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 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?


I think I'm in denial.

Monday, September 21, 2009


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 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) 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.

- 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


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 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.