Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's All Good

I have been in a whirlwind of activity since my last posting. It is all good.

Last Friday I took the day off. In the morning I walked in the robing ceremony for Texas Wesleyan. We got to choose a professor who showed support during our college journey. I chose Dr Lisa Hensley. Dr Hensley is an undergrad psych professor who taught our graduate lifespan development course. That was my first semester in grad school, and she was tough! She showed me a particular kindness that semester, a kindness I will never forget. She treated me like a human being during a very trying time. She modeled good counseling behavior.

In the evening I walked in the commencement exercises. It was all kinds of special to sit with my counseling compadres. The speaker said that he has never remembered a single commencement speech. Then he proceeded to make all the graduates stand up and do the hokey pokey. I can honestly say that I will remember his commencement speech.

My beautiful sister, Diane, and her husband and son were in town for graduation. I was thrilled that they were able to attend. They gave me a gorgeous angel from the Jim Shores Heartwood Creek collection. (I love that stuff - I have two Tinkerbells from his collection on my desk at work.) It stands about two feet tall! I was really touched by their generosity. I received other graduation gifts in the mail as well, although I certainly didn't expect any. Can't believe how loved I am!

Saturday was a choir concert for the Not-So-Little One and a dress rehearsal for the chancel choir. Both were a big success. Between Sunday morning services and the Christmas cantata, my North Texas family threw me a graduation party. I got to see some old friends and introduce them to some new ones. And - more presents. Again, who knew I was so loved?!

The cantata was everything I had hoped for. The youth who performed the speaking parts were terrific. The choir sang its best ever. I got two remarkable comments: from a 90-year-old woman, "I was able to hear and understand every single word," and from the sound man, "It takes a very talented director and teacher to make 8 people sound like 30." I was very pleased. And I was so glad it was over!

Yesterday I watched my employee and close friend BB be recognized with his peers as an Employee of the Year at our agency. The 10 of them are being sent on a cruise. I was very proud of him. It is unlikely that I will ever be bestowed such a distinction, but I don't mind. My gift to the agency is my ability to hire well. The staff I have hired over the years have always performed well, represented the agency well, and made me look very good. That is gratifying to me.

Mikel and the girls and I are heading south in the motorhome next week, and I will not have access to the internet. So don't be surprised not to hear from me for a couple of weeks. I will update when we get back. If I know my girls, there will be plenty of fodder for a humorous post.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, my loves. May you receive your every hearts' desires and begin your new year in peace, grace, faith, and love.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Left Out

You have these two friends. You love them dearly. One of them you have known for years and the other is new and shiny. One day you all find yourselves in the same place at the same time, and your two friends get to know one another. Sometime later you realize that they have really gotten know one another well. They spend time together chatting and laughing - without you. They confide in one another - not in you. They start to hang out together - without you. They do stuff together - stuff that you aren't good at. They have a lot in common - things they do not have in common with you. They are younger and hipper and smarter than you, and their conversations seem out of your reach at times. They seem really happy when they are around one another. And you find that you are not feeling so happy at all.

You know that you should be happy that you were instrumental in helping two people find one another, that you brought two people together in friendship. After all, one cannot have too many friends. You know that a mature and healthy individual would either find a way to join in the fun or wish them well and move on. Instead you hang back and feel like a third wheel. You feel left out.

You're not sure which is worse - feeling like your long time companion has replaced you with a new toy or feeling like your new friend has already grown bored with you. At times you regret ever introducing them. You are reminded of all the times you weren't interesting enough or pretty enough or smart enough or funny enough. Of all the times you just weren't enough.

It's no one's fault, really. No one can help who they like. No one means for this sort of thing to happen. You can't say anything to anyone, because then you would be acting like a baby. No one likes it when grownups act like babies. So you give in to jealousy and resentment and loneliness. You keep it to yourself and hope that it will pass soon. And you vow to keep all of your friends away from one another from now on.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bernie

I promised a story about our former Christmas tree.

We adopted an artificial tree from my sister several years ago, and we enjoyed it very much. One year I asked Mikel to wrap lights around every branch so that there would be lots of twinkling white to reflect off the glass ornaments. He was a real trooper - he wound and rewound lights until every branch was covered. His arms were bloodied from the branches, but he managed to keep the cursing to a bare minimum. I was delighted with the results.

When it came time to put away the Christmas decorations, Mikel decided that he didn't want to repeat the lighting process, so he laid the tree on its side on the floor and wrapped it up with a white sheet and rope. I helped him carry it up to the attic to store until the next year. Something about it amused me, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Until the following December.

December came back around, and Mikel emerged from the attic with what looked like a shrouded corpse on his shoulder, ends bobbing as he descended the staircase. I was struck with a serious case of the giggles. It was the cadaver from that crazy movie Weekend at Bernie's! We took to calling the tree Bernie, and he resided in the attic for years, appearing like the Ghost of Christmas Presents.

Bernie began to go bald last year, leaving more needles on the carpet than any cut tree ever did. Unlike my favorite scene from the film, we didn't have a green plastic toupee to staple onto the top, so we lovingly set Bernie out at the curb in hopes he would find a new family to care for him. He did. We miss him and wish him well. His replacement came home in a box.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Brain Dead

It is a busy time of year for everyone. Here's what I have on the agenda:
  • sing at a funeral
  • finish Christmas decorations
  • finish Christmas shopping*
  • send Christmas cards
  • RSVP to Christmas parties
  • attend my daughters' dance performances
  • attend my daughter's choir concerts
  • finish and teach choreography for Children's' Choir Christmas program
  • design and print programs for Children's Choir Christmas program
  • design and print programs for Chancel Choir Christmas Cantata
  • direct rehearsals for above Christmas programs
  • direct above Christmas programs
  • attend Robing Ceremony and Graduation Ceremony!!!
  • attend party in my honor (how cool is that?)
  • study for the board exam
  • see clients
  • lead group
  • schedule voice students for after holiday
  • shop for a baby shower
  • practice solo for chapel and for Christmas Eve
  • pack for trip

Here's what I'd like to get done but most likely won't:

  • sewing my daughters' Christmas dresses (sorry, girls!)
  • wrapping gifts - Mikel does that, and he is great at it!
  • cooking
  • getting the dogs groomed
  • seeing The Nutcracker
  • sleeping

* A story about Christmas shopping. We went to the toy store. We listened to a really knowledgeable fellow talk for 40 minutes about video games, about which we know literally nothing. We had hoped to avoid ever having to know anything about video games, but alas our daughters have other ideas. We weren't able to make a decision at that moment, so we thanked the fellow and walked away while he warned us that we had better make a purchase before December 1st or everything would be sold out. (He wasn't kidding. We have since made a purchase, but it took some searching.)

Then we walked over to the Thomas the Tank Engine section of the store to pick out something for my nephew. I expected a couple of shelves of cutesy blue trains and some track. In the name of all that is good and Holy! Do you know how much Thomas the Tank Engine stuff there is? Have you seen the choices, the variety, the sizes, the colors, the prices?! It took us 30 minutes to choose something, and as we walked away we said to one another, "Well, I guess his parents will hate us for starting this madness...."

After that, we went to buy a Christmas tree. (I will post another entry about our old tree soon.) For the love of doughnuts! Have you seen how many different types of artificial trees there are? Did you know they are rated by number of points, number of lights, life-expectancy of wiring, color, type of material used? It's no longer just height and width anymore, folks. We chose a beautiful 7.5' blue spruce wannabe. The cats think it is delicious.

And everything I said in the above two paragraphs applies to bicycles, too, by the way. Great God in Heaven! Have you shopped for bicycles lately? The colors, the wheel size, the components, the materials used, the accessories... I suppose it all matters to someone, but I dreamed of Thomas and his friends on bicycles weaving through forests of brightly lit trees while shooting at aliens with ray guns.... Okay, okay, not really...............

I could barely remember my name the next morning. I'm pretty sure I've suffered an aneurysm.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Giving Thanks

(Okay, mysterious Portuguese reader, here is an update...)

We spent the Thanksgiving weekend with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew at the Whining Bull Ranch in Baird, TX. Dad and Pansy came for a little while, but concern over the weather found them heading home early. All in all the weekend was totally uneventful - which is exactly the way I hoped it would be. We didn't venture out much. Too cold and wet.

We did the usual Thanksgiving stuff. We ate. We talked. We ate. We watched football. We sat around like bums while the kids entertained one another. The women watched the men take over the kids' video games. We ate. We napped. We gossiped. We fought over the last of the dessert.

We did a few things that are not so usual for us. We watched snow fall in November. We fed cows. We worried over one of the ranch cats that returned from her walk-about with a terrible bite wound. We marveled at how well-behaved the children where while being couped up in the house for days straight.

