Saturday, August 30, 2008

So, You Have a Comment?

Hey, people!

Ok, I know I don't normally post on the weekends but I've had a number of people ask me a question about how to comment on the blog and I figured I'd just post the answer for those of you who are having trouble.

Since I just recently had a phone conversation where I talked mom through the intricacies of attaching a document to an email message, I'm feeling particularly smart about technology at the moment and thought I would give it a whirl.

The first thing you do is look at the bottom of this post where it tells you how many comments there are. Click on the word "comments" and it will take you to the comment page. Makes sense already, right?

On the right-hand side of the page is a box where you can type in a comment (I prefer nice ones that tell me I'm cute and funny and talented, but you can do what you wish...). Right below the box it says "Choose an Identity." I'm guessing this is where people are having trouble.

I would recommend you click the little circle next to Name/URL. When you do, a little box will appear that allows you to type in your name so I know who you are. You can leave the URL box blank. 

Then all you have to do is hit the "Publish Your Comment" button and your comment will appear at the bottom of the page.

Now... if you feel the need to quietly murmur to yourself in an Irish accent while you're doing it, don't feel crazy. I know some other people who have the same problem.

*Also, for those of you who don't know, any words in the post that are an orange color indicate a link (like in the sentence above). If you put your mouse over the words and click on them, it will take you to another post I'm making reference to. Don't worry, Mom, I'm sure you're not the only one who didn't know about that.


Friday, August 29, 2008

You Can Walk On Top

As I told you in yesterday's post, I'm a General Hospital junkie. Every girl's gotta have a vice and that one is mine (since I gave up pop I feel the need to cling to something that is not supposed to be good for me). 

Because all soap operas are based in reality, there was a scene this week where a prince that lives in a castle had a date with a nurse and was waltzing in the courtyard after having a candlelit dinner served by his butler. So typical. I've had at least three dates that were exactly like that, but I watched anyway.

Nurse Nadine (I wish I was kidding about her name, but I don't write the stuff) stepped on the prince's toes while waltzing and was mortified. I giggled to myself because I half expected my dad's favorite line to pop out of the prince's mouth ... "It's ok. I walk on the bottom, you can walk on the top."

I think I've mentioned in other posts that my dad has a lot of original sayings that I grew up with as a kid. Most of them are jokes or ways of teasing to make you more comfortable. I like the nature of this one... while dad meant it literally when someone would step on his toes, I like the idea for life in general.

When someone steps on our toes, maybe steals a little of our thunder or doesn't respond to us in the way we would like, how lovely it would be if we all took a moment to be gracious. To stop and realize we have a little room to let someone walk on the top for a moment (I think it may have been phrased differently when being told to "turn the other cheek").

The other element I like about the phrase is the reality that we have a choice every day, in every circumstance, to make an impression on someone. When someone steps on my dad's toes (literally) he could jump and scream and embarrass the person, or he could put them at ease with a funny little saying. And that simple gesture can change a situation and change a person's perception of themselves.

I truly believe that every time I come in contact with a person I either leave them feeling better about themselves or worse about themselves, but I rarely leave them unaffected.

Either I greet them with love and acceptance or I greet them with indifference. And both leave a mark.

Either I point out a positive quality about them or I say nothing to boost their self worth. And both leave a mark.

The absence of encouraging someone is just as noticeable as the praise that is given... and it doesn't always have to be with words. The minute someone stops their life to pay attention to me, they are trying to give me worth. The moment someone smiles at me for no reason at all, they are trying to instill joy in me. It leaves a mark.

That soap opera dancing scene, believe it or not, was a nice little reminder of the simple ways people have been gracious to me, and how I want to do that for others. When I come in contact with people I want to remember to be gracious, to leave a positive mark, to let them have the space to walk on top.

And I want you to know that every one of you that I have "met" here has left a mark on me, and I appreciate you... now go leave your mark on someone else and I'll meet you back here on Monday.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Doing Doga

I was watching Nightline the other night, trying to make sure I'm well-informed about worldly events as there is a major election coming up. My cable package doesn't include any news channels (which I think is insane, by the way... every basic lineup should include news), so Nightline it is my supplement to Meet the Press on Sundays.

Before you all start getting impressed... I watch General Hospital every day too. And One Life to Live if I'm being totally honest.

So anyway, the intellectual side of me was watching Nightline and they had a really informative and relevant report... about Doga.

Doga, you say? Is that an ancient religion? Maybe a fringe terrorist group? Leader of some remote village in Africa?

No... it's doggy yoga. Nightline ran a timely report about people who take their dogs to a specialized yoga class. Oh - and you can buy Doga videos now, too. You know, in case your dog's schedule is too tight to fit in going to the gym.

I think by now any of you who have read my site for more than a day have come to the conclusion that I love my dog. I love him so much I'm not even sure I think he's a dog anymore. I know for certain HE doesn't think he's a dog. But even with those revelations I want to assure you Riley will NEVER do Doga. And he won't be wearing anything from the Doga clothing line that is for sale. So you can all rest easy knowing I haven't completely lost my mind or gone over the edge.

Now Santa outfits... those are a whole different story...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rub a Dub Dub

I swear I would live in the water if some genius in a lab could figure out a way to make that work. There is something so calming about the water... being at the lake and sitting on a dock in the morning when the air is still a little crisp and the water is completely calm.

Or drifting on a pontoon all day, jumping in for a swim to cool off and maybe floating on a raft. Even if I can't be relaxing at the lake, in my mind soaking in a tub of hot water is the next best thing.

For a long time that wasn't an option because getting in and out of a regular tub wasn't the easiest thing to do. And calling someone to come over and help me get out of the tub was not a situation I could imagine being a pleasant one... so I didn't test my boundaries. (And all my friends are grateful, I'm sure.)

