Monday, December 22, 2008

The Best Christmas

There was one distraught coworker in my office last Thursday morning. He told a distressing story. It went something like this:


Coworker: Remember that client I have been working with the last several months? The one we helped get a walker for her mother?

Me: Yes, I remember. What about her?

Coworker: Well, she had asked for help getting Christmas gifts for her little girls. She faxed over the form. I followed up. But somehow they didn't get adopted.

Me: You've checked with the donations coordinator?

Coworker: Yes. Sometimes some families don't get adopted. I guess this is one of those circumstances. I hate to think those kids won't get anything for Christmas because of some mistake I might have made. I was awake all night thinking about it.

Me: Bring me the forms.

Coworker: That's awfully nice of you, but...

Me: Please bring me the forms...


Some emails were sent out, explaining the situation and asking for help. I had faith that this would work out, even though it was very last minute and most people would have already spent their Christmas budgets. I figured if a few people did a little, the parents would have enough to put under the tree.

I did not send to my entire address book. There was no real rhyme or reason to my choices. It was as if God was guiding my hand as I clicked on select individuals, some with whom I have not spoken directly in quite some time.

The response was overwhelming. There were bags of toys, puzzles, books, clothes, and shoes for the children. There were gifts for the parents. There was even a huge turkey for Christmas dinner.




I sat in the floor and cried when I went through the loot, humbled by the realization that if my friends would do this for strangers, they would surely do this and more for my family if asked.

And here is the final proof that God had His hand in all of this - every single person from whom I received a donation thanked me for giving them the opportunity to help out. THEY thanked ME! Many went on to tell me that they had been praying for a way to share their good fortune this year and that they now felt as if Christmas was finally here.

I have the most amazing friends in the world. I defy anyone to say otherwise. And my God is an awesome God!

Happy birthday, Jesus! And thank You. You have given me the best Christmas gift ever!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Porky



I dare you not to laugh...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Shoes

Sorry I've been MIA the last couple of weeks. I've had nothing on my mind other than our annual Christmas program at church. This year the chancel choir, children's choir, and youth drama team joined forces to present The Christmas Shoes, a musical drama based on the #1 hit single by NewSong.

Putting together a program of this type, in a small church with limited resources, is no small undertaking. Aside from teaching and rehearsing both choirs, I rewrote parts of the script to suit the ages and genders of the actors, rewrote part of a song to make it more sing-able, and relied upon my Asian minimalist nature to create convincing sets from practically nothing.

And it was all good! The program exceeded my every expectation. First of all, everyone showed up on time! The children's choir sang sweetly and then managed to stay still and attentive for the remainder of the program. The acting was outstanding. And whoever that choir was that graced our chancel last night, I hope they come back every week.

Let me just say that I was impressed with how professionally every single person, from preschooler on up, behaved. There was this perfect blend of serious and silly throughout the entire process.

One of the couples in the chancel choir sang a duet - Mr Grinch. They got laughs in all the right spots and were altogether a big hit. It was as if the song was written just for them.

We played to a packed house and received a standing ovation. There were bows and grins and hugs all around. Our accompanist, Belinda, got the loudest applause, and it was richly deserved.

There were many shining moments, and I could write pages about them. But what I really feel compelled to mention is all the behind-the-scenes stuff. From the minute I decided to put this program together, I knew that it was going to happen. That's because I handed it over to Him.

Every time I had a specific need, someone stepped up and offered to help. It was such a joy to not have to worry about sound or lighting or who was going to keep an eye on the children. I even had plenty of help with tear down afterwards.

I'll cherish this program and hold it in my heart, because I am well aware that this was a rare and beautiful thing. And I believe it blessed the hearts of those who experienced it with me. I think I am finally ready for Christmas now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Q

If you've been around me the last several days, you may have noticed that I have not been myself. You might have wondered why I am quieter than usual, less jovial, a little aloof. There is a reason, and it is probably not at all what you may be thinking.

It's not PMS. It's not stress. It's not work or family or church or the economy or politics. No one has died... that I know of. I am not sick, unless you count sick with worry.

The reason is that my heart hurts. Please don't feel bad - you couldn't possibly have known because I wouldn't have allowed it. I tend to keep my pain private. Others don't always know what to do with it when you share it, and the last thing you want when you are hurting is more reasons to hurt.

Q, my eldest domestic short-haired feline, is missing. He got out on Thanksgiving day, and he hasn't returned. He is 15 years old, and he has resided with us his entire life. He has never been outside because he is terrified of outside. And for the last several days he has been alone and scared and cold and hungry and thirsty and OUTSIDE.

Q is just an ordinary cat, just like I am an ordinary woman. He's not breathtakingly handsome. He's not dazzlingly brilliant. He's not a death-defying acrobat. He's just a cat. A cat that sits on whichever part of you feels bad when you are sick. A cat that sleeps in the bends of your body at night, stealing all your body heat. A cat that has been known to fall asleep sitting on the arm of the sofa and then fall off. A cat that eats only cat food, if you can believe it.

He's a cat that tries to stow away in my suitcase when I travel and then cusses me out for several hours when I return. He's a cat that nags me to come to bed when he is ready to retire. He's also a cat that didn't leave my side for two weeks when I suffered a miscarriage. He's proof that ordinary can be special.

After searching the entire house, we spotted him in the side yard Thursday evening, and he deftly disappeared when we tried to scoop him up. We've done all of the usual things to try to get him home, and a few not so usual. Is it a sin to pray about a missing cat? Maybe. I think God will overlook my trivial nature this time.

I did not tell you about this before because every time I started to say, "My cat ran away," it sounded a bit like "the dog ate my homework" in my head. It seemed trite and dumb. And I didn't want to be laughed at. I still don't, although I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear you laughing at this very moment.

Just... be patient. I'll be fine. I'm always fine. And, please... if you can't say nothin' nice, don't say nothin' at all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'Tis the Season

The airwaves were all aflutter this morning over a local school district's decision to stop a middle school choir from performing a parody of The Twelve Days of Christmas. According to the news reports, some of the parents were uncomfortable about some of the lyrics, namely the parts about shooting the partridge and ringing the necks of the turtle doves.

Plenty of listeners chimed in, insinuating that these parents (and the school district) were uptight killjoys who are taking the matter way too seriously. Perhaps.

I happen to like parodies. I write them myself. My daughters have oftentimes awaken to the refrain of my very own Monday Mornin' Blues. Ask my coworkers sometime about The Spirituality in the Workplace Committee Blues. I laugh with gusto at the twisted lyrics of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. And I want Forest Lawn played at my funeral.

But... there is a big difference between singing off-color lyrics in the company of family and friends and presenting a musical composition to an audience in a community forum.

The holidays can be exhausting, distressing, downright depressing. A little levity can certainly go a long way toward relieving stress.

But... I'm not entirely sure listening to a bunch of 8th graders sing about killing defenseless animals with their bare hands is congruent with the whole "peace on earth" message of the season.

I think it is absolutely a-okay to joke about and laugh at and make light of, well, just about everything - parenting, relationships, the government, even religion.

But... I also think it is better sometimes to err on the side of caution, take the higher road, think before we speak, show a little class. After all, isn't that the sort of lesson we want our children to learn?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Center of My Universe

You may have begun to wonder if my life revolves around my children. The resounding answer is "Yes!" and I am not ashamed of that. I wanted them, I will only have them for a season, and after that I will wonder where the time went and perhaps regret the things I didn't do with them and for them.

As for today, I am proud of the young women they are becoming. They were fitted for their first pairs of pointe shoes recently. This is a huge milestone in the life of a serious dancer. They have put them on every evening since the ballet mistress approved them, lovingly wrapping the satin ribbons up their calves and tucking the ends.

In anticipation of this event, their daddy converted a bedroom into a dance studio. On pads of high density foam floats a sturdy framework of 2x4's. Counter-sunk screws secure the most expensive sheets of finished plywood we could find. Several coats of polyurethane were applied to the floor, giving it a satiny finish.

The barres and mirror will be added when the bank account is replenished. We agreed on a solid mirror so that there are no seams to peer around - 6' x 8' ought to do it. I don't even want to think about what that will cost...