And we went to see a movie. That's not the unusual part. While we were at the mall waiting for the flick to start, we watched a guy dressed like Captain Jack Sparrow stagger around and let kids choose treats from his treasure chest while their parents selected "angels" from the Salvation Army Angel Tree. It was all kinds of messed up. I searched the memory banks for the Legend of the Christmas Pirate, but I came up with nothing.

I remember that one year my girlfriend Melinda received a pirate Christmas ornament from a buddy. We got a good chuckle out of it then. But now I feel like I have been missing out on some really important swashbuckling holiday lore. Would someone please fill me in?

Sis tells me that my nephew has been lamenting the departure of his cousins with the following wail - "Kids are GONE!"

I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing holiday weekend. And I also hope everyone gained more weight than I did. You'll need the energy reserves to get you through the Christmas rush, of course.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Party Time

The Little One celebrated her 9th birthday at the skating rink. The kids had a great time, and the staff at the rink were fantastic. The young lady that served as our hostess was friendly, helpful, patient, and professional. Who says young people have gone to the dogs? (Well, no one says it exactly like THAT, but you know what I mean.)

After most of the other parents left the rink, I did the unthinkable. I got some skates and took to the floor. Back in the day (I'm not saying which day), I was pretty good on wheels. My best bud, Sherry, and I spent at least two nights a week at the local rink, showing off and meeting boys, not necessarily in that order. We even snuck (or is it sneaked?) our skates into the school building on the last day of our senior year, skipped out of our least favorite class (government, of course), and skated up and down the halls until we got caught and sent back to class. We were actually terrific students with flawless records, so we did not get into trouble. We were a little disappointed...

Anyway, let me say that skating is not like riding a bike. It does not come back naturally to you after years (and I mean years) of inactivity. It takes several l-o-o-o-n-g unnerving moments of wobbling and flailing and screaming like a girl before you feel any semblance of control. And even then you can be going along pretty confidently until suddenly, for no apparent reason, you just start to fall down. And then there are those annoying little kids that go flying past you with no regard to your safety or pride. I only fell once, and it was not spectacular at all. And no one had a camera trained on me at the moment. Ha!

The event was a success. Yeah, yeah, sure - the kids had a good time, and the Little One got a load of cool gifts. But the real success is measured in the fact that I sustained no bruises or broken bones! More importantly, I have finally found something physical that I can do better than Mikel. He whups me at tennis, cycling, bowling, swimming, skiing, arm wrestling, everything. Until now, that is. I think we should go skating every weekend. Wonder if I can convince the DJ to play REAL skating music, like Boogie Wonderland...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Touch

You know, it happens sometimes. It is the danger of the written word. Sometimes, regardless of the care you take to say things just right, someone reads a bit too much into your words or misinterprets their meanings or takes them too seriously. It is always a surprise to the reader and to the writer when this happens. And for the times that has happened here, I sincerely apologize. I may be a lot of things, but I am never intentionally cruel. So, dear reader, know that my ramblings are always a reflection of my thoughts but never a reflection of my feelings toward you.

***

Here is what I am currently contemplating: I recently read an article about two girls in middle school (not in our school district) that are being disciplined for hugging at school. The school they attend has a no hugging policy, surely a sincere effort to control inappropriate touching, etc. The rule sounds fine on paper, I suppose, but it makes me kind of angry.

If you've been visiting me for long, you have certainly ascertained that my childhood was less than wonderful. I often had to get my love and affection in places outside of my home. My friends and I (males and females) hugged at school A LOT. If it were not for that outlet for nonsexual human contact, I would have had none. Let me restate - girls and boys expressed friendship and affection through hugs. I never felt at any time as if the hugging was inappropriate or "icky" in any way. And I had lots of experience with "icky," I know it when I feel it. I'm betting you do, too.

There is plenty of research out there that supports the theory that human beings need physical contact to flourish and that they will fail to thrive if they are denied contact. We just need to touch, to feel connected, to feel supported, to be reminded that we truly do exist and belong to the human race.

It's easy to forget that we are animals, but the fact remains that we are. Have you ever noticed just now much physical contact occurs among other species? Turtles lie atop one another when they sun themselves. Cats groom each other (which means getting each other's cat hair in their mouths... ewwww). Primates sit hip to hip, picking and stroking one another. And this may come as a shock to some folks - these animals don't immediately engage in intercourse the second they are finished touching one another. Touching does not equal sex, people!

I have real concerns about the messages attached to no-touching rules. I am concerned that children will not form the attachments they need to thrive. I am concerned that parents will limit touching their children for fear of being reported to authorities. I am concerned that children will equate all touching (from any source) with sex. I am concerned that our entire society has become so negatively obsessed with sex that we sell ourselves short, telling ourselves that we are incapable of separating concepts like friendship and love and lust.

But mostly, I am insulted that some people consider us less capable of controlling our desires than other species of animals. I really want to believe that we are better than that.

[Hey, I just had a thought - could this be a reason that so many people are opposed to breast feeding? If someone, anyone, is sucking on a nipple, then someone must be experiencing sexual pleasure, 'cuz breasts certainly weren't designed for any other purpose, right? And that would just be gross, right? Right? I trust that sounds just as ridiculous to you as it does to me.]

These are my thoughts, not necessarily representative of anyone else's opinions. But I'd love to hear what you think.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

DC


I have just returned from the Nation's Capitol where I spent four days immersed in heady and fascinating research presented at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting. Just about everything you ever wanted or needed to know about health you could get at this meeting. I am exhausted, my brain hurts, and I think I got a paper cut thumbing through the catalog. When I say "catalog," I mean for you to picture one the size of the Sears and Roebuck catalog that your mother used to order from.
Within one hour of landing, I (1) tripped and nearly fell on my bohiney, (2) got bitten by the rapidly closing doors on the Metro, and (3) was launched off my feet as the train left the station. Had it not been for the woman's suitcase in the aisle that impeded my progress, my suitcase would have just rolled all the way to the back of the car, taking me with it. I'm happy to report that I got the clumsies out of my system and that they didn't return for the remainder of the trip.

While I was there, I visited the National Museum of the American Indian. To my delight, tribes from all of the Americas were represented. I had no idea there were this many indigenous tribes. It was mind-boggling. Being the tactile freak that I am, I was drawn to all things beaded, and there was plenty to take in. They were all behind glass to keep the "touchers" like me at bay. Oh, but I could imagine how they felt.... ahhhhhh.............

In an effort to stop being the world's worst Asian, I have included a few pictures from Chinatown. You will see that these images are telling of my sick sense of humor.

Here's one of the billion teeny tiny restaurants vying for space and business:

hee, hee, hee.... Wonder whatever happened to the old one.............

Some of the restaurants proudly display their wares in shop windows:

Hungry yet?

I've been to DC many times, and I'd forgotten how COLD it is there this time of year. But that didn't seem to keep people indoors. Lots of folks walk to work from the Metro station, women in business suits and sneakers, etc. The folks I saw were fashionable and diverse. Heard several different languages spoken, read lots of stories in lots of eyes.

I love traveling and experiencing, but I love coming home even more. Hello, Texas!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

No One Got Axed

This is the first chance I've had to post since we returned from Nacogdoches. Things at work have been crazy busy. I am exhausted, having just put the finishing touches on our new policies and procedures for my program. Finished, my shiny white hiney - who am I kidding? I see several edits and revisions in my future...


Anyway, we all drove out to SFASU for homecoming weekend. There was a cool bonfire on Friday night, a parade Saturday morning, and of course an afternoon football game. And the Jacks..... lost. They were spanked. They were humiliated. As the Not-So-Little-One so aptly put it, "The Jacks didn't ax nobody. They got the ax." Indeed they did. However, we still had a terrific time in the Oldest Town in Texas. Did our best to support the economy by spending copious amounts of money on SFA apparel and paraphernalia. Man, I love me some purple!



It's tough to see it here, but the girls and I are giv'n 'em the ax in our new jerseys:















(Man, are we cool or what?)

I did my absolute darnedest to brainwash the girls into making SFA their college of choice. It has a high academic rating, it's just far enough away from home to encourage a little independence, just small enough for you to be somebody, just big enough to have real traditions, and just affordable enough that mom and dad can help with tuition.

Nac has changed a lot since I was last there. But the campus remains one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. I basked in shameless nostalgia as I walked past the buildings I spent the most time in. And it just smells good out there. No stinky traffic, just pine trees and clean air. I would gladly go back if only there were a way to make a living.

Took the girls trick-or-treating tonight. I'm the world's worst Asian. I always forget to take pictures. I escorted Harry Potter's buddy Hermione and The Devil all over the neighborhood. I had to ask the Little One to stop referring to herself as Satan.

