Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Too Fast

My girls danced in three numbers at a community event on Friday. Their comfort level with performing has become quite evident. I have always been pleased with the dance troups from our studio. Very professional. Even the youngest girls understand that it is a no-no to wipe the dead grass off your backside in the middle of a number. Apparently the girls from the other local studios haven't been taught this.

Saturday morning we went over to one of the middle schools in our district to participate in a walk for the American Diabetes Association. There was a terrific turn out. We walked around the track until they told us to stop - about 2 1/2 miles. It is a cause close to our hearts. Both of our mothers and Mikel's stepmother died due to complications of diabetes.

We rewarded ourselves with burgers at a family-owned joint down the road. We like to patronize individually-owned establishments.

As soon as we got back the house the girls and I hopped on our bikes and enjoyed the sunny afternoon. We only rode about 8 miles. I took a very acrobatic tumble. Riding in town does not provide a decent physical work out, but it is mentally taxing. Constantly on guard for traffic and stray dogs, dodging debris, running across intersections, backtracking when you run out of pavement, lots of starting and stopping.

A note about starting and stopping - when I bought my road bike many years ago, I purchased the smallest frame I could find. I can straddle the cross bar, but not without standing on my toes. Which means that when I am in the saddle, I cannot touch the ground even with my toes. It also means that when I have to hop off the saddle, I will end up landing hard on the bar. I have bruises in places that should otherwise be treated with tender loving care, if you know what I mean.

Saturday night I took the Not-So-Little One to spend her birthday money. She told me she had a plan. I followed her through the store directly to the toy department. Interesting, since she is 11. I expected her to buy clothes or a Nintendo game or a CD. Nope. She picked out the Our Generation doll that looked most like her and a horse for the doll to ride. She whispered to the doll in a barely audible voice, "I have been wanting you for so long. I finally have the money to buy you."

I was thrilled. I worry about how quickly our kids grow up. I watch parents encourage, even force, their kids to act like little adults. They turn the radio dials in their cars to adult stations while driving the kids to school. Take them to R rated movies. Criticize the children's television programming in front of them. And then they are shocked when these kids behave in unexpectedly grown up ways. There is plenty of time to be a grown up. I want my girls to be girls for as long as possible.

And they grow up fast. Yes, they do.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Catching Up

A couple of my friends are teaching their children to ride bicycles. I think the kids are somewhere around 6 or 7 years old. My friends are vacillating between joy and frustration and hope and defeat through this process. I imagine the children are as well.

I can't help but smile a bit remembering feeling the same things when teaching the girls to ride. Technically, we only taught one of our girls to ride. She learned pretty quickly at age 6.

When The Little One was that age, we tried to teach her, too. She fought us tooth and nail, crying, complaining, generally not trying too hard but choosing to play the "helpless baby of the family" card.

We finally gave up and decided to let her decide when she wanted to learn. She was nine, and most of her friends knew how to ride a bike. One day she came home from a play date and announced that her friend's parents had taught her how to ride a bike. What?!

I was a little angry at first. Who did those people think they were? That is one of those things parents fantasize about - first word, first steps, learning to ride a bike, first date, prom, getting married.... it's on the list, for heaven's sake.

I've gotten over myself since then and am glad she can ride with us now. We are planning to do an organized ride with the girls this season. It will be their first of the sort, and I hope they enjoy it as much as I do.


We took the Not-So-Little One and some of her friends to Dave and Buster's for food and games. They all got along nicely and seemed to have a great time. After we arrived and charged their gaming card, the girls split into two groups of three and set off to earn tickets.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that each group compiled their tickets at the end, split the winnings into thirds, and spent them in the "winners circle" accordingly. That way, no matter who won the most (or least) tickets, they would all leave with equal loot. They even went so far as to agree on the prizes so that no one would feel like the others had better stuff.

Not sure where they got the idea to do this, but I was mighty proud of them all. They were polite and courteous to the staff and encouraging to one another. They were not demanding, but accepted the information when we had spent all we were willing to spend on the games. I would take these six girls anywhere. And.... they sang to me in the car.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Lesson from Dr Seuss

There is a theory out there that goes something like this - take an individual with a biological predisposition to mental illness and plunk him down in an environment that is inconsistent and incongruent and unpredictable, and then sit back and watch disorder take shape.

I reckon you know what I mean. It's the "I love you, now go away" interaction we experience from time to time. Mixed messages and ever-changing rules make us, well, crazy. As a matter of fact, this kind of stuff is fondly referred to as "crazy making."

Please indulge me a few examples (caution - some of these may elicit an unpleasant reaction):

"Come here and give your momma a hug. Good heavens - when was the last time you took a bath?"

"It's high time you start taking some responsibility and taking care of yourself. Oh, by the way, don't wear that shirt. It's ugly."

"Use your brain, son. Use your brain! And quit arguing with me."

"You are so beautiful. Have you ever considered wearing colored contact lenses?"

"Why can't you act like a man? Don't you dare talk to me like that!"

"Stop crying! That didn't hurt! I didn't hit you that hard. Come here... let me kiss it and make it better..."

