Sunday, December 27, 2009

Learning About My Son


I've learned something new about my son that I didn't realize. My in-laws have told me that after my son has been at their house, they'll notice that certain do-dads are re-arranged. This picture of two golden pine cones is an example of that - they wouldn't have put two matching ornaments together (I don't have two matching ornaments, so I guess technically I wouldn't either but for an entirely different reason) but they noticed last night that a number of ornaments were grouped together like this.

My in-laws' house is very nicely put together with many decorative items. Every book, picture, etc is in a certain place to create a certain effect. I get the impression that my son understands that concept (I don't get it but am impressed with people who do) and quietly seeks to "improve" the effect here and there. He's never mentioned this to me but I want to set up a hidden camera or something the next time we're here because I'd love to watch his face while he's re-arranging so I could try to understand what he's thinking and feeling.

Apparently he has some strong opinions about how things should look. He gets that from his dad, not from me. I have absolutely no eye for this stuff, but whenever I need a picture hung or something like that - I'm impressed with my husband's ability to know what will look interesting. I told everyone that, for all I know, my son is also re-arranging things in my house but since I don't really do anything intentionally, I would never notice if something changed. He could probably move furniture and it would take me a few days to notice. I think my daughter is like me. She's too busy reading or listening to her new iTouch to even notice what room she's in, much less whether a particular vase is set up in exactly the right place.

Every once in a while I get a decorating idea and it's not too bad. But I can't pull it off by myself - I have to describe the general concept to my husband and he knows how to put the details together to make it work. Colors are very important to me - they really set my mood. For example, I knew that I wanted our bedroom to be a soft, nature-y green but left it to him to pick the exact color of paint and type of granite for the bathroom. It's pretty good teamwork, to tell you the truth. After this visit to my in-laws, I realize that there's this whole other person in my life who could help me with this stuff. Cool. My daughter and I need all the help we can get. I guess in our family the girls will be in charge of the "internal" issues and the boys will cover the "external" issues.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas


I've been wanting to post about my daughter and her Santa hat for about a week, but either I was out of town on a business trip or she was at her grandparents' house - and this post simply requires an accompanying illustrative photograph. Thank goodness for a pretty quiet Christmas morning - it gave me the chance to stop her for just a few seconds and grab a picture.

For about four years now, my daughter has worn a Santa hat every day for the week or two before Christmas. She thought it was a cool and different thing to do and she liked all the attention and laughs the hat brought her when she started wearing it to school. I love the fact that she wants to be different and express her personality. (She also insists upon wearing non-matching socks and has done so for at least 2 years now....it's another great thing that makes her special.)

Last week, I told her how much I liked the fact that I completely identified her with the Santa hat now. She looked at me and simply said: "I know. It's my trademark."

Maybe I'll ask her to help me come up with a trademark of my own this year. After all - the marketing gurus all say that a person should try to develop his or her own "brand." I've never had any idea what my "brand" is - but I think it's great that my 10 year old has a clear sense of herself. She's the Santa girl with the fun, funky, non-matching socks.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Madame de Stael

I'm addicted to the biography of Mme. de Stael as if it was a novel. She lived her life as one huge adventure - really, one long search for love. She was exceptionally intelligent and never hesitated to say exactly what she thought to anyone in her near vicinity.

It was, occasionally, Napoleon Bonaparte who was within earshot and he never liked anything she had to say. As a matter of fact, I have the distinct impression that he didn't deem it worth his time to listen to anything women had to say unless it was about motherhood or being a wife. It's been very interesting to read this book because I'm learning a lot more about the Napoleonic era and the downfall of the French monarchy. I'm not at all a big fan of Napoleon and I find myself cringing on Mme. de Stael's behalf because the mistakes she made are PRECISELY the kind of mistakes I make.

She walked around with her heart open all the time, throwing herself into friendships. Some of the friendships were worthwhile and brought her joy but some were destructive. She was also the epitome of the high-maintenance woman.

On the whole, however, I must say that I would love to be more like her. She wrote and acted so well that people all over (except for Napoleon) adored her for her gifts, she loved and taught her children very well, and she truly went after what she wanted in life.

But she was always prone to sadness. I think many sensitive artists are - I honestly don't know how you can avoid melancholy if you look at the world through sensitive eyes. Even with sadness as a consideration, I still wish art was a bigger part of my creative energies. It would be so much more satisfying than the practice of law!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Leaving On A Jet Plane....

Am I the only person who hears that song over and over in her head when she's about to go on a business trip? On second thought, if that oddness is unique to me - don't tell me because I don't want to know.

As I'm sure you can tell from that introduction, today is a travel day for me. I'm off to Virginia for a short business trip. Ugh. I'm not tremendously fond of airplanes. I guess they lost their glamor once I had to start traveling for work. Or...maybe it was when I had to start taking off my shoes and showing the security guards my shampoo.

Stupid shoe bomber.

At any rate, I was already homesick as I drove to the airport BUT I'm trying to look on the bright side of the situation. The bright side is, of course, the fact that I should be able to sleep more than I would if I was at home. At home I'm doing dishes, laundry and various Christmas/Choir/Cub Scout duties until at least 9 every night - so by the time I start to settle down, it's late and I can barely remember my own name. During my trip, it's just me, my book, and my laptop. I couldn't do laundry and school lunches even if I wanted to do them.

Which I don't.

So I'll read, maybe plan out my grocery list for the weekend, and then sleep. I'll also remember that next week is a 2-day workweek for me.

And all the people said....AMEN.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Vindication

As most of you know, Scarlett is an ongoing theme in my life. She has been ever since I was 16 and read Gone With the Wind for the first time (and chose her "I'll never be hungry again!" speech as my soliloquy for my sophomore oration project). I say that she's an ongoing theme, not my hero and not a model of behavior in all matters - but dang it, she's tough, she's career-minded, and she's completely ignorant about love.

I just can't help being drawn to her character and I suspect she's got a lot to teach me.

At any rate, the movie is apparently 70 years old now and I feel very vindicated for my feelings about the book, the movie, and Scarlett herself after reading this commentary.

(By the way - I feel the exact same way about Breakfast At Tiffany's and the character Holly Golightly. I guess I don't like my heroines to be flawless. I just want them to be real and searching for love.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Don't Forget What "Perfect" Is....


Last night we had a few hours with my parents and it really was the perfect night. We decided to go to the Domain so we could eat dinner, then watch fireworks. At first we were on the waiting list for California Pizza Kitchen, but there was a little fine chocolate/wine/coffee place around the corner and I was hoping they might have some "real" food. They did, so we were able to go right in, grab some tables in the corner, buy a bottle of wine and some paninis and just enjoy each other.

Afterwards, we rushed the kids through Borders (if they had their way, they'd LIVE in the bookstore...just like I would) and watched the fireworks. It was definitely one of those nights I wish I could hold onto forever.

I suppose I'm acutely aware of the fact that things do change and people do leave us. My parents were in town because they attended a funeral in San Antonio earlier in the day. Perhaps it's a combination of that, of the fact that two of my dear friends have mothers who are struggling with the final stages of breast cancer, and the fact that my children are no longer babies...but when I think about my parents I am stunned.

Being a parent is the scariest thing on Earth and I believe we make our biggest mistakes as parents (I know I have) but hopefully we find the greatest joy in that role and, ultimately, the joy overcomes everything else. I don't know how my own parents have done it for forty decades, but if they can do it - it gives me hope that I will ultimately find my way.

Someday I hope I'm watching fireworks with my own grandchildren and remembering how far we've all come as a family.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What does this tell you?

I decided to write a short story, and here's what I learned....I can't write from the perspective of a grown-up. Or...maybe I can...but it feels stilted and fake. I don't like the way my writing sounds when it's about grown-ups. The only way I was able to really find my voice in my writing was to write from the perspective of a kid. Specifically, an 11-year-old girl.

I found this very interesting. I've had pretty serious writer's block whenever I've worked on my fiction. Who knew that I just needed to revert to my "true" age?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Best. Blog. Ever.

I'm seriously tempted to start writing my grandmothers again so that I can get some snarky return notes that I could then post on PAN. It's truly difficult to pick a favorite passive aggressive note, but "What Would Jesus Do for a Klondike Bar?" is way up on my list.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Attack of the Army Guys

So...I'm washing my hair in the bath tonight (Yes, I wash my hair in the bath - leave me alone. I like baths.) and when I come up from my second rinse, I see this....