Hope you all had a safe and fun Halloween. Don't eat all of your kids' candy (BB). Drop in and tell me what your kids dressed as to go begging door-to-door.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Did I Hear That Right?

I love to revisit the funny or random things my girls say. They are absolutely funniest when they don't mean to be. For instance:

I am returning from the pediatrician with two sick little girls. I lock them in the car for 5 minutes while I run into the corner pharmacy to pick up a prescription. When I return I'm met by a wide-eyed Little One who frantically asks, "Where is your cell phone?" "Why," I ask. "Because (The Not-So-Little One) needs to go potty. It's an emergency! Call 9-1-1!"

The Little One is having a bad day. Everything is wrong, everything makes her unhappy, nothing appeases her. I tease her by saying," Oh, man! Everything is so bad! There are clouds in the sky! There's too much traffic! Nobody loves me!" I'm interrupted by the Not-So-Little One who chimes in with "and everybody around here has a wienie dog!"

I am having a heart-to-heart talk with the Little One about what happens to people when they get old, how sometimes people are forgotten by their families. She assures me that she is going to buy a house right next door to mine when she grows up so that she can come eat dinner with me every night. She tells me that she will even bring some of the food so that I don't have to do all the cooking and even help with the clean up. What a sweet child! And then she turns to me and asks in earnest, "Do you like macaroni and cheese?"

We're talking about sports. The Not-So-Little is asking when the different sports seasons begin. "When is football season? When is soccer season? When is baseball season?" Mikel asks, "When is it NOT basketball season?" Parents laugh. To continue the humor I ask, "When is curling season?" The Little One readily replies, "When it is not humid outside. What.... ?! You know my hair won't hold a curl in the humidity..."

One time at the state fair, the girls came out of the fun house all smiles and giggles. The Not-So-Little One is standing before us, describing in detail all of the things they encountered in there. Meanwhile, standing slightly behind her, the Little One acts it all out in pantomime, as if she is interpreting for others just like her who consider words to be superfluous.

"Mama," says the Little One recently at Oscar's, "Our waitress is nice. She's short, but she's nice."

We're walking through the grocery store last evening. The Little One announces to me that I need to put a load of laundry in because she is out of understuff.

Drop me a line and share something crazy you've heard at your house. It's always nice to hear that other people's kids are weird, too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ticked Off

Everyone who knows me knows that I have issues with my hair. It is neither straight nor curly, but something irritatingly in between. (It started behaving that way when I hit puberty, as if all of the other "becoming a woman" crap wasn't traumatic enough.) I can encourage it to dry curly or I can beat it into submission until it is straight, but either takes a lot of effort and time, and there is no guarantee that it will remain that way for any length of time. It seems to have a mind of its own, and it never seems to look the same two days in a row. Humidity is its mortal enemy. I literally have to watch the weather before I get ready in the morning to determine how I will attack my hair.

Aside from time and effort, I have spent an exorbitant amount of money on a wide range of products promising the hair of my dreams. The formula goes something like this - you get what you pay for, so more expensive (especially if endorsed by hair care professionals) means more effective. Dreams, schmeams - more like nightmares.

The other day I was running low on funds and purchased Herbal Essences Totally Twisted line of products. Hey, what's the deal? I sort of like the results here! Better than that... I might even be satisfied! So tonight I brought home Herbal Essences Dangerously Straight products and lo and behold, they performed as advertised. Man, am I mad! I've spent the last 30+ years experimenting and I found results in a $3.00 bottle of shampoo and conditioner. Augh!!

Oh, by the way, I didn't have that "organic" experience they showed the pretty lady in the commercial enjoying in the shower when she used this stuff. Bummer......

Monday, October 15, 2007

Whisperer

The Not-So-Little One has a heart for nurturing. A gift, really. From lady bugs (see Oct 9 post) to visitors, she has a way of caring for and welcoming and communicating with others, often without words, in ways that others can't or won't. We call her our whisperer.

This bashful child of ours will often avoid conversation and never quite looks comfortable in a crowd, but she is most in her element when words are not required. Her third grade teacher called me on the phone one afternoon requesting an impromptu conference. I was certain that my daughter had misbehaved in some way - why else would the teacher call me at work? I assumed incorrectly. The teacher called to report that a new student had joined the class that day. This student was from Southeast Asia and did not speak English. The Not-So-Little One took this new little girl under her wing, showing her where things belonged and guiding her throughout the day. The teacher was reduced to tears by the end of the conference. A prouder moment never existed for a parent.

My sister and brother-in-law own a cattle ranch. Just like every other ranch in the world, the Whining Bull has an abundance of cats. Most of them are wild. Even my sister cannot get near most of the cats outside of feedin' time. But take a look out the window and you will spy the Not-So-Little One surrounded by cats. All of them. Winding around her feet and rubbing against her legs, purring and flopping over for a belly rub. She takes great pride in her ability to tame the wild kittens - those same little demons that hiss and spit at me if I get too close.

The cattle on the Whining Bull are registered longhorns. Although not necessarily aggressive, these animals are large. Their horns are large. They know how to use them and will when they feel threatened. On a trip to the ranch a few years ago, I noticed my brother-in-law gazing out toward the pasture. He motioned for me to join him, placing his fingers to his lips and whispering "shhh." I stifled a gasp as I caught a glimpse of the Not-So-Little One in the midst of the herd, moving silently among the cattle, stopping occasionally to gently pull a cactus thorn from a nose. Many of the beasts were lying down. I think my heart stopped, but it also melted.

Today the Not-So-Little One came home to a deceased furry friend. Dirk the hamster breathed his last breath sometime while she was at school. I found her sitting in her bedroom, silently stroking his little body and crying. She gently removed him from his cage and made burial plans with her daddy. Even in death she nurtures.

A gift. No words required.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Going Home

I heard that Daughtry song on the way to church this morning. I like the song - sentimental in a rock 'n roll sort of way. As is apt to happen in my life, the sermon dealt with going home as well. The guest preacher was a young student from Russia. She talked about being far from home and separated from her mother and sister. She also explained that her family has a habit of shielding one another from their personal trials and pain, so as not to worry one another. Further separation.

It occurred to me that lots of us are unable to go home, to return to the place of our childhood. Sometimes it is too far or too costly to get there. Sometimes we put up walls that become too formidable to cross. Sometimes folks at home die. Sometimes we are estranged from our families through no fault of our own. Sometimes we don't remember how to get there. Sometimes the folks at home no longer recognize us. Sometimes there is simply no home to which to return.

It also occurred to me that even though we can't always go home, we still want to go there. Deep down inside, we long for that returning. So when we can't make it happen in the usual way, we create new homes. We put down roots and marry and buy houses and have children. We let someone love us and allow ourselves to love them back and build new communities for our hearts and our souls. And although it is never quite the same, it counts.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Little One - Hell on Feet

Learning to walk opened a new world to the Little One. A world of terror for her older sister. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was lulled into a false sense of confidence in my parenting skills by my easy-going first born. The Little One is the polar opposite of her sister in ways good and not-so-good. Let's visit a couple of her more disturbing moments...

Allow me to take you, reader, on a little journey into the past. It is 1999. Visualize, if you will, a peaceful toddler, lovingly placing blocks atop one another, building a lovely plastic tower of primary colors. She hums as she builds, occasionally interrupting her toddler song to seek the approval of her adoring parents.

Enter the Little One, clad in leather walking shoes, stalking with purpose directly toward the tower, an evil gleam in her eye. Unbeknownst to the toddler builder, the Little One comes closer, closer, until *WHAM!*, one leather clad foot strikes the tower low, to assure maximum destruction, followed by the other foot, both hands, arms, head, and belly. The tower lies in a heap of plastic rubble. The builder mourns the loss, tears falling, shoulders shaking, chest heaving. The Little One, now nicknamed Madzilla, shrieks with laughter. Adoring Parents look on in horror.

Fast forward to 2000. The Not-So-Little One has rescued a ladybug from the birdbath. She lovingly takes the little red and black backstroker to warm on the concrete of the driveway in the morning sun, watching closely for signs of recovery. She announces to Adoring Parents that the ladybug is still alive. Adoring Parents smile in approval of their nurturing prodigy.

Along comes the Little One armed with a big stick. (No, we don't ordinarily allow toddlers to play with big sticks.) She walks directly toward the infirmary, makes one hasty assessment of the red and black sunbather, and stabs it with the stick with the speed and accuracy of a Hellenistic warrior. Shrieks ensue - this time the Not-So-Little One's wails are matched decibel for decibel by the shouts of Adoring Parents. The Little One wanders away, unabashed and unashamed of her behavior, mumbling something about an icky bug...

