My daughter, the saint

After three days of being home sick, she is sitting at the kitchen table trying to get some of her homework made up. I am cleaning the kitchen and have my playlist blaring from the laptop.

She’s SO focused. She doesn’t even notice me bursting out in random bits of song.

Welcome to your life. There’s no turning back!

Nothing.

Help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure…

No reaction.

Nothing ever lasts FOR-EV-ERRRRRR!

I’m now singing AND dancing in front of her as she diligently keeps her attention on her Spanish homework without so much as blinking at my antics.

Every-BODY wants to RULE THE WORLD!

Finally…

“Mother. I’m focused. And do you see this large sliding door behind me that faces a busy street? People are going to see you. What was in your breakfast this morning, anyway?”

“Si, soy loco.”

She is a good sport and this is potentially why she hasn’t brought her friends around lately.

Oh great. I’m the weird mom!

Life is Good – January 30, 2009

I’ve been really selfish lately. I’ve had the nerve to become frustrated with my job. I thought my frustration was justified because I really love my job. I’ve been frustrated because business is slow. I like to be busy. I love to be challenged and I get a rush from solving problems. And I made the mistake of forgetting how profoundly fortunate I am to have a job at all. My eyes have been opened to this fact several times this week. So many are struggling right now. To be employed is a gift and one I won’t make the mistake of taking for granted again.

I took Wednesday off this week and still had my usual Thursday off too. My daughter ended up coming down with a virus and stayed home from school both days. I felt bad that she was so miserable, but loved having the chance to be home with her and pamper her. I don’t often get to do that anymore, and being teenagers, my kids don’t necessarily need me to dote on them. But I’m pretty sure they don’t mind and I love it.

I realized this week how blessed I am to have such good kids. They don’t get in a lot of trouble and don’t cause me a lot of worry in regards to their social activities. While at a basketball game this week, I noticed sitting on the opposing team’s side of the gym some of my daughter’s former classmates from the Catholic school she used to attend. One of them looked like the poster child for teenage promiscuity. She was holding up a hand made sign intended to cheer on the team’s star player. It read, “Rob, father my children.” Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I would have found that funny a few years ago. Now, it just makes me sad to see that this is how so many girls think they need to behave in order to be popular. It makes me realize how lucky I am to have kids who are comfortable with themselves just as they are.

This doesn't do it justice by you.Finally, a simple pleasure. Last night the moon was shining bright as headlights on the interstate. It was GORGEOUS! I saw it as I walked to my car in the Target parking lot and I just stood for a moment next to my car, gazing at it and just feeling in awe. I tried to take a picture of it and of course this can’t even do it justice. I guess something that beautiful just can’t be captured. Like so many special things in life, you just have to appreciate it for the moment.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

Interviewed by James

I agreed to be interviewed by my friend, James and this is what he wanted to know about me: 

Where do you see yourself with your writing in one year’s time?

I think it depends on what day you ask me that. I have a deep-down desire to write but I’m not sure I really have what it takes to do anything serious. I have a couple ideas for what I thought could become books. On a few occasions I have sat down with ideas and just started writing, my fingers flying over the keys, unable to get my thoughts down quick enough and afraid I would lose them before I could get words on the screen. Then, days and weeks passed and I seemed to lose the fire that I felt on the days I wrote like a maniac. I don’t know what to make of it. I’m sure it’s just life and the assault on my brain by all the other forces that make up my days. I would like to figure out a way to structure things so that I can put some serious effort into it, but I have yet to figure out how to do it.

So where do I see myself in a year? I wish I knew. But I’m not giving up on this yet.

Name the best thing for you about where you live.

Here in Minnesota, we get to experience four very distinct seasons. The winters can get very, very long. We get snow. Lots of it. We get cold. Deeply cold. But we  find ways to play in all this cold and snow and sometimes we even enjoy it. After the long winter, spring explodes upon us with color and warmth and new life. It’s truly a season to celebrate. Then come the summers. As cold as our winters can be, our summer temperatures can skyrocket in the complete opposite direction. When it’s scorching hot, many of us flock to one of the ten-thousand beautiful bodies of water and cool off. And after the dog-days of summer, fall is a welcome sight. The leaves on the trees change as the temperatures drop and it often looks as if the skies are on fire with all the reds, oranges, browns and golds. I think fall is my most favorite time of the year here.

