Thursday, December 29, 2005

New Year, New Clew ...

... or at the very least, hopefully somewhat improved.

I've been thinking about New Year's Resolutions. I normally don't make them anymore but after 2005 being such a weird, topsy turvy year I am somehow inspired to compile a list of minor life altering commitments. I know this is a boring post but I'm hoping that if I "write them out loud" I'll be more apt to stick to them ;). I shall also retitle my list in attempt to dodge the cheesy stigma of the term "resolution". Hey, whatever works.

Thanks for indulging me.


  • Now that the holidays are over, I'm going to return to healthy eating. I usually am very conscious about what I eat and eating sensibly really does make a difference, not just externally but internally. I've been feeling like total crap for the last few months with all the heavy foods and dessert breads and chocolates and way too much social eating. Dang it's all been good though. Sure enjoyed it.
  • I'm going to get back to my workouts. Before having Incrediboy I was a Tae Bo junkie. I felt great and I looked hot (LOL). I miss that on both counts. I'll probably never look as good as I used to after having my puppy but I'm sure as heck done with feeling jiggly. I am definitely going to work that back into my schedule. BILLY BLANKS ROCKS!
  • I'm going to get back to my scrapbooking regularly. I've only sporadically done anything in ages - I have 2 elaborate vacations, 3 years of puppyhood and 2 years of babyhood and toddlerhood to preserve, not to mention several years of other general life events and my retrostash of stuff going back to the beginning of time. I miss my scrapping sanctuary and I don't want any more details to fade. Not to mention that even as I catch up, life marches on!!! AAACK!!! (Plus it's a perfect excuse to play with my new Christmas gift, my killer photo printer from the Hub! :D!)
  • I'm going to watch less TV. I watch way too much TV during my me-time for all this other stuff I want to be doing.
  • I'm going to write more frequently in Incrediboy's Journal. I've slacked off to only once or twice a month in the latter half of this year. There are too many things to capture for him to be writing so infrequently.
  • I'm going to take the boy (and myself) back to church. We haven't gone since he was about 4 or 5 months old - just got out of the habit. We are a Christian home but now that he's older we owe it to him to raise him with a church family too. Life is so much better when the Lord is included.
  • Some other nunya-stuff that I'm not going to list here.

I am anticipating a busy New Year's weekend and may not be around much - The Hub and I are taking tomorrow off for a play day (Woohoo!) and you know how weekends are - so I take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year! Don't party too largely, and remember to write your name in your underwear in case you get lost.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Holidays and Other Items

Random tidbits of late ...

I had to stop by Target yesterday afternoon for some this’n’thats. I picked up Incrediboy after work from Grandma’s and in the 5 minutes it took to get to Target he fell fast asleep. I got him out of the car seat and carried him in as he sleepily draped his arms around my neck and positioned his head on my shoulder.

Post Christmas shopping and returning is in full swing and we had to park quite a ways from the store. As I headed towards the entrance my arms started to ache surprisingly quickly, and I began to take stock as to why. My little baby has been replaced by a boy. The adorable little lima bean shaped infant with the Michelin Man thigh rolls and the chubby wrists and dimpled knuckles is now a lean and lanky child. As his sweet blonde head rested on my shoulder (note to self: the once peach fuzzed head needs its fourth haircut), I noticed that while not long ago I could cuddle his whole body into me with one arm, I now must use both arms to support him under the butt hammock-fashion as his Elmo sneakers dangle loosely all the way down near my knees.

Gosh, he's going to be tall.

He’s growing up much more quickly than I expected. Pants I just bought in the fall that had to be rolled up – twice - now don’t require the cuffing. Shirt sleeves are getting too short. The photos we took at Christmas show that even the baby-ness in his little round face is quickly disappearing. I’m thrilled by it all, yet saddened too. It’s bittersweet in a way I can’t describe.

My little boy. What did I tell you about growing up too fast? You’re not listening!

I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas! It was wonderful here. The holidays spent vicariously through a small child’s sparkling eyes is one of the greatest pleasures I have ever known. Incrediboy was so enamored with his gifts that we let time elapse between openings – sometimes hours – to allow him to enjoy each thing. It took us 3 whole days to get everything opened, but that’s all right. We enjoyed watching him engross himself in each toy rather than becoming so overloaded by too much too soon that it all ultimately went unnoticed.

Most Beautiful Dog had a nice Christmas too. As I opened his stocking with him on Christmas morning, his eyes were so alert that the whites showed all around and his strong muscular body quivered with anticipation – but he always politely watches and waits to be offered the treats within rather than rooting his face inside the stocking to grab anything he can. Such a good boy.

He’s polished off and/or demolished 3 substantially sized chew bones and one extra large tennis ball since the stocking ceremony. MBDog loves Christmas.

I got some nice gifts, some cash, and a generous bonus and gift basket from my bosses. But my favorite gift was from my coolio Hub. I love my Hub, by the way. He’s the greatest.

Now I told him not to get me anything big because I only got him a nifty mid-range gadget as his main gift – but the big poohbear got me a home photo printing station. It’s KILLER! It will print 4x6 prints direct from a digicam chip or memory stick, or you can print from your computer. It is the deluxe model so you can see a little image of what the digi is on a full color screen on the top of the machine. Nice. You can also crop and manipulate color saturation, contrast, sharpness, and all that stuff right there. The quality difference between these and lab prints is negligible, and the ink’s rated to last without fading for at least 100 years. He also got me four 100-count blank photo paper packs.


I totally love it. I feel the scrap muses calling me with their siren song once more. I hope he realizes this is the springboard for him becoming a scrapbooking widower again.

Hm, maybe that’s the idea ???? … ;)

I'm currently formulating my resolutions list. BLAH!

On a final note, I bought myself a great CD last night from a rocker dude I really dig. But I’m not going to say who it is because I know y’all will crack on me for watching American Idol.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Hope you're all enjoying a wonderful holiday with your loved ones!
A friend sent me this and I wanted to share.
Merry Christmas!!!
XOXO ~ Clew, Hub, Incrediboy and Most Beautiful Dog

Friday, December 23, 2005


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain - With the rain in Shambala
Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame - With the rain of Shambala
Ah, ooh, yeah - yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Ah, ooh, yeah - yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind on the road to Shambala

Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind on the road to Shambala
Ah, ooh, yeah - yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Ah, ooh, yeah - yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

How does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala?
How does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala?

I can tell my sister by the flowers in her eyes on the road to Shambala
I can tell my brother by the flowers in his eyes on the road to Shambala
Ah, ooh, yeah - yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Ah, ooh, yeah - yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

How does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala?
Tell me how does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Remember that song? A 1973 Top Ten hit by 3 Dog Night. A song that’s on my list of songs you simply cannot listen to without it putting you into a better mood.

Incrediboy loves music – and to his father’s and my delight, has a particular taste for classic rock. While on a recent road trip, I had a notion to put in my 3 Dog Night with intent of playing “Joy to the World” - because what kid doesn’t love Jeremiah the Bullfrog, right? But I first stopped off at “Shambala”, by favorite 3DN song.

At the first strum, Incrediboy’s face lit up. He began bobbing his head in his car seat, and as the uplifting music proceeded, so did his chair dancing, big smile on his dimply face all the while, and each time the chorus rolled around, he'd chime in – “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah …”

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I watched him in my visor mirror.

When “Shambala” concluded, I flipped to “Joy to the World”. But would you believe? Incrediboy wanted nothing to do with that. He griped in protest, shaking his head and insisting it was all wrong. I scanned back to “Shambala” – and all was right with the world once more. Dancing, grinning, singing. We listened to it 4 or 5 times before concluding that car ride. Good thing it’s my favorite too!

Shambala is often used synonymously with Paradise, but is actually a term from Buddhism, meaning “the source of happiness”. As the traditional season of change and setting resolutions is just round the bend, I was thinking this morning (as we enjoyed another round of this shared favorite) about the pinnacle sources of Shambala in my little world. I have not been the recipient of a charmed life at all times. But that is no cause to not be happy – to seek happiness and seek the company of others seeking happiness.

I believe, because it has been proven to me within my own life, that we are constantly surrounded by many travel companions who are heading along our way with us - but every so often one in particular will separate from the crowd and you will somehow become a singular unit. Our merciful Lord understands that it’s difficult to handle some things “alone” – so He will guide us to special people, that can help us and we can in turn also help.

The Hub and I met in the darkest days of our lives, for both of us. We were pallid, broken refugees with little faith or energy left to get up and walk on. But we had a vision of what our futures should and could be – and one step at a time traveled a road to our blessed life as it is now. Not only have we been approaching Paradise together, but the road we have traveled thus far – the trials by fire, the rising from ashes - is indeed our Shambala.

