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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From the Editor's Desk - Education

Pin It For those of you who haven't followed my other blog for the past year, I decided to share something this week which I posted about a year ago. 

You see, I am a firm believer in education. I am also a believer that your education is not necessarily the responsibility of others. This is the message I have my students read the first few weeks of school and write a journal response to it

What can I say? I’m a double-dipper…

From the Editor’s Desk

How much to you put into your own education? I mean, how much effort do you really put into school?

When I was a kid, I was under the mistaken belief that it was the responsibility of my teacher to make sure that I learned. My job—I thought—was to go to school, sit in my desk, daydream, turn in homework that I did a halfhearted job on, and complain from time to time about just how much I hated homework and school.

You know the years have flown since I was in elementary school, and I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t really my teacher’s job to make sure that I learned.

It was mine.

No matter what I thought, my teacher wasn’t affected by whether or not I paid attention in class. If I learned it, I learned it. If I didn’t, my teachers didn’t go home having their lives changed for the better or the worse. It was my life that was affected.

The reason that I bring this up is that there seems to be an increasing number of students who seem to think that it is the job of their teacher to make sure they learn while they are at school. I’m here to tell you that this is simply not true. Now, I’m not saying that a teacher shouldn’t be prepared, because they should be, what I am saying is that the job of learning is yours.

There’s an old saying which goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it.” Have you ever heard somebody say that before? Maybe your parents or grandparents? Do you understand what it means? When I was a kid, I sure didn’t. What the heck did drinking horses have to do with me?

To be honest? Everything.

You see, a horse will only drink when he is ready to. You can take him to the water trough, you can even try to force his head into the water, but until he is ready to take that drink, it just won’t happen.
In a lot of ways you are just like that horse; you cannot be forced to learn…you have to decide that you want to learn. Then—and only then—will the learning really happen for you; it won’t happen until you make the decision for yourself.

You know that it all comes down to one person…


After all, you all know that if you really wanted to, you could space off in class, and not pay attention in the slightest. Right? But who does this hurt in the end…really?

Just one person: You.

If the learning of the content doesn’t happen, whose fault is it? Is it the fault of your teachers? Is it your parents’ fault for not making you do your homework; for forcing you to read at night?

Now, when I was a kid I might have disagreed and said that it was my teachers’ fault; I’d have probably argued that if only Mr. Miller were a bit more interesting then I’d have learned what he was trying to teach. But really, let’s be honest here…was I coming to school to be entertained, or to be taught? Sure, it’s great when these two things happen together, but when they don’t can I really blame the teacher?
The truthful answer is:

“No. No I can’t.”

So now it comes down to you…what kind of effort are you going to put into your own education?

I mean, really?

When you stop to think about it, when you try to get out of things in school or find shortcuts in life, in the end you are just cheating yourself. You may not understand how this can hurt you right now, but one day you will.

So, what happens now? To be honest, I don’t know. It really depends an awful lot on you now doesn’t it? I would hope from this day on that you’d to put a little bit more into your own learning each and every day; after all, it affects you more than anyone else.

You know what though? Despite everything else, there is one enormous reason for putting more into school each and every day. So, what’s the reason?

YOU are worth the effort. Give yourself your personal best.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Wee Small Hours

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There is no hope for a civilization which starts each day to the sound of an alarm clock. ~Author Unknown

This portion stolen from: http://provomayor.blogspot.com/

At 5:05 AM on Wednesday August 25th, 2010, a semi truck was driving north on South State Street approaching 300 South at 700 East to make a left hand turn. In the process of making the left turn, the vehicle left the roadway and struck a pole used to support a power pole.

The semi truck struck with such force that the guide line pulled down several power poles causing an immediate loss of electrical power to approximately 4,000 homes in South East Provo. The semi truck, carrying frozen dinners, rolled off of the roadway and onto it's side.

Provo Fire and Rescue along with Provo Police responded to find the driver had received a slight injury to his lower leg. The driver was taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released.

Provo Power respond to re-establish electrical power. At this time, a majority of the power has been restored to the area and Provo Power is still working to re-install power poles and lines at the intersection of 300 South and 700 East. The clean up process is expected to take several days to complete.

So ours was one of the approximate 4,000 homes in South East Provo that lost power on the morning of August 25. Of course it was 5:00 in the morning so it’s not like any of us realized that the house was dark because the power was out – being 5am the house was already pretty dark before the power went out.

But the weird thing is that I actually woke up at about 5:10 that morning. And believe me when I tell you that it is really weird for me to wake up at 5:10am. It’s really weird for me to voluntarily wake up pretty much any time before 8am. Oh, who am I kidding…even 10am is too early to get up sometimes.

