Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Let's Continue Reviewing Shall We?

This week I have a few days off of work and have been enjoying every minute (well most of it anyway - there was the one little incident Christmas Eve with the 2nd degree burn). I had a wonderful Christmas Eve & Christmas Day with extended family. My family & I went to lunch on Monday and joined my sister and most of her family. We had a nice lunch and good conversation. One of my nephews is on a short leave from his tour of duty in Afghanistan. It was great to visit with all of them. Yesterday my family & I went to the movies with good friends ('We Bought A Zoo' with Matt Damon) and dinner. This morning my husband and I took our daughter and her friend to a local outreach center where we packed away their Christmas decorations and sorted through a pallet of canned goods for expired items. We topped off our afternoon by taking them to a local music store so our daughter could pick out her new Fender banjo. The banjo may seem extravagant, but she saved every penny of her Christmas and work money to pay for it. She is one happy 16 year old aspiring musician right now.

This week has been about celebrating the real reason of Christmas, about spending quality time with family (our son has been home all week visiting from out of state), about enjoying people's company, about resting when we can, and unfortunately about eating way too much (but I'll deal with that next week).

Let's look back again and review another of my favorites blog entries. This one actually happens to be the first one on this blog. If you've read it before, that's o.k. - you can read it again. If you haven't, I hope you enjoy it.

'Balancing Act' (July 30, 2009)

There’s something to be said for being in balance. We have to balance our checkbooks, our fun with our responsibilities, and our priorities. We even have to find a balance between living in the moment and planning for our futures (I find that to be a tough one).

Have you ever felt a bit out of balance? I don’t mean like when you have an inner ear infection and your equilibrium is unsteady … I mean when you feel like your ‘life’ is a bit lopsided? Feeling ‘out of balance’ can be caused by too much stress, your health, your marriage, your job, or often a schedule that’s just too demanding. Obviously some things we have control over and some we don’t. When that’s the case, it may be time to rethink things. We need to think of ways we can gain some of the balance back.

Young children often have big dreams for their future … growing up to be a fireman, an astronaut, a ballerina, or a doctor. But as we find ourselves getting older, we sometimes realize that our dreams have changed. Now many have desires to see their children grow and get married and start the next generation with kids of their own. There’s a lot of pleasure in seeing any of these dreams comes true.

Keeping something balanced, no matter what it is, will take effort and concentration – most things don’t just happen by chance. In Proverbs 16:11 it says “Honest scales and balances are from the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making.” I think the Lord wants us to have balanced, healthy and happy lives. We put our best foot forward and are most productive when we aren’t feeling overwhelmed or distracted. Some might say it’s about getting our priorities right, about determining what’s really important and what’s not. We can cross having an abundance of material things off our list. They’re just things. Maybe a good way to stay balanced and on course is to take a closer look at our current goals, as well as look back at some of the dreams we had when we were younger. Have you accomplished everything you set out to do? I know I haven’t and I’m sure I’m not alone. I seem to be drawn to the Proverbs lately. In Proverbs 16:9 it says “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Is there a more definite reason why some things don’t get completed when we want them to? Maybe it’s more about God’s timing.

Perhaps if you’re feeling a bit out of balance these days you need to take a closer look at the list of goals you have. Pick one you always wanted to achieve, but for whatever reason never did, and try again. Maybe it’s time to go back and finish the college degree you started many years ago, write a book, or be a mentor for someone. That’s the nice thing about goals – they come in many shapes and sizes and can be tweaked at any time to fit your current life. Maybe it is as simple as writing a letter or calling an old friend you haven’t talked to in ages or finally cleaning out and organizing your basement. Finishing something you started might be just the mental boost your life needs to get itself back on track.

Whatever is keeping your life off its steady axis these days, I hope you find the right combination and the support you need to get your sense of balance back.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Let's Go Back and Review

I like to write on my blog, but believe it or not there are also blogs that I like to follow. One blog had an entry last week that was directed to fellow bloggers. It suggested that during the holidays when we're busy with demanding schedules that include work, family, shopping, baking, card writing, gift wrapping, etc ... we should keep something in mind. This author suggested that while we might feel a commitment to our readers to post something new and festive during the Christmas season, that we should give ourselves some grace and try something different for a week or so. He suggested that we go back into our 'blog archives' and choose some entries that were some of our personal favorites. Depending on when you started following this blog, these entrys may be new to you. I'm going to give it a try, but I promise to post some NEW stuff before 2011 is complete.

