Sunday, December 30, 2007

Resolutions and Darn Good (if I do say so myself!) Intentions

Yesterday my sister-in-law asked my if I had any New Year's Resolutions. I've gotta say, my main resolution has always been NOT TO HAVE ANY RESOLUTIONS. They always seem to be the same annual guilt-inducing albatrosses around our collectively gluttonous necks, as far as I am concerned. But she asked me this just as I had narrowed my wearable pants to the ample-waisted (in a matter of a month! SHEESH!) and had mused on the fact that I could most likely Drink Less In 2008. So I had, in fact, given this threshhold some thought.

My BFF from 5th grade once had a cool therapist who suggested she come up with 12 "Intentions." The idea is that they're implemented one month at a time, thereby (hopefully) becoming habit, one by one (help me, friend, by commenting on this post if I am inaccurately representing this approach; I also remember that there's something about burning them, something about moons, water?). But I was drawn to that idea back in 2005, as well as to the noun "intention." Way different, methinks, from "resolution": it allows for human frailty, forgetfulness, and our tendency (oops, using the same root!) to abandon our ideals from time to time.

I searched my emails for the Intentions I wrote and quite nakedly shared with my friend. They are still so appropos, and I even inspire myself anew:

1. I will honor my body (feed it nicely, not pick at it, etc.)
2. I will greet the world with a friendly face (including my husband, even when I am grumpy). Especially coworkers. Especially ones that are currently bugging me.
3. I will do Now versus Later.
4. I will honor privacy, confidentiality, by not forwarding emails or gossiping (TOO much, anyway).
5. I will not judge others.
6. I will take deep breaths and avoid stress.
7. I will make the best use of my time, at home and at work.
8. I will buy things that are useful and meaningful.
9. I will read deliberately and for pleasure.
10. I will write.
11. I will stay in touch with loved ones far away.
12. I will share my time with extended family members.

These are GOOD INTENTIONS. In need of some dusting off and Putting Into Action. I have high hopes for 2008.

But my favorite find of this Search For My Intentions is an addendum I sent to my friend later:

"Forget all my intentions: spending time with (my daughter) today says that there is only one intention: days of joy."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sisterly Love

Says my four-year-old daughter to her little sister last night: "You know when I love you the most? You know when I love you so much? When you're sleeping. That's when I really love you."

She didn't actually mean it the way it sounds.

Nevertheless, it cracked us up.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thoughtful Giving and Getting

No matter how much we resolve to downsize Christmas and spend less yet give more, we wind up overwhelmed by stuff. Yet when the dust settles and wrapping paper is recycled, I can appreciate that truly thoughtful giving has transpired. In the madness of going around the room opening and exclaiming, sometimes we don't properly express how touched we are.

The siblings in my family, along with our spouses, have been participating in a gift exchange for several years now. What I love about our gift exchange is that each one of us focuses on one gift for that one person we have and spend as many as several months planning: asking for possible leads, considering options, etc. This year in particular, I felt that great thought and love went into our gifts. I'm listing some, as well as other memorable presents given and received by friends and family members:

1. My parents donated three laptops for use by children in developing countries in our name. Since my father has been generous with his computer hand-me-downs to his children over the years (I think I had one of the first "portable" computers with me at college), this gift is particularly appropriate and meaningful.
2. My brother and sister-in-law-to-be gave my husband and other brother (whose names they drew) a day trip to a nearby ski mountain. On the card: "Please note: no wives, kids, animals, or tears."
3. Most of our wedding-registry wine glasses are broken; my sister replaced them with mix-and-match etched glasses found at a vintage store.
4. My brother-in-law-to-be, who is Belgian, brought the family a copy of his favorite children's book starring Tin-Tin, and my sister gave my brother's fiancee a piece of Belgian lace for use in their wedding next year.
5. My sister-in-law is a mother of three and surrogate mother to many of the neighborhood's children. She has a minivan in which she ferries her own and others' kids. My sister claimed her car for the day, and had it detailed and reorganized the contents. The day after Christmas, my sister and her fiance took the nephews and niece and gave her a much-deserved day and night off!
6. My aunt gave us gift certificates to a handcrafted wooden-toy store in Vermont.
7. My husband and I gave my brother, a chef, all the materials to build his own herb garden.
8. My resourceful sister-in-law-to-be used plastic containers to make a sticker box full of stickers for my niece and a "jewelry" box for my daughter--overflowing with costume jewelry and hair accessories.
9. My sister and sister-in-law refurbished and repainted doll beds for my daughter and niece.
10. We bought some snowbushes to plant at my dear friend's (and my daughters' godmother's) house--a family project this weekend!

