"Which of my all important nothings should I tell you first?" ~ Jane Austen, in a letter to her sister

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Project Cleaning

It's supposed to be 70 this weekend and that means Spring. 

Birds chirping, tulips coming up, trees budding and grass growing. It also means we can send the kids outside. A LOT. Good stuff.

It also means allergies. Bad stuff.

Good & bad? Spring Cleaning.

I hate cleaning. Really. HATE. But it's time. And I LOVE when it's done.

I have two modes of cleaning:

1. Blitz cleaning. This is the cleaning you do really quickly to make it all look presentable when you are having company. My husband and I can do this for about an hour before company and everything looks spic & span - just don't look at the tops of the bookshelves, or under the sofa. 

When our boys catch us cleaning they say, "who's coming over?" I then point out to them that SOMETIMES we clean things for other purposes - like if something is so disgustingly filthy I can't stand the sight of it anymore. (This excludes the normal, day-to-day (that I also hate) like doing dishes, laundry, wiping counters, etc).

2. Project cleaning. PITA Spring Cleaning. This is when you take on a big project that requires cleaning out certain areas of the house in order to complete the project. I do this because it FORCES me to deep clean and it provides a new, fresh look to the room. Often this involves moving furniture, taking down decor, cleaning it and putting it back up, cleaning windows, window coverings, etc. 

(Side note: I used to move the living room furniture every few months whenever I got a wild hair and needed a change. Then we got a gigantic freaking sectional and that was that. The hubby is quite pleased about it as he is change-avoidant).

I just bought the cutest butterfly thingies I want to put up on the walls in my home office. But first I need to clean a corner of that room so I can get to the wall I want to put the butterflies on - which is buried behind a sofa covered with blankets, jackets, and even some Christmas wrap. (Yep, Christmas wrap I got AFTER I put Christmas away so it needs to find a home until next year because I'm not going up to the attic again).
See? Butterflies. They will look nice on my green office wall.
Or, another example, I hate dusting my bedroom, especially the areas I don't easily hit like the ceiling fans or the tops of the curtains or the blinds that have been mostly closed all winter. This bedroom re-do project I'm currently working on will now force me to clean every.stinkin'.corner. of that room. It will feel so fresh and new when it's done. I cannot wait. Plus, hello, PAINT. What better way to deep clean?

Now that Spring Cleaning (capitalized because it is a formal thing, no?) is starting to happen I will be undertaking many small projects. Sunlight is coming into our rooms from different angles now and I can totally see where I need to take some shades down and give them a thorough cleaning and I can see the cobwebs gathering in the dark, vaulted corners of the room. 

Incidentally, I wish I had a good method for cleaning those tall corners other than me, a rickety ladder & a broom. One of these days I AM going to fall on my ass and it's going to hurt. You all will have a good laugh when I tell you about it. 

So - as your weather warms up just turn the music on, open the windows, and get to work. Put the kids to work too. Bribe 'em if you have to.

Happy cleaning, peeps. It will be SO worth it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lessons in moderation

I'm a better mom on the weekends.

This is me during the week, every day, Monday-Friday:

Wake up, stumble to the shower, dress, make-up, help the kids dress and brush things, and then run out the door with seconds to spare. Take one kid to school while the hubby takes the other to a different school.

Go to work and work, work, work. Maybe get lunch. Maybe not. 

Leave work at 6 or 6:30 or 7. Sometimes go to appointments after work. Then rush home because the hubby has to be somewhere at 7ish a few days a week. 

Make dinner. Do dishes. Maybe do laundry. Maybe play a game of Plants vs. Zombies with the boys (well, I'm being honest. don't worry, homework is done already). 

Coax my little one to do the needful (drop a bomb, if you get my drift) and get a bath (because he's Autistic and in his mind one must follow the other or there will be tears). 

Then jammies, and teeth brushing and bed around 9 or 9:30. (Where they will lay for another hour or two before falling asleep. Why? Because they are MY kids).

The hubby and I may sit down and watch something together (thank goodness for Tivo) or we may both do work. I'll do my job-related work or pay bills or I try to blog. Then I fall into bed semi-comatose at midnight or 1 am.