***** (from October 2009) *****

‘Turn your ear to listen to me … Be my rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe.’
~ Psalm 31:2

Autumn is officially here. The trees are slowly displaying their brilliant shades of oranges, reds and yellows; and yes … I think it may be nearing the time to turn our furnaces on (if you haven’t already). Autumn is a good example of the changing seasons, but it can also be a reminder for us of how our lives (like the weather) also change throughout the year.

It used to be that there were lots of people who were older than me and who knew so much more than I did. Nowadays, it seems like there are so many more people younger than I am. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I have near as much wisdom as my elders seemed to have had when I was 10, 20, 30 or even 40. There is a small group of people that I do go to for advice – my husband, my sister, a co-worker, and a few select friends who will always remind me that they are merely ‘a phone call away’. In my current season (or this stage in my life) I often find myself just wanting to say what’s on my mind. I’ll convince myself that I’ve thought the situation through and the possible solutions. I’ll even convince myself that I have all the answers and don’t need anyone’s advice. The results, however, never seem to be what I thought they would. I find that what I really needed was the opportunity to talk with someone else … or better yet ‘VENT’. I’ve learned that most people will be willing to listen to your problems or concerns for a while, but eventually when your problems become repetitive they’ll unintentionally tune you out. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve known people in my life who when I saw them coming I would try to avoid them or discourage their conversations, because I either felt uncomfortable listening or just didn’t have the time or desire to listen to their newest variation of their woes. They are good reminders to me about keeping my own attitude and conversations positive.

But while it may be important to try and keep a positive outlook, it can also be just as important to have that safe opportunity to talk to someone you trust and be able to vent (without the fear of being judged over how you might be feeling). Venting, however, should NEVER be used as a ploy to try to persuade your ‘listener’ to go along with your argument or way of thinking. There should always be mutual respect. My favorite listeners are my husband and a few special friends. If God gave out gold stars for good deeds, these people would have plenty.

I came across a health website this week where a woman’s blog was being featured. She was a fibromyalgia patient who talked about the need to be able to vent when she wasn’t feeling well. She needed to be able to openly admit that she hurt and was in constant pain, without someone telling her that she was complaining.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that this past year has been a rough one for many people. We all know someone (if not ourselves) who has had to deal with something big this year. For some it’s been their health, losing or trying to hold on to their job, personal family struggles, finances, or yes … even their faith.

Each of us needs to be able to vent when we need it. More importantly we all need to have someone who is willing to listen; someone who won’t judge us, try to tell us what is right or wrong, how we should be feeling, how we should act or what we should say. A good listener won’t give you preachy advice. They won’t say ‘I know how you feel’. Mostly they will just listen, really listen. They will ask you just enough questions to get you to open up about what’s really on your mind, and then they’ll let you do all the talking. In return, when they really need to talk, we can try to do a good job in the reversed role and be just as good and patient at listening, always remembering the mutual respect.

My advice to you … find a few good listeners with whom you can feel safe to let things out. Have a private conversation. Then, return the favor. I certainly don’t mean to sound like Pollyanna, but if I’ve learned one thing as I’ve gotten older it’s how to be a better listener. When you really stop to think about it, isn’t that what every human being wants … to be listened to and affirmed?

Thanks for listening.

‘Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.’ ~ Proverbs 12:15

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What is it about Christmas?

Today is December 7th which means we are less than 3 weeks away from Christmas. How are you doing? I ask because I care. I've observed lately that people tend to handle the holidays in different ways. Some people are overflowing with a sense of Christmas spirit, but there are others who are not. It's not a surprise, but Christmas can bring out the best, as well as the worst in people. Everyone handles it differently and that's o.k. (just a little sad I suppose). There are some who've had their trees up and decorated for a few weeks now (ok I admit our house is one of them), but there are others who completely dread the thought of putting up a tree and will literally wait til 2 days before Christmas. I honestly don't think it's because they're all so busy that they don't have the time. I think for some it's an inconvenience, but for others it could be a sad reminder that they might be alone at times during the holidays.

If you're behind in your cookie baking or decided not to send a Christmas card this year or haven't started your shopping yet or don't have a festive wreath on your front door ... that's o.k. But whatever you DO choose to do to celebrate your holiday, do it because it makes YOU happy. Do it because it makes YOU feel good. NEVER get in the habit of doing things for the wrong reason. Don't feel that you have to bake cookie trays for the neighbors or hand make your ornaments (unless you want to).  You should never stress yourself out over doing things because you think it's expected of you. No one has the right to 'expect' anything from you. If you want to scale things back a bit and go for a simpler Christmas then that's what you should do.

