Friday, October 26, 2007

Big Foot

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

What do Eskimos get from sitting on the ice too long?Polaroids.

Funny Fridays. Fun Fridays. TGIF. Whatever we call it, we should think better of it because it's the end of the week. I'd like to have nothing but jokes and laughter on Friday, since life is too short anyway. So I think Friday's column should be about laughing and loving and smirking and joking and rolling on the floor dying with gasps of laughter.

Lots of people can laugh at life, but can never laugh at anything about themselves. Not me. I have been the bunt of bad jokes since puberty struck many moons ago. I grew 6 inches one summer. My bright red hair got dark. My face freckles went away. And my feet....well, they got bigger. And bigger. They suddenly grew to a size 10 1/2.

It was the half size that did me in. Suddenly, I had to really shop for shoes. Now when I do manage to find shoes, I buy every pair that fits that day. You never know when you might next find a pair. Still, the 10 1/2 was manageable. Life went on.

Then I had my first child. Gained a keg size belly and the feet, well, the feet went up to an 11. Still not bad, but more searching needed. Specialty catalogs or Penney's when they had a good day, became the way to go. Then the twins came along. How to say this delicately about the size you grow to when you have twins. Hmm. Well, my doctor explained it at 8 weeks when the sonogram clearly showed "the two heads, " as the sonogram technician so gleefully pointed out. The size I was at 9 months with my first child, the extra large maternity clothes, well, I was that size at 12 weeks with the twins. And kept on expanding. The condo was so big at the 40 week mark, that my belly measured 60 inches. I could put my arm at a 90 degree angle to the belly, and my stomach stuck out to my fingertips.

And the feet? Well, they grew to a 12. A 12. Now it's really a pain to shop for shoes, and at times, I get almost desperate to find a nice pair in my budget. Still, the one good thing about having big feet was my ability to just pick out the biggest shoes in the pile and put them on. Easy, they were always mine. No thinking needed. I always had the biggest foot in the house.

Until about a month ago. My son's feet grew a size. He's a 12 men's. A good extra size and then some to mine. It was weird to have someone Else's shoes I could slip on. I hadn't been able to do that for decades. I felt like a little kid playing dress-up.

And my "throw on the biggest shoes in the pile" theory. Well, it backfired on me last Friday. There I was, walking across the driveway into work and I looked down. Grass stained sneakers. Not mine. Not even close.

Shoot. I wore my sons sneaks to work. Oh well. Everyone has a good laugh. At least it wasn't the pair with skeletons on them!

Maybe I can wear those sneaks for Halloween!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Survival of the Fittest

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

As I have discovered by examining my past, I started out as a child. Coincidentally, so did my brother. My mother did not put all her eggs in one basket, so to speak: she gave me a younger brother named Russell, who taught me what was meant by "survival of the fittest." Bill Cosby

Growing up, I was always taller than my brother Joe by several inches. He had 2 years on me, but I had a loud mouth and the determination to not be bullied by him. I gave back what he dished out. Gave it so well, that my mother had a little talk with me when I was in around 3rd grade and Joe was in 5th. "Now, I know he aggravates you. And you can hold him down and punch him. But just because you can, doesn't mean you should. "

I stopped beating him up and we had a truce...for maybe a year. Then the tides changed. Suddenly my little brother grew biceps. Large biceps. My best friend had a balance beam that stood about 5 feet high. Her Dad made it custom for us to do tricks on in the back yard. My brother used to go to beam, which hit him at should level, since he was only about 5' 6" tall. He would put his arms on the beam, and from a standing position, push himself up into a hand stand. It was really cool. He became really strong.

One day, while sitting on the couch in my parent's living room, I discovered just how much those early beating bothered Joe. He came in, picked me up, lifted me over his head, and dropped me on the floor. From then on, he had the couch whenever he wanted it.

Joe never got much taller, but he got a lot of muscles. His friends all towered over him, but he got them back. We had a mini-bike, that he took the motor out of. He designed and welded himself a go cart frame, that was full body, with a cage for protection in case of rollovers. In case of roll overs? Yes, he even padded the whole frame and covered it in leather. It was a sweet machine, and perfect size for him. His friends Mark and Tom had to literally ride with their knees up by their ears to fit in it. It went really fast and they made a whole track in the miles of empty land in our neighborhood. They zoomed around in that go-cart for years. Broken bones became a badge of honor amongst them. Oh, the fun of it.