As the Not-So-Little One's sobs subside, she bends close to the patient and pronounces that she is "not all dead." Adoring Parents kneel beside her and view the dubious condition of the now legless and partially flattened insect. They are astounded and touched by the optimism of the budding Albert Schweitzer. No one notices the return of Madzilla. She hurries back to the scene of the crime and quickly, before anyone can stop her, stomps and grinds the doomed ladybug into the concrete, finishing her off for good. Adoring Parents are too shocked to respond, the Not-So-Little One falls face down onto the ground in inconsolable sobs, whimpering her sister's name over and over. Madzilla mutters something about a 'sgusting bug as she waddles off. Adoring Parents stammer and sputter words like "serial killer" and "sociopath" and "psychotherapy"...

At what point exactly should parents be concerned about the sadistic tendencies of their spawn?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Howdy, Folks!

That's how Big Tex greeted us at the State Fair this weekend. Big Tex is friendly like that. Every year. At one hour intervals. I love that in a man.....

I met a local celebrity at the State Fair. I was sitting on a bench with the Not-So-Little One, waiting for Mikel and the Little One to finish some kid activity (which the Not-So-Little One felt was beneath her), when Channel 8 meteorologist Greg Fields asked if the seat next to us was taken. I cleverly answered, "By you!" I'm so smooth when I meet celebrities. I was proud of myself for not making some stupid remark about the weather, especially after several other strangers walked up and asked him if he brought any rain with him. "I'll bet he never hears that," I smirked to myself. Instead, I met his beautiful wife and equally gorgeous baby daughter. We talked about junk food, my favorite topic.

I turned to the Not-So-Little One and asked her how it felt to sit next to a celebrity. She looked confused, and Mr Fields said, "Nah. A celebrity to her would be Hannah Montana, not a weatherman." She nodded in agreement, and we had a good laugh over that. It was the highlight of my State Fair experience. Mikel one-upped me and reminded me that he sang tenor with Channel 5 meteorlogist David Finfrock once...

And now for the peculiar part of my State Fair experience: We went to watch swine judging. I know diddly about swine other than how tasty they are. And I have never watched swine being judged. Which was a fine reason to go watch. Maybe I would learn something. And I did. I learned that they have to keep the animals moving for the judge, which they do with a switch or quirt, whatever they call it in the swine world. And if that little thing doesn't do the trick, they use what looks a lot like a sawed off broom handle. And they whack the poor things! Sometimes they wail on them. So hard that their little shaved and oiled pink bodies show marks. The Not-So-Little One called it cruel. The Little One called it rude. Mikel called it Pig Whacking. I'm not sure what was more disturbing - the whacking or the naked appearance of a shaved pink pig.

I ate my usual Fletcher's corn dog. It was delicious. And it made me sick. If I'd known this new healthy lifestyle would render it impossible to eat my favorite greasy foods, I might have shunned the idea. Maybe it's not too late.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Little One - Ambulation

My youngest has always been amusing. Even before she was born she would lie really still in the womb, for days, just to see if I would run to the OB's office to check on her. Which of course I would. She was always fine. I was convinced I could feel her chuckling in there.

So I've decided to post a series of anecdotes devoted to the Little One. Warning: If you are driven to self-flagellation and gouging of the eyes when reading kid stories, these are not for you.

When she was able to crawl, the Little One would very quietly sneak (yes, I did say sneak) up behind me as I was busily washing dishes or stirring a pot on the stove and suddenly grab the back of my leg. Suds would splatter, stifled curse words would fly, and Mom would spin around to find a minuscule onesie-clad sprite directly behind her, giggling her diaper off. I never knew when she would strike.

When she learned to walk, she discovered a whole new world of adventure known in households the world over as "the fireplace." No matter how many different techniques were used to secure the entrance to this mecca of soot and delight, she would find a way in. Life for Mom became a daily routine of barring the gates of fire and restoring the now black child to her former pink self.

About a day after she learned to walk, the Little One began to run. Running is one of her favorite activities. But running in this house is synonymous with injury. The living room in our house is sunken. One must negotiate a step when traversing from the living room to the dining room, a task easily accomplished when moving at speeds under 50mph. Several times a day for six years the Little One wiped out running between these two rooms. And she always, ALWAYS, looked utterly shocked when she ended up face down on the floor. And... Mom always had a good belly laugh over it. There's something quite satisfying in that I-told-you-so moment of seeing your child suffer the exact consequence of which you warned only seconds before the incident. I'm just sayin'.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Her Royal Dorkness

I got over worrying about what other people thought of me a long time ago. So here are a few of the things I enjoy that are probably on your "dork" list:

Barry Manilow

barbershop music

fabric stores

sappy love songs

mixing my peas with my mashed potatoes

long hair (on either gender)

guys with earrings

soap operas

light (I mean really light) reading

reading books to my girls, complete with voices

80s music (especially handy for boogy-ing down in the kitchen while washing dishes)

Dancing with the Stars

And something new - I've "discovered" a group called Celtic Woman. Another terrific reason to watch PBS. Wow, I love these ladies. I've been contemplating why I like them so much, and I've realized that I identify with them on some level. I guess I have had similar vocal training, because I can sing along with them (except the songs in Gaelic). We breathe the same way, we enunciate the same way, we use vibrato the same way. Vowels match. Placement is very similar. Apparently I was simply born on the wrong continent.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Lookin' Good

I supervise a few employees in an outreach and education program at a social service agency. My staff is awesome. I wish I could take full credit for them, mention how savvy I am at hiring capable folks, etc. But the truth is, these folks are not only capable, they are trustworthy and ethical and compassionate. They make me look good.

I wrangle two tween girls. My daughters are awesome. I wish I could take full credit for them, cite my amazing parenting skills, etc. (I have great help in the parenting department.) But the truth is that they are just easy to deal with and smart and caring. They make me look good.

I direct two choirs at church - an adult choir and a children's choir. These singers are awesome. I wish I could take full credit for them, brag about my teaching skills and leadership abilities. But the truth is these singers really work hard. They follow instruction, they take risks, they have a sense of humor. They make me look good.

I co-facilitate a depression support group once a week. The members are awesome. They try to give me full credit for how helpful the group experience is, but I can't take the credit. The truth is the members run the group. I direct traffic. They listen, validate, confront, suggest. And they make me look good.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My dear friend, Leti, who I have known and worked with for several years, has taken a position with another agency. I am excited for her and glad that she is furthering her career, but I am also really sad. Oh, sure, I can call and email and drop by her house. She lives in my part of the world. But nothing compares to jetting across the carpet and popping into her office to share some random bit of nonsense I just saw on the web, just to make her giggle. Hearing her giggle was one of the highlights of my work day.

Maybe it is the spontaneity that I will miss. I look at my dayrunner, at how incredibly packed it is with appointments, and I realize just how little spontaneity we are afforded these days. I love spontaneity. I love the way little children just break into song and dance at the drop of a hat no matter where they happen to be. I love it when one of my cats walks gracefully across the room and then, for no apparent reason, leaps 10 feet into the air and lands facing the way he came. I love the look on people's faces when you surprise them with a kind gesture. I love to be surprised, like when the wind suddenly picks up and a gentle shower taps you on the shoulder. Or when you look up from the steering wheel and see a double rainbow arched over the highway.

Spontaneity's where it's at.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Angry

I just found out that a young woman that attends my church died this morning after a valiant battle with cancer. The cancer was diagnosed about a year ago while she was pregnant with her first child. They delayed the treatments for the sake of the baby. She fought hard, and she will be remembered.

I learned yesterday that a woman who means the world to someone underwent an unsuccessful surgery. Hours on the table for naught. What do you do with this information? How do you help the hurting? What words do you use, what gifts can you offer? None, I tell you. None.

Saturday I received an email telling me that a mutual friend, a talented vocalist, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She doesn't see the specialist or the surgeon until November. Apparently no one of any authority is in a hurry to get this thing out of her. It happens to be located in the speech center of her brain. Let me repeat - she is a vocalist. Since receiving this news I have struggled with the value of life without the ability to sing about it.

Death and illness. Seems there has been an awful lot of it in my life recently. Some of it expected, some of it not. All of it painful.

Angry am I.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Opinions

I usually take the "live and let live" approach to life. But there are a few issues on which I will not be swayed. Here they are:

  • I don't care what the other parents let their kids do. Elementary school kids do not need cell phones.
  • MySpace is not for children. Heck, it's probably not the safest place for adults, either.
  • Life is too short to be treated like scum, even by brilliant college professors.
  • Everyone has been bestowed a gift, and it is a sin not to use it to it's fullest potential.
  • A girl may not get to choose her family, but she can choose her friends.
  • Tears cleanse. Faith repairs. Hope heals.
  • My father was wrong - it IS possible to kiss something to make it better.
  • Instinct, if you still own any, is the greatest meter of character.
  • You can't conquer that with which you have not familiarized yourself.
  • Humans need to be loved, and they need for that love to be affirmed through touch.
  • Mankind was put on this planet to work together.
  • Some illness can't be cured.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Running

I have been accused of running, which I find immensely ironic due to my aversion to exercise and all things sweaty. I believe what my friends mean is that I am in a constant state of retreat from myself. I did not possess the insight to figure this out for myself, but I must admit that there is some truth to this.

