Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Five Things Meme: My 150th Post!

Post 150! I was too clueless to pay attention to when I reached my 100th post, so I've been keeping track to note this milestone. It was a little tricky because I had to go back and count "draft" posts which I've used to host photos, etc. Blogger counts them in their "total posts" but I didn't want to. Um... one paragraph in and I'm already making everyone fall asleep.

Moving on...

Pam over at MarillaAnne tagged me for the "Five Things You May Not Know About Me" meme. This meme seems to always be floating around the blog'verse but I have never done it. I did do a 100 things post so it will be a challenge to add to that. Hmmm... let's see...

1. Historically Speaking: My maternal grandmother's cousin, Raymond Hamilton (second cousin, twice removed?) was a member of the Barrow Gang. Clyde Barrow actually broke Raymond out of prison. They ended up parting ways less than amicably and Raymond was eventually captured and executed in Huntsville, Texas. After the execution, John R Rice preached a radio sermon about Raymond which blamed his criminal life on the facts that his mother was divorced and that he went to the movies. (I have a photocopy of this sermon that I obtained from the archives of the Dallas Public Library when Paul and I lived there.) Raymond's brother Floyd Hamilton, also a criminal, was a prisoner on Alcatraz where he once attempted to escape. He made it as far as the water and was initially presumed drowned. He was hiding out in a small cave along the island's shoreline and two days later, turned himself in. His story has a happier ending than his brother's, though. He became a Christian in prison and was eventually released and went on to lead the life of a model citizen.

2. Neurotically Speaking: I tend to obsess over things that I say. Because I tend to think before I speak, I sometimes say things I wish I could take back. I will dwell over my misspoken words for days. At those times, I would move heaven and earth for the Omega 13 device from Galaxy Quest. The Omega 13, in case you haven't seen the movie, is a device which can turn back time for 13 seconds.

3. Physically Speaking: I have those weird double-jointed elbows. In sixth grade, I signed up with a friend to be a Pop Warner cheerleader for her brother's team. When we would practice and my arms were supposed to be straight out from my shoulders, the cheer coach always told me my arms weren't straight. If you haven't seen it, it is hard to describe, but my elbows do look a little weird whey they are extended.

4. Intellectually Speaking: When it comes to Art, Literature, Music I like what I like. I have tried in the past to care about what should be seen, read and listened to but I gave up on that. I don't care about Picasso. I love Van Gogh. Russian Literature makes my brain hurt. I love modern novels. I can't make myself enjoy most jazz music. I love a little classical, a little blues, a little rock, a little pop.

5. Morbidly Speaking: I used to be fascinated by true crime stories. Helter Skelter, Ted Bundy, you name the murderous freak and I would read about him. Eventually, it got to be too much for me. I was reminded of this former interest recently when I read about a new movie being made, Savage Grace. It is the story of the murder of Barbara Baekeland, heir to the Bakelite fortune, by her son. I don't think I'll be seeing that movie. That mother/son relationship was pretty twisted.

So, there you have it. Five Things You Probably Didn't Know and Possibly Don't Care to Know About Me!

Just Call Me Debbie Downer... Wah, Wah, Wah!

After reading some of the great year-end reflections that have been posted in the last few days, I tried to think about specifics in this past year and what I would write about in a similarly themed post.

I'm coming up mostly empty. Empty of highs I guess. There have been several lows. That makes me a little queasy--the thought of writing a year-end post in which I share a lot of low points. Yuck. It does help to make sense, however, of my Confessions of a New Year's Resolutions Junkie post. In a season where you remember more bad stuff than good, I guess it is natural to want to give your life an extreme makeover.

But is an extreme makeover the answer? If I were to make a list of all the things I want to change about my life, it would be very long like one of those scrolls in a movie which just rolls on and on when it is opened. I've been thinking about this list and trying to prioritize and group items that are connected to each other. Two themes emerge: discipline and moderation. There are areas of my life in which I need to be more disciplined (spiritual exercises, relationships, life details, exercise) and areas of my life in which I need to be more moderate (finances, food.) There is one other way I need to be moderate: emotional hyperbole. As I read this paragraph, my first response is to label myself a lazy glutton. Well, that's not going to help anyone--least of all me--is it?

At, restraint comes up as a synonym for both moderation and discipline. Go figure. So, I am dubbing 2007 The Year of Restraint since they are apparently two sides of the same coin.

And, I must remember that a year in a life is a journey. I will not arrive at my destination overnight. I will stumble and fall and pick myself up again. Dory's mantra from Finding Nemo which I quoted in my last post will serve me well...

Just keep swimming... just keep swimming... You might be hearing that a lot from me in 2007.

To liven up this somber post, I will share some of the highs that I experienced this year:

Disney Passes
Getaway to Kentucky
New Friendships
Old Friendships
Sleeping with Bread

I wish you all a Happy New Year. Celebrate safely!