Benazir Bhutto

I am so saddened by the news of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto today, shortly followed by the death of at least twenty others when her murderer deployed a suicide bomb. I have always admired her strength, resolve, determination and guts. She knew going back to Pakistan would likely cause her death.

I heard the terrible, discouraging news on NPR right before I pulled into the gas station. On the pump kiosk was a TV screen with a newsfeed. Headlines in the U.S. this morning: disappointing Christmas retail sales. The health of our nation judged by the number of widgets we buy.


Monday, December 24, 2007

A Fairy Merry Christmas

"Your sister is at Toys R Us on Christmas Eve Eve?"

Alas, yes, yes, she was. Because her daughter did the old SantaSwitcheroo. In other words, Fake Anastasia Video, Go Fairies...and wait till the last week before Christmas to tell FOUR SANTAS that she wants Something Different from What Her Parents Already Bought.

My problem is not that I am concerned about my daughter having her True Desire/Wishes Come True/Heart's Content. My problem is that I am invested in her Believing In and Trusting Santa. This is probably both Hereditary and a psychological case of Projection. I was a Santa Skeptic to the extent that my parents made me watch A Miracle on 34th Street, while they loomed in the background, arguing, "So...what about the letters to Santa, huh? They HAVE TO BE DELIVERED. THAT'S THE LAW! Are you convinced, OR WHAT?" I have no idea what the next round of brainwashing might have entailed--maybe waterboarding?--because my rational mind bought the courtroom argument wholesale. But honestly, my parents Needed Me To Believe in Santa. Badly...because I am the oldest of five siblings, and my youngest sister is thirteen years younger than I. In other words, when I left for college, she was still falling asleep listening for sleigh bells.

But back to my daughter, who doesn't carry the weight of four siblings' faith in Santa on her shoulders. Nevertheless, I can't help but want it all to work for her (as well as her little sister). So if during the last week she happened to encounter Santa 1) at her school, 2) at Story Hour, 3) at her father's workplace party, 4) on the Street in front of a Store when we were Least Expecting It, For Crying OUT LOUD, and 5) at my mother's house on Christmas Eve, and 80% of those times she claimed to want FAIRIES, darn it! There are Going To Be Fairies! So she doesn't claim on Christmas Morn that Santa is a Man Who Does Not Listen.

This is why on Sunday night at 6:15 I headed out to Toys R Us, calling my sister on the way, because I knew she would give me some sympathy. And her husband, safely nestled on the couch, felt my pain, too (hence the opening quote). But I will tell you that there are signs at Toys R Us clearly delineating the way to Disney Fairies. And these signs made it possible for me to pluck the gratuitous fairies from the shelf, clutch them to my chest, and make my way to the checkout stand in less than 15 minutes, where of course we had a Price Check. But nothing could dampen my spirits. I even managed to grab some groceries from the store next door and called my sister from the car less than one hour after departure, bragging about my Holiday/Parental/Shopping Genius. I was home before my daughters' bedtime.

And now we have a Play Kitchen (assembled, miraculously, thankfully! offisite by our daughter's Godmother Claus) carefully staged with accessories for Christmas Morning, and my daughters' table and chairs, set up for a Fairy Tea Party.

And I think that's pretty magical.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Finally Feeling Holiday Cheer-ful

Today is the first day of holiday break, and I feel like a new person. Our school calendar is a little wacky this year; we had four full weeks of classes between Thanksgiving and the December break, instead of the usual three. It has felt like our break was a Long Time Coming, and because our last day of class this year was the 21st, it also feels like WHAM! Christmas is upon us! And now that I am finally ready to get ready for the holidays, my inbox is full of "last day to order for shipping by Christmas..." And that was yesterday. Oops. But I braved the mall this morning, buying the very few but essential things that remained on our list and came home feeling like Santa can come now, and I won't send him back up the chimney, accusing him of rushing me.