Many years ago now we lost several children to miscarriage. The Hub was my haven – we grieved together and kept each other from falling apart. As wonderful as he was, I felt a void in me from having no accessible women in my life who knew my pain firsthand. Through a seemingly random course of events I came in contact with another grieving mother – we connected instantly and the salve we provided each other both specifically and abstractly was just the ticket. Years later we both have been blessed with beautiful sons as well as a friendship of a lifetime. The journey of loss, grief, anger, and fear we have traveled together too, in hindsight, is Shambala.

Incrediboy turned 2 last month. It’s been the longest 2 years of my life, and also the shortest. He’s come so far – from a helpless little creature not even able to hold his own head up to a lively, brilliant, energetic clown of a little boy. Just like that. He frustrates us at times. Sometimes I even cry from the weighty challenges of parenting, and he’s only 2! But I know these days are fleeting. Soon our sweet boy will be a snot nosed teen and then we’ll really have challenges! But for those times and these, God has a tender loving way of making the tough times fade so that mostly joyous, loving images remain. We are well aware that soon these days will be gone forever and our baby will be a man. We do our best to make these days last. To enjoy the scenery in all its glory and the pitfalls in all their challenge, with this Shambala.

2005 is almost over, can you believe that? It’s not been an easy year for me. Yet I am so blessed. I have made so many beautiful memories with my family, and have made some wonderful new friends whom I treasure. Still I find myself feeling stressed a lot of the time, and terribly lonely for those I’ve lost this year. I’ve caught myself being cross with my most treasured travel companion, my wonderful husband, more times than I can count and often for no good reason. Why?

I’ve been thinking about why I seem to lose my joy so quickly, and I think it’s due to forgetting to love the journey. I forget to not sweat the small stuff. I forget the flowers in my eyes.

This weekend, like all of you, I will be enjoying my Christmas with loved ones. I’ll focus on remembering what makes the journey beautiful. Next week I will be thinking about the dreaded “New Year’s Resolutions”. Which this year translates into defining the clutter I can remove so that I can return to a state of Shambala in my heart. How does my light shine?

Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain - With the rain in Shambala
Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame - With the rain of Shambala

Shambala is here and now. Thank You, Lord, every day. Thank You for all of it.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Little Token of My Confection

A few Blogger buds and I have been musing about Buckeyes - the world's greatest sweet treat, most often seen around the holidays in certain areas of the Great Lakes Region. Named for the nut of the Buckeye tree (a member of the Chestnut family), these lil' gems are worth the effort it takes to make them. I thought I'd post the recipe for anyone who might be interested.


  • 1-1/2 lb. of Powdered Sugar
  • 1 lb. Peanut Butter (2 cups)
  • 2 sticks of butter or margarine
  • 1 (6 oz.) Bag of Chocolate Chips (your choice, milk or dark)
  • 1/3 block of Parrafin Wax

Blend butter, sugar and peanut butter thoroughly and roll into 1 to 1-1/4 inch balls. Place on wax paper on a cookie sheet and chill for an hour.

Melt chocolate and parrafin wax in a double boiler (or, in a pan sitting in another pan with water in it). Using a toothpick stuck into them, dip the gorgeous little peanut butter globes into the chocolate, leaving a small portion undipped (see photo if you're not following). Place back on the wax paper. Chill the buckeyes until chocolate shell has set.

The parrafin wax adds a pretty sheen and helps the chocolate stay "solid" as it's held and eaten. Being a native of Buckeye Country in the purest sense, the wax is simply an accepted part of how it's done for me - but if you don't like that consistency in your shell, try this: Instead of the wax, slowly add 1/2 cup of Half & Half to the chocolate after it's melted. Blend well, bringing the temperature back up, and proceed. I've also recently learned that you could simply alternatively add a small bit of vegetable oil to the chocolate to get a similar result (thanks to Tirithien for that tip!)

My "2 cents" on the sugar: These can also be made with regular sugar, but the powdered sugar gives a much better, smoother consistency. Buckeyes made with regular sugar have a more grainy texture. Not horrible, but I recommend using powdered sugar.

This recipe will make about 4 dozen - which might get you through the first evening.

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wrapped Up II

Of all holiday prep activities, wrapping is by far my favorite. I love to wrap gifts. I LOVE it! If at all possible, I’m barely in the door from my shopping excursions before I’m hauling out the paper, tape and ribbon to bask in my wrapping heaven. If I ever get to a point where I don’t have to work to live, I’m going to get a job as a gift wrapper. I’m sure they don’t get paid squat but man I’d dig on that. I love to wrap nice geometric boxes, and I love the challenge of wrapping oddly shaped things. I love the look and feel of perfectly smoothed, creased and cornered paper and immaculately curled and bowed shiny ribbons (ideally, complimenting the paper in some subtle way so as to draw out a subordinate color or pattern) dressing up the packages. I recycle previous years’ well-lending Christmas cards by making them into gift tags – these too are carefully selected so as to reflect and compliment the wrapping and ribbon used. * Sigh * … I love it.

Before you try and pop my bubble, don’t bother. I know it just gets ripped off in 2 seconds and my subtle attention to detail probably isn’t even noticed, but I don’t care. I get a lot of joy out of the act of wrapping, and that’s enough for me to continue with my overly detailed approach.

Shopping is unofficially done at Clew’s house. The Hub bought the gifts for the nephews last night and that concludes it for the season. (We still need to pick up a gift for our good friends L&A but we won’t see them till after the new year, so the pressure’s off.) Now it’s time to just relax and wait for Christmas Day!

I don’t know how much I’ll be around between now and then, so just in case it’s later than sooner, I wanted to wish everyone a warm and joyous Christmas with your loved ones. May your hearts be overflowing with love and joy and blessings – even though these gifts are unwrappable, this is my wish for you all!

Now that the mushy sentiments have been expressed, I leave you with the following Christmas image. I know this is rude but I can’t help it – I laugh every time I look at it.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Wrapped Up

I finished my Christmas shopping this past weekend. Thank the Heavens. You know, I used to complete my shopping for Christmas before Thanksgiving, for the simple fact that I hate going out in that mess. But having a little one seems to have us on perpetual delay. Next year though, I'll try to return to that pipedream plan.

I got one of two remaining Knows Your Name Elmos left at the store. I was pretty excited. Not just because it's one of the "hot" toys this year, but because Incrediboy loves Elmo SO much - I thought he'd get jazzed out of his socks if Elmo addressed him by name! I called the Hub and asked his opinion and he said I should get it, as the boy would no doubt adore it.

On the way home I started thinking about it. It wasn't a cheap toy. He'll be getting plenty of other presents. And Incrediboy already has a big floppy Elmo that he loves and doesn't let out of his sight. Does he really need this fancy one that isn't near as cuddly and will probably break anyway?

I told the Hub when I got home I was having second thoughts about Knows Your Name Elmo. I told him my reasoning and he agreed. I returned Knows Your Name Elmo tonight. I felt eyes upon me as I stood at the service desk and explained nothing was wrong with the toy, we merely decided we didn't want it after all. I had the peculiar feeling of being cased by a pack of hyena. As I walked away with refund in hand, I felt the desperate eyes shift from me, remaining on the newly returned Elmo. I'm sure he's already found a good home.

I felt kind of empowered. I had ultimately avoided being sucked into the hype.

For now anyway.

I can tell already it won't get any easier, especially as he gets older. He's our only boy and we'll be very drawn to giving him the world. And I'm sure we will do what we can to fulfill reasonable special requests from future Christmas lists. But we want to teach him that Christmas isn't all about things. We want him to remember the love of family and the love of a Savior. And to be grateful, always grateful.We will teach him these things, and we will live them.

Between you and me though, I'm very excited about gifting this year. I mean crazy-excited. I can't wait to see and share the joy of a small child on Christmas morning. I can't wait to vicariously feel the adrenaline from the magical spell of a child's Christmas, to see the wonder of the holiday through him.

And it's nothing to do with materialism.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Ever feel like you're in a Catch 22 during the Christmas season? The holidays are like that sometimes. You run around, scrambling to get decorated and handle shopping and mailing and baking and everything, and completely stress yourself out creating joy. You wrack your brain to come up with gifts that don't break you, but aren't cheap and chincy - That the recipient will like, doesn't already have, and might actually display a little bit of thought went into them.

It's tough. We live in an age if instant gratification. No one "waits" for what they want anymore - for most of us, if you want something, you go out and buy it. This means that everyone already has what they want, and it's very difficult to both shop for those on your list and/or to even offer suggestions to those shopping for you. What on earth could anyone possibly want when we already have everything? Oh sure, everyone would love to get iPods and HDTV, but I just don't have the bankroll to get that for everyone, do you?

It's easy to lose sight of things this time of year. It's easy to get so caught up in our own agenda that we all but forget the real joy of giving from the heart, and the real blessing of receiving something you otherwise wouldn't have. To be grateful for our loved ones being so blessed, and to be so blessed ourselves, that we have little want. To forget that we give gifts to others in remembrance of the Gift given to us by God on this day of observation - a Gift not of obligation but of selfless Love.

I have been reminded today.