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Confessions of a New Year's Resolutions Junkie




Do you hear that? It is the sound of 2006 winding down. Just a few more days until the new year. I don't know about you but the last week of the year is a time of reflection for me. Maybe it is ingrained from all those years of child-like enthusiasm for New Year's resolutions. Commitments I never kept. At least, I cannot remember ever keeping one. And still, as an adult I make a few every year because every year I see the need for growth in my life.

This year I am overwhelmed by the number of things I would like to do differently in 2007. That depresses me just a little. I have learned, though, that any accomplishment begins with one small step--not the decision to do something but the first movement. And, I've learned that I'd rather look back at a year and see I made it 25% of the way toward a goal than zero percent.

So I am taking time these next few days to consider how much I want to tackle this year and to prioritize it all--which goals are more important than the others--because inevitably I will attempt more than I can handle. But by striving for more, I hope I will accomplish more than I otherwise would have. And ultimately, in the words of Dory--which my daughter reminded me of today--I'll "just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." and this time next year, I'll be writing here about the progress I've made.

Image from PC Wallpapers

Sunday, December 24, 2006

An Empty Stocking

Tonight I want to tell you a story about an empty stocking...

Once upon a midnight clear there was a child's cry.
A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts.
We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries.
We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees and the cry of bells and gifts...
but especially with gifts.
You give me a book.
I give you a tie.
Aunt Martha always wanted an orange squeezer
and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe.
Oh, we forget nobody, adult or child.
All the stockings are filled.
All that is, except one.
We have even forgotten to hang it up.
A stocking for the child born in a manger.
It's his birthday we're celebrating.
Dont let us ever forget that.
Let's ask ourselves what He would wish for most.
And then let each put in his share...
Loving kindness
Warm hearts
and the stretched out hand of tolerance...
All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.
from The Bishiop's Wife

The Bishop's Wife is one of my favorite movies and I try to watch it every year. Many years ago, before Marley was born, as I watched it, I decided that our house needed a stocking for Jesus. We hang it up each year in the center of the mantle and place a copy of this little sermon in it. On Christmas morning when we are all awake, we will read it and then talk about what we have done in the past year, as a family and as individuals, that could be considered a gift to Jesus. Then, of course, the contents of our own stockings are spilled on the floor and the carnage of present begins soon after. But for a few moments on Christmas morning, we stop to consider God's gift to us in the sending of his son and what we can do to express our gratitude for that greatest gift.

Merry Christmas!

While it may look as if my teenage son is facing a firing squad,
I can assure you, it was merely a camera.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I have a Gumbie mouse in mind...

The curtain has fallen on the last performance of Mr. Eliot's Cats. Before it was all said and done, there was much fun and stress, joy and desperation, shouts of exultation and many tears. There is too much to do in the next two days to recount the whole story but here's a few pictures of my darling mouse and some of her castmates. (If you click on the group pictures, you can get a better look at all the wonderful costumes.)

Because Paul and I were so busy with the play, we did not take ONE pictures ourselves of our daughter! These are pictures someone else took. I hope to get more from other moms in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Friday Fripperies

Okay, okay... I know it isn't Friday. I said I was going to do a FF post last week and didn't and I don't have much of consequence to say so please allow me the use of FF on Wednesday.

Shall we proceed?

  • Two performances of Mr. Eliot's Cats down, and three more to go. Make-up, costume, body mic'ing twelve 7, 8 and 9 year olds, feeding Paul sound cues, herding kids back to class to get out of costume and to clean up make-up. I am sure that a birds-eye view of these shenanigans would make for some great You Tube footage. Can I say that herding 33 kids is like trying to hold water in your hands?
  • There haven't been any new reports of The Stomach Bug. I'm not foolish enough to think this means I've escaped it for the entire season, but I less than 48 hours to go and the play is over. Then... well, I still don't want to get it but at least there will be less to have others manage if I do.
  • In my best Jerry Seinfeld impersonization: "What's the deal with cigarette butts and ashtrays?" The last few times I have been to my neighborhood Starbucks, there are at least a hundred--I kid you not--cigarette butts littered around 7 or 8 tables. Each of these tables has an ashtray on it! Is there some reverse magnetic effect I don't know about? Truly, walking through the gauntlet of butts is not pleasant.
  • Audience Participation: I have a holiday newsletter question for you all. Where do you stand on them? Do you like getting them? Whether or not you like getting them, when you get one, how much detail do you like the sending family to give you? I am in the process of writing one for our family and it is only the second time I have ever done it. I'm not sending Christmas cards, because, Duh, school doesn't let out until the 22nd and I have no life until Marley gets out of school at 1:15 on Friday afternoon. What few presents I am buying for the kids, what housecleaning I have to do, what family gathering preparation I need to do--all this has to wait until Friday at 1:15 p.m. So, I'm not sending out Christmas cards. Instead I thought I'd do a newsletter in Publisher and save it as a PDF file and send it via email. As I'm looking at it, I realize I'm on my third page. Now, this includes a brief, "Hey, it's Christmas message, a few paragraphs about each of us and here's what we're up to for Christmas. The layout has lots of white space and room for pictures so it isn't like I'm sending out a single spaced, paragraph free, run on sentence. But I don't know. Should I bother? What kind of information should I put in it. Help me, Obiwan Bloggers! You're the only hope of those who will receive the newsletter. They need you!
  • Over at Toddled Dredge, Veronica put a link to a HI-larious You Tube video. If you are a parent, you will appreciate and understand this video. I also posted it over at So-So Cal Cinema if you want to go there.
  • As I mentioned in Monday's SWB post I was recently traumatized by Boromir's death--yet again--while watching The Fellowship of the Ring on TV this past weekend. With our Lord of the Rings appetite whetted, we pulled out our extended version DVD's and have been watching them one after the other for days. While I was getting mouse make-up on Marley this morning, I heard someone say, "Look! She has Eragon!" I heard "Aragorn" and I looked up to see Aragorn who? Aragorn where? That's when I noticed a copy of the book Eragon next to me on a desk. I have Lord of the Rings on the brain right now!
  • I have realized recently again just how much of a visual person I am. I love blogging but I want pictures to go with everything. And buttons. I want buttons for EVERYTHING. Sleeping with Bread buttons, BSE buttons, Friday Fripperies buttons (don't have one of those. Need one.) I think I need to take a chill pill and R-E-L-A-X!
  • Peppermint Bark candy is yummy. Very yummy.