Then, at the end of last year, my case worker told me that because of my ill and handicap waiver I could have modifications made to my bathroom if I wanted them. Uhhmm... are you kidding? I said yes, and this beautiful new walk-in-bathtub was installed:

Yep, it's far and away the nicest feature of my home. No more stepping over a ledge to get into the shower; now I just open a door and close it behind me. I have safety rails and a built in seat. And I was going to finally get to soak in a bath!

Well, two out of three wasn't bad. There was a little glitch in the plan. That gorgeous new tub required more water than my hot water heater provided.


Benny, the gentleman who installed my tub, tried to explain to me why it probably didn't work. He told me about the fact that a 40 gallon hot water heater should have two elements to heat the water, but mine only had one. So I was really only getting half the hot water that I should.

Then he went in for the kicker. He told me that it also probably didn't fill because I didn't take up as much room in the tub as most people so it took more water to fill it. And then I agreed to marry him. (Just kidding.)

He's smooth. And a liar. And I'm going to assume happily married if his wife falls for his rhetoric as easily as I did.

Either way, it did soften the blow when I realized a tub bath was not in my future. But honestly, I was so happy with being able to more safely get in and out of the shower it really didn't matter. And when I was sick this winter and had a picc line in my arm, maneuvering in this shower made it that much easier to stay in my home. It was one of those situations where I didn't realize how difficult it was for me to manage until I didn't have to anymore. Yea for the new tub!

Here's where the story gets even better (following in my line of thinking that I have everything I need when I need it). My two oldest siblings were at home with their families this spring and my sister Laura was talking about the new tub (yes, the tub is so cool that other people talk about it). My brother Jerry didn't know I had it and my dad made the comment that it was too bad I couldn't actually take a bath in it. I swear to God I was completely satisfied with the shower, but for my birthday those two siblings bought me a new water heater. I'm still overwhelmed by it.

And have I mentioned how much I love soaking in the water? 

I know sometimes it sounds like my life is one thing after another, and it kind of is. But it's also one good thing after another. Like bath tubs and water heaters and unexpected kindness. And long soaks in hot water. The good in life will always outweigh the difficult. You just have to remember to look for it.

And because Riley won't let me take photos of anything without him being the focus, here's one of him sitting on the bathroom rug waiting patiently for me to take a picture of him instead of the bathtub.

Who in the world taught him to be so vain?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Life in Sound Effects

When my parents came to visit in July and brought me my lovely window covering, I noticed there were moments when my dad eerily reminded me of my Grandpa Gerald. It was little things; like the fact that they have the exact same hands. And at times, both of them have lost or nearly lost some of the fingers on those hands when doing odd jobs.

Dad and Grandpa Gerald

But on the day Dad was hanging the shade on my window, it was the fact that he talked the entire time he was putting it up. Not talking to anyone... just quietly talking his way through it. It went something like this (quietly murmuring while half biting his tongue):

"Let's see, if a guy just moves this over a bit... then I'll need this screw... and go like this... and then it just needs a push..."

I couldn't resist the urge to tease him about it, which was really nice considering he was doing all the work and I was sitting on the couch doing nothing. But it was in that moment I realized how much I missed dad talking to himself while doing things. It was like a quiet murmur in the background of my childhood, and I imagine it was the same in his childhood as well.

Because my Grandpa likes to talk... whether it's murmuring to himself while doing woodworking projects or just telling grand stories. For the record they don't have to be true stories... just grand. And sometimes with an Irish accent thrown in for good measure. When I was little they were sometimes stories that weren't supposed to be told in front of children, which would cause a loud, "Gerald!" to be exclaimed by my Grandma as she'd shake her head and retreat to another room. That man is a character.

And he's a character that turns 87 years old today. In those 87 years he has had 9 children, 35 grandchildren and almost 41 great-grandchildren (thanks to my expectant cousin Maria). That's a legacy to be proud of. And I'm thinking of him today as I'm writing this story and muttering to myself while half biting my tongue: "Let's see... change the date... italicize this... hit publish post..."

You'll just have to imagine the Irish accent.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Shaken, Not Stirred

I've been having headaches pretty regularly as of late and I don't seem to be the only one that affects in my household. My Riley has been dutifully laying with me every moment of the day making sure I'm well cared for and looked after. And when he's not snuggling with me he's hiding behind his litter box and throwing up.

He has stress issues when I have headaches. 

So I've been feeling especially sorry for him lately. (They say when you feel bad you should focus on others to make yourself feel better. I'm assuming focusing on a dog counts?) Not only has he been dealing with my headaches, but since I haven't been able to go outside this summer Riley hasn't either.

I told my mom on the phone the other day that I was worried he was bored and not getting enough exercise. Her suggestion?

Mom: "Why don't you have him walk with Champagne?"

Me: "What?"

Mom: "Or you know... Chardonnay."

Me: "Huh?"

Mom: "Who's your friend in the building with the dog?"

Me: "Oh... you mean Candace. And her dog MARTINI."

I swear to God, headaches and all, that still has me laughing. I hung up with mom and had a better idea. I looked at Riley, who had his head resting on his paws looking up at me pitifully.

I asked him if he was sad. He whined.

I asked him if he needed some food. His ears perked up.

I asked him if we should bury our sadness with food ... maybe a carrot?

He flew to the kitchen in Olympic record time.

My conclusion: He's fine. And I'm a sucker. And man he loves baby carrots.

Friday, August 22, 2008

God is Awake

This quote by Victor Hugo is my all-time favorite. There is something about it that instantly makes me feel like I've taken a deep breath and everything in my body relaxes a little. It reminds me to hand over my burdens and teaches me to trust. That's a whole lot of result from four lines of text, isn't it?