There are people who absolutely LOVE the Christmas season and all it represents. Christmas is about hope, joy, love and peace. It's NOT about new cell phones, new gadgets, new Barbies or skateboards. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against gift-giving when it comes from the heart. But I am against buying gifts because it's expected or it's merely for etiquette and reciprocity. I'll admit I even went shopping 'once' a few years ago on Black Friday. People's behavior can be an interesting thing to observe (especially when you're standing in a longggggg line). I saw people go into stores with very specific lists and were seriously looking for ways to make their hard-earned dollars go a little further. But I also witnessed people behaving like they were part of an African Safari ... for them I think it was more about beating the next guy in line and the adrenaline of the hunt. Ironically I've known people who have no desire to go to church on Christmas (they either think God doesn't exist or isn't important enough), but have no problem spending hundreds of dollars on gifts and signing the card 'from Santa'.

People are different. I suppose that's what makes us all unique in our own ways. My wish for you this Christmas season is that you find joy in your heart, that you're blessed with good health, and that you have someone to spend the season with. If you know someone who has lost someone this year and may be alone, consider inviting them over for Christmas dinner, or a cup of tea and conversation over a plate of Christmas cookies one afternoon. Perhaps shovel the snow for your elderly neighbor who is having a hard time but doesn't want to bother you by asking. For health reasons my mom doesn't get out of her apartment much. She doesn't have the space for us kids and grand kids to come over and have a meal, but she's also uncomfortable leaving her apartment. So we go visit her on Christmas Day and I bring her a fully prepared meal that she can enjoy after we've left. There are probably a million different solutions. The important thing is for us not to become so self-absorbed in our own worlds that we forget about those around us. 

I heard a story the other day about a woman who was standing in line at a fast food restaurant. Her order was minimal, but she handed the cashier a $20 bill and said 'just use the change to cover as many orders behind me as it'll go'. Now that's pretty cool!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How tech savvy are you?

Here's a question for you. How tech savvy are you?

Do you have one of those fancy new phones that talk to you? Are you obsessed with playing games and twittering on it? I guess the extent that I use my cell phone is to talk on it, send text messages, and take the occasional photo. I don't have Internet access and I don't play any games on it. Call me old fashioned I suppose.

Do you have Wii or X-Box? I don't, in fact my son still has his Nintendo 64. He says 'If it's not broke why replace it?' Great question, don't you think?

I'm not knocking all the neat technology out there, I just wonder sometimes what people do with ALL the stuff they can't wait to replace. Seems like such a waste to me. I'm the first one to admit that I would be lost without a computer. I use the one at home, the one on my desk at work, and often the ones at the library. I'd love to get a laptop someday but in the meanwhile my wonderful 16 year old daughter just created an account for me on the used laptop her older brother gave her. Did I mention that I have great kids? If I didn't I should probably repeat it. 'I HAVE GREAT KIDS!'

Over Thanksgiving break my son was in town and helped his sister set up some games on her laptop. We sat on the couch and tried several of them. We thought shooting the arrow at the right angle to knock the apple off the man's head was fun until we missed and apparently decapitated him and watched the animated character bleed out. We both squealed and that was the end of that game. Then we moved on to a better one. It's a site that lets you do typing tests. It will put a passage of words on the screen from a novel or speech and while being timed you have to retype the paragraph with the exact words that you see. If you type something wrong it lets you know and you have to backspace in order to correct it. In the end it tells you your WPM (words per minute) and your accuracy rate based on the number of mistakes you made. For someone like me who types ALL the time, but NEVER took a typing class in school - it's a lot of fun and improves my skill. The best part of the typing test (at least for me) was reading the passages that they put up. They were all extremely random. Some were even in Old English (which really hampered my wpm).

Here was one that I especially liked.

People are often unreasonable and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you feel happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world your best, and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

~ Mother Teresa ~

Wise words, don't you think? Definitely something to think about.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What are you thankful for?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. This morning I heard a quote on the radio by Charlie Brown, something to the effect of 'Thanksgiving is the only national holiday where we give ourselves permission to be thankful'. Ironic, isn't it?

I know I have A LOT to be thankful for, but not just one day a year. I am thankful for all things, big and small. Big things like my health (being a 5 year cancer survivor), my marriage, my children, and that I have a job. While it may sound funny or petty, I'm also thankful for small things like 'earned freebies'. In a time when the price of just about everything seems to go up: utilities, health insurance, groceries, gasoline, etc., etc. I am thankful for all of those 'store freebies' (as I like to call them). CVS gives me 'extra bucks' when I buy my milk there. Kroger gives me 'fuel reward points' when I purchase my groceries that I can apply to gas for my car, not to mention the 'community reward' dollars that I earn for my favorite charity.

