Friday, July 19, 2013

People and Places Ramble Late at Night Because It Has Been a Swell Day

I visited Atascadero, California today for just an hour. I got to have coffee with a guy I knew as a student when I was on staff with InterVarsity. He's the kind of guy you want to be around. And the weather was cool and the town seemed charming and the coffee place (Bru) had an expansive back patio where we sat in the sunshine and I got to hear about this friend's life face to face. As much as I love Facebook, it doesn't compare to face to face. Not ever. 

Before we left, I got to give my friend a hug and he gave me one of his band's CDs - Lakes, The Agreement, which I listened to with pleasure as we drove through the trees to Avila Beach. 

And now more than twelve hours have passed and my shoulders are burned and I got to build sandcastles with my kids and watch one of them try out a Boogie Board and I sat and listened to the waves and watched the pelicans. And at the end of the day I thought for the millionth time about the place I live. 

I'm drawn to people more than places. I can say that honestly. But what would it be like to choose a place to live that I was drawn to as much as a person? Because I could have sat there for nine more hours with Matt. And I could drive ten more times to the beach to get to talk to Kim in the car. But eventually I'd wear them out with my questions. And neuroses. So what if I could find a place I loved and go there and live? Have coffee, meet more people, kayak, hike, rake leaves, watch birds, be. And it couldn't get tired of me because it's not a person. And I wouldn't get tired of it because, presumably, I would choose so well...

But what if with cities, like people, you can choose well but then get bored or fickle and want something new? And what if I'm just trying to fulfill some longing in me for the ideal place to live but it only exists in Heaven? Does this mean I have to stay in Vegas and yearn like crazy whenever I take a road trip to places like Boulder, Colorado or Atascadero, California? It probably does, for now. It's comforting to know that my fallback for not finding the perfect city is that there are so many cool people out there and they're everywhere. And those days when you get to sit with a cool person in a pretty cool coffee shop or on a nice beach... those days make me think of Heaven. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ready to Put Myself Out There

Deep breath.
I have launched my writing career.

I’m at Bon Chef Café which has only been on the block for eight months but is already known as “The Place for Henderson, Nevada Artists.” One painter stands before an easel bringing the colors of a Mojave desert sunset together on his canvas. A serious, sultry saxophonist stands on a makeshift stage and the music he plays is his own. There are poets and playwrights and actors and architects.

Most of this is a lie. I am at Bon Chef, it has been here for eight months, and while the food and the service is super high-quality, it isn't known as "The Place for Henderson, Nevada Artists."

In truth, seven tables are occupied, but no one has an easel or a brass instrument that I can see. There are four couples, one with a kid; a group of three women; and a man wearing a baseball cap and licking his fingers while eating soup out of a pot. I guess he could be drawing pictures in the soup, but I doubt it. And me, with my husband’s laptop and a few hours to write... to practice this skill in a more focused, deliberate way.

I have chosen a table with a view of the front door, to spot writing talent scouts if they arrive. I am ready for them. I am ready to “put myself out there.” Problem is… I don’t have a novel in my brain. Or my heart. Or my fingertips. I only have this blog, and a handful of friends who tell me I should write a book. That’s like me telling them they should build a house even though they’ve never done it and don’t have the lumber. And, furthermore, they all should be deathly afraid of having large boards fall on their heads and crush their brains. That’s what can happen in house-building, and, figuratively, in “putting yourself out there” to write, or to do anything that sounds fun but scares your pants off.

Being willing to take a risk and start something is the big thing for me. I am finally ready. I couldn’t do this until today. Until today I had a bunch of young children and I was busy diapering and nursing and navigating naptimes and playdates and it was all I could do to stay awake, much less devote any time to something artful or creative. I recently realized, though, my youngest child is now FIVE. He can practically write a novel himself. So it’s time to get out there and start writing.

Cue the foreboding music. If I say I’m ready, I need to act like I’m ready. And that means writing, not just wanting to write and talking about writing – doing it! So the fears and insecurities begin to roll. As I experience self-doubt, I think back to junior high and my friend Allison’s “I Love Boys” shoelaces. I noticed them when we were riding our ten-speeds one day. I was shocked! Who has the confidence to wear such a declaration on her shoes? (Well, Allison did.) But I never would have. Too much risk. What if none of them loved me back? Better to just keep that information secret and hope some boy figures it out and asks me to the Wednesday night dance in the cafeteria. (It should be stated, however relevant or not: Allison had a boyfriend WAY before I did.)

I have another boy-story, but this one set in college. Our university fellowship was at camp on Catalina Island and I had a crush on a guy named Luke. Unfortunately, Luke – along with about a dozen other guys in our group – had a crush on Vanessa. And one afternoon down by the pier, Vanessa had a rollicking game of tag going with about six of those guys. Tag! We were in our early 20s! Shouldn’t we have moved on to more mature games? Bridge, maybe? I stood there staring. I clearly remember the whole scene, except the part about where I was standing. I sure hope I wasn’t lurking under the pier or something, because that’s just sad. Anyway, I remember thinking that tag seemed ridiculous and if I had to play tag to get a guy to like me, it was never going to happen. I would be forever single, and living beneath a pier.

I don’t want to put myself out there. I don’t want to wear the “I Love Boys” shoelaces. I don’t want to play tag with a bunch of guys. Truthfully, I’m pretty nervous sitting in this café with the little bit of hummus I spilled on my black pants. It’s all too scary! The boys might not love back; the game of tag looks foolish; and any minute now some stranger is going to come up to me and say, “Hey, lady, who are you kidding?” (Or is it whom? See? I barely have a grasp on my grammar!) “You need to go home and vacuum up the dog fur and reorganize the linen closet because you ain’t gonna write the next Great American Novel.”