You know what? It doesn't matter. Every penny, every mile, every moment expended on this 8-year journey has been worth it. No matter what these girls end up choosing as a career, the benefits of dance will serve them. They don't watch a lot of television, they don't sit around playing video games. They know how to act in public. They understand hard work and commitment. They dance.

Something that will serve an even greater purpose in their lives is their love of God and their acceptance of Jesus as their Savior. My daughters made their confession of faith and were baptized in a service of immersion on November 9, 2008 at Trinity Christian Church in Fort Worth. This happens to be the same church in which their daddy received Jesus into his heart in 1991.

I can't describe the feelings I experienced as I watched them enter the water and emerge as new people. As a parent, you know that you have certain uncompromisable duties - food, shelter, safety, education. Some parents do better than others in providing these. But faith is often overlooked, even by professing Christians. If I do nothing more as a parent, I believe I will have given my children the greatest gift possible by modeling love and tolerance and servitude according to God's will.

I know that my work is not done. I still have to get them graduated and off to college. But the foundation for a meaningful life has been laid. And I thank the Lord for allowing me to have a part in the process.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Diet That Works

I am on a "C" Food Diet. "C" stands for "comfort." It works because the only expectation I have of this diet is that I will find solace in the tastes and sensations I love.

Here is a not-intended-to-be-comprehensive list of items on my diet:

chocolate
cheese
cookies
crackers
cake
caramel
chocolate
cream (Bavarian-, ice-, whipped-, sour-, -cheese, -gravy... it's all good)cherries
candy
cashews
chips
chocolate
chicken fried steak
chicken fried chicken
coffee
crab (and you thought everything on this list would be bad for you...)
chocolate

You get extra rewards if you are able to combine two "C" foods and enjoy them together, like cheese cake or chocolate cake. Triple points for chocolate covered cherries.

Feel free to make suggestions of your own.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I'm Up Because I Forgot to Set My Clocks Back...

I never was too keen on dressing up animals. They don't seem to like it, and it's pretty silly. But there's nothing like having children to change your outlook on things. The Not-So-Little One dressed as a pirate this year, so her Shiba Inu, Maggie, was subjected to a little matching humiliation.


The Little One always chooses costumes that are creepy. (Last year I had to tell her to quit telling everyone she was Satan.) She was a vampire this year, complete with realistic-looking fake blood. She couldn't find a vampire costume small enough for her Japanese Chin, so Mushi was her little bat buddy.

We had a grand time at work this year for Halloween. Several people in the agency entered the costume contest. We had a picnic, too. Here are a few memories from the day:


We did not have a lot of trick-or-treaters this year. That made me kind of sad. I have very fond memories of panhandling my neighbors for candy. The world has changed, though, and parents are forced to be more protective of their children. Some folks these days shun Halloween, citing religious beliefs. To them I say, "bah humbug."
It was an exciting, albeit disappointing, weekend for college ball. My beloved alma mater lost to their rival Sam Houston State University by three lousy cotton-pickin' points. And the Texas/Texas Tech game about gave me a coronary. The Horns play Baylor, Kansas, and Texas A&M the next three weeks, though, so I think they will be able to redeem themselves.
Today is All Saints Sunday at our church. We will remember loved ones we've lost during the past year. I sing a lot of funerals (I consider it an honor to do so), and this year has been pretty busy.
Hope you've had a memorable weekend yourself, however you chose to spend it. Say a prayer for a loved one. And one for the Lumberjacks, while you are at it...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Homecoming 2008


I watched the Lumberjacks get ax'd again on Saturday. They haven't had a terrible season, but they took a pretty humiating beating from Texas State. Not a cheerful way to celebrate Stephen F Austin's 85th birthday. It was a familiar scene, however, and evoked memories of homecoming games past.
(I recently replaced my stolen camera with a very nifty Canon Power Shot SX110. I took tons of photos and vids. I am trying to shake my moniker of The World's Worst Asian.)

The rest of homecoming weekend was dandy. We arrived early enough Friday to spend a boatload of money at the bookstores and to enjoy some darn fine Mexican cuisine. It was just cool enough that night to make us thankful for the heat radiating off the bonfire. It was pretty eerie to watch the students carry torches from blocks away, stepping to the rhythm of the marching band, and launch them onto the mountain of tinder.





Fire and smoke are mesmerizing, let me tell you.



video


This year's bonfire was a nicely organized event. The sound system was great, making it possible for us to hear the pep talk from the coaches and players. There was even a local cover band playing 80s tunes (the theme of the weekend). And there were fireworks.

video


Saturday morning we went to the historic downtown area to watch the parade. It seemed as if the whole town turned out to see the floats and the homecoming court. I smiled with private satisfaction at what I always knew to be true - while high school homecoming royalty may be selected primarily for looks, this is not necesarily the case in college. These individuals were pretty ordinary-looking folks, with long lists of accomplishments and affiliations.



We discovered Raisin' Cane, a really terrific little fast food establishment. They only serve chicken strips. They don't need to serve anything else, 'cuz I truly believe anything else would have paled in comparison. OMG, was that some good eatin'!

We got a huge run around trying to locate the tickets I purchased in advance. The alumni association told me to pick them up at will call. Will call told me to go wander around the big parking lot searching for the alumni association booth. The alumni association had left by the time I found their booth. Back to will call to state my case. Have I mentioned that nothing ever happens easily for me?



So, we missed the National Anthem, dang it, and the fight song. Grrr! The game was disappointing. But the Lumberjack Marching Band, AKA The Boldest Sound from the Oldest Town, did not disappoint. They were as solid as I remembered. And they appeared to be having just as much fun in the stands as we did all those years ago.



Homecoming is really for the alumni. If you haven't been back to your alma mater, go. This business about "never looking back" is nonsense. A good long gaze at your past is a strong reminder of how far you have come.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Holes

I dug a hole.

I dug a hole to bury the cat.

I dug a hole to bury the cat that I didn't want in the first place. The cat that the Not-So-Little-One rescued from certain death to bobcats at my sister's ranch. The cat that bullied my other cats and destroyed my sofa and ate weird stuff - the exact weird stuff that ended his life.

I waged war against the rocky North Texas clay, armed with a long-handled shovel and an indomitable will. The ground was hard, but it was no match for my head. The shovel handle landed a blow to that head, and it left a bruise, but it did not win, either.

I dug a hole. It was barely wide enough and probably not as deep as it should have been.

But... I dug a hole. I dug a hole because a dead cat has to go somewhere, and it made more sense to send it's body back to Mother Earth than to throw it in the nearest culvert or in a dumpster. I dug a hole because I love my daughter. I dug a hole because it is what you do.

I dug the hole and I sweated and I cursed. I allowed myself the luxury of feeling angry over all of the losses in my life. I felt the emptiness in the holes those losses left behind. I lowered the walls and let the memories flood in, and I savored every bit of it, knowing that when the task was finished I would shut them out once again.

I said goodbye. To the cat. To my mother. To my lost babies. To my innocence. To my youth. To those I loved and to those that never loved me.

I filled up the hole. With every shovel load of dirt that I dropped unceremoniously into the hole, I felt the walls go back up. But I also felt some of the emptiness subside. I reminded myself that some of the love I lost has indeed been replaced. And I took pride in the fact that I was able to do this thing all by myself.

I filled up the hole and I tamped the soil down and I placed a rock the size of my head (one that I extracted from the ground with my bare hands) on the grave.

I sat next to the site and thanked God for strength and humbly asked if He would be so kind as to keep my bum shoulder from punishing me too much the next day.

He spared the shoulder. But the bruise on my head remains a reminder that these things are just what you do.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Funerals

One of the privileges of being a church music director is getting to sing at funerals. Singing at funerals is quite different than singing at weddings. At weddings, most everyone is already happy, and it is fairly easy to please people that are giddy and full of hope.

Most people at funerals are not happy at all. They are there to say goodbye to someone that mattered to them, to find closure. Your job as a soloist is bigger than "singing pretty." You are there to comfort, ease pain, facilitate a transition. It is a big job. And not at all easy for empath.

So I consider it a privilege to be entrusted with this job. I am blessed to be able to do it several times a year. Today was one of those days. I pray that I was as much a blessing to them as they were to me.

***

Like I said, I go to a lot of funerals. Some are inside, some are outside. The outside ones are always an adventure.

