Sunday, December 31, 2006

7 Things for 2007

Okay, let's see if I can come up with seven things I want to do next year.

1. Vastly improve my cooking skills. For some mere mortals, this would be a fairly easy task. But I have already mastered boiling water, making toast, and bechamel sauce. However, my knife skills are far from "Top Chef" quality. So I'd like to get the basic cuts (chiffonade, julienne, etc.) consistent and excellent. And I'd also like to make a really amazing turkey roulade for Thanksgiving.

2. Change jobs in an upward direction. 'Nuff said?

3. Help my church develop a religious education strategy for children with disabilities. I see other churches addressing the rise in autism diagnoses with special programs which welcome families with children with autism. We can do that. We can grow.

4. Be more present when I spend time with the kids. Being busy means being distracted. The kids deserve a mother who is dedicated to them and acts like it.

5. Do at least three catering gigs. The two I did this year went well. I can do even better next year.

6. Keep blogging.

7. Crud. This gets harder. There are several things I'd like to do better: singing, being a better wife, getting more exercise, increasing my community involvement....okay. I'd like to get an iPod or MP3 player for myself. That's the goal.

Not bad for 18 years....

I scored a 72% on the "How Memphis Are You?" Quizie! What about you?

6 things that happened in 2006

I figure now's a good time to look at the year and see what happened. These are in no particular order, but they're all things that made 2006 different from other years.

1. Didn't get the job I wanted. To be completely honest, this has never happened to me before. It was a crushing blow at the time, but it also taught me that I can recover from disappointment better than I thought I could.

2. Threw myself a spectacular birthday party. It was a milestone year (35) and I figured I was due. It was the best party I've ever thrown. Amazingly good time. And no pictures at all (I was way too busy being a hostess and I never asked anyone else to take pictures). If you missed it, you're in the minority, since it felt like every cool person in Memphis was in my house. It lasted a whopping eight (!!) hours. Great time.

3. Started blogging. Which has been great for disciplining myself to write. I feel like my writing is better than it was when I started, and I don't post about what I cooked for dinner anymore (unless it's amazing).

4. Grew my own food. Not exclusively, but more than I've ever done before. This has really been fun for the kids, and it's also caused my family to eat better. Whatever we weren't able to grow we tried to buy from the farmer's market (until October), and I got to plan meals around what was fresh and looked good instead of making the menu before we shopped. We didn't buy tomatoes from June to October (and beyond), we cook with fresh herbs, and I even got these from the garden today.

From plant pictures

5. Made some new friends. This is pretty crucial, because from 2001-2002, all my close friends in Memphis moved away or died. (Really.) It's been difficult at times, but things are coming around. I still can't claim that I have a really, really great friend in Memphis, but I do have some very good friends. And it will be fun to see which of those relationships deepen.

6. Built a patio! No, I didn't do it alone; the husband did most of the physical labor. But it's a project that we planned, started, and completed all within a month. And I did all the landscaping. Isn't it pretty?
From plant pictures

From plant pictures

From plant pictures

Friday, December 29, 2006


I'm frustrated with my digital camera. When I purchased it, it was for one reason only: to document the construction of our house. As a result, I bought a cheap model that is, well, lame.

The problem is that when it needs the flash, the focus is, well, unfocused. Meaning most of the pictures I take look fine in the camera's little display box, but when I upload them to the computer, they are fuzzy.

I was uploading pictures last night and was really frustrated that I had some really good shots that would have been great if they had been in focus. So I started playing with Picasa (which is brand! new! to! me!) and I think I made something neat.

From NTJ Concert

From NTJ Concert

From NTJ Concert

From NTJ Concert

But I also am hoping for suggestions on replacement cameras.

New Year's Resolutions, part 2

Or I could just let a robot make my resolutions for me.

In the year 2007 I resolve to:
Invade a small county.

Get your resolution here.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

New year's resolutions

I don't make New Year's Resolutions, as a rule. They are too often negative (like, "Stop smoking") or unrealistic (like, "Exercise every day") and seem to start from the assumption that life would magically improve so much more if only you could do a few things differently.

Most of my life's major changes were not at all determined by the calendar. Falling in love, getting married, getting pregnant, changing careers...not a one was influenced a bit by a New Year's resolution. But the changing of the year, especially since it happens so close to the Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus/Yule megaholiday, does seem to be an opportune moment to pause and reflect and think, "Now what?"

I realized one day, while walking home from work, that my life is very much the fantasy adulthood I dreamed of when I was about Susie's age. Married, a girl and a boy about two years apart, a cat, two dogs, great friends, a PINK house, wearing fun clothes....all the trappings that I expected and hoped for in a grown-up life. Of course, my nine-year-old self knew nothing about jobs (my mom stayed home until I was in high school), mortgages, life insurance, the expense of pet food, serving on multiple committees at church, balancing work, family, and community involvement, or the intensity of emotion that sharing life with a man and two children can inspire.