Have courage for the great sorrows of life, and patience for the small ones. And when you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.    ~Victor Hugo

This quote is on my wall of doodles, and I only have to turn my head a little to the left to see it while I'm on the computer. I find myself looking to my left often to read what has become my mantra of sorts.

It's a bit ironic because sleep is not when I am most peaceful. Most people love crawling into bed at night and disappearing into a world where no one is telling them about their deadlines or reminding them of the incomplete to-do lists that inevitably await. You may slip into bed and fall asleep when your head hits the pillow, or take a few moments at the end of your day to enjoy the blissful silence of the night. Maybe you escape into the pages of a good book or whisper about your day to the love of your life laying next to you.

Or maybe you just collapse from exhaustion and pray the sound of the alarm clock holds off until you are fully rested and ready to face a new day.

Either way, many find nighttime to be a welcome reprieve.

For me, as much as I try to change my mindset about it, it's mired in dread. Pain plays many tricks on the body but the worst for me is that it is not conducive to rest or sleep. All of the remedies of relaxation, turning off the television and creating an atmosphere of rest go out the window when pain is involved. No amount of rest in the mind can counteract the reality of aching joints and pressured bones when laying down. So my two worst times of the day are getting into bed at night and having to get myself out of it in the morning. With sleep medications and muscle relaxers I find moments of sleep in the night. And I appreciate every little moment I get. 

The part I appreciate the most is the knowledge that through all of it, God is awake.

I used to feel a little selfish or that it was egotistical to think that God would sit there and watch my resting as well as my waking. I mean, come on, the guy has to have better things to do. But that was back when I wasn't giving Him nearly enough credit. In my human mind it seems impossible that He would really know every hair on my head and care about every breath I take when there are major needs in the world. But then I had two realizations. 

1. He can take care of more than one thing at a time.

2. He thinks I'm worth it.

There will be great sorrows in my life... and He has granted me courage to face them. And thankfully I have found patience for the smaller hurdles. But the only reason I can hold onto that courage and patience is because I believe with every fiber of my being that God is awake. He's looking at the road map of my life and waiting each moment to see which way I'm choosing to turn so He can provide me with the guidance I'll need on my journey.

And before you go thinking I really am too egotistical, you should know that I think He does the same for you.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Alter Egos

I'm watching Teen Jeopardy right now and I feel the need to tell you all that I'm an idiot. (My mom's going to be so annoyed when she reads this because she hates the word idiot.) Not only do I not know the answers to the questions, I don't even understand what they are trying to ask. But I did totally laugh at the kid that forgot to respond in the form of a question. Not so smart now, are you buddy?

(Yes, I know he's still smarter than me, but you gotta give me something here, people.)

More along my plane of understanding is the commercial that just came on. Did you all know that Knight Rider is going to be back on television? Yep, the cool show with the talking car that first aired before these Jeopardy contestants were born is going to be remade.

I'm a bit trepidatious about it. (That was a big word to compensate for my Jeopardy incompetence.) Last year I was over the moon about the fact that Bionic Woman was being remade, but it turned out to be a dud. It was extremely disappointing for me - and with good reason. You may not know this about me but when I was little, Jaime Sommers was my alter ego.

I was the Bionic Woman.

And my poor, sweet, loving godfather put up with me making him into Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man. Uncle Donny would patiently wait, wide-eyed with enthusiasm, as I'd run up to him with stories of bad guys that would need to be taken care of. All of which ended, every time, with me telling him that I had to go to the studio but would check back in with him later.

Now, I don't actually remember what Jaime Sommers' cover story was so people wouldn't know she was the bionic woman. But in my world, when I was off fighting evil I told people I was going to the studio. I'm sure I liked the term studio because it sounded like I was a dancer or a singer or was practicing to be Mary Lou Retton... regardless, Uncle Donny was a good sport.

Me with my godparents, Don and Janella... Donny and I were the only superheros, though. Sorry, Janella. (And a side note to my mom: remind me again why we always cut my hair like a boy?)

It wasn't until I was much older with nieces and nephews of my own that I realized how easy Donny had it. I mean really... he sat with the adults chatting and got credit for a whole day of playing with me because I'd run up to him and periodically give him status reports on the evildoers. But I now gladly give him credit because the man never failed to make me feel important. Every tale I told him was greeted with enthusiasm as he fed wholeheartedly into my imagination.

And you wonder why I love to tell stories?

I was so lucky to have godparents who loved me more than I thought possible... and I hope I'm giving that same security to my godchildren. After my inability to answer Jeopardy questions today I'm pretty sure they're already smarter than me, but I promise I'll be the proudest godparent out there when they win Teen Jeopardy... especially if they win by saying these words:

I'll take 80's television for 200, Alex.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Control Your Control Center

Ok, I think it's time for a funny story. But because the number one rule of my blog is that I would never want to hurt anyone's feelings, I'm going to change names in order to protect the innocent. Let me clarify: I'm fine with making fun of people and embarrassing them (just being honest)... I'm just afraid that until this person turns 25, he may find this to be more humiliating than funny.

I, on the other hand, find it freaking hilarious.

So we're going to call this little boy Ralphie (because I can't think of a more inconspicuous name than Ralph. Makes me think of that kid with the glasses in that Christmas movie).

Little Ralphie was just old enough to join a soccer team. He had the uniform and had practiced and was all ready for game day. So were his parents. They were on the sidelines across the field from Ralphie when they noticed that he, like so many little boys his age, couldn't keep his hands off his privates.

Ralphie was watching the game, absentmindedly rooting on his team with his hands where they shouldn't be. His mom was horrified. She turned to her husband and said, "You have got to do something about this. Tell him to knock it off."

Short of yelling across the field to your son to keep his hands to himself, or not to himself as the case may be, there wasn't much the dad could do at this point. But that evening, as dad was giving Ralphie his bath, they had a much needed discussion.