Yikes!!!!! It really did kind of surprise me. Especially since he's pointing his WWI-era gun right at me while wearing his pointy Kaiser hat. I decide I'd better take stock of my surroundings and see if there are other threats to my safety.


Whew. Looks like this guy is no threat. Kaiser-dude must have already taken him out so it's only his legs sticking out from behind the organic baby shampoo.

It cracked me up - if I wasn't clear about the consequences of having a 6-year-old son before, I sure am now. So I had to take these pictures with my Bberry. As my husband saw me doing that, he asked if our son had told me why the army guys were there.

Um, no. (They were placed there intentionally????)

Yup. Apparently they were in my bath to scare me. I cracked up and had fun telling my little Rambo that his army guys seriously surprised me. He loved it. So I guess there's no telling what I'll find in my bath tomorrow night. I can be a good sport about most things, as long as they are not ALIVE.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Past Reality

Have you ever been so stressed and so overwhelmed, that if you really take stock of where you are in life - you think that you might honestly lose it? I don't just mean just lose it in the "Oh-my-goodness-I-must-make-time-for-a-pedicure" way but in the legitimate, "my-family-needs-to-make-sure-that-resident-mental-care-is-part-of-my-insurance-plan" way.

I'm probably close to that...but the funny thing is that I'm very much at peace. I posted on Facebook the other day that I've found this odd sense of peace in the sense of chaos. It is, perhaps, pure survival instinct - but whatever it is, I'm grateful for the fact that I'm able to find a sense of myself in this wild schedule.

I can state with certainty that I do NOT want to face another December like this one. Although...I'm not sure I have much of a choice. You see, I won't deny my kids experiences that they really want to have and there's the added complication that I'm trying to grow professionally myself.  A friend of mine has sent me a few emails about a holiday party I should attend to meet some local assocation/non-profit professionals. It's a great idea but I can barely find the time to check my calendar...much less schedule the event and shell out the $50 for the lunch. In other words - December is clearly the month when the entire world decides to start being social. It's quite exhausting, to tell you the truth. Between the regular events (cub scout den meetings, choir practices) and the special events (work parties, events with friends) - it becomes rather obvious that one is not supposed to think, sleep, or eat normal healthy meals during the holidays. One is only supposed to purchase gifts, mail them, attend children's parties/concerts, and (maybe) figure out how to make the season special for one's family.

Is anyone else feeling this way? I hate to be the poster girl for "Misery Loves Company" but I have to admit that I truly hope I'm not the only person struggling to make sense this month.

Dickens on the Strand

The wonderful thing about my children trying new activities is that I get to experience new things also! Our lives have been out of control crazy lately (truly...it's impossible to describe....) but I had the joy of attending Dickens on the Strand in Galveston today. We had such a good time. My daughter was all over the place, singing like crazy and the rest of us just hopped right behind her to catch every parade and concert. We also enjoyed other cool things such as civil war camps, funnel cakes, and the temptation of wonderful things to purchase.

I resisted buying most of the things I wanted to get, however, because my splurge was $75 to rent a victorian dress for the weekend. I hit Lucy in Disguise (a really fun Austin place on SoCo that I'd never explored...which is truly shocking for me considering I simply live to act and play dress up) and I'm so glad I did. My daughter and I got some sweet Victorian mom and daughter pictures, plus I was in heaven hoisting that dress all over the place. (It was WAY too long for me. Really, it's quite hard for me to rent things like that because they have to make them for people of normal height.) You can't see all of my dress in any of these pictures - oops - I forgot to get a full length from the back. But trust me, it was great! (I made my hair clips late last night, along with a nosegay I pinned to my black evening purse. I felt like quite the sophisticated lady.)



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why is Kiehl's following me????

I have a Twitter account, although I don't really tweet. It just hasn't worked for me so far. Plus I'm not in the mood to add another social media venue into my schedule. Every once in a while I get a notice that someone's started following me and I just feel sorry for whatever friend it is because they are going to be seriously bored if they watch my account.

But today I got a notice that Kiehl's is following me. WTF??? Seriously?!? I can only assume that this means Kiehl's ran some program where it hunted down emails of customers on Twitter. That seriously creeps me out. I guess it shouldn't - but it strikes me as somewhat disingenuous. I mean - I feel quite certain that Kiehl's doesn't give a flying fig whether I'm in a business meeting or shopping for a ficus.

So...why are they following me? Stalking customers must be the new American marketing plan. Are they going to start driving by my house at night too?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Priorities

Priorities change over time, and I've finally realized that's ok. As a matter of fact, I now believe that part of growing up is trying on different priorities for size, seeing what fits, and discarding it if it doesn't work. When I graduated from law school, lo' those many years ago (during the previous century, thank you very much - back when people wrote out their essay answers by hand, not via computer), I sort of went along with the conventional wisdom of my classmates that we were all supposed to get a job that paid us the highest-possible salary, work our butts off, bill more hours than any other associate, and....well....like it.

Truth be told, I never really threw myself into that life. I only gave it a half-hearted effort because it wasn't me. I knew it deep down but wondered if I could just force myself to start liking it if I kept at it. Nope. No way was that happening.

Then I had a baby. Well, that clearly taught me a whole new lesson about priorities.

During  the course of the last few decades, I've "experimented" with putting different priorities first. I've tried work, I've tried career (two different things, in my opinion), I've tried parenthood, I've tried exercise/dieting (don't get me started on that one), I've tried my marriage (sort of - still working on getting that one right), and I've even dabbled with letting spirituality take a higher rung on my ladder-o-priorities. It dawns on me that, perhaps, I need to have a few top priorities that just take turns at the top. Kind of like a dance, I take turns spending time with each priority as it needs my attention. Imagine a square dance...or, in my case a mosh pit might be a more accurate comparison. The dancing happens - things are accomplished - but not necessarily in a coherent manner.

So, really, it's all cool. As long as I don't ignore the priorities in second and third place at any given moment AND as long as I don't put some totally screwed up priority at the top of my list (like, I don't know, deciding I'm going to throw myself at Alan Rickman's feet until he falls madly in love with me) - I should be ok.

The truth is, some days (like today) my top priority should just be "breathing." But right now I plan to go up and exercise to my Bollywood Booty DVD because exercise has been creeping back up to the top rung lately. Tomorrow's priority? Who knows....stay tuned because it might surprise both of us.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Deciding to be Happy

My better half and I had a good talk the other day, in which he pointed out how my blue-ness not only affects me, but everyone around me. It wasn't easy to hear but I needed to hear it.

As a result of that conversation, I decided to not let myself become sad about the things that are making me sad. To be honest, I didn't think that was going to work - it couldn't be that simple....but surprisingly it really seems to be. I'm not saying that it's a 100% fix to what ails me but for the last 24 hours, whenever I've found myself getting down, I've refused to go there.

There are a couple of surprising things I've noticed:
- I get a bit blue on a pretty regular basis (on average, about once every hour - it was more yesterday but it doesn't happen as often today)
- my spirit is, perhaps, a bit stronger than I originally thought it was in that I can refocus my mind towards a better place
- it's a HECK of a lot more enjoyable to be happy and enjoy life than it is to be upset about what's going on in my life

So - thanks very much to my husband (who is standing behind me as I write this) for pointing out the tough truths and giving me a chance to do a better job. 'Tis the season for joy, after all.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cooking Report #3...the big one




Jenn's Thanksgiving Dishes

I am the first to admit that these pictures aren't anything real special to look at, so I'll describe today's Thanksgiving cooking, in hopes that it might elicit some ooo's and aah's from the blogosphere. 

My brother fried a turkey, but because he is a very creative cook, he ended up using curry seasoning. Luckily, my mom had requested that I try a new cranberry chutney recipe she'd found - those two tastes together were just amazing. 

I also made my traditional herbed cornbread stuffing, which is pretty darn labor intensive but well worth it (according to my family). I start a few weeks ahead of time by boiling organic vegetable broth with fresh herbs wrapped in cheesecloth. That's frozen until Thanksgiving day. A few days before Thanksgiving, I bake the cornbread and mix it up with fresh herbs. You'd be surprised how long it takes to shred enough rosemary, thyme and sage for a huge dish of stuffing.