At nine, as best I can remember, I wanted to be a chemist (because test tubes and beakers were cool looking) or a concert pianist. High school chemistry pretty much beat that fantasy out of my head, and my interest in piano waned in my teens (although I did continue to study, and still do play). By the end of high school, I had considered the following careers with varying levels of seriousness:

  • Singer (nope....I'm simply not that good)
  • CIA agent (seriously!)
  • Translator (which pretty much came to a screeching halt when I transferred to a high school that did not offer German)
  • Missionary or minister (yep! I even looked at divinity schools)
  • Deaf eduator (a direct offshoot of missionary, since I participated in a summer mission trip working with kids with hearing impairments)
  • Art gallery owner
  • Art conservator
The final two happened last (after a very inspiring semester of "Humanities" class), so I studied art in college (once I realized how much chemistry was required to be a conservator, I moved more to the musuem management track).

Fast forward a bit.....after graduating college, I worked in local museums for four years. If I had decided to go on directly from my B.A. work into a Master's or Ph.D. program, I'd probably have a very different life. My academic interest at the time was feminist art. So if I'd taken a different fork, I'd probably be a college professor teaching art history and women's studies. Sounds like an interesting life. But it's not the one I've got.

During my museum career, the previous interest, in working with deaf children, started rearing its head. I did a bit more than half of the coursework to become certified as a Special Education teacher (and switching to emotional disorders), then tried my hand at teaching while I was still in the graduate program. Yikes! Perhaps it was because I was pregnant. Perhaps it was because I was still in school and had much to learn. Perhaps it was where I was teaching. At any rate, it didn't go well. Perhaps if I'd stuck it out, or at least finished the degree, my life would have been different. I might be teaching exceptional children locally, having all the same breaks as my children, never needing to think about what they'll do in the summer.

Near the end of the school year, I applied for an education position at my church. I got the job, and it was great for the first year, and even part of the second. In many ways, it was really the perfect job. But I had a baby, and got pregnant again, and found myself overwhelmed by the brain-drain of mothering and growing another life, and the situation deteriorated to the point that I needed to resign. And I did. Again, staying would have meant a different road. Quite possibly I would have found my feet again and recaptured the magic of the first year in that job. And life would be very, very different. (Especially because I changed churches afterward and can't really imagine my life now without my "new" church.)

So after baby #2, I stayed home for a few months but the economic reality was that I needed to work. Baby #2 did not think that was such a good idea, but we compromised: I worked four hours per day, five days per week. He could go exactly that long without nursing (never ever would accept a bottle...I expect he'll drink beer from a cup when he's in college). It wasn't much of a job (bank teller) and I was bored. But the benefits were great, and a promotion happened and I did find some fulfillment in my second position with the bank (in consumer sales). Another promotion to a different division was short-lived; the bank cut that department ten months after I transferred there, and my position was eliminated. Another fork: to stay with the bank, going back to a position that I had liked, but to a location that I dreaded? Or to take the severance package (which was ample) and try something else?

I tried something else, which has landed me where I am today, at a very well-known and respected non-profit organization. If I'd stayed at the bank, I would almost certainly have been promoted again. Maybe more than once. But I'm somewhere that I feel like I'm making a difference (not personally, but as part of a larger whole), and I commute merely two blocks (on foot!) each day. My job itself? So-so. But the knowledge that I'm NOT a tool of the man, not a cog in a horrible corporate machine? Is priceless.

So that's how I got this far. And there will be other forks in the road that will give me more opportunities to change direction or stay the course. I can't wait to see what's next.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

For Mom

Mom's table grace for Christmas dinner:

This Christmas

Mend a quarrel.
Seek out a forgotten friend.
Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust.
Write a love letter.
Share some treasure.
Give a soft answer.
Encourage youth.
Manifest your loyalty in word and deed.
Keep a promise.
Find the time.
Forego a grudge.
Apologize if you were wrong.
Try to understand.
Flout envy.
Examine your demands on others.
Think first of someone else.
Be kind, be gentle.
Laugh a little.
Laugh a little more.
Deserve confidence.
Take up arms against malice.
Decry complacency.
Express your gratitude.
Go to church.
Welcome a stranger.
Gladden the heart of a child.
Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth.
Speak your love.
Speak it again.
Speak it still once again.

Printed in the Kansas City Times and credited to McCall’s magazine about 1960.

From Holidays in M...

Holiday fun part two

I don't have pictures yet (hint, hint, Lil Bro), but will post the highlights of the holiday celebration.

Kids: got Heelys. Wow. That went over well. And MP3 players. Also a success. And a portable DVD player. Which made the twelve-hour drive from Michigan to Memphis much less irritating. Number of movies watched: two. Number of times Susie listened to "Twelve Days of Christmas" by the Muppets: 58. Number of times The Boy listened to the Grinch song: 63. Hours of NOT hearing "Are we there yet?": priceless.