One such adventure comes to mind. I arrived at the cemetery in the nick of time, having just driven through a torrential downpour. It was chilly and muddy and windy. As I was standing there, feeling the heels of my pumps sink into the soft earth, I noticed several little beetles scurrying around on the ground. One was heading in my direction, so I stepped off a little ways to my right to get out of its path. I secretly wished I were one of the family members seated on the outdoor carpet. There were no beetles over there that I could see.

I must inject here that I am a bug-a-phobe. Big time. It is irrational and real. Ask me sometime about the Concert in the Gardens...

Anyway, I was listening intently to the minister when all of the sudden I felt a tickle on the back on my right leg. When I reached around and placed my hand on my right "cheek", I felt a hard little lump moving under my pants. I bit my tongue to stifle the scream that was rising in my throat, jiggled the pant leg, and wiggled my booty a bit in hopes it would fall back down.

A few minutes later I felt a tickle below my right should blade. The little bugger was heading toward my neck - which meant it could potentially crawl into my hair. A horror scene flashed through my mind, complete with screaming and hopping and thrashing about. It wasn't pretty in my head, and it would have been even uglier in real life.

Now, I am the consummate Southern lady. To make a scene at a graveside service would be nothing short of scandalous. So... I grabbed hold of the thing through my suit jacket and pinched it as hard as I could. I felt it crunch, which made me want to puke. I must have killed it, because I didn't find it anywhere later on. Amazingly, no one around me had any clue that I averted a catastrophe.

It's the stuff of nightmares, I tell you.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What I Need When I Need It

Yesterday morning I had a mammogram. There's something about exposing your parts to a stranger and then having them unceremoniously pulled, stretched, yanked, and flattened that leaves you feeling a little less than glamorous.

So I decided to treat myself to a little "me" time at a nearby Starbucks. I ordered a chai tea latte and a pastry and settled in next the window. I lost myself in the streaming sunlight and the book I had brought.

As I exited through the door, I noticed someone coming out behind me. I did what I always do - I held the door. The man following behind me stopped me and said, "I just have to tell you. You look good. I was looking. I couldn't keep my eyes off of you. You look really good." I sputtered something that I hope resembled, "thank you," and he went back inside the coffee shop.

He did not follow me to my car. He did not ask my name or my phone number. He did not ask for anything else, if you know what I mean. He simply spoke his thoughts and went back inside. I did not feel threatened. I felt.... revived!

In my youth, I may have been offended by this gesture. I have friends who still complain about the boldness of men. But at my age I have learned to savor every compliment. I am aging, I don't look the way I used to, and I will not always look this way.

I share this story not because I want to draw attention to my oh-so-obvious hotness (ha, ha). I share it because it validates a belief I have in my God. He gives me what I need at the moments I need it. The last couple weeks have left me feeling insignificant. Seems there is no shortage of folks who will happily remind you how little you are worth. I needed to believe that, at least for a little while, I stood out.

So I choose to extract the positive from this experience and ignore the negative. Whatever that man's true intentions, no harm was done. And a little good was injected right where it was needed most.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cars

I saw a lot of old cars this weekend. As a former owner of a 1958 Oldsmobile 88 and a 1965 silver Ford Thunderbird, I have a weakness for antique vehicles.

After I dropped the girls off for ballet on Friday afternoon, I met Mikel at the Burlington Northern offices in Fort Worth. A coworker had told him about a car show the employees were having there. There were some beauties, and some of them were in original condition. My favorite was the '40s vintage Morgan. British racing green with wooden running boards and leather strap over the bonnet.

I would have taken pictures, but my digital camera was stolen out of my car a couple of months ago. Along with the storage card full of dance recital pictures.

The girls danced with their company at the Azle Sting Fling Saturday afternoon. It was pretty hot, but not as terrible as it was last year. They were amazing. You'll just have to take my word for it. No pics.

We got some snow cones and let the girls sit in the truck to eat them while we strolled amongst the entries of the car show. I fell in love with the 1956 Inca Gold T-bird. The man and woman who owned it have been married longer than this car has been in existence. They were real enthusiasts, happy to tell the stories that accompanied their labor of love.

Did I mention my camera got stolen? Dang it.....

I miss my old T-bird. I have a two-year-old GMC Envoy now. I bought it new. It is already having problems. Just like the last General Motors car I owned. And the one before that. I guess it's true that they just don't make 'em like they used to.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Devalued

I have very little respect for medical providers. I go to doctors, I pay my fees, I do what they tell me to do, but I do not respect them. I do not respect them because they clearly do not respect me.

About six weeks ago I went in for a routine eye exam. I was having no problems with my vision, it was just time to go. Everything went as expected, and I walked out with a new prescription for contact lenses.

Within a week I noticed that the left lens wasn't working for me, so I went back for a recheck. They sent me home with a different left lens. That one didn't work. Another recheck, another left lens. The optometrist commented that some people "my age" can't wear contact lenses anymore.

Right about that time I noticed that I had a growth, a bump, on my left eyelid. I also noticed that the vision in my left eye was significantly changed. I was experiencing double vision and it felt like I was looking through Vaseline. Even my glasses were not working for me anymore.

Back for another recheck. No one would listen to me. The assistant wouldn't let me tell her what I was experiencing. The optometrist fixated on the fact that the bump might be keeping the contact lens from seating properly. He completely disregarded the fact that I couldn't even see with my glasses. He refused to recheck my vision and told me to go to an ophthalmologist to have the growth removed. He refused to answer my inquiries, and he failed to give me any instructions.

I resorted to poking around on the internet to try to understand what was happening to my eye. Turns out I have something called a chalazion.

Two weeks passed before I could get into the specialist's office. Two weeks of not being able to read, two weeks of not being able to drive at night, two weeks of eye strain and headaches.

I went to my appointment yesterday. I sat in the waiting room for two hours. When I was finally taken back to the exam room, the assistant asked a few rapid-fire questions, said it didn't look too bad to her, and ran out of the room before I had a chance to ask any questions.

The second assistant asked what I had been doing to treat the problem. I told her I had been given no instructions. She frowned and informed me that I was supposed to be treating this and that removal was a last resort. She, too, ran out of the room before I could speak.

Thirty minutes later the ophthalmologist came in. He told me I had a chalazion (no s**t, Sherlock), that I needed to apply hot compresses 5 times a day and put this ointment in my eye every night. He said that if it wasn't gone in a month, he will lance it. He grunted something when I remarked that I could have taken care of this myself.

I forced him to confirm that the chalazion is the reason I couldn't see. He seemed mildly surprised that I had been given no information, and he was clearly annoyed that I had wasted his time. He showed absolutely no concern for the fact that I had waited for him for over two hours or that I had dealing with poor vision for a month. And he had no recommendations regarding how I was supposed to get around in the upcoming month.

Did I mention that every one of these visits cost me and my insurance company an exorbitant amount of money? The money is not the issue, however. I just wanted to shout, "Would you please just shut up and listen to me? If you would close your mouth, I will give you everything you need to make an informed diagnosis."

I'm pissed. I still can't see. I still have a headache. I still have to be driven after dark. I've wasted lots of money and time due to someone else's lack of communication skills. I feel devalued and disrespected. I can't wear eye makeup for yet another month. And... I have no idea how to evoke change in a system that is fatally flawed.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fifteen Years

Today is my 15th wedding anniversary. Sometimes it seems as if the time has flown by, and other times it feels as if I have been married forever.

What is the secret to our success, you may ask? Well, I don't know if "success" is the right word. Mikel and I are normal people, with normal concerns, normal disagreements, and normal desires. Neither of us is a villian, and neither of us is a martyr. We are just people.

We do the best we can with what we have to work with. With the tools life has handed us. And we pick up new tools along the way.

We've learned that not every thought that pops into one's head must necessarily be given a voice. In other words, we've learned when it is prudent to shut up.

We've learned that sometimes things sound good in theory but don't work out so well in real time. We go back to the proverbial drawing board again and again.

We are still learning when and how to express a need. And how to forgive - each other and ourselves.

Our greatest success seems to be reflected in the wonderful young women our daughters are becoming. And I hope that when they are grown and gone we have other things to be proud of, things that are not all about the children.

Thank you, Mikel, for fifteen years, two terrific children, and one fascinating journey.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I Would Tell Them

My daughters are a little young yet for deep, life-changing conversations. They still listen to Radio Disney and play with WebKinz. And I am thankful for that.

