Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's a Dog's Life

Elsie and Fina stand at my bedroom door. They anxiously await the treat in the pantry, the treat that I give them each morning. They follow me downstairs into the kitchen prancing and voicing their excitement for the yummy morsels they are about to get. They beg, sit, then in a single bite their treats are gone. They stay underfoot as I prepare my morning coffee, hoping that perchance, I will show them mercy and give them one more treat. They stare at me with longing eyes.

Once they realize it is a futile effort, Elsie and Fina move on. They wait at the food dish for a delicious breakfast of kibble - small crunchy bites of canine cuisine. With gusto, they quickly partake of the morning feast. They take a quick drink and then it is on with their morning.

They follow me around the house, hungry for attention. They each find a toy. With expectant postures, they bring them to me. As I take the toys, they both prepare for the fetch. They dart off of as I throw only to quickly return to repeat the game. This continues until they tire.

Elsie and Fina sprawl out on the cool tile in the front entryway, belly to floor, chin resting on their front paws. For a little while, they are content sleeping. But, as soon as they awake, they begin a playful game of chase, each taking turns catching and chewing on the other.

As I prepare to leave for the morning, both of my "girls" watch me exit through the garage door. I know that when I return, they will both be waiting at the same door, smiling in their own animal way, with a warm welcome that only two of man's- or woman's best friend can give.

These sound like pretty nice dogs, don't they?

The thing is, Fina is a 95 pound, 6 year old black Labrador. Elsie is a 5 pound, 5 month old American short haired kitten that baffles me every time I look at her.

Now, I am not trying to offend cat lovers. Nor am I trying to pigeon hole all cats. But, I must admit that in general cats turn me off. They can be be sort of snooty, stand-offish....arrogant. They seem to own us, not us them.

But not Elsie. She baffles me because she acts like a dog. I expect her to be one thing, but she acts like another. She doesn't fit the mold that I have made for her. She marches to the beat of her own drum....or at least Fina's drum.

I think that as people, we expect certain things of others as well as ourselves. When others don't measure up to what we think they should be, we are disappointed. When we don't live up to what others think we should live up to, we are disappointed in ourselves.

Now of course there are certain things that we must do in the roles and responsibilities that we have been given in life. However, I believe that there is courage, beauty and wisdom to be gained by accepting that we don't have to be what everyone, including ourselves, thinks we should be. By challenging expectations, we learn about ourselves. We figure out who we are at our core - what truly makes us tick. By challenging expectations, we find out who we are....just for ourselves.

What can you do today that doesn't fit the "mold" of who you are?

Post a response, share an e-mail or tell a friend what you have discovered about yourself.

P.S. By breaking my mold, I have discovered that I am much more extroverted and edgy than I, or others thought I was. There's more, but maybe I'll reveal it in another blog!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Caffeinate Me!

"Medium mochajava, half-caf, soy, sugar-free, no foam, no whip, 115degree, latte - double-cupped and sleeved."

"Large caramel, skim, decaf, iced, upside down macchiato."

" Small drip. "

Isn't it amazing that there is a whole culture and language associated with coffee? This coffee culture looks and sounds something like this:

Inhabitants enter their caffeine habitat and form a long row, each facing the back of the next. They stand in silence, occasionally searching the clear glass vessels containing sustenance for the morning meal. Their eyes move from the glass vessels to tablets placed above them. They appear to ponder over their next move and how they are going to be successful in their hunt for nutrition and hydration. In turn, each steps forward until they are facing another inhabitant at the front of the row. The only sound heard is when the two communicate in a language understood only by other members of their culture. The language appears to only consist of adjectives, but somehow the communication is clear. The inhabitant in the line exchanges some currency - usually made out of some type of plastic, and within minutes, the morning hunt is complete. The inhabitant proceeds to either a designated eating area where an electronic device or informational material is observed; or to their transportation vessel where then they partake in fruits of their hunt - still in silence. -Mozilo, 2008

Now I must confess, that I am part of this coffee culture. I love coffee and even have my own special coffee shop that I frequent. I will stand in line with the rest, not saying a word to anyone until I am at the counter. I then sputter my favorite drink order - Venti, half-calf, sugar-free, soy, vanilla latte, no foam, no whip. I hand my cash (yes I do use cash) or my gift card to the cashier, and I am off on my merry way. Sometimes I sit at a table with my nose in a book, oblivious to the world going by me. Cell phones, conversations, and situations elude me as I retreat into my own little caffeinated cave. I become self-absorbed, introverted and disconnected with everyone around me.

Not long ago, it dawned on me how many opportunities for connection that I was missing. By hiding out behind my latte I was shielding myself from relationship with people that I saw almost every day. I decided to make an effort to be more aware of the people around me at the coffee shop- what they looked like, what their lives might be like, how often I actually came in contact with them and hadn't ever uttered a word to them. But, how could I connect?