A few things lifted my spirits yesterday. Some members of our senior class set up a huge live (lopsided) tree in the middle of the quad, decorated in blue and gold ornaments and garlands and topped with a gold star inscribed "Seniors 2008." A sign in front proclaimed it the school's "Holiday Tree" was a perfect gesture of goodwill (and political correctness) on our last day of school in 2007. (Until sometime in the afternoon it rather unceremoniously toppled over).

We had a performing arts assembly showcasing our student dancers, musicians, singers, actors, and filmmakers. My career choice is always confirmed at these moments when I am witness to what unique, creative, and original individuals teenagers are. I searched YouTube for the film about the dangers of mixing rock and rap music some of our talented students made...but instead I found this creative endeavor by other students (they had to walk backwards throughout to pull this off!).

And then my daughter danced to "My Favorite Things" in her class's recital. Her ballet slipper fell off in the middle of the "performance," and she crouched down to pull it on, her face all scrunched in frustration and mouthing, "MOM!!!" Shoe back on, the show went on.

And my sister and her fiance came over with sushi, along with my daughters' godmother, and we ate and talked (while my husband fell asleep on the couch).

These are a few of my favorite things...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Do As I Ask, Not As I Actually Can, Will, or Do...(if you want)

So, it's my 15th college reunion year. I'm getting old, darn it! The problem with this old-ness is that it is not more than skin deep, really. Because take me back to college, or take me back to the neighborhood and apartment building where I lived and worked right after college, and I will tell you that I am still in my 20s. I still FEEL LIKE I am in my 20s when I am hanging out in my old haunts, to the point of wondering why there is no one familiar grabbing my arm and dragging me to the latest Social Event. I may look like a Mom to the TwentySomethings of Today, but they just DO NOT KNOW WHO I AM.

Somehow despite my lackluster college performance, academic and otherwise, and my relatively modest financial earnings, I was picked out as someone who might be good at asking others to give back to our college during reunion years (perhaps they ask everyone?). Nonetheless, I have a little trouble in this world saying NO, and as Tori Amos sings, "I have enough guilt to start my own religion." And maybe my "okay, yeah, I'll do it..." is fueled by the fact that my financial giving alone will not look like a commitment to my college, to which I am grateful for being allowed in there in the first place, not to mention for the general ignoring of all the lapses in judgment I committed on my way to a very nice B.A. (the Dean of Students did once notice my name as well as hers on one Happy Hour poster promoting a keg party and some unrealized jello wrestling in my dorm room. We had a very informative chat and I learned the consequences of allowing overzealous upperclassmen to advertise parties they talked me into HOSTING). So I said yes in anticipation of the 10th reunion year, and despite a vague sense that I vowed not to do it again, here I am, committed to asking my one-time acquaintances as well as life-long friends to support our college this year.

I don't really have a problem with this in theory. I loved college, I want others to benefit from my college's resources, and I can't wait to see both my college and my college friends at my reunion this summer. But I'll admit that I rebelled against the part of the process that asked me to guess how much my classmates were able to give (I mean, shoot! Giving to your college isn't all about what you have to give. It is quite possibly also about where else you donate your dollars and about how you felt about college then and now--and a whole host of other value-laden, personal reasons why we do what we do and don't do what we don't).

So I will perform this service as a way to contact old friends and convince them to come reunite in June, as well as share why I continue to be grateful to my alma mater for what was really a huge, invaluable, luxurious gift of learning to learn and to live. But I won't beg, cajole, or twist arms.

Bow wow wow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sorry if I hung up the car on you.

I have an earpiece for my cellphone which I immediately insert when I get in the car (at some point recently I vowed not to have my phone in my hand while I drive...but driving time is an opportune time to make phone calls).

However, I don't usually drive long enough to have very meaningful conversations, and they often end abruptly when I pull up in front of my house and explain that I am now at home, So Goodbye.

And here's where it gets a little weird.

For some reason my feeble brain links the car ignition to the cell-phone conversation (maybe because I have no hands on the phone but have them, instead, on the steering wheel?), so I have been known to pull up in front of my house or work and 1) Hang Up The Phone mid-sentence instead of Turn Off The Car, or, 2) keep the car running for many minutes As If Gas Is Fueling My Phone while I finish the conversation, and then say goodbye and Turn Off The Car Instead Of Hanging Up The Phone or 3) hang up the car and turn off the phone simultaneously--and SEE! I am even confused as I type.