Sometimes, though, I am overcome with an urgency to tell them things. Things that perhaps will protect them from the hurt of the world. Things that will keep them safe.

How much do you think kids really hear when we talk to them about strangers and danger? Some studies suggest that no matter how many times you have the "stranger danger" discussion, kids still go help people find lost puppies.

There are some things I would tell them, if I could.

I would tell them not to grow up too quickly. You will be a grown up before you know it. You will have responsibilities. You will have to work. And you will never get to be a kid again. It will be gone. Take your time, for Pete's sake.

I would tell them to think before they speak. Every thought that pops into your head does not necessarily need to be spoken. Ask yourself, "Is what I'm about to say helpful or hurtful?" If it will keep you from harm, then SHOUT it. If it will harm another, whisper it - to yourself.

I would tell them that most of the time it is better to be kind than to be right. Pointing out other people's errors does nothing but build walls between you. It embarrasses them and makes you look mean-spirited. Those walls are hard to bring down.

I would tell them to tell the truth. And I would tell them that there are lots of ways to tell the truth - rude ways, mean ways, cruel ways, tender ways, gentle ways, compassionate ways... I would beg them to practice the tender, gentle, compassionate ways.

I would tell them that when they take that huge leap into sexuality, that I hope it is totally consensual and that they have put some thought behind the decision. I hope that the object of their affection loves them and cherishes them and respects them and puts them first. I hope that they are treated like the princesses they are, that they are placed on pedestals.

I would tell them that women and men are vastly different creatures when it comes to relationships. I would remind them that women have a difficult time separating what they feel physically from what they feel emotionally. Not so with all men. It takes a special man to understand that.

I would tell them - I DO tell them - that no one has ever loved them the way that I love them. And I would tell them that if I could, I would wrap myself around them and form a force field between them and the world. I would.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Anyone Want a Nine-Year-Old?

Mom: What do you want for breakfast?

Little One: Ice cream.

Mom: You can't have ice cream for breakfast.

Little One: Why not? You asked what I wanted. I answered. I want ice cream.

Mom (fingers making depressions in counter top): Well, you can't have ice cream for breakfast. There's very little nutrition in ice cream.

Little One: Then put it in one of those waffle cones.

***

Not-So-Little-One (feeding her new betta fish): Isn't he pretty? I named him Nick Jonas.

Mom: Yeah, he's pretty, I guess. For a fish. I'm not so sure Nick would want a fish named after him. He looks plenty healthy - swimming around and eating and stuff. I haven't seen him do a back flip yet, though...

Not-So-Little-One: We're working on that.

***

Not-So-Little-One: Thank you, Daddy, for working so hard so we can dance. We know it costs a lot of money. And thank you for driving us everywhere.

Dad: You're welcome. I know it's important to you.

Little One: And thank you both for... for... you know... so we could be born.

***

Not-So-Little-One: Look, Mommy! This woman on the front of this magazine looks just like you!

Mom: Oh, thank you honey, you're very sweet, but she is much prettier. She's famous and everything. She gets paid tons of money just for having her picture taken.

Not-So-Little-One: No, really, Mommy. She looks just like you.

(The cover model: Salma Hayek)

***

Note to self - increase Not-So-Little-One's allowance

New note to self - sell Little One to the highest bidder

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Shameless Plug


It's that dreaded time of year. The time when coworkers close their office doors when they see you coming. The time when parents remind their children how much they sacrifice for their happiness.


It's fundraising time.


First installment - I have an order form for ready-to-bake Otis Spunkmeyer cookies in my office. Several different flavors. $15 a box (makes 4 dozen cookies).


In all fairness to Otis, these are pretty tasty cookies. Come see me if you have a cookie fetish.


And if you're using that old "I'm on a diet" excuse, don't you worry. I have yet another child...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Did You Know?

Did you know that if you fill every spare moment of every single day with some sort of important, meaningful activity, you can shut out the demons in your head? And that the more selfless the activity, the quieter the voices?

And did you know that if you move fast enough - car, boat, go kart, roller coaster, motorcycle, legs, mouth, hands, whatever - you can outrun memories?

And did you know that if you surround yourself with other people and keep them close to you, wearing them like some sort of talisman, you can avoid facing yourself and your own inadequacies and insecurity?

Well... you can. For a while.

Be still, and know that I am God..." (Psalm 46:10)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Things I Didn't Need to See

Here are some things I did not need to see on my way to work today:
  • the sticker in the back glass of the monster pick up truck that reads slapaho
  • all of those other stickers in the back windows of all of those other trucks that depict Calvin peeing on something
  • the pack of boys walking beside the road holding on to their "parts" while their baggy shorts hung below their backsides
  • the boxer shorts being worn by that same pack of boys
  • the fourth grader wearing eye shadow and mascara
  • the middle-schooler with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth
  • the sixteen-year-olds in my neighborhood driving nicer cars than I own
  • the beer billboard that featured the headless upper torso of a young woman in a cut off t-shirt, allowing a peek at the underside of her breasts
  • the "gentlemen's" clubs billboards that suggest that men can have a better time gazing at strangers than spending time with their own partners
  • the huge, faded, rusty billboard on the side of the freeway with an arrow pointing the way to Plastic Surgery

These things can all be summed up in one word - tasteless.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ask

There is a God. And He is awesome. And He is merciful, even when we make stupid mistakes and forget to take care of the things He has placed in our charge.

This morning, at 5:00 am, I stood in the shower, breathing in blessed steam, stretching my neck, relaxing my shoulders, trying to overcome the tension that had already begun to build. In two hours I would be standing in front of hundreds of athletes, folks who take their passion seriously, to offer a sample of my own passion. I had promised to sing the National Anthem for the Fort Worth Runners Club Labor Day race.

Two days ago I lost my head. Forgot to take care of my instrument. Worse than that, I outright abused it, screaming my bloody head off on the Titan at Six Flags. I allowed my love of speed to overshadow my judgment. I knew I would be singing, and I chose to blow out my vocal chords anyway. Stupid.

I also knew I had a solo at church yesterday. Turned out okay because it was pitched below my break. As of last night, I had nothing above the break. On the way to the event, I was still struggling.

So, there I stood this morning at the start line, breathing deeply, worrying, chastising myself for my foolishness. And when I opened my mouth, there were no surprises. It was not a flawless performance, but I believe it blessed those who gathered.

And I never chalk these successful performances up to chance or luck. I know why I manage to pull them off. I know that He hears my prayers. I can no longer count the number of times I have bowed my head in prayer before a performance, asking my God to help me overcome some vocal problem so that the gift that I am about to present will be clear, pure, and a blessing to those who will hear it.

Because it is never about me. The gift is not for me. It is always for the audience. Once it leaves my body, I no longer own it. Maybe I never did to begin with. Few things are as unsettling as sitting through a poor performance. It is my responsibility to put the listener at ease. And it is never the listener's fault if I choose to abuse my instrument.

So I humble myself before Him, and I ask for help. He always comes through. I ask Him to get me through the performance, and that is precisely what He grants me. It is the same every time - I can barely sing a note right up to the moment, I manage a pretty good offering at the mic, and then I find I can't sing much of anything afterwards.

God is real. God is good.

Monday, August 25, 2008

One Love

I dare you not to smile...


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rock and Roll Heart

It's not a very sophisticated song, not one of Clapton's best, but I like it nonetheless. Sometimes I joke around and say that I have a rock and roll heart. It's only half-joke, though.

Sometimes I look around me and I think I can, fairly accurately, put folks into musical categories. Pop music - fashionable, trendy, fun, shallow. Country music - dusty, rode hard and put up wet, but clever and industrious. Rap - persecuted, angry, attention-seeking. Classical - uppity, pretentious, serious. Blues - lonely, betrayed, vengeful.

I'm overgeneralizing, sure. But I think you get my point.

I love all of these genres of music, but I've walked to a rock and roll beat most of my life. Speaking my mind. Expressing myself in unique ways. A little too loud and a little too colorful at times. Sometimes forgetting where I am and having to be reminded to tone it down a bit. A little rough around the edges, but doing my best to be honest and fair. Not taking life too seriously. Not worrying too much what others think and, more importantly, not expecting others to worry too much about what I think. Knowing, deep down, that my God loves me no matter what.