That’s the fear. But lately a hundred voices are actually saying good things - all telling me I need to at least try. No shoelaces, no tag, maybe a little hummus on my pants, but that’s okay. And just get writing. Because, while clearly I wasn’t put on this earth to flirt, I do find joy and fulfillment in writing: blog posts, letters, essays, poetry, character sketches, text messages. Maybe if I put all those together and do it a lot more often and quit hiding under the fricking pier – it will pay off.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New Running Shoes

I happened to have about an hour with no children today, so I decided to zoom to the running store and try to buy some new shoes. [Side bar: On the way there, I saw a 50+ year-old woman jogging along a busy street with the heat radiating off the asphalt. It was 4:09 p.m. and approximately 99 degrees outside in our fair city. You go, girl! --as for me, I'm turning up the a/c.]

Friendly running store guy was there to greet me. I told him I had strayed from Asics on my last purchase but I wanted to come back. He didn't have any in my giant size, but had two boxes full of Asics just arrived so he cut 'em open. Not one pair in my size. It was then I noticed the piles of sale shoes on a nearby table and running store guy helped me find some options.

Keep in mind how excited I was to be getting new shoes. It has been way too long. I've more than worn out the pair of shoes I bought originally for hiking. And buying shoes for running makes me feel like I'm for real with this sport. So I open the first box, and this was my immediate thought:

"They look like pee."

Who designs shoes in pee color? But then the cool side of my brain kicked in and I remembered that everybody seems to be wearing neon these days and these shoes were NEON, not PEE.

Right? That's what I want you to repeat in your mind right now: "Neon, not pee." Color is important. For instance, my last shoes were black. I have no business, with my ultra-white legs, wearing black running shoes, socks, shorts, capris, bathing suit, or tutu. I can't pull it off. I shouldn't pull it off. So I'm happy that these shoes are primarily white. And the neon will make me feel cool in the same sort of way that it made me feel cool in seventh grade, which is to say: not at all, even though I'm trying.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Thinking and Praying

I have been thinking often of the three women and child who escaped from captivity recently. 
I can't imagine being kidnapped, sexually, physically, and emotionally abused. But I have experienced birth and motherhood. Motherhood! Motherhood is fall-on-your-face challenging in good circumstances! How did this woman mother a baby, then a toddler, then a young child without the support of others outside their terrible situation? Somehow she did it and in my eyes that seems heroic. I admire these women and their perseverance. And I just feel very very sad about what they went through. So I keep begging God to restore and heal them. Dear Lord, please pour your peace and comfort and great mercy on these women. Please help them find you in the midst of their recovery. Please help them feel and receive the love of family and friends. 
Today, on Mother's Day, bless them with joy. As much as they can handle.
With all the pain I know of in the lives of people on the news and in my own neighborhood, help me trust you in new and bigger ways. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Me and the Creosote

If all of your friends are busy with their lives not climbing mountains... should you still go? At first, I thought no - in the event of an ankle sprain it would be too embarrassing to call for a helicopter and too harrowing to drag myself down the trail face in the dirt and over the rocks and cacti. But then! Then I remembered I have a dog! So this morning at a cool and early hour we set off for the Anthem trailhead to climb Black Mountain.
I am new to dog ownership, and to heading off into the wilderness without another human. I admit I had thoughts of "will this dog eat my face if I fall and die?" which is an unnecessary question. What I should have been asking is: "Am I strong enough to stay upright when I'm mid-step over some sharp rocks and Shyla darts full-muscle after a lizard?" The answer to that one is, "Yes." Though I must have muttered, "Damn dog" about 4,000 times up and back. She would often stop right in the center of the narrow trail. Perhaps she smelled a mountain lion. I have no way of knowing, since she can't talk. So generally I'd just shove her hind quarters and hope to not get attacked.

This trail is fairly easy until you make the ridge climbing to the top, and there is plenty of time to stop and smell the creosote, which I did.

It wasn't only MY friends who couldn't climb Black Mountain today, it was most of the city. The only humans I encountered were:

Nice Old Man Wearing White Dress Gloves - he set me straight early on when I stood wondering where the trail picked up after the pavement ended. He also told me he climbs halfway up every single day. And that I would have to do a lot of rock scrambling but when it got the hardest I should look up and I'd see the flag at the peak, almost there!

Shirtless Jogger Guy - he passed me a mile into the hike and went a ways further, then turned around and ran back down. The guy has GOT to have some killer ankles.

Stoic Woman With White Hat, Dog, and Incredible Tan - she arrived at the peak about ten minutes after I did, nodded toward me, and then disappeared down the South side (where there is no trail). I hoped I wasn't the last person ever to see her alive. I wasn't. She reappeared later, still unfriendly, when I was about three-fourths of the way down.

Nicer Woman With Lab/Chow Mix - as I completed the descent, she was beginning her hike and we stopped to talk about our dogs for a minute. So I guess the point is taken that I am not the only woman to go hiking alone with my dog.

My hiking book labels this hike "Difficult." Well, I wouldn't say it was easy, but it wasn't crazy difficult. The trail is easy to follow and climbs pretty gently. It was fun to hike along the ridge leading to the peak for the last twenty to thirty minutes. I sat at one point to give Shyla some water and snapped this photo of the sun coming right over the peak. It's kind of a novel photo, but it will serve to remind me how I couldn't look up at my goal very often during the ascent because it was just too dang bright.
From this point it was less than fifteen minutes to the top. When we got there, I was beaming! Seriously, I was smiling and had tears in my eyes! Not even sure why - maybe there's some euphoria that comes with reaching a peak and that's why people do it. I'm in. And I can attest that during my time up there, I had no thoughts of my usual worries and concerns. I just took in the view.
We all know how windy it gets in our desert. Look at that poor flag - I oughtta have a Boy Scout I know replace it. Behind the flagpole is the view to the southwest including a chunk of Anthem.
Looking North including the Strip and downtown Vegas. It says S x J on the rock. Maybe they meant S + J but that is clearly a multiplication sign.
Toward Frenchman's (Sunrise) Mountain. I would like to climb that one in the Fall.
My hiking book said this peak offered views "deep into Arizona." Well, there you go!
I tried not to disturb this mark as that can result in imprisonment.
My sweet hiker-dog and me. I was ultra-happy. Shyla's look is less decipherable.
I signed in to the nifty notebook at the peak. Kinda scrawled my name since I was still a little shaky from exertion. As I look at this, I see that Butchi Bruch was the last to summit on Friday. And my photo cuts off his note, but he cited this as his 11th time climbing Black Mountain. Butchi, branch out!