Yesterday, someone broke into a local warehouse of the Salvation Army. The thieves stole an estimated 450 toys that had been collected for needy children.

Can you think of anything more heartless?

There is a silver lining, though - and in God's always-cool way of handling things it's all worked out even better than before. In response to someone stealing from the hands of kids with nothing, now families many times over will be able to enjoy opening gifts on Christmas morning. By the end of the morning today, the community had responded to this sad event by working together to replace the stolen toys. Hundreds of people dropped off thousands of toys, opening their hearts and schedules to bring Christmas to families with so little.

This is Christmas Magic in action.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Earth Shattering Technology Answers Age Old Question

I just heard this on the nightly news and had to help spread the word.

For hundreds of years people have wondered why Mona Lisa is smiling. What is triggering this mysterious facial burst? What anomalous thought pattern was Da Vinci trying to channel? Well rest well tonight, for we now know!

The Mona Lisa has been evaluated by the latest in technological wonders - an emotion recognition software program, a collective development by researchers of the University of Amsterdam and the University of Illinios. And get this: They have concluded that she's smiling because she's happy.

WOW! Can you believe that? Thank goodness this study was performed. Who would have ever come up with that on their own?


Death Becomes Him

This one’s Chachi’s fault ;).

I’ve been fighting the urge to write about the whole Tookie Williams situation. I have been trying to keep my little place in blogland off of that because I have huge opinions about Tookie and Tookie-like folks and I really have enough going on in my life right now that I don’t need to give myself an aneurysm over hot button issues. I just want to relax when I hang out here, and I want you to as well.

However, you know me. I’m all sweet and stuff, but I have a mouth on me and I like to sound off.

So, I decided to resurrect a vintage editorial from my previous website, “Smell the Coffee”. This was my political and moral commentary site from about 5 years ago. Don’t go looking for it, it’s not up anymore because the host suddenly started trying to extort me out of a hundred bucks a year if I wanted to keep it up (I must have been generating too much traffic to be free ;D) and so I disabled it. But I did keep many of my rants saved to a disk. So I went hunting for it.

Alas and alack, I didn’t save that one. Too bad. I was on fire that day and didn’t mince any words. So in short I’ll just say, Goodbye, Tookie, and Good Riddance. It’s all well and good that you used your time in the clink to inspire inner city youth to turn their lives around and all, but you killed 4 people. You founded a gang movement that led to the deaths and living misery of only God knows how many others. The time for your redeeming reform was before all that happened.

Fear not though, Piece of Crap - you've left a legacy that will continue to spread like an aggressive cancer long after you're gone. Thanks!

Some people tell me I have no compassion. To them I say “Pththth.” My compassion lies with the victims and their families. Who, by the way, don’t get clemency from their fate. If you want to argue with me, feel free, but please let me know if you’d feel the same mercy if he had the blood of YOUR children spattered across his smug face.

Okay, I’m done. Sorry about that diversion from my typical warm and fuzzy meditations. :) Off to work now! It’s snowing and sleeting here today – Everyone else dealing with the same mess, drive safe!

For more brilliant head exploding fun regarding our political and social system, visit Chachi at The Spanktuary.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

O Tannenbaum

As we careen wildly toward the holiday, I’m beginning to make progress. I got a big chunk of my shopping done last night and getting that behind me alone is relaxing me. The Hub and I also got the tree hauled out and put up. It’s still standing naked in the living room, but it is up! (Yes, AC, I know fake trees are communist, but in its defense it is a really nice tree ;P).

I am an eclectic decorator. While I think trees done in department-store-perfect themes and color schemes are lovely, I prefer a homey feel for my own personal tree. We deeply weave hundreds of lights from trunk to branch tips, followed by draping several strands of faceted silver beads halfway in, to catch the light and make our tree even more shimmery. And then, the ritual of the ornaments. I have several boxes of the usual colored glass globes and the satin snowball ornaments. Our tree is large and these make nice fillers. But most items are individuals, very different from one another.

I started to collect bells for my tree several years ago. Not jingle bells, but the classic belfry-bell shape. I have two cloisonné bells, one with snowflakes, the other with holly. I have several character bells – angels, Santas, snowmen – their feet serving as clappers in a hollow skirt or overcoat. Bells with verses of poetry or scripture on them. Bells that tinkle merrily as I hang them. I love to get lost in my own little carol of the bells as I decorate my tree. In later years I’ve had a hard time finding working bell ornaments. I hope they come back into fashion soon.

I have commemorative ornaments with events and calendar years on them. Ornaments displaying favorite sports teams, hobbies, and collectibles. The little racecar from Toy Story that came in a Happy Meal and we turned into a tree decoration. Ornaments from vacation spots, and as souvenirs brought back by friends. A spider made of red and green beads, sitting on a silver thread web woven god’s eye-style, because I love spiders. Miniature power tool ornaments the Hub found at Sears. The resin pet ornament I found on line last year that looks just like Most Beautiful Dog. A crystal Star of the East. A fancy gold cross. The fuzzy bunny sitting in the crook of a candy cane – the ornament my Mom gave me for my first tree when I went away for college. Countless others, each unique and each meaningful.

I have a whole mess of cheesy cheap junky ornaments that I think I got for 5 for $1. A white plastic reindeer with an iridescent coating on it. Fake peppermint candies made of striped plastic wrap over chunks of Styrofoam. A shiny gold painted Santa Claus boot filled with toys. A sleigh with a half busted runner. A weird looking guy – maybe a soldier, maybe a jester, I’m not sure - made of colorful wooden beads. Things like that. I bought those our first Christmas together. We were both starting over – we’d just bought a house and we were so poor!

They’re really quite ugly, this certain collection (chuckle). But I hang them each year. Why? Because they are a part of our Christmas past. Pieces of the memories we have made and traditions we have established. When I look at my tree, the decorations take me back to past seasons, and I find myself reflecting fondly on where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and how blessed we are in so many ways.

Each year we add a few more items to the collection. I just bought a new train ornament, as Incrediboy is really into trains right now. He half murdered the little flag on top of it as we made our way to the checkout, but in typical Mom fashion, I see this as part if its charm now. I want to hang it each year forevermore in its gimpy, imperfect state, a victim of busy little hands. By next year I’m thinking we’ll be making things together to hang on the tree. Awkward, chunky, messy toddler decorations. Exquisitely beautiful in their own way.

I hope that someday every square inch of our tree will be donned with symbols of love and kindredship. Old and new, silver and gold. Plastic, resin, glass, paper, Popsicle sticks, glitter. These say home to me. These say, Merry Christmas with love.

Monday, December 12, 2005

PARENTING: Not for the Squeamish!

"I’ve been spanked with many things but my conscience causes the most pain." - Bigwhitehat

Some friends of ours have a little boy. A cute curly headed little boy … that no one can stand. See, this kid is a brat. He gets no correction, no discipline. He absolutely runs the show in his little world. His “id” has been allowed to grow unpruned, wild as kudzu and just as strangling. He’s so bad that his name has secretly become interchangeable with the word brat in certain circles.

It's not his fault. Kids behave how they are allowed to behave. His parents have failed him because they didn’t have the heart (or the kohones) to straighten him up. I feel sorry for him, really. And I feel sorry for the world when he reaches adulthood.

Incrediboy has been testing us. When he finds something he can do which he shouldn’t do, that elicits the right response from Mom and Dad (in other words, anything that triggers an insistent “No”), he’ll try it again. And again. To see just how much he can get away with. Done with that devil smile of his that makes you laugh if you’re not ready for it and therefore will completely discredit you.

Blossoming into his terrible two's, he’s certainly old enough to have responsibility and repercussions for his behavior enforced (at appropriate levels of comprehension), which let me tell you, is no fun for any of us.

Grounded in the footsteps of my ancestors, I have a loving but firm attitude toward discipline. I remember before I was a parent, when getting into discussions about children in general and disciplinary matters in particular, my friends with children would often belittle me. I can hear them still:

“You don't understand. Just wait till you have kids. It’s harder than you think – you won’t be so quick to crack down on them. You'll see!"

I had always thought at the time (and still do) that these were lame responses. Excuses given for themselves, for not being able to stand up to their children. For not having the backbone to do what was right. Kids need the guidance of their elders. They need to be taught what is acceptable and not acceptable. They count on us to teach them their life skills. Most importantly they need to know who’s boss, and that it isn’t them. And regardless of immediate reactions, children are much happier for it.

Don't get me wrong. It's impossible to make the right call all the time. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a parent, it’s that AS a parent it is very hard to know what to do at all times. If at any time. LOL. But to NOT give them the best guidance we can is a disservice to them.

I’ve come to realize that while it’s part due to experience (our experience as parents and our experience as former disciplined children) and part due to example (our own actions and behaviors speak volumes to them), it’s mostly about guts. Children need structure and they need consistency. And man, are they sharp on picking up details. Give in once and they know that it’s a possibility for future battles. React differently at different times, and you confuse them. Rules should be set in stone, non-negotiable and virtually inflexible. Kids don’t need to be afforded debates and bargains. They need to be taught “the law according to Dad and Mom” and have it consistently enforced and respected.