In addition to the new cranberry chutney, I made my traditional brandied cranberries and of course green bean casserole (my husband's comfort food). Each year, I try something different with sweet potatoes but the recipe NEVER involves marshmallows (shudder...). This year, they were roasted pretty simply in the oven with olive oil, cinnamon, etc. They were ok but not my favorite of all time.

Let's see...what else....my mom found a great recipe for asparagus with dijon vinagrette so I made that and then pulled together some tarragon butter to go with my brother's awesome homemade bread. Other than the pies, I think that covers our meal. The pies were pumpkin (my son's favorite) and chocolate/pecan/whiskey (my daughter's favorite).

So many things in life aren't tangible and I think it's really good for my ego when I've done something like this for my family and it makes them happy. Again, as I've said before, it's a HECK of a lot cheaper than therapy. Even when you buy the $25 bottle of wine to go along with the meal.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cooking Report #2....sort of....

I completely forgot to take a picture of the fancy shmancy mac and cheese that I made tonight when it came out of the oven (which recipe I received in exchange for re-starting this blog, I must point out....). So, after I was already in my PJs, I had my son take a picture of the 1/2 way empty bowl so I'd have something to post. It looked rather blurry and unappetizing...so you won't be seeing that picture.

Instead, I feel like blogging about bullies. You see, my girls (meaning my daughter and my niece) watched the Chrissa movie this afternoon and it was all about one of those "mean girls" who pushes others around. Yikes. I tell you what, I was a walking bullseye my entire life for those girls (and then boys later, but that's a topic for an entirely different posting). My girls have each faced it themselves this year and I was shocked at how upset I got while watching this film. It was as if all those years of being the un-cool kid came rushing back at me...and, to be honest, I started making associations with stuff going on in my current situation - getting bummed about feeling a little stuck where I am, thinking no one likes me - you know, the typical stuff for me. So I guess none of us ever completely grow up - we try to say that we're past all that kid stuff but maybe we never really are.

Luckily, I'm with my family and they gave me the obligatory raves about my mac and cheese. We even got to have an adult meal because all four kids are finally old enough to entertain each other. They entertain each other very LOUDLY but as long as we can let that go, then we get our own meal. That perked me up a bit. And tomorrow I'll be buried in stuffing and pies - so that'll be therapeutic for sure.

My mom loves to spoil her grandkids. Ok, she loves to spoil me too - she insisted on paying for my haircut today and if I hadn't cut in line and handed over my credit card really fast, she would have paid for my lunch also. My daughter and niece will each be getting the Chrissa doll tomorrow for absolutely no reason except that my mom wanted to give them the dolls. As a matter of fact, she recently made a freakingly enormous purchase from American Girl. Here are some of the boxes just sitting around her house. I don't even know what's in all of them.



And now I need to go outside because my husband recently bought a motorized mount for his telescope, which makes it easier to focus in stars and stuff. He's now hovering over me, waiting for me to join him outside - I'm going to freeze to death but at least I'll die while looking at Jupiter's moons. So I'm sure it will all be worth it. Right?

Cooking Report #1

A lot of who I truly am during the holidays comes out in my cooking. I haven't been very good about uploading pictures on my blog lately, so I figured that showing you guys what I'm making this week is a good topic for blog pics. These cookies are made out of Earl Grey tea. I made them, thinking of my brother (because he always loved that tea as a kid) - and my son fell in love with the tea in the process. As soon as I got to my mom's house, I made a pot of tea and set out these cookies so that my kids and parents could enjoy a tea party. It was a great way to start the Thanksgiving holiday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tonight I Ran, Last Night I Baked

It had been a while, but I was able to run again tonight - just a little bit - but I still ran without pain. (That "without pain" element is key, in my opinion.) Once I got that (insert appropriate obscene adjective here) cast off my leg, it took me a while to trust that my foot wasn't going to give out on me again. But tonight Beyonce, ABBA, and I were able to take a few laps around the track - I must say that I felt pretty energized.

This is a good thing because it is FOOD WEEK. Luckily I've completed a bunch of my Thanksgiving cooking already. There are two pies in the garage (not enough room in the fridge), cookies in the car, and a fridge FULL of frozen and cold food that will be packed into the cooler tomorrow morning. What can I say? I'm a southern woman - and I express my feelings best through holiday food preparation.

So....dear family....I've obviously got a ton of faults, but I hope you can tell that I love you when you eat my extremely yummy cornbread dressing, pumpkin pie, and chocolate pecan whiskey pie on Thursday. Stay tuned, readers - I'll try to remember to post a picture of the overburdened Thanksgiving table.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Moon Night

Last night, I took my daughter to the opening of New Moon. It was SO MUCH better than Twilight (not all that hard to do, to be honest) - the acting was quite improved, as were the effects. What was really fun were the glimpses into her life. For example, as we left I asked her if she was Team Jacob or Team Edward and before the words had completely left my mouth she said: "Team Edward. Elizabeth and I have already discussed this at length and decided." (Yes, she really did say "at length.")

Parts of the movie that I found scary, she didn't think were very scary. And we saw a trailer for a really sweet romantic movie that we both decided we needed to see.

When did this happen? I now have a young lady living with me instead of a kid. Don't get me wrong, she'll go see the new Disney movie with me at Christmas I'm sure (if for no other reason than to keep me company because I'm so excited about a new princess movie) - but there's no way it will supplant the Twilight movies in her mind.

I'm actually very excited to be at this stage of life - I know I'm lucky that she still lets me into her world a little bit and I hope I don't do anything to mess that up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Speechless

I've signed into my blog a few times in the last week and have just stared at the "new post" screen - unsure of what I wanted to say. Finally, tonight, I decided to pull myself together and put something on paper (so to speak...technically there's no paper involved....).

I began to wonder what I was avoiding because if I ever don't want to write, it's a clear sign that I'm avoiding an issue. To say that I'm feeling overwhelmed is the understatement of the century. There are all of these choices - all of these decisions to be made. Many of them don't seem that significant, at first glance, but the aggregation of the choices I'm having to make is blowing my mind.

I know, I know - I'm making it sound as if the fate of Western Civilization rests with my next decision when, really, I'm wondering what I'm going to get my father-in-law for his birthday and when I'm going to make it to the grocery store to purchase fresh herbs for my cornbread stuffing.

Plus, I CONSTANTLY worry that I'm not giving my children what they need.

I'm starting to get to a point where every decision, no matter how minuscule, becomes this crossroads in my mind. Perhaps A Prayer for Owen Meaney is starting to rub off on me....I'm starting to think that everything means something and I'm concerned about making the wrong choice. You know, worried that the one time I really do hit the baseball out of the park, I'll end up taking someone out with it. (Sorry to those of you who haven't read the book....I'm sure that reference escaped you.)

Simplify.

That's the word that is circling in my mind right now - it's all I can do for myself. Just bit by bit that's what I'll do. It will involve saying "no" more often than I'd like this holiday season, but I need to remember that by doing that - I'm saying "yes" to my kids and to me.

So....yes to me. Yes to me. Wow. That really sounds weird.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thanks, Poppy.

Today is Veterans Day and I am here to tell you that although I do not fit the image of someone that you might consider to be traditionally "pro-military" - I really am. In my own way, that is...you see, I'm not in favor of what has traditionally been called the "military industrial complex" (wasn't it Truman who first called it that?) - rather, I'm in favor of the individuals in uniform. This morning, I heard someone on the radio talk about how every single moment of the day when we enjoy our lives, we owe those moments (at least in part) to our veterans. I absolutely believe that.

I don't like war. To be honest, who really does? No one who truly understands what it means and who is also truly human. But this morning, driving down the road, I thought about my wonderful life and then I thought about my grandad. Poppy lied about his age to join the military before he was 18 years old, and went off to fight Germany and Japan during WWII. I started thinking about what our country would be like today if Hitler had won. What a horrible thought. Truly, "horrible" doesn't even BEGIN to cover it. And because of Poppy, and many other men and women - my kids and I live a great life.

So thank you, Poppy. Thank you to my cousin (a tour in Iraq dismantling roadside bombs right after high school), and thank you to my uncle in law whom I never met because he was killed in Vietnam two weeks before my husband was born. And of course, of course...thank you to the men and women of Fort Hood.