Aaaannnnddddd repeat.

It's the weekends that I can look at my sons and really think, "What do I want them to learn from me this weekend?" They see me work all week long, and that's one lesson right there, but what can I impart to them on the weekends?

And I don't mean the difference between an adjective or pro-noun, or how to work through their multiplication chart. 

I mean what can I do to be a positive example to them? So they understand how to live when they are adults. Respect, charity, industriousness, etc. The stuff that only parents can teach, you know, by example

Somebody once said, "If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please."

Work ethic is important. It's huge. But I firmly believe in living a life of moderation. In raising my kids I want them to learn from me that work is good - not only does it provide for more practical needs, but it also feeds the mind and helps individuals to grow and become better, more well-rounded people.

Conversely, I want my boys to know that playing and down-time and just plain, ole FUN and laughter is good too. To be successful at work a person needs to learn the virtues of the R's - restart, refuel, reload, reboot & relax.

Sometimes, like this morning, the best lesson I can teach them is just to turn the music up and have a dance party. Right there in the living room. 

Laughter? Check. 

Exercise? Check.

Inhibitions? Gone.

My kids thinking I'm the coolest mom ever? CHECK. 
Collapsing on the sofa.
We'll get to the laundry . . . later. They will help, they are good at that. (Industriousness, respect? Check, check).

If all we did was have dance parties then they wouldn't be so special. 

Moderation, yo. It's important.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Family Flashback Friday

In conjunction with my sisters post last night, here's a family themed Flashback Friday:

From left to right, that's my brother, my mom & dad, me holding my nephew, my sister holding my niece and my brother-in-law. I think this was when I was in 8th grade. I loved those white pants! They had zipper pockets just above the pleated front. Eeek. Go 80's fashion.

This was back when our family was fairly normal. Or so I thought. My brother & sister were from my dad's first marriage and I was from my mom's first marriage - but then dad adopted me as a baby so he's the only dad I know. Because I was a baby when this family "merged" it was a long time before I realized that we actually were a combined family. 

I was only 7 when my sister got married so my brother-in-law has almost always been my brother-in-law, you know? (Except now they are divorced, after 27 years of marriage, and he's set up housekeeping (antiquated terminology - love it) with my cousin on my mom's side. That's another story for another day. At least he's still in the family.)

Happy Friday, my friends.

Revised: They tell me I have sisters

NOTE: I'm imperfect, fallible and have bad judgment sometimes. Occasionally when I'm really tired - like I was last night when I posted this blog - I'm all those things at once. So I revised it. It's my blog, my prerogative. 

I was raised pretty much as an only child. Though, technically, by marriage and divorces, and more marriages and divorces, I have 4 sisters. Plus 4 living brothers and 1 brother who died before his family merged with my family so I never knew him.

That's a lot of freakin' siblings.

But this post isn't about the brothers. It's about the sisters. 

There are 4, technically. In reality, there are none. 

I mean, none like other people have sisters - that you are close to, talk to, have family get-togethers with, etc. I have no sister I can pick up the phone and call. I have no sister I can have margaritas and a bitch-fest with when I'm so out of my head frustrated with my husband, or my kids, or my work, or our parents.

Let me explain - these are the sisters in order of their role in my life history:

Sis #1 - 14 years older than me, my adopted father's daughter from his first marriage. Our families combined when I was just a baby so I was raised with her until she moved out when I was 7 or 8 to get married. Last year, over a stupid misunderstanding, she chose to cut off ties with me. She's been going through something, the last few years and, it seems, alienating herself from many people. We were close once upon a time though; I'm sad about it. This chapter is unsettled and I don't know what comes next. Oh, the drama. 
Me &  #1, like a million years ago. Or 11ish. We had a family bond.

Sis #2 - 5 years older than me, my dad's 3rd (& current) wife's daughter. My dad hooked up with her mom when I was in my mid-teens. She lives in Australia and I haven't spent a lot of time with her, but I like her a lot! I would have loved to have had a sister like her when I was younger. My dad dotes on her too. I just wish she was closer. Luckily she FB'd me last night that all 4 of them are coming to visit in June! Yay! I hope we have an opportunity to spend some good time together.
This is #2, and her very Australian husband and kids.