And I find myself in a phase of life in which I need to care what other people think. I am employed as a manager at a faith-based organization. I am a church choir director. I am a wife. I am a mother. Suddenly, my reputation matters. When did this happen? When did I go from young and free to mature and responsible?

Maybe maturing means that I can no longer have a rock and roll heart. Or maybe it means that I need to be more rounded in all the categories. Probably it means I need to open my eyes and ears and heart and pay closer attention to how I fit into the world around me.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Last night a handful of folks from my church assembled for a FW Cats baseball game. We had really great seats, and the weather was just perfect. We ate Kincaid's hamburgers and made lots of noise.

Being pseudo-poor, we rarely end up in decent seats, and last night we were surrounded by season tickets holders and die hard fans. It was hilarious! See, I like the Cats. We've been going to games for years, but we don't know all the players' stats and all that. We want to see them win, but it's not like when the Rangers play the Yankees. We go to these games to have fun.

So this septuagenarian behind us yells at the umpire after a questionable call, "Why don't you clean off the plate?" To which the woman in front of us responds, "What for? He's not looking at it anyway!" I cracked up right out loud.

It went like that most of the game. I even got into it, booing when the ump called a strike that was clearly high and outside. Well, it was if you could see the plate - if it weren't for the players scooting the dirt off the center of the plate with their shoes, it would have been buried by the end of the game.

There were these two really young bat boys. They couldn't have been more than 5 years old. I called them the itty bitty bat boys. The bats were nearly as long as they were tall. Let me tell you, these little guys were serious about the game. We were close enough to the dugout to see them as they stood patiently on the steps, never taking their eyes off the game so they could do their jobs. And they did their jobs extremely well. I didn't know there was such a thing as a 5 year old boy that could pay attention that long. It was cool to see the players and officials treating them respectfully, too.

I'm trying to teach the girls to like baseball as much as I do. The Not-So-Little One watches the plays. She asks lots of good questions. She's trying to learn. The Little One, however, spent the first two innings pouting that she didn't want to be there. I gently explained that we parents do lots and lots of things to entertain our children that we don't enjoy (can anyone say Chuck E Cheese's?) and that this time it was our turn to have fun. She found a cricket hanging on the wire above us to watch and settled down. She even asked a few questions about the game.

I teased her a bit by telling her that next year we are buying season's tickets so we can go to all of the games. I don't have words to describe the look she gave me as she sarcastically asked if the game was over yet.

We're actually hoping the Little One will play ball one day. She has a terrific arm (dunked the kindergarten teacher that was mean to her older sister at the school carnival not once, not twice, but three times in a row when she was seven) and can outrun every boy in her class. Loves to run the bases after the Cats games, blowing by the boys as she leaves them in her dust, waist-long hair flying in the wind. She's a vision, I tell you. Maybe it would be more appealing to her if she could wear tights and a ballet bun while she played.

There was a fireworks show after the game. The lady behind me said, "Oooh, I like those squiggly ones. They look like sperm." She said again a few seconds later, so I am sure that is what I heard. You get to see a different side of your church family when you go out in public with them. And I love that the most.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Toilet Training

If you happen to be eating while you read this, you may want come back later.

I'm getting on a soapbox, ladies. I say "ladies" because you are my target audience today.

Why, oh why, do some women insist on hovering over the toilet seat in public restrooms to urinate? The only thing they accomplish is getting their bodily fluids all over the seat. And apparently their bodily fluids are so distasteful to these same women that they cannot bring themselves to clean up their messes.

If you don't want to touch your urine, I certainly don't want to! And... if I wanted to tiptoe through puddles, I would use the men's room instead (sorry, guys).

Ladies and gentlemen, news flash - you cannot catch anything from a toilet seat! I looked it up. I consulted several different reliable sources. You are more likely to catch something from the sponge in your kitchen sink than from a hard, nonporous toilet seat.

If you are one of those total clean freaks, put some toilet paper on the seat before you sit and flush it when you are through.

And here's a question - how do you manage to hover over the seat, sprinkling your goods all over the place, without getting it on yourself? If it's not taking a direct route to the water below, it's running down your leg and into your socks. I'm just sayin'.

So... sit yo' shiny hiney down, for pete's sake!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Birthday

Some birthdays just drag on forever! We had the good fortune to attend my niece's wedding in Abilene this past weekend. She and Glen had a lovely ceremony that harmoniously blended Japanese culture with other Eastern traditions. It was intimate and serene.

We stayed at the Whining Bull Ranch and were awaken at dawn by the sweetest tortie-point Siamese cat I have ever met. Followed closely by "WAKE UP!" as only my nephew can deliver. My nephew is... dramatic. He has a flair. He will win an Oscar one day, I'm pretty certain.

We visited the Frontier Texas museum, too. It was a really nice new facility with a 360 degree theater. It was tough not to cry when the presentation turned to the slaughter of the buffalo herds and its effect on the Indian tribes.

The Woods gave me two terrific CDs for my birthday - Don't Mess with Texas Music, Volumes I and II. These are compilation CDs featuring (mostly) Texas artists. Proceeds benefit music education programs in Texas public schools.

Apparently, if a Texas public school program doesn't include jock straps, it doesn't merit much funding. So a bunch of interested parties (including the likes of Willie Nelson) have come together and started a foundation to address the lack of funding for music programs in this state.

And the CDs are terrific! Very diverse. It's not everyday that you get Clint Black and Beyonce' side by side on the same disc. I see from the website that there is a Latino compilation, too.

West Texas is crawling with critters, and the Little One got stung by a scorpion. She's fine, but it had to happen at 2:30 am, of course. It's hard to find a scorpion on a beige carpet through squinty eyes.

I think we're going back to the Whining Bull in a couple of weeks so the boys can pour a concrete slab. I will not be pouring concrete. No way. Maybe they will accidentally spill some of that concrete on a scorpion.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Control

I have this theory. I think it holds water, but it is still just a theory. I theorize that all animals have the desire to control some things in their environment. And I think when they perceive that they are not in control of those things that are of importance to them, they experience distress.

Oh, sure, it's a little more complex than that. To have no desire whatsoever to control anything, i.e. to willingly concede all control to another, is unhealthy. And to desire control over everything is unhealthy. Not to mention unrealistic.
Some animals (this includes humans) are satisfied with just a little control, and some demand control of nearly everything they encounter. In some circumstances, the ones who are satisfied with a little control encounter the ones who like to control lots of things. They may be attracted to one another and live harmoniously. In their relationship, their needs are being met, and they feel balanced.

Balance is the key. Even in the most egalitarian relationships, power and control shifts from one side to the other. One partner may be terrific with money; therefore, the responsibility of paying the bills is handed over to that individual. Meanwhile, the other partner takes charge of event planning. The shift is acceptable as long as balance is achieved and negotiation takes place.

When balance is not achieved, one is likely to look elsewhere to find control and restore internal order. The boss yells at the man who goes home and criticizes his wife who then spanks the child who turns and kicks the dog who chases the cat who throws up on the new Oriental rug.

I propose that there are lots of ways people seek control, and not many of them are very functional in the long run. Substance abuse. Violence. Theft. Manipulation. Cruelty. Eating disorders. Dissociation. These seem to provide some immediate relief but can easily spiral, leaving the individual feeling even more helpless.

One problem with theories is that they don't always come with solutions. In other words, I don't have a cure for feeling out of control. I feel it often. But if it is true that the healing is in the telling, then maybe it is helpful to learn to recognize when control is taken from us and to verbalize a need to restore balance.

And... if anyone figures out how to do that, please let me in on your secret.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Thought I Knew

I thought I knew a little something about immigrants and refugees. After all, I work in a building in which immigrants, refugees, and asylees seek help in beginning their new lives in the US. And I am the daughter of an immigrant who followed all the rules, waited the lengthy time frame, took an exam I'm not sure I could pass, and was granted US citizenship.

But I just returned from a migration conference. And I heard stories. People who have arrived in the US from every corner of the world told their stories about fear and abuse and suffering in refugee camps. And they told their stories about fear and abuse and suffering once they arrived here.

I thought I knew. I knew nothing.

I thought I knew a little something about poverty. I was raised in an single income household of six. We subsisted on the salary of an alcoholic non-commissioned officer in the US Army. My mother could stretch a dollar, let me tell you. We went without a lot of the time.