Our haul: I gave the Husband an Ipod for his birthday. So for Christmas his gifts mostly followed that theme: speakers, car adapter, car charger. And a green sweater and a giftcard for a book retailer. I did quite well - the food processor that matches my mixer, a necklace and earrings set, a cookbook and a recipe organizer, and a beautiful diamond and pearl necklace (which doubles as a Mother's Necklace since the kids are June and April babies). And chap-stick, of course.

But the best part of the holiday wasn't the gifts. It was having time to reconnect with the family. Getting to know Lil Bro's Hot Blonde Girlfriend was fantastic. She brings out good things in him and smooths over some of his rough spots. They seem to have so much fun together. And the side-bonus was how well she and Susie got along. She may reach "Favorite Aunt" status without even being an official aunt. Of course, purple woolen removeable dreadlocks make for some great tween bonding opportunities!!

From New Year's Eve

After Christmas dinner, after sorting and consolidating the stuff and getting the kids and Grandma to bed, we four thirty-somethings were about to head back to the hotel but sat and talked with Mom and Dad for a while. That was nice. And then we went back to the hotel and realized that there was wine to drink that we hadn't even opened yet. So we drank it and had a wonderful time chatting, rehashing the weekend, and then watching an episode of Angel that The Husband and I hadn't seen (disclaimer: we hadn't seen any of that season....but will likely rectify that soon). And then the wine was gone but we realized that there was a whole CASE of wine in the car. No, we didn't drink the whole case, but we did get another bottle. Because we were just going to be traveling the next day and who cares if we had a little more? Fortunately none of us seemed any worse for the wear yesterday, and we all made it safely home.

And by 9 a.m. the children, at my direction, had unpacked their suitcases and put away many of their new toys and stuff. Susie has mostly figured out how to make her Heelys work, and The Boy has been playing Lego Star Wars 2 most of the day. There's definitely a grocery run in the works if we want to eat anything for dinner, but I anticipate a family game night getting started in a few hours.

Glad it only happens once a year, but it was definitely a good one.

Monday, December 25, 2006

My mother will have many rubies in her crown in heaven

My mom, bless her heart, is quite tolerant of the, er, quirkiness that her offspring display much of the time. This weekend, what with the rare convergence of all her descendants, has given her a run for her money.

A short, not even close to comprehensive list, of things we did that somehow made her laugh instead of smack us upside the head:

1. Various blasphemies, including:
And the Lord sent the angels unto them and did decree that from this day forward they shall commemorate the birth of our Lord Jesus with _______ (fill in the blank with a random action or item that is totally unrelated to the birth of Jesus, like "gifts of rubber ducks" or "copious drinking" or "chocolate fondue with marshmallows" or "gifts of miscellaneous electronics" and so on). That joke wore thin a couple of times, especially when the blank was filled with something patently offensive. But mostly she laughed.

2. Gift from Lil Bro's Hot Blonde Girlfriend to Susie: purple woolen dreads. But the best part? Matching dreads for Susie's American Girl doll. Because every little girl in the Great Depression really needed purple woolen dreadlocks.

3. Kids in Heelies in her kitchen. Nuff said.

4. I wore my pajamas to her house today for the opening of the gifts and Santa reveal.

5. Hangover? What hangover?

6. Did I mention that Susie's hair is pinkish-purple? Oh, and that The Boy has a mohawk? I thought so.

7. Many more inappropriate and frequently politically-incorrect comments about almost any topic.

I did remind her that she only has herself (and her husband, my darling father) to blame. After all, we're NOT adopted and they raised us.

Merry Christmas!

From Christmas Dec...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Holiday fun part one

Posting from the hotel in Michigan's exercise room. No, I'm not multi-tasking that effectively. I'm keeping The Husband company while he works his butt off on the treadmill. However, he's using his new Ipod (his birthday gift from me) and doesn't seem to need much company. I actually think I'm here because if two people are in here, another person is less likely to join him on the machines. So I'm here to psych people out and scare them away. Which, if you could see my hair right now, wouldn't be a stretch.

The family holiday visit is going well thus far, with the only glitch being that The Boy and Susie both have fevers again. The Boy radiated heat yesterday and I took his temperature....101.8. Susie followed suit later, at 100.7. We medicated them both and decided to carry on with our family's plan for the Best Christmas Gift Ever. Since the folks don't want gifts, my mother suggested that Lil Bro and I take the fam out to a fancy dinner. And we went last night. Oh. My. Heavens. Two and a half hours later, we waddled/staggered back out to the cold where the handsome man smartly gave our car keys to The Husband, as I had consumed enough wine to have become a cautionary tale.

The evening's highlights included watching my 98-year-old grandma's face as she realized that we were paying HOW MUCH for the privilege of COOKING OUR OWN FOOD? The biggest stress we had was worrying that somehow the check would find its way to her, which would have resulted in an immediate heart attack. (Although the drama of a heart attack easily could have created a chain of events that could have led up to a free meal.....hmmmmmmm....)