Then the idea of all ideas struck me! I could open my mouth and just talk to them. At first it was a little intimidating. I wasn't sure of what to say. That underlying fear of rejection that most of us seem to carry around would rear it's ugly head and I would want to clam up. But not too long after I implemented my brilliant idea, I began to see the rewards roll in. I began to feel better through connecting with others. By stepping out of my "coffee culture" I began to find people that similar interest and life stories and situations as I did. I built a "coffee community."

What are some ways that you can connect and build community with others? Do you have any fears about talking to people you don't know? I challenge you to find one or two people to connect with today through conversation, e-mail or a letter. When you have, post a response at let other's know what your experience was like.

I'm looking forward to reading about how it went!

P.S. If you are really nervous about talking to a new person, have a double will have no shortage of words :)!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Baby Pooped on My Party Clothes!

Oh...It seems like yesterday.

We had just spent the summer with my parents. I couldn't wait to be back home with my husband whom I missed terribly. My girls, likewise missed their daddy and were anxious to be home with him.

We boarded the plane looking fresh and crisp in our nice white summer clothes. The girls were wearing matching white shirts with sweet little green frogs that I had just happened to find in all three sizes. I was wearing crisp white linen shirt and white cotton shorts that showed off my summer tan. Two of my girls sat nicely reading the books we brought for the trip, and I sat next to them with the youngest seated on my lap. We were quite a site, and I must admit, I did feel a little bit proud of how put together we looked.

Two hours and forty-five minutes of the three hour flight had passed. My three girls could have been mistaken for the angels in the heavens. I was daydreaming of the re-uniting of our family in the airport, my husband admiring his beautiful family and looking adoringly at me......then it happened. That unmistakable sound, that unforgettable feeling - the diaper blowout! Not just a small leak, but the absolute, debris all over the highway, ridin' on the rims, blown tire of the diaper mishaps right in my lap - just as we began our final approach. I had no choice but to sit in my seat, baby, poop and all, and worry about cleaning it up later.

In an instant, the beautiful family portrait had been shattered by a faulty diaper unable to stand up to the challenge of a still nursing baby. -Moms, I think you get the gist of this.

Sometimes it seems like life flows so smoothly. We feel like we have everything under control. Jobs, family, relationships, friends, you name it, we got it. But then something happens that rattles us; maybe even shakes us to our core. There is a sudden shift and the things we held together so efficiently appear to fall apart. We are left standing in a pile of the pieces of our life, not knowing where to start to put it back together.

But in time, we find that first piece to pick up. We dust it off, smooth some of the shattered edges and begin to build again. Piece by piece, we re-construct our selves. Maybe our lives will never be exactly as they were. But what we learn through the process of rebuilding can make us stronger than we were before. We shore up the walls of our lives with the perspective, empathy, sympathy, knowledge, strength, wisdom, and compassion that we have gained through our trials. We, in a sense, become a new and beautiful creation.

Now in the scheme of life a dirty pair of shorts is certainly not a major life crisis. It certainly has not been the biggest crisis in my life. Every one of us struggles with trials every day. Some may be bigger than others, but never the less, they are all difficult.

I challenge you to reach out to someone you know that may be struggling. Send a note, post a response, make a phone call...your experiences may help that person through theirs.

Back to the shorts....they never were exactly the same. But on the bright side, they ended up matching the green frog shirts!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fill in the Blanks

Adjective: Gooey

Noun: Plunger

Part of the Body: Elbow


Since moving here to Arizona, this is how many of our family dinners end. No, this is not a regional tradition or an activity mandated by some obscure state law. This is not out of observance of any religious activity. Nor is it because we have some strange vocabulary obsession. This is the result of a school book sale.

It all started about six years ago when my daughter brought home the first book order form of the year from school. With great joy and excitement - and fingers covered in pink marker - she handed me the form telling me about all of the things she wanted to buy. Of course there was the requisite princess book circled, as well as the sheet of butterfly stickers and the horse poster. There were kindergarten level computer games and the book "club", the one that sucks you into a trap of an endless cycle of automatic deliveries that is impossible to end and monthly charges on your credit card that are indisputable and the sheer feeling of helplessness that....(sorry, I may be just a bit bitter over this.) And finally a Mad Lib book.

After much consideration, lasting, oh about a second, I narrowed the list down to one. I figured if we ran out of books for her to read, we could visit the library. We didn't need another reason to sit in front of a media device, so the computer game was out. Not an inch of space left on her bedroom wall so ditch the stickers. The poster...nah! The club, oh no, not the club. So the Mad Lib it was.