Name the worst thing about where you live.

(Let me preface this answer by saying that January is probably the worst month of the year to ask me that question.) Winter. Winter is the worst thing about where I live. The snow can be beautiful. There is fun to be had in the winter. There is skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling and snow-shoeing. You can go ice fishing and build snow forts and snow men. There are snowball fights to be had. The Winter Carnival is entertaining for a couple of weeks each year. But the winter gets LONG. I think I just heard that we are in the midst of the coldest winter in thirteen years. It is dark and gray. The surroundings begin to look dreary. We are often bombarded with massive amounts of snow, yet life is expected to go on as usual. Every time I have to drive in dangerous conditions, I feel as if it shaves years off my life. And all of this plays a game with my psyche. The winter can make me mentally miserable if I’m not careful to work hard at preventing it.

We in England are under the impression that everyone in America owns a gun. Do you have one in your house?

No. I don’t have one in my house. I have eleven. None of them are mine. Ten of them are shot guns and one is a rifle. All of them are for hunting purposes for the testosterone-loaded members of the family. We have a locking gun-cabinet and keep them in there. I have never shot one myself, unless you count the BB gun or air-soft pistol which were not included in my count. And for the record, when my first child was born I warned my husband that my children would never handle guns. I lost that argument. Obviously. And truly, the only people I know who own guns are ones who own hunting guns. I don’t know a single person who owns an assault weapon.

Have you noticed big changes in yourself since you have been a runner?

Well, I’ve gained a few pounds. Fifteen, to be exact, since last summer. I guess most of it is muscle, so I’m not too worried about it. Actually, I had lost some weight after my surgery last summer, so I could afford to put on a few pounds. My sister reports that my butt now has some shape. She’s probably the only one I’d let get away with that comment.

That’s probably not what you meant though, is it? In all honesty, I never thought I would become a runner. I thought I would fail miserably. I have never been athletic and there were many times I was tempted to give up. But since I was writing about my efforts on my blog, I felt like everyone was watching me and I refused to fail in front of all those eyes. It took me a couple of months to finally be able to run solid for a few miles without stopping to walk through part of it, but I finally did it. I stopped seeing the three mile mark as the end result and expanded my goal to constantly improving on my runs (although the winter is preventing any major progress just now.) And once I got the mechanics down, I realized there was more than just a physical benefit to running. It became a natural anti-depressant; a way to relieve anxiety and clear my head. And the fact that I feel like I can now truly call myself a runner only proves that I can accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. (James, wanna ask me about my writing again?) :-)

Thanks, James! I really enjoyed being interviewed and especially the way you made me dig a little deep.

Would anyone like to play along? Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Leave me a comment asking to be interviewed.
  2. I will respond by emailing you five questions.
  3. You’ll respond to my questions in a blog post on your own blog.
  4. You’ll include a link to this post, just like I’m linking to James’ post here.
  5. Include this explanation and an offer to interview others.

Anyone game?

Eye Daggers

Wreggie thinks women need to come with a “check engine” light. His hypothesis is that this light would give men fair warning when “hormones exceed a safe level.” He thinks this warning light would allow him to escape to safety before all female-crazy-hormonal-hell breaks loose.

Hey! Do you ever watch That 70′s Show? I was watching tonight. It was episode 53, Red Sees Red, to be exact. Are you all familiar with this show?  The cast of characters includes Red, the cynical, no-frills dad and Kitty, the sweet, kind, loving mom and the kids, Lori and Eric who are fairly typical teenage kids (who happen to wear a lot of ugly bell-bottomed pants) and a whole host of Eric’s teenage bell-bottom clad friends. Lori and Eric and the friends are always getting in trouble for things like smoking pot, or getting caught making out in Red’s car or some such thing. In episode 53, Red decided to inflict a curfew on the kids for their bad behavior. The kids kept pushing the limits and Red kept inflicting harsher punishments. Red was not succeeding in getting the kids to see the error of their ways. They kept sneaking out of the house so the punishments just got bigger and more over-the-top. Red continued to yell and punish and was only contributing to the kids’ desire to run away from home. Red was nailing windows shut, performing bedroom checks to make sure no members of the opposite sex had snuck in, and hanging jingle bells on all the doors so he could hear if anyone tried to sneak out. Kitty hoped that Red would try reasoning with the kids but could only watch as the wedge between her family grew and grew. At one point she looked at Red and said, “Stop it already! Enough with all this discipline!”