Ralphie came downstairs to the kitchen, all clean and in his cozy pajamas, ready to tell his mom goodnight. She stood at the sink finishing up dishes and asked if Ralphie's father had talked with him about anything that night.

Ralphie replied (in an animated and expressive manner - complete with hand gestures):

"He did, Mom. But I just told him how the body works. The brain is the control center of your body and tells everything in your body what to do. So my control center sent a message to my arm and down to my hand. Then my hand went beep, beep, beep (this is where the hand gestures came in) and so that's why my hand had to go there."

"And what did your dad say when you explained all this to him?" asked the mom.

Ralphie, with a big sigh: "He told me I'd better get control of my control center."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Book and It's Cover

There was a time, years ago, when I was no longer working at the magazine and was waiting to find out whether or not I was approved for disability. I was living off of a few hundred dollars a month from unemployment and paying most of that to keep my health insurance up to date. 

The funny thing is, while I was broke, unemployed and disabled you never would have guessed it. I was house sitting for friends that were traveling, which means I was living in a lovely home on Prospect Blvd. that had a hot tub in the back. I was driving my parents' old Lincoln Continental, which fit in quite well with the neighborhood. While I was sick and in pain, at the time I was only using my cane on bad days. In other words, I could pass for any other successful and healthy person on the block. Ahh... the old book and it's cover dilemma. Let's just say mine didn't match.

Back then I found it difficult to explain to people about my life when it didn't look like I was sick. How do you explain to someone that you're limited when you appear to be fully able? That's when I read The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino. It's well worth your time to click the link and read it in it's entirety, but the gist of the story is that the author, Christine, was asked by a friend to explain how it felt to have Lupus (an autoimmune disease that is different than mine but with some similar complications).

She gathered up the spoons on the table, gave them to her friend and had her count them up. She explained that when you have an illness you only have a certain number of spoons at the start of your day and each activity you perform requires a spoon. Get out of bed... lose a spoon. Shower... lose a spoon. Make a meal... lose a spoon. Do the dishes... you get the point. So at the start of each day you have to map out and plan a strategy to get everything done and not run out of spoons. Healthy people's spoon supply is limitless. The sicker I get, the fewer spoons I have to start my day.

My friend Scott especially liked the idea of The Spoon Theory. For awhile every time I talked to him he'd ask me how many spoons I had left before he'd ask me if I wanted to join them to do something. It was a helpful tool in allowing people to understand that while I wanted to join in and do everything they were, sometimes there were just no spoons left in my day.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately because I've been missing the days when I had spoons to play with. It used to feel limiting to only have seven spoons at the start of the day. It was hard not to have enough spoons to go to work or sit through a movie or go out to eat. But in the past year my regular teaspoons have been reduced to baby spoons. The kind that have the soft, protective plastic over the metal. 

I have a baby spoon to write this blog, another to take a shower and maybe two or three more to make it through the rest of my day... they are used up by heating up a meal or loading the dishwasher or having a long phone conversation. Every once in awhile I'm blessed with a whole teaspoon of energy and I'll have a friend come over to visit. Days like today, when I'm having the leftover effects of a migraine, the blog post is about all that will get done.

I'm not saying this for sympathy or to have a pity party; it's just a part of my life right now. My point is that even with my baby spoons, you still can't judge my book by its cover. I have a lovely condo that I live in, I have good friends and a cute dog and a car in the garage. The fact that the car battery is dead because I can't remember the last time I was able to drive it is the part of my book that people might not notice. The fact that I would feel like a rockstar if my lungs were strong enough for me to sit on my beautifully decorated patio is something people might miss. Perception and reality don't always go hand in hand... you can't judge a book by it's cover.

I can get just as caught up as the next guy in making snap judgements about people. I can wonder why people are parking in the handicap spot when they look fine, or why they waste gas driving to church when it's three blocks away, or why they're not willing to get involved in their community. But more often than not I don't know their book... I'm only looking at their cover. And I have no idea how many spoons they have to spare.

But as Oprah would say, there is something I know for sure. I know that today, no matter what story your book may tell or how your cover may look, my wish for you is a handful of spoons.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Attn: Michael Phelps

I was sitting on my couch faithfully watching the Olympics when a commercial came on television. The very next commercial was of Michael Phelps promoting Those two commercials put together got me to thinking...

During one of the many features on Michael Phelps they showed a "day in the life" segment. Pretty much Michael said that - other than swimming - he eats, sleeps and plays with his dog. He hates cooking and prefers eating out every meal. And he loves his mother.

In comparison, here's my "day in the life":

Other than blogging, I eat, sleep and play with my dog. I hate cooking and would be thrilled with eating out every meal. And I love my mother.

Who needs

Michael, if you're out there... despite the age difference we may just be soul mates. Call me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Old Dreams

I opened my mail one day this week and had an envelope from my friend Nicole, which is always fun. Sometimes I get updated photos of the girls or maybe a little piece of artwork only little hands can make. I opened the envelope and unfolded a sheet of paper that said "5 Years from Now..."

I really hardly remember it, but at Nicole's bachelorette party one of the things we did was write out on a sheet of paper where we thought we'd be in five years' time, as well as what we saw for Nicole and Josh. I assume we were supposed to get it back before now as they've been married eight years, but since she has two girls and is pregnant with twins... we'll give her a break. :)

Hold onto your seats, people, because the following excerpt contains my old predictions:


I'd love to be married with a child, maybe through adoption. I will have at least one of my children's books published and will be working on a book of short stories. I will have made another recording for my family and friends of different songs and will sing at a Jazz Club at least once - just to say that I did.