A local grocery store, VG's Grocery', also lets me earn 'YES Reward points' which I can save up and apply to highlighted products of the week. Last night I stopped there after work to pick up some dinner items. I was also purchasing a few things for a Thanksgiving veggie tray. It was such a pleasant thing to scan my carrots and celery and have the register ask me if I'd like them for free by redeeming some of my points. Sure ... you're probably thinking 'Geez, it was just celery and carrots. What's the big deal?' The big deal is that when a lot of people in our community could be struggling (stores & customers alike), I think it's great when a store publicly acknowledges their customers' needs in whatever way they can. It's called watching out for your fellow neighbor and that is not a small thing.

So, tomorrow when you're sitting around the dinner table with your family stop and remember all the things that you're thankful for. We can be thankful each and every day, but it wouldn't hurt us to say it out loud. It's easy to get caught up in all of the daily schedules and stresses and forget. I think we could all use a little reminding from time to time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Did my ears just deceive me?

Yesterday I had a day off. So what did I do? I did something responsible and boring ... I got the oil changed in my van. Then I did something good and fun ... I went shopping to fill a child's gift bag for a Christmas outreach project. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the air was crisp. A picture perfect day for running errands and getting in and out of my minivan a dozen times.

One of my stops was a local department store that was having a 'pre' Black Friday sale. 40-50% off mostly everything in the store in addition to the discount cards customers had (ranging from 15-30%). Needless to say the lines were long and the customers were smiling. Well, most of them that is.

I absolutely love Christmas time. I love the music. I love the decorations. I love the twinkling lights. And I love the spirit. I was basically finished picking up the stuffed lion and matching 'CARS' red hat and gloves that I went there for, but couldn't help myself. I had to take one last detour to the area with the Christmas trees and ornaments (yes ... I said 'Christmas' trees ... not 'holiday' trees, but I'll save that subject for another blog entry). Generally when one is shopping during the holidays and in the crowds, you're bound to hear the cry or whine of an overheated, overtired, overwrought toddler; not to mentioned the overstressed parent who will eventually say 'We're almost done sweetie, then we'll get you that Happy Meal at McDonald's.' But yesterday I heard something different.

As I was walking along intensely studying the vast array of sparkly ornaments I heard the following conversation.

'I don't know why I brought you with me today. All you've done is whine and complain.' (voice #1)

'You always ignore me!' (voice #2)

'You're being a pain. You're being cranky and rude.' (voice #1)
'I didn't want to come with you anyway!' (voice #2)

'Next time you're staying home and I'm going shopping by myself. You totally ruin the shopping experience.' (voice #1)

'Fine!' (voice #2)

'Fine!' (voice #1)

When you're in a situation like this where a LOUD conversation is taking place just ten feet away from you, it's difficult to ignore. You try not to look or make eye contact of any kind, but there comes a point when you just can't help yourself. You feel like there's a soap opera playing on the TV in the next room and find yourself peering carefully around the lit up display to see 'who' is making such a fuss. I admit I was a bit taken back when I saw that the voice #2 belonged to a young 20-something year old girl who was so busy texting while walking and talking that she wouldn't even look her mother in the eye. All I can say is 'Yikes'. I hope they can patch things up before the holidays get here or it's going to be a really cold month of December.

So, as the holidays draw nearer please be patient with your family, be patient with your fellow shoppers, be patient with the store employees, be patient with any drivers out on the crowded roads and remember to smile and say 'Merry Christmas.'

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today I want to talk about 'STOP' signs? Why are they there?

Believe it or not they weren't just put there to slow down your commute to wherever you're going. They are strategically placed at intersections so that 'everyone' can be safer. You'll notice them (or at least you should) at the end of your street, in parking lots, etc. They're meant to slow down big, heavy vehicles and hopefully eliminate people from slamming into each other. Think about it ... you can't have two SUVs coming towards each other at 50 mph and not expect someone to get hurt if they both get to the intersection at the same time, right? This scenario isn't just a story problem for a junior high math class. It's life. It makes sense that we should SLOW down and start watching out for each other. Give the right-away to the guy who gets there first. Try it and maybe someone will return the favor to you some day.

Stop signs are crucially important in high school parking lots and on college campuses. Some days I think I'm literally taking my life into my own hands when I pick my daughter up from a school event. Seriously, nothing gets the old ticker racing fast like sitting in the high school parking lot when the last bells rings.