Okay, I think I've fripperied enough for today. Thanks for indulging me!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sleeping with Bread Monday with Irony and Less Than Full Disclosure

In the last week, where have I found consolation?

I think this past week, I have found consolation, ironically, in the hustle and bustle of preparing for my daughter's class play. Yes, the play which has me frazzled with costumes and sound worries and fearful of The Stomach Virus of 2006 is also a source of encouragement to me. Rather, the kids and the parents in the class are the source of encouragement.

I believe I have mentioned here before that my daughter is in a Multi-Age program at her school. It is a double class with two teachers and kids in Kindergarten through Third Grade. The curriculum is integrated and the approach developmentally-based. Because brothers and sisters are in class together and because the children are together for several years, a close bond develops within the group as a whole. During this time of The Production, even more time is spent together and I've had a chance to see the Spirit of Community in action. Parents help each other out with costumes or kid care. Children help each other with their lines. The older kids look out for the younger kids. It is a family of sorts and in spite of the recent chaos, I've enjoyed watching some of these sweet kids this week and seeing what great little people they are and I'm grateful that we will have more time--years--to keep getting to know them.

In the last week, what has caused me desolation?

Other than the fact that Boromir died... (The Lord of the Rings trilogy was on Sunday. My heart breaks for Boromir and it just kills me every time I see that movie and watch him die. Have I ever mentioned I'm a LOTR freak?)

Well, other than the LOTR tragedy, what caused me sadness this week is private and I can't share about it here. This is one of the difficulties of blogging for me. I can't bare all. If it were just me and you guys alone in a room, I could share. It isn't anything earth shattering--just the stuff of Life. It will pass. I would rather say there is something going on with me and leave it at that than make up something or pretend.

Also Sleeping with Bread this week:

Sheila at musings of a mommy
t at nonsensical text
Lamont at Uphill idealist

Next week will be a Sleeping with Bread holiday because it will be Christmas Day. Seven days until Christmas... can you believe it?

I did it! Have you?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Saturday Stream of Consciousness

Updated Below...

"Colin Throwing Up" an original drawing by Marley

I feel the need to get this post in today. For two reasons, one, my last post is a meme in which participation requires sending something arty to five people and I have my five people lined up now; and two, I'm afraid in the next 24 hours or so I will be puking my guts up. I'm not 100% sure about the last part but I have my suspicions.

This has been such a crazy week. I was excited to be feeling myself again on Monday after 5 or 6 days of a minor nervous breakdown due to the three-pronged punch of Paul being gone for eight days, sleep apnea therapy issues and, last but not least in impact, raging hormones. Monday brought renewed success in sleep and relief from hormonal distress. With renewed optimism I faced my week only to be attacked at every turn by issues with my daughter's school play, cookie dough from the fundraiser coming in and needing to be distributed, a forgotten birthday party, some unexpected babysitting and a crick in my neck which feels like a steel rod has been shoved in my brain and I can't get into the chiro's office until Tuesday.

All the moms from my daughter's class are running around with what I'm calling eyes. Costume this, cookie dough that, Christmas shopping, Bar Mitzvah preparation--one mom commented that she'd never seen so many of us going going makeup-less with our hair in ponytails. Another mom laughed and said they we've seen more of each other than our husbands and children.

This sounds like a big complaint fest. It really isn't. In fact, I'm laughing--in a dar humor, morbid sort of way--at the sheer absurdity of it all. I am so relieved that we are on the reduced Christmas shopping plan because then I would have to add to the list... "and I haven't even begun to shop!" I think I just need to get it all down in words so I can look back and see that I wasn't crazy; Life was crazy and brought me along for the ride--kicking and screaming!