But on Wednesday morning at 5:10am I found myself awake (how did I know it was 5:10am if the power was out you ask? I checked the clock on my charged cell phone). It might have been because it was kind of warm in my room (no fan, no AC). Or it may have been because it was really dark in the house (I have a kind of obnoxious streetlight outside my bedroom window that never allows my room to be pitch-black even when the blinds are shut).

But whatever the reason, my eyes popped open of their own accord in my darker than usual room.

I find that to be very ironic… and really annoying.

I love to sleep - I really do. I think this is because sleep is hard for me to find sometimes so when I actually do fall asleep I want it to last as long as possible. This means that getting up once I’ve found sleep is just a chore, a burden, a torture. In order to get up on time I usually have my clock radio set to go off, playing something loud and obnoxious a good 40 minutes or so before I really have to get up. And then if I really, really have to get up, I set my phone alarm too so it will go off at 10 minute intervals. But even after all that I can usually sleep through everything, then end up getting up at least 10 minutes past the optimum time so my mornings often end up being a bit rushed. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but what can I say? It’s the truth.

But in the wee small hours of Wednesday morning, even after a truck carrying frozen dinners hit a pole and cut the power to 4,000 homes leaving me without my usual morning wake-up cacophony, I finally managed to wake up early without any apparent outside stimulation – I just woke up.

What is up with that?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

School Time

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(My elementary school crew, minus the kindergartner who doesn't start until next week)

School has begun this week.

As the beginning of each school year approaches I always experience a gamut of urgent, frantic emotions. What did I forget to work with them on over the summer? Does everyone have a functioning backpack? Is it too late to start in on a school-time sleep schedule which gets us to bed earlier than midnight and up in the morning before 7 am? How many pair of matching socks does each child own?

As we eventually become accustomed to our usual school routines I begin to relax again.

This year, though - for some reason it is different. I think it has something to do with the fact that my oldest boy is a senior in high school and my 5-year-old is starting kindergarten. I look at my 17-year-old and remember him in my 5-year-old's shoes and I hope that his dad and I have taught him all that he will need in order to be successful in the important things in life. I look at the young man he has become and my heartstrings feel a little tug. I do not have much more time before he is no longer mine to shape and mold.

There are so many things that I want him to know. There are so many things that I want for all of my kids.

What do I want most for my children? For them to see even half of the potential that I see in them. I want them to have enough self-esteem to be comfortable and social around those they don't know but not so much that no one can stand them. I want for them to really, truly understand that there is an inner beauty, generated by kindness and compassion and loyalty and honesty, that shines far brighter than outward appearances. I want them to love unconditionally, but guardedly.

And that is only the beginning. The list goes on.

Ultimately, I want them to be happy and to learn for themselves where true happiness lies.

As school begins this year I'm not sure who will be receiving the greatest education, actually. Is it my kids who are learning reading, science, languages, math... or is it me who is having to learn to loosen up the apron strings - trust in what we've taught them, give them a bit of slack and then slowly let go?

Where did the summer go?

Where did time go?

*deep breath*

I am ready. Let the schooling begin.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rites of Passage. AKA: The WoMAN Voice

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I finally did it—even after years of careful listening—I mistook my friend’s 11 year-old son for his mother.

I firmly believe that a milestone in life has been reached when a pubescent boy experiences a stretching of limbs, facial features, and vocal chords—making him sound akin to a grown-up woman—not too dissimilar to an adult Michael Jackson.

“Hey *Becky, how’s it going?”

“This isn’t Becky, this is her son, *Joey.”

Verbal Faux pas.

I felt instantaneously terrible for what I’d done; I quickly began to backpedal, talking about how I couldn’t hear properly because the stereo was up far too loud, my windows were down, passing traffic was flying by in the opposite lane, a sonic boom had just thundered down from the heavens, the air-raid sirens had suddenly started blaring signifying a nuclear fallout, and aliens had stolen my eardrums and replaced them with cotton swabs.

As I apologized I though back to the days of my own mom-voiceness, and the numerous callers that would mistake me for my mom. This started to happen so frequently that there came a point where I either wouldn’t answer the phone, or would intentionally lower my voice several octaves so that there would be no way on heaven or Earth that I could be mistaken for her.

It usually didn’t work.

In fact, I can remember one day when I was so sick and tired of saying, “This isn’t her; this is her son,” that I decided to simply roll with it. I carried on a complete conversation with a salesman who was trying to get us to switch our life insurance playing the part of my mother.

I was amazing.