As a child, I began running not from myself, but from some evils that lurked in my environment. I spent as much time out of the house as possible - at school, with friends, in extracurricular activities, in clubs, at church, anyplace that would find me in the company of safe and wholesome people. I would fantasize about these people being my real family, as if I had somehow been tragically given to the wrong parents at birth.

As a teen, music became my solace. I learned rather accidentally that if I closed my bedroom door and practiced my clarinet, not only would the real-life demons stay away, but I could shut out the demons in my head. I found that I was safer with the instrument than I was in bed at night. I spent an awful lot of time alone with the Ugly Stick. It became a lovely black and silver talisman that went everywhere I went.

In college I hired my first therapist - my voice teacher. She was a great listener. She heard every wrong note, every unsupported tone, every missed consonant. She also had eyes like a hawk. "Stand up straight. Breathe from the diaphragm. Make me believe you." She noticed every worthwhile thing I did, too, and she accepted no less than my best.

From opera training I moved into the world of barbershop. Not as different as some would think. Barbershop introduced me to overtones, and from the first chord I sang with a chorus I knew I would never be the same. A perfectly aligned chord will set every cell in my body on fire. I've since learned that Pythagoras studied this very phenomenon of musical energy and the effect it has on the human body. Of course, many people thought he was crazy. I figure I'm in good company...

Serious singers eventually end up on stage. Performing is a glorious thing. In those moments, I can be anyone I want to be, someone other than myself. I am beautiful and desirable. I am not damaged or broken or flawed. Beware: This form of running is addicting. It gets in your head and in your blood and in your soul. And if you are not careful, you forget who you are altogether.

My counseling buddies Rusty and Connie, astute observers of human behavior that they are, suggest that the reason I fill every moment of my waking life with some sort of demanding activity is that I am running from myself. I pretend to be astounded by this revelation. But of course they are right. Being alone with myself terrifies me. I'll take the stage any day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fourteen Years

September 18th is my wedding anniversary. Mikel and I have been married 14 years. At times it feels like the years have flown by, other times it feels like they have crawled. I've often wondered about that - how time seems to flux and bend and race and sometimes even stop. But since I am not a physicist, I will leave such musings for another day, when my brain is leaning a little more to the left.

To say that marriage is a challenge is a gross understatement. Sometimes it seems that we will never be in sync. One is feeling ambitious while the other wants to slow down. One wants to plan a future while the other is perfectly content with the here and now. One wants to take on the world while the other prefers to avoid it all costs. One wants to face adversity head on while the other wants to shut down. Let's not even go into the differences between men and women. There have been volumes written about those, and John Gray is a wealthy man because of them.

But every now and again things are perfectly in sync. You agree on a favorite restaurant. You stand together against an enemy called "children" and hold the family together. You set a goal together. You reach it. You laugh together after days of crying. It is those moments for which I live. They laugh in the face of the others, and I laugh with them.

Good night, reader. And thank you, Mikel, for two fabulous children and 14 fascinating years.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jet Lag

I've spent the day (well, the part of it that happened after we got home from church) napping, watching football, and watching the Emmy's, in that order. Seems I am a little worn out from my recent trip to Cincinnati. Woke up this morning with a headache that won't give me a break. Wouldn't even step aside during my solo this morning. Ah, well, pain reminds us that we are alive. I sang well despite it, and interpreted (dynamics, etc) on the fly. I guess I was inspired.

The trip was really good. I would post pictures if I had any. I am quite possibly the only Asian person in the world that can't remember to take a camera when I leave the house. Will have to ask my traveling companions to share theirs.

The part of Cincinnati I saw was quite pretty. Neat old buildings and lots of reason to be outdoors. In the midst of the downtown area is Fountain Square. It is a big square with - you guessed it - a huge fountain in the center of it. But the kicker was the giant screen hanging above the Macy's that aired sporting events. I sat out there one night watching West Virginia play Maryland. Not because I really care about either of those teams in particular, but because 1) I enjoy college ball and 2) I wanted to be able to say I had watched college ball on a giant screen TV next to a huge fountain in a big square. I was only approached by one panhandler.

I could see the Ohio river and two ball fields from my room on the 22nd floor. There are lots of cool bridges over the river, and one of my traveling companions walked to Kentucky. Granted, it was only a few blocks and across a bridge, but it is still cool. Cool happens to be the word of the trip. The weather was beautiful, and it was downright chilly at times for this Southern gal. I froze my patooties off most of the trip. And then I walked out of the DFW airport into the sweltering shock of a lingering Texas summer.

We ate in large groups. It is always a little tough for a large group to agree on a place to dine. I am probably the easiest person to please when it comes to food. But I put my foot down when someone suggested Mexican food. I simply do not eat Mexican food north of the Red River. Call it TexMex snobbery.

I listened to a blue grass band called Catch and Release that was pretty good. I thought to myself, "I'm really close to Kentucky. I should take in a little culture and hear a blue grass band." Joke was on me. They were from Washington state. But they did a lovely little instrumental version of Isle of Inisfree that felt as if it was meant just for me. At one point I looked around and realized that my companions had abandoned me, and I was sitting there listening alone. Intimate.

I attended a few really good workshops at the conference. Learned a lot about how to deal with clients who were in crisis, and had my reservations regarding current trauma intervention validated by knowledgeable people. I love it when I find myself in agreement with knowledgeable people.

The Hilton treated us very nicely. My room was huge, and the bed was very comfortable. There was this great smelling lotion in the elegant-yet-totally-impractical bathroom. The mirror was too far away for me to see well enough to put on eye liner. And the shower head was one of those that had settings, if only you were tall enough to reach it. But, hey, it beats the heck out of the kind of places I can usually afford to stay.

It is great to be home with Mikel and the girls. They met me at the airport with a dozen red roses and smiles and dimples and flashing eyes and tales of their activities. They all seemed to get along just fine without me, and that makes me feel confident in their self-sufficiency. Seems I haven't done such a poor job raising them after all.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Play Ball

This weekend wasn't all about leotards and tights. I watched a fair amount of sports as well. Overall it was a winning weekend. The Horns beat the Frogs, the Rangers beat the A's, and the Cowboys whupped the Giants. Even my high school alma mater won.

Unfortunately, my college alma mater lost. Again. Yeah, yeah... I know it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. But the truth is, Stephen F Austin State University, ranked high in the state academically, just doesn't play the game well. You would think that a bunch of guys called the Lumberjacks would be motivated to prove themselves. Especially when the fans are cheering, "Ax 'em, Jacks!" I'm just sayin'...

The school officials must have had a sense of humor when they decided on the mascot. When I was there, rather than a drill team or dance team, SFA had a entire squad of baton twirlers. They were called - brace yourself - the Twirl-o-Jacks. Bless their little pea pickin' hearts.

I have absolutely no regrets over my choice of colleges. I was accepted to several. I chose the one that offered me a scholarship. Hey, I'm no fool! All kidding aside, I came from a small town. A big university like UT or Baylor would have eaten my lunch. I flourished in the intimate environment of SFA. And Nacogdoches is quite beautiful. Nope, no regrets.

Hot Time in Azle

Today Mikel and I took our tiny dancers to Azle to perform in their annual street festival. It was the Little One's first public performance in the dance company. She was excited, and we were very proud of her.

A side note here - Mikel is the best dad in the world. For the past two years while I have been in school or seeing clients, he has taken the girls to all of their classes and extra rehearsals, learned to put their long hair in ponytails and buns, and noted all the details of performances without one word of complaint. He has never missed a performance. He sat through two entire days of dance contest last Spring, and he actually watched the dancers. He is working overtime this weekend to pay for costumes. He is proud of his girls, and he says he is quite comfortable being a ballet dad.

It is policy for the dancers to arrive 30 minutes early for a performance. The talent line up was running behind (typical), so we all ended up waiting for quite a while for our girls' turn to shine. It was HOT. As in summer in Texas hot, not Paris Hilton hot.

Let me tell you something - anyone out there that doesn't think dance is hard work is just dead wrong. These young ladies, ages 8 to 18, were out there in sweltering heat, squinting from the glare off the concrete, with nothing but a thin layer of suede between their feet and said concrete, smiling even though salty sweat and mascara were dripping into their eyes, to an audience that consisted of mainly their parents. They leaped, they twirled, they lay and rolled on the ground, they kneeled, they lifted one another. And they did all of that with pure grace and professionalism. For no money. And without kneepads.

