poking up under spring’s dewy heels! Forget snowball fights and catching snowflakes on one’s tongue with cups of steamy hot chocolate afterwards in Peanuts mugs! Bring on deepened sleep and a lack of building snowmen and sledding down wintery hills encrusted with glimmering ice, like thousands of shimmering blands of glitter! Bring on the hibernation and disregard five snowy months of school and a class of twenty-two students…

Never mind; on second thought, hibernation is for the bears...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Truly Living in the Moment

Pin It GUEST BLOGGER: GEORGE

My life isn't what it used to be....it's a new page to be written and I'm in control of the story. I owe most of my success in being a husband and father to my sweetheart, but now because of cancer I need to stand alone and not quit. To quit is easy, to live is hard.

I feel that there are times in life when we tend to get a little too wrapped up in the world; handling problems, working, and everything else that comes along with living. For the most part, things like writing letters and spending time with our family are things that seem to get put off. It takes dedication to stay with anything faithfully…it’s so easy to procrastinate our lives away with our varied good intentions of following through later, but as you and I both know, before long that day has turned into a week, the week into a month, and still we have the good intentions of doing whatever it is we’d planned on doing.

Why is this? Why do we constantly follow this path in life? I am a firm believer that it is because many of us are living in the Land of Later and the Time of Tomorrow.

But still time passes, and as it does it becomes harder to finally start many of these good things.

We need to say the things we feel in our hearts and not put it off until tomorrow, because tomorrow just might be too late!

I now sit in a quiet, lonely home; a home which is nourished with love from the past by a beautiful companion now gone. I look at the sunlight pouring into the room, and imagine my wife sitting here waiting for me to arrive home from work; her weakened body no longer allowing strength to do the things she enjoyed. I had always come home to a clean house and a great dinner, her voice still rings in my ears:

“Hi, sweetheart how was your day?”

She always encouraged me to be positive, and I enjoyed our intimate time together.

I feel like I was lucky to have been able to give back love and support of taking care of my beloved as she had taken care of our family for so many years; to have experienced the support of our family coming home to help bear us up. I joy in the many personal memories this has given me, yet still cry daily as the memories are tender.

When it comes to family, I say cherish your moments and say what’s in your heart. The words ‘I love you’ should be spoken often. Hold your companion’s hand when in public, and don’t be intimidated by the world. I cry as I look on our wall to a sign she made that simply says, Always kiss me goodnight.

Whenever I now see couples walking without touching, I only wish I could have just one more moment to hold my sweetheart in my arms.

Don’t let it become too late.

Now I am wishing…if only I had more time.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Giving Thanks For Thanksgiving

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photo from eslpod.com

Dear Thanksgiving,

Just wanted to let you know that, despite the fact that the retail stores and radio stations have forgotten you once again, I have not. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Christmas. It has just become so overwhelmingly materialistic and shoved down my throat the day after Halloween. I think that you serve as a great precursor to being inundated with ho-ho-ho music and people wearing Santa hats. No one should just skip over you, Thanksgiving. We need to remember to give thanks. So when it comes to holidays, please don't feel neglected when you see inflatable Santas and animated Grinches adorning the holiday aisles in stores. At our house, we haven't forgotten you. In fact, we have a playlist of Thanksgiving songs which we enjoy until your day has passed. Here is what we will be listening to until the day after we celebrate the things we're thankful for:

1. Thankful - Josh Groban
2. Thanksgiving Theme - Vince Guaraldi Trio
3. Colors - John McCutcheon
4. Prayer of Thanksgiving - David Tolk
5. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing - MoTab Choir
6. Thanksgiving Day - John McCutcheon
7. Thank U - Alanis Morrissette
8. When Fall Comes to New England - Cheryl Wheeler
9. Take Me Home Country Roads - John Denver
10. Thank You - John Mellencamp
11. Happy Thanksgiving - Debbie Friedman
12. Home - Michael Buble
13. Thanksgiving - George Winston
14. Celebrate Me Home - Kenny Loggins
15. Thanksgiving - Jim Brickman

Hang in there, Thanksgiving. I've got your back.

Sincerely,
Gerb

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sock Wiping

Pin It I am a sock-wiper by nature.

If a napkin is not readily accessible, I have discovered that one’s socks will do the task reasonably well. It’s like I’m continually carrying around two handkerchiefs endowed with the power for this special use whenever I find myself in dire need; wherever I go, there are my trusty finger-wipers, ready and waiting at my on-the-spot disposal.

I discovered the secret use of these multipurpose little fabric clothing portions when I was about seven years old. Of course, my finger-wiping exploits didn’t start out quite so successfully…after all, wiping greasy or muddy fingers on the front of one’s shirt or pants was nearly always bound to get noticed by a mother’s watchful eyes—and undoubtedly, lectures or yelling would inevitably ensue; however, if one were to utilize these little out of sight foot devices, it was nearly always bound to go unseen.

Ninja-like, really.

Make that, stealth ninja-like.

In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago that my skills at sock-wiping came into a practical application. You see, I had been invited to a dinner gathering, and for some reason, the hostess did not provide some of the guests with the much-needed wiping paraphernalia; however, I had my two trusty napkins right along with me, and any finger-wiping which needed to be done was completed with surreptitiousness—after all, I had refined this subtle art through years of masterful practice.

So while the other guests were forced to complain or simply do without, I, with my masterful ways, was victorious—as well as clean-fingered.

Ah, sock-wipeage.

In speaking in regards of this topic, it brings to mind a conversation of Harry Potter and Professor Albus Dumbledore from, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Harry and Dumbledore are alone in a deserted room at Hogwarts, it is the dead of night and they are deep in conversation on the topic of the Mirror of Erised, the mirror which shows the looker the deepest, most desperate yearnings of his heart…

“Sir - Professor Dumbledore? Can I ask you something?”

“Obviously, you’ve just done so,” Dumbledore smiled. “You may ask me one more thing, however.”


“What do you see when you look in the mirror?”


“I? I see myself holding a pair of thick, woolen socks.”


Harry stared.


“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”


It would appear that Professor Dumbledore had a distinctive awareness of the covert and delicate skill of sock-wiping as well, and this would make sense. And if it's good enough for Dumbledore, the world's most powerful wizard...it's good enough for me.
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