It takes more guts than you think.

... And yes, I freely admit! It is very difficult to wield your authority. To love someone so overpoweringly that it feels, as they say, that your heart is on the outside of your body - and not letting them have what they want, or do what they want. Administering consequences. Having the stern tone of your voice or the quick smack of their hand cause those giant tears to well up and spill out of big beautiful hurt eyes. To not crumble at the sorrowful embrace around your knee – it’s very hard. The hardest thing in the world. But it’s not a negotiable responsibility. It’s not something we can put off because we don’t feel like being the meanie. It must be done. For their instruction. For their safety. For their “own good”.

But more to the point, it’s the long-term goal that must be kept in focus. Discipline and guidance in childhood yields a grounded and well-adjusted adult. Not giving in to every tantrum will teach them to cope with life not always going their way. Teaching them manners and respect will help mold them into men and women who are prepared to function in society and appropriately interact with others. The payoff is later, and WAY more important than upsetting them for a short spell here and now.

We know there will be days that Incrediboy will resent us, maybe even genuinely hate us. It sours my stomach to even cast a quick thought upon that. But parenting isn’t a sprint, it’s a long distance run. Focus on the finish line, maintain the consistent pace. In time and by the grace of God, we will serve him well as his parents and he will appreciate it.

Hub and I agree, that while we strive to build and share a loving and fun relationship with our boy, the time to be his buddy is when he’s an adult. And that time will come, no doubt more quickly than we’ll expect.

Until then, much consistent and properly dispensed guidance, discipline, and encouragement needs incorporated in with the learning, laughter, and love.

Until then, we will wear our game face, and will not let him see us cry when we have to be the meanies.

The things we do for love.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


It’s snowing today. We’re supposed to get a good dump of the white stuff over the next few days. I love snow around the holidays, it makes things seem more festive. But in general, I’m not a big fan. Many people revel in the crisp fresh beauty – the cleanliness of the air after a snowfall and the bright glistening of the crystalline veil. I can appreciate this. And with Incrediboy's sense of endless wonder in the world, maybe I'll feel differently in general this year. But snow is more to me like nature’s nuclear fallout, blanketing over a dormant world, long since active and vibrant. The nail in the coffin of hope for fair weather. The punctuation at the end of a dead sentence.

I think I might suffer from that seasonal affective disorder. The holidays sustain my mood, but come January I begin to wilt, and by March I’m mentally climbing the walls with cabin fever and desperation for better days. I feel hungry and thirsty on a molecular level, and nothing seems to quench it until nature’s hibernation breaks and my skin can once again freely drink fresh air, warmth and sunlight.

In the depth of the winter season, I become the Earth – atrophied, stunted, and frozen. Snowflakes, in the form of days and motions, accumulate until I’m covered and lost beneath them. Walk by, even closely, and I bet you wouldn’t even see me there.

Monday, December 05, 2005

For Auld Lang Syne

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Auld lang syne - (n.) - The times gone past; the good old days. Scottish hymn of remembrance.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ve been stressing because I haven’t gotten our portraits back from the Studio yet. They were supposed to be ready on the 30th – Then they were supposed to be in on the 2nd and now definitely on the 8th. URGH! Anyone who knows me will tell you this delay is just about enough to give me a massive stroke. It wouldn’t be half as bad if we didn’t use the portraits in our annual Christmas cards, for which I like to be the first person to get their cards out. So by the time I get them scanned, dropped in, printed and mailed, which will be the 9th at the earliest and probably more like the 10th or even the 12th because I have to write a little personal note in each card too because I’m all thoughtful that way and want all our loved ones to feel especially thought about … I know I won’t be the first. URGH!!!

I know, I’m the queen of anal-ness. (shrug)

To maximize my production time, I addressed all my envelopes this weekend so they’re ready. I have also bought a new address book that comes with a Christmas Card tracking list in the back. You can list your recipients, and there’s a box to check for whether you sent a card for said year, and if you received one. There are columns for about 5 years out. In the past I’ve simply kept my handwritten list of who I sent to in my address book, and kept hold of the previous year’s cards to have a rough idea of such. But this more efficient method of tracking seemed good, not to mention less cluttery.

I figured that this year’s list would be smaller than last years, as we kind of used Christmas cards as an excuse to notify people who didn’t already know that we’d moved that summer, but while reorganizing my address book and list, I came to the shocking realization that we still send cards to at least 75 different addresses. Holy moley! I didn’t even realize we knew that many people!

As I got to thinking about this, I noticed something. My husband has a large family, so we send a lot of cards out to family anyway. This is no problem. And of course there are people you send cards to because you just do. Coworkers, business and social organization associates, selected neighbors, old college roommates with whom a mutual understanding of busy-ness is held, things like that. But there are a lot of people on our list that we don’t even really talk to anymore. Some of the people, we don’t even really think about except at Christmas time. Yet we send cards year after year. Most are reciprocated, others are not. But we continue to send cards to old friends from high school we haven’t seen in years. People we used to run around with before we were parents and haven’t really seen since becoming. Old coworkers. The couple we met on vacation in 1999 and kept in regular touch with for a few years but never talk to anymore. A girl I was best friends with in 3rd grade who moved away and then I saw her wedding announcement in the paper 10 or 12 years ago because her parents moved back and so I dropped her a note. We wrote back and forth regularly for a while, then it dwindled down to a few times a year, and then just Christmas cards.

Something about the holidays gets us feeling very reflective. We remember the people belonging to the names in our address books (which is a lot for me since I tend to keep the same book and subsequently the same entries for a million years), and think back on the times we shared. We want to collectively reminisce with them, so we send a card. Sorry we haven’t been in touch, let’s get together in the new year, blah blah blah. Then the same thing in the following year’s card. Never having gotten together, written or talked.

I'm a sentimental fool, that's the problem. I hate to get rid of anything that was dear to me, especially friends. But perhaps it’s time to look at our Christmas list with the old adage of packing for a move – if you haven’t touched it in a few years, chances are you won’t even miss it. Not that I wouldn’t miss these people, but they aren’t really even around anyway ...

I have a theory about friendship. People who are supposed to be in your life will be in your life. We often drift apart for various reasons, and that’s natural. When one or the other is inspired to rekindle the friendship, get back in touch, sometimes that’s all it takes. If it doesn’t happen naturally, then maybe their role in your life is over, for now anyway. So why is it sometimes difficult to actually cross that name off the list? Is breaking the chain somehow, in our minds, admitting that these once meaningful relationships never were meaningful? Does it mean that if I don’t send a card, that I will lose that part of myself? Of course not. Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting or that all shared that was once valued is no more. It just means, “Vaya con Dios”. Still, I know I will trim my list with great regret about many of the cuts.

But that's a task for next year. This year, I'll give everyone one more chance to love us back.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Holiday Crunch!

I haven't had much time to blog lately ... holiday prep, Christmas cards, month end closeout ... Life is getting in the way! Until I return, I thought I'd share this little movie - just in case you haven't seen it yet. This is truly one of the funniest things I've seen in a while - I've watched it probably 25 times and I laugh my butt off every time! These two boys are having a good time with their silly selves :) ... Their facial expressions are priceless. And the choreography - well, you'll just have to see for yourself!

(P.S. I love this song, but don't tell anybody.)

Hope everyone is well!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Shrine for a Stranger

You know how every once in a while you’ll see a little memorial shrine set up by the side of the road for someone who had died there? Crosses, wreaths, candles, teddy bears. Respectfully, I find these iconic altars curious. I’m not the type of person who is drawn to return to a geographical location of death or burial. For my own personal self, it's too morbid. I prefer to remember my loved ones the way they were in my life, not by visiting a quiet piece of land where their bones lie six feet below my feet, nor the place where their blood once spilled, carrying their soul - the part I loved - out with it. But everyone deals with loss differently.

There’s a little shopping area near my office. Very typical – containing a market, nail salon, Chinese restaurant, candy store, bowling alley … things like that. There are several entrances into the shopping area from the surrounding main roads. On one of these entrances, in the little island of land moated by curbs separating incoming and outgoing lanes, is one of these memorials.

The adornments circulate and vary. There are usually flowers. Sometimes action figures. Often an assumedly handmade wooden cross. Occasionally written items are tacked to the tree (letters, poems, lyrics?) in protector sheets. Now and then a picture will be there. 8x10, a young man with chestnut hair and a groomed beard. Once I saw a pizza left there, from a shop located in another area of town, carefully placed as if to share. I assume it was his favorite. This morning someone had lit a candle. The kind that comes in a tall thin glass jar featuring a screenprint of Madonna and Child. The wax was yellow. Despite the wind and misty rain, the flame burned strongly.

What happened there? Was he in a car accident? Was he in a fight? Shot? Stabbed? Did he simply trip and crack his head on the curb?