I will have vacationed in New York and gone to see a couple of Broadway musicals. My future husband will of course take me to N.Y. often just so I can get my fix of culture. :)

Nicole and Josh, you will be happily married and I'm guessing just starting to think about having kids. You'll be in a new house, going on vacations and loving every day together!


Well, fortune teller I am not. It would have been encouraging if at least one of these predictions would have come true, but maybe I get points for getting them all wrong? Kind of like when you play the card game Hearts and try taking all the hearts for higher points rather than get rid of them. (That happened to me once, but not on purpose. I'm just so bad at the game that I wound up with them all. But I digress...) I was even wrong on Nicole and Josh... thinking that it would take them 5 years to start having kids. Now, 8 years into their married life they have two daughters and are expecting twins, taking them to a family of six. Wow... was I off!

I have to admit that when I opened the envelope and realized what it was, I was hesitant to read it. I couldn't remember what I had written and didn't know if I wanted to stir a pot of ... you know. So I read through the predictions and nodded my head remembering how sure I was of them. Then I took a deep breath and waited for it to happen.

I waited for the sadness. I waited for the longing. I waited to be wistful. I waited for the envy to creep in for that girl that existed. I waited. And nothing.

It's not that I felt nothing. I wasn't unaffected; I was unburdened in a way. It was simply a memory of another time. I thought of how lovely it is that I was able to have those dreams... I had the chance once upon a time to think those things were possible. I had such fun that summer celebrating with Nicole and having that time in my life when it seemed like everything was within my grasp. It's not sad those things didn't come true; it's a joy that I had the chance to dream about the future.

My reaction surprised me (which makes sense as apparently I'm not that great at predictions), but I'm not sure if it's how I would have reacted had I not been writing this blog. I started this simply for something to do. My convictions and beliefs and outlook on life haven't changed. But I do think saying what you believe out loud (or in writing) makes it so much easier to live your convictions. The fact that I have been telling all of you how grateful I am for the blessings in my life made it easier to read that letter. It made it possible to appreciate the dreams of that 27-year-old version of myself, while still being a happy 35-year-old living a totally different reality.

So I wanted to take a moment to tell all of you readers that you are appreciated and I don't take you for granted.

And don't be afraid to speak your truth... it does make it easier to live it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hide and Seek

So, I was sitting at my desk one day... typing away, working on a digital scrapbooking project and not paying nearly enough attention to my sweet little pup. He had gotten tired of laying on my lap and being ignored so he hopped down to see what kind of trouble he could get into.

Since I had put up the retractable gate and trapped him in the room with me (I'd learned from experience), he was a bit limited in his choices of mischief. That was the day he figured out how to play hide and seek.

Yeah, he really did. I was sitting at the computer minding my own business when this little face popped up next to me from behind the couch. I didn't even know the stinker could fit back there. The minute I looked at him and laughed he stuck his head back behind the couch and whined a little. So I did the only logical thing.

I, a grown and somewhat sane woman, said to my dog: "Where did you go, buddy? I can't find you."

(Yes, you can all judge me now for treating him like a child, but seriously... what would you have done?)

As soon as I said it Riley popped his head back out, and I knew he was happily wagging his tail because I could hear the rhythm of it going between hitting the back of the couch and the wall. I looked at him and laughed and we started it all over again. Many times.

If anyone wonders how I keep my sanity being in this house 24/7, just take a look at that photo again. Anytime I'm at this blog too long or scrapbooking on the computer - basically anything that leaves that poor pooch neglected, he whines and pops his head out from behind the couch.

And it gets me every time. I'm such a pushover, but I defy any of you to try to resist his charms. I'd bet money (if I had any) that it can't be done. And I only bet on a sure thing.  :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And, We're Back

You know, there are some things I just excel at. I don't mean to sound arrogant or anything, but when you're good, you're good. And I just so happen to make the most beautiful godchildren on earth.

my goddaughter Bailey

Yeah, I know... I have nothing to do with their creation, really. But I must have something to do with it considering how exceptional all my godchildren are. Even if it's just that I have the good sense to make friends with people who produce beautiful children. I think I should be able to get credit in there somewhere.

My sweet Bailey has been a joy to me since the day my friend Jenny called to tell me the ultrasound showed it was a girl and that I was going to be her godmother. I was in love with that fuzzy creature on the ultrasound picture, but then she was born and has had me wrapped around her finger ever since. 

Her mom Jenny is a great mom (I mean, she's no godmother... but we'll give her credit anyway) and is conscientious about making good food and healthy choices for her family. One of their favorite channels is the Food Network and Bailey took a liking early on to Rachael Ray.

(Me and Bailey back in her days of cooking like Rachael Ray)

One afternoon a few years ago Miss Bailey was at the dining room table with her play dough "cooking" up a storm. She was using her best Rachael Ray voice while instructing an imaginary audience on the art of cutting, chopping and all other things cooking-related. (Let's just say she surpassed her godmother in the cooking department even when she only had play dough to create with). Bailey had gotten quiet and seemed to be done with her play cooking, but just as Jenny was about to get her attention and ask her a question, Bailey popped her head back up with a smile and said...

"And, we're back."

Apparently, even a chef dealing with play dough and an imaginary audience needs to take a commercial break.

(I take full credit for their creativity, too. Because, well, it's my blog and who's going to stop me?)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Feels Like Home

I remember when the transition of "being home" changed from my parents' home to living here in Cedar Falls. I was in college and had come back to see some siblings that were at mom and dad's for the weekend... I rarely passed up an opportunity to see my nieces and nephews so when they came for a visit I usually did as well.

It was Sunday morning so we had gone to church and were having brunch at The Chrome (THE place to be after church in Algona) ... I had my car packed up and ready to go and was planning on heading out as soon as we were finished eating. Everyone was stuffed to the gills and chatting aimlessly as so often happens after a good meal, so I turned to mother and told her it was probably time for me to head home.