Know what else they did? Rather than high-tailin' it outta there when their routines were finished, they stayed and watched one another in the horrible heat, clapping and cheering for one another, no matter how many mistakes were made. The little dancers marveled at the older dancers, no doubt imagining themselves "dancing like that" one day. One group got out there and stuck a pose, frozen in place for some time until it was discovered that their music didn't make it to the performance. They graciously filed off the staging area, heads high, smiles wide.

Some of the parents staked a little claim to the few patches of shade to be found. I chose to stand right out there in the sun while I watched. It was the least I could do to honor these young ladies who graced Azle, Texas with a little culture and poise today.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Brief Commentary

You absolutely MUST go see Mr Bean's Holiday. Must. Grab your wallet or purse, pack the kids in the car, get your ticket, buy some popcorn, and GO! Oh, back up... maybe you should wait until the theater opens.....

I was unsure of what to expect. The previews looked sort of funny. I've seen the TV show, thought it was humorous. What a pleasant surprise! Don't worry, I couldn't possibly ruin it for you. I can't begin to describe it. As Mikel says, you have to see it to understand it. At on point I realized I was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe.

This I will say about it - it is G-rated. I mean, it is G-rated by this overprotective mom's standards. There is very little speaking, hence no foul language. No rude bodily functions or noises, no lewd body language, no innuendo. No one gets maimed or killed. I can't even say that about half the Disney flicks my girls watch.

Go see it. It is the best therapy I can prescribe to date.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Bit of Wisdom from the Not-All-That-Wise

These are some things I know:

Chocolate is good for the soul.

Dancing is a natural stage of development - lots of little kids dance before they can even walk very well. (The Not-So-Little-One rocked out to Aretha Franklin in her car seat before she could walk.)

It is possible, with enough scrubbing, to wash that man right out of your hair.

My mother was right every time she said, "Stop that before someone gets hurt." Someone always got hurt.

Sex appeal is not all about physical beauty.

I don't care what the Not-So-Little-One says - not everyone in the 5th grade has a cell phone.

It is the younger sister's job to annoy her older sister.

It is all children's jobs to embarrass their parents in public.

It is a parent's job to retaliate in front of their children's peers.

Everyone should commit to memory one great Italian aria, complete with the full gamut of emotion and range and dynamics, to sing at the top of his/her lungs while driving down the freeway.

Petting a cat is relaxing, right up until the cat turns inside of his skin to bite the heck out of the very hand that is petting him, for no apparent reason.

Dogs don't care what your hair looks like, and they find you fascinating when you are smelly.

It is absolutely possible to rise above one's circumstances.

Children do learn what they live, but what they learn might really surprise you.

Drop me a line and tell me what you know.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Another Farewell

Farewell, Luciano. Thank you.























Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Immersion Therapy

Counseling students are compelled to study countless theories and techniques of therapy, and at some point in their educational journey many are asked to identify with and adhere to a theory for the duration of their counseling practicum. I found this to be endlessly challenging because there were aspects of many theories that resonated with me and yet no single theory that spoke directly to me.

This past weekend I willingly subjected myself to my own newly conjured therapy - immersion therapy. Having recently suffered from an intense case of "plumb out," I decided to plunge right into a few things that have been known to make me blissfully happy - shopping, seafood, chocolate, and really great singing. (At some point during the weekend I dreamt that I was swimming with white dolphins. An immersion of another sort and a topic for another post, perhaps.)

I spent nearly the entire weekend immersed in exceptional vocalization, with a few momentary lapses into Disney pop music to satisfy my tween girls. Chloe, Orla, Lisa, Mairead, Meav, and Hayley (Celtic Woman) reminded me how much I miss tight harmony and innocent vocal purity. And Andrea Bocelli soared right into my heart, with the tenderness and intimacy and strength of a lover.

I find it quite difficult to turn off my critical listening skills, so I had to listen to everything twice to truly enjoy myself. What a hardship... I know, I know. And you know what? As I opened my mind and my heart to the gifts that these artists brought, I felt cleansed from the inside out. Thank you, thank you, dear ladies and Sir Andrea. I plan to take a dip again soon.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Plumb Out

Sometimes I am just plumb out.

Plumb out of words, plumb out of ideas, plumb out creativity, plumb out of time, plumb out of energy.

That happens to be where I am at the moment. Plumb out. Therefore, my dear reader, it may be awhile until my next post. You will hear from me again, and when you do I'm sure I will be so profound and clever that you will agree it was worth the wait!

Until then, love someone and let them love you back. It is worth it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Transitions

I have an office to myself now. It is spacious and tidy and girly (in a professional way). And it is really quiet.

*****

BB counsels his first client tonight. And he is having a birthday on Wednesday. Congrats on both counts!

*****

The Not-So-Little One started intermediate school today. She will be changing classes and has a combination lock on her locker. And she did not want me to walk her into the school building.

*****

My cousin's daughter, whom I have known since infancy, is moving to Michigan to live with her dad. I will miss her like crazy. Michigan is a really long way from Texas. And it is cold up there. And it isn't here. Near me.

*****

It is past time for me to choose a Christmas cantata for my church choir.

*****

I have been trying to learn that just because something pops into your head doesn't mean it should necessarily leave your lips.

*****

I have also been trying to eat healthier. Less of the stuff I really like and more of the stuff that will allow me to live a little longer. 'Nuff said.

Since Then

Since my last post, I have, in no particular order:

  • prayed
  • felt sad
  • felt happy
  • found a wonderful Thai restaurant
  • faced the back-to-school crowds
  • met my daughters' teachers
  • spent some "girl" time with my evil twin
  • commanded the attention of a large group
  • been invisible
  • laughed until my sides ached
  • made someone else laugh
  • taught someone to sing with resonance
  • sang with resonance
  • moved furniture
  • aggravated my shoulder
  • swallowed my pride
  • asked for forgiveness
  • been forgiven
  • loved someone
  • been loved back

All in all it has been a productive time.
You will hear from me again soon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Unwelcome Guest

I received an unexpected visit from an old acquaintance - Depression. Depression and I have had a love/hate relationship for years. We had a full blown tryst back in the late '80s when several life changing experiences converged, picking me straight up out of my universe and slamming me down into the abyss.

The abyss is dark, and it is lonely. But it also peaceful. The abyss envelopes you with a profound heaviness, keeping emotions at bay. And that is exactly what you want when the emotions are too big to handle and the voices in your head won't shut up.

Today when Depression rode into town, I wasn't particularly glad to see him, but I invited him in for a spell. We reminisced a bit, just like old times. Depression may be a lousy house guest, but he is familiar. And there is comfort in the familiar. Sort of like an abusive lover. You hate him for hurting you, and you hate yourself for staying with him, but as least you know how he operates.

Eventually you must part ways.

Depression isn't going to stay long this time around. Already we are planning for his departure. He hasn't finished packing yet, but his keys are sitting on top of the piano by the door. Seems Depression doesn't want to stand outside with me, soaking up the warmth of the sun and feeling the breeze blow through his hair. Depression doesn't want to feel alive, and I'm not dead yet. So Depression will be leaving soon. We'll share a few more tears before he goes. I'll pry his cold arms from around my shoulders and bid him farewell. And then I'll go stand in the sun.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Faith

I am a woman of great faith. It is faith and faith alone that has seen me through the darkest days of my life. It was faith that helped me survive broken body and broken spirit, damaged by the hands of people I trusted. It was faith that helped me say goodbye to my mother when I was too young to lose her. It was faith that got me back in school and back on track.

I used to think of faith as this stationary ideal, designed to smooth over the rough patches. I have since learned that faith is a journey. It is not stagnant, but rather ever changing to suit circumstances. For instance, when I was a child, faith resembled a starting block - "Don't question authority. Have faith that they have your best interests at heart. Ready, set, go!"

As a young adult, faith and prayer were friends who walked hand-in-hand down life's path. Whenever I had a need, I would pray to my God and have faith that he would hear me and grant my wish. Ask and ye shall receive. Faith must be really powerful, because even though most of my requests remain ungranted, I still pray.

Today faith stands at the crossroads. Faith spends some time arguing with God about which way to go and questioning His wisdom and His ways, all the while confident that God will not turn His back on her. Faith somehow knows that God will always be smarter... smart enough to let her ask questions anyway, 'cuz that's how she learns.

Friday, August 17, 2007

From Sushi to Burgers

I ate sushi today for lunch. Didn't have as much time to savour it as I would have liked, and I had to return to work so I couldn't wash it down with a Kirin, but it was still pretty darn good.

I hesitated to mention it out of concern for you readers that easily succumb to queasiness, but it was the highlight of my very quiet day. BB is in Chicago, and I've discovered just how much I've missed having an office mate. And darn it if I didn't discover it just in time for them to announce that they will be moving him out next week. Dang - now who will help me get all of the stuff off the top shelves?