Susie held her own in the cheese course, keeping an impressively steady pace of stabbing bread or apples and dipping them in the molten cheese. The Boy was seated at the end of the table so had to stand to dip. I did have a moment of passing guilt as I saw that my dad was working very hard at coordinating the kids in their fondue efforts. But it passed. Something about all that cheese makes guilt not last long.

But it was the CHOCOLATE that was truly the super-prize of the evening. I was already way too full from my main course (shrimp and steak) so I chose to be a witness instead of a participant. The Boy was asleep by then (and doesn't really like chocolate anyway). The parents were also stuffed. So Susie, as well as Lil Bro and his Hot Blonde Girlfriend, sat in a row and ate melted chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers FLAM-fricking-BE. With cheesecake. Here's what they looked like:

More images of our evening are below and here:

Friday, December 22, 2006

Lil Bro

Watching how well Susie and The Boy get along is one of my favorite things about being a mom. I remember being a kid, living overseas in a gated compound with ten other families; my brother was the only other kid to play with most of the time. And we were great friends. Sure, we fought like most siblings, but we were always pretty tight. We had a lot of friends in common in the one year of high school in which we attended the same school - he even had a crush on my best friend for a minute or two. Since my kids also share many friends and attend the same school, will they have a close relationship as adults, too?

My brother (waving at lil bro) and I have a relationship that is very different from the relationship the Husband has with his sisters (and from the relationships I've seen in friends). While the Husband and his sisters remain in contact, say, once a month with some regularity (although the number of times he has called any member of his family in the past ten years can probably be counted on one person's fingers), my brother and I go in spurts. We'll talk A LOT for a month or two, then have almost no contact for six months or more.

I assume that our current "on again" phase was inspired by the impending holidays, and our family's extremely rare moment of "all together". The last time we were "all together" was in 1997. Susie was a six-month-old baby, The Husband had just finished his Master's degree, there was no Boy yet, and Lil Bro had never been married (although he was dating his first wife). It was a lovely holiday celebration, captured on my Dad's brand-new video camera. I had a great job that paid more than I had ever made, and I'm pretty sure that Lil Bro was in the same situation. My strongest emotional recollection of that holiday was, "Yes, this is how it was supposed to be. We have succeeded. All is well."

A few years later, however, there was upheaval. Lil Bro married shortly after The Boy was born, and divorced less than a year later. I quit my great job because I couldn't handle pregnancy, a toddler, and a job very well, and a newborn, a toddler, and a job were unimaginable. The Husband was teaching more and more classes.

A couple more years passed and Lil Bro met someone else. I had been working at a much less wonderful job (but it was what I needed to be doing....didn't go home with me and only required a little brain power since I was breastfeeding and that took half my intelligence away), The Husband continued to teach. Lil Bro's job was becoming less great by the minute. Months passed, then another wedding.

In 2004 it all hit the fan. I was jacked up on a lot of prednisone because I had just had my thyroid gland nuked to high hell, visiting the family in Michigan (with the kids, but not the husband). I was grumpy and hungry and being the evil version of myself. Lil Bro was miserable in his job and in his marriage. We had cross words followed by tears. Just hours after I left to return to Memphis, all hell broke loose. Lil Bro, in a brave and reckless and necessary move, quit his job and his marriage ended. Just like that. The last time I saw him was Thanksgiving weekend 2004. I was about to start a new job (the one I have now) and his life was pretty uncertain. Newly-divorced, trying to make a living freelancing. I worried about him.

Fortunately, this story has a pretty happy ending so far. He left Michigan after many months of distance-dating a woman in Chicago, who is coming to Michigan for Christmas (and for this big sister to check out the new woman in my brother's life). He's got a great job. And he called me last night, so excited about the holiday. It was so cool (and yes, so cute) to hear him say, "I don't think I'm going to be able to sleep tonight; I'm so excited to get on that train tomorrow!" I told The Husband about the conversation and even he was touched to hear about my brother's excitement. So be patient, Lil Bro. We'll be there in less than 24 hours. And we can totally make stupid jokes all weekend. I'm excited too.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


The kids are better - hooray! Just in time to go to school one day for their holiday parties. They were really sweet this morning, and obviously happy to be back to normal.

Their illness also made my very, very busy week a lot less so. I was supposed to attend a party Monday night, but that's when their fever started and I figured choosing a party over sick kids would suggest that I was, er, a bit too cavalier about my children's health and well-being. My Tuesday volunteer commitment was too important to skip, and it ended fairly early (6 p.m.) anyway. Yesterday was Girl Scouts, so that, of course, was missed. And my event scheduled for this evening was canceled due to the hostess being sick (I promise, she didn't get it from my kids!).

Add to the calm week the fact that THE BOY STAYED IN HIS BED ALL NIGHT OH MY HEAVENS and you get a fairly well-rested blogger.

Who will drive all night tomorrow night to visit the ancestral home.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

So tired

Another night with the human radiator has left me completely useless. The kids are still running fever, which means no field trip today for Susie, and no girl scouts tonight. She's heartbroken. I wish I could just snap my fingers and make everything okay, but I can't.