And here is the view of the way down. For some seasoned hikers, the descent takes far less time than the ascent. For ME, it took the same amount of time. I am, let's say, "delicate" when it comes to downhill. I got off-trail once but figured it out pretty quickly when the ridge became too far to my left and the steepness was scaring the willies outta me. All was right in the world when Stoic Woman With White Hat, Dog, and Incredible Tan reappeared (not dead) and we reached fairly level ground. Shyla mastered switchbacks, which perplexed her on the way up, only yanked my shoulder out of joint four or five times to chase lizards, and if there were any mountain lions, I never had any knowledge of them.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Shrub Spoke to Me

When you read the story of God speaking to Moses in the burning bush, do you get a little jealous? I do. Probably kinda narrow of me, but I'd like that kind of hard-to-ignore communication.

I was running down the street yesterday and it happened to me. A shrub spoke to me! Unfortunately, it was just the shrub, not God. Also unfortunately, the words were completely inaudible. But here's the very shrub, which I went back later to photograph.

Like I said, the words were inaudible. But the look of the thing made me laugh out loud mid-stride. I kid you not, in a quarter-second glance I recognized that this shrub was my life! Look at the tangled viney things weaving all willy-nilly. And delicate white flowers shooting out in all directions! And what the heck are the mauve-colored feathery things? I don't know! What IS this bush? I've never noticed it before. And yet, there was a whole row of them along a sidewalk I've run a hundred times.

What a strange bush. What a strange life. Green and living and reaching for the sun but all tangled within. Flowers everywhere. And fancy feathers that almost don't go. Sometimes not noticed and other times you stop and take a picture.

And since this is already so esoteric, I might as well show you the photo my little guy insisted I take:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

27 Down

One week in to 100-mile May. I'm a more settled person than a week ago when my exercise was sporadic. At the end of this first seven days, I've run or fast-walked 27 miles. That's a marathon! It feels good. If I could have one wish granted, it would be to bottle this drive for use when apathy and lethargy take over my brain, heart, and legs. I'm already worried about what will be the challenge in June. For now, I suppose, I'll bury that concern and go to sleep so I can rise early and get out there and RUN! 

Monday, May 6, 2013


Tonight three friends came over to talk about Ivanhoe. I hadn't finished it, which is a strike against me in the book group. But I made a cheese ball from scratch, which keeps me in good standing. My idea of a good night: a book group meeting, a cheese ball, and fodder for a blog post when my exhaustion and writer's block are severe.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

What I Wore Sunday

This WIWS will be fun because I did something recently I don't often do: shop! I picked up this J. Jill t-shirt for about $3.00 at Savers after my coupon discount. I'm happy about this as I have loved J. Jill for years. I used to look at their catalogs and admire every single item from cover to cover. But when I went to a store, in Rancho Cucamonga, I think, I didn't have great luck. That was years ago, though, and I'm pretty happy to own this soft shirt with a nice neckline in brand-new condition for so cheap!

My skirt is Coldwater Creek. It's a few years old and I love it. It has withstood about 900,000 washings and kept its shape. It's very "twirly" as my girls would say, but let me tell you the downside of twirly. To be twirly, there needs to be a lot of fabric. This particular fabric is Rayon with just a touch of Spandex. It's very lightweight, which is wonderful when you live in a hot desert climate, but not so great when you go to the restroom and accidentally tuck a small fold into your underwear. TWICE, people!--- TWICE I have been stopped in public by dear, respectable old women who whispered in my ear that my panties were showing. HORROR! This is only supposed to happen to elementary-aged girls, NOT 40+ moms!!! Some people would toss the misbehaving article of clothing into the trash, but you can't do that when you're on a budget AND it's a twirly article of clothing. Now I just check and double check in the mirror after I potty.

Sandals came from DSW years ago. I like them and hope they last me another summer. Fossil watch; tiny flower necklace from my childhood; hoop earrings older than my children, and a Target headband rounds off my outfit.

I'm happy to say that I pulled together this outfit PLUS this morning's Mass attendance even in my husband's absence. It's an accomplishment to make it out of my pajamas when he's gone. Praise God three out of four children dress themselves! Now, let's go see if anyone else in this linkup writes about accidentally showing their underwear in public...

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Missed her by THAT much!

As I was paying for my purchases at Target recently, the cashiers were all in a buzz and it turns out Marie Osmond had just been there. WHAT? My favorite childhood performer? Here? In my neighborhood Target? I wanted to ask what she was wearing, how she acted, and what she purchased, but it is this type of weird curiosity that keeps the paparazzi in business so I tried to squelch the reporter in me. Truth be told, I haven't remained as devoted as I once was, with my Donny & Marie records, lunch box, Donny and Marie dolls (I remember how each doll had a hole in its hand to hold the tiny microphone) and regularly scheduled time to watch their super-cool show. I thought Donny was so funny! So cute! And Marie so pretty and sparkly! But I am reasonably sure that if I saw her live and in person and walking out the doors of Target where I go every single week, I would have been a little starstruck.