Who tends to this site? His significant other? His family? His friends? Does only one person return and return to keep the point of his last moments on earth marked, or do hoards of those who loved him circulate by?

I’ve been at my present company for going on 8 years, and often run to this shopping center for errands on my way to or from work. I use that entrance frequently as it is less traveled. And always, this shrine has been tended. I’ve never seen anyone there, but clearly it is visited and kept up. Someone, be it one or many, has kept that man’s memorial freshened up and its adornments rotated for at least 8 years now, and possibly longer. I find myself struggling to remember something about this person whom I’d never met. A person who, regardless of that fact, was clearly loved in life and missed in death. So much so that this humble makeshift site of remembrance is never neglected to this day.

I suppose that’s the purpose. To ensure that this life is remembered, even if there are no memories. To cause others, even complete strangers, to pause and wonder – and remember even abstractly that he was ... that he just was.

I never knew him, but I doubt I’ll ever forget him either.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Thankful Heart

I used to work for a company that was owned and about 85% staffed by Jehovah’s Witnesses. JW’s do not celebrate any holidays or birthdays, considering it to be a form of idolatry. We of “other ways” were permitted to take the day off without getting any grief about it, but we weren’t paid for the holidays we took. As an inquisitive casual Christian, I once asked one of my coworkers why they didn’t observe Thanksgiving, being that it was a day of prayer and thankfulness. He told me, “Because WE are thankful EVERY day.”

Frankly, I found that response very annoying in its condescension.

It’s been probably 12 years since I had this brief conversation, but I think back on it every year. As time goes by, regardless of the fact that it generated from the teachings of a doctrine with which I personally do not agree, its simple stand-alone truth has come into a better understood light. With so much to be thankful for, it is indeed a shame that most people are only thankful for what we have in flitting afterthoughts, if at all - and only pause to more deeply reflect and appreciate during holidays set aside for such.

It’s no doubt been at times a rough year in my little world. Among other things, I’ve buried two of the most dear and loving people I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing life and times with, and at times I still reel from missing them so. Especially with one who died too young, naturally I wonder why these things happen. But, they do. I can’t let the bad situations bog me down. I focus on how much joy was brought into my life for simply knowing them. How they had made me a significantly better person. The valuable lessons they taught me about family, friendship, perseverance and love. Yes, I must let them go, and with great reluctance – but I am so thankful for having known them. And I am thankful they are now free from their troubles and in God’s hands.

But while grieving is vital, it's important that it not become a "career". The sadness of those losses aside, I remember that I have a wonderful and loving husband who makes me smile every day. We have the most marvelously incredible little boy who teaches us daily new joys of life. We have a sweet and gentle dog that is a model of unconditional love for us. We are all healthy and sound and to top it off were fortunate enough to have been born in the United States, land of Liberty. Though my family is scattered, they are good and strong people who have shown me what it means to lead by example. I have friends that are true treasures. I have a “dream home” on some beautiful country land and my husband and I have jobs that we not only love but allow us to provide for our family while also enjoying some finer things.

All in all a rather typical, one might even say stereotypical, list of items for which to be thankful. But they are so worthy!

Indeed every year brings its bounty of highs and lows – found treasures and losses. Sometimes the lows get to me, and seem to stick with me longer than the highs. I often catch myself getting into modes of being sad, stressed and/or cross. For what reason? What burdens are so heavy that I can’t find joy in the many blessings in my life? Yes, I’m constantly scrambling, perpetually fretting, often stressing, and always chasing after someone or something. But this means my life is full of others with which I share love and happiness. And that truly is the biggest blessing.

It’s easy to get caught up in feeling sorry for ourselves or allowing our hearts to harden, proclaiming we have no one to thank for our life and accomplishments but ourselves. But as I grow older, watch the world grow and evolve around me, I begin to understand what my coworker was saying at the heart of it. It’s a fulfilling thing to gather with friends and family on marked holidays of Thanks, but true thankfulness carries on and flows freely every day of the year. This Thanksgiving, as we hurry around the state and visit with relatives, cope with screeching herds of kids, and I hug my husband and pick birthday cake out of Incrediboy’s hair, I’ll be opening myself to the Lord to teach me how to have a more gracious and thankful heart on a daily basis – for ALL my blessings - because I am so very blessed, it should be no other way.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Who Hit the Fast Forward Button?

I turned around and you were two,
I turned around and you were four,
I turned around and you were a man
Walking out my door.

- Unknown (to me anyway)

We took Incrediboy to the portrait studio this weekend for the big 2 year old photo session. I was semi-dreading it because the last two photo sessions have been less than smooth due to a budding shy stage and general uncooperativeness. But let me tell you, he was absolutely charming. Just perfect! We got some of just him, and then some family portraits, as is our adopted annual custom upon his birthdays. Then the Hub had a great idea of getting a shot of just him and the boy, and of just me and the boy. I’m glad he thought of that because both of these came out absolutely precious. My wonderful Hub, with our wonderful boy sitting on his knee, both looking prouder than the other. The one of me with our boy, cheek to cheek, hugging, smiling.

I mean you’d just gag if you saw them, they’re so precious.

Our family portrait that we selected – it’s great. Couldn't have asked for a nicer shot! But it's almost sad in a way. Incrediboy is sitting so nice, in his tan corduroys and blue sweater with the white shirt collar folded dapperly at the neck, with one hand resting casually on his knee … He looks so … grown up. How can a 2 year old looks so grown up?

Thanksgiving is around the corner. This has become a flurry-esque time of year for my little family, as we also have Most Beautiful Dog’s anniversary of coming to live with us (which happens to be today – 3 years! – yes, I know we’re dorks but remember, we love our dog to a ridiculous degree) and Incrediboy’s birthday along with Turkey Day.

Two years ago this week we anxiously awaited the arrival of our miracle child – the one we never thought we’d have. Incrediboy was born on a Tuesday, and we brought him home from the hospital on Thanksgiving morning. It was cold and rainy that day and we were exhausted and scared out of our minds. Friends dropped by with care packages – turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, gravy and pie. Then more friends with more care packages. We ended up with enough food to feed us for a week – and it was a heartwarming thing to be remembered by friends in such a way on a family oriented holiday.

Incrediboy’s first birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day, which was appropriate on so many levels. We’d all had a long, exasperating, and exciting year of adjusting to one another, and the Hub and I were more grateful for our little man than anything we could have fathomed. We took his photo at the minute he was born the year before. We topped off Thanksgiving Dinner with birthday cake. Incrediboy, surrounded by adoring cousins, had his own little cake and had a ball making a complete mess with it. As we leaned in for a picture, Incrediboy took a big fist full of cake and, with a big grin, smashed Daddy with it. What a clown! I knew even as it was happening that this would be the one Thanksgiving I would most distinctly remember for my entire life.

This year the baby is almost all gone and has been replaced by a little boy. He stands as high as my hip now – tall and thin – and while still holding a special love for Elmo, can’t get enough cars, tractors, trains and heavy equipment in his little life. I can remember my best friend telling me as I desperately clawed at sanity after getting no decent sleep for 10 straight weeks, “I know it seems like it will never end right now, but before you know it you’ll be wondering where the time went.”

She was right.

My boy is growing up so fast. How does that happen? When time strides along in faithfully identical increments of measure, how is it that entire chunks seem to scream by as if shot from a gun?

Before we know it he’ll be starting school. Getting involved in sports and social activities. He’ll be away more than he’s home. Next thing we know he’ll be off to college. We’ll help him load his things, move it all into a cramped dorm room, and then watch him wave goodbye to us in afterthought fashion as he begins to meet the new most important people in his life. I can’t begin to grasp that – so I focus as much as I can on the present. Spending as much time with him as I can. Writing him mother’s love letters in his journals after he goes to bed, Elmo clutched tight against him. Taking too many pictures and hugging him every time he gets within arm’s reach. Because it’ll be here before we know it.

My little Incrediboy. Please don’t grow up too fast.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Life in Longhand

Of all the mementos that have come down from earlier generations, I most treasure those that have been hand written. Letters, cards, notations on the backs of photographs, recipes jotted in margins of cookbooks – these are the things that are true wisps of the people who were here before – casual fingerprints left behind, echoing whispered voices that will never fade so long as they are handled with care.

When Incrediboy was 16 weeks old, I started a writing project. It will take me many years and I have no idea what will result in the end, but I knew I wanted to do it regardless. I bought a set of blank Flavia books. Each is a different color, each with a different little painting on the cover and a single word possessing a lovely, magical quality. Words like Dreams, Moments, Adventures, Passages. Within these books I have started a set of journals for him. All are written in letter form, but my approach varies from entry to entry. I have written about the house from which we moved – the house he was born in and will not remember. I have written about his first steps, first words, first haircut. About the time he was so ill that we were afraid we’d have to hospitalize him. About the day he wriggled out of his shoes, ran barefooted through the back yard, and first took notice of the variance between rough warm concrete and the soft cool spring grass. Stepping from one to the other, and back again – over and over, fascinated.