Since my work area is slated to begin renovation next week (!!), I am smack dab in the face with a drop-dead deadline. Office must be packed by 9 a.m. tomorrow. Period. Doesn't matter that we have meetings and department parties and the like today. I generally manage my workflow pretty well, so I'm hoping to not wind up staying late to finish today. Because I really want to go to bed very very very early so I'll be fully rested by the time human radiator visits the bed.

Did I mention that he's wiggly? And that he doesn't sleep? Just thrashes around? Yeah.

My parents' Christmas card arrived, which means that my mom's holiday letter also arrived. As the only good, recent, digital picture of the children was of the first day of school, she included a paragraph disclaiming the Boy's haircut. I love that she says that parents who let their kids have mohawks have nice kids. Especially because I was trying to get that point across to her twenty years ago. So see, teenagers? Your parents are listening.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The human radiator

I was awakened at an unknown time this morning by a very warm little Boy who was insistenly stage-whispering, "Mom! Mom!" while standing next to my bed. Yes, the kids spiked a fever yesterday afternoon, but even in his compromised state (read: 102.5 degrees Farenheit), he remains polite, not just climbing into my bed, but waiting for the invitiation.

Needless to say, I got very little sleep. What with the Husband on one side and the very toasty Boy on the other, and the little dog up there somewhere, I was very warm and crowded.

Interesting how the same bug (almost certainly a virus) manifests so differently for the kids. Susie gets achy and whiny and her stomach bothers her when she's sick. Her fever tipoff? Headache and really tired. The Boy gets a croupy cough and gets really annoying. His fever tipoff? Hot skin.

So they're all dosed up with motrin and tylenol and hanging out in their pajamas and watching tv and playing video games. The Husband looks on and hydrates them.

Sad part is how many times I took my temperature, hoping for a triple-digit number so I could join them.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I wanna live forever....I wanna learn how to fly!

At Susie's school holiday program last night, I learned a couple of interesting things.

Susie has undergone some major personality changes in the last few years. In first grade, when I asked her if she wanted to take ballet, she vehemently told me that no she did not because she did not want to perform in front of people. Now, I'm a complete sucker for little girls in ballet outfits zipping around a stage, and I really, really wanted my little darling to do that. So I tried to convince her: "But sweetie, you sing in the children's choir at church...and that's performing in front of people..." She's no dummy. She had an answer: "But I know all those people at church. It's not the same. I'm shy." And I dropped it. She's always been a child who knows her limits, actual or self-created. (A trait that will hopefully serve her well in her teen years.)

Fast-forward a couple of years, and suddenly she's not only okay with performing in front of strangers, she's actually happy about it. She's performed very well at piano recitals, appearing composed and not choking if she made a mistake in the song. When she was invited to join the school's chorus, she was really excited. Part of that excitement stems from her efforts to be a more responsible, more mature version of her mother. (Yes, you read it right.) Mom sings, and now Susie sings. All is well in the world. And last night, all was most definitely well in the world. She was great - played a xylophone and though I could tell when she goofed, she stayed focused and didn't panic, and sang the songs just fine - due in part to much much much preparation, both at school and at home. (And, by the way....a major plug for Orff music programs....what they're doing in my kids' schools is so much more interesting and challenging than the music programs of my childhood. And all this talk of arts programs being cut is not an issue in our school - we have three regular music teachers, then also a strings teacher and a piano teacher. So there's a point in favor of Memphis City Schools.)

But also at this program, in which The Boy was not a participant but an audience member (and a seasoned one at that: the students had already seen the program earlier that day), I learned that The Boy is beginning to want to open his wings on the stage too. When he was very little (three years old) he wanted to sing in the children's choir at church (probably because his sister was participating), which was open to children from kindergarten to sixth grade. Our minister at the time had grandchildren about the same ages as my kids, so she really couldn't say no to a cherubic little blonde boy whose hair looked like the Campbell's soup kid. Even if he was too little to sing the songs correctly.

Within a couple of years, the Boy was no longer interested in children's choir. (Which really hurt my feelings because he's got a really pretty voice.) But in the past six months, he has expressed interest in a local Boy's Choir and in a larger children's choir. (Our church no longer has a children's choir because the minister who was the director of it has retired.) And last night, as we watched the school's modern dance group perform (I'd call it more like hip hop dance), he told me that he'd like to join that group. There's one boy in the group and the Boy took Karate with him last year and has pronounced him "nice." He also said he'd like to participate in the after school acting program. And then said, "I just want to perform!"

Last year, his grandparents gave him a book by Jay Leno, "How to Be the Funniest Kid in the Whole Wide World." He leafed through it a bit, but it got put on the bookshelf and not looked at again until close to this past Thanksgiving. And now he's all about telling jokes and funny stories. And, honestly, he's funny. His delivery is really good, and he makes up some really wacky material. He does the little quote marks in the air gesture in random moments, and it works. He isn't a class clown type kid - in fact, he's very serious at school - but he may really have a knack for comedy.