But the piece de resistance; the icing on this absurdist cake; the proverbial straw that might break the mama camel's back: a stomach virus. Like a California brush fire on a Santa Ana winds day, a 24 hour stomach virus is sweeping through Marley's class. Three moms, one teacher, eight kids so far have been burned. The play is next week. The play will happen and turn out great, or the play will happen and be a complete fiasco or the play won't happen. There's nothing we can do about that. But I don't want to vomit. I can't stand vomiting. Everyone who knows me knows that I don't want to even hear that someone was spewing because I will get sympathetic stomach pains and question for days if I am getting it. And usually I don't. But I'm spending so much time at the school trying on mouse heads, getting pirate socks, cutting the fingers off gloves, making notation of sound cues so Paul can run sound for the play. It seems inevitable doesn't it?

This morning I was poking around online. Mysecretennui posted The Brutally Honest Personality Test. It is so hilarious, especially if you are familiar with the Meyers-Briggs personality types. If you can't take a healthy dose of harsh sarcasm, don't go there. My personality type is lovingly referred to as the Scumbag, so you are forewarned. (If you don't want to bother taking the test and just want to read the descriptions, click on Scumbag. The other descriptions are below it.)

Anyway... where I was going with that tangent is as I was reading, I felt some hunger pangs. I was surprised because I just came from breakfast out with a friend. Hmm... I said to myself. Why are you hungry? Then came the sinking realization that it might not be hunger but the beginnings of the virus. Now, I am definitely feeling something but is the kind of clammy feeling I now have because of fear of the worst or is it the worst? I don't know. What I do know is that my house looks like an entropy experiment, Marley and I are supposed to go see her friend in The Nutrcracker tomorrow, Monday is the last sound rehearsal before the first of five performances of Mr. Eliot's Cats presented by the Multi-Age Class. And Christmas is 9 days away.

The final irony is that my faith in God is actually getting in the way of my praying to be spared from the wretchedness that is a stomach bug. I start to pray, "Lord, please don't let me throw up" and I immediately think of all the other wonderful people who've been throwing up the last few days and is there any reason I should escape the puke-fest and they didn't? I also start thinking about all the real tragedy and pain in this world. How can I focus my time and energy asking for God to spare me from a 24 hour bug? So, I settle on a prayer which includes all this philosophical angst and end it with, "...but if I don't get it, I will be so grateful" and then hope for the best.

I guess that's all I can do for now.

Sunday morning. Well folks, so far so good. I haven't thrown up. Marley hasn't thrown up. Paul hasn't thrown up. After I wrote this yesterday, it suddenly dawned on me that the most indispensable person in our family to the big production of Cats is Paul. If he can't run sound, it will get a little sticky. Oh well. In the meantime, following a link at Frog and Toad are Still Friends, I bring you which movie my Christmas is most like:

Your Christmas is Most Like: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Each year, you really get into the spirit of Christmas.
Which is much more important to you than nifty presents.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Great Give Away Meme

Darlene, over at, has gotten into the holiday spirit by passing along a give away meme. For the first five people who commented on her meme post, she offered to give a piece of art, in her case a photograph. The catch being that you were supposed to turn around and do the same on your blog.

Well, I love Darlene's pictures and I was fourth, I think, to comment. So, I will be receiving a picture in the next little while. The trouble is, I'm not an artist. So, I have a couple of options:

1) I have put together a set of my own amatuerish photos on Flickr. Filed under Give Away Meme are several photos. I used my newish Canon Power Shot S2 IS except for the Hawaii shots. I used an older Olympus Camedia digital for those. If you are one of the five first commenters to this post, I will send you one of these pictures, 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 size. If you are interested in the fireworks series (pictures of fireworks taken by someone who doesn't know how to photograph fireworks) I will send all three but in a smaller size.

2) If you are not interested in any pictures of mine (don't worry, I won't cry about it) I will find something else of an artistic nature to send to you. It might not be my own work but it will be something small and personal and crafted by an individual.

It will definitely be more artistic than this!

So, if you are brave enough to be on the receiving end of something I think is artistic, leave me a comment. You can then email me at and send me your address. Sometime between now and the first of the year, you will have your present. The cool thing is that, unlike most contests where you cannot be a friend, relative or acquaintance of an employee of the contest company, no such rule applies here. If you are one of the first five commenters, you get a present.

Darlene also put up a second meme which I do think I will do but I will leave that for another day.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sleeping with Bread Monday: Clint Eastwood Style**

I've been thinking about blogging lately. What I like about it and what I don't like about it. (I know, I know, but yes, there are some things to not like about the blog'verse.)

So, today's Sleeping with Bread is the blogosphere version.

In the blogosphere, where do I find consolation?

Blogging has laid many wonderful gifts at my door. In my user profile I say that I read voraciously or not at all. I'm one of those readers who ignores the signs of smoke indicating the house is on fire when I'm lost in a good book. With two kids and a traveling husband, sometimes it has been easier to forgo reading altogether. Well, the kids are older, the husband is still traveling and I hear about so many good books that my fellow bloggers are reading that I began reading more often. Reading stirs my soul. I think more, I cry more, I laugh more, my heart bursts with joy more when I am reading. Thank you fellow bloggers for writing about what you are reading.