Luckily, this awkward period quickly passed, and I was never mistaken as my mother again.

I arrived back at the present.

“So anyhow, that’s how come I couldn’t tell it was you.”

“Oh, that’s okay…” he responded with a trailed off voice.

I just couldn’t bear to tell him that he did sound like a woman on the phone.

However, maybe I should have. After all, it is a rite of passage…

*These are not their real names; I wanted to protect the identity of both Stephanie and Tanner.

Photo shamelessly pilfered from here: http://www.topnotchparents.com

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back To School

Pin It The house is a little too quiet. No t.v. murmuring from the playroom, no DS pinging from under the kitchen table, no voices raised in perpetual disagreement or simple Zip It and Hear. Me. Now. I have managed, in the few brief hours I've been awake, to shower, make up my face (because the real one is just not good enough, folks), dress in real clothing with zippers and buttons and things, eat breakfast, go by the bank and the post office, dust, vaccuum, and mop two rooms in my home, answer my email, clean a toilet, load a dishwasher, do a load of laundry, make a bed, and exercise.

Oh, and write half a blog post.

This is madness. This is wonderful.

This is the first day of school.

Would I be a bad mother if I said I'm sort of enjoying this solitude? This lovely peace and tranquility that is my home, with my cinnamon scented candles and quietly snoozing dog? My newly polished floors that will not have a gob of jelly on them until after 3:30 p.m.? Is that a bad thing?

Should I feel guilty for allowing a tiny sigh to escape as I settle down for a few moments to enjoy a little mug of tea, knowing that the only interruption might be a ringing telephone, which I can easily ignore if I so choose?

Nah. I worked hard, all summer long, for this mug of tea. I earned this mug of tea. I deserve to enjoy this mug of tea. And darn it all...I kind of...sort of...miss the little boogers. I'm wondering how Autumn is doing with her lock. She practiced all the way to middle school this morning, using the round air vent in the car as a pretend-lock, turning thrice to the right, twice to the left, once more the right. I wish I could be there to help her.

I wonder if Lawson has found a new buddy in his class, seeing as how his best friend Corb is in a different second grade class this year. Heartbreaking! It killed me. I almost requested a change of teacher, but then I stopped, considered that this was a character building experience for my son. Boys can act so tough, and yet be so fragile. I hope he's having a good day.

I bet it's pretty loud in those schools. I did mention that it was too quiet in this house, didn't I?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ice Cream for Everyone!

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The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections On The Human Condition

It’s a miracle!

Really, miracle is the only word that can possibly apply.

It’s 10pm, I got the official word about the miracle at about 7:30pm and I am still basking in the miraculous glow.

I think what makes the miracle so much more exciting is that I really was convinced that it was never going to happen for me – I just didn’t have what it took.. Oh, I was trying hard – really, I was. But it had just been such a long time since I’d done anything like this and to be honest, I wasn’t that great at it the last time I had to do it. Ebay was nice (and patient) enough to put a lot of time helping me and coaching me and encouraging me. But every single time I thought I was there, I thought I was ready I would put myself out there and….failure. Well, maybe failure is too strong a word, but certainly not as much success as it was going to take for the miracle I needed to happen.

And I really did need it to happen. I really needed to get this monkey off my back. This needed to happen and it needed to happen soon so that I could relax and think about other things. There are other areas of my life that need some attention and I can’t be spending every free moment on this one thing. But even though I was working on it every day and spending all the time I could, I just didn’t feel like it was happening, it didn’t seem to be getting easier – was it really this hard or am I really just this pathetic?

But today between the hours of 4pm and 7pm (after a considerable amount of praying I don’t mind telling you) a window opened and, to quote The Wizard of Oz one more time…a miracle occurred. Somehow I was able to recollect, recall and reason – not everything – but just enough to effect a miracle.

I am so relieved. I am wading – no swimming in a big pool of relief. I keep thinking about that line from Dickens "I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man." I feel like going out and buying myself a big ice cream cone (or maybe even shoes) because I rock!

I rock because I passed my final exam this afternoon and finally finished my College Algebra Class - behold the miracle.

P.S. And Ebay Rocks too!! I couldn’t have done it without his help – he was the voice inside my head reminding me about the Pythagorean Theorem and the Evil Denominators.

What the hell, Ice Cream for EVERYONE!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Just Trying To Be Helpful

Pin It I was looking online recently to find some helpful tips for a safe pregnancy and found this list of awesome ideas. I thought maybe some of you could use them as well - or even pass them along to someone else you may know who is 'in the family way'.

You're welcome.