So our job now is to figure out how to proceed with this one. Susie is obviously interested in the world of music, which is a path I know very well from years and years and years of piano and choir. The Boy, however, has shown promise in music and now acting and is interested in dance. Too bad that school from "Fame" isn't here and available for second grade!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pajama Night: A Complete Success

I got home from work yesterday and told The Husband my intentions: walk the dogs, put on pajamas, help Susie finish her school project (which is suspiciously similar to this project - I guess her teacher has learned about Google), make dinner, watch TV with family while snuggling on the couch. Check, check, check, check, and check. What I didn't mention, because how would I know? Receive massage from children while eating the chocolate I got at the secret Santa exchange at my church board meeting. I swear to God. It happened. One kid rubbed my right leg and foot and the other had the left, then they switched and worked on my back and shoulders. All while watching our third-favorite game show, "Show Me The Money." Nice. All that was missing was a cocktail. Next time, kids, okay? Because you're slackers - I could totally mix a gin and tonic by the time I was seven. Oh and dinner? Funny boy, that son of mine. He shrieked (really!) about how he didn't want any of the beans. Then he loved them. Weirdo. Culinary secret revealed: Kroger Rotisserie Chicken Seasoning. Makes beans and greens delicious.

And I leave you with this frightening image, which was posted on our corporate website for a committee on which I serve. I don't really know why I'm sharing it except for total masochism, because I really really think it's not a great picture. But I am wearing my princess crown earrings, which makes it a little better.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I need a pajama night!

Y'know what? All this meetings and rehearsals and concerts in the evening thing? Has a result: I miss my kids. Even on the weekend, when we should have loads of time together, we've all been busy.

One of my favorite memories of 2006 is New Year's Day. We had had a few people over the night before and three of them spent the night (because home was a 45-minute drive and I don't like the thought of my friends being in car accidents). So we got up in the morning and I made breakfast (yay for chorizo sausage!) and they went on their way. I hadn't changed out of my pajamas at that point, and I didn't all day. The kids drifted downstairs (also in jammies) and we snuggled on the couch under blankets and drank cocoa and ate comfort food and watched "Mythbusters" on TV for hours and hours.

The Husband, in general, does not favor "Pajama Day" as a family activity, arguing that it's not an activity, just wearing pajamas. I, however, find that "Pajama Time" (whether just an evening or an entire day) is very much a family activity. When the kids and I haven't had time in the week to really connect (which, for my daughter, entails rubbing my arm a lot while snuggling....for The Boy, it's just the snuggling...he never took on the arm rubbing as a pastime), we look forward to Pajama Time. Because we know that means we'll stop rushing around and just be together. Sure, we may watch television or movies, but we may be in the kitchen making something sweet and cheesy and comforting. Or we may play with the dogs. But the important part? We're together and that's what we're focused on.

And I've eyeballed my calendar. It appears that tonight and next Thursday are the two opportunities for pajama time. (And next Thursday? When I'm packing? To go to Michigan? My kids are much more likely to be victims of child abuse than to bask in the family glow that is Pajama Night.) (Not that I'd ever really abuse them, but the possibility of pajama time when packing is, well, not.)

So guess what I'm wearing tonight?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Old People

Two interesting facts, both concerning old people.

1. My grandmother turns 98 today. That's very old. And I'll see her in ten days, approximately.

2. The oldest person in the world died yesterday. She lived here in Memphis. And one of my co-workers is her great-granddaughter. She was 116 years old.

If my grandmother lives to be 116, I'll be 53 years old when she dies. My kids will be 27 and 25. Which would mean she possibly would live to see her great-great-grandchildren.

However, if that happens I'd be dead at 53 just from the shock of having seen my grandmother turn 116. Holy cow. That's old.


Last night, the worst happened.

(Wow, what a great beginning! Don't you just want to keep reading and find out what was so horrible? Here it comes!)

We're pretty much done with our holiday shopping. A few of the gifts were sent directly from the online merchant to my parents' house, so to leave us as unburdoned as possible for the long drive. (And because my mom is so cool that she wraps without me asking!) (Thanks, Mom!) But the balance of the gifts were lurking in the dark recesses of my closet until last night. When I removed them to make sure we hadn't missed something or the kids were uneven or something horrible. Also, I needed to wrap. (Mom, don't you want to come for a quick weekend? Pretty please? I'll cook!)

Before the wrapping and during the evaluating, with The Husband in the room, what to our wondering eyes should appear but THE BOY!!!! Oh! My! God! The! Boy! Saw! Everything! Every single present (except one that is big and still in the closet since it's for both of them) was laid out lovingly all over my bed and the floor nearby. The Husband panicked and yelped and The Boy ran.

After trying to convince myself that (a) he probably didn't really see much and (b) he didn't have his glasses on and (c) who cares anyway?, I went upstairs to do damage control. Because that's what I do.