Last night my husband and I picked our daughter up from a music rehearsal at a nearby university. We got there a few minutes early (nearly 9:00 p.m.). It was dark out and cold so we decided to just wait in the van for a few minutes. After all, it was toasty inside and Christmas music was playing on the radio. Where am I going with this? I'll tell you. This particular parking lot is very well lit and adorned with numerous clearly marked STOP signs. In a matter of 10 minutes I observed more than a dozen vehicles drive right past the stop signs. They didn't even slow down or tap their brakes, they just went right on past them as if they weren't even there.

So why is that some people look at stop signs and think they don't have to stop? Why do people see speed limit signs and think they're nothing more than a suggestion? Why do people see 'right lane closed ahead' signs and think they're meant for everyone else but them?

I don't mean to go off on such a rant ... well o.k. ... maybe I do. But accidents are never planned. We all need to slow down and pay attention. The holidays are approaching quickly which generally means more traffic. Perhaps we should start practicing from now to get from point A to point B safely, without hurting ourselves or anyone else. That, my friends, could be one of the greatest Christmas presents you could give.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

So what's stopping you?

Today is a BIG day for me! I'm taking some quality time for myself. Sure I still have my never-ending TO DO list at home on the counter ... AND there's the one in my desk drawer at work ... AND there's the abbreviated short list I brought with me today as I'm out and about. But for right now I'm at the library (my favorite Zen place) making my plan. What is my plan you ask? Ok, so maybe you didn't actually ask, but I'll humor myself and answer anyway. I'm attempting to make my plan about HOW I can go about achieving something I've always wanted to do.

When we're teenagers we think we are invincible. We think we know so much! We think we have 'it' all figured out. And we think we know what our goals are and what we're going to do with the rest of our lives. Then a thing called LIFE happens. I'm certainly not saying that when our life detours and takes a different course it's a bad thing, because that certainly wasn't the case for me. But I am honest enough to admit that sometimes when LIFE knocks on our door, our journey takes a detour. My detour was meeting a wonderful guy and falling in love, then raising a family (which is an ongoing process), and working at a job that I thoroughly enjoy (but never saw myself doing ... it wasn't part of my plan), etc., etc. My point is that goals don't always come with a clearly defined timeline.

So what was my goal so many years ago? It was to be a legit writer. Technically I suppose I am. I've written some heartfelt articles for my church's newsletter, I write solid monthly council reports for my job, when I ran a specialized marketing company for aviation I wrote 1,000+ marketing packages for aviation personnel, I write daily super organized TO DO lists, and I've written continuously on 2 blogs. But now it's time for something bigger.

The question for me is whether my writing goal from 25 years ago is the same goal I have now. Is the topic something I still feel as passionate about? That's something I need to take a hard look at. A lot has happened in my life since I was a teenager. I've been married for 29+ years, have 2 amazing children (ages 16 & 25), am a 5-year cancer survivor, and have grown spiritually in ways I never would have thought possible.

So do I still want to write a series of children's books or do I want to write a heartfelt journal for women in their 40s who've been blindsided with a beast known as cancer and come out of it stronger, healthier, and wiser? Big decision, I know. Maybe there would be a market out there for one of them or both of them. I don't know. Maybe there are already enough of both on the market. Maybe people would want to read them, maybe they wouldn't. But I suppose I'll never know unless I start writing. It could take me a while, but bear with me. We're all a work in progress.

Enough about me. What were some of the goals you set for yourself when you were younger? Have you accomplished them? If not, what's stopping you?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How old is 'too old' to trick-or-treat?

Well, I've done it again ... another 10 days has gone by in between my blog posts. Guess 'life' is my only excuse.

The high school football team has made it through through their first playoff game, which in my house means 'the marching band season marches on' (pardon the pun). My daughter had a high school orchestra concert last week, and this week has a Oakland Youth Orchestra symphony concert. I volunteered at a Trunk-or-Treating/Fall Festival on the weekend, and helped to prepare a meal midweek for a family night at my church. The schedule just never seems to ease up.

Tomorrow is Halloween and this year I made the personal decision to not hand candy out at my door. I was a bit torn since I love seeing the cute costumes on the little kids. What I don't seem to like are the 50+ teenagers that run across my lawn and through my landscaping in costumes that are either 'super lame' or 'super sleezy'. Obviously their parents must have told them that they were too old to be out trick-or-treating and that if (in spite of their deep voices and obvious height distinctions) they were still going to go that they should at least wear a costume. I've turned older kids away before ... no costume ... no candy. But the last couple of years it seems the older teenage boys pulled last week's laundry out from under their bed to wear or the teenage girls insisted that wearing their dance recital tutu (from when they were 9) with knee-high striped socks was indeed a costume. Sorry kids ... I'm not buying it. So no candy for you this year!