This is probably all evidence that I SHOULD NOT BE TALKING ON THE PHONE WHILE I DRIVE (or even while I am PARKED).

But my daughters will tell you that I Shouldn't Be Talking On The Phone While I PARENT, either.

(In our next episode, How I Hold My Hands Expectantly Under My Bathroom Faucet Because The One At Work Is AUTOMATIC).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Just a Few Reasons Why This Weekend Was Awesome

1. One of my best friends from college was visiting and it was so great to go running with an old marathon partner and have her re-meet and bond with my daughters.
2. The low points of last week feel far away in the past...ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
3. One of my artist friends had his holiday sale of his works and I experienced again the awe of his creative genius...and the fact that his art brings many of the people in my life together.
4. My friend and I had dinner at my brother's restaurant (he's the chef!) and we appreciated his creative genius and the admiration that comes for someone doing something that you just can't do in the same amazing way he does it.
5. I went to the all-school musical Oliver (students K-12) and it was incredible. From the young students to our own staff members performing, it was a validating experience and an inspiring show.
6. A bunch of women at a neighborhood party toasted my husband for being one of the best Mr. Moms they know. And he is!
7. Our staff party was this weekend, and our staff members are truly neat (and hilarious) people. I missed this year's white elephant gift exchange for the first time in MANY years, and I actually really missed it!
8. I love that my neighborhood social group includes Norwegians; relatives; a family who speaks French; Mormons, current and lapsed; scientists; lawyers; moms; carpet cleaners...all plain old good people. We have a lot of fun and food (and drink and chaos) together. The value of such periodic social events where children and adults alike feel at home? Priceless...
9. One of my close friends is my daughters' godmother and a gifted photographer and she willingly gives herself to us, including this morning for a multi-generational photoshoot. Her patience, and her love of my children, humbles me.
10. My grandmother is here visiting and she looks beautiful and healthy and I am so grateful to have her in my life, knowing my husband and children, and present right now to watch our crazy extended family just be.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm Adding to Last Night's Post

because it just so happens that Heather Armstrong's (uberblogger of latest entry is a very perfect and poignant addition to the spectrum of HOW WE DEAL WITH FEELING LIKE CRAP.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

All Plans To Be Positive and Grateful Aside,

Sometimes it's just hard to keep it together (as a Mom, as a Person, as a Wife, as a Person Who Works With Other People).

Honestly, folks.

The last couple of days have been a bummer. My right eye actually feels tender to the touch (from random bouts of tears) and How Many People Does It Take Telling You You Look "Weary" To Make You Know You Really Look Like Sh^&%^?

This too shall pass ("This" being the OVERWHELM--a periodic condition--of having to work some nights and negotiating schedules with spouse and trying to be a Non-Yelling Mom and trying NOT to be a MARTYR). But I'm a fan of wallowing in it (read: lots of Random Bouts of Tears) for a painful 24-hour period and then Getting It Together. I'm on the upswing.

But boy does it suck at the nadir.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lying Around

I was at my mother's house with my two daughters and we were wondering if the Diaper-Wearing Daughter needed a change. My mom asked me if she generally tells the truth when you ask her.

Here's the answer:

Me: Hey you, do you need a diaper change?
Diaper Wearer: NO.
Me: (Sniff) Hmm...
Potty-Trained Older Daughter: Mom, she's lying.
Me: Hey...c' you need a change or what?
Diaper Wearer: NO.
Me: (Sneaking a peek) Yes You Do!!!
Older Daughter: You're lying!
Diaper Wearer: ROAR.
Me: (Laughing)
Older Daughter: (More Indignant) You're LYING!
Diaper Wearer: ROAR!!!
Me: (Confused) Why is she growling?
Older Daughter: Hey! You're not a LION!!! YOU'RE LYING!!!

Reminds me of Girled Cheese. (Another Time).

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Shuffling Along

Dear iPod,

When I go running, and set my entire music library on Shuffle Play, please stop choosing the Cowboy Junkies for every other song. I have over 3,000 songs. Half of them aren't Cowboy Junkies. Makes me want to lie down on the side of the road in Corpse Pose.

Thank You.

Friday, December 7, 2007


Anyone who thinks four-year-olds don't know much are sadly, sorrily, painfully mistaken.