I don’t write just of these milestones, though. I have also written about our hopes and dreams for him. Tough lessons he will have to face and process. Values and virtues, advice and aspirations. Lessons for him, and lessons he has taught his father and me. Remembrances of how he handled himself in good times and bad, as they happen, from his Mother's viewpoint.

Dreams, Moments, Adventures, Passages.

Not just the tight honeycomb of our lives either. I also wanted to record the world as it was during his youth. Current events. Historical moments. The way they really happened, from a firsthand perspective. Who knows what our country and our world will be like when he reaches adulthood. Who knows how the authors of his history texts will portray what actually took place. I want him to know, and I want him to remember, the events of his life - both micro and macro.

Someday I’ll give these handwritten memories to him. Maybe when he graduates. Maybe when he gets married, or when he has his first child. I don’t really have a set time in my mind, but I will know when the time is right. I just want him to have a piece of me and himself that he can hold in his hands, leaf through, learn and reflect. When he is a grown man, rather than visiting my grave (because I will not be there) I hope that Incrediboy will remember me by opening these journals - my sometimes sloppy, always loving longhand bringing us together again. Most of all I hope that through the receipt of these journals he will more deeply realize and appreciate, on multiple levels, what a blessing it is to be gifted a life.

Monday, November 14, 2005


“Being unforgiving is like drinking poison,
and waiting for the other person to die.”

Much like the old poem finding occasional rebirth, now and then a certain quip will burst forth from the mundane dialogue of life as the most poignant morsel of wisdom.

This is a line from this past Friday’s episode of my favorite TV show, “Ghost Whisperer”. As I’ve mentioned before, I love ghost stories. And I mean * LOVE * ! Ghost stories! If you love ghost stories too check this show out. Anyway, last week’s story involved a man of, let’s say, undesirable character, who had died and sought to relieve a personal burden by seeking forgiveness for some offenses before he could leave this world. He had made the above statement, a realization that had come to him all too late but was soon enough for him to pass to those he was leaving behind.

I have mused about forgiveness before, but this quote brought it all back to me in a new voice. It is difficult to forgive someone who has deeply hurt us, even altered the paths of our lives with their actions. I work hard at my battles with this very thing. I only have a few storms in my life of which I can’t seem to fully shake the resentment – but man, are they powerful. I say I forgive, but with those few experiences I will sometimes catch myself returning to feelings of bitterness and anger when I think upon them. I’ve often thought of unforgiveness as a veritable pair of cement shoes, preventing me from moving on to happier days while others, including those who hurt me, leave it (and me) all behind them.

But to put the concept of unforgiveness in these terms – the metaphor of a grudge poisoning you yourself rather than the person who hurt you – is, quite simply, perfect. Just a perfect description. We like to think that sending mental daggers at those who have hurt us is beneficial – somehow assembling a signpost so that bad karma will find them. But to not forgive really doesn’t affect the offender in any way. Chances are, as the resentment eats away at your heart and soul and you harbor the bitterness years later, the offender has moved on and all but forgotten the entire event. Meanwhile, like a runaway kidney stone, the grudge calcifies your insides. Sometimes people even forget how to separate their hard feelings for one situation from all the rest.

So what’s the purpose? Just to poison yourself?

Even putting the teachings of my personal faith aside (which indeed commands me to forgive if I expect forgiveness from the Almighty), the ability to forgive those who have broken my heart in one fashion or another is emancipating on multiple levels. The shackles of a grudge weigh down no one but the harborer, and the venom only turns back on them and their own present life and immediate company.

I don’t want that. I don’t know who would.

Forgiving isn’t forgetting, and it isn’t saying what someone did was all right. But it does release the power the offense holds over me. No doubt many tasks of forgiveness take some time and great amounts of effort. But as this quote captures in its simplistic simile, it’s a goal well worth pursuing.

The next time the bitter bile of a grudge bubbles up within me, I'm going to remember this new perspective, and work on detoxing myself.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Puppy Panic

Most Beautiful Dog gave us quite a scare yesterday.

As I pulled into our drive after work, I saw the Hub scurrying frantically about outside. When I got out of the car he informed me that Most Beautiful Dog was missing.

“WHAT?”, I said in disbelief.

We have an underground fence, so Most Beautiful Dog can safely cavort to his heart's content around the contained property. Hub put him out in the yard when he got home and when he checked on him a few minutes later, he wasn’t in sight. Hub hunted the property and all the favorite cubbies therein where Most Beautiful Dog likes to be nosey. Shed. Wood pile. Back of the barn. Side yard. No dog.

As we began a frantic search, a million thoughts raced through our minds. Most Beautiful Dog is a pureblooded, less common sporting breed and, you will not be surprised to hear me say, most beautiful. And I’m not just saying that because I’m his Momma. He is absolutely show-dog gorgeous. Being that it’s hunting season and we live near hunting land, our immediate thoughts were some nasty hearted hunter happened by and stole our dog.

Most Beautiful Dog has very strong hunting and tracking instincts. It’s quite amazing to watch his nature in action. When he was only 8 weeks old he used to freeze in a perfect point at leaves skittering through the yard. But he’s lived the “life of Riley”, spoiled terribly and never having been formally trained as a career hunting dog. If he were stolen for such reasons, would the thief be mean to him? Beat his butt for not performing? (gulp) "Dispose" of him?

Calm down, maybe he wasn’t stolen. Did he just … get loose? He’s respectfully timid of his boundaries as the collar gives quite a rude shock if tested, and he’s never tried to bite the bullet and bust through. But if a bunny or a deer sacheted by close enough, would he forget himself? Would he be scared by the jolt, get disoriented and run the wrong way to get out of the range? Would he find his way home? Would he go chasing the horses down at the equestrian campground and get his head kicked off? Would he be hit by a car? Be otherwise injured? Would he lose his way back, and spend the hard-frost night out there scared, hungry and cold? Would we ever see our baby dog again?

I’m good at maintaining my cool until crises have passed, but I was getting panicked at these bombarding worries all caving in on me in a matter of seconds. Hub was feeling the panic as well – not only do we love Most Beautiful Dog to a ridiculous degree, but we are both extra sensitive right now due to our friends’ recent mortal loss of the canine peg of their heart.

I could hear the blood thundering past my eardrums. I could feel the sickening lump growing in my throat and swallowed it back down. Hard.

Hub jumped in the car and blasted out of the drive to search the area, spewing gravel behind him. As he pulled away, I heard a faint, familiar jingle of tags. I looked at the next property over, and there stood Most Beautiful Dog. His face seemed to be saying, “What’s all the hubbub?”

I was so relieved I could barely stand. I called Hub and told him Most Beautiful Dog was found, and then lured the dog back home with Scooby snacks. His collar had lost its charge and somehow he’d figured out he could wander out of the invisible box. We showered him with pats, strokes, and kisses, and told him never to scare us that way again. His sweet angelic face studied ours inquisitively, not understanding what all the fuss was about, but not in any interest to discourage the loving attention he was getting :). He wagged his nubby tail and returned our kisses.

Hopefully this taste of freedom won’t start any bad thought processes in that most beautiful knuckle-head. If so, he’ll find out tonight that the mean ol’ collar is back in action. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the proper heeding and respect for it will still be in tact.

Incrediboy was napping through the entire search and rescue operation. I tell you, if it’s not one boy giving me a coronary, it’s the other … and I’m sure in no time they’ll be teaming up their efforts!

Happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


In early April, the Virginian coastal waters are still so cold that just dunking your toes in will trigger a goosebump stampede all the way up to your scalp. I don’t know why this hadn’t occurred to me and I was expecting the waters to be warm. Could be I was just so happy to be at the shore again, for the first time in seven years.

I was a senior in college, and on my first unchaperoned vacation with some good friends. We weren’t the typical spring break binge drinking, “girls gone wild” types, and were simply out to relax in a new place and decompress in the midst of the spring crunch and angst of devising plans for post-college life. When I look back, many vignetted memories flash through my mind – wandering through the vendor booths on the strip, visiting the oceanic museum and aquarium, one of the girls having an allergic reaction because there was apparently chicken meat in a hot dog she ate, watching the fighter jets fly over, hitting the crazy beach clubs (okay, so we partied a little bit). But what I remember most are the soul-quenching, communal evenings of … nothing.

One friend’s parents owned a beach house there. It was a small weathered beach house in a crowded cluster of similar beach houses. We spent most of our evenings out back of that house, and at that point where warm town air collided with cool ocean breeze we’d build big raging bonfires in the sand. There we would sit. Drink a few beers. Share stories, jokes, memories. Ponder our futures. And stare at the bright dancing flames and the dark endless sea.