The Boy was in his bed, crying. He knew what had happened, and he didn't want that to happen. I asked him what he saw, and he told me that he didn't see any of it clearly but maybe he had detected a board game (there *is* a board game in the mix, but he could not have seen it because it was under something...which means he didn't correctly identify something entirely different). I assume he's telling the truth. Much of the stuff is small, and even the big stuff is not necessarily easy to recognize without glasses. At last I hope.

Did I finish wrapping? Um, no. I got really tired of it. I did slog through and get my kids' and The Husband's gifts wrapped. And the gifts for my family. And a little of his family. But there's still a big bag of gifts for his family that need to be wrapped, and still a wee bit of shopping to be done.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Weekend redux

The concert was great! We sang quite well and the audience enjoyed it. One piece in particular, a very modern setting of Blake's poem "Little Lamb" was really quite spectacular - and being part of a group in which everyone is singing it right and well and we're all one sound together - it's hard to explain how that qualifies (to me) as a spiritual experience. But it was.

Speaking of spiritual experiences, Dana's memorial service on Saturday was amazing. The service was spot-on. Our minister, who is young and new and everything that would make one a bit nervous as to how he would handle his first memorial service at our church, especially for someone who was such a central member of the congregation, did an incredible job. His eulogy of her was insightful, sensitive, and really captured her essence. The hymns were appropriate; the choir's anthem was a song Dana liked.

On being a church lady

When I was a kid, my mom was a "church lady" in the best sense of the term. She was active and involved and had her hand in much of what happened at church. As a result, I saw a lot of the "behind the scenes" things at church, and that stuck with me. What stuck most was those images of women working together, whether serving food or making crafts or wrangling children. Those tasks that traditionally are in the world of women.

More than half a year ago, the eldest member of our church died after a few months of poor health. His death was not a tragedy nor was it a surprise. His memorial service was, truth be told, a wonderfully fun tribute to a remarkable individual. After the service, I headed to the kitchen to help bring out the food and drinks that a small committee had organized. My involvement in this operation was marginal, but it reminded me of those days as a child, watching the women work. And I realized that now I was one of those women. That's one of those moments in which it clicks that I'm a "real" adult now. (You'd think having two kids would have done that, but not really.)

At Dana's service, there were more women, more tears, and more food. And I was more involved. The kitchen (and the classroom next door) was the location of an intricate ballet, danced by women who loved Dana. Each of us shared at least that in common. But there was so much more going on than just arranging food on platters or mulling cider. There was a feeling of support, of "it's all right to cry", of being in this together, with each woman being able to pull away for a moment, with nobody being overwhelmed with the task. The task of caring for each other as well as for our church community and the larger community of people who cared about Dana or her family, was holy. A husband came into the kitchen for a moment, and I saw him watching us, in our silent dance. He noticed that there was something special happening. "It's like being backstage at a magic show," he said, lightly. He got smiles.

The next day, back at church, back in that same kitchen, with several of the same women, the moment was different. We were just taking care of the monthly potluck. Nothing special. But I mentioned how sacred the same task had felt the previous day to a couple of the women, and they both "got" it. They understood that feeling that really evades the spoken (or written) word. That feeling for which there are no words.

Friday, December 08, 2006


That's what I am today. This week. Hopefully not, but it seems like this month. The holidays get much of the blame. More parties, concerts, school events than normal, shoved into three weeks. Add a couple of birthdays and upheaval at work (nothing bad, just upheaval in general caused by moving offices due to construction), and you've got an overbooked blogger.

This time last year I was actively taking things off my plate. Because I knew how overbooked I was and it was really starting to wear me down. I had also stepped away from one commitment that I really enjoyed and I was feeling resentful about that. So I reconfigured my extracurricular activities and made something that works.

And now? It mostly works. Until November and December. When I have to choose whether to attend all the meetings, rehearsals, events, parties, concerts to which I'm invited, either to enjoy or to participate, or to spend time with my family. And most of the time I really want to do both!

Which meant that yesterday my husband picked me up on the way to pick up The Boy from school and the three of us went for coffee until it was time to pick up Susie from piano. Time spent with son = 1 hour. Time spent with Susie = how long it took to drive home (about five minutes). As soon as we got home she got on the phone with the other girls in her Science Fair group. I got a hug from her but that was it - and I was out the door headed to dress rehearsal, to return after everyone in the house was asleep.

Sure, that means I didn't get much time with the Husband either. But he gets seven or eight uninterrupted hours of physical contact (or at least proximity) while we're sleeping and I know that makes a difference in our marriage. (Because we slept apart for almost five years due to his sleep apnea and my inability to sleep through any noise at all.)

So this week, at least, everyone except my family has gotten the best of me. Work, clients, church friends, singers, and even neighbors. My family's gotten me in the morning (which isn't bad, just rushing) and for a few minutes here and there.

I'm really looking forward to a nice lazy Sunday afternoon. I think we all need it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Because I'm A Tard

Ugh, so politically incorrect!