By the way, if you're interested, these tips (and more!) can be purchased in book form at wrybaby.com.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Things We Do For Love

Pin It Nothing has the potential to make a fool out of you like motherhood. We're talking big ole scarlet M emblazoned across the chest Motha-in-the-Hood. It's a disease, I think. An illness that seeps into your bloodstream as swiftly as the hormones build during pregnancy. Its hallmarks are a cheerful abandon of any and all energy, dense volunteerism of time, and extreme amnesia when it comes to actual experience. I've got it in spades.

Tuesday marks the first day of fall soccer practice for Lawson. We'll battle into cleats and shin guards, pack him onto the field with his well-loved blue ball, and settle in for two days of practice plus one game per week.

It's a familiar routine: while the children practice the adults settle in on the sidelines with camp chairs, bottles of Gatorade, cameras, and cell phones for texting during the truly tedious moments. The only difference is that this year I will not be sitting on the sidelines in my comfy camp chair with the other parents.

I will be coaching instead.

As I know absolutely nothing about soccer, this falls under the category of Stupid Things I've Volunteered To Do In My Life. (Which, incidentally, is how I could categorize most things I've volunteered to do, but let's not go there while I'm bashing myself over this current operation.) I did try to tell the individual organizing the league this minor fact, but apparently he was in dire need of coaches, and any warm body would do. It really did not matter that the only thing I know about a soccer ball is that it is significantly harder than a volleyball, and you should absolutely refrain from setting it with your fingers, or passing it with your forearms.

So I am the U8 warm body for Lawson's team. I'm currently trying to figure out the difference between a forward and a center, much to my husband's amusement, and reminding myself daily that it's all about having fun at this level. Or so I've been told. That wasn't totally the sense of things I got when I went to pick up the balls and walked into a room full of very intense looking men talking about past years and people I didn't know.

I got a really bad feeling when the room fell silent and I noted that I was the only one wearing stacked heels. Of course, I was the only female, but still. A little synchronicity would've been nice.

But that's okay. Lawson's excited that his mommy is his Coach. Let's just hope that his team doesn't end up the Bad News Bears of the soccer league.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Judgement Day

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If you don't get everything you want, think of the things you don't get that you don't want. ~Oscar Wilde

Z and I went to dinner yesterday as we do on a pretty regular basis (thanks again for the salad Z, my treat next time don’t forget). Because of all his travels and my own summertime activities, we actually hadn’t had a meal together for about a month, so we had a lot to catch up on. Z and I generally talk about writing and school and ...you know, life in general. I tell him what I think he should do and he tells me what he thinks I should do and we generally ignore each other’s advice and do pretty much what we were going to do anyway - but at least we talked it over with someone.

As part of our conversation yesterday (mostly in reference to an earlier conversation I had with another friend), I asked him if he worried about what people thought of him…or to put it more generically should any of us care what people think of us? If I remember the conversation correctly, I think we established that Z is pretty much a narcissistic basket case (;-), but let's talk about me. I’ve been thinking about it – do I care what people think of me - and I think the answer is an ambiguous no and at the same time yes.

We can worry about what people think about us in a lot of different areas. Physically (too fat, too thin, to tall, to short, big nose, frizzy hair etc.); Intellectually (smart, not smart, funny or un). I like to think I’ve made my peace with most of that at my ripe old age of forty-something. And with the exception of a few random high school reunions and visits to the gym, I don’t worry too much about that stuff anymore.

But there are other areas too.

Z gave me a kind of wishy-washy sort of compliment as an answer to my question referring mostly to my professional life. He reminded me that it does matter to me what people think if I am in charge of something. I guess I have to admit that I’ve earned a certain reputation for…I don’t know exactly what word to put there…doing things in a particularly “Mel-like” fashion. But then he also had to admit that even though it was important to me that I did a good job, he didn’t think I did it to try to be the most popular girl in the room. He used our Expedition Red Rock program as an example. Over 7 years I put a lot of work into organizing our annual trip down to the desert with 50 elementary kids – and got better at it over the years (we all did). But while we were down there it certainly wasn’t my intention, job, or even desire to be the most popular teacher in the crowd – which is a darn good thing because that was usually Z’s job -and why we were a good team. But it mattered to me to be prepared and that the trip went smoothly and that we had all our "Red Rock" ducks in a row so to speak. So on a professional level I have to admit that I do care what people think of me.