As I have said umpteen times before, I am an extravert. As I just said in the previous paragraph I have two kids and a traveling husband. Getting in time with others but also time with lots of others is a challenge. I have met so many people, six degrees style, that my thirst for new relationships is somewhat sated. All across the United States and Canada with a couple of Australians thrown in for good measure, there are people I look forward to "talking" to every day.

Finally, blogging exercises my brain. I write--not as well as I would like to--but I am writing. Coming from the "If you don't try, you can't fail" school of backwards perfectionism, this is saying something. NaBloPoMo in particular challenged me because in an effort to write about something other than what to write about for NaBloPoMo, I ventured out into some creative writing via the Word Beads and Sunday Scribblings memes. This produced beads of anxious sweat scribbling down my face, I can assure you. But guess what? I lived through it! Yippee!

In addition to the actual writing, my brain is stretched this way and that by the content of the blogs I read. Social justice posts, posts with views which differ from my own, lessons learned from Life's sometime's painful schooling all combine to make me pause and think. It is so easy staying at home and getting caught up in the ebb and flow of the stuff of everyday life to lose that wider perspective that blogging brings to me.

In the blogosphere, however, I do find desolation.

As with anything that draws your attention, blogging draws my attention away from other things. It is so easy to get lost in the monitor, navigating with my keyboard in a virtual world. Boundaries have never been my strength and I blog when I want to not just when there is space in my day. Always on the lookout for an excuse to not do some housework is one thing, putting your child off for another hour because I'm glued to the computer is another.

Blogging draws me in because of the personal stories I read every day. Some are funny; some are sad; some are mirrors of my own life. But, being such a people person, I miss knowing some of my favorite bloggers in real life. I want to see Sophie's face when she talks about grieving the loss of her father at 9 years old. I want to meet Em's children Georgia, Alexander and Juliet and Bub and Pie and Aliki's creative son Liam and daughter Tessa. I want to bring dinner over to Veronica Mitchell and take home some laundry to do for her. I want to sit over coffee with Darlene and have her tell me, in person, the story of her life and go for a walk with V-Grrrl in her quaint Belgian town. (This list is not exclusive. Just pretend it is the Academy Awards and the music began playing before I could say thank you to all the people who helped me win the award!) I love the back and forth exchange that comes in a "real" conversation. Many of my best thoughts weren't formulated until I was responding on the fly to a statement or question by someone right in front of me. I need some real time connection. I just do. (This may be heightened by feeling a little more isolated than usual. My "in person" friends network is a little off kilter and I'm struggling somewhat with my sleep apnea.)

Finally, I get anxious when I read some of the more outspoken blogs out there. I hate conflict and sometimes when I read the more vitriolic rants against Life (usually a spouse), the Universe (idiot neighbor, doctor, fill in the blank), and Everything (politicians, the Church, etc.) I get uncomfortable. I've been thinking about what exactly bothers me when I read this stuff. I'm getting to an understanding but not quite there yet. And all rants are not equal. I know when I read a particularly nasty spouse rant, for example, it is hard to sit with my own desire to "fix" things. I'm in a weird spot politically living in a netherworld of not-conservative and not-liberal. Sometimes it is as simple as hateful is just not comfortable.

All in all, blogging brings me more joy than distress but it feels good today to talk about The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.** Thanks for listening.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

MoTBA (Mothers of Teenage Boys Anonymous)

I met with a think tank today--a group of like-minded women determined to solve a problem that looms large in our world: getting teenage boys through high school.

Well, okay, it wasn't really a think tank. A couple of the women have thoughtfully arranged get togethers for our sons--who sojourned from preschool through elementary school together--since they scattered to different schools beginning in seventh grade. The boys get a chance to see each other and the moms get to freak out at how much the other boys are changing. Some of them are six feet tall! Six feet! Yowsa! What began as a mini-reunion became a support group meeting for us moms.

Today was my first time to join the other moms as the boys feasted at the Rainforest Cafe' and then played video games. I'm not sure what the other get togethers were like but within moments of the moms being sat at a table adjacent to our sons, the comparing and contrasting began. Most of the mom research had to do with how our new freshmen were coping at high school. This one had a bad progress report; another one was doing better than expected. Involvement in sports and other extracurricular activities was discussed. How to get your kid focused on being more responsible was a problem for which any of us might have paid good money to obtain a solution. Each of us had heard a line similar to the following one from our sons: "Well, the teacher didn't remind me to turn it in." Each of us uttered a similar line to our sons: "It isn't his/her job to remind you to turn in your work. It is his/her job to teach you. You are responsible for knowing when to turn your work in."

Eventually, the conversation drifted from our concerns that they finish high school with the work habits and grades to help them get into college to what we are all assuming hasn't occurred with our children yet. Yeah... sex and substance abuse. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it. Near where we live there is a popular street with a movie theater and several restaurants, shops, etc. It never fails that I see hordes--massive hordes--of teenagers hanging out there on a weekend night. Girls sitting on boys laps, heads together or holding hands as they walk down the street. Oh sure, it all seems innocent enough; however, I can tell you that I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about my son in one of these packs of kids and his arm around some... some... girl!