"You be a good girl and do what Daddy tells you now. But don't you go and let some boy do this to you. Good girls don't do that."

In these situations, we can't figure out the rules, and we can't predict how the other person will behave. We feel confused and helpless and out-of-control.

I recently saw Horton Hears a Who at the theater. The only thing I remembered from the Dr Seuss book was the line "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful 100%." It made me smile to hear it in the film.

I got to wondering how faithful we are when we communicate with one another. Do we say what we mean? Do we mean what we say? Do we show integrity in our relationships? Does it really matter?

Yourdictionary.com lists these words in its definition of faithful - constant, loyal, accurate, reliable, exact. The same source likens integrity to completeness, soundness, honesty, and sincerity. There are certainly similarities between the two.

Most people will tell you that they would like to be treated with respect. I think it is easier to respect someone who is faithful, someone who exhibits integrity. Including ourselves.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Buzzing and Humming

Hey, if you have a few extra minutes, hop on over to Looky, Daddy! and read his latest post. And be sure to read the comments as well. You'll eat it up, I just know it.


We bought the Not-So-Little One a clarinet this weekend. As you know, I played this instrument for many, many years until I learned that it was a lie when my parents told me I couldn't sing. Anyway, I actually tried to talk her out of taking up the clarinet next year in band. I tried to encourage a more marketable instrument. But she is stubborn. I'm pretty sure she gets that from her father...

I called on my way home last night and heard clarinet sounds in the background. Without any instruction she had assembled the instrument, put the reed on, and proceeded to play it. Now, we're not talking a sonata or anything, but she was moving up and down the lower register in a scale-like manner with minimal squeaking.

I asked her how she knew how to put it together. She said, "I watched you put it together before you bought it." I didn't even know she was watching me. I have to admit I was impressed.

Band doesn't start until next school year. The motivation behind the early purchase has nothing to do with getting her a leg up. It's that our school district has this ridiculous process for "helping" students choose "appropriate" instruments. They invite interested kids to the school one evening, shuffle them from table to table, hand them a mouthpiece, and tell them to blow it. If they can produce a sound, they are allowed to play that one the following year.

Most kids have never touched an instrument before that. And making a mouthpiece buzz is MUCH harder than actually blowing through the entire instrument. Band directors know this, right? I think it is asinine, and I also think it prevents some kids from an opportunity to get involved in music. My opinion.

I was hoping I could teach her to make the clarinet mouthpiece buzz so that she could get to play the instrument of her choice. I think now I'll just have her take the whole darn thing with her and play them a song!


The Little One, hair in a ballet bun, was putting her dance wear in her bag this morning, preparing for her evening lessons. Her tights were shabby - holes and tears up and down the legs, dingy in color. I ask her why she hadn't asked for a new pair. She replied, "People can tell by looking at my tights how serious I am about dance. These show that I work hard." Hmmm... makes sense and saves me money, too.


I read an article about this guy who is going around the country fixing the typos on signs and stuff. Dang it, he stole my idea...


My musical experience has been focused in one genre or another, depending upon what I am involved in at any given time. Sometimes, when you are immersed in learning and performing, the last thing you want at the end of the day is to hear more music. So I am ashamed to admit that some stuff has just passed me by.

Mikel read a review of Raising Sand, the collaboration between Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. I bought it out of curiosity - what an interesting pairing - and I loved it. I realized I knew very little about Krauss, so I bought A Hundred Miles or More. Uh... wow... where have I been? I've been communing with Mozart and Beethoven and Carl Orff and Khachaturian and Paul LaBloche and Mercy Me and Renee Craig and Jim Arns and Joseph Martin, that's where. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Alison Krauss can do anything, apparently. And I think blues has nothing on blue grass in the dark, depressing, and heart-wrenching department. Good Lord!


I pray that you have found that something that moves you. Singing, playing, dancing, praying, cooking, knitting, writing, running, martial arts, whatever. It all counts. You know what it is that makes your cells hum. It doesn't matter if no one else likes it. Find it. Do it. Give a little of yourself over to it. Heck, give all of yourself over to it if it feels right.

Friday, April 4, 2008

It's All About Me

I will post about something more meaningful later, but for the moment it is all about me!

I took the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) for the State of Texas this morning.

There were 160 questions. (Actually, there were 200, but for some reason they only score 160 of them.)

I needed to answer 99 of them correctly to pass. (This number varies depending on the version of the exam you are given.)

I answered 132 correctly! I can still hardly believe it.

What this means is that the National Board will send my scores to the State Licensing Board. They will decide whether or not to award me the privilege to practice mental health counseling in Texas.

If so, I will be a licensed intern under the guidance of a certified supervisor for a while until I am cut loose to practice on my own. It is a long process, but necessary as we are messing with people's lives and all.

I did not get here on my own. There were many, many prayer warriors and family members and loving friends that carried me along this journey. I appreciate every one of you, especially Mikel who made sure the girls were taken care of while I was in class or studying or writing papers or just crashed from exhaustion.

Thanks again, each and every one of you.