Sis #3 - My ONLY blood-sibling - my half-sister from my biological father. He and my mom divorced when she was pregnant with me. I never met him and he died in '98. In one of those crazy twists of fate, my cousin started dating a guy who turned out to be sister #3's half-brother. They put two and two together and introduced us in '07. We really couldn't have been raised more differently. Night and day, I think. 
Me & #3. We look alike, don't we? Terrible pic, but it's the only one I have.

Sis #4 - My stepdad's daughter. I love my stepdad, but I don't know his daughter well. I don't see her much. 'Nuff said. (I don't have a pic).

So that's them. My sisters. I've been thinking about them and the concept of sisters lately.

Maybe it's because I really wish I had had a "normal" sister/sister relationship. You know, to borrow clothes with and fight with and talk about boys with and go to school with. I feel gypped.

Maybe I just wish I had sister #1 back - before she got all weird and nutso. 

OR . . . maybe I just need to recognize that "normal" is subjective. I can't go back in time and change things.

This is my family. We are an American family. (Name that movie?) I may not get my sister back, but I have others that I can cultivate new relationships with. It won't be the same. Maybe that's okay.

That's a lot of maybes.

Tell me I'm not alone in the family weirdness/combined family thing. I'm begging you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why isn't it Friday?

I have seriously lived a week in 2 days. Now, I consciously know that it isn't Friday yet, but I just feel it should be considering everything that's gone on the last few days. But then I thought, "At least it's Wednesday. Only 2 more days." Dude, it's Tuesday. TUESDAY. 3 more days. 3. 

See, the problem is my work. It's different this week and that throws me off. We have 2 clients visiting. One from Brasil (as he tells me to spell it) and the other from Argentina. The one from Argentina doesn't speak great English and, I think, understands even less. Fun. The one from Brasil speaks Portuguese, English fairly well (except for the occasional, "uh, uh, how you say _____"), and some Spanish. Today I spent 6 hours talking. Like non-stop. Tomorrow we have another half day, at least, with them. 

The thing is, it's just constantly being with them, entertaining, socializing, being positive and blah, blah, blah. My people bucket gets too full. We spent hours out to dinner last night. Tonight I had to go to a school function for Bubba. My people bucket has runneth-the-hell-over.

Buenos noches amigos. Hasta maƱana!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bedroom Project Update #1

First, a mea culpa to my mom (though she doesn't read the blog - I need to put it out there). 

Wait, before that even - there's an explanation: In the process of doing the bedroom project it was important for me to CLEAN OUT MY CLOSET. Apologies for shouting, but I'm trying to pound it into my own head. It's been needed for quite a while. In fact, I bought a red storage tote - last year - just for the purpose of keeping the clothes I couldn't part with when I cleaned the closet. The tote has worked well as a surface for me to pile clothes on - until today.

You see, I have a problem with clothes. I don't like to let them go. My weight fluctuates so much that I can justify it, usually. And I don't give two rips about what's stylish at any given point in time; I just try to wear what I like and whatever I think looks good on me. I have so many clothes that, most of the time, I don't wear what's hanging in my closet. Most of the clothes I wear on a daily basis are stored elsewhere: folded on top of my dresser, in a pile to be hung (but never actually gets hung up), or draped over the armchair in our bedroom. It's stupid, I know. I can own it.

Which brings us back to CLEANING OUT MY CLOSET. So that it can actually be useful, dammit. I started today - see:

There's the red tote of clothes to keep. Alma mater t-shirt and my great grandmother's sweater right on top. Behind the tote is a bag of clothes to donate.

Okay, back to the mea culpa. When I got to the very, very, very back of my closet I discovered some bagged hangers. When I pulled them out, I found these:
Prom/Formal dresses
In my very last post I accused my mom of having a faulty memory and doing something with the black & white dress (my favorite). I honestly thought she had given it away. Sorry mom!! I do have some others that are missing and I'm sure those were donated - but these were my favorites and I'm so happy I still have them. Sizes 5/6.