So, we were ultimately grateful for a problem like a bad progress report and, I think, uneasy about what we may not know about their lives. I think we all felt a sense of relief that we are experiencing the same issues and feelings. A day that was planned to keep our boys connected ended up drawing us closer together.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

BSE Buttons, A Whole Wheat Quest and Threats of Fripperies

A few days ago, I posted my commitment to performing BSE's on a monthly basis. I said that I would put the initials BSE at the end of the first post I write after doing the exam. Well, timing being everything, it will be another couple of weeks before the optimum time to perform said exam. However. . . Izzy of IzzyMom and Izzy Design designed these cool little buttons that anyone can download and use. Because it is for a good cause, she didn't charge me so she gets some good Karma points, too.

I hope that you will use these buttons. We can talk about prevention and early detection all the live long day. We need to act. By giving ourselves BSE's and letting others know, we can encourage others to join us. Five minutes. Five minutes is all it takes. We're worth it, right? If you need a refresher course in how to do the exam, here it is. (To download a button, right click and save to your computer. You can then upload the photo into your post when you are ready. In the next day or two, I will also put the buttons in my sidebar.)


That is the sound of me taking a sharp turn into a completely different subject. I am on the prowl for some yummy recipes using whole wheat flour. After my colonoscopy and diagnosis of moderate diverticulosis, I am trying to go refined-flour and white rice free as much as possible. I'm a sweet freak, however, and there just aren't alot of options out there. I know I've had some yummy whole wheat chocolate chip cookies before so if you have a recipe to die for, I would so appreciate it if you would pass it along. You can reply in the comments or email me at

I did make some yummy bread last night for my book club's discussion of The Penelopiad. It is called Christopsomo and it a Greek Christmas Bread. I found the recipe at Bella Online and it was easy to make and uses a 3/5 whole wheat to 2/5 white flour recipe.

Here's the recipe in case you are interested:

Christopsomo - Greek Christmas Bread

Traditionally on Christmas Eve every household would bake a Christopsomo or "Christ bread". The loaf is often decorated with engravings on the crust that represent aspects of the family's life and profession. A loaf from a fishing family might have a picture of a fish on it, for example. Here is the recipe for the Christopsomo, you can decorate it as you like.

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom seeds (seeds removed from the exterior husk)
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Grease an 8-inch circular cake pan.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and allow to stand for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, salt, egg, milk, cardamom and butter in a large bowl and mix well. Add the yeast mixture, both types of flour, raisins and the walnuts. Mix well. If the dough is too moist, add a little all purpose flour to make softer dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Shape into a round loaf.

Place the dough into the cake pan, cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350.

When risen, bake the loaf for 35 to 40 minutes or until brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Well, thanks for your time and attention. Tomorrow I'm planning on bringing back Friday Fripperies; so, if you want some non-essential and trivial information, you know where to find it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


"StoryCorps is a national project to instruct and inspire people to record each others' stories in sound."

I found out about StoryCorps one day while watching Jane Pauley's now defunct talk show. I'm a sucker for a good, personal story so I wanted to know more. The organization was founded to record personal interviews. The first booth they set up is in Grand Central Station and for a small fee, you can make an appointment to record a 40 minute interview. On site is a facilitator to help you get the best sound quality, etc. Afterward, you are sent a CD of your interview and if you give permission, a copy is put into the Library of Congress Archives.

I went online to their website one day and spent forever it seemed listening to excerpts from different interviews. I cried, I laughed, I cried some more. Some of the stories are of painful events in the lives of the tellers but there is a poignancy in them that draws me to them. The commonality of the human condition, I guess.

Every once in awhile, I go to the website and find new stories and listen again to old favorites. It is the equivalent of sitting down in front of a favorite old movie or re-reading a book knowing that it will make you cry. The experience is cathartic. It allows me connect with others by listening to their stories and reminds me of the capacity for love and compassion in all of us. Although God is rarely mentioned in the stories I listen to, I sense his presence in them.

Today was one of those days. I'm a little weary from my husband being out of town. I'm a little premenstrual. But also, I spent part of the last couple of days reading Darlene's writings about her life and the loss of her twin babies. She writes with grace about the joy her babies brought her and her husband and about the pain their s brought into their lives. I have a friend who lost a twin and so it brings some bittersweet memories back to me. Tears that came close to being shed while reading Darlene's writing maybe needed to work their way to the surface.

In the blogosphere, I've been touched by many, many stories that I've read. Here is a chance to listen to some via links to the StoryCorps Listen page. The interviews are short--one to three minutes in length--but are very powerful. There is one silly, sweet one thrown in to offset the tear-inducing quality of the others. I hope that you will get some of the same sort of appreciation for others that I receive from these.

Debbie Fisher and Terrence Hicks - Debbie talks about her father, a Holocaust survivor.

Cathy and Kelly Slumber - The story of a treasured Christmas present.

Sarah and Joshua Littman - A boy with Asperger's Syndrome interviews his mother.