But then the other conversation I had yesterday was catching up with someone that I hadn’t really talked to for a long time. So, I had a few years of history to catch her up on and man, I gotta tell you that that last few years or so are just not a part of my life that I enjoy going over with people. It’s just been a little Days Of Our Lives/As The World Turns compared to the totally traditional unremarkable Leave It To Beaver personal life that I would have chosen for myself. But while I don’t really enjoy rehashing it , I don’t think I avoid the topic because I worry about what people will think of me. I think I avoid it because it just takes so much explanation and emotion –gaaaah! As a society though we tend to keep score a lot and have certain levels and milestones that it seems we are supposed to have achieved by a certain age. It’s easy to feel judged when some of those milestones were blown away by the winds of change.

I’m going to have to give this some more thought I think – check my own inner honesty meter and really consider if my self esteem is humming along at a healthy level. I suppose if I have to ask, it probably isn’t – but maybe the fact that I’m asking the question is a good sign.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Ugly Sweater

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This week marks the anniversary of the discovery of my dad's brain tumor 10 years ago. I hope you don't mind a re-post of what I wrote on my personal blog a couple of years back. The song that I mention came on the radio today and I couldn't help but remember.

This is my "ugly sweater". If you are local you may have seen me wear it a time or two. It is very accommodating - I can wear it all the time, pregnant or not (as seen in above photo, taken a couple of years ago). I wonder if people who see me wearing this ask themselves - "Why?"

Well, here's the deal:

This was my Dad's sweater.

When Dad died, this was the only tangible thing of his that I really wanted to have. I have fond memories of his wearing this sweater from the time I was young until the very end of his life. It brings back thoughts of Thanksgiving dinners at Aunt Jan's (who, legend has it, made the sweater for him), snow storms in Iowa and cold mornings in East Carbon. But it mostly reminds me of dancing with my Dad.

As a little girl I would stand on his feet and he would dance around the room with me - music or not. As a teenager we would get crazy dancing to the latest Pet Shop Boys or U2 song as the music video played in the background on MTV. Near the end of his life, as I was helping to care for him, I would take his hands and help him stand from the kitchen table and walk, he moving forwards and I moving backwards, face-to-face, to the couch. As we moved towards the couch like this, he would occasionally stop. I would look at him to see what was the matter, and he would get a twinkle in his eyes and start to sway our hands back and forth then slowly move his feet up and down, still wanting to dance.

Oh, how I miss dancing with Dad.

Yesterday as I was driving around town getting groceries, this song by Luther Vandross came on the radio. I have heard it before, but as it reached the chorus it was especially difficult to hold back tears:

If I could get another chance, another walk, another dance with him
I'd play a song that would never, ever end
How I'd love, love, love
To dance with my father again.

(Uncle Roy, Dad sporting the sweater, and Aunt Charlotte)

So now if you see me wearing the Ugly Sweater, you'll understand - there's so much more involved than just warmth.

It is a tangible reminder, a feeling of being close to my dad once again.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Bane of My Existence

Pin It When I was growing up my parents decided to have another child. Why they decided this, I don’t know. What I do know is that I was not consulted in this monumental decision that would undoubtedly affect my life more than anyone else’s in the family. I was simply told that he was coming, and that there was nothing I could do about it.

As you can imagine, I was not thrilled at this prospect.

The months passed, faded, and blurred to a bleak day in November that we drove my mom to the hospital; it was there that she gave birth to my little brother, officially making me the middle child.

Thanksgiving Day was spent with my dad and older sister at a local restaurant eating hamburgers and fries for the holiday meal, while mom was doomed to eat that tasteless, sterilized stuff at the hospital

You see, already my brother was ruining all of our lives.

A few days later or so he came home. He was younger than I was, he was littler, and he was cuter, too; everybody was all over him. They all called him, ‘Little Z.’

I could’ve puked.

I tried to have as little to do with the spoiled little brat as the years trudged on. During this time, he learned to talk, to walk, to talk, get into my things, and to talk some more. I remember one day walking into the living room to find him busily devouring the library book I’d checked out. I snatched it away from him and appealed to a higher power.


When I demanded justice through restitution and a formal beheading, she responded with something along the lines of, “Well, this should teach you to not leave your things where your brother can get them.”

I was denied justice and the satisfaction of his being punished. As you can imagine, I loathed the little blighter even more.

It wasn’t long thereafter that the day came when I felt my world had fallen apart. You see, my dad finished the upper level of our house and we moved upstairs. It was wonderful! I was finally to have a bedroom that was not in the food pantry with a door made of a blanket pinned up in the frame. This was to be a REAL bedroom. A bedroom with a door I could lock.

I was thrilled.