(Yeah, I'm totally jealous of my 16/17 year old self at the moment.  I think my right boob would still fit in one of those dresses. And maybe one thigh. (Ugh, that was almost 20 years and 2 kids ago so why does it bother me? It's ridiculous. Of COURSE I was smaller then. Duh. Shaking it off. Moving on))

Back to to the bedroom project update. 

I went shopping last night at Home Goods and picked out two completely different bedding sets. One was a Ralph Lauren comforter set that was cream with roses and was somewhat shabby chic. The hubby approved, surprisingly. The other was a red tone-on-tone striped sateen duvet cover set. The hubby rejoiced. It was also $60 cheaper so the Ralph Lauren went back to the store today. I washed the new red bedding this morning and threw it on the bed with our favorite high-thread count cream sheets: 
Sham, look familiar?
But, with such a plain bedding choice I was left trying to figure out what colors to pair with it in the room. I also needed to pick a wall color and some decor. Luckily the lamps I have in the room already have red shades so we're all set there. 

I had a gift card for Target and decided to look for curtains there. I found a striped set that will work, and they helped me to set the color palette for the room. Then I hit a few thrift stores and found a fabulous shiny pleated bedskirt that matches the curtains. (I will not buy bedding at thrift stores (eww factor) - but I figure a bedskirt is okay. I washed it 2 seconds after I got home). I had already picked up the wall art/shadowboxes at Home Goods as well:
You can't tell, but the big greenish stripe is actually a different color than the small greenish stripe.
So, the color palette is red, a goldish taupe, green, & cream.We're going to paint the walls cream. I'm considering an accent wall in a deeper color. We'll see.

All in all, it's going well. I've spent under $80 for everything. Next steps are: 1. finish cleaning out the room, 2. buy the paint & then actually paint (big job! it's a good-sized room), and 3. figure out some additional shelving/storage options for the room. My thrift store shopping today was unsuccessful in that department.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Flashback Friday & stuff

I'm on the right, and my long, long-time friend, Sham, is on the left. Winter Formal 1992. I cropped out the boys. They don't matter so much. 

We had FUNNNNNN that night. More fun than we should have legally had at that age. (Literally).

I loved that dress. L.O.V.E.D. I miss it. There's a dispute over what happened to it. I think I left it in my mom's care, while she's sure I had it. Hmmm. Whatev - letting it go. (See? No Negative Nelly here).

Can I just point out how prominently my collar bone is standing out? I mean, I thought I was fat then. For reals. (Which is my phrase of the day. For reals.)

In other news: I have a PROJECT. I have officially decided to strip my bedroom to bare bones, paint, and re-flippin'-do the whole room. Which has never officially been "done" because we always intended to "do" it and, guess what, it's been 5 years. I will be shopping for inspiration this weekend. I need to choose some bedding to get a color scheme going. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

All Hail Glee!

The Glee gay-shippers got their glee on last night when Kurt finally got his first romantic kiss with a boy. I heart Kurt & Blaine. 

(Even though I can't hear the name Blaine without thinking of that line from Pretty in Pink when Duckie says, "His name is Blaine? That's a major appliance not a name!" I digress. Often. Moving on.)

Okay, so why is this a big deal to me?

Because I think everyone should be able to fall in love with whoever they happen to fall in love with - and I don't think society can regulate that.

Because previously when there have been guy/guy kisses on the major networks it's been a BIG DEAL. Like, alert the media and make sure all those that might be offended are warned far in advance so they can avoid it and not be slapped in the face by a *gasp* guy/guy kiss. Oh, the horror.

Because when I watched Brokeback Mountain I saw a sad, sad  love story - not a controversial role for two straight actors.

Last night was like that for me. I had no idea Blaine & Kurt were going to go there on the show last night. And it was done so wonderfully, and in the course of the story and in the fullness of time - that is, a natural arc to that storyline. Not gratuitously. Not for ratings. Not to make a spectacle or prove a point. It was done with forethought, and romance, and it was natural. 

The fact that I'm not bombarded by it in the entertainment news today is significant. I think that bodes well for acceptance of same-sex relationships, and smooching, on tv and, hopefully, same-sex marriage in real life, everywhere, as well.