Anyone else remember them as they were on TV all those years ago?
The time has gone by and I no longer have a record player. As a testimony to their longevity, though, Donny & Marie are still performing here in Vegas - and that explains why she might be at Target (to pick up some Maybelline eye shadow?). Maybe it's good I didn't see her myself. Maybe she needs to remain a performer in my eyes and not be reduced to a fellow Target-shopper. And maybe someone needs to take me to their show!

Friday, May 3, 2013

POW (Picture of the Week) DYLAGA (Don't You Love A Good Acronym?)

Our Picture of the Week, Ladies and Gentlemen, is this one:
Today was a beautiful day for a May Crowning of our Blessed Mother in her special month. This is the fifth one I've attended since becoming a part of our truly wonderful homeschool group. The photo credit goes to my sweet friend Graciela. And my darling daughter Bethanie placed the crown on the statue of Mary this year as she is one of our group's first communicants.

Other notable moments: 1) finding out Fr. McShane loves the book Bad Religion too! He's reading it for the second time and discussing it with a book group at a parish in Summerlin. Almost not too far for me to drive to get to take part in what I'm sure is a stimulating conversation. For those who don't know, Fr. McShane is a wonderful priest here in Las Vegas. I am especially attached to him because when we first met, he said, "Are you Irish? You have a very Irish face." Being adopted, this is the next best thing to hearing, "You look like so and so," which I have always wanted to hear. I am exactly half Irish according to the little information I have but no one has ever noticed and pointed out my ethnicity before Fr. McShane.

2) Sitting in the grass with other homeschool moms, kids playing happily, and talking almost uninterruptedly about this wild life we lead.

3) Having the self control to avoid the dessert table. We brought sack lunches and desserts to share so it was a smorgasbord of sweet treats and I didn't have even one!

I'm so thankful for my children who are on this adventure of Catholic homeschooling with me; for the occasional haven of other like-minded Christian adults; and for green grass and flowers and Mother Mary. Hail, Holy Queen enthroned above!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

100 Miles in May

I've talked to enough people and read enough articles in running magazines to know that most folks who newly take up running take a while to consider themselves "real runners."

One guy says the moment he felt like a real runner was when he stopped hating it and started enjoying it: rain fell in mile seven of a long run and he felt exhilaration instead of annoyance. A girl says it was when she spent 90 bucks on running shoes. Another when she safety-pinned a 5K race bib to her shirt. I think waking up at 4:45 to log miles and start the day strong sure qualifies. So does finding a running partner who makes the miles unnoticeable because she keeps you entertained with fun conversation. Sporting puke on my shoes after the Las Vegas half is a sure sign, as well.

But lately I've slacked off and it has been hard even to muster a jog when I take my dog for walks. I haven't felt like a runner. I know if I could find a race to register for, that would help - but Summer is coming up and that's a bad time to race around here. So May 1st loomed and I thought of a different kind of goal - a mileage goal. It had to be a good one, a kick-butt one to get me out of my rut. So I decided to try for 100 Miles in May. I didn't do the math to ascertain whether this was even sensible. Maybe if I had I would have tried to tone it down, but somehow I think hard things keep me from losing my umph. So 100 it is! And, since everything in life is more fun with company, I asked facebook friends to join me. Two days in and we have a good little group of 13 people: friends and friends of friends.

Day two of the month and I've already invested some money in the goal. $2.99 for an app touted by one of my favorite running buddies; and about $7.00 on music recommended by another friend when I asked for "fast and angry" selections.

If my identity as a runner has been in question, I'm picking it up again. I liked being out there tonight in the coolness of early May in the desert. I liked my new music, a new route, and all the myriad sights and sounds of my city - maybe especially the bad-ass woman capably walking two dobermans on Green Valley Parkway. I also saw a dad pushing a double stroller, a man in a white striped suit, and a large rat. Something tells me I'll have a long, cool list of sights beheld by the end of May. And after 100 miles, I might feel more like a real runner than ever.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Five Favorites

Today, May first, here are five of my current favorites:

1) Do-Overs
Sometimes I write without thinking. It may be hard to believe since if you know me you know I'm ALWAYS even over-thinking. But it does happen. And earlier today my favorite in this space was an actor. I don't know why I chose to list this guy as a favorite, but I did. And now, late in the night, I'm changing my mind about listing him. If I gotta put a guy, it'll be my hubby who puts up with my over-thinking; my 12 year-old son who still lets me hug him a lot; or my five year-old son who tells me almost every day how pretty I am. That's all.

2) EOS Lip Balm
On a hike, my fancy friend whipped out her spherical lip balm and we were all enamored by it. She said she got it at Whole Foods. I imagined a declaration like this: "I buy my lip balm at Whole Foods. No, I can't afford the food there, but every six months I go in and drop four bucks on spherical lip balm." Sadly, the EOS love caught on and now it is conveniently available even at Target, which makes it a little less exotic. But still, I love the shape because it doesn't get lost at the bottom of my purse; the scent because it's pretty; and the balm because it doesn't get all gloppy on my lips.
3) People who help with my kids even if I have to pay them
I need to discuss this for a second. There is a phenomenon wherein a woman who delivers a baby becomes somewhat emotionally attached to the doctor/nurse/midwife who helped with the delivery. Baby appears and mommy is overcome with relief and delight and channels some of these feelings toward the professional person who helped the labor be over and the baby (however slimy) to be born. This is natural. It is also unfortunate when the doctor is a big horse's patootie and really should be fired, but it is what it is. Anyway... I am not a laboring mother at the moment, but I am a somewhat solitary stay-at-home-mom and often feel like I'm doing this mothering/homemaking/homeschooling thing all by myself. It doesn't hurt as bad as labor, but it does cause me a pain or two. Therefore, when ANYONE else steps in, I become enormously grateful and somehow attached to that person. I noticed it the other day on the phone with the guy registering Joe in online school for next year. This guy may as well have been an angel complete with halo and sparkling aura because he was - at even a low level - involved! helping me! taking a part in my child's education! I also notice it when our piano teacher arrives at my house one morning a week. It's hard for me to let him do his job, I just want to sit there and smile sloppily at him. And when he has to call to cancel, I want to melt into a small puddle. I know, I know, I should address the obvious solution to my problem: send them all to public school where there are trained professionals just waiting to help me with my children's education. If that's what you were thinking, I applaud your problem-solving skills. But since there is a different issue at the heart of the problem, we need to talk more. Better yet, come on over and help Joe with his math while you're at it.