But I have been sitting across the table and listening to the stories of clients who work two minimum wage jobs and still don't know how they will pay for their children's dental work. They worry about the children they leave at home alone while they work their night shifts, because child care is too expensive. These are not lazy bums. These are not broken homes. These are not people having tons of children and living on welfare. These are people like you and me who are doing the best they can to keep up with the rising cost of everyday living.

I thought I knew. I knew nothing.

I thought I knew a little something about abuse. Alcoholics don't make the best parents. And sometimes the violence they model gets replayed by others in the household. And... sometimes the victims get into relationships that mirror the abuse they experienced at home. I've had my nose broken twice. I've had a broken arm. I've had two concussions. I've been harmed in lots of other ways, too.

But I have been sitting across my office listening to clients recount the terror they have survived. I have listened to the stories of survivors of partner abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, homelessness, refugee camps, human trafficking. I'm pretty sure I would have given up a long time ago if I were them.

I thought I knew. I knew nothing.

I thought I knew a little something about despair. I've crawled along the bottom of that abyss, the one in which your existence is of no importance. When you feel as if everything has been taken from you, and you have no say in the matter, it is easy to just give up. To wish for the darkness to swallow you whole and never return you to the light. And when the light makes itself plain before you, it is tempting to pull the covers over your head and resist it.

But I have looked into the vacant eyes of the child who is preparing to return home to the very mother who gave him his first snort of cocaine. I have looked down the barrel of the revolver the staff pulled out of the back pocket of a 12-year-old boy who has been living in the streets. And I have heard their stories of hopelessness.

I thought I knew. I knew nothing.

I thought I knew a little something about love. More precisely, I thought I knew what love isn't. When you grow up believing that you only exist for one purpose, and you learned that lesson from someone who is supposed to love you, and then you get a glimpse of what "normal" families look like, you form some ideas about love.

But I have listened to the rationale of parents who mistreat their children, all the while truly believing that what they are doing to their children is out of love for them. And here's the most incredible part - those children love their parents no matter how badly they are treated. They love them in the hopes that they'll eventually get it right and the pain will end. And everyone will love happily ever after. This is their story, and they believe it.

I thought I knew. I knew nothing.

But I have heard the stories. And I have listened with my heart. And I have read the meanings with my eyes. And I have felt the stirrings in my soul. Now I know a tiny bit more. And I will never be the same again.

Happy Birthday to Me

At my age, birthdays are really no big deal. Really. Would just as soon forget I have them. My family and friends insist, however, on prolonging the torture of my aging by bringing it to my attention every year about this time.

I got some terrific stuff. A coffee maker from BB; a Jim Shores Tinkerbell from Denija; a DVD of my favorite movie, The Jerk; three cool CDs - Anita Baker, John Fogerty, and Daughtry; and a ton of fun cards, both paper and electronic. And thanks to the Not-So-Little One, the entire congregation serenaded me.

So, despite my distaste for birthdays (mine, that is), I thank all of you for making me feel like I matter. You are terrific.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Celtic Woman

This is singing. It is this to which I aspire. It is this that I work toward every day. Sometimes I get close, usually I'm frustrated. I never give up, because the results are worth the effort.

I have raved about Celtic Woman in this forum before. I hope you will watch this. And I hope you will follow the links to some of their other videos. But more importantly, I hope you will set aside your notions about what "good music" is or is not, about what "cool" is or is not.

And... just listen. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and allow yourself to feel this.



This a capella number is sheer bliss.






The one luscious chord at the end of this one is worth the anticipation.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hair

I am a slave to hair. There was this line from a movie in which a young Amish girl tells her "English" guest that a woman's hair is her crowning glory. I grabbed hold of that line and never let go.

I wear my hair long. Longer than the fashionistas say women my age should wear it. I don't listen to fashionistas. My hair falls between my shoulder blades, although I have worn it much longer, and I miss it. I do not color it. I keep it trimmed, or rather Stacey-the-Incredible keeps it trimmed.

On the days that I choose to sleep in a bit, I shampoo (twice), condition, mousse, blow dry with a diffuser, and wear it naturally curly. On the days that I feel industrious, however, there is much more work involved. Shampoo (twice), condition, blow it straight, section it off, spritz it, iron it straighter, and apply hair wax to fend off the humidity. Humidity is my enemy.

Then there's the hair on the rest of my body. Shaving, plucking, trimming... one simply cannot be too smooth. I heard Oprah say once that she believed the little hairs on her chin were spring-loaded - hiding beneath the skin's surface until some time during the day, when they burst forth in all their glory. And you never have a pair of tweezers handy at that time.

I have two daughters. They have hair, too, of course. As dancers, they must wear a variety of hairstyles for performances. They still need help with this. I happen to know how to fix hair. The Little One's hair falls to her fanny. That is a lot of hair to twist into a ballet bun.

The Not-So-Little One is hypersensitive (see previous post). Every morning she brandishes the hair brush and entreats me to brush her shoulder-length hair. I comply because it is just faster than fighting with her (can I hear an "amen" from all you parents out there?). It wasn't until her recent visit to the occupational therapist that I learned she has weakness in her hands. That would further explain why she prefers not to brush it herself. Every morning she cries real tears and shouts and stomps her feet as I tease out the tangles as gently as humanly possible.

Hair has an annoying habit of falling out. I lose a ton of hair with every shampooing and brushing. So do my girls. I constantly sweep long brown hair off the bathroom floor and do my best to keep it from clogging up the drains.

I have two dogs and four cats. You guessed it - more hair. The vacuum and swiffer stand at the ready. We all take part in the battle against pet hair. The losing battle.

You may ask why I allow myself to be controlled by something that could easily be overcome with a pair of scissors. The truth is that hair is a big part of our human identity. I know very few people who really don't give a rat's patootie what their hair looks like. Most of us care quite a bit.

Is this obsession with hair pathological? According to the DSM-IV, a condition is only considered a disorder if it causes distress. Okay, okay, I admit it - I do occasionally experience hair-induced distress. I guess I'm just not ready to let go. Excuse me while I take the dog to the groomer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Overload

I have this kid. I call her the Not-So-Little One. She is terrific - smart, funny, sensitive, caring, talented. She is terrific, that is, until she gets overwhelmed. In those moments when she is bombarded by the everyday stimuli that all of us allow to roll off our backs, the Not-So-Little One loses it.

I'm not talking about temper tantrums. I am not talking about behavior problems that can be resolved by time outs. I am talking about responses that are off the charts, out-of-this-world, inappropriately out of proportion to the situation. And they can happen quickly, with no warning. She can go from a lovable, affectionate, cooperative child to one who is screaming, kicking, and berating herself upon a moment's notice. Have you ever heard your elementary school aged child say she hates herself and that she wishes she were never born? It sucks.

My instincts told me when she was an infant that something was amiss. She would get hungry, but rather than eat she would cry for three hours, escalating the whole time, pushing me and her food source away. As a toddler we watched her hang onto the side of her high chair, screaming and begging to be fed - we could hardly get her in the chair quickly enough. Within seconds of putting food in her mouth, she was fine.

We had her blood sugar tested. Both of her grandmothers were diabetic. No blood sugar problem. We had sonograms taken of her abdomen. All normal.

Teachers began to wonder aloud if she was having petit mal seizures because she would "zone out" while performing a task at school. Tests revealed nothing abnormal.

There were other behaviors, too. Behaviors that just didn't seem to fit. Incongruence. Doctors told me I was overreacting. They told me it was a parenting problem. They blamed me. I blamed me, too.

After 11 years, we finally got a physician to refer us to an occupational therapist that specializes in children. We took the Not-So-Little One for assessment. The therapist did not tell me I was overreacting. She did not tell me it was a parenting problem. She listened. She validated both of us.

We are waiting for the official diagnosis, but it appears that my amazing kid has a sensory processing problem. In simple terms, her brain has trouble sorting out all of the sensations that she experiences. It's too much, overwhelming. She short-circuits, if you will.

I've been reading up. And my friends and colleagues have been tremendous help to me. They are a plethora of information and support. I am just so relieved to be heard! There is definitely healing in the telling of your story, let me tell you.

And... I am worried. And scared. And sad. And guilty. And angry.