William and Seth Jacobs - A grandson and grandfather share.

Doris and Lisa Cohen - A mother and daughter discuss painful life events.

Philomena Luciani and Alison Purcell - Adventures in housewares

I have to stop but there are so many more. I encourage you to stop by the website to listen to more. In addition to the two booths in New York City, StoryCorps has expanded their operations to include two mobile booths. You can look at the schedule and see if they are coming to a town near you. They also have an equipment rental program. For a very reasonable price, you can rent a mini-recorder with professional quality microphones for one week. You return the equipment with your recording and they send it back to you in CD form. I am just waiting for the day when I can participate in one of these interviews.

To show you how much of a StoryCorps geek I am, my husband, in New York City on business, knew I would want to see this:**

This is the StoryCorps booth that is near the World Trade Center site. In addition to all the other stories they are collecting, they have three special projects: 1) collecting stories from friends and families of 9/11 victims--really, any story about someone touched by that tragedy; 2) collecting stories of people who are experiencing memory loss; and 3) collecting stories of people affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Let me know what you think...

**Come to think of it, this picture is probably part of the reason I had my StoryCorps binge today!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sleeping with Bread Monday: Circling the Drain

I'm having my people fiddle with my Sleeping with Bread button. There are still a couple of tweaks but I decided to go ahead and use the new one today. It ties in well with the Christmas season. If you Sleep with Bread, you can use this button if you wish, but the final revision should hopefully be up next week if you want to wait until then.

In the last week, when did I feel most alive?

Last week, before Paul left on a business trip, I was feeling pretty good about life in general. I'd had a nice Thanksgiving weekend, the house was in good shape, I'd manage to get dinner on the table and dishes done on a couple of occasions. All that combined to give me a sense of comfort in my home and a general feeling of well-being.

It was nice while it lasted.

In the last week, when did I feel the most drained of life?

Paul left on Tuesday and by Wednesday I was blogging about a lack of proper sleep and a bad morning with my daughter. As the week progressed, the insufficient sleep continued and the children were consistently challenging. Solo parenting while Paul was gone, I relapsed into some bad habits. The words to the Johnny Cash song I quoted just yesterday seemed so real to me:

Nothing worked out when I handled it all on my own
And each time I failed it made me feel twice as alone

This drained feeling continues as I speak. I'm tired and there is clutter and trash all around me. My CPAP equipment needs cleaning. Marley needs her bedtime routine. Last night she cried out in the midst of some of extreme sibling drama, "I want my daddy!" I understand that feeling. Yet, do I cry out to my heavenly Father? Not usually. I just beat myself up, shove the junk--both actual and metaphorical--aside and try to drown my sorrows in a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha (decaf, non-fat, no whip, extra hot in case you were wondering) and the television.

However, I can't ever leave without trying to put a little perspective on the downer part of this exercise. This is partially so you won't think I'm a big, complaining sissy. The rest of it though is for me--to give myself some much needed life context. So, yes I am weary and all sorts of failure as a domestic goddess. My children once again saw the Mommy monster (although let's be fair, there were quite a few visits from the were-children) and felt her horrible wrath.


Let me say again, BUT, BUT, BUT. . .

We got to spend Friday evening with friends.

My husband sent me a picture message from his phone of New York City at night along with a note telling me he loved me and wished I were with him.

He bought me some earrings, I hear, from a nice specialty shop while he was in New Jersey.

I got to spend a good part of Thursday day and evening with a good friend.

My walking and life discussion partner and I got back in the swing of things and so my body is better off and my mind engaged in great discourse. (Okay, it isn't all high-minded talk on the nature of life, the universe and everything.)

So, in spite of the crud, it was still a good week. Can't really complain about that, can I?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hope: An Advent Meditation

Updated below to include picture of me giving the Advent meditation. This picture was taken by my friend's three year old son so I just HAD to include it! ;)

Inspired by BubandPie's and The Bosphorus's** recent posts on Advent, I thought I would share the Advent meditation I was asked to do in church today:

Today we begin the celebration of Advent. Advent, which means arrival, is the time as Christians when we prepare inwardly and corporately for Christmas: the day we recognize the birth of the Messiah. For each of the four Sundays of Advent we dwell on a different theme--hope, peace, joy and love. Our hope this month is that our services will be a place to set aside the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, take some deep breaths and turn our thoughts and minds towards Christ.

The first week of Advent, we focus on hope. Simply put hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Some hope comes easily. My daughter’s hope for the presents on her Christmas list, my son’s hope for the new Nintendo Wii system or the hope of young love. But some hope comes with more difficulty. It comes with experiencing failure and disappointment. It comes with the growing realization that the world doesn’t always give us what is wanted or that events don't always turn out for the best and that we make choices that harm ourselves and others. This hard-earned hope believes in the promise of redemption.

I recently became acquainted with this song by Johnny Cash.