Do you ever see the veterans on the street, asking you for a dollar? According to an NPR program I heard the other day, veterans are at a much greater risk for being homeless than those of us who have a "regular" life here at home. How could this be?

All I'm saying is that we don't have this great life because we are better people than others who suffer. We don't deserve this life more than kids in Africa who are forced into violence before they are 10 years old or more than women in the middle east who can't even show their face for fear of being attacked. They deserve it too. But we got it. From the pure dumb luck of being born in the United States.

So, thanks Poppy. I really do hope that someday the concept of war is gone for good. In the meantime, I'm going to remember that although I might not support certain policies or institutions, I will ALWAYS support the humans in uniform.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

First Family Campout

We had a fun experience last night - it was our first ever family campout for all four of us together. (You might remember that my daughter and I went on a campout by ourselves a while back.) I suppose I should qualify this posting by pointing out that, by "camping" I mean we set our tent up in Cameron Park Zoo, we were fed Dominoes pizza and got a behind the scenes zoo tour before hitting the hay at about 10 p.m. So it's not as if we were really roughing it. But we were all crowded into a tent which is technically a four person tent but I must say that it was a very tight squeeze. Good thing I'm pretty short and our kids aren't yet teenagers. (Well, to be honest, there are many reasons it's a good thing my kids aren't yet teens...)

I was cozy BUT I wasn't terribly fond of the cold. My husband and I slept on top of one sleeping bag (because we didn't have enough to go around) and I kept hypothermia at bay by wearing my hoodie to sleep. I was surprisingly happy, however, to have my whole family in this little space...I could reach everyone just by stretching out my arm. Somehow it felt very safe to know that everyone was RIGHT THERE. I liked it enough that I told my husband I thought it might be neat for the two of us to campout one night - we could drop the kids off at his parents and just sleep under the stars.

I think what I like best of all is waking up with the sun and the birds - I felt much more in sync than I normally do in the mornings...I have to get up early every day anyway - this makes me think it would be a good idea to start my day by stepping outside for a few minutes. I'll try to remember to do that tomorrow. It's a lot more comforting to be in rhythm with nature than it is to be in rhythm with the TV or even the coffee maker (although I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have my java each day).


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cheapest Therapy Ever

I've been watching Ally McBeal.....a lot. You see, it's out on DVD now and I've been Netflixing it. When it first came out, I was a brand new lawyer- a baby lawyer really. I think it was my first year as a lawyer, at my first law firm. Tons of fun, really.

Tracey Ullman was Ally's shrink and she was great. I ended up getting free therapy by watching the show and it's been very helpful to re-watch it. Shrink Tracey recommended, among other things, that Ally get a theme song - not a moody, sad theme song (as I might be inclined to choose) but an upbeat song. So I did that. Back in 1997 I chose Oh-bla-di by the Beatles, and it's served me well ever since.

This time around I'm getting even more from Doctor Tracey. She's full of gems, including telling Ally that she can't believe what a "wimpy little thing" Ally is and telling her that she has the problem of not wanting to be noticed for her attractiveness (ok, ok - Shrink Tracey said "sexuality" - not attractiveness) but being upset when she's not noticed. She could be speaking directly to me...it's fabulous.

I've spent a fair amount of money on shrinks over the year and they really and truly don't work very well for me. They don't get me at all...really, they don't and I've never understood it because I don't think I'm all that complicated.

I'm not. Apparently I'm just Ally - someone who asks "what's so great about the real world, anyway?"

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why Don't We?

If we know that, really, each person is in control of whether or not he or she is happy - then why don't we all choose to be happy?

If we know that we need to exercise and eat a healthy diet to prevent disease and look good - then why don't we do that?

And on that note, if we know that we feel pretty darn good after eating tasty, well prepared vegetables and pretty crappy after eating onion rings...then why do we go towards the onion rings almost every time?

If we believe in God, why don't we invite God into our lives...you know, for real?

If we love our kids and know that we only have them for a very short time, why don't we appreciate every moment we have with them?

If we love to do something (art, music, skydiving, macrame  -- ok, I've never done that last one but surely it's a huge deal for someone out there) then why do we make excuses to keep from following our passions?

If we know that money doesn't make us happy then why do we allow it to control our lives?

The more I grow, the more I realize that the answers are right in front of me. I absolutely know how I'm supposed to live and it's not that hard. For some reason, I have to keep reminding myself of the truth over...and over....and over....

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Post From My "Secret Blog"

For some reason, I've decided to go ahead and re-post the second post from my "secret blog" which I kept when I wasn't doing this one for a while. I feel the need to post this so that I will have a chance of being more accountable to myself to do the things in my life that I know I need to do, which I'm resisting terribly at the present time.


I called it: What I Learned From Meditation

The other day I tried what Yoga Journal refers to as the "I Want It So Bad Meditation." I think that's a pretty self-explanatory title.

It's relatively obvious to me that one of the things I want really badly is a new job. But for some reason, I decided to tackle the fact that I need to get in shape and (specifically) increase my muscle mass. (Notice that I didn't say I WANT to do that...because I'm not sure I do...) I fully expected to spend quite a while in meditation, waiting for insight about what was holding me back from obtaining what I wanted. Within moments of beginning my meditation, however, Iknew what the problem was. You see, I sort of asked myself what was holding me back from getting in shape and I was suddenly aware that I am afraid of being powerful.

That completely pissed me off.

That's not how I want to be. I'm a professional woman, I consider myself a feminist, and yet I'm afraid of gaining power in my life? This opens all sorts of doors. If I'm honest with myself, I don't believe this is limited to a fear of physical power. I believe I also have a significant fear of having power in my relationships.

I can only hope that awareness is the first step towards addressing this issue. And yet, since I can only assume that I've had this issue for most of my 38 years of life....I'm afraid I have a bit of a long road ahead of me.

In case you're curious, I've made absolutely no progress in sticking with an exercise routine. I know I'm in a cast, but there's nothing stopping me from making sure I do sit ups EACH night and doing some arm strengthening exercises also. Nothing, that is, except my feelings of intimidation with the idea of doing what I need to do.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

No Social Security For Me

This isn't really news to anyone in my generation, but now I know for sure that I won't ever get social security. Bill Ratliff told me.

Today I attended a surprisingly awesome conference. It was entitled Ethics in Government but, really, it was about much more than that. Every speaker was exciting and gave me tons to think about - as a matter of fact, I even came away with some plans to talk to my kids about ethics at the dinner table tomorrow night.

Former Lieutenant Governor Ratliff had an hour to speak, but he only chose to speak for about 20 or 30 minutes and left the rest of the time for questions/conversation. It took me a while to figure out how to phrase my question and I must admit that once I spoke up - I rambled much more than I'd hoped...especially in front of such a prestigious political figure.

I asked (in my own particular, stumbling way) for his opinion about the fact that we seem to hold politicians up to high standards of morality and put them on pedestals to such an extent that important issues such as the fact that social security will run out of money in eight years (which he'd mentioned himself as a critical emergency that no one in Washington would even discuss) are left completely out of the picture. I said it took me a while to figure out how to phrase the question without making it sound like I don't think ethics matters (I do) or without making it sound like I don't think fidelity in marriage matters (I do) - but those issues seem like such a distraction from what really needs to get done in this country. And isn't it possible that someone would actually be MORE ethical if he was allowed to just be human, and not be expected to be a god?

Or something like that. You see .... I do ramble on at times.

To his credit, Lieutenant Governor Ratliff really seemed to ponder it for a minute and thought hard. He said that it's clearly much easier for a politician to give a quick soundbite about the moral issues he knows his constituents care about than it is for him to talk about problems that don't have solutions - or at least don't have easy solutions. He then looked up at me, acknowledged that my reference to social security was exactly such a problem politicians want to avoid and then he said something along the lines of: "I can tell just by looking at you that you don't have a chance of ever seeing a dime of social security." I laughed, agreed and told him that I was putting as much as I could into my 401k.

Then he said that he knew he hadn't answered my question and apologized. I told him I supposed that the only real answer was for the constituency to demand that politicians face the real issues and not get sidetracked with figuring out who is holier. He said that's what it has to come down to and he hopes to see it in his lifetime.

I hope it happens that quickly. It took some guts for me to ask him a question in a room full of people and it took even more for me to take a position which could be mis-interpreted as supporting immoral actions. But I'm very glad I did and I feel honored to have had a conversation, even if it was just for a few moments. The best part of the whole experience is that it took me out of my Gen-X cynicism, at least for a little bit.