She didn't like the sound of that.

"You are home, Sara. You're heading back to college."

Oops. I quickly tried to back track, but on the drive back to college I realized that home had changed. My home with my parents had become what it must for every kid growing up - my childhood home. The home you are always welcomed back to, but also the place that made you strong enough and secure enough to create a home of your own.

My life obviously progressed quite differently than I thought it would - there is no husband or children to keep me where I am (and I'm pretty sure Riley would follow me anywhere). I've had a number of people ask me over the years, especially in the past few when my health has gotten worse, why I don't move back to Algona to be closer to my parents. Believe me, it's not because they haven't offered. It's because I've created a family here that I wouldn't want to leave.

I find I never have words to adequately describe my friendships... I can only say that I hope every one of you reading this has the chance to be as blessed as I have been. I've talked about it before but it bears repeating that I have friends who go above and beyond by welcoming me into their lives and their families. This past weekend my friends Scott and Meg found themselves without their two kids and free to do whatever they wanted. So what do my friends do? They call me up to bring me lunch and hang out. I know it probably sounds simple to you reading this... it's just lunch, right? 

Not to me. To me it's people taking time when they could be doing anything they wanted to show me they remember I'm here and I'm worth making the effort for. It's more than friendship, really. It's family. And it's just one example of the many different friends who treat me as such. I am blessed, people.

Now, for my favorite part of their visit on Sunday...

Remember this picture of Riley? He's wearing a harness.

But the fact that Scott kept calling it a thong is going to keep me laughing all week. 


Monday, August 11, 2008

Beyond Words...

Talk about some serious teamwork.

I'm not talking about the gymnastics teams or women's beach volleyball or even basketball ... all of which used incredible teamwork to accomplish victories. No... I'm talking about the opening ceremonies.

China wins, hands down... and I would not want to be the home of the next Olympics because they have some serious shoes to fill. I have to say that I've always liked opening ceremonies, but sooner or later there would come a point where I would find myself bored. I was waiting for that to happen (mostly because I was hungry and wanted to make something for supper) but I was glued to the television. It was so visually impressive with the giant LCD screens, but the human element was truly beyond words.

Of course, I'm going to find a few to use regardless. :)

I loved the idea of the artwork progressing with each element, beginning with the dancers painting with their bodies and ending with the footprints of the marching countries' athletes. But nothing was more impressive than the sheer number of people (2008 to be exact) drumming at the beginning or doing tai chi later on in the ceremony. They said these people practiced eight hours a day for over four months to perfect their synchronization and turn their art form into a true masterpiece. 

The idea that those perfect circles are comprised of 2008 people moving in perfect rhythm is spellbinding. And I want to know why we all can't work so well together in our every day lives. Seriously... think about what that country came together to do and show the world about unity. And then think about the controversy of the human rights violations that made people want to boycott the Olympics this year. How can those two ideas possibly be coexisting?

But they are. And they do every day in our lives. We can come together for an event and create a true spectacle but we often can't stop to help someone we see stumble on the street. The men's basketball team figured out this year that living within their own bubble isn't the way to create an Olympic team. During the last summer Olympics in 2004 they were the "Dream Team." They believed their hype, concerned less with making themselves a team and more with their own name-recognition, leaving them cocky and expecting gold. They didn't show support for other sports or hang out in the Olympic Village... and they lost their gold medal status. They beat themselves with their attitudes.

This year, the "Redeem Team" is fixing that. They have refocused their idea of what it is to put on a USA jersey, are attending the women's basketball games and have shown up to cheer on the beach volleyball teams. They've been spending time with the swimmers at the Olympic Village and are becoming a part of the experience. And so far, they are playing like olympians.

That's what I'm going to try to remember when these games are over. When attention turns to Russia bombing the Republic of Georgia and the human rights violations of China... I'm going to try to remember what can happen when people come together for a common goal. Because as we saw in the Men's 4x100 swim, the result can be nothing short of miraculous.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Creating Happiness...

This is a small 8x16 canvas I made for my kitchen... and then a friend saw it and liked it so I sent it home with her and made another one. Which I turned around and donated to Relay for Life as a raffle item, so this is the third incarnation that is finally hanging in my kitchen. If you walk in and like it... it's mine! Just kidding. I'd probably give it to you.  :)

I love quotes like this that can fit so many different situations and times in our lives. Some pursue happiness... Others create it. I think when I was younger (I'm talking my 20's here, people... now that I'm in my mid-thirties, my 20's sadly seem like a loonnnggg time ago) I looked at creating my happiness as a physical thing.

(No, Dad, not that kind of physical... you can go ahead and breathe again.)

Back then, I worked hard to create opportunities in my career so I could do more writing. I created friendships and fostered trust with people who I cared about greatly. I created a home for myself in my faith community by getting involved in the planning of liturgy and events. I created a way to fulfill my creative side by singing at weddings and at church. I created. I did. I participated. I took the bull by the horns and made my life into something I needed and wanted.  I'm not sure I did it consciously in a decision-making-process sort of way; I just wasn't one to sit around and twiddle my thumbs much. I am so blessed that, the majority of the time, it worked. I was happy.

Now, though, creating my happiness is much more of a mental thing. I accept the things in my life (wanted or not) and create a mindset of happiness around them. It's that silver lining theme again... if you look hard enough there is always something to be grateful for. There is always something to look forward to. There is always something to be happy about. Instead of trying to change an unchangeable situation, I just have to create an attitude of happiness instead of pursuing one. I have to make sure I'm not waiting for someone else to create happiness for me and instead find it right where I'm at.