So my question to you is ... how old is 'too old' to trick or treat? I always told my kids once they were out of elementary school they were done. Then they could either dress up and hand the candy out at the door or go to a neighborhood party.

This year I opted to volunteer at the church's Trunk-or-Treating /Fall Festival event. I got to see all of the cute little princesses, dragons, mario's, and pumpkins. In addition, I prepared 2 little trick-or-treat bags for the 2 little boys that live across the street from my house. They always say 'please' & 'thank you' (excellent qualities I might add) and they NEVER run across my lawn or through my landscaping.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What are your 'cages'?

First I must apologize. I haven't blogged for nearly 2 weeks. Life, as I know it, has been extremely busy. Work, family life, my teenager's extra-curricular schedule of activities, etc. etc. It's funny, I apologize as if there are people out there who are actually sitting by their computers and staring at their wall calendars saying 'OMG ... it's been nearly 2 weeks since Jennifer posted a new blog entry. I hope she's o.k.' So now I've just made both of us laugh. :)

Sure ... I blog in hopes that someone else will read it and perhaps relate. I blog in hopes that maybe someone will post a comment and share an insight. But to be totally honest, I blog for myself. It settles me when I'm feeling overwhelmed. It gives me clarity when I'm trying to work something out in my mind. And most importantly, it just plain makes me feel good.

Recently I was having a conversation with someone about a book they'd read for a class. The author talked about people dealing with 'cages' in their lives. Cages hold things back, they create obstacles, and they can get in the way. When you relate that thought process to people and goals one must first ask themself if there is something they've always wanted to do or some goal they've set for themselves to accomplish. Then you ask yourself if you've been able to achieve it. If not ... why not? What is holding you back? What are the cages in your life?

I've been thinking about my goals and what 'cages' have been holding me back. Then I've wondered if my 'cages' have just been excuses that I've made up or are they real? I think there is probably a little bit of truth in both options. Some cages have probably been imaginary on my part. After all, if I put off doing something because of an excuse, then ultimately I can't fail at my goal, right? On the other hand, lack of time and focus aren't always my fault, there are these things called responsibilities and life that can slow me down through no choice of my own.

So for now it appears my biggest cage is clarity. I need to determine for myself exactly what my goals are, and how and when I want to get there.

What are some of your goals and what cages are getting in your way?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How much time should a parent invest?

Are you a parent? If not I'm sure you know someone who is. I am. My husband and I have 2 great kids ages 16 & 25, one is a boy and one is a girl. Both are very similar in a lot of ways, but on the other hand at times could not be more different. My question to you, as a fellow parent, is 'how much time should a parent invest' in their children? In today's society children are expected to go to school, be involved in various co-curricular activities, do community service ... everything from t-ball, dance classes, soccer, girl and boy scouts, piano lessons, school clubs, the church youth group ... and the list goes on and on. As parents we're expected by society to keep our children busy with activities, keep their minds challenged, and keep them out of trouble.

When our son was in high school we would drive him to band practices, science olympiad tournaments, and hockey games. Then we drove our daughter to music lessons, dance classes, and now marching band and symphony rehearsals. Of course there was a point in time when our son started driving himself to all of his 'things', but we would still show up to support him at every single game or concert (sometimes as a spectator and sometimes as a volunteer coach). Our daughter's current schedule is very similar and soon enough she will be driving herself to her part time job and band rehearsals as well.

Last night I attended her high school music booster monthly meeting. With 100+ students in the program there were probably less than 20% of the families represented by a parent. To some 20% may not sound like many and they would be right. On the other hand, it was a HUGE increase from when I attended for my son 10 years ago.

I remember when my son went off to college 8 years ago. I had a hard time at first, I'll admit I was missing him. I remember my boss telling me it was 'time to cut the apron strings'. Wow ... easy for him to say. Not always easy to do. The day we moved our son into his dorm, we were instructed to pull our vehicle up to a designated spot, unload his stuff onto the lawn, and then go park. Curb space was obviously limited. His 'stuff' could sit on the lawn as long as was needed in order for us to get him moved in. But you would be surprised at how many parents would unload their child's belongings and then just leave. A few of the students were left standing there alone on the lawn with their stuff. I even heard one parent say 'You're 18 now and on your own'. The mother in me wanted to walk over and give the kid a hug. I mean 'seriously?'