If I hide my head in the sand, then the folks who prefer pedestal politicians (you know, the ones who are having tons of affairs and taking bribes while singing hymns) are going to win.

I might be screwed out of social security for good. But if we can start paying attention to the real issues, maybe we can fix a few things by the time my own children retire.

Of course, I'm still not sure exactly what to do about it. The idea of really getting politically involved exhausts me. Seriously - it just makes me want to curl up into a ball and sleep.

And that's when I become Scarlett again. "I'll think about that tomorrow."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory...


Well...technically I'm breaking my own rule by posting a picture in which you can see faces. Except you can't. Because this picture is of a WHOLE BUNCH of fifth graders - and even if you could zoom in on a face or two, you'd never know which one is my daughter.

So there.

Tonight was the All City Honor Choir Concert. And, yes, my girl was up there. Looking all choir-y and grown up. (But still cute.) What really cracked me up was watching her before the concert began, when all the kids were visiting. She was gesticulating wildly as she conversed with the girl next to her. One of my best friends always used to say that if she wanted me to be quiet, she just had to tie my hands together and I wouldn't know how to speak. Apparently my kiddo takes after me in that regard. As a matter of fact, she was SO expressive that I could pretty much follow her conversation just by watching her hands across the gym.

The concert ended with one of my all-time favorite songs from my own high school choir days - The Battle Hymn of the Republic. I love it, love it - and am always ready to go off into battle whenever I hear it. It's very inspiring. I wish that they hadn't changed one phrase, however. It's supposed to say: "As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free...." - I know that the phrase "...let us live to make men free" might be somewhat more appropriate for today's day and age but I am always moved to tears as I picture the brave union soldiers going into battle as they sing that song.

Oh. Damn.

Now I have Southern guilt for writing that. Never mind. It is a good song though.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stress Skills


I have really great stress skills. It's my particular gift to the world. Here's a picture of me and my son from this morning as we wait for the rest of our cub scout den to show up at the Austin Nature and Science Center for a field trip I'd planned.

Within a few hours this morning, I allowed myself to become super stressed because:
- no one was showing up
- then when I found out they were all waiting somewhere else, I was stressed that I'd confused people (or myself) and we had to start late (not that it seemed to matter to anyone else)
- once I got back home, I couldn't get the pictures to download the way I wanted but I got annoyed with my husband when he tried to help me (I know, that makes tons of sense, doesn't it?)
- right now...in this very moment...I'm stressed about the fact that I'm modeling bad behavior for my kids because I'm too stressed all the time.

Nice, right? My theory is that I'm getting worse in the stress department because I haven't been able to exercise for weeks. You can't see it in the picture above, but I'm in a hideous cast from a stress fracture on my left foot.

Did I mention that my cast stresses me out too?

Friday, October 23, 2009

One more little thing....

Last night's conversion experience included me finding out that the only people who could post comments to my blog were people who had their own accounts. SO....I decided to see if I could change that and I have. Now I'm open for anonymous posting. Of course, children, if you abuse that privilege I'll take it away faster than you can write "what the heck were you thinking when you wrote yesterday's post, woman?????"

I suppose it's an interesting social experiment. Sort of like the Facebook experiment where you ask all your friends to post one word that describes you. Which I haven't done...
....for rather obvious reasons.

Alrighty then......

I'm here to tell you that when you take something out of your life, you learn how much it means to you. And....sometimes you learn how much it means to someone else!

I felt quite confident on October 4, that my classic rushed Jenn-decision to give up my blog "for good" was what should happen. Within days, however, I was in an actual state of withdrawal. I had an almost physical need to write. I'm nothing if not obstinate and proud, however, so the idea of posting again in this venue was not an option I would consider.

As it turned out, I found myself wondering how I could re-arrange my life so that I'd have time to write a novel. The problem with that is that the stories I feel called to write are NOT stories I want to share with the public. Well...plus there's the added difficulty that between juggling cub scouts, girl scouts, golf lessons, and two choirs for my two kids....I just don't have the will to take on a novel at this point. (Maybe that's an option when I'm 60 and no longer give a d*%@ what anyone else thinks about me.)

So a novel was not an option, but I still needed to WRITE...to put myself out there. So I started a secret blog. It was more of a diary, I didn't put any identifying information on it (not that there's all that much info on this blog - to anyone who doesn't know me, I'm just Jenn in Austin - one of hundreds I'm sure). There are only two posts on that secret blog and I thought about linking to it for you but I don't think I will - when I re-read the first post, it strikes me as very vulnerable-sounding. My husband COMPLETELY freaked me out last night when he said he knew I'd started it and that he read it. What???? He then proceeded to tell me that's what I get for not erasing my browser history from the computer. Yikes. Good thing I don't visit questionable websites. Of course, that's just because I don't know how to get to them...but still.....

It raises the question for me - how long has he been looking at my browser history? Hmmm. I think I see a "discussion" in our future. [n.b. - I discovered that I misheard him. Apparently I just left it up on the screen - he didn't search my browser history. Good to know, I suppose!]

But all of this preliminary nonsense brings me to the reason I'm a-postin' again. You see, my husband has this great cousin. She's 10 years younger than him, so she was about my daughter's age when I married him. (wow.....) Whenever we hang, I love it - and last night we had a girls' dinner at Jasper's. Fab - u - lous. Wine, martinis, good food....and I admitted to her that I missed blogging. She's not shy and told me that she is SO annoyed I stopped. Then she appealed to my vanity and told me that two of her friends read my blog also and they miss it. (I'm still stunned about that one.)

Well I'm only human after all. Once I found out that she (and apparently two other people I don't even know) wanted me to blog again AND once she told me she wouldn't send me the name of the wine we drank (that the cute waiter wrote down for her) unless I started up again....I said "What the heck. I'll get back in the game."

I won't say I was wrong to stop blogging because the truth is I learned something from stopping. I learned that not only do I love blogging, I apparently NEED to do it. I actually missed having a running narrative going in my head as I was constantly evaluating what parts of my life were blog-worthy on any particular day. I missed the fact that when I write here, I feel more like myself than any other time of the day. And....I missed the intellectual challenge of spending some time to find the appropriate/artistic/accurate way to say what I wanted to say. I'm one of those people who enjoys proofreading my work and I get excited when I think of a better phrase. Nerd-city. That's me.

This is already a pretty lengthy post - I suppose I had some built-up linguistic stress or something and had to get it out on the screen. But to sum up - it's been an interesting few weeks. My daughter got strep, my son got flu, and I'm lying in bed at home right now at 4 p.m. on a Friday hoping I don't have either. I've seen no new movies because I don't have a life and I haven't read any new books since Catcher in the Rye. That might be because I don't have the pressure of proving what a reader I am on my blog...it could be ego...but I'm not sure.

Oh...I also had a big insight during meditation about my failure to do what I need to do to build muscle. I wrote about it on my "secret" blog. Maybe I'll copy and paste it here sometime.

So. I'm back. And I am incredibly relieved and happy to be here. Thanks, M!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Last Post

Today is the one year anniversary of my very first blog post. It therefore seemed appropriate that I should finish it up today. I didn't decide that I was finished with my blog until I was up in the air, somewhere between Los Angeles and Austin - but once I realized I should make today my final posting, it just felt like the right decision.

I have a history of making spontaneous decisions. That's how I decided to become a vegetarian (6 years ago) and that's also how I decided to do a triathlon (5 years ago). As my daughter would say: "That's just how I roll." Maybe I'll write another blog in the future, maybe not.

I know I'm only speaking to 5 or 6 people who read this on a regular basis, but thanks for sticking with me this year. When I look back on my writings, I realize how much I've grown in a year. I'm a much stronger and much HAPPIER person than I was last October. I didn't realize it at the time, but I think one of the reasons I started writing was because I felt lonely and unsure of my future. I don't know what I'll be doing at this time next year, but I have a lot more confidence in myself and I certainly plan to accomplish great things. The world still needs saving, that's for sure.

So...without further ado....I'm signing off. Thanks again, guys.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Best Pizza Ever


Shianne, our segway tour guide from last night, recommended North Beach Pizza as the best pizza in San Francisco - so we gave it a try today. Boy, did she know what she's talking about - it's the best stuff I've ever eaten in my life.