I was thinking about this today because August 8th and 9th are big ones for my family. My parents were married on August 8, 1964. Later, my brother Steve and his wife Patience were married on August 8th, and my sister Laura and her husband Jeff were married on August 9th. If you're setting a wedding date... I highly recommend this week as it's worked well for all of them. :)

Mom and Dad

Steve and Patience

Laura and Jeff

But I think the reason it has worked so well is that they have created their own happiness. I've watched them work hard at loving each other, understanding each other and accepting each other. They didn't just rely on love and pursue a happiness that is supposed to be owed to every married couple; they created relationships and opportunities to grow and honor each other. They focus on their faith and their families, and they work at respecting each other more than anything. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say they don't get it right every day ... but none of us do.

I think the magic is in the fact that we all try.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

It's Finally Here!!!!

I am so unbelievably excited because it's finally here... tomorrow is 08.08.08 and the Olympics will finally begin!!!!

I've always loved the Olympics (both summer and winter), but this year I'm exceptionally excited. Not because I love some of the athletes (which I do), and not because I am proud of our country (which I am). No, if I'm honest, I am mostly excited about the Olympics because there has been nothing else to watch on television.

Seriously, people, the one summer I am literally confined to my home and there has been NOTHING good on tv. I take that back... I do enjoy So You Think You Can Dance, but that only takes up so much of a girl's time. So I am ready to live vicariously through these athletes and watch them run their track and field races and swim like fish. And when you have a 41-year-old mom like Dara Torres blowing these young kids out of the water (literally) you can't help but be inspired.

But in the end, I pretty much live for the gymnastics. I'm going to admit something to you all... when I was young I really thought I was going to be a famous gymnast. I now see the flaw in the plan as I didn't train or take lessons or work out. But I'm telling you, I could go in our backyard and do a round-off like nobody's business. We lived on an acreage so I had a lot of wide open spaces... and our yard was my own personal area to work on my floor routine. 

I'd take the boom box (remember those?) out back, put on music and dance, do tumbling runs and always end with the dramatic flair of my arm in the air with my back arched... just like Mary Lou Retton. And somewhere deep down inside I just knew that some scout would be driving along that blacktop in the country, notice me and whisk me away for Olympic training.

Then again, I used to think a talent scout would drive on that blacktop, hear me sing and give me a record deal, too.

At least the pigs and horses were entertained. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hello? Remember Me?

Yeah, he's about had it with this blogging thing. He's taken to resting his chin on the arm of my desk chair to express his displeasure and boredom. My blogging is just the latest focus of his jealousy... anything that distracts me from him becomes his worst nightmare.
Basically, if I want him to pay attention to me all I have to do is push the "talk" button on the telephone. The beeping sound alerts Riley to the fact that I may dare speak to someone other than him and within three seconds of pushing the button to dial he is on my lap, with a toy, licking my hands.
It's sad how neglected he is.
The other bane of his existence is a book. I've always been somewhat of a voracious reader. My sister Janette used to get annoyed with me because I could sit in one position for literally hours and not be aware of anything going on around me. She once told mom that she really thought I needed more fresh air... so I took to reading outside. To me, there is nothing better than getting lost in a book and living another life entirely.
But for Riley, when I'm in that other life supplied by a novel I'm not paying attention to his life. So every chapter or so I see a cute black nose root itself underneath the book and pop up in front of my face. Or he's less subtle and just sets his body right over the pages. Nothing was worse than when the seventh Harry Potter book arrived at my doorstep at 4:00 in the afternoon and I didn't put it down until it was finished at 4:00 that morning. Honestly, I think Riley is still having flashbacks of those 12 hours of abandonment. In comparison, a few minutes of blogging everyday should be a thrilling alternative for him.
To tell you the truth, people, I think he's just nervous that if this diversion keeps up I may go crazy and start thinking I'm the alpha dog around here...
Right.  Like that'll ever happen.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Paying Attention

Take a moment and watch this video before you read the rest of this post ... I can't really say anything about it without giving it away, so you'll just have to trust me. Watch first - and then read.

Crazy, right?

The first time I saw this video was on an episode of Ellen last season and I totally thought it was a hoax until I hit rewind and there it was all along... a moonwalking bear. Man, our eyes can play tricks on us!

I guess it really has less to do with what our eyes are seeing and more to do with what we are focusing on ... what we're acknowledging. (I know, I know... I'm about to say something deep about a moonwalking bear. You aren't really that surprised, are you?)  :)

I have had people in my life who always seem to be searching for something... waiting to be shown a direction. They've been searching for what job to take, where to live, the love of their life. Searching for something to believe in. I have been asked many times about my faith and I often found it difficult to explain because so many people relate to faith as this "feeling." And sometimes it is... sometimes you are just so filled up with it that it's impossible not to realize all the ways God is at work.

But what happens when that feeling goes away? When life gets hard and nothing is falling into place and that filled-up feeling disappears... people start searching all over again. And because the feeling is gone, their faith is as well.

When I was in college this guy I had known since high school asked me how I knew that God was real. It was ironic because, while we were in different grades, we went to the same Catholic high school and were taught the same lessons. But he said when he saw me sing at Mass and interact with people I looked at peace with all of it... like I had that "feeling." He said he was mainly going to church as a way to hedge his bets... he figured if God really did exist then he would have done everything he was supposed to in order to get into heaven, but if God didn't exist then all he had done was waste some time on Sundays. Mostly, he just wanted some sort of proof so he could feel the faith everyone seemed so sure of.

I think that is true of so many of us - we expect to have God hit us on top of the head with a wand so that feeling will just appear in us, and then we'll believe for the rest of our lives. But the truth is, we have to work on it. People work on their marriages, they work to get promotions, they work at raising their children. But faith... that's just supposed to exist somewhere, right?