4) Heath Coffee Creamer
I love this stuff. A Heath bar, as you may know, is chocolate and English toffee. You may not know that the definition of heath is: a tract of open and uncultivated land. I am curious what the connection is between toffee and heath. I get that they're both English, but I don't have the desire to go research how they came together. What I'm willing to do is sip my coffee with a generous helping of this yummy creamer and simultaneously try to imagine myself strolling through a tract of open and uncultivated land in England.

5) Catalog Living
If I have a dream career apart from what I'm currently doing, it would be to write for a site like this: Truthfully, I would like to have come up with the whole thing. It is the funniest stuff since Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts. If you are not familiar with Jack Handey and his hilarious work - go see!

Thanks to Moxie Wife for today's post inspiration!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

All in a Day's Work

Warning: I may resort to a tiny bit of exaggeration in the following post.

Someone let a fly in our house yesterday. I started off today by squashing him. He wasn't sitting conveniently on the floor; I had to end his life on my kitchen counter. So I used a handy Clorox wipe  to disinfect the murder scene. [Note to homemakers: these Clorox wipes come in handy not only for de-germing after fly guts have been spilled, but also to remove suspicious-looking smudges from bathroom light switches; sanitizing of doorknobs, keyboards, faucet handles, telephones, and refrigerator handles if someone (or everyone) in the house has a runny nose; and quick touch-ups when you've recently cleaned the bathroom but some boy in the family neglects to aim and decorates behind the toilet seat.]

As I stepped outside to empty the trash, including the dead fly, I noticed a cricket carcass beneath my kitchen window. There were two alarming things about this cricket carcass. One, it was enormous. Like, it's thorax was the length of my index finger. Two, its cause of death appeared to be getting stepped on. I'm not a Crime Scene Investigator by trade, but I can tell when an insect has been squashed versus when it has been peacefully poisoned, for instance. This was a squashing. Who squashed a giant cricket right outside my kitchen window? It is as I've always suspected: there are OFTEN prowlers right outside my back windows at night. Thankfully, they aren't psychotic prowlers, they are investigative. They are conducting research on the evening life of stay-at-home moms and they need to do this secretively so that they don't sway the outcomes. For instance, in my natural state, I will be wearing my newsprint jammies, no bra, and my hair will be frizzy and out of control sporting a ponytail kink. I will have a look of deep consternation and a deep crease between my eyebrows. I will be discovered sneaking a string cheese from the frig and combing the pantry for leftover Easter candy. I might even itch my rear end. Conversely, if I knew I was being watched, I would likely still have on the newsprint jammies but I'd put on a good bra, wind my hair into a messy but strategically arranged bun, dab on some lipgloss, comb my eyebrows, and attempt to look breezy, content, and happy to wipe the countertops and arrange the bouquet of delicate wildflowers on the table. Anyhoo - now that I know I'm being watched, help me to remember to wear the bra! And someone tell Kevin to send me a bouquet of delicate wildflowers.

After gingerly coaxing an applesauce carton under the dead cricket, and disposing of it, I went inside again where my dog immediately yakked all over the dining room floor. Again. This is nearly a hobby of hers. As I cleaned it up with those Clorox wipes (yet again!) --- I was informed by my eight year-old that the barfing happened because the dog had eaten a large bird dropping off the patio. (Is anyone still reading this? So far I've mentioned about 2,200 very disgusting things in these two and a half paragraphs! - You must be the type who can't look away from a train wreck or else your life is remarkably like mine.) I was beckoned out onto the patio to examine the bird dropping and found it to be pretty standard as bird droppings go. How am I supposed to know if that caused the barf? Furthermore, why should I care? I have no suspicions that birds are sabotaging my dog intentionally, or secretly watching me - and if my neurosis gets that advanced, someone please report me.

The fly was dealt with. Cricket disposed of. Dog barf wiped up. At that moment, my five year-old called me to assist him in his bathroom duties. I know what those investigative prowlers are probably thinking: "He's FIVE YEARS OLD! Let him wipe his own hiney!" The problem is after a morning of fly guts, dead insects, dog barf, and bird droppings, I don't even notice that I'm wiping a hiney, no matter how old it is. It doesn't even register.
newsprint jammies, Clorox wipes, flyswatter

Saturday, April 20, 2013

7-Up (to Eight)

Bethanie chose 7-Up as her birthday beverage this year because she turned eight and reasoned that 7-Up means the same as seven plus one, seven "up" to eight. Get it? If so, welcome to the mind of a second grader. Here is her illustration on the cover of her to-go box from dinner with Grandpa and Grandma Love:
Birthday girl, Mama me, and Grandma Noela in the background. Grandma looks a little skeptical - maybe my rear end was in her personal space?'s not every day I make a four-layer cake. It's not every day my sweet daughter turns eight!
Godsister and big sister watching gift-opening.
And, finally, life with a pre-teen older brother means birthday photos of dog booty and little brother booty in the mix.
You're welcome. (Sometimes we writers will do anything to make our birthday blog post unique.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spin Class and Catholic Mass

My sweet friend texted me this morning to ask how I was doing. (When my husband goes out of town on business, I whine so pathetically that my best buddies text each morning to make sure I haven't perished from despair in the night.)