This is a cool town. What's really amazing (my husband noticed it the first day) is that you don't see overweight people here. Shianne was telling us that San Francisco is the most "fit" metropolitan area in the country - because so many people walk or ride bikes here.

...and walking in SF is no stroll in the park. Man. Those hills will really get you! We ended up walking at least 7 miles yesterday (my husband google-mapped it after the fact) and, sadly, my left foot did not react well to that effort. At some point during those hours of walking very fast (I take about a step and a half for every one of his steps) I realized my foot was hurting. REALLY horribly. I'm a bit hard headed - so I haven't wanted to stop the touring, but I sort of don't have a choice anymore.

Unless a miraculous cure happens in the next 36 hours, I think I"ll be going to the doctor on Monday morning. It's a bit annoying....now, if I could only figure out what the heck I did to myself! In the meantime, however, I'll find some California wine and Ghiradelli chocolate to ease the pain.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I left my heart...


Here I am in San Francisco! The two pictures are of me looking at Chinatown for the first time and me slogging up one of the numerous hills. In boots. Which my husband warned me against doing but I wanted to have some semblance of style, especially if I was going to help out by carrying our tourist-y camera bag.

So far it's a nice trip, but I think it will improve tremendously once I get to First Crush - a restaurant that carries only California wines, including wines from vineyards that are not well known. I can't wait to ask the waiter for a recommendation.

In the meantime, however, I really need a nap. The beef fried rice from Chinatown then the gelato from North Beach combined to put me into a carb stupor and I've got to sleep it off.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The One Thing

Today I received an email from a local theater, about their opening production for the season. I'm on the email list because I'd hoped (a few years ago) that I could try out, be in a production or two - but it does not appear that is meant to be.

I know that, in theory, one day I'll have more time to be in community theater. But by that time my kids will be in college and I'll only be able to play the grandmother parts.

Not that there's anything wrong with the grandmother parts, but....I'd sure love to play the 20-something/30-something parts now.

When it gets right down to it, out of everything in my life that brings me joy (and there are many things) - one thing stands far and above everything else. There is nothing that compares to the feeling I get when I'm on stage. If I could afford to do so, I would give up everything in my life (except for my family) to just act. I can't even describe it - it's the most amazing experience and nothing else comes close.

That, of course, begs the question...why am I not pursuing the one thing that makes me happier than anything else?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Every Time I Look You in the Eye


Every time I look you in the eye.....
it just makes me want to cry......
in tears.
I dated a girl named [name deleted to protect the innocent]
nothing could stop us then
just true love.

That is a song my son just invented after we did Beatles Rock Band for the XBox 360. That's my birthday present (I asked for it) - and we had a great time. My boy is somewhat inspired, however, to be the next Paul McCartney. As long as he avoids second marriages with models, I think that will work out just fine.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Porch



Since you guys heard all about my adventures with the $15 Craig's List Chair, I figured I should show you the latest incarnation of my front porch. I recognize that, for the average southern woman, what I've accomplished here is absolutely nothing. But I have absolutely no design sense what-so-ever. Not even a smidgeon.

I honestly have no idea where I got the idea to do something a little nicer for my porch...I've lived in this house for 8 1/2 years and have never really pulled it together until now. Weird. Maybe it's a middle-aged thing or something.

Anyway - I had to take two pictures for you to see the whole thing, and it was dark - but hopefully you get the gist of it.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cub Scouts

This evening, I (rather fruitlessly) attempted to teach a relatively small group of young men the Cub Scout sign and motto. I suppose I won't really know how fruitless it is until the next meeting and I can see how much they remember. (But I have my suspicions about how closely they were listening....or not....)

I was a Girl Scout leader for a while. It was an adventure - and a LOT of work. With Girl Scouts, a leader has to plan out every detail. I was so thrilled to learn that with Cub Scouts, there are actual lesson plans that can be downloaded off the internet. Thank Heaven.

It is quite apparent, however, that the decrease in work from prepared lesson plans is MORE than made up for with the INCREASE in work from the fact that you have to teach...you know....BOYS. Seriously. It's stunning. And, of course, my son is the wildest of the bunch. By about 150%. So I suppose it's only fair that I'm the Assistant Den Leader. (My husband is the primary Den Leader - which is also fair....)

Oh, yes. Have I failed to mention the fact that: in addition to searching for my place in the professional non-profit world, accepting a position as treasurer of a non-profit here in Austin, holding down an intense full-time job with a 30-45 minute commute each way, volunteering in my church nursery, shuttling my daughter to choir events at least twice a week, and trying to date my husband every now and then - I've also agreed to help run a Tiger Cub Scout Den? No? Really? I didn't mention that?

Hmmmm.

I think I'm in denial.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Grateful

I've rarely done a stand-alone posting about a book I've read - because, of course, I've got my "Literary Ponderings" section at the bottom of my blog. (Side note: I'm coming up on my one year anniversary of blogging, so it's pretty cool to see all the books I've read in a year but, even more importantly - how much more confident and happy I am than I was a year ago.)

The Dalai Lama's Art of Happiness, however, deserves its own entry. This book truly did change my life for the better. I clearly won't do it justice in a brief posting, but it's not as if I do anything else full justice with my writing...so that's not going to stop me. In an effort to avoid explaining the points raised in the book (a hopeless cause for me - especially at bedtime), I'm just going to tell you how I'm finding myself changing for the better when I remember to incorporate these new concepts into my everyday life.

  • I get it that when Life sucks (and it sometimes does) that it's temporary and that it's destructive when I try to "fix" myself so that I'm happy every single day of my life.
  • I've learned how to be grateful to my "enemies" - or people who are just mean to me. (I know that one sounds weird - but trust me - it's amazingly liberating.)
  • I understand that what I need for balance in my life isn't necessarily what other people need. I have to trust myself and love myself just as much as I love my own children. (Or, as one of my Yogi Tea bag notes said a month ago: "My head must bow to my heart.")
There's a lot more to it than those three things....but for me the key concept is that of gratitude. There's been some shift for me - and when I find myself depressed or discouraged (I've been there quite a few times in the last week), I stop and ask myself what I can be grateful for. What am I gaining from a particular experience? There's always a benefit. Finding the joy is such a release. It doesn't wipe out the pain, and I don't use it to tell myself how I "should" feel - rather, I choose to go towards joy instead of choosing to go towards sadness.

In Life - joy and sadness are both there all the time. Sometimes one is a little more difficult to find, but it's still there. I choose joy. Some days it's a lot harder to make that choice but I'm so grateful to finally understand that I'm in control of that choice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hit me....please

Our neighborhood had its annual casino night party - we hadn't been for years. The margaritas were pretty crummy and the Dos Equis were gone by the time I hit the cooler (although I was able to make do with a Bud Light and Miller Light).

I had totally forgotten how to play Blackjack and had also (conveniently) forgotten how very, very, very bad I am with arithmetic. Especially after I've had a beer. Fortunately, I was able to remind myself that this was NOT real money and I needed to get home to my kids, so I just kept putting it all down until I lost it all.

I've never been to Vegas. And that's probably a good thing - I'd get eaten alive there. You can tell that's the case because I'm completely unable to say "hit me." It sounds so demanding. I always have to say please for my first request. As in..."hit me, please."

Really. I'm quite the dweeb. If I ever went to Vegas, I'm sure I'd be worried the whole time that maybe I was hurting the mob bosses' feelings or something. Has anyone ever brought homemade cookies to a casino? (And lived to tell about it?)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yom Kippur

Just as it did in 1971, Yom Kippur falls on my birthday again this year. The only slight difference is that September 28, 1971 was Erev Yom Kippur (the eve that it began - but I was born after sunset so I was born on that high holy day) and this year Erev Yom Kippur is on September 27.

My baby brother was born on Rosh Hashana. So my dad always told my mom that those birthdates, plus her suprising fascination with the Jewish traditions (especially surprising for a Southern Baptist woman) proved she was a rabbi in a previous life.

Perhaps this Yom Kippur connection is why I spend so much of my life attempting to attone for my perceived wrongs/sins? (Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement.) Rosh Hashana is, of course, the beginning of the Jewish New Year (or Day of Awe) which seems to have a more positive spin.