It doesn't matter how old my kids are - they are still my kids. I still care about how their day went and what their plans are. I will always be there to support them in things they are doing and will always help them in any way that I can.

So, as a parent, how do you manage? How do you not worry? I'm sure it'll get easier - that's what I've been told anyway.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How do you relieve stress?

The world (both locally and globally) can seem pretty overwhelming at times and this can cause that nasty '6 letter word' to rear its ugly head ... I'm talking about stress. People can stress out about a lot of things these days, many of which have been around for generations.

Women (and men) stress about their weight. Men (and women) stress about finances. Young adults (and older) stress about college and getting a job. Many causes of stress are not age exclusive. Some people stress when driving in rush hour traffic, especially when there's construction detours on top of it. People stress about politics and wars. 'Anything' can become stressful, no matter how big or how small .. it just depends on your reaction to it.

Stress is inevitable. The bigger question (the one we have some control over) is how do we choose to deal with stress?

What relieves your stress? Do you curl up on the couch with a hot cup of herbal tea? Do you pop a yoga dvd in and start stretching? Do you go for a run or go to the gym and punch one of those weighted bags that hang from the ceiling? Do you call a friend on the phone, vent for 5 minutes and then talk the situation through? There's no right or wrong answer. It's obviously an individual choice, but one that everyone should address.

Stress, in whatever form, will always be there. If you've found a way to avoid it all together, I'm sure we'd all like to hear about it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Do you read ahead?

Do you tend to read ahead? Are you an overachiever? Do you wait til the last minute to do something or are you always prepared? Do you arrive at your appointments early or late? These are all good questions. I'm sure if we were to be totally honest with ourselves we'd discover that the answers to these questions and others would probably paint a great picture of what our personalities are really like.

So why am I asking about whether or not you read ahead? My husband and I meet once a month with members of our small group at church. There were times in the beginning of our group when one member would always read ahead in their bible. That was great for them, but when it came time to participate in our discussion she'd forget whether the comment she had was based on something we had all read or something she'd discovered when she had read ahead. It confused her and us alike. It became an ongoing chuckle. Now our group is reading a book called 'Heaven is for Real'. It's not a long book and it's a really easy read. As a group we decided to break the book down into 4 sections of 7 chapters each. Our group only gets together once a month and we begin our nights with dinner and socializing. We have plenty of those 'ooh squirrel' moments where we get sidetracked talking about other topics ... we always have great discussion, but it often takes a concentrated effort to get us back on track and back to the book discussion. The problem with the current book is that it is a good book, it's well written, and very easy to get ahead of yourself and read right past your bookmark. Some might say, 'Then why not just read the whole book at once and then discuss it?' Excellent question ... one that we've asked ourselves on more than one occasion. I guess we just get so sidetracked with socializing and catching up on everything from the previous month, that if we actually discussed the whole book on one night ... well we'd probably close down the restaurant or miss our bedtime or 'well I just don't know what would happen'. Guess it's just too complex of a question for us to answer.

So I'll just end things with 'Do you read ahead?' and if you do 'How do you deal with it?'

Friday, September 16, 2011

What's On Your Mind?

What's on your mind? That's a great question, but don't ask it of someone if you're not willing to be quiet and listen to what they have to say.

My daughter turned 16 last week and I found myself reflecting ... reflecting on the early years of both of my children. I thought about the special things that I did with each of them. My son is now 25 and out on his own. He's smart, he's strong, he's handsome (I can say that unbiasly, of course, since I'm his mother), and as much as I don't care to admit it ... he's an adult. I remember when he was little (maybe around 2 or 3 years old). I would take him to a local mall. We weren't really shopping for anything, I'd just walk and let him ride along in his stroller. We always seemed to end up at the Little Caesar's in the food court. We'd share a slice of pizza and just 'people watch'. It wasn't anything fancy, just some quality time spent with each other.

When my daughter was born her brother was in 5th grade, so while he was in school she and I would run errands. I remember how she would smile and be happy and win over anyone we came across. When we'd go to the grocery store near the house, the deli clerk would always ask if she wanted a slice of cheese. Sometimes she would get one, but she usually always had her eye on the grapes. The produce manager would be putting fruit and veggies out and I would bag a bunch of grapes. He'd always see her eyeing them, so he would offer to go wash some off for her. It got to the point where some days he'd be watching for her. As soon as we'd get to the deli, the deli clerk would offer her cheese and he would pop up out of no where and say 'She doesn't want your cheese! My grapes are better!' He'd already have a little bunch of grapes washed for her. Her face would light up (and so would his).