They held hands. They acted couple-y. When I saw Kurt's face after the kiss I may even have had a tear well up. Kurt & Blaine forever!(Or, you know, the rest of the season).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday? Not quite.

Today started out rainy. Rain, rain, rain. 

At 1:30ish I ran out - in the rain - to get a quick bite for lunch before a meeting. I noticed then that the rain was what the weather people like to call a "wintry mix". There was substance to the rain drops.

Back at my desk I scarfed down my lunch and got on my conference call. A little while later I looked out the window in my office and saw this:
This was taken through a window with my cell phone. Adjust expectations accordingly.
See that? That's snow. On the ground. Coming down. It's March, people. 

So then I had to talk on my call and I was distracted for a bit. When I turned around and looked out the window again there were big, white, fluffy flakes coming down! As soon as I hung up I went outside and took this pic:
You can see from the sidewalk that it's *mostly* too warm to stick.
Holy snow in March, Batman!

The best you that you can be

Every day when I drop my oldest at school I tell him, "Remember, be the best Poohbear you can be today, ok?"

To his credit he doesn't sigh or roll his eyes (maybe 8 (almost 9) is too young for that), but he says, "Okay Mom! Love you!" and bounds out of the car with nary another thought for me or the message I'm trying to impart.

As I drive away, I often think about all the good things I want for him (to be honest, I often think of Starbucks and how conveniently located it is to his school as well).

What does that mean - be the best you that you can be? Let's think about that for a minute.

Does it mean to be kind, understanding and attentive to others? Yes, obviously.

Does it mean to listen and learn and be present (in all senses of the word) to what happens during the course of the day? Yes, absolutely.

That's what I want for him - my clever, cute, quirky son.

If I turn that around and put the focus on myself - what does that mean for me? My expectations for myself extend far beyond the expectations I have for my son.

Am I being the best Stef - mom, wife, woman - that I can be? The answer is a resounding NO.

These are the steps I think I need to take to get there. Bear in mind this list may be revised. Often.
  1. Health. I need to work on my health. I don't know if I am brave enough to go into more detail than that, here - yet - but I need the strength, the confidence, the determination, support and encouragement to do it. Please. I'm starting already - baby steps.
  2. Outlook. Positivity. Glass half full-ness. Looking on the bright side. Finding the silver lining. Because, when it comes down to it, does bitching about something help? At all? The negativity weighs me down and I'm not having it anymore. Dunzo.
  3. Self-awareness and positive personal growth. Focusing on the me-ness. Really knowing who I am - what makes me tick, sets me off, calms me down, etc. What I excel at and what I suck at. Then embracing the me-ness and the stuff I love about me. This blog is going a long way towards that goal.
  4. Love. Give it all, to everyone, in abundant boundless bundles. To my family, to my friends, to strangers. I don't know anything, any situation, any problem - ANYTHING - that isn't improved with a little love and a big, open heart.
So that's it. For now. That's my challenge to myself.

Tomorrow, when you check your face in the mirror - at home, driving to work, or in a passing car window reflection - just pause for a second and ask yourself, "Am I being the best me that I can be?" I hope the answer is yes; if not, make your own list and get on with it, sister!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sickness update

Youngest boy - home sick. Cough, snot - check. Not lethargic though but kept him home to be on the safe side. 

Oldest boy - not sick. Yet. What's the incubation time for Strep? The hubby reports that he has a snotty attitude though, if that counts. He's home on his 3 week track break so he's happy as a clam. Except for the chores his dad is making him do - hence the 'tude. What's the darn incubation for Strep?

The hubby - good. He slept in since both boys are home and he appears to be quite chipper. He has one of those voices that you can instantly tell his mood as soon as he says hello. Or maybe *I* can - because I'm his wife and I know these things. When his voice is happy we're all happy.

Me - achy, warm skin and really feeling the need to lay down. But I'm at work. Laying down is frowned upon. (Writing in my blog at work is probably frowned upon too - but I'm not asking. Moving on.) 3rd of 3 meetings today in 45 minutes. Heating up my lunch shortly, then the meeting (which will be all sorts of fun - NOT), then going to the Chiropractor. I may or may not return to work. Let's hope not.

There's the sickness update. I knew you were waiting for it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sickness is invading. Craptastic.