However…isn’t this always the way it is? Things just seem to be going your way, when the rug is pulled out from beneath you, and you find yourself in a worse predicament than you were in before? You see, at this moment when I felt that things were finally starting to go my way I was informed that my little brother and I would be sharing a bedroom together.

Well, that was just great.

I felt that my parents were intentionally ruining my life and trying to make me miserable. As a result, I blamed my little brother and thought all the more about just how much I disliked him; this in turn made me feel all the more miserable and sorry for myself.

After we’d shared a bedroom for some time, something else happened which changed our relationship forever. It all started late one night when I was getting ready to go to sleep. As I flopped down on my bed to read for a while, my little brother’s head appeared from the top bunk. Yancy—somewhat apprehensively—asked, “Would you read me a story tonight?”

As I made it blindingly clear before, I wanted as little to do with my brother as possible. However, if I were to read to him, I wouldn’t have to put up with his incessant chattering and questions—something he was well known for at bedtime.

I agreed, but it was more to shut him up than anything else.

That night I read to him from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I thought for sure that he would quickly become bored with the story, lose interest, and not ask for me to read to him again. You can imagine my surprise when he thanked me at the conclusion of several chapters. When he dropped off to sleep, I thought about how good it felt to read to him.

The next night the same thing happened, and even though I had homework, I put it off so I could read a few chapters to Yancy. He in turn expressed just as much gratitude as the night before.

After a few days of this, reading became our nightly ritual before bed, whether I had finished my homework or not. I would read until his eyes would become so heavy he couldn’t possibly keep them open any longer. Some nights when I stopped reading he would wake up, still groggy-eyed and beg, “No, please read just a little bit longer.”

We soon finished all of The Chronicles of Narnia and moved on to other books that I loved, such as James and the Giant Peach, and even a few stories I had written myself. It was from this small beginning that not only a love for literature was born, but a love between my brother and me.

The years have fled since those days, but the relationship that I share with my brother has only become stronger. He has been the greatest friend I’ve ever had, and we are closer today than at any other time in our lives. As I look back at the origins of our relationship—forged so many years ago—I realize that when I read to him, I was putting his needs before mine. It was by performing this simple act of service to my little brother, I came to appreciate him more as well.

I think back on that decision made so many years ago to have my little brother without my permission and realize the wisdom behind it. Like I said before, I knew that my brother would affect my life more than I could possibly imagine.

And so he has.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Pin It I woke beside my husband the other morning with the thought: I have lain beside this man for well over a third of my life. I have battled for my half of first a tiny double bed, and much, much later, our current queen. I have tussled over short sheets and blankets that drag the floor, and argued passionately over which pillow is truly whose. I have turned out the light before I was ready, and fallen asleep before he was. I have elbowed and nudged and rolled my eyes in sheer frustration to the music of clogged airways, but never once have I fled to the quiet of the sofa to escape it.

The only time I've ever done so is when he was really contagious.

A few days ago, Duane and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary. Separately, which is kind of strange, because I was in South Carolina visiting Mom and he was here in Virginia, working. But we did exchange some cute texts.

I luv u.
Luv u 2. Happy anniversary.
U2. Have good day.

I wasn't sure what to write for this post, exactly, or how best to approach it. I love that I have been married for fifteen years. If I were a career woman, I might look at that tenure and say...dang. I'm halfway there. I'm not looking at a retirement, though--quite the opposite. I guess it's somewhere around now that I look at where we came from, where we are now, and how we got here, and realize that I have everything I could ever really need or want in this man.

Humor. An amazing work ethic. A relationship with God. A passion for the outdoors. A passion for me and our children. Respect for others. Pragmatism. Patience.

I could go on, but this is not really an ode to Duane. It's rather a tribute to what it takes to make it work, and make it last. When we started dating at eighteen, and then married at twenty, Duane and I didn't know much more about love and marriage than "hey, this sounds fun...let's jump in feet first and see what we can make of it." Duane came armed with the solid example of his parents before him. I came armed with an example of what I never wanted my marriage to do. We both came armed with more stubbornness than perhaps was entirely good for us, some fairly good tempers, and thankfully forgiving hearts.

And so it went. We played house, we made mistakes. We hurt each others feelings. We made up, and we forgave each other. We had patience with each other as we learned each other.

We worked. (Not at the jobs...those were like pretend things compared to the job of marriage.) While all around us we saw other relationships becoming victim to Selfishness, Betrayal, and other Irreconciliable Differences, we dug in and continued doing whatever was necessary to shore ours up.