After dinner on the day it arrived, we began our first linguistic adventure. Our family of five began taking turns shouting out words to fill in the blanks. Our conversation consisted of words like "toilet", "brazier", "tater-tot", and my husband's favorite,"duck". Each of us would hem and haw and try to find words that out-funnied the last person's words. Before I knew it, mixed in with the "port-a-potty", "neon-green" and "buttocks", there were words like "flamboyant", "amoeba" and "curmudgeon" coming out of my kids mouths. People walking in on our post consumption laugh fest would have thought we were crazy. But, we were there, we were communicating and we were happy.

This tradition has held for quite a while and created some pretty funny memories. For me, the memories it has created are watching my girls grow as their words got bigger, watching them laugh and enjoy each other's company, an six years of just spending time with my girls and my husband. What started out as just a book order, has become an incredible source of bonding for us as a family.

What traditions do you have that bring you closer to your loved ones? How do you spend those few moments when the family is together? What memories are you creating for yourself and your family?

Only you can fill in those blanks.....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake!!!

Now, I'm no ace of cakes.....but, I can make a pretty pastry if I do say so myself.

I've been making cakes for about 15 years now. It started with a class at an arts and crafts supply store and has become a long lasting hobby. Since my first cake ( a dalmatian cake for my daughter's third birthday) I've crated a litany of cakes. Wedding cakes, birthday cakes, shower cakes, baptism cakes....cakes with flowers, cakes with motorcycles, cakes with cartoon characters, cakes with airplanes, even a cake with a live fish on top.

Most of the time, the cake makes it to party time intact. The center hasn't collapsed, the icing hasn't melted, and the general look of the cake is as I planned. Sometimes there are "ooohs" and "ahhhs" or and occasional "you did that?"

I must also admit, there have been a few disasters, too. When my sister and I joined forces to create the perfect floral wedding cake for our other sister, half of one of the tiers fell off. The Hulk cake that I tried to make for my nephew ended up looking like a big green man in calypso pants. When I made the doll cake that my 5 year old daughter requested, I was horrified when she broke down in tears at the sight of it....o.k. that one wasn't iced yet and all she saw was the bare doll sticking out of a pile of yellow cake.

I have learned something from each of the cakes I have made. Especially the ones I have struggled with. Each one brought its own problems that I have needed to solve. I have been frustrated that my icing is lumpy, irritated that my tools are missing, and just plain fustered enough that I want to toss it out and go store bought!

But in the end, if I have stuck to it, I have something to show for it. Even though the process hasn't gone exactly the way I intended, I usually end up with close to the same results. I find new ways to tackle obstacles and new ways to be resourceful. Each experience is a tool to add to my tool belt for the next cake.

No experience and especially, no failure is ever a wasted effort. Each thing we are challenged by in life is in some way an educational experience. Instead of focusing on where we have messed up, lets focus on the things we have learned through the process.

PS. We saved my sister's cake with the help of my brother-in-law. We didn't tell her till after the ceremony. Had we told her before, well that would have been the topic of a whole other blog!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Is There Anything I'm Good At?

Boy! Some days I feel like I'm just not any good at anything!

This morning I woke up 45 minutes late. My kids in turn were running late to school. My house was (still is) a mess - didn't get the dishes unloaded last night or the laundry done or the miscellaneous clutter put away. As I picked up a friend to take to our Women's Group at church, I apologized profusely for the mess that my car was...and for being late. I over-scheduled my youngest daughter's activities for the weekend, forgot to pick up my middle daughter's glasses, again didn't get to the grocery store, and realized that we are having a family birthday party in two days that I haven't even begun to plan for. Can't I get anything right?

I bet a lot of women have mornings like this.

In the midst of all the things we think we are doing poorly, it's really hard to see the things we are doing well. We are so busy taking care of so many things each day, that we lose perspective. Routines take over...for many of us, it is like running on auto pilot, and we fail to see that what we are doing takes talent and skill. Sometimes (especially for moms of younger kids) it seems like our brains have gone to mush and we couldn't pull out an intelligent thought to save our lives!


There are so many things that we are good at - even experts at. For those of us that have kids, we can honestly say that we are experts on our children. We are the experts of our households. We are the experts of ourselves. Some of us are experts in the kitchen. Some of us may be experts in crafting. Some of us may be experts in teaching, organizing, listening, business, name it. Every one of us can find something that we are an expert at.

We shouldn't feel like we are boasting to admit that we are good at things. We shouldn't be embarrassed to say "I make the best"....or, "I am really good at"....or, "I know a lot about...". We certainly shouldn't worry that we might be judged if we recognize our own strengths.

So, here is a challenge:
Find three things today that you can say you are good at and don't be afraid to let someone know - call a friend, e-mail, post a response.