My little one has been snotty all weekend and was running a low temp Saturday night before bed. He refuses most medicines, no matter what form, so it's always fun and bath-requiring tp administer liquid meds. (I exaggerate a little - we've got it down to a science now with two of us tag-teaming him, but if it's just one of us then it's gonna get messy. And frustrating). 

First, though, the good of the weekend:

I had a great day on Saturday. I dropped my oldest off to stay the night with a cousin, and then picked up a girlfriend to go to an afternoon get-together at another friend's house. I had a yummy skinny-girl margarita (does that mean I'm skinny? No? Darn.) at the party and hung out with four other women. Fun. Then we did a little shopping and went to a pub for dinner, just my friend and I. Later when I got home I hung out with the little snuffily man that evening and then watched a movie (Inception) with the hubby when he got done with his work for the day. (He works freelance and it's definitely not an 8-5, M-F gig).

The bad:

We were supposed to go to a birthday party at my in-law's house on Sunday but little snuffily man was too snuffily and I was afraid of getting the other kiddos sick so I stayed home with him and sent the hubby without me. That's not so bad. But I was unmotivated to do laundry, clean the kitchen, or otherwise work on any meaningful project at my house. I just lounged on the sofa snuggling with the little guy and we watched a Disney movie together. Again - not so bad, but I feel guilty for not being more motivated. 

I also feel guilty for neglecting the blog these past few days. Apologies. 

(Side note: I don't know why I always feel such enormous amounts of guilt. It's built into my very nature and no matter what I do I can't get rid of it. Ugh. I'm not even Catholic!)

Now the worst: 

We just found out that the cousin our oldest stayed the night with on Saturday went to urgent care on Sunday evening and tested positive for strep. Fan-effing-tastic.

Now I have started to feel run down. My skin feels hot and tingly. Maybe it's the power of suggestion. Maybe it's hanging out with snuffily man all weekend.

On the bright side - I did do a load of dishes and two loads of laundry. I made lasagna for dinner and some chocolate chip cookies too. I also beat Plants vs. Zombies again. Oh, wait, that's counter-productive to the other items on the list, isn't it? Oh well. Everything in moderation, right? Balance work with fun and all that. 

I do have some blog thoughts percolating but none have really sunk in and grabbed hold yet. It's coming, I promise. 

Thank you for letting me spew, my dear friends. Apologies. Pray, chant, light a candle, whatever, that Strep doesn't invade my house. Please and thank you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I want to be alone

Sometimes. It's nice. And now I know I have a good reason for it.

I follow The Frisky on Facebook (warning: some of their posts can be R-rated) and today they posted about the power of being ALONE. I read the post today and I was like, yeah, right on!! This just feeds everything I've been saying for months - a room of one's own, time to think, time to focus and be introspective. This is all so important for our mental well-being - and now there's a study backing up that theory. (Not that it was my theory - just the natural progression of my personal evolution). 

In an effort to reduce all this clicking, here's the full text of that post:

When I was 13, I started locking myself in my lair and writing angsty poetry, which caused people (especially my parents) to assume that I was a lonely, depressed, misanthropic hermit. As it turns out, I was spending some very necessary and healthy time alone. A new study at Harvard University found that spending time alone is crucial for us to have fully-developed personalities. Sufficient quality time with numero uno has been linked to improved focus, memory, creativity, mood, and even better social skills when we finally emerge from our caves.
Why? Because other people take up a lot of space in our minds. Not only that, but they cloud our judgement. Being alone helps us engage in the process of high-level reflection and introspection. It helps us figure out what we really think about stuff. Double the need for solitude if you are highly creative, a prophet like Jesus, or a genius like Beethoven (or fancy yourself a writer). Anyone? Anyone?
Anyhow, I’m sold. Always have been. So what’s the problem? We have cultural stigma about solitude. A study done a few years back at the University of Massachusetts found that people actually feel good, more often than not, when they’re alone. But somehow, somewhere, solitude and loneliness became synonymous. Especially for teens who researchers found tend to sequester themselves when they feel crappy but emerge from isolation feeling slightly less crappy. Yeah, adolescence is tough. I guess that explains why my mom was always knocking on my door telling me to come out. If only I could have said to her, “I am forming my personality through meta-cognition” instead of shouting, “Go away!” and turning up Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am A Rock.”
The post was inspired by an article in the Boston Globe, here. Warning - it's long. Check out this quote from the article: 
Solitude has long been linked with creativity, spirituality, and intellectual might. The leaders of the world’s great religions — Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses — all had crucial revelations during periods of solitude. The poet James Russell Lowell identified solitude as “needful to the imagination;” in the 1988 book “Solitude: A Return to the Self,” the British psychiatrist Anthony Storr invoked Beethoven, Kafka, and Newton as examples of solitary genius.
And there's this little gem as well:
Teenagers, especially, whose personalities have not yet fully formed, have been shown to benefit from time spent apart from others, in part because it allows for a kind of introspection — and freedom from self-consciousness — that strengthens their sense of identity.
Hell yeah! I'm behind this 100%! I'm no expert, but I can only imagine that teenage minds are still forming the abilities to inductively and deductively reason. The more opportunity they get to exercise their minds naturally can only be a good thing, IMHO.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Anatomy of a snap-happy Sunday