Fifteen seems so small compared with the example of some of the older couples I've known, who've managed upwards of forty together. I know, though, that health withstanding, we will be celebrating those milestones one day as well.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Virtual Romance

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My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company. Anne Eliot from Jane Austen’s Persuasion

I have to confess that I’ve become a little bit addicted to period drama’s lately. I’m sure this has to do with the pathetic lack of romance in my own life at present.

If memory serves, I do like actual personal one on one kind of romance and I do miss it sometimes. But I also have to admit that if I were confronted with the opportunity for an actual romance right now, I’d, first of all be just super surprised, but I also think I’d be pretty reluctant, reticent and frankly suspicious. That’s kind of sad to admit, but on this day - at this time in my life I think I have to say it’s the truth. I’m just not sure I’d be up for it unless the good Lord himself came down and gave me a sign.

Thus in lieu of the opportunity or serious desire for actual romance, I guess I’m opting for virtual romance – and virtual 19th century romance at that.

Now of course I’ve gone through pretty much every version of every Jane Austen novel committed to film. And then there are the novels of the Bronte Sisters (Toby Stephens in Jane Eyre - oh my heart!). And I recently discovered a wonderful 2004 BBC miniseries based on a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell called North & South. It’s not the U.S. Civil War miniseries from the 80’s. The BBC North & South is about a man from the Industrial North of England and a woman from the agrarian South. The lead is a British actor named Richard Armitage who I think I’d just like to follow around for a while just to hear him speak.

Playing the armchair psychologist for a bit, my feeling is that I gravitate towards these movies right now because they provide me with the companionship of ideal people in controlled gracious circumstances. The characters behave in ways I dream people ought to – including myself. These stories are made out of beautiful art that itself is pleasing and gratifying and, unlike real life, I don’t have to worry about how things are going to turn out because I already know that, after a little bit of trouble, thing will come out alright in the end. I hope to be braver, more open and more optimistic about actual romance in the future (although I'd still be super surprised). But for now when I watch Edward Ferrars propose to Elinor Dashwood or Anne Eliot reconcile with Captain Wentworth - for a little while I am not so lonely.

And seriously ladies – check out Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North & South – oh my heart!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This Girl Scouted Some Cookies

Pin It I somewhat fondly remember my days as a Brownie Girl Scout, going door to door in hopes of selling enough cookies to earn a ticket to the annual trip to Disneyland with my troop. I always emerged triumphant, often out-selling the rest of the girls and earning the coveted '400+ cookie sales' badge to proudly display on my sash.

The cost of Girl Scout Cookies has changed dramatically from the time I was selling them, which I suppose is expected. Now that I'm on the purchasing end I willingly shell out my cold, hard cash for a substantial stash of Samoas which I can ration out to myself until they are available for sale once again.

Okay, let's be honest... they never last longer than about two months.

Alright. One month.

FINE! They don't even last a week. And then I'm driving all around the neighborhood, pulling up to the Girl Scout Cookie tables in front of every grocery store and Stuff Mart in town, yelling out my window like a crazed lunatic, "HEY! GIRL SCOUT! PLEASE? DO YOU STILL HAVE ANY SAMOAS LEFT?!" in hopes that they haven't sold out.

Why, oh why do they only hold their cookie sale once a year? Also, what is it about buying them that makes me feel like I'm being conned into a "Once-a-year opportunity! Act now before they're gone!" sort of deal?

Well, Girl Scouts, I've got news for you. My days of stockpiling a stash of Girl Scout Cookies in the back of my freezer every year are over!

OVER, I say!!

Last week I was perusing the snack aisle at the grocery store when what to my wondering eyes should appear? Girl Scout Cookie knock-offs!

I thought it was too good to be true, but at the screaming deal of 3/$5, I couldn't resist a little taste test of my family's top 3 flavors. And guess what?

I am in love.

I would even go so far as to say that the store-bought knock-offs are better. More flavorful. And most importantly: available year-round.

Don't worry Girl Scouts, I'll still buy a couple of your boxes when you come knocking at my door once a year. I have too many memories of people saying no to me when I was in your shoes. But when you show up this year I won't have that crazed, sign-me-up-for-twenty-before-it's-too-late!! look in my eyes... because way in the back of the bottom shelf of my freezer, behind some freezer-burned venison and nestled inside an empty bag of mixed vegetables, my personal stash of elfin-made Coconut Dreams will be replenished and waiting for me.

Samoas, you have met your match.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Living Years

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When I turned five years old I got a really cool little puppy for my birthday. He was a half St. Bernard/half Golden Retriever mix (If you’ve ever seen the movie, ‘Beethoven’ you have a basic idea of just how big he really was). We decided to name him Grizzly Bear but we just called him Grizzly or Griz for short. He was a fantastic dog that I played with as a young boy and loved very much.