Red looked at her impatiently and asked, “Kitty, what would you like me to do?”

“I don’t know,” Kitty replied. “Maybe you could act more…  LOVING?”

You see, Kitty was growing more frustrated by the day because she wanted her family to communicate and love each other and all they were doing is digging in their heels and fighting harder. (Hmmmm!) Kitty wanted Red to impose logical consequences and discuss the problems with the kids calmly instead of acting like the alpha-male and threatening to plant his foot in their *sses. (His signature threat.)

I love that show.

The moral of the story? Wreg, the thing you don’t understand is that it’s not going to matter if you can equip us with the hormonal warning light. It is not going to help you because you are going to HAVE TO come back at some point and WE… we  women have the ability to shoot DAGGERS with our eyes. You know that uncomfortable feeling you get when you suspect you’re being watched, but every time you look to see, your wife is just minding her own business? Mmm hmmm. Eye daggers.

And it IS your fault.

Maybe it’s NOT hormones.

You brought this on yourself.

And also…

“Fine.”

“Whatever.”

“Nothing.”

“And I have a headache.”

Hey! I have an idea! Instead of a warning light, how about you just give us a foot rub instead?

Sometimes you gotta laugh at yourself…

Don’t you love when you go to a sporting event and when you pay your admission, they “stamp” your hand so you can come and go without having to pay to get in again? Yes. Great idea.  Except when they “stamp” your hand with a permanent marker…

is it big enough? by you.

…which doesn’t come off after several hand washings. Could the admissions girl have made this “X” any bigger? And don’t you love when you sort of forget about that hand “stamp” before you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning, you realize the marker used to make that mark was possibly only semi-permanent? How does one come to this realization?

see it? by you.

Can you see it? (This picture doesn’t do it justice. It was more obvious than it appears here. Try to ignore the bed-head and lack of make-up, please. )Apparently I sleep in the fetal position, with my hands all tucked up under my chin, as evidenced by the blue “X” on my neck. Nothing a nice hot shower couldn’t take care of though, so don’t worry. I’m not running around all day today sporting a blue “X” on my neck.

Oh, well. I was getting in the “laugh-at-myself” habit earlier this week. You remember the boots, right? The boots purchased to go with the long sweater purchased for me by my coworker who wants to play “What Not To Wear” with me and my wardrobe?

Bad Ass Boots by you.

Yes, those boots. Well, I finally found some leggings and put together the outfit suggested by that coworker. Once I had it on… well, let’s just say that I wasn’t entirely opposed to the outfit. But I definitely didn’t think it was right for the office. And even if it was, there was a bigger issue. When I walked, so did the sweater. It walked upwards. I suddenly had visions of me strolling around the office and displaying parts that shouldn’t be displayed in an office environment. That’s all it took. It just seemed like too much maintenance to spend an entire workday in this outfit, worrying about whether or not everything was properly covered.

Not for the office. No way. by you.

So I took a picture for my coworker, to prove that I tried and so she can stop nagging me about wearing it to work. Someone commented on my earlier post that if I actually wore it, I would just fuel her fire and she would not leave me alone. Guess what. You were right. I didn’t even wear it. I just showed her the picture and explained my dilemma and told her I would NOT be wearing this to work. She insisted it was fine and that I could just find a short slip or try to stretch it a little to keep it from walking upwards. I just laughed. I had to. Otherwise I might have wanted to smack her.

Can’t say I wasn’t warned now, can I?

The Wii is here! The Wii is here!