Bless him, the hubby let me sleep in. Then, when he was so hungry he couldn't wait anymore, he crawled into bed with me and said he had already cooked the potatoes and could I please get my lazy arse out of bed and make him a scramble? Fine, fine! 

I got up and staggered my bones to the kitchen and began cooking. In the same pan as the cut up and sauteed potatoes, I added diced ham, aromatics (onion & garlic), and let it all combine on medium low heat. Then whisked 5 eggs, a diced scallion, and salt & pepper in a separate bowl. I added the egg mixture in and stirred a few times to scramble all together. Then turned the burner off, put some cheese on top and put the lid on to let the cheese melt. It was YUM. Plus I had enough leftover to make 6 breakfast burritos for us next week. Total score.

We sat down to eat breakfast and decided to flip on the Netflix and watch the 1st episode of Doctor Who (since it was restarted in 2005). It's been highly recommended from our friend, Britt. But I think the jury is still out with me and the hubs. We'll have to watch a few more before we decide. 

Then we started our day in earnest. I sent the kids to take out the recycling and play. Lo and behold they decided to do work:
Took out the recycling
Swept out the laundry room . . .
. . . and continued in the garage
The hubby continued working on my oldest's invention for his Invention Convention - due this week at school:
the Pull & Dress - more on this later
Bob was doing his thing:
Russian Tortoise. Bob.
So I lit some candles:
A gift for Valentine's Day from the hubby
and began snapping some pics of a few of my favorite things:
My fancy Jane Austen books - a gift many, many years ago
Willow Tree people - gifts from my family
My grandmother-in-law gave this egg cup to me from her collection. I love it dearly!
I'm thinking of making something now. Something a little sweet and possibly a little savory as well. Hmmm . . .

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Great Expectations

Okay, I'm going to attempt to put together a cohesive narrative from some of the thoughts that have been floating willy-nilly in my head since reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. I finished the book a few days ago and, as promised, I have started going back, re-reading, and highlighting those passages that particularly resonate with me.

That Elizabeth Gilbert chick knows what she's doing. Out of the gate the first concept she writes about is something that likely resonates with all married women - did I make the right decision? And not just about marriage, but about everything. Do my expectations of love & marriage and my current reality gel with what I thought they would be? Once upon a time each one of us made a decision that altered our life path. In order to make a decision of that momentousness we also generally produce a set of expectations - the future effects of that decision.

But first there's the decision. We are so overwhelmed with choices now that, as she writes, "many of us simply go limp from indecision." I have certainly felt that way. Too many options. When I'm asking my hubby what he wants for dinner, or what kind of something he wants and I say you can have this, or this, or this, or this, or this - he interrupts with, "Too many options. Narrow it down for me." Because confronted with so many options how can we possibly know which one of them will add to our lives - make us healthier, wealthier and wiser? 

Once we do make a decision do we then run the risk of becoming "compulsive comparers?" As Liz says (because she and I are so tight now I call her Liz) compulsive comparers are "always measuring [their] lives against some other person's life, secretly wondering if [they] should have taken [their] path instead."