In those days, music accompanied every move. The soundtrack of our lives at that particular point was a strangely ethereal recording by a group named Enigma. The album was called MCMXC a.D. (The Roman numerals for the year 1990), and was a sultry tapestry of chimes, keyboards, haunting woodwinds and sparse breathy vocals layered over soft brushstrokes of percussion and electric guitar. We played it over and over on our trip, particularly at our bonfires. Being that we were virtually alone in our section of the beach, we’d turn up the stereo as loud as it would go, allowing the sensual music to bounce off the empty houses, skip across the surface of the rolling waves, penetrate our souls and take residence therein. It was a perfectly perfect accompaniment to our atmosphere.

There was a cut from that recording that got a lot of radio play, called “Sadeness”. Occasionally I’ll still hear it on the radio and will immediately be transported back to those evenings. I’ll practically be able to smell the sweet salty air of the ocean. Feel the warm caress of the fire on my face, the rolled bandana around my head that always held my unruly hair at bay, the rough driftwood trunk we sat upon, and the coarse sand that I never could get back out of my shoes. The taste of Mickey’s Malt Liquor is almost detectable as I once again envision the spooky glow of our light darting around in the foam of crashing waves.

I never see a single person I went on that trip with anymore. Except when I hear that old song again. Then we’re immediately together once more for a few brief moments, symbolically standing together on our tiptoes at the edge of the springboard, serenaded by music and surf under a moonless sky dotted with stars.

I love that about music. Instant time travel.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Memorial

After many health battles, a dear friend of mine lost her beloved dog this morning. I just wanted to ask anyone who reads this to please send your compassionate thoughts and prayers for her. Thank you.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor;
those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again,
just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing;
they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.
Her bright eyes are intent;
Her eager body quivers.
Suddenly she begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, her legs carrying her faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.
The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head,
and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

~ Author unknown

Rest in Blessed Peace, Sweet Doggie

EEK! A poem!

I've been feeling like a schlep for such drivelly posting lately, so I thought I'd share a poem. Not that my poetry is anything stellar, but at least it's something a little more creative than electoral griping :D. I didn't date this but it was written fairly recently, at a time when I was feeling very overwhelmed about some things.

Now the mystery of why I don't write much poetry anymore will be solved. ;)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Blunt strikes of a wrecking ball
Cave in a peaceful sanctuary.
Abrupt crumbling clatter
All around.
The shrill shriek
Of cinderblock on cinderblock.
A structure built with pure heart
Concerned only with beauty, serenity?
And no match for brutal strikes
From quiet, unfounded malice.
Nothing to do but crumble
Under the force.
Try to protect what’s left
But the wrecker blows on
Blind, unfeeling
Pre-formed opinions
Of what is important
Of what is offensive
Only concerned with its own view
Its own aggressions.
Pausing on occasion
To allow false hope
That the onslaught has passed.
But as soon as the dust settles –
Until only rubble remains.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

PSA Time - Please Bear With Me

It’s Election Day and I’m going to be boring and talk about politics. But I hope you’ll all stick with me because this is the kind of stuff of which people need to take notice. Even if you don’t live in my state, take it all into consideration, because this kind of sneakiness goes on everywhere.

Riddle me this, Batman. There are five Issues up for vote today in my state. The ads place them all into neat little packages, but anyone who pays attention in life knows that a package known as an Issue is never neat nor little.

One Issue is publicized as bringing more jobs to the state. Who wouldn’t want that? But I looked up the Issue on line, because there's always more. Here’s what it’s really about. It OK’s spending tax money for uses other than the levied purpose. Give us your money for something specific – but we reserve the right to spend it on something else. Nice. It also approves the engagement of joint ventures with and/or lending credit to private entities out of public funds. Um, not liking that idea. It also approves a mysterious committee to doll out $500 million in corporate subsidies, on recommendation of an out of state reviewer. Excuse me? Oh, and here’s my favorite. It allocates state tax money to be used in stem cell research. "One of these things is not like the other..." Does that seem just kind of slipped in quietly? Regardless of how you feel on THAT topic, the very fact that it's squeaked in there arbitrarily ticks me off. In any case ... Doesn't sound so simple anymore. Hmmm ... (rubbing chin thoughtfully) ... No.

The rest of the Issues deal with political accountability reform. After the last few “big” elections everyone’s concerned with legitimacy in the system. But read between the lines, friends, and check this out.

One Issue proposes a 35 day window to cast an absentee ballot (of which you need no explanation as to why you need an absentee ballot) – and you can also cast a provisional ballot if your absentee ballot has not been yet accounted for at the time of election day. Of course the provisional ballot will be thrown out if the absentee ballot is received within 10 days after election day. Um, (sniff-sniff) what’s that smell? Legalized voter fraud? No.

Another Issue, one of three that would be state constitutional amendments (pay attention kids, that’s important!), would allow labor unions to funnel unlimited, undisclosed amounts of money into the political process through a new title wrongly labeled “small donor”. Please. I work for a union shop. There’s nothing small about union funds. It would also allow a wealthy candidate to use his own income to fund his campaign and not have to disclose that. But if a less wealthy candidate would earn funds legitimately to make it fair and even, he wouldn’t be allowed. Oh, that’s nice! Let me think about it for a minute. NO.

The next two Issues are my favorites. Yet another Issue would place official political accountability in the hands of an appointed panel, selected by the officials themselves. How convenient for the officials! Once appointed, each panel member is in for LIFE, and will hold no accountability to voters. The commission would also be granted unlimited power to spend tax money as they see fit, with no control by voters or other state leaders. And, my personal favorite, it would also remove the authority of the state court to review the commission’s activity. What the -- !!! NO!!!

The last Issue would end local control over elections and would create a statewide review board. This sounds not so bad, until you read on that the board would hold no accountability to voters, would eliminate the Secretary of State’s role in the system, and allows this new board to also have a “blank check” for tax spending, even if taxes would need to be raised to cover their choice of spending. Fantastic! NO!!!!!!

See what I mean? The ads will make it all seem so simple. But the Devil’s in the details. Big government, taking the power out of the hands of the people? Sounds a lot like socialism to me. You’ve got to read the fine print!

If you’re still with me, you rock. And I hope I’ve given you something to think about. I know this sounds corny to some, but it’s not only a blessing and a privilege but a duty to go vote. So please take some time today, to LEARN what your area’s Issues and candidates are all about, and go vote.

Back to my normal fluff next time, I promise. May God Bless America!

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Rather Blustery Day

Over the weekend, we caught the skirting of whatever spawned the terrible storms in Evansville, Indiana and surrounding areas. The wind howled and moaned through our yard and beat against the house, and thick lumpy clouds from white to soot raced across the deep blue sky. The last colors of autumn that clung despirately to the branches are now mostly gone.

I had to run to the grocery store yesterday, and cut through the town we live near in order to get to the closest (although not my favorite) market. As I drove past the schoolyard, I could see the bright yellow maple leaves showering down into loose piles along the side of the road. As I approached, the wind picked up and rousted the leaves into a big cyclone of color and activity. It was almost as if they saw me coming and were getting excited about it. By the time I met with them I was driving through a blizzard of what looked like bright dancing golden butterflies. I could hear the leaves whispering past the windows as I drove through them – “Shhhhhissshhhhh” - and I couldn’t help myself. I giggled.

There’s something about windy fall days. True, they knock the beautiful painted foliage down, but it’s fun to see the leaves carrying on giddily in the air – and to join in the dance if I can.

Friday, November 04, 2005

And That is That

Every so often, you will run across something you’ve seen countless times, and suddenly it’s bathed in a brand new, heart-thrilling light.

This happened to me today.

When I was little I often read my Mom’s A. A. Milne books (author of Winnie the Pooh). Some were stories, while others were poems. One book was titled When We Were Very Young, and contained a very ordinary poem about a boy named John. I read it so many times I could recite it by memory to this day.

I’ve been wandering through a book of quotes compiled by Robert Fulghum lately, and once again ran across this poem. (Robert Fulghum penned the brilliantly simple modern classic All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.) Mr. Fulghum added some thoughts on what this poem means to him, and there sprung forth its new meaning for me. His perfect summary follows. Just wanted to share it.

John had
Great big
Boots on;
John had a
Great big
John had a
Great big
Mackintosh –
And that
(said John)

- A. A. Milne

If you live for a long time … you cherish the feeling of being warm and dry and still out in the weather. This poem expresses that sense of well-being. A child understands. In the quest for God, when you find out there is nowhere God is not, and that you are as much a part of the universe as the farthest star, you have a sense of well-being not unlike the child in this poem. That is that … It’s a state of being, understood by a child of six or sixty.

- Robert Fulghum

How wonderfully delicious and comforting is this concept? That though we are so small, in such a vast universe, we are so loved by its Creator. Each and every one of us. Nevermind that we don’t deserve it, that doesn’t matter. We are His special ones, His great love among all of His creation. A love so great, that this state of being - this warm, snug comfort that we can receive from the mere knowledge (and will hopefully notice at some point) - is only a glimmer of what His heart holds for us. And through any storm, His shelter is there, to keep us warm and toasty in the elements.