I remember well the shouting matches and fights over stuff I had with Joe. It makes me smile when I live through the hormones years with my kids. My little twin cupcake is 70 pounds of concentrated anger. She can yell with the best of them. Her 56 inches takes on her older brother's 70 inches with no problem. If Wild Child is really bothering her, she just jumps on his back and attempts to pound. He easily hands her off because he has muscles right now while she looks like a 2nd grader. She gets sent to her room very often now, just to calm her mouth.

One day, Wild Child will get his licks. And I hope he smiles years later when it happens to his kids. I know I do.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hot Mama

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

meno·pause· (men′ə pôz′)
the permanent cessation of a woman's ability to bear children, when she questions her sanity in every having them in the first place---ME

I get up most days and go to the health club at 5:30 a.m. To make it easier, most of the time I just sleep in my work out clothes. I know my own mentality at that time of day, and I have used any excuse there is not to leave the comfort of a warm snugly bed. It's too cold, I'm too tired, I'm too happy laying here, it's raining outside, it's foggy outside, it's nice day outside, my feet feel toasty, the dog is comfortable laying on me or the coffee smells really good, and I need to lay here and enjoy the smell. You name it and I have taken it as a reason. I either have to set the clothes out on the dresser all ready to go, or I have to sleep in them. Some days, I think my pink polka dot jammies would make excellent sweat pants. I may find out if they do yet.

So I get up, throw on socks and sneaks, grab the Creative Zen and keys and go. I drive the half mile and run upstairs to the club. I walk in the door, grab a rubber band in the pen basket, tie my hair up and zap in my membership card. I hop on my favorite ellipitical machine, crank the tunes to the max and begin. I don't really open my eyes or my brain until I have released all the pent up hormones raging inside me. It's a wonderful thing to be sweating so hard people think tears are running down your face; your shirt is sticking to you, your hands are falling off the handles from the river running down them and you think there can't possibly be any more sweat inside you until bam!--a hot flash hits you, creeping up the neck and drenching the last possible strain of hair that isn't wringing wet. Heat from hormones mixes with heat from exertion and becomes volcanic.

I push harder on the machine, punishing it for this impossible feeling overcoming me, the heat, the sweat and most of the time the overwhelming need to cry. The hormones are raging, pushing and pulling me, filling me simultaneously with angst and hot sexual need. I ride higher and faster, stomping, straining, running; ignoring the pain in the knees, the sticking of the joints, and most of all, ignoring the desire to just lay down and give into the hormones. I carry on, filling my mind with erotic images while my body protests that it is no longer 18. I push while I pretend to dance, glide while I transport my mind to an earlier time and age.

The minutes tick by as fast as the years. Where was I when I met him? Who was I with? How did it end? I work to burn off the energy and take my brain to an even plain, a place where I am still in control and my body listens to my commands. I ride hard to lose the anxiety, the stress and the fear. Will I ever feel that joy again? Will I ever be a rising star at work again? Am I doing a good job as a Mom while I feel so out of control? When will it be about me again and will I be ready? How long with this ocean of desire last? And do I want it too? I ride to enjoy and ride to forget. I ride to make it through the day.

Finally, the energy spent, I return my brain to present day Mom, the one who has to plan the day, run the house and organize the fun. The one who does laundry while cooking breakfast, defrosting dinner, packing her lunch and putting on her work clothes. The one who leaves the house an hour early to drive her kids to choir practice and flag football. The one who puts on her makeup while waiting in traffic. The one who somehow holds it together while being ignored at work, pretending life is good and smiling at everyone, when she would rather scream , "Don't you know how I feel??? Are you really that stupid?" The one Mom who loves her life, her kids and their every changing lives. The one who feels the heat and laughs at the world. The one who secretly smiles at cute guys thinking, "Red Roof Inn, 5:30?" The one who hears the hormones rage in her teenagers and thinks, "I can relate."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Say Thank You