The Wii showed up ahead of schedule and arrived on my doorstep yesterday. I was shocked because it wasn’t supposed to ship until the 23rd and there was a glitch, so I didn’t expect to get it on time, much less early. On Monday, I received an email from Game Stop saying my credit card had been rejected and I should contact my financial institution to see what was the problem. I had used my check card and knew there was plenty of moolah to cover my purchase, so I called the bank and asked, “What’s the deal?”

The representative helping me said he showed no record of a rejected payment, assured me I had plenty of money to cover the purchase and I had not maxed out my daily purchase limit. He suggested that in the case of credit card purchases, the seller will often perform an address check to make sure the one on the credit card matches the one provided in the order and if any part of the address doesn’t match it will show up as a rejection. So I called Game Stop, told them what the bank rep had told me and my representative confirmed that it was a rejection for address. I told him I’ve been at the same one for twenty years and asked if it had to do with the part of my address that ends in “North.” Sometimes it’s listed as “North,” sometimes “No.,” and sometimes “N.” I rattled off my address and he said, “Ok. I’m just going to release this order.” Yes! It was well worth sitting on hold and being subjected to the Mario Brothers theme music while I waited to be assisted.

The kids and I set up the system as soon as I got home from work. (Ok. Kacey set it up as she is very familiar having spent much time with her friend and her Wii.) In the inaugural game, Jake beat me by three points in bowling, after which I let he and Kacey test out all the various games. Kacey had volleyball practice and I wanted to give her a chance to play before she had to go. Then Jake beefed up his boxing skills and knocked out his mom but she didn’t go down without a good fight. (My arm already hurts this morning!) Later, I proved I am a rock-star golfer, at least on the Wii. Real life golfing is a much different story.

I went to bed by ten. (I am just wiped out by Friday night.) The kids were just beginning to explore Mario Party and I have no idea how late they stayed up. This was the first night I can remember in a long time that they weren’t bickering and fighting.

And to think when they asked for a Wii for Christmas, I said, “No. No more game systems.” Not to mention, last week when we were in Target looking to see if they had any in stock, Mark said to me, “What about the video game restriction I put on Jake for the trimester?”

I sort of forgot about the video game restriction, but since he sort of forgot to remind me until we were actually in a store, shopping for a Wii I sort of told him that we’d have to rethink that restriction. And I reminded him that a Wii is not just a video game system, it’s exercise! And isn’t that really something we want our kids to do? Not to mention, the temperatures have dropped again and I personally need a way to burn off stress when I can’t get outside and run, otherwise I might take it out on him and I think we can all agree that wouldn’t be much fun.

Life is Good – January 23, 2009

Sunday Sunset by you.There was sunshine this week! Lots of sunshine! A good mood is inevitable when the sun is shining! So it’s going to get cold again this weekend. So what? I can deal with it. It’s almost like the warmth created by the sun this week has settled inside of me and will keep me warm even through a few more cold, cold days.

I ran into an issue at work on Wednesday; a massive glitch that only compounded the headache I had begun the day with. It was my problem and no one else’s. A few years ago I was handed responsibility for a program for which all the kinks were never quite worked out. Every year there is some issue and Wednesday the latest problem presented itself. The fix is for me to manually search through hundreds of records to get things straightened out. I was on the verge of tears. And then my wonderful coworker, Shannon stepped in and said, “Let me help. I have time and I love to keep busy with stuff like this.” I was still ready to cry but out of happiness rather than frustration.

I was able to get back to running after a week of temperatures that were too cold to allow outdoor activity. It felt incredible. The second time I went out was really a challenge though and it took all I had to push myself to finish. It was frustrating, but I got back out there again mid-week and I could feel my body getting back on track. Wednesday’s run was the kind that made me feel like I had conquered something and it reminded me why I’ve come to love doing this so much.