In a rare moment of selflessness I asked her how she was doing and her enthusiasm fairly oozed out of my iPhone. Here is the text of her text: "I have spin today and that is where all my doubts of the week get squashed!!! It's where I feel empowered for the week." Wow. That's what I wrote back, too: "Wow." I meant it. And I thought, "Good for her!" All of us need a place where the doubts of our week "get squashed."

Her wording made me think, though - doubt squashing and empowering us to live our daily lives---that's "God stuff." Certainly He accomplishes these things in a multitude of venues: at a spin class; on a 5-mile run; during a killer cup of coffee; while blogging; at the piano; engrossed in a good book; deep in conversation with a friend... the list goes on and on. But the wheels in my head were turning. I found myself comparing spin class with Mass because I instantly wondered if I would ever find myself texting a friend about church using triple exclamation marks.

Spin class - an hour out of the week, (maybe more), focused on the goal of physical and emotional health and keeping off extra pounds, being driven by an almost freakishly energetic instructor whose job it is to keep you pedaling and push you to achieve something difficult, intoxicated with the music that pushes out any thoughts you might have of quitting or slowing or giving up in any way, and then magic moments of exhilaration when your endorphin and dopamine levels have risen and the pain is past and you can do anything! Anything! Covered in sweat and accomplishment, you walk away on wobbly legs and smile as wide as the indoor track at the gym.
Catholic Mass - an hour on Sunday, (maybe more), focused on the goal of getting to heaven and keeping close to Jesus in the meantime, being led by a devoted priest whose job it is to illuminate God's Word and - more than anything - bring you the sacrament of the Eucharist, moved by the music and the prayers that push out any thoughts you might have of quitting or slowing or giving up in any way, and then magic moments of exhilaration when you've received Jesus and the pain of your difficult days isn't so overwhelming and God can do anything! Anything! Covered by the blood of His sacrifice and the humility that comes when you are reminded how greatly He loves us, you walk away on wobbly legs and smile as wide as the rows of chairs and kneelers.
On a "good" Sunday, I am engrossed in the Mass. Maybe I read the readings ahead of time. I shut off the TV on Saturday and gave a little more attention to prayer. My hairstyle turned out okay and my kids didn't annoy the heck out of me as we piled in the van to drive to church. I arrive in my seat and lift my eyes to the crucifix and thank Jesus for His sacrifice and for His tremendous love and for getting me there in one piece. These are the Sundays I want to text a friend about!

Other Sundays, I arrive pouting and angry and flustered. I want to prepare my heart for Jesus, but my husband made me angry at breakfast and my sweater makes me look fat and some lady just gave me a dirty look because my five year-old sneezed on her. Not an experience I want to gush about to a friend. I'd rather hide in the restroom until everyone goes away.

So there's the thing: you show up for church the same way you show up for an exercise class: sometimes great, sometimes cruddy. And you get on the bike or you sit in the pew. Either place, Jesus meets you in every mood and worry and sin and He loves to be close to you --- most of all in the glorious gift of the Eucharist, but certainly also at spin class. You might leave the gym after class in much the same way you leave the church building - energized, recharged, or -- on a bad day, hopefully rare, -- kinda disappointed in yourself. The major difference I can think of is that although you've got the emotional, athletic, elevated-hormone benefits when you leave the gym - all that's left to do is take a shower and go about your day, albeit in a better frame of mind than if you hadn't exercised. But when you leave the church after receiving the Eucharist - you've received the Lord of the universe -- the God who made you and loves you and will carry you through every trial. That's worth three exclamation marks!!!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 2

Participating in this link-up at Fine Linen and Purple is a good exercise for me. I need to access my fashionista side. Anyone who knows me well is now laughing hysterically, but I DO have a fashionista side! Sadly, it is buried by my budget side and my buy-the-kids-their-clothes side AND my I-still-have-to-lose-30-pounds side. So it's good to have to access it. Thanks, Fine Linen and Purple!

Because I was sick last week, this is my first official "What I Wore Sunday" post.

(Below: The author posing in her backyard in Nevada in mid-January, right before going to Mass. In the background, her faithful Yellow Lab, Shyla. Not pictured in the background: her Australian neighbor who is often sans clothing on a weekend morning.)

Our family has a "no jeans in church" rule, but I'm a rule breaker. That's such a lie. I'm a total rule follower. Except for sometimes. And this is one of those times. Because these are not jean-y jeans. They're nice. Non-faded, non-ripped. And, truth be told, I have limited options.

Jeans-Related Side-bar: last week on a friend's "What I Wore Sunday" blog she modeled her new red skinny jeans. In the six days since, I've seen two more women in real life wearing red skinny jeans. I have been having uncomfortable flash-backs to sixth grade when I had red skinny jeans. I say "uncomfortable" because I was Teri then like I'm Teri now and Teri now would have a super hard time pulling off red skinny jeans. Even if I was skinny! Red jeans must take a certain personality element that I am missing. I can do a red Eddie Bauer vest; black fingernail polish; avocado-green jaunty knit cap; but not red skinny jeans. I bet I'll keep thinking about them, though. It's good to have our fashion thinking challenged, so thanks, Kate!

Back to my jeans. They are Coldwater Creek. Coldwater Creek is a nice store where old women shop. That's what I think every time I walk in and see all the old women shopping. Yet I keep finding things there I like! Which leads me to believe I must be an old woman. But if old women wear nice jeans, then maybe it's not so bad being an old woman. I purchased these jeans with a gift certificate given to me by my mother-in-law. I think it's a fantasy of hers that I am an old woman and will soon die so that she can have a new and better daughter-in-law. Did I just write that out loud? Okay, gosh, I promise not to do this with every article of clothing.