For me, I think it's all about my focus. Instead of searching for God I choose to simply acknowledge Him. It's like when I was watching the people in white passing the basketball, the only thing I was looking for was them. They had my focus. That bear was standing in the middle waving at me and I just looked right around him because I was busy "searching" somewhere else.

God is the same way. While we are all so busy searching for Him and waiting for that feeling to magically appear, He's standing there waving, jumping up and down and moonwalking in front of us. Waiting for us to acknowledge Him.

I remember a few years ago I was driving home from a doctor's appointment where I had been told I once again had pneumonia and needed to check into the hospital. I was going home to pack a bag, crying... so tired of going through this routine. And as tears were coming down my face I actually had the thought, "It is so lovely outside... God, you made such a perfect day."

I stopped mid-thought and felt like I was totally crazy. How could things be going so wrong and I feel so grateful all at the same time? But that's faith. It's about keeping your focus. I didn't have a warm and fuzzy feeling. I was tired and sad and sick... but I couldn't look at the sunshine and green grass and not acknowledge the amazing day God created. That didn't happen by accident. It happened because I decided a long time ago to acknowledge God when I saw Him... even when things get difficult.

So, if you want, try something with me this week. Take moments in the routine of your day and acknowledge how God is there. Acknowledge the gifts of your home, your family, your job... the call from a friend, the extra bit of energy, the sunshine. Oh, there will always be flaws in all of those things, but take a step back and see the amazing fabric those tiny little flaws are a part of. 

In other words, keep your eye out for the moonwalking bear.

Monday, August 4, 2008

My (Rare) Baking Masterpiece

Let me tell you something about myself: I am not a Becky Homecky. Or a Suzie Homemaker. Or any of those other silly names.

I really wish I was... but I don't think I have the patience for it. I love reading people's blogs where they make fresh yogurt (really... people do that) or concoct these fantastic recipes with ingredients from their gardens. People make all these dishes from scratch with utensils handed down from their grandmothers' kitchens and take beautiful photographs of their intricate masterpieces.

I make ramen noodles. I'm just sayin'.

When we lived at the Big House, I got up one morning and Susie had this contraption hooked up to the sink and was turning a handle while feeding it potatoes. I scratched my head, looked it over and inquired as to what kind of experiment she was conducting. She said she was making hashbrowns.

Picture me shaking my head with pity. Because that's what I was doing. Right then I took it upon myself to educate my friend on the joy of the frozen food section. I'm not exaggerating, people, when I tell you the girl had lived to age 20 and had NO IDEA you could buy frozen hashbrowns.

Imagine her delight when I introduced her to the joy of already crushed graham cracker crumbs. I take full credit for expanding her horizons and cutting her cooking time in half. I may have gone too far, though, because I really do think cookies are better from scratch and since discovering pre-made cookie dough I'm not sure she's ever looked back.

When mom and dad came to visit before the 4th of July I had a few extra granny smith apples in the fridge so I made a small pan of apple crisp for us to enjoy. Because I sometimes don't have the energy or physical capabilities of standing at the stove for extended periods of time, Linda (Susie's mom, who gets my groceries for me) will make me a casserole that I reheat for supper every night - even I can handle the microwave. So it's not completely out of line that mom chuckled a little and looked a bit disbelieving at the idea that I had made the apple crisp. It's not out of the question that she may have assumed that Linda made the dessert for me. (That, and the fact that I once broiled a cake instead of baking it when I was younger.)

But I made it. And since the miracle of baking may never happen again I took the cue from all those blogs I love and took a photo of my masterpiece.

Take a long look. Enjoy it. Because the odds of this blog ever focusing on cooking/baking again are... let's see... nonexistent.

But for the record, Riley thought it was delicious.


Your anti-Becky Homecky Blogger 

Friday, August 1, 2008

I Have Everything I Need

Tuesday night I watched the ABC Primetime special on Randy Pausch and his famous talk "The Last Lecture." For those who haven't heard of him, Randy just passed away from pancreatic cancer, but shortly after being diagnosed he gave a talk to his class at Carnegie Mellon University about the lessons he has learned in his life. Below is the reprised version of the lecture he gave on Oprah if you'd like to watch:

I had originally heard of him because of this episode and, like everyone else, was incredibly inspired by this man. But while watching the Primetime interview, I actually found myself more drawn to the sensibilities of Randy's wife. Diane Sawyer was interviewing her and she spoke a lot about finding acceptance and the mantra she repeats to herself when she feels as though it's all too much: I have everything I need. I was drawn to her because that is what I say to myself daily.

My friends and I use the book Traveling Light by Max Lucado for our faith sharing group... each chapter focuses on a verse from the 23rd Psalm and chapter six is the one that stood out to me. The verse is: He leads me beside the still waters. Seems like a simple statement, but Lucado focuses on the fact that God leads. He doesn't push us into something and say good luck. He walks ahead of us and tells us where to go, where to turn, how quickly to walk. And in order to do all of that, He gives us all the direction and help we need when we need it.

I guess it's the epitome of living in the moment. I choose to trust that God is going to provide me with what is required of me when it is required. At times I would like Him to supply me with what I need ahead of time because it's hard to face the unknown. But I have to have faith and trust in His perfect timing. The opposite of that trust is worry, so when I begin to worry about my present, my future, my life... I stop and remind myself that I have everything I need.

So I told myself that when waiting in the doctor's office Wednesday. In the end there were no new medications for me to try and no great changes in store for my day-to-day living, but I had the words to describe my pain and symptoms to my doctor when I needed them. And he listened as I needed him to. He was worried about my lungs so he got me in to the allergist across the hall for a consultation right then. I had what I needed. When I needed it.

Lucado points to a passage in Hebrews that says, "We will find grace to help us when we need it." I trust that. Even when I don't feel it... even when worry creeps in... I choose to remember that I have everything I need.

And I promise you do too.