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

Many days I hear, "This, Too, Shall Pass"--words that my late mother often said to remind me that whatever it is, it won't last. And I often find myself mentally asking, Where's the Thank You Power?--a reminder to look for the blessings in every situation because they are there.
But my personal tagline is "Here to Make a Difference." I have never for a moment believed that life was just a series of days, and then you die. I believe we were meant to experience as much as we have the opportunity to, and to have meaningful connections with the people around us. I think that when we leave this earth, something about it should be better for our having been here.
There are so many ways to make that difference, which is really what Thank You Power is all about. Doing something for someone else makes both of you feel good. The broaden-and-build aspect of feeling good makes you more adventurous and more inclined to try the new things that make life invigorating. The new experiences give you memories that, when recalled, lift you up even more.1 It's an upward spiral that all starts with Thank You Pow
er.---from the book by Deborah Norville, Thank you Power

I started reading this book last week and just had to share some of it. I have always found myself gravitating to my tried and true beliefs during stressful times. Years ago, I read in a Jan Karon "Mitford Series" novel, that we need to give thanks for all things. In the book, Father Tim stops stressing for his being afflicted with diabetes, and gives thanks for this to God. He finally sees that the blessings in his friends and parishioners that help him with his disease, in the foods that he is allowed to savor occasionally and in his need to slow down and take life as it comes, instead of rushing through it like a freight train.

I know in times of stress that it's hard to find the grace, to look for the good, and most of all to try and do something good for someone else. It seems to be the last thing we have time to do, but in reality, this is the thing that sets us free to experience God's love in ourselves, to feel his healing power.

Last Sunday I came home not to a new set of kitchen cabinets, but to an empty kitchen because the new layout was not right for the current space. I had no cabinets, no counter, no dishwasher, and worst of all no sink. I loaded the dishes in my 5 gallon pail and threw them into the utility tub. I couldn't imagine what we were going to do now and was screaming inside, trying hard not to show how distressed I was. I took out my frustration on a bag of pretzels and hot cheese. Yum!
The next day I tried to come up with a plan and called our kitchen designer and got some options on what we might need to change in the cupboard layout if we did indeed measure wrong. I tried to think positively and picture the final, beautiful kitchen I would have, thinking Easter was a good time frame to plan for. Easter 2009. After all, I really like washing dishes in a bucket!

Then I came home, I found out the real problem was the new window we just put in. The bigger window which was moved 5 inches to the right to make room for the bigger sink. Except, it should have gone 5 inches to the left, since the corner most cabinet was smaller. Oops. My husband did not want to do this, since it meant a probable extra week without the kitchen. ()Think 3 extra weeks). He didn't want me to have to go that long without a kitchen. He was desperately trying to make it right. When I realized this, I stopped him and thanked him for working so hard on the kitchen, even when his hands were going numb and he couldn't lift another tool. I said it was okay, and the suggested he just get an opinion from his Dad. Just talk to him about it. And I silently gave thanks that my father-in-law was a home builder for many years.

When Dad saw the problem, he just said, "Move the window." Simple as that. Just a mistake. Fix it and go on. Fix it and forget about it. No big deal really, stuff happens.And he came the next night, and helped move it. I returned home that night at 9, to a 8 foot by 6 foot gaping hole in my kitchen wall. At 9 o'clock at night, when it was going to be 45 overnight, a hole large enough to drive a car through. Augh! Well, I locked myself in the bedroom and proceeded to kill a bag of potato chips. Bad chips! Bad! Take that! I was tired and went to sleep to the whir of the saws. I gave thanks for the help and figured they would stop soon and just board up the space. We would be cold, but we would be on the way to having it fixed. Tomorrow is another day.

I woke up to a nice, shiny new window in the right space. All lined up for the new sink. They worked until midnight. My mother-in-law was calling every hour trying to get her husband to stop and rest from his diabetes. But he hung on, and got it in for us.

Thanks Dad. Thanks husband. Thanks friends who are helping me through this remodel. Thanks for all the kind support and love as I write this blog. Thanks for getting me writing again. And thank you God for my wonderful life.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

It Was As Far As They Could Dream

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.-- Eleanor Roosevelt

We received the Sears "Wish Book" in the mail last week. I remember eagerly paging through the Sears catalog as a child and eagerly composing my wish list for Christmas. The haven't published the book in the last 14 years, so my kids did not have the pleasure of doing the same when they were little. Not all the need is the Best Buy add to compose a list that will take me 5 minutes to purchase and 5 years to pay off.

When they were little, it was great to encourage them in their dreams of the moment; the fire truck and helmet, the police car and badge, the princess crown and pink tutu. Dreams were so simple, but in their choices of toys were the real life elements of careers that might interest them someday. We encourage our children in so many ways to live up to their potential, to gravitate toward their natural interests, to believe in themselves and be what they are meant to be.