As the years trudged on and I became older, I began to play less and less with Grizzly. Though I didn’t seem to notice, as I got older, Grizzly did too. But no matter what, he was always there for me, even during a period of time where I pretty much ignored him because I had other things going on in my life. Unfortunately, as he got older he became and sick, and eventually couldn’t walk anymore, his fur was falling out, and he was in pain. We called the Vet who gave us the devastating news that Grizzly had simply grown too old and would need to be put to sleep.

I will never forget the day that the vet came out and gave Grizzly a shot that made him fall asleep. I remember knowing that once he fell asleep that he wouldn’t ever wake up again. As I watched from my bedroom window I thought of all the times I didn’t play with him. I was angry at myself for letting all that time go on and ignoring him until it was too late. We wrapped him in my favorite blanket, one that I’d had since I was four or five and buried him. I felt horrible inside, like I wanted to run and scream and hit something until the pain would go away. I had lost my best friend.

Isn’t it strange that so often we get caught up in life and don’t seem to truly notice our pets, friends, and sometimes even our family? One of the most terrible things that can happen is when we do not truly appreciate someone or something until they are gone. A group called “Mike and the Mechanics” came out with a song nearly twenty years ago entitled “The Living Years”; this song tells the story of a man who never really took the opportunity to tell his dad that he loved him. His dad dies and the man feels a hollow emptiness inside, wishing that he’d told his father how he’d always felt. In the end he basically expresses just how important it is for us to tell the people we love that we love them, while they are still here and so are we.

I guess my point is that it’s easy for us to create memories with others but so often we don’t. The TV set usually wins out over family conversation and long hours at work can consume a lifetime. When we, or a loved one are about to pass on from this life, will we have the right memories to take with us, or will it be reruns of our favorite television programs? I just hope that we can all think of experiences such as these in our lives and remember that the people around us won’t be around forever. In any moment of time they could suddenly be gone...would you have told them everything you’d have wanted to? Would you have spent the time with them, showing them how much you loved them? I think of this too and I realize in writing this that there are several people in my life that I really need to let know that I love them, to tell them that they are important to me, and that I haven’t forgotten them. Sometimes this can be hard when it feels that there is so much demanding our time in regards to school, work, and everyday life around us. It is my hope that we will all take the time to reach out while we are still in our “living years.”

Monday, August 2, 2010


Pin It Today was a travel day. After a couple of much needed weeks to decompress after trips to Tennessee, Virginia Beach, and a whirlwind Vacation Bible School, I was finally ready to make the trip down to South Carolina to see Mom. I awoke, finished packing and several hundred other details that needed attending to before we could get on the road, and then...we got on the road.

I love going to Mom's. Essentially I get to veg out while my laundry is done, my supper is cooked, and my kids are watched--guilt-free. I get to be mothered once again. You can't beat that.

I grew up here in Virginia, roughly ten or fifteen miles away from where I currently live. Every now and then I drive by my old house and marvel at both its familiarity and its strangeness. I look at the window and wonder if the room beyond is still pale yellow. When it was my bedroom, there was a print of late summer flowers that hung over the small leaning bookcase, and a desk where I did my homework and wrote my stories. I study the two pines that shelter the left side of the small ranch, curiously smaller now than they were when I stained my hands with sap playing princess and G.I. Jane.

I wonder what the lady of the house would say if I were to take a page from Miranda Lambert's playbook and knock on the door, once blue and now pale cream. "Ma'am...I know you don't know me from Adam, but this is the house that built me...if I could just come in...won't take nothing but a memory" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQYNM6SjD_o

My parents began their various journeys when I started college, finally ending up in Columbia, SC. At one point, since I had chosen to attend school in my hometown and did not live on campus, I was actually living with my husband's (then my boyfriend) family, because my family home had been sold. It was okay, though, because the one thing I learned very quickly was that home was wherever my parents ended up. It wasn't a structure. It wasn't a number on a mailbox. It wasn't a streetname.

It's a quilt on bed that somehow, hasn't changed in the past twenty years. It's the little tray of perfumes that rests on Mom's dresser. (In a moment of curiosity I once spilled an entire bottle of White Shoulders in the bathroom; after that, all perfume was moved to the top of the dresser.) It's the same comfy, falling apart easy chair that I love to sink into, first thing, when I arrive. It's a cabinet full of the same glasses that we used when we were all growing up under the same roof. I think sometimes about buying new drinking glasses for the folks, but then decide: nah. This hodgepodge, ruffian gang of hooligan glasses is all we need.

They're home.
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