My daughter has a small problem with her kidneys that we tried to fix this summer with a little outpatient procedure. About a month ago we learned that it was only effective on one side. So we will have to repeat the procedure. The specialists were supposed to call us to schedule it, and for some reason tonight, on a Friday night, my husband and I were reminded that they haven't contacted us yet.

Me: (Dialing)
Dr. Office: This is the After-Hours Line; if this is a life-threatening emergency...blah blah...if you want to leave a message, call this number: %$#-*&^-!@#
Me: (Trying to memorize number versus write it down)
Me: (Dialing the number I remember)
Dr. Office: This is the Specialists' Line...if you want to leave a message, we'll answer it on the next business day...
Me: (WOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOO...celebrating that Unlike Usually, I got the number right) Hi...My name is X, my daughter's name is Y, and she had a "STING" procedure in July that only worked on one side...we need to...
Daughter: (Cocking her head as she eavedrops, and then SCREAMING) I DON'T WANT TO GO TO THE DOCTOR!!!!!!! NO, MOMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Me: (RUNNING into another room as she is intercepted by her father)...schedule that second STING procedure...please call us...
Daughter: (More wailing. Lots of WAILING)
Me: That will be a fun message for them to hear on Monday.

So we spent a Good Amount of our Friday Night talking our daughter down from (as well as around, because It Is Going To Happen) the STING procedure, the last one of which she can remember some seriously uncanny details.

I'm going to suggest some new acronyms for this little outpatient gift, like "ICE CREAM" or "SOOTHING BACKRUB."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Helmet Head

I had my hair cut and dyed last night. The haircut is inconsequential; the hair color is WOW, DARK! I too, am still recognizing myself. Fun to explain all day.

On the quad at lunch I greeted the usual group of senior boys by their Big Tree. They acknowledged my New Look with gestures and some vague utterances. I said, "Yeah, well, you guys have given me grey hairs, so I had to cover them up."

One philosophical student replied, "You know, Ms. M., it sort of kills the idea of covering up grey hair if you tell us you have it."


Monday, December 3, 2007

Two Things to Make Me Wonder

1. Brand-new Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made his first move as an elected official to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. This move makes the United States the only "Developed Nation" still boycotting the international climate agreement.

2. Malawi is seeing its way out of famine, not only feeding its people but those of other African nations with a bumper crop of corn. This a result of ignoring the "donor prescription" (wow, an amazing euphemism!) that calls for eliminating government fertilizer subsidies for farmers (a practice widely used in the West). A classic case of "do as I say, not as I do."

I imagine one Malawian who died of starvation as a result of our strings-attached aid. And my full stomach hurts.

My Brain on Not Sleeping

Last night I woke up at 2:03 AM with a tummyache and could not go back to sleep. The first thing I do, sleepless, is the math to calculate how many zzzzzzzzs I have left if I Go Back To Sleep Immediately and have to get up at 5:45 AM. It never feels like enough. And then I start getting stressed out about how I Need My Sleep. And then I AM NOT SLEEPING and the minutes and hours between O'Dark Thirty and Time To Wake Up become fewer and my brain races more and I start thinking about Inadequacies and Guilt and To Do Lists and AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

But after allowing my brain to do its normal Hamster Wheel rotations, I remembered that my sister had assigned me a Mental Task that would distract me from feeling like a hopeless, sleepless loser. In an email last week, she asked me to write some limericks (she never told me what for, but since she sent the request from her work account, I suspect they're for some Intra-Office Limerick Competition).

Pertinent background info: I have been tasked by various family members to write limericks on occasion. It's not a talent I generally remember I have or advertise, but relatives seem to come to me when they need a limerick written (versus when they seek legal advice, for example).

And this is how I happened to mentally "write" two limericks in the wee Monday hours and then fall unwittingly back to sleep. And remembered the poems well enough when I woke to triumphantly send them off to my sister.

I share these not because they're Fantastic Limericks. But because it would be Lame to tell a story about limericks and then not include them.

Each limerick had to include (a rather random) pair of words.

1. Coal/Cold

John's house was too cold I have learned
For some wood or a furnace he yearned
But Santa was wise,
Gave him coal--a surprise!
He was warm while that little lump burned

2. Larry/bill

In compliance old Larry could tell
if a bank was soon going to hell
He'd study each ill
And write a big bill
Not long after, that bank, it would sell.