Be all you can be. Just do it. Grab the bull by the horns. "Hey, your never know, it's a dollar and a dream."

Many of the way in which we help our children develop is just by helping them to open their mind to new things and new ideas. We try to expand their horizons by showing them the world outside of which they live. To believe they can have anything they want. Dream it, think about it, save pictures of, think about what your life might be like if you did that, and picture yourself there, doing it, owing it, experiencing it.

In the movie "Cheaper by the Dozen," Steve Martin is trying to get his 12 children together at one time to take a family picture for the Christmas cards. The oldest daughter is off with the boyfriend, so Steve says he will photo shop her in the picture. Then of course everyone would like to be photo shopped in, rather that rearranging their schedules to do the real thing. Its kinda funny in the movie, that technology was replacing a "real" family moment.

A friend at work likes to photo shop himself in events at Ball games with co-workers that live in other parts of the world. It's funny in that he is bringing himself together with people he works with, talks with, co-designs reports with, has meetings with, but can't actually be with in today's global workplace. In this instance, he is creating moments that can't happen as reality. But then one day, he took a home vacation, and each workday, sent us a different picture of himself in Paris. He was standing in front of the Eiffel tower and we all laughed. We posted the pictures and other co-workers were jealous of his fabulous dream vacation.

So we asked him one day when he was really going to Paris. He was surprised by this, since his answer automatically came out "never." It set him back, and made him think, when did he stop dreaming? When did his dreams shrink down to the area he lived in?

Neighbors of a family friend lived in a poor section of the city. The houses there are from the turn of the 20th century, working class housing stock on very narrow lots. Very dilapidatedhouses that often share a driveway with the house next door. House values run in the low teens. Often people own cars that are worth more.

So the family friend shared a driveway and had a restored '69 Cuda with a custom paint job in the driveway, with their sons motorcycle parked behind it, and another car and a van behind that. The neighbor backed the van around, but in their hurry, bumped the motorcycle, which tipped over and smashed into the Cuda, scratching the paint. They asked our friend to let them pay cash instead of billing their insurance, so they did. The repair would have been $1800, and the neighbors were shocked. They didn't even have car insurance, and thought it might be like $200 to repair the scratches. They refused to pay, so our friend took them to small claims court.

One of the court TV shows picked up the case and flew them to New York to tape the story. Our friends won the case, and the show paid them the money owed. The neighbor got off scott free, but everyone couldn't believe they were willing to stiff their next door neighbor. Usually, the story would end by maybe something bad happening to them for stiffing, "karma" getting them back, but no.

They win the lottery. They win $800,000. Wow. They can buy a real nice house and get out of the poor section of the city they live in. Everyone expects them to buy land, and move to a real nice suburb, or move to another state, something big. Definitely, everyone thinks a move is in the future. They can do basically anything they have ever dreamed of with that much money. What was in their dreams? How far would they go?

They moved one half mile down the road, just over the city line. The houses are double what their house was worth, maybe $40,000. One half mile. It was as far as they could dream.

I think of that story amazed and dismayed at the same time. How could they want so little? When did they stop expecting more? Are we grown-up when we stop dreaming, or are we just self-limiting?

How do we encourage our children to dream while we keep dreaming ourselves?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Instant Forgiveness

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

Mom, wouldn’t it be great if we could have remote control for Molly the mutt to turn down the volume?”—muffin twin, on being told to bring in the barking dog again.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have stuff the instant we want it? Come home to the messy house, with dishwashers to be emptied, dishes to be washed, laundry to folded, mail to sort, clutter to put away, beds to make….and just one push of the Instant Button and Presto! Alice from the Brady bunch makes it all better.

Lately, the twins have been killing themselves over what TV shows to watch. It seems like no amount of pre-discussion and compromise is going to work. Every night the same blood curdling yell can be heard all around Buffalo.

“MMMMMOOOOOMMM!!! He/She did it again!!! They changed my channel. Make them change it back now!!!! MMMMOOOOMMM!!!!!”

And so on, and so on. I would like to instantly change back to age 4, when they just loved the world and got along fabulously. Every new experience was delightful and fun. Their smiles just lit up the world. Give me an instant rewind any day. But there is one thing kids are born with that is the best and somehow we lose it as grown-ups. I wish we could bottle it and send it to all world leaders. The world would be such a better place if we all had this: Instant Forgiveness.