I worry that I will not be helpful to my child as we attend to her therapy. I am scared that it will get worse, or that she will resent me. I am sad that she is not perfect (admit it, all you parents out there - we all want our children to be as close to perfect as possible). I feel guilty for all the times that I shouted at her or punished her for rotten behavior.

More than anything, though, I am angry. I am angry that I couldn't get anyone to listen to me. I'm angry that we wasted 11 years, spinning our wheels, when we could have been tackling the problem.

I am feeling overwhelmed as I face the future with her. I suppose you could say that I am experiencing a little sensory overload myself. Maybe I will talk to her about it and ask her what it feels like to her when this happens. Maybe I will just sit in the floor and cry.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lookit!

It's wonderful what you can find when you poke around a bit!

My Romance

This is just a lovely little song, isn't it? And it equally lovely to hear Ella sing so sweetly.

Wish I could have found Ella footage rather than this slide show, but this will have to do. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Evolution

A few years ago I decided to take the plunge. I applied for graduate school and, shockingly, I was accepted.

On the night of my first class, I met this woman. She was in her early 40s. She sat near the back of the class, avoiding eye contact and pretending to leaf through her textbook while listening to the other students chat. She had this deer-in-the-headlights expression of one who wasn't sure of what she had gotten herself into.

The professor asked everyone to introduce themselves and tell a little about what had brought them there. This new woman said that she was married, had a couple of young children, and had graduated with her bachelors degree 20 years prior. She wasn't the oldest in the class, but she had been out of school the longest. It was no wonder she was nervous.

I got to know this woman as we tackled class after class together. The field of psychology had changed quite a bit since she had last graduated, and the technology we were using didn't even exist when she was an undergraduate. But she seemed pretty good at rolling with it all. She was careful not to say too much, so as not to embarrass herself in front of the younger, savvier students.

I learned that this woman's husband wasn't all too keen on the idea of her going back to school. Something about the expense, the time commitment, all that. It was very important to her that she gain her husband's approval. Her grades were mostly exceptional. The one "B" she earned devastated her.

She told a classmate one day that she did all of her reading, writing, and studying after everyone had gone to bed at night so that she could remain engaged in the family activities. She had also given up her extracurricular activities, which clearly made her sad. She had to do this, she explained, because she was working a full time job and a part time job in order to keep school from affecting the family budget.

During the three years that it took me to finish the program, I watched this woman grow. She started to share her experiences of working with troubled teens at a local psychiatric hospital. She questioned and challenged - herself as well as instructors. She eventually shared some of her own past trauma in an effort to help future counselors understand what it is like to be the one being counseled.

A story circulated around the program that one night a new adjunct professor insulted her in front of the class. She responded with quiet dignity. He left the university shortly after the dean attended a class meeting to monitor him. From what I knew, she had never been the proactive type, but would rather have just "blown off" this sort of offense. He must have crossed a boundary with her.

The woman I met evolved from a shy, insecure follower to an outgoing, confident leader. She unobtrusively inched from the fringe to real camaraderie. Old-fashioned, conservative opinions were replaced with open-mindedness and acceptance of diversity. Fear of the unknown gave way to eager anticipation.

In some ways she is barely recognizable. But if you look deeply enough you can still see traces of her true core. Compassion, empathy, pain and recovery. Yeah, she's still there.

I did something I never considered possible. I... fell in love with this woman. I know her pretty well now, as well as anyone can know someone who continues to change. I am anxious to see what will become of her. Maybe what I should say is that I am anxious to see what will become of me. That woman is me. And I am proud to know her.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Catchin' Up

I went to see Get Smart. I was a huge fan of the TV show, and I eagerly awaited the release of this movie. I was not disappointed. I have never paid much attention to movie critics, although I had heard that they didn't care for this one. Well, phooey on them. That's right, I said phooey. I loved it.

It was all there - the shtick, the slapstick, the well-known quotes, the shoe phone, the Sunbeam. Steve Carrell was a little less bumbling than Don Adams' character, but he still managed to charm the camera. And Anne Hathaway is just, well, HOT! I want to be her in my next life.

***

The girls have started horseback riding lessons. They are on break from dance this month, and God forbid they just sit back and relax, so they are learning how to groom, tack, and ride. I think they are having a good time. They haven't stopped grinning yet.

***

Here's a bit of irony - last Saturday while I conducted a stress management workshop, I managed to hurt my back. I was really stiff and sore for several days. That was stressful.

Today it is feeling better. Probably because I lifted boxes, crawled under furniture, and walked about 10 miles while I switched offices with my staff. More irony.

I had this huge space with a view, but I am hiring a new person, and BB's teeny office was too small to accommodate them both. I'm going to turn it into a Woman Cave.

I will miss the pigeon that has raised a brood on my window ledge. I got to witness her and her boyfriend making whoopee on said ledge a couple of weeks ago. She has since tidied up her nest and is sitting there again. I wonder how many eggs she'll lay this time.

***

Tomorrow is Independence Day. We will be spending the day with my North Texas family. It will be just hot enough to force me to squeeze into a swimsuit and jump in the pool. If I move fast enough, maybe no one will actually see me!

***

The Not-So-Little One offered to sing a solo on Sunday when she heard me lamenting that I didn't believe the children's choir would be ready to sing their special anthem. I was so happy to hear her say she wanted to sing for the congregation. And I was smart enough to pretend it was no big deal so she wouldn't rescind her offer.

***

Have a safe and happy holiday, my friends. If you are traveling, come home to those who love you. If you are staying close to home, remember that you are loved always.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I Love to Singa

My most favoritist cartoon ever:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lucky(?) Number Seven

Last weekend marked seven years of dance for my daughters. They each performed in seven numbers. Seven dance numbers = seven costume changes and seven hair style changes. I look forward to the day they have mastered the ballet bun. We will celebrate with wine and roses perhaps... or at least Mom will!

We were at the recital hall for seven hours of dress rehearsals on Friday and seven hours of recitals on Saturday. The work that the dance moms put in on those days is usually lost on the girls. They don't always understand how much preparation, patience, and humor their mothers muster in order to assure that the dancers LIVE long enough to get on stage. More than one mother had to take a deep breath and walk out of the dressing room to avoid losing it with a prima dona daughter. What is it they say? Something about "payin' for your raisin'..."

I danced with the Little One to Momma Mia in the Mother/Daughter number. We had fun. And I was singled out as the one to watch for cues by the moms who were struggling with the steps. Cool!

Mikel and the Not-So-Little-One danced to a Hello, Dolly! medley. He looked handsome in his tails, she looked beautiful in her red velvet gown. He carried a cane and she a parasol. Very elegant. I don't believe I saw one mistake by either of them.

This summer the girls are taking technique and attending a Gregg Russell workshop. They are enrolled in six classes each for the fall. And, thanks to a friend's daughter, they now have it in their heads that they need to take horseback riding lessons. I wonder how they are going to pay for it all! ha, ha

Looks like a real vacation is out this summer. Between business trips, dance classes, church camp, and workshops there just isn't much time left. Too bad we don't have a holodeck like in Star Trek, The Next Generation.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sad News

Tim Russert
May 7, 1950 to June 13, 2008
I learned this morning that NBC News' Washington Bureau Chief and moderator of Meet the Press died yesterday. I know practically nothing about politics. What little I do know can be attributed to Russert's appearances on the Today Show and my occasional viewings of Meet the Press.
Working and advocating for the underprivileged has taught me that value of paying attention to the political process. The irony in that is that most folks who work in the trenches with the poor and vulnerable have little interest in what the cronies on the hill are up to. Russert had a way of keeping it plain, and I was actually able to understand him. And if guests on his show resorted to circular rhetoric to avoid answering the tough questions, he held them to task.
He loved his father, even wrote a book about him. He loves his family. He loves his country. To know this much about love, to have to this much love to give, he surely felt loved himself.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ethics

I've had the privilege of working under a series of terrific bosses over the past 8 years. It seems funny to me that I've outlasted them all. Maybe I'm wearing them out! Nah, the first three were younger than I and restless in that way young professionals are sometimes.

My most recent boss was more "mature" than I. She was the most professional person I have ever worked with. I say "worked with" because even though she was my supervisor, she had a knack for making you feel as if you were an integral part of the decision-making process. She not only asked for input - she also incorporated it into the work plan.