I considered fasting this Yom Kippur, since that's what you're really supposed to do. But....the idea of fasting on my birthday seems as if it would be a real drag. Hmmmm. But of course that attitude creates guilt in me. Which leads, of course, to the need for atonement. So I'm right back where I began.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

No, really....what was I thinking?

I swear on all that is good and holy....I never intended to overschedule my family. We've actually been very greedy parents for many years - refusing to put our kids into the programs that you're 'supposed' to do so that we could keep our Saturdays to ourselves. But all of a sudden, we're in a different league this Fall.

My 10-year-old daughter is in:
- Austin Girls' Choir
- Girl Scouts (She misses half of her meetings each month because of choir practice, by the way)

My 6-year-old son is in:
- golf lessons (for the next 4-5 weeks at least)
- Cub Scouts

Doesn't sound like too much, right? Well, I spent a few minutes on Friday putting all our activities into our calendars (we use our work calendars to keep up with our lives because if it's not on our PDA/Blackberries then it absolutely WILL NOT happen). Between now and Saturday, December 26th, there is only ONE Saturday when we have nothing we have to do. (That Saturday is Halloween.) I kid you not. Often, we'll be in two places - as in: my husband will be on a campout with my son at McKinney State Park while I'm taking my daughter to a choir concert. And, may I just point out that these are all items that my kids wanted to do. And I fully support them. (At least in theory.)

What's really funny about this whole situation is that I'm just now coming into myself and trying to become the person I want to be. You'd be really surprised how much that cuts into your free time. For example, this week I have a meeting with my new career counselor and I also have a board meeting for the non-profit that I just joined.

The truth is....(and I hate to admit it)....life would be ever so much easier if I was the sort of girl who could be satisfied with a nice income and nobody rockin' my boat. After 37 (almost 38!!) years, however, it is quite obvious that I do not want an easy life. At least my stubborness comes in handy because I'm always manipulating our schedule so that the four of us can spend more time together. ("Hey, while you guys shoot a couple holes of golf, we can walk the gorgeous course and talk girl talk! Then we can go out to lunch together...")

Someone just tell me, please, that I'm not totally screwing up my family with the fact that every Saturday in 2009 is spoken for already.....

Friday, September 11, 2009

Acting all Grown-Up and Safe


I've been wanting a cute wooden chair to go on my porch as a centerpiece for some plants (which I'm sure I'll kill within a week, but that's totally beside the point). I got this great idea from my babysitter's mom. She's super artistic.

So I hunted on Craig's List and found an adorable wooden chair for $15. Here's how smart I think I am about all of this stuff with the corresponding true/false verification of whether I really am all that smart:

1. I knew that I was contacting a stranger so I simply signed my email with my initials, thinking that I could prevent the recipient from knowing if I'm a man or a woman. Intelligence verification status: FALSE - I was so un-smart because I forgot that yahoo mail is really friendly about putting my real name on my email. So he (yes, it's a he that is selling the chair) replied "Jennifer, I do still have the chair and you are welcome to buy it." Ok. Well. Hmmm.

2. I didn't want to tell my husband in advance about the chair. It's not a surprise or anything BUT he'd want to have a big discussion, see the pictures, and then (within 5 minutes flat) he would find a much BETTER chair for a much CHEAPER price and that would completely annoy me. Plus - I like to occassionally make gut level, spur of the moment, impulse purchases. It's somewhat therapeutic. I figure that as long as I'm not spending $400 on Cole Haan shoes on a whim (I have been known to do that) but am just spending $15 on a used chair...what's the harm, really? However.....even naive Jenn understands that if noone knows I'm going to some guy's house to buy a chair I found on Craig's List, I'm sort of setting myself up for problems. What to do?? Well, I actually came up with a great idea on that one. I'm going to email my husband the pertinent information (address, phone number and name of the guy....the guy is actually named "Guy," ironically) RIGHT BEFORE I leave. He's on the road, taking my daughter to Waco so he won't really check his email right away and presumably won't call me to quiz me about it - but on the off chance that I am buying a chair from a serial murderer, at least my husband will have the address. You know - kind of like those people who are in ship wrecks and write their name and SSN on their arms in permanent marker. Intelligence verification status: I think I'm pretty smart about this one. But....I am writing this part of the post before I've sent the email and picked up the chair. So I suppose there is really no intelligence verification one way or the other at this point. If you see this email posted, then you know I've survived the great chair purchase episode. Of course, one could question the amount of effort I'm taking to purchase a $15 old wooden chair secretly from a strange man just so I won't be annoyed by my husband doing a better job than me....but one would annoy me if one did that. So I wouldn't advise it.

3. Other safety issues - I'm not going to go into his house (duh). I'll make him bring the chair to his front door. He won't even have my phone number unless I get lost and have to call him but I've got my TomTom so I think I'll be fine. As long as a tornado doesn't swoop down on me (it's looking really dark and nasty outside now) I should be fine. Well, unless the chair doesn't even fit in the back of my convertible. In which case I'll be super annoyed.

FINAL REPORT:
- I'm still alive, obviously, as I've posted this report.
- I tried to ignore TomTom, to my detriment, on the drive to this guy's place but finally gave in and followed his directions. (Sigh.) Luckily I keep his voice set to the "British Male" option so I'm more likely to do what he says.
- The house was actually a sort-of-junky-looking-mobile-home-ish-thing down a dirt road. I was a bit glad it wasn't dark.
- The guy seemed ok (kept calling me ma'am even though he was clearly 20 years older than me, which is always odd) and luckily had the chair right inside his door. He sort of stepped aside as if offering me the chance to come in to see the chair, but I just said "no, that's ok, I'll just take it" - so he carried it out to my car for me.
- My husband seemed fine with the whole escapade.
- I think it has potential - it's a lot heavier and more solid than I expected. I've posted a picture - just try to ignore the dead plant sitting on it. I plan to replace the dead one with a pretty live one in the near future.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

After Effects

If this doesn't cure you of wanting to read my blog, I don't know what will. I was driven to write a poem tonight and, really - what's the point of a blog if you can't publish your own poetry on it? I tried to take an illustrative photograph but by the time I finished the poem, it was dark and time to pick my daughter up from choir.

As a child I was only free

when I sang

and

when I swung.

Tonight I found a swing set in the back of a school –

…waiting for me.

I ran first, because I’m grown-up and must do such things to be healthy.

But -

then I climbed on the swing.

I wasn’t as brave as I was as a child. I didn’t lean back nearly as far as I used to dare – but I did watch the clouds overhead before closing my eyes.

And relishing the breeze.

For three minutes I pretended to be a bird….

And I was surprised to see that it took twelve minutes for the swing to finally stop after I left.

It just kept going – as if those three minutes mattered much more than I thought.

And the swing didn’t want me to forget.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I should title this Hook 'Em....

...but I'm not going to do that.

We did have a good time at the game on Saturday evening - this is the view from our nosebleed seats (seriously - 3 rows from the tip top!) before the game began. I have to say it was very impressive because every single seat was filled with people in burnt orange shirts, by the time the game began.

I did learn a few things:
- my son appears to be quite the football fan
- my daughter's hair color blends VERY well with UT orange
- the UT traditions (like the big ol' honkin' Texas flag) are actually cool even if you're a Texan without the UT connection
- my kids won't eat nasty, overpriced football food even after they beg me for it and I agree to spend $20 on nachos, a pretzel and a hot dog

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bread Therapy

It has been such a rough week. It certainly hasn't been all bad, especially because I've learned a lot this week about what I'm capable of (and what skills continue to elude me) - but it's been extraordinarily difficult.

I could tell that this morning, my husband was treating me with kid gloves - and I really regret any time that he feels compelled to do that. I am enough trouble on a daily basis without forcing him to walk on eggshells! He just knows me well enough to know when I wake up extra sensitive or extra gripey.

Early church with my family helped, then I was on duty to be with the infants during the later service. One little baby boy was so attached to me that he never wanted to leave my lap for more than a minute. He'd go off to explore a toy then come toddling right back to me with his arms open, ready for a hug. If that doesn't cure a person of all that ails them, I don't think there's any hope for them.