The three things I can think of today are:
I am an expert at loving my children. I know a lot about saving money. I make a rockin' spaghetti sauce.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Patriotic American Hat.....

Today, September 11th, I am choosing to wear a Patriotic American Hat.

If you were to ask people what that hat looked like, you would probably get a variety of different descriptions, maybe even none that were exactly the same. Some might say that the hat looked like marching in a parade that supported, celebrated or protested something. Some might say that it looked like standing up for a particular cause. Others might say it looked like speaking out against that same cause. To others it may look like service to country, service to family, or service to community. To some it may be simply displaying a flag, exercising their freedom to practice their religion, to live freely and according to all the other rights guaranteed to us through the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

For me on this day, it looks like this. I remember and pray for all those who lost loved ones seven years ago. I am grateful for all those that pulled together to help those who were victims. I am grateful for those who came together to provide emotional support to those who needed it. I am thankful that I live in a country that I allows me a voice in the future of this country. I will not live in fear. I will love my family, my community and my country. I will hold to my faith. I will encourage my children to appreciate and exercise the rights that they have, and to not take them for granted.

What does your hat look like?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Today's Hat....Economizer

This morning, I economized! The three things I did in the first three hours of my day saved us about $17.00. I know that doesn't sound like much, but the cumulative effect of saving that much a few times a month can grow into quite a sum!

A little background on how and why I economize.......

Over the years, my husband has been called many things. He's been referred to as fiscally conservative, financially conscientious, frugal, and even... cheap. I must admit, that I may have added to the stigma in the first few years of our marriage as I used to tease him about it. But as time has gone on, I have adopted and even promote a lot of his thinking about money.

Since the beginning of our marriage we have lived on some sort of a budget. When we were first starting out we did have to watch every penny. A few years into our marriage and just before the birth our our second child, I was laid off from my job. After a few months, we decided that, for us, the best decision was for me not to go back to work. Because I contributed about 40% of our income, it took a lot of adjusting. That meant spending habits had to be dramatically altered. Every penny going out was divided into a NEED or WANT category. If it was a WANT, it usually had to wait.

As the years went by and income pressures eased, we didn't feel the day to day stress of where every penny went. With a lot of thought and consideration, we could give in to some of the wants. But, we knew that looming somewhere off in the future was college for three kids, weddings for three daughters, and retirement for us. So......the budgeting continued. In fact, it still continues today, and has become a lifestyle.

It hasn't always been easy. We always had necessities covered, but there were and are a lot of luxuries we still do without. We didn't always communicate effectively about our expectations about finances. But, time has ironed out most of the kinks and we are know pretty comfortable and at peace with the financial life we have chosen to live.

The things I used to tease my husband about have become an important part of preparing for our future. To him, I apologize if I helped to bolster his reputation for being.....frugal. In truth, his reputation should be financially responsible.

So let me share with you how I economized this morning. I rode my bike to the coffee shop I frequent. Instead of burning gasoline, I burned my own bio-mass and saved about $3.00. I brought my refill mug to drink my coffee in and saved $1.00. I made a purchase of some new workout clothes(partly want, but mostly need) using a coupon that I almost threw away and saved $13.00.

These were all easy and painless ways to save money that any one can adopt. Your choice of beverage or mode of alternate transportation may be different, but I dare you to ask yourself,"How can I economize today?"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why do I Blog?

I'm not sure what exactly it was that prompted me to start this blog. Maybe it is because I have some deep rooted need to discover who I am outside my obvious roles and hope reaching out in cyberspace will be an incredible journey of discovery. Maybe it's the lure of the new and important role that blogging plays in the dissemination of information. Maybe it is the fact that my middle daughter turned 14 today and.......

Yeah, it's the last one. She turned 14 today, and......well...I am starting to feel old. Not so much in my chronological age (some of you know what that is, to those who don't, it's not polite to ask a woman her age!) It's more in the fact that I am not as savvy in the way a lot of the world is now communicating.

I used to think I was up to date and doing well because a lot of my communication is through e-mail. Even I, who actually loves to get handwritten notes and cards via-snail mail, gave in to the technological convenience of connecting from my computer instead of through my mail box. However, it seems I have fallen behind again.

All of my daughters are way above me when it comes to technology and alternate forms of communication. If you just compared by texting speed, my daughters could text an entire set of encyclopedias (Yes, the hard-back book kind, not cut and pasting from a web page or cd-rom) in the time it would take me to text a sticky-note. When my oldest daughter first told me she was IMing her friends, my first thought was YouAre-ing what? The days of ringing land line phones to make plans to get together with friends has been replaced by a ding from the laptop or a text message chime from a cell phone.

Maybe this blogging will catapult me into the technological present. Maybe I'll will find that journey of discovery or be part of that critical chain of information. Maybe I'll just be sore from the jolt of the catapult.