I Came to Believe

I couldn't manage the problems I laid on myself
And it just made it worse when I laid them on somebody else
So I finally surrendered it all brought down in despair
I cried out for help and I felt a warm comforter there

And I came to believe in a power much higher than I
I came to believe that I needed help to get by
In childlike faith I gave in and gave him a try
And I came to believe in a power much higher than I

Nothing worked out when I handled it all on my own
And each time I failed it made me feel twice as alone
Then I cried, "Lord there must be a sure and easier way
For it just cannot be that a man should lose hope every day.

And I came to believe in a power much higher than I
I came to believe that I needed help to get by
In childlike faith I gave in and gave him a try
And I came to believe in a power much higher than I
With Christ, I have hope every day. Hope not only that he has saved me but that he will guide me through my life, take the things that have happened to me and the problems I’ve created for myself and redeem them. I also have hope that he will help me make a difference in the life of others. This is a hope which I think is difficult to grasp and to communicate to others in this world which seems threatened on every side by war, threats of war, disease and numerous other evils. I read somewhere that “to light an Advent candle is to say, in the face of all that suggests the contrary, that God is still alive, still Lord of this world, and, because of that, ‘All will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of being will be well.’”

Let’s remember that hope today as we light the first Advent candle of the season.

Photo courtesy of Samuel C.

** The Bosphorus is a contributor over at AtomicTumor. Many people have been following along as AT, now the primary contributor, detailed the illness and of his wife, GAC (BJ).

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Too Tired, Too Hungry, Too Much Christmas Anticipation

One of the reasons above is probably why the following conversation took place tonight with my six-year old daughter after picking her up from a early evening play date with a friend:

In response to the news that there was a surprise waiting for her and Colin in the living room that is for Christmas but is too big to put under the tree.

6-Year Old: Is mine pink and Colin's blue?

Tired Mom: No, they're both green.

6YO: But I don't like green!

TM: You'll like this, I promise.

6YO: But I don't like green!

TM: Do you want me to give it to someone else?

6YO: No! But I don't like green!

TM: You'll like this!

6YO: I want a TV for Christmas! Colin got one once. I never got anything like that for Christmas. All I got is a Violet doll and her hair is all messy. I want a TV!

TM: Marley, you got a bike once. That is a big present.

6YO: YOU bought me that after Christmas.

TM: Well, right after Christmas because someone sent money for me to buy it for you.

6YO: I never get a TV for Christmas! Colin does! I don't ever get to see M or the Z's except on Sunday! (Why the whiplash change in subject, I don't know. It should be noted that we are on our way home from M's house and spent the evening last night at the Z's.)

TM: Do you want some clues to what your present is?

6YO: Yeah.

TM: It's soft and squishy.

6YO: A pillow?

TM: No.

6YO: A blanket?

TM: No.

6YO: I need another clue.

TM: It has a zipper.

6YO: A blanket and a pillow?

TM: No.

6YO: I need another clue.

TM: You can use it while you are watching TV.

6YO: Another pillow?

TM: No.


TM: Do you want another clue?

6YO: Yes.

TM: It's a piece of furniture.

6YO: Is it a green, squishy, soft table?

TM: No.

6YO: I don't know what it is.

TM: Well, we're almost home. You'll see then.

6YO: I don't ever want to go to school again! I hate school! Ashley grabbed my arm and kept saying, "Stop hitting yourself Marley. Stop hitting yourself." I hate when people do that to me! Colin does that to me! I hate Colin! I wish he weren't in this family! I want him to be in the Z family so it will be three boys and three girls! (Note another random and rapid-fire change in subject.)


We drive by high school football game where her brother is.

TM: Can you see everyone at the game?

6YO: Yeah. Did we used to go there when I was little?

TM: Yes. We went there to watch J & J play football.

6YO: Can we go to another game sometime Mommy? A football game for Colin's high school? Will you go, too Mommy? I haven't got to go to a game since I was little.

I am answering yes to all these questions.

6YO: Do we still have our Frosty the Snowman movie?

TM: I don't know. Probably. We'll have to look for it.

6YO: But do we still have it?

TM: I don't know. Probably. We'll have to look for it.

6YO: Did it get thrown away?

TM: I don't know. We'll look for it when we get home. Do you remember if it is a tape or a DVD?

6YO: I think it is a tape.

TM: Okay. If we can find it, you can watch it in the bonus room.


I hate DirecTV! I wish we didn't have DirecTV! I want our old TV back!

Presumably, DirecTV and Frosty the Snowman are somehow connected.

TM: Marley, if we didn't have DirecTV, you wouldn't be able to watch Nick Jr.


TM: No. DirecTV allows us to have Nick Jr.

6YO: No! It doesn't!

We get home. She races to the front door.

TM: There is one big one and one smaller one.

6YO: Which one is for me.?

TM: The smaller one.

Opens the door. Sees two big green bean bag chairs. I point out which is hers. She jumps on it.

6YO: Why do I have the small one? Why can't I have the big one?

TM: Because Colin is way bigger than you.


6YO: Can I watch TV?

TM: Yes!

A temporary peace reigns as she enjoys the GREEN bean bag chair,
holding her favorite guinea pig while watching Nick Jr. on DIRECTV.