So after I got home yesterday I walked the dogs. And I noticed that nobody else in my family had brought the trash and recycle bins back to their home behind the house (yesterday was trash collection day, nearly a holiday in Memphis because of 1968 and the only real reason we're famous other than Elvis) (that was an amazing sentence). And I did what any normal person would do. I put the dogs inside and went to the curb to get the garbage cans, lugged them up the stairs to our house, then did a double-take. The strip of lawn between the sidewalk and the curb had been OVERTAKEN with clover. And the clover was deep and luxurious and really effing inappropriate for our house, so lovingly decorated for the holidays.

This is where things go a little nutty. (Keep in mind the course of events: arrive home from work, walk dogs, lug garbage cans.) (Notice I never mention "Change into casual clothes.") I go to the back of the house, where our storage room is, and get the weed-eater. Which is a little broken, so I have to hold it together. And I weed-eat the clover. Which doesn't seem too insane, except it was 40 degrees, I'm wearing my work clothes, and oh, did I mention that it was DARK outside?

Yep. I'm a tard. And also? Busted by two neighbors. And my kids even came outside to watch mommy go completely bat$hit.

And I'm off to post on the new blog that the Husband and I have started.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sorry about yesterday

It's not cool to post something that is destined to be awful and boring. (Which is probably a good reason to just remove this entire blog.) (But no.)

Last night I learned that I made a tactical error in our holiday plans. We're driving (in a rented car) (because both our cars are aging) to a state that borders Canada. So far so good. Since my wonderful parents are caring for my grandmother (who turns 98 next week!) they don't have a guest room anymore. So the kids will stay at their house and the Husband and I, along with my brother and his girlfriend (which is such a stupid word to use when we're all over 30 and they live in the same apartment, presumably sleeping in the same bed), will stay in a hotel suite nearby.

Did you notice the tactical error?

My darling mother, before making the arrangements, asked my brother and me what we'd prefer: two separate rooms or a big suite. I haven't seen my brother in over two years, and I've never met his "friend". Two rooms could possibly be quite far apart. And I don't want to run around a hotel in my pajamas. (Because I'm 35, for God's sake!) So my brother took the incredibly smart road of saying "Whatever." (Why can't I do that, like EVER?!?) But I voted. Yes indeed. I voted for a suite. A suite with a bedroom containing a king-sized bed and a living room with a fold-out bed.

The husband learned of these plans yesterday and now has further evidence that I'm at best unstable. At worst trying to ruin his life. Because a door? Is not nearly enough privacy. And sharing a bathroom? I kept telling him about the kitchen and the minibar, but he was not hearing it.

But at least he didn't insist on changing the reservation.

So brother, if you're reading this, we call DIBS on the king sized bed. And first in the shower!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

This one's going to be boring

Because I really don't have anything to say. Life has not significantly changed since yesterday. So I suck and am leaving you with this.

Have a lovely day.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Only 21 days left

I'm delighted to announce that I'm almost done with my holiday shopping. Still a few little odds and ends left to purchase, but we're in good shape at this point. Wrapping? Um. No. Haven't started that.

The weekend was one of those, "What the hell just happened?" kinds of weekends. I received word on Friday that a woman at church (a fond acquaintance? is that a legitimate term?) who had been battling ovarian cancer had stopped treatment and begun hospice. Which was a surprise to me because (a) I'm not in her inner circle and (b) I'm totally not at all observent and thought she was doing okay. Saturday I learned that things were expected to progress quickly. As I got ready for church on Sunday, my sweet husband, who knew that church would be emotional at best, made me promise that we would go shopping after church. Because I would need to promise in advance to do something like that or I'd wind up sitting home crying on the couch and drinking too much wine. (Unlike me, he's not a bit unobservant and has a clue much of the time.)

Turns out that "things will likely progress quickly" was the understatement of the year. Dana died Saturday morning (I learned at church). So there was much crying at church by me and by lots of other people. But I kept my promise and zoomed home to take the kids for a playdate and then we shopped.

And we accomplished much! Susie? Done. Nephews and niece? Done. The Boy? Done. My mother? Done. (And I had already completed shopping for the Husband.) That leaves my dad (which I've already selected, just have to purchase), the mother-in-law and her husband, the sisters-in-law (one I already know what to buy, just need to run over and buy it, the other shouldn't be too hard...), the husband of one sister-in-law (again, should be easy), and my brother and his girlfriend. And I think I know what I'm getting her. And now that it's all written down that sounds like a pantload of shopping left to do. Crud. I thought I was almost done.

Concert is Friday. Thank goodness. The last two weeks of rehearsals have been tiring and not very fun and I'm honestly sick of the music - this is the first concert that I've been indifferent (or worse) about the majority of the music. I like about three pieces, but I only love love love one piece. Usually the music for these concerts haunts me for weeks and months and sometimes years after the concert. I don't think this one will. It just doesn't thrill me. But come anyway. Taste is in the mouth of the beholder, right?

I sound much grumpier than I am. Really. I'm in a pretty good mood. Honest.

Friday, December 01, 2006

How cool is this?

Most of the time, it would appear, I'm female. But not always.