Parent/teacher conferences went better than I could have imagined.  Conferences are voluntary and are held in the gym, where parents can stand in line waiting a turn with each teacher. When we walked in the building we picked up grade slips for each of the kids. These allowed us to see what their current grades are before sitting down for each five minute meeting with their teachers. Kacey had all As. We saw no need to even meet with any of her teachers. Jake had one A, (Winter Team Sports :-) )a couple Bs, a C and one D. We saw the C and D teachers and it seems he only has to turn in a few missing assignments to get back on track, so we called it quits and went home.

And one of the best gifts this week happened when you guys offered support as you so often do. I was very worried about one of my kids this week and poured all those feelings into a blog post. And once again it was proven to me why blogging is such a vauable piece of my life. I was offered words of wisdom, experience and comfort. You helped me find perspective and calm again…exactly what I needed! What would I do without all of you???

He will soar

My middle child is an amazing kid. The problem is, he doesn’t  often remember it. He can be imaginitive and ambitious. His personality is adventurous and full of humor. He has a gentle heart and a loving spirit. But the simple act of going to school can make all that disappear. He retreats inside himself and hides all those spectacular qualities away. You see, Jake and school are not a good mix. Oh, he loves the social aspect. It’s the classes he’d prefer to avoid. In class, Jake often feels lost and inadequate. He is a very intelligent kid, but has such trouble focusing and proving himself in the traditional ways.

We have spent years trying to help Jake find his niche. I feel as though we have been fighting and battling, ever step of the way. There has been encouragement and discipline. There were times we pleaded and bribed. We tried to develop routines. There were often heated words and tears. I have read so many books and we have tried everything possible to help my son find what works for him. There have been a few teachers, a few gems who have a gift with kids and have helped Jake not only merely pass, but succeed in ways he never thought possible. But the sad reality is those teachers were few and far between. And the current system just isn’t set up to accommodate certain kids and there is nothing parents like  us can do about it. It took me a while to realize it but Jake stopped fighting long ago. He does what he can. Sometimes we have to “remind” him to stay on top of things. He is merely counting the days until his life can finally move beyond high school.

Over the holiday break the real Jake came back and I loved seeing him so confident and relaxed. As you can imagine, summers are a wonderful time for us too. Most recently, the kids enjoyed another long, though unexpected break. Last Thursday and Friday, school was cancelled due to extremely cold weather and they didn’t have to return until Wednesday of this week because of the MLK holiday and parent/teacher conferences on Tuesday. Over that long, long weekend, the real Jake resurfaced again. When I came home from work last night, I realized that he had retreated yet again. I hate that. I miss my happy, relaxed kid. I hate that he judges himself against a system that doesn’t work for everyone. I hate that he can’t help but compare himself to “the norm.” When I tried to talk to him last night, I received one word answers and little eye contact. I felt confused for a moment before I caught on to what was going on. I thought maybe he had had a trying day at school, but that wasn’t necessarily it. There is another session of parent/teacher conferences tonight and he knows we plan to go. It is tempting for me to just skip them, but I know I need to stay in touch with his teachers.

The thing is, Jake is passing. I don’t care whether his report card shows As, Cs or Ds. As long as he does the best he can and turns in his work, that’s all we ask. I just want him to pass. Years from now, no one will care whether he passed Physics with an A or a D. He has fought hard and he’ll graduate but it has been a battle. Where his grades are concerned, what is acceptable in our eyes for him might be cause for concern if it were one of our other kids. That’s ok. The current system can’t offer alternative methods for kids like Jake who don’t function well in a traditional classroom and won’t award him with the kind of grades that prove what a highly intelligent person he is. I hate that this very fact weighs on him so heavily. He is so much more than the school system would let him believe. I know he will someday, but I wish he could realize now that there is so much more to life than this. In a few short months, he can walk out the doors of that high school for good and the world can be full of possibility and doors just waiting for him to open them. He can’t wait for that day, and neither can I. He has wings and he can spread them and fly. He just needs the chance to believe it.

Tales from the office (non-work related variety)

The alarm went off about fifteen minutes after I fell asleep last night.