My shirt is also from Coldwater Creek. I'm seeing a pattern here.

My boots are from Kohl's, purchased last year or the year before. They're alright. The best part about them is the box they came in. On the side is written, "Life Is Beautiful, Dress Accordingly."

Cozy, happy, cocoa-brown quilted jacket from Costco.

Necklace from Coldwater Creek and earrings (extra-large fake pearls probably not visible in this photo) are from a wedding I was in. Now that would be a fashion post - photos of all the bridesmaids' dresses I've worn. Stay tuned.

Have a beautiful Sunday!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1) I have survived "Flu 2013." It was a heckuva way to start the year, and I can think of about a trillion things I would have liked better in the way of kick-offs, (a formal ball; a trip to Italy; a 90-minute massage...) but there you have it. Other things I've done in the early days of this new year: dental visits for all four children; got the dog spayed; bought new underwear for half the members of my family, and started a lengthy Russian novel (I'm reading it, not writing it, in case there was any question).

2) I got to go to an 80s-themed party not too long ago. It was sheer joy just getting ready for the party! Check out my shopping list:
What a rush to tease my hair and lacquer it with Aqua Net! Here is a photo of the end result. If your first thought is: "Gee, Teri --- that doesn't look much different than the way you do it NOW!" --- keep it to yourself.
3) In an effort stay more informed about current events, we recently started buying a Sunday paper at 7-Eleven on the way home from church every week. I'm sorely disappointed. I don't know what I was expecting, but other than comics and editorials, it's no better than watching the "news" on TV. I will continue to look for a better source. In a related story, our diocese recently got our city hooked up with Immaculate Heart Radio on 970 AM. When we're in the car and I have been able to listen over the roar of my four passengers - I've heard good things!

4) Since Halloween, when I think a lot about candy, I've been wondering why Tootsie Rolls come in so many shapes and sizes. Visiting the Tootsie Roll website did nothing to provide a satisfactory explanation. Yes, they list the names of the sizes: Midgees, Mini-Midgees, 5-Cent, 10-Cent, 20-Cent, Giant Bar, Count Good Bag, and Snack Bar. But I was hoping they would explain what research went into the decision to offer such a variety. I know, this is where my curiosity deviates from yours. You couldn't care less, whereas I have lain awake nights.

5) Is that the proper use of "lain?" Will you explain past participles to me?

6) I have become a devoted fan of "Downton Abbey." We started watching about the time I came down with the flu, and have already breezed through the whole first season and most of the second. Only two episodes of the third season have aired so far and I can already feel a slight depression coming on when we're all caught up and I have to wait an entire week to see new developments.

7) Over the past couple weeks, it has been below freezing more days than not. We made the best of it. A neighbor hosed down his driveway and let it freeze. This provided two solid hours of sledding fun for all our kids right at the end of their Christmas break.
On the down side, those cold temperatures also caused some pipes to bust. While we examined the damage, we glanced over at our neighbor's matching pipe - it was expertly bundled in a cozy gray blankie. Oh, well, live and learn (and check out that icicle hanging off the end of the white pipe! You just don't see those around here every day!) I am newly aware that if we are ever called to relocate to a place like Michigan, or Siberia, we will need a lot of instruction to be able to survive.
For more Quick Takes, be sure to visit Jennifer over at Conversion Diary, along with many others!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Our Dog-Fearing Family Came to Own A Labrador

Once upon a time our family was afraid of dogs. Kevin was afraid of their stink. I was afraid of how messy they are. And our four children have always been exceedingly afraid of everything about dogs. These fears (mainly those of the children) have cost us friendships. It is difficult to explain to someone that your child is afraid of their dog if they see their dog as a family member who cannot be relegated to a kennel, back room, or back yard in the presence of a fearful child. I often wanted to grumble, "Listen, if it was your grandpa who was terrifying the bejeezus out of my kid right now, I'd ask you to remove him, too!"

Each of our kids has been afraid, but we've seen that as they get older, the fear starts to subside. It helps that we know some rational folks with well-trained dogs who have been VERY patient with us and our fears. It was after a visit with one such friend that my heart started to be overtaken with all the good things I've heard about kids having dogs and I gave dog ownership some actual, intellectual consideration. Also, the kids wanted some red-eared slider turtles and I couldn't see spending lots of cash on a small amphibian who may or may not pass Salmonella to us and certainly would never snuggle or fetch or go for walks or be trained to do tricks.

I did my research and my cousin alerted me to a great breed, the Hungarian Vizsla, which sounded like a dream partly due to the fact that it is known for "low dog odor" and I was still trying to deal with Kevin's biggest concern. Every Vizsla lead I got dead-ended. Every trip to a dog adoption or a shelter led me to believe that the only dogs available were Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas. And so, unexpectedly, we found our Yellow Lab at a pet store one crisp Sunday evening in November. We got a significant discount because she had been at the pet store too long. She was still adorably cute, but no longer was she a teeny puppy, and therefore less sellable. After hours of deliberating, kids begging, and to my surprise, a look of joy on my husband's face (though he might deny it) - we loaded up the van with a crate, a bag of dog food, a box of supplies, and a nervous, almost four month-old puppy who had lived all her early life in a cage.

On the drive home, we named her. Recently, we had listened to a series of three books on CD about a sweet beagle named Shiloh. All of us loved the story and so the feminine version, Shyla, became the all-around favorite for our new dog.