I shouldn't be selfish, though. I wasn't supposed to have an office mate in the first place. BB has a right to an office that doesn't come equipped with a supervisor to watch his every move. And he deserves a place to retreat when I get too bossy.

*****

We were supposed to go to New Braunfuls this weekend with another family. They cancelled due to weather, worried that we won't be able to go to Schlitterbahn. I personally think they are being wienies. Oh well, I have back-to-school and back-to-dance shopping to do anyway. Which doesn't compare in the least to throwing myself down a wet spiral tube with reckless abandon. At least I won't have to wear a swimsuit in public.

*****

I think I will eat a hamburger this weekend. I have been hanging around healthy people a lot lately. People who work out everyday and sweat and eat vegetables and drink protein shakes and have even given up coffee. But they won't be around, so I will eat a hamburger and long for the days when my metabolism was high enough to burn it off before it got to my hips. I see extra crunches in my future.

*****

It is official. Everything reminds me of a song.

*****

I got a disturbing call today on my cell phone. A young man (boy?) with an accent asked if there was an 11-year-old girl at my house. I told him he had the wrong number and hung up. He called back and asked again!!! When I asked who was calling (okay, it wasn't as polite as that), he said "nobody." When I asked why he needed to know, he said "I dunno." When I told him I would call the police, he hung up. The Not-So-Little One swears she has no idea who it could have been. And I believe her. So, the fun begins. I happen to have been born under two cat signs, so woe be to the fool who thinks he can mess with my cubs. I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On Change and Fortitude

A long time ago, when I was an undergrad at SFA (ax 'em, Jacks!), I changed my major from music to psychology. Back then there were more males in the psych program than females, and my parents were aghast. But then again, they didn't want me to be a music major, either. I had more than a few reasons for changing majors, not the least of which was that I didn't have the intestinal fortitude to hack the politics of the performing world. I also wanted to change the world.

Now, the world is a big place. Changing the world means making big change. Like many of my idealistic peers, it became evident that changing the world was a pretty big order. Too big. Talk about intestinal fortitude. I sure didn't have enough to fill that order. So I turned my back on the world for a little while.

Funny... suddenly I find myself coming full circle, actually changing the world. This is the way I see it - the world is made up of people, right? Doesn't seem too big when you take it one person at a time. So I have been facing people, sitting across from them and holding their "stuff" for them while they search for the intestinal fortitude to face themselves. Sometimes they tell me that I have changed their lives. I remind them that they have changed their own lives. And together we are changing the world.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Words

My father loved words. An intelligent man who never had the opportunity to attend college, he read and studied all that he could, building his vocabulary and demanding proper grammar and speech from his children. We were not allowed to use slang or contractions. He took great pride in the fact that his children were well-spoken and shed no concern over the fact that we were the strangest little kids ever to cross a first-grade threshold.

I'm in love with words myself. I love to read them, sing them, hear them, speak them, write them, and analyze them. I use them to persuade, argue, convince, explain, express, love, hate, despise, annoy, amuse. I fall prey to the power of words. Words can empower me or destroy me, draw me in or push me away, make me laugh or make me weep. Words can render me speechless.

Recently I learned that words have served a more sinister purpose in my life. Words have become a sort of force field, shielding me from, of all things, myself. As long as I have words, I can talk myself out of being truthful with myself. I rely on words when I can't face the raw feelings that threaten to rock my world. Just keep talking and there will be no chance for emotions to expose my vulnerabilities to the world. Talk long enough and others won't have a chance to get a word in edgewise. Build a wall of words and rejection can't penetrate. But neither can love.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Loose Associations

I think I forgot to announce something really important. I think I forgot to tell you guys that I am officially finished with grad school! I had my last class on Saturday, and I should be getting my diploma in a few weeks. We don't have a ceremony in the summer, so I will walk with the other grads in December. And you bet your lily-white derriere I will be walking! I'm all about pomp and circumstance. Which is not to be confused with being pompous and circumstantial.


Counseling has been fascinating - like free falling without a parachute. I have learned a lot about human nature (and myself) in the past few months, and I can hardly wait to see what is around the corner waiting to pounce on me. The surprising lesson (there is always a surprising lesson) is how difficult it is to let them go when they are ready to fly solo.

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I do not like having my picture taken. I can count on one hand the number of decent photos that have been taken of me. Instead, I like being behind the camera. My husband tells me that it is a tragedy that when I die my children will have no pictures by which to remember me. A good solid stab at guilting me into posing, but it has yet to work.

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My girlfriend, Jen, is in love. And she is being loved back. You go, girl!

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Work has been a bit of a challenge. Today I heard that folks were getting trapped in the elevator. We moved to our new location last month, and today was the first day we had internet. And even with that, we can only email within the agency. An entire pack of computer techs converged on our floor to remedy the situation. Their serious expressions made me smile. What blows my mind is how reliant we have become on the world wide web. I laugh when I think about how nervous a lot of my generation was about even using computers.

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The weather has been absolutely beautiful here lately. It is nearly the middle of August, and we haven't even hit 100 degrees yet. The grass is still green from all the rain we had a few weeks back. I found myself just standing in the parking lot today soaking in the sun. The evening was even more delicious. The breeze on my skin was like a lover's caress, the cricket song like a tender whisper in my ear. Makes a girl happy to be alive.

Just Gotta Be Me

I spend an exorbitant amount of time and effort keeping myself in check. You know what I mean. Follow God's law, follow man's law, set a good example for the children, try not to annoy the people around you, color inside the lines.

This a good way to live, right? Right?? I mean, we have to behave ourselves so that we can all coexist. If everyone just followed their impulses, ran around all willy-nilly, the world would be utter chaos. Like Bill Murray said in Stripes, "Cats and dogs living together..." People can get hurt like that.

But do you ever yearn to take a peek outside the box? Perhaps inch your foot out the door? Stick your head out and take a look around? Mispronounce something on purpose? Disagree with authority? Laugh too loudly? Scream at the top of your lungs??

I do.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Gifts

Sometimes, after people hear me sing, they tell me that I have a gift. I consider this to be a wonderful compliment and a tremendous responsibility. Allow me to explain.

I get the call. You are asking me to sing for you. I get the logistical info - what, where, when, why, etc. I check my calendar. I tell you, "yes," I take a deep breathe, and I quote my fee. I am always pleasantly surprised when you don't gasp and instead accept the fee arrangement.

I discover that I must choose the music myself. (It's amazing how many people don't even know what they want sung at their own weddings, but I digress.) I read each lyric to assess for appropriateness. I check the range and scan for tricky intervals. I quickly determine what type of emotional "treatment" it begs for. I choose two more songs as backup, just in case I wake up with a weird vocal thing that day.

I go about the business of memorization, which for me is the most difficult part. I sing the song over and over, ad nauseum, until I know it cold. If it is a tear jerker, I practice it until I no longer cry when I sing it.

Once I am completely confident with the notes and words, I sit down with sheet music and pencil to formulate my plan of attack. When does the lyric line imply a change in dynamic? Where do I breathe - there are never enough places to breathe... Tempo changes, fermatas... got to be sure to get with the accompanist beforehand and go over my strategy...

Now it's time to record myself. I sing it a capella so that I can hear every detail of the sound. Every word sound (consonant and vowel) must be present. Words must be recognizable. Notes must be in tune. One word needs to be caressed a bit more, while another needs a touch of humor. Is there any "spin?" Did I manage to ring one lousy overtone? I do this several times. Then I do it in the mirror to assure that my physical expression matches my vocal expression.

Okay, now for the packaging. Outfit, hair style, makeup, it all matters and is dictated by the event. Shoes are important - must be on the balls of the feet for the best pelvic position for diaphragmatic support, but if they hurt too much.....

There will be no coffee, dairy products, peanut butter, bananas, etc consumed on the day of a performance. I've been drinking nothing but water for days. Unsweetened apple juice is great for cutting phlegm. Alcohol only makes you sing flat and loud. I have this irrational fear of getting the hiccups right before I sing.

Warm up begins when I rise in the morning. Ideally, I sing before I talk that day. I avoid talking as much as possible if the performance isn't until later. My friends will tell you that this is difficult for me.

The moment finally arrives. I approach the microphone, and somehow I must deftly step out of the analytical left side of my brain and into the creative right side. I must stop thinking and start making music. I must now present the gift, and I must do it with confidence so as not to cause you any anxiety. And I must try not to let my face reveal that I am making a mental note of every error as I move from phrase to phrase.

The gift is more than the sum of its parts. It is more than notes and words and air and vocal skills and appearance. The gift is the little part of my soul that I send straight out to you on a silent prayer. I hope to please you. I hope to touch you. I hope to make every cell in your body hum, because mine are about to spin right off of my skin. I hope to be one with you for just a moment.