And she cared about us. When one of my peers (another of her subordinates) was visiting family in her home country on the African continent, we received word that civil unrest had erupted nearby. My boss was on the phone immediately trying to reach her, needing to know that she was safe. She defended us fiercely, and we returned the favor.

Impossible as it is to believe, even in social service agencies ethics can collide with policies and procedures. Most of us at this agency, regardless of our licensing, operate under a code of ethics. And most of these codes cite first and foremost that we are to "do no harm." We take this very seriously. It matters. It dictates our behaviors, resonates in our hearts. There is no acceptable outcome for violating this edict.

Such a conflict arose last week. I am not at liberty to publicly discuss the particulars, and I respect my agency too much to bash it. My boss was asked to do something that could potentially lead to harm. She was torn, and she tried desperately to reconcile the conflict. She failed. She is gone.

I told her that I was deeply saddened to see her leave. And I also told her that I have never been prouder to be associated with anyone. For the time being I await a new supervisor. I figure my run of good luck is probably played out. But I've got my rabbit's foot nearby just in case.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Trouble with Tribbles

It was bound to happen eventually. I put it off as long as possible. I tried everything - dragging my feet, dressing her up in lace and ruffles, baby-talk, Radio Disney, putting my fingers in my ears and chanting, "la, la, la, la...." Too bad for me. The Not-So-Little-One has begun puberty.

She will kill me for sharing this, but a parent's job is to embarrass their children, and I happen to be a master at embarrassment. She will kill me for telling you that she now has hair (about 2 or 3) under her arms. She will kill me for announcing that she is officially not a little girl anymore. I think I can take her, though.

When I was junior high we had to dress out for PE. It was the 70s, and we wore these awful one-piece sleeveless uniforms that looked a lot like over sized onesies. My parents were very old-fashioned and in complete denial of my maturing body. I was not allowed to shave. I made a C in volleyball that year because I was too embarrassed to raise my arms, revealing the tribbles that resided there.

I vowed that I would never be that unreasonable. So when I noticed the peach fuzz under her arms, I promptly went out and purchased the Not-So-Little-One a razor of her very own. It sat on the counter for several days. I showed her how to hold it, emphasized the importance of water and shaving cream, demonstrated the correct stroking technique. She ignored the razor.

Until this morning when she called me from home to ask if she could shave. A report should be coming any minute.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Losing It

Emotions - we have a ton of them. We have more emotions than we can even identify. We can call some of them by name, like anger and sadness and frustration and happiness. And a lot of times, when we run across one that is a little unfamiliar, we bend it to fit one of the names we know. Have you ever done that? Have you ever lashed out in a fit of anger when what you were really feeling was fear? I know I have.

Anger is the emotion we kiss on the mouth most often, yet it is the one we struggle to express appropriately. What we want to do, on a visceral level, is scream and throw things and break things and curse out loud. And when we are little kids, we get as close to this as we are capable. Until, that is, someone smarter (insert "older") tells us that this is not the right way to express anger. To me that translates to "just don't get angry."

Says who?! Okay, calling people names might not be advisable. Broken stuff might need to be replaced. Screaming might wake up your little brother. But I suspect the real reason we are taught to turn our back on anger is that the folks around us feel really uncomfortable and don't know how to react to us when we lose it. Anger offends the tender sensibilities of the genteel.

Even the experts can't agree on the costs vs the benefits of getting mad. Read several articles and half of them will tell you that stuffing anger will lead to emotional and physical distress. The other half will say that blowing your top could lead to, you got it, emotional and physical distress.

I've tried it both ways. I've kept things bottled up, and I've flipped the lid. Neither makes me feel much better. But... there is something awfully satisfying about letting loose a long string of words that would make your grandmother blush. I'm just sayin'.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Need for Speed

Speedy update as I watch the clock for quitting time...

Went to see the new Indiana Jones movie last weekend. I love me some Indy, baby! He's still pretty dang hot, but I have to admit that he is slowing down a bit. His delivery of the famous one-liners was a bit stilted. And.... that darned Karen Allen showed back up in this one and stole him out from under me. He was supposed to be saving himself for me! Curses....

***

It's hot outside. Been spending way too much time perspiring lately. Water parks, pools, baseball games, directing choirs in long robes. Thank goodness the a/c has been fixed. And it works GOOD!

***

The mom of my daughter's friend was telling me this morning that her doctor wants her to lose 20 lbs. She was lamenting that she has been to the gym nearly every day and hasn't lost a single pound. As I watched her walk away, I realized that she is MUCH smaller than I. I wear a size 8 (can't believe I am actually making that admission) - she must wear a size 4. If she loses 20 lbs, she will be wearing a size 0. I must find out who her doctor is so that I can be sure to steer clear of him/her. Unbelievable. Excuse me while I go run 10 miles...

***

Got to ride go karts last night. I love go karts! As a matter of fact, I love anything that goes fast. Motorcycles, jet skis, boats, roller coasters, you name it. Mikel tells me that I have basically two speeds myself - "fast" and "asleep." Might be the reason I get so many speeding tickets.....

***

Gotta jet. More later.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Leading Ladies

Recently I wrote a tribute to some special men. Today I will try to do justice to a few women who have had more than a little influence over who I am.

My mother met my father while he was stationed in Japan. She was already in the work force at a young age, having skipped a few grades due to her academic prowess. I do not know if it was love at first sight or even a great romance. I know that she wanted very much to come to the United States, however. She attained citizenship at her earliest opportunity.

She endured a cruel mother-in-law, hateful neighbors, and a controlling husband. I won't say that she never allowed her hurt to show, but I will say that she never gave up. And despite the hostility she met in the communities around her, she never stopped loving this country.

She, above all others, taught me to love Texas and to be proud of my rich heritage. She wasn't allowed to work outside the home, although she had tremendous talent and intellect. So she concentrated her skills on running a tight household. She could stretch my father's enlisted military paycheck every direction. She made unbelievable sacrifices - while she was hospitalized in Germany, and my father was drinking away every cent of his pay, she would hide the nonperishable parts of her meal and send them home to us so that we would have something to eat.

She taught me to think for myself and to find ways to be victorious in a male-dominated world. I took the lessons to heart.

***

My senior advanced English teacher, Debra Seigman, was one of those gifted educators that taught her students much more than the curriculum required. While we learning about Chaucer and Goethe, we were also learning to treat others with dignity and equality. We were learning not to judge others and not to accept everything we heard as gospel.

Mrs Seigman would tell stories of her childhood in Pennsylvania, one of several children born to physicians. We were teenagers, so of course we would yawn and roll our eyes and mouth to one another, "What has this got to do with Shakespeare?" And without knowing it, we were learning values.

Although I never made the outside world privy to the pain of my family life, I always suspected that Mrs Seigman intuitively knew I was drowning. She reached out to me in that sly way that wise women do. She made a few small concessions when I did poorly on an exam, having been up late the night before licking my wounds after a beating when I could have been studying.

The kindness did not end after graduation. She sent a wedding gift the summer I married my first husband. She sent adorable little crosses that she purchased on her travels overseas when my daughters were born. I receive a Christmas card rich with news of her family and her adventures every year.

I will tell her soon what she meant/means to me. I will not let that opportunity slip through my fingers.

***

After graduate school ended, I landed in the capable arms of Linda Eatenson, a counseling supervisor of immeasurable experience and wisdom. Once a week I would drop into the comfy chair in her office to discuss my clients. I always knew immediately by the look on her face when I had screwed up with a client, yet I never felt beat up. I absorbed every word like a sponge. She helped me recognize my own gifts and showed me how to use them to help my clients.

She always saved a few minutes at the end of supervision to ask about me. I welcomed the chance to vent. You see, Linda and I were peers before she became my counseling supervisor. Our offices were across the hall from each other, and we were both program coordinators. We sat together in meetings and cracked jokes. We talked about the environment and politics and religion. We didn't always agree, but we always respected. So it was natural for us to blur the lines a bit when we were together.

Linda has moved on from the agency in response to vast changes in policy and philosophy. She walked straight into another job that has been pursuing her for some time. She will flourish, of this I am sure. I will be okay, too, but there is a hole. We promised to stay in touch, but you know how that goes when folks have busy lives.

***

Teaching, nurturing, testing, persevering. Leading. Loving only as women can.