My week ended, however, with my own little boy being knocked down a hill by a big dog. The good thing is that it is obvious this dog was trying to play - there was no malicious intent. However, that doesn't change the fact that it really scared my son (understandably) and cut him up a bit. I was on my own with him while it was happening, I was trying to move slowly because I could tell the dog wasn't angry and I wanted to keep both the dog and my son from going into a panic. I quickly but calmly made my way over to him and held the dog away, then spent the next few minutes holding my arms around my screaming son and keeping him from running from the dog. (Because if he ran, the dog would clearly have thought it was a game and knocked him over again.) It was a just a few minutes but felt like a lot longer before my husband showed up in the car (he'd thankfully heard the screaming and rushed over to help).

During the whole dog episode, I wasn't feeling much. My mind was just spinning and I think I was evaluating the emotional state of my son and the dog and figuring out the best way to handle it and protect my boy. Afterwards, however, I was NOT ok. I guess it's the classic case of not feeling the emotions until it's all over. I can't help but think that this week has been one big huge test. I'm not sure I've passed it, but the fact that I've survived must count for something.

As therapy for this emotional rollercoaster, it seemed that my best option was to try a new bread recipe. So my hair is up in a scarf (I've learned it will end up in the dough otherwise...yuck) and I just finished the first round of kneading challah. This recipe will rise for 12 hours in the fridge, which means my therapy will continue into the morning. There is something therapeutic about putting my hair up and smelling yeast mixed with warm water. I suppose my maternal ancestors had plenty of times they couldn't protect their children the way they wanted (some of them barely survived the potato famine and were a bit crazy by the time they made it to Texas) and maybe all they could do some Sunday evenings was make bread for their family. If they could survive the British, smallpox, and Texas summers with no air conditioning - then I think I can learn to handle my own little problems.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Too Much

It's date night - dinner and drinks were great but the movie has freaked me out beyond all reason so I'm waiting in the lobby for my date to finish the movie and (I kid you not...) having trouble typing on my bberry because my hands are shaking so much.

District 9 did not agree with me.

It has a great message about intolerance that many people need to hear. I have my faults, but intolerance is not one of them.

Sadly this was a really rough week for me, full of sad days and scary nights...so...ending it with a violent movie was not what I needed. Oh, well.

On the bright side, I have now felt ALL of my emotions in the last 5 days! :) And I've even accomplished some good things in the process. There's always a silver lining.

Plus my husband told me I get to pick the next two movies (with our schedule it could take 6 months to see 2 more!). I'm thinking it will be silly chick flix and Christmas comedies all the way.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Don't Wait for the Feelings

If there's one thing that John Bradshaw seemed to harp upon in his book that I just finished, it's that one should not wait for certain feelings before taking action. Seems rather obvious, doesn't it? As a matter of fact, I essentially say the same thing to my kids on a regular basis.

I don't, however, follow that advice for myself.

I realized, as I was driving to a career counselor today after work, that I have a bad habit of avoiding certain actions because "I don't feel like doing them." This happens in my personal life and my professional life.

Few things (maybe NOTHING) in life are both worthwhile and easy to obtain. You'd think I'd have learned this fact by the time I was a few weeks away from my 38th birthday. Well....I'm eventually getting it. Bit by bit.

So the next time you see me, be sure to ask me if I've done something that I don't want to do - because otherwise I'm not making progress!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dr. Steve

My husband, goofball that he is, has created this very odd character that the kids love - Dr. Steve. Dr. Steve's voice comes out of his hand and I swear on all that is holy that it is the voice of Triumph the Insult Dog. Luckily, Dr. Steve is very G-rated but I swear it's Triumph's voice.

I told my husband that when our son sees Triumph when he's older he'll say - "Hey, that's Dr. Steve!" Kind of like the way all of us said "Hey, that's Grover!" when we heard Yoda's voice back in the 80's. Except neither Grover nor Yoda was obscene. The same cannot be said about Triumph.

From what I can tell (I'm typically upstairs and listening from afar) - Dr. Steve is a child psychiatrist who is dealing with the emotional issues that arise because my son thinks he's a dog. The two kids are having a blast with this. Of course, I could be missing the primary point here...but as long as they're having fun....

Ok - just now he took on another voice - the pretend voice of Victoria Stillwell. My kids love the show "It's Me Or The Dog." I suppose it shows them that we're not as dysfunctional as some other families! (Although this description of father/children interraction might make one wonder...) Oddly enough, it was my son who knew her name from just watching the show a few times. Apparently she made quite an impression on him.

He's so wacky. Just like my dad was. I tell him to enjoy it while he can because within a few more years, our daughter will be quite mortified by his silliness.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mom Improvement

Last night was one of our new "no technology nights." We plan to have two per week this year - and since this was the first week of school, it was the first week to try them. Both of them were truly some of the happiest nights of my life.

We always have dinner together, but last night I tried to work a little harder to ask my son questions. I realized he's grown up, as all younger kids do, somewhat in the shadow of big sister. She's quite a talker and an entertainer (I know...where did she GET it from???? - ha....) so kid brother doesn't get quite as many words in at the dinner table. All it took from me, though, were a few open ended questions about his thoughts about other kids in his school and I was treated to a wealth of information. It was so interesting. Big sis talked also, of course. After dinner, we all played charades (because, of course, there was no TV, no XBox, no Nintendo DS, no Facebook or blogging for Mom, and no work email for either parent!) and had a great time.

So here's the bittersweet part of that story... Last night after dinner and today when I picked them up from school, the kids made a point to tell me how much NICER I was being and how much more interested in them I seemed. Wow. I did tell them I was very sorry for the times when maybe I wasn't as nice - they quickly said that I've always been nice but now I'm much NICER.

The difference is that before, I let my disastisfaction about other areas of my life (i.e. - CAREER) seep into my homelife. Which is absolutely the most crazy thing in the world because, of course, my family is the best thing I have going for me. I'm glad I'm making some improvements as a Mom - but I really wish I'd been more happy and involved with them in the past.

Well....no regrets. No Day But Today. I know I'm the luckiest woman alive and I don't intend to forget that again. Thanks, kids.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why Austin is Perfect for Me....

Let me count the ways:

1. I'm not the most liberal person in town. Not by a long shot. NOT EVEN CLOSE. Now when I lived in Midland, that was a completely different story.

2. I've managed to avoid taking out any of those crazy bicyclists on 360 with my car.

3. Really, really, really fabulous and eclectic restaurants.

4. On a similar note - many awesome vegetarian choices (I still like veg-head choices even though I'm an omnivore again).

5. Local book and record stores - I watched Sara Bareilles perform at Waterloo Records.

6. Tons of non-profits and plenty of other people who also want to save the world.

7. The option of going to a church full of open-minded people. (I know...bizarre....)

8. So much live music that there's no way on Earth to catch it all - even if you DO have a life (unlike me, who will be spending all my spare evenings running kids to golf lessons and choir practice).

9. The fact that I saw about a million Obama stickers on cars last Fall (and I still do).

10. It's where I learned how to be a mom and be myself.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

She Did It!

Just a quick post to tell you guys that my little girl auditioned for Austin Girls' Choir this afternoon and she made it! I'm so excited for her...obviously - since music is my life and always has been. Apparently her voice is lower than mine, however, since she turned out to be an Alto. It's good for her - hopefully she won't be in my boat where I'm occassionally mistaken for a kid on the phone. (sigh) Not such a good thing when you have a phone interview....

Homemade Bread


These are my pre- and post-baking pictures from today (although for some weird Blogspot Reason - the post-pics ended up on top). Bread a la Jenn.

For the last three weeks, I've been making our bread for the week during the weekend - completely from scratch. I got the idea from another blog about small ways to save money. Although this probably does save a few bucks each week, I really decided to do this because I don't like all the "stuff" that goes into store-bought bread that isn't necessary. This way I can feel good about what my kids are eating because I know what's in it. (My mom always made our bread when I was young - in her case I think it was definitely to save money and also for health reasons.) After three weeks, I've gotten brave enough to be creative. The recipe I used this week (I'm slowly trying different recipes) was enough for two loaves and it also rose better than any other recipe I've tried. So I sprinked the extra part of the dough with cinnamon and brown sugar and made a braid. Today we'll have regular whole wheat bread and also a yummy sweet bread. My house smells so yummy right now. My kids have had fun with this. The first week I baked bread, they each took turns helping me knead the dough. Ten minutes of kneading is A LOT more exercise than you might expect. As is holding a fussy baby for an hour as you walk around with her (I got to work in the nursery this morning at church!) - so my arms got quite a workout before lunch!