Alright, it didn’t. It was six hours. But why does it feel like fifteen minutes? I really need to go to bed earlier.  Ever since the holidays ended, I wake up in the morning and think, “I could call in sick today.” Business is so SLOW sometimes I think I’m going to go postal. (Remember when all the crazies were referred to as having “gone postal?”) Anyway, I think this “calling in sick” thought every day, but I never do it. I just can’t call in sick if I’m not sick. I could pre-plan a day off, but do I ever do that? No. I just think about calling in sick and never do it. Luckily this week I’ve had a project that’s kept me pretty busy and made my eyes go buggy by the end of the day. (Did I just say, “luckily?”)

So I went to work today as usual. About three-fourths of the office showed up wearing red  for no reason in particular. We joked that we dressed in red in honor of the inauguration, but really it was just a fluke. There is a strange, unexplained phenomenon in our office where every once in a while, you look around and realize the majority of the staff are all wearing the same color. Today it was red. We all joke about having called each other on the phone that morning to commiserate about wearing that particular color and we look at the oddballs who aren’t wearing it and ask, “Didn’t you get the memo?”  Usually this phenomenon only pertains to the women, but many of the men were in red today too. I asked my friend, John if he planned his wardrobe for today and he dead-panned, “Yeah. ‘Cause that’s what we men do. We plan our wardrobes.” Then Michelle picked a hair off John’s red sweater and said, “Your wife is all over you.” It was a very short white hair. I said, “I think it’s his cat that’s all over him.” John looked at me and said, “Your probably right.” And then Michelle and I went to lunch.

Great story, wasn’t it?

Remember me telling you about the girl that always tells me how she thinks I should dress? (“And it would be totally different than the way you dress now.” Gee. Thanks.) She would bring me pages torn from magazines and show me what I would look SO good in. Typically these would be very trendy styles that would not commonly be seen on the average white-collar female. It was flattering, yet completely annoying! I may have made it a little too clear on one of the days that I was annoyed and she did back off for a while. And then two weeks ago, she came in with an item of clothing that she had purchased for me.

I actually liked it.

Bad Ass Boots by you.It is a very long turquoise blue sweater. We decided it should be worn with black leggings or tights and some tall black boots, which of course, I had none. What’s a girl to do? Shop the clearance racks, of course! So I found these babies. Notice they don’t have a tall heel. I rarely wear heels because it would put me over six feet tall.

Now I’m wondering if I’ll actually ever wear this get-up. Are these boots even work-appropriate? How much of a good deal is a clearance price if you never wear the item you purchased? I still need to get some black leggings too. I better hurry up. Every day this girl comes to see if I’m wearing “her” outfit. At least I’m not the only one. I hear she bought a shirt for Michelle too. Seriously! The last thing I’m thinking when I’ve got money to spend is what clothing I want to see on my coworkers!

So I spent my morning listening to Jane complain about the pornographic spam she gets in her email. (I keep telling her if she didn’t put her work email on all those mailing lists, she’d be better off, but apparently she needs to get her Cabela’s newsletters at work.) She made me laugh until I had tears streaming down my face when she forwarded one with the subject line, “Tie her up and beat her with your stick.” Ok, I admit. That is just plain stupid and crass, but when you see it in your office email, it becomes hysterical! Or maybe it’s just me? Hmmmm….

Dragging

Maybe running two days in a row was too ambitious after a span of an entire week between runs. I just couldn’t help myself. It was 20 degrees this evening and I’ve been feeling like such a slug. When I glanced in the mirror this morning before showering, I did not like what I saw.

I felt so good after yesterday’s run that I convinced myself to go again tonight.  I told myself it would be invigorating and it would help to tighten up some of those lazy muscles. So off I went. And let me tell you, it was a struggle. The inclines felt like mountains, my lungs felt tight and the neoprene ankle supports did nothing to prevent the weak and achy feeling in my ankles (which I’ve only noticed since trying to run through snow. Maybe they’ll feel better when the pavement is dry again.) And the weirdest thing? I’ve realized that unless I make a conscious effort not to, I curl my toes under on my right foot  while I run. This can’t be good.

I went the entire distance but it wasn’t pretty. And in spite of the fact that the run itself did not feel like a success, I do have that hurt-so-good feeling. But I think tomorrow I’ll give it a rest.