I'm guilty of it, as you read here. My blogging inspiration, and the object of my "life envy," Joni, wrote that she was guilty of it as well here when she looks at the Pioneer Woman. If you are a woman who has never experienced life envy then I want to meet you because you'll be the first (that I know of).

I'm going to re-create the following passage word for word because I think it's huge:
All these choices and all this longing can create a weird kind of haunting in our lives - as though the ghosts of all our other, unchosen, possibilities linger forever in a shadow world around us, continuously asking, "Are you certain this is what you really wanted?"
Oh boy. That's it. How do we look at our lives today and be content?

I'm 35. I'm married to a man who isn't perfect but I love him anyway. I have a job that is far from perfect, and especially aggravating of late, but it's my means for supporting my family. I have two children who are also imperfect - but they are MINE, and a part of me, and that's the important part. I stand here today with this imperfect life and I could so easily wallow in despair for other choices I could have made - but there are no guarantees in life, you know? I could own a house on the hill, wear expensive jewelry, drive a sports car, etc, and still be absolutely miserable. You get out of life what you put into it. 

Let me say that again: YOU GET OUT OF LIFE WHAT YOU PUT INTO IT.

If you are discontented and unhappy then you are likely going to get discontent and unhappiness in return. But if you take all your expectations and filter them through your present reality then you just might find you have exactly what you didn't know you wanted. 

I have a happy, loving home. I have a husband who strives to be the best he can be, who loves me, and who makes me laugh. I have two gorgeous and talented children who melt my heart every night when they choose to share my spot on the sofa with me rather than sit - anywhere - else (and we have a large sofa). 

It's all about perception - not perfection. All the other stuff - the bills, the grocery shopping, the late homework - that's just the minor aggravations that life gives us to keep us humble. 

Now, I'm going to close this missive so I can go enjoy a perfect evening with my imperfect family. 


Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Night Q&A

In the immortal words of Hammerstein:
Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.
Okay, now that that ear worm is firmly embedded in your brain, let's move on to the Q&A/getting to know you section of our blog today. (Ours, today, because I would like your participation. Yes, YOU).

I'm pretty sure only about 3 people are reading my blog but let's play a game and find out. I'll answer some questions (completely random and made up by yours truly) and you answer them back to me in a comment, okay?

Here we go:
Q. What's that one song that, no matter what, always stays in your top 5 favorites?

A. I love music. I do. I'm not one to pro-actively go hunt down new music and what I listen to is far from esoteric. To me, it's all about the emotion the music provokes; it could be because that's the song I danced to in 8th grade at the Y dances while getting my heart broken by my first crush (Love Bites by Def Leppard), or something newer that tugs at the heart strings (almost anything by Adele). So - since 7th grade I have LOVED Just Like Heaven by The Cure. Even when I went through my country music phase.

Confession: I even thought Robert Smith was hot once upon a time.

Newsflash: he's not.

Q. Think back to your life and identify a crossroads, a decision you made that altered the course of your life. If you had chosen the other path what would it have been?

A. The thing about crossroad-decisions is they are so impactful that it's hard to separate the decision from the effects that followed. Often one path isn't particularly better than the other - just different. For me, right around the time I got engaged to my husband I had been applying to a semester abroad program. I chose marriage, and then a job, and a family followed shortly after. If I went on the semester abroad program I likely would not have married my husband, I would not have my babies, and I would be in a very different place now. I have no idea if it would be better or not - I certainly would have had different experiences. But I also wouldn't have these cheese-monsters so how in the world can I argue with that??

Q. What do you typically do on a Friday night?

A. Friday nights are usually family nights at our house. Tonight, however, the hubby is out with friends, the kids are in bed (now - after a long Plants vs. Zombies game they needed my help with. They *asked* for help. I swear.), and these are my companions:

Some people may think this is sad. I, on the other hand, can't tell you how peaceful my house is right now or how nicely the wine is going down. Silence. Sip. Ahhh. 

(In case you were worried that I ate the whole box of cookies I must tell you that I put the cookies away just after I took this picture. Scout's honor. The wine I kept out just a teensy bit longer.)