Have a bad day at work and yell a little too loud, apologize profusely and the twins will say, “That’s okay Mommy. Want to go watch the Goosebumps marathon?” They just love you and move on, all the time. Instant Forgiveness. No worries, mate. It’s really amazing.

I’d like instant forgiveness at work, for the bad days with co-workers, for the bosses that lose sight of you, for the customers that take out their divorce on you when you answer the phone hello, for the jealous behaviors that creep up all the time. I’d like to be able to forgive the mistakes I make and do the same for others. For being overlooked as a part of the team, I would like forgiveness to flow out of me instead of anger (Do you think when a new guy of 3 weeks goes to a global meeting to give input instead of your tenured self, it’s a bad sign?).

So for today, I will work on practicing the simple act of forgiveness and watch it flow. Try to make work a better place, one day at a time.

The Saint was discussing Instant Jobs at work yesterday. One push and boom! There’s your new job just for you. It would be everything you wanted and more. So then I asked the age old “where am I going” question:

If you won the lottery today, and you could have any job you wanted, what would it be????

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Can I play with Not A Toy?

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

"But rules cannot substitute for character." — Alan Greenspan, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board (b. 1926)

I left the world of elementary schools last week, with their Halloween parades, green day-yellow-day, blue-day, RED rules, birthday treats and holiday sing-a-longs. I matured and had to navigate strange new lands called middle school for the twins and high school for Wild Child. Somehow all summer I looked forward to it, but I couldn’t really picture what it meant until the open house.

The MS technology teacher had the best reality check, “Last time they were in school in June, they were getting walked to the bathroom and told when to go. Now we unleash them on an 8 day rotating schedule that has 8 new time periods every day. They need a chart to know what day it is and where they should be, but somehow they memorized this and found their way around the maze of 1500 students. And to top that off, we let them loose with electronic drills and saws. Welcome to middle school.”

I loved and feared it at the same time. Will they be okay? What will all these strange children teach them? Will they be okay? Will they have their first boyfriend or girlfriend soon? Will they make new friends? With any luck, the friends they make there will be with them the rest of their lives, if not actually in their lives, in their hearts. The painful lessons they start to learn now are theirs to learn. It’s hard for me to see that and understand, but I know I must. I know I need to also make sure I am being a good person, a role model, someone for them to look up to. Am I kind? Am I helpful, considerate, understanding, patient and loving? How are my bad tempers impacting them? How about my good days, what am I showing them now?

When the twins were little, their big brother went off to the scary land of pre-school. For Thanksgiving, they made these cool headdresses like the Indians wore. I remember the beautiful red feathers all over. No other colors, just red. The twins were one year olds and really wanted that headdress. They kept picking it up and running with it when they found it. No amount of “No” would do it.

"I SAID NO!!!" This really meant nothing to a one year old, whose first words were, "Can I play with Not a Toy??" They just weren’t listening to the rule. They wanted to do their own thing at age one.

Finally, I just hid the hat so they couldn’t get into it. Problem solved, I removed the item.
The next day little muffin boy seemed out of sorts. He kinda made faces and didn’t eat a lot. No fever, I thought he was cutting some teeth, until I opened his diaper. Inside was a mountain of poop, with a single red feather sitting clean as could be. He obviously had eaten the feather. Nice.

No matter what they do, kids will still decide what to put inside themselves and what not to. Most of their lives, you work to teach them love and kindness, and hope it is what they store inside. You can make the rules all you want, but it’s the character that you can’t legislate. When they get to be adults, you hope it’s the goodness that’s guiding them. Sometimes your old fashioned ways have to be pushed aside, and you wonder if what you taught them will be enough.

Last Christmas, the video game system “WII” was all the rage. Its sales started out slow, with systems being abundant, but they quickly became the hottest toy of the season. Of course they sold out everywhere. A friend’s son had bought himself one with the money he earned at his high school job at a restaurant. A woman he worked with there wanted the system for her young children but could not find it anywhere. The son went home, boxed up his system, and sold it to his co-worker to give to her children.

And my friend has the best present a Dad could have, a good child with love and compassion in his heart, who put his own needs aside for someone else’s happiness. Make all the rules you want, but it’s the character that comes out when you are not there, not the rules.