I don’t know about you, but this is just the sort of thing I needed to be reminded of today.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Traditions Remembered

Between the dazzling sensory-overload seasons of Halloween and Christmas lies the warm, comfortable hominess of Thanksgiving. As the eleventh month commences, I’m looking forward to time spent with family – and am also looking back.

My grandparents lived an hour away from us, and while visits were frequent they were always a special and highly anticipated occasion. Even our beloved border collie would spring to the windowsill with excited whimpers at the query, “Where’s Grandma?”, looking in the direction from which their immaculate Skylark would arrive.

By tradition, Thanksgivings were spent at my grandparents’ house when I was little, and in my heart the memories of those times are what define Thanksgiving for me.

My Grandma was a tiny lady with sparkling blue eyes. She was the kind of lady who always wore necklaces that looked like some sort of hard candy, and sundresses with a fuzzy white cardigan sweater, be it January or July. She wore thinly applied pink nail polish and usually had a rubber band or two around her wrist, just in case she might need them. She used words like davenport and pocketbook and billfold, and found complete and joyful fulfillment in her life’s role as a housewife.

My Grandfather (we always called him “Gramps”) was strong and soft and full of warm hugs and deep laughter. He smelled like shaving cream, and always had a twinkle in his eye behind his horn rimmed glasses, as if enjoying a private joke. He’d let us beat him at checkers, and would save pennies for us, rolling them in brick-red paper tubes. He was kind and generous, and everyone who knew him loved him.

By the time we’d burst into their house with all of our noise, Grandma would have already been up for hours, happily cooking and whistling. The house would be full of the delicious smells of roasting turkey and homemade gravy and stuffing (never store bought, always from scratch). Oatmeal-date cookies and a bowl full of mixed nuts in the shell would always be at the ready, and a candy dish full of chalky pink peppermints on the coffee table. Gramps would have the football game on, though no one would really pay much attention to it for being busy visiting.

Grandma would need Gramps to help her lift the big roaster (with the chip in the enamel from when Dad shot at it with a beebee gun when he was little) several times throughout the day. She’d meticulously baste and fuss over a much-too-big bird, and supervise as it would be tucked back into the oven for a while. Mom would help with whatever Grandma would need help with, and somehow everything always managed to be ready at the same time. We’d laugh and share and reminisce while eating too much because we couldn’t help ourselves with Grandma’s good cooking. After dinner, Mom and Grandma would rattle away in the kitchen with cleanup chores and Dad and Gramps would doze in the living room. My brother, long and lanky, would stretch across the floor and watch football as I went to my special drawer in Grandma’s writing desk and got out the Silly Putty and comic books. In a few hours, we’d all stuff down a slice of pie and a turkey sandwich with Miracle Whip before returning home.

Gramps passed away in early 1981, and we’d bring Grandma to our house for Thanksgiving after that. In time, as my brother and I grew up and got busy with our own lives, Thanksgiving became downscaled at my parents' house - they would make a small turkey breast and a few trimmings, and take a care package to Grandma at the assisted living center. But for all intents and purposes, we kids were released (too easily?) to create our own holiday traditions with our new respective families.

I now have spent Thanksgiving with the Hub’s family for many seasons. We have compounded a whole new collection of holiday memories and traditions and dishes (wouldn't Gramps marvel at the concept of a deep fried turkey!), have watched our families grow, and now celebrate Incrediboy’s birthday at the same time of year. Though dynamics have changed vastly (for me in particular), Thanksgiving still holds its special blessings each time it rolls around and the happy memories of my past intermingle with tomorrow's memories being made now.

This year will be especially bittersweet for me, though. Grandma died this past March, and while I have not spent the holiday with her in many years, it will be strange to know she’s no longer with us.

All the more reason to strive at making these wonderful moments ones which will be looked back on fondly by Incrediboy, Hub and myself, and the rest of our ever-evolving family. In future years, I will give extra thought to the work and the joy going into and coming out of these times. May our own chatter and clatter echo those of my Grandparents’ home on those Thanksgivings of many years ago, and do so with justice.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Smell of Winter

The palatable smell of winter is in the air lately.

You know what I mean – the abrasive biting quality that you sometimes catch a whiff of when you dig into the deep freezer for an ice cream bar – but less synthetic. As recognizable as the scent of rain, but not as comforting.

The all-too-short fall season is rapidly winding down. The end of October signals the bright splashes of color in the trees to begin to fade and sprinkle to the earth, leaving shaggy bare fingers raking the sky. Dry crinkly leaves rustle and whisper as the late autumn wind rudely nudges them on their way. The scent of wood fires and fuel oil permeates the air. Sculptured frost encrusts windshields, lawn furniture, and pumpkins, and squeaks under my feet.

It’s been a long time since I truly enjoyed winter. I thrive on balminess, color, and activity – winter holds very little of these characteristics for me. Many years ago, though, winter was an exciting time. There was much more snow here then, and friends and I would stay out, making forts and snowmen and angels and having snowball fights until we could no longer feel our extremities. We would look like snowmen ourselves, with the mess of winter caked into our hats, gloves, clothes and hair. I can remember my mom hustling me downstairs to the laundry room to get out of my wet things and into dry warm clothes. I remember my corduroys standing up by themselves, flared legs frozen into stiff frosty bells. And the pain of thawing out! Sharp, prickly stabs in quick progression, like a sewing machine with a scrillion needles.

Recalling it now, it was such a sweet pain.

I’m on the other side now. Soon I’ll be wanting rather to curl up in a pile of quilts by the fireplace than to run out and explore the frozen world. I’ll be fretting over whether everyone is dressed warmly enough, and will be chasing little wet feet and sloppy paws with the old towels. But I’m also expecting that things will come full circle. The Hub and I will be reliving what it was which made this dreadful time of year fun through the eyes and antics of Incrediboy. We’ll pass on the skills needed for creating a flawless snow angel, and compacting and launching a perfectly aerodynamic snowball. And have you ever noticed how without the muffling leaves, those bare, gray branches create the perfect acoustics for echoing laughter?

Twenty-five years is long enough to go without building a snowman. :)

Thursday, October 20, 2005


"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out-handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a very long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "But when you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have been carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

-- Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

He was made of some sort of chenille material, which I'm sure was white at one time. My grandmother made him for my brother, and my brother never took to him. So he was passed down to me. My Bunny. He went with me everywhere, he was always by my side. I loved him limp and threadbare. Mom had to sneak him away from me to wash, usually through the night as I slept, when he got too filthy, sour and rancid for anyone but me to stand.

When I was around five, he was in such a worn state that Mom commissioned Grandma to make a new coat for Bunny. I don't know how she got the toy out of my clutches but I remember waiting for my Bunny to come back with mad anticipation. I missed him so! When Grandma brought him back to me, he looked brand spanking new. The matted, motheaten, dingy coat I had known was replaced with velvety chocolate brown velour. She had embroidered a cute pink face, crocheted an adorable Quaker-style neck bowtie for him, and stitched my intital over his heart. On his bottom was a poofy handmade pink pompom yarn tail.

I was not pleased. This wasn't the Bunny I knew.

My Mom and my Grandma, two wise and wonderful women, had a talk with me that day. They told me that though Bunny looked different on the outside, he was the same on the inside. He still loved me, he missed me and was happy to be with me again. It would hurt him if I didn't love him anymore.

That was all I needed to hear. I'd never want to hurt my Bunny.

He was such a simple thing. Some scraps of cloth and yarn. Old nylons for his stuffings. Rather old fashioned looking, actually. But never a thing in my little life was treasured more. Something about the whole of those elements of his being were more than the sum of his parts. Somewhere in there resided a heart and soul. My friend, my comfort, my keeper of secrets, my protector from the closet monster. I slept with him well into my teens, truth be told. And when I moved away, he went with me. Over the years of my life, the road has often proven more rocky and potholed than I could have foreseen. There are few items I have kept with me from the beginning, but those that I have are most powerful to me. God. My family. A few good friends. And Bunny.

As I grew into an adult, I let go of the belief in the talisman-like power of Bunny. I didn't sleep with him anymore, and oftentimes he spent his days quietly waiting for my attention in a box or drawer. But having him close to me gave me that same feeling of comfort - some spidersilk line back to simpler days when merely having him in my arms healed the troubles afflicting me.

I am in my mid-thirties now, and my own little boy has selected a big floppy Elmo, nearly as tall as he, in which to bestow this special gift of a child's love and affection. I watch him interact with Elmo, and reflect fondly on the special place Bunny had in my childhood.

I still have Bunny - he resides atop my wardrobe, watching over our bedroom. Ever present as he has always been, and within arms reach at a moment's notice, should I ever be inclined to regress. The fuzz of the velour has been nearly worn off. The pink yarn has faded to a dull beige with years of kisses and cuddles and travels. The tail is mashed flat and resembles more of a sea urchin than anything else. But to me, he is beautiful.

He is Real. He always was.