Shyla was nervous about everything. On the drive home from the pet store, we dropped her, Kevin, and Joe off at the park at dusk so the rest of us could go home to cook dinner and assemble the crate. The guys said she was terrified to cross streets and Kevin ended up carrying her a good portion of the distance home. This is her first photo with us just inside our front door after her arrival.
It took over a week to break her of her fear of thresholds of our house, garage, and car. She had no initial desire even to look around the house. On our morning walks, I realized quickly that everything was new to her: airplanes, cars whizzing past, other people, leaves blowing in the street. Thankfully, it didn't take too long for her fear to change to curiosity.

Shyla was comfortable in our house well before John was comfortable with a dog around. For a while, he regarded her as a land shark. He only felt safe here:

This made for a stressful few weeks. We had to put John in safe places or make sure Shyla was tethered to our back door or our banister. Otherwise, there was a lot of blood-curdling screaming going on and my heart alternated between breaking and flip-flopping numerous times a day. For those in a similar situation, who might be wondering how long it takes a five year-old to quit an irrational fear, it was one month. I knew when enough days went by with no vicious attacks, John would start to grasp that he was safe and could be friends with Shyla. Don't think I'm cruel to introduce such a fear right into the home - John begged to have this dog, and he showed signs of affection toward her right away - as long as she was asleep and securely tied to something.
On having a dog, I am shocked (not too strong a word) at how much I enjoy it. I really like her! Yes, there is dog hair everywhere, but it does vacuum up. The kids are all over her. They run to share affection, feed her, let her out to pee, help with baths, etc. It should be noted that no one else but me has ever cleaned up her barf, but I knew certain jobs would fall to me. We do share the poop clean-up chore.

She is sweet, there's no denying it.
And if I've convinced you to get a dog, you should do two things. 1) Crate train. And 2) Familiarize yourself with Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer. Here is Shyla in her crate, where she happily spends her nights and the times when we are out of the house.
Shyla is our beloved pet. I think this family photo from Christmas about sums up her place.  She's part of us, but not one of us. She won't face the camera, or smile, or even stop playing with her frisbee - but the whole photo is more fun now that she is part of it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

What I Wore Sunday - Not My Normal Sunday

Today, while the Church celebrated The Baptism of the Lord, I sat home recovering from a pernicious, week-long flu that affected all four kids and me.

It may seem odd to begin this "What I Wore Sunday" link-up with the writers at Fine Linen and Purple on a day when I look anything but "fine." But today is a victory of sorts, so why not highlight the outfit of choice for having survived an entire week of the flu and all that goes with it?
I'm wearing my TekGear Fit & Flare pants, purchased several years ago at Kohl's; an oversized green sweatshirt that I've owned so long and washed so many times the seams are separating; and on my feet, a pair of heavenly heavy-cushion Smartwool crew socks. If you have a favorite comfort food, these are the socks you should wear while eating it!

Flu symptoms like high fevers, sore bodies, yucky coughs, and runny noses require dose after dose of children's Tylenol and Ibuprofen, days in pajamas, cough drops, and boxes and boxes of tissues. The constant demands of a sick brood and a sick self lead to exhaustion and a heightened awareness of responsibility, guilt, and my own selfishness. Example: I know that my babies need comfort and nurturing - but my nose is running, too!-- my body is aching! If I have to be sick at the same time as all four of my children, it would be much easier to have the heart and selflessness of Mother Teresa. I'm guessing she rarely snapped at those she cared for at her Home for Sick & Dying: "I know your throat hurts! Mine does too! Gimme a break here!" When I reached the end of each day, my eyes burned with fever, but my conscience smoldered from being so darn grouchy!

Next week, I pray that I will be back in nice clothes and my hair will be styled and makeup applied. But today is what it is - another day home, resting and recuperating, and thankful that I must not have done too much damage or John wouldn't be willing to rest on my lap. In his fashionable Batman jammies.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy (Sad) News in the World of Books, Journals, and Technology

Four of the five gifts I gave Kevin for Christmas had to be exchanged. But that fifth gift was a success. It was a nine dollar "invisible book shelf" I picked up at Barnes & Noble. He installed it right beside his bed and we both admired it.

In fact, I admired it so much I went out the other day and got one for myself.
(Despite the fact that these iPhone photos make it look like Kevin sleeps in a beige room and I sleep in a lavender room - I assure you, it's just the poor photo and we haven't moved to separate bedrooms.)

Now my nightstand can be kept clear for things like Kleenex, dust, and the odd assortment of Legos and art projects and, this week, since we're all sick - the digital ear thermometer.

Take a look at that red book about fourth from the top on my shelf. That was an impulse buy off a Target clearance endcap the other day. It's a journal. I have a compulsion to buy journals of all shapes and sizes, every time I see one, and although I really have no use for them, part of the fun of the compulsion is inventing the need for the journal. I already keep a regular journal, along with a diary (that blue book at the top of the book stack) - so you can imagine how creative I have to be to come up with purposes for a steady influx of new journals. I decided the red journal would serve as a book list for all the books I've ever read. I told a good friend and fellow reader about my shiny new journal and my proposed use for it and she mentioned how she uses Goodreads for that. Well, this was a bit of a slap in the face for the red journal, but since this friend was the forty-third person in my life to recommend Goodreads, I finally took a moment and visited the site. At this point you should clearly hear the death knell sounding for my collection of empty journals.

Goodreads keeps three valuable lists for me: 1)Books I've read. I happily copied the list I had of all the books I read in 2012 to my Goodreads "shelf". That list was originally on my iPhone, so no journal had to die in this case. 2)Books I'm currently reading. I am keeping this list at one title, even if it kills me. 3)Books I want to read. Geez Louise, this list will probably grow pretty quickly. In addition, I can see what my friends have read, are reading, and want to read. It's fantastic! Where I used to walk into a person's house (not strangers, I promise) and peruse their bookshelves - now I can obtain this information from the comfort of my own desk chair. So I've eliminated not just the need for my precious journals, but the need to ever visit anyone's home again. What a relief! More time to read!