The gift is delivered with love. It wishes to be received in the same manner.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Try a Little Kindness

I looked up the word kind today. Below are some of the words I found that are associated with the word:

friendly
generous
charitable
humane
considerate
tolerant
agreeable
beneficial

I like all of those words. Those are great words. My definition of kind comes in the form of a simple assessment. If you are about to speak or act, will it be helpful or harmful? Notice I didn't stipulate to whom the help or harm will come. That's because relationships are dynamic and systemic. Help or harm fed into a relationship will affect everyone in the relationship. What goes around comes around, or something like that.

Do you think, reader, that it is possible that the human brain has finally reached maximum capacity? Because it seems to me that the more technologically advanced we become, the meaner we get. It's like we have to let go of some of our "old" learning - like how to get along with our neighbors - to make room for all the new stuff. We scoff at the unsophisticated likes of Fred Rogers who called us "neighbor" and told us to be nice to one another. Fred wore sweaters. He wasn't cool. He didn't carry an iphone. What could Fred know about real life?



Well, I think Fred knew more than most of us will ever know about how to make life count. He knew that we don't have to clear out the data banks to accommodate updated information. He knew about synergy. He knew that laying new knowledge upon a solid foundation of character produces results greater than the sum of the two agents. And that, my dear friends, is magic.

Why this contemplative post? 'Cuz people I love are getting hurt out there. They're trying to live their lives the best they can, and they are suffering as a result of others' words and actions. By the way, I looked up the word life, too. And nowhere in the definition of that word did I find anything about pain.

Friday, August 3, 2007

I've Got Moves You've Never Seen...

(Quick - who can tell me what movie that line is from?)

A couple of days have passed since my 16th annual 29th birthday (that's right, all you analytical minds out there - go ahead and do the math). Getting old is no picnic. I borrowed that saying from... uh... just about everyone else who is getting old.

Oh, Lord, but it's true. Things don't work quite the way they used to. And when they do, they creak. These are the things I miss the most from my youth:
  • being able to hop up onto the kitchen counters to reach the top cabinets
  • my 4 octave range
  • being able to consistently recall why I entered a room
  • abs of steel
  • sleeping through the night without having to visit the little girls room
  • stopping traffic (it's true - any woman out there that says it's not important is a liar)

However, all is certainly not lost. Here are a few things I've managed to retain from my youth:

  • the ability to ride every roller coaster at Six Flags and still enjoy it
  • the stamina to walk all day around the zoo
  • my hair color
  • the whimsy to stand in the middle of my kitchen and sing made-up songs to cranky girls
  • 3 1/2 octaves of my range

And there are even a few things that have improved since my youth:

  • my sense of humor
  • curves
  • my "moves"
  • patience
  • faith
  • courage

Since I have no crystal ball, I have no way of predicting how long I will live. That gives me every good reason not to consider myself middle-aged. Especially since I've still got "moves..."

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Wednesday's Child

I was born on a Wednesday. A Wednesday that happened to fall on August 1st. I'll allow you to insert your own year here...

The saying goes something like this - "Wednesday's child is full of woe..."

When I was a little girl, and the victim of heinous circumstances, that saying gave me some sort of twisted hope. Perhaps being full of woe had nothing to do with being faulty and had everything to do with fate. Wednesday's child can't help it if she's full of woe...

As I grew older and more jaded, the saying seemed to take the shape of some sort of dark destiny. Wednesday's child would never know anything but woe...

Well, the saying turned out to be a dadgum lie, thank you very much. Wednesday's child is deliriously happy today. She is fulfilled, she is full of life (my husband might say I am full of something else), she is full of hope, she is full of wonder, she is full of joy, and she is full of love.

And she is on the verge of learning how to stop time.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Elevators

(I can never come up with clever titles for these entries.... If I ever write a book, I will have to hold a "book-naming" contest...... )

I recently told a story about being kissed, unexpectedly, on an elevator by someone I worked with. This was years ago. We were friends, we had never been anything more than friends. But one day on the way back from lunch, for reasons that remain unknown to me, he laid a good one on me. Shocking! But, boy, did I know I had been kissed!

That is a terrific memory. But I've learned that other types of excitement await the unsuspecting on elevators.

This morning, after tackling a series of obstacles, I arrived at work just in time to follow a student driver from the truck driving school upstairs in our building as he navigated s-l-o-w-l-y through the parking lot. I say "he" because as I got out of my car, I saw a pack of large, glistening (read sweaty), manly specimens walking away from the truck - right toward me. "No big deal," I thought to myself. There were 6 or 7 of them, all considerably taller than I, all over 200 lbs, all wearing some form of sleeveless attire. My twisted mind conjured up a quick commercial about beer and bellies and sweat.

They closed the gap fairly quickly as I am short and was in heels. As they followed me to the building, I noticed that they were making comments. About me. Meant for me to hear. "Sure is hot out here." "Might not be so hot if you didn't have those sleeves on your shirt." (What is it about sleeves, anyway?) "Must be kinda hard to walk in those shoes." "Too bad that skirt's not a little shorter. I bet you've got real purty legs." I'll spare you the remark about my posterior...

I wished I was cocky enough to turn around and ask them if this tactic had ever worked on the ladies.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I reached the door to the building... until, that is, they followed me through the door. There was this awkward moment (felt like an hour) waiting for the elevator. Then they all piled on behind me. Dang. I believe there is a permanent hole in the back of my... head. I thanked God for reminding me to put on perfume this morning.

My evil twin (as BB calls her) recounted her elevator experience when I got into my office. She got to ride up this morning with a huge man wearing one of those prison-issue ankle bracelets. She wins.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Blues Overload

This evening I've been listening to the Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007 on MSN Music. It features performances by some of the greatest guitar players in the world, and proceeds from the festival support Eric Clapton's Crossroads Centre in Antigua. I don't know a darn thing about the Crossroads Centre, but I wouldn't miss the opportunity to listen to Clapton. And right now I'm staying up way past my bedtime 'cuz Robert Cray is playing. Great - Robert Cray just invited Jimmy Vaughn to the stage. So much for bed... I'm gonna hate myself in the morning...

I was reminiscing about a Robert Cray concert I went to once with a couple of folks I didn't like much. Didn't care for the company, but the payoff was worth it. (Have you ever done that?) Anyway, the irritating chic from NYC complained after the concert that the blues made her feel sad. Whatever... Maybe it was God punishing her for talking trash about Southerners.

I'm gonna close my eyes now and feel the music for a while. Good night.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Go Ahead and Laugh

I went to see the movie Hair Spray tonight. Had a really hard time wrapping my brain around John Travolta as a large, silly woman, but otherwise had a good time. I laughed an awful lot, which is one of my favorite activities.

Here's my confession to you, reader - I love musicals. I always have. When I was a little girl, I used to make up songs and choreograph them and get the neighbor kids together to put on a show. I know, I know... they are silly, they are unrealistic, people don't just break into song and dance at the drop of a hat, blah, blah, blah... And how do all the passersby just happen to know the words to the songs and the dance steps so that they can join in? Okay, I have to admit that is puzzling...

The thing is, I want to live in that world. I want to be able to sing and shout and spin and whirl and leap and drag others along with me when I am filled with emotion. I already do it in my head anyway. Lately I have been doing it a lot. I worry that one day I will forget to keep it in my head and that I will end up on the psych floor of the county hospital. Maybe you will come visit me there, and we can put on a big production number with the other residents!

Friday, July 27, 2007

What's Goin' On

It is nearly 2:00 in the morning. I can't sleep. My appetite has been unusually light. I have been having difficulty concentrating. I am under some stress at work - deadlines, tiresome tasks that make my brain hurt, some new interpersonal stuff - but I am deliriously happy.

I am picking up the Not-So-Little One at camp in several hours. Back to the same old stuff - morning grumpies, arguments with her sister, complaints that there is nothing in her closet to wear - but I am deliriously happy.

I have to book plane tickets for a conference in Cincinnati. Online shopping - comparing prices, making decisions, spending large amounts of money (thank God it's not mine) - but I am deliriously happy.

I am graduating in a few weeks. A new chapter is beginning in my life - licensing exam, cool new letters to type after my name on my business card, major career decisions to be made - but I am deliriously happy.

Have you ever ridden one of those rides at an amusement park that s-l-o-w-l-y takes you to the edge of a man made abyss, hangs you over the precipice for what seems like an eternity, and then abruptly drops you, allowing you to fall helplessly to an unseen destination? Scares the hell out of you, doesn't it?! The next time I do that, I am going to release the death grip I usually have on the safety bar. I think I will come off that ride deliriously happy.