Now years later I watch my daughter as she's growing into a beautiful young woman. She's witty, she's caring, and she has a natural beauty where she can go without makeup and jewelry (her choice) and wear anything and look like she ought to be on the pages of a catalog. She's very strong mentally (probably stronger than she gives herself credit for) and has formed some definate opinions. I'm so proud that both of our kids have managed to form solid morals and values (certainly not for a lack of effort from my husband and I).

Over the summer she had to read 2 books for her Honors English class. When school started last week she said they were having a discussion in her English class about the books they'd read. One of the books that she read was 'Into The Wild' (I think that was the name). It was a true story about a young man who chose to leave his high paced materialistic life behind and head out into the wilderness. The ending wasn't the greatest because he died, but she expressed to her teacher and the class that she could relate with some of the things that he felt. She doesn't like the sterotypes in today's society. She doesn't like the sense of people feeling pressured or feeling the need to conform with what everyone else is doing. And (having nothing to do with the book) she told the class she didn't like some of the college representatives that have come into her junior and senior high schools. In the 8th grade she had a college representative come in and ask her what her interests were. She told her she was more of an artsy person ... that she likes writing and music. She plays SEVERAL instruments and has both ability and a passion for her music. The college representative said 'That's great, I'm sure we've got some great classes that would really help you. First I'd suggest an extra math class and perhaps getting on the science fast track.' With an astonished look, my daughter asked, 'But what does that have to do with music?' The lady replied, 'Nothing, but math and science are where the future is.'

Obviously the college representative had very strong opinions on the matter (or perhaps those of her school). The sad thing was she didn't hear a single word my daughter said when she asked her what her interests were. It goes back to the original question. 'What's on your mind?' Never, never asked a question if you don't fully intend to listen to the answer. It doesn't mean that you have to agree, it just means that you should make the honest and sincere effort to truly listen to what is being said.

The unfortunate thing is that so many people, adults and children alike, have opinions, but for whatever reason give up sharing their opinions because somewhere along the way someone told them that their opinion didn't matter. That couldn't be further from the truth. Everyone has something to say and everyone should be heard. Of course there is always a time and a place for everything, there's the matter of being respectful towards others, and there's the concept that if you can't say anything nice perhaps you should keep your opinion to yourself. So the next time someone asks you what you think, think about your response first, think it through (ALL the way through) and if you think you can share it without hurting anyone, then share it.

So what is on your mind today?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Nighty Night

Have you heard all of those different opinions about how much sleep the average person requires each night? There are so many opinions out there, it's unbelievable (and exhausting). I've heard of studies that suggest the average adult should get 8 hours of sleep each night. Come on ... seriously? On what planet? And do they have a nanny, a home chef, and a personal assistant? In the 'REAL' world or at least mine I'm lucky to average 5-6 hours a night (and that might be only a few nights out of the average week).

Over the years I've listened to people talk about how much sleep a baby needs during their first few months - how they seem to be asleep more than they are awake. Then you move on to toddlers ... once they start becoming mobile they play hard for awhile and then literally crash for a few hours of satisfying zzz's (satisfying to both of the parents as well as themselves). When my children were little so many people would tell me to take a nap when my children were napping. That is something I never could do ... while they napped I did the laundry, the cleaning, opened the mail, started dinner and usually vacummed. The vacuuming part went against a lot of their suggestions, but my husband and I figured that if they could sleep happily while the vacuum was being run under their crib then 'no one' would ever have to tip toe and whisper while they were sleeping.

I worry a little about burning the candle at both ends and letting myself get run down, but somehow I always convince myself that I'll get as much sleep as I need and that my body will let me know when I need more. This morning was that kind of morning. I've been tired lately, but then who isn't? It's been a long first week of school for my high schooler and my husband and I. We've all worked or been in school all day and then had some place to be or something to do each night. Even as I sit here in the library typing this blog I am watching the clock, because I know I only have an hour until my husband and I need to leave for the high school football game to watch our daughter in the marching band. I work longer hours Mondays through Thursdays so that I can have Fridays off. Fridays are usually filled with errands and appointments. Today has been no different. I woke up this morning and drove my daughter to the bus stop at 6:45 a.m., then indulged in some well deserved personal time (30 minutes of uninterupted 'Curious George' on PBS). Nothing clears my head after a long week and gives me fresh perspective like that quirky little curious monkey. Then guess what happened? My body suddenly said 'TIME OUT'. My head dropped to the pillow on the couch like a sack of potatoes and 90 minutes later I rolled over, looked up at the wall clock and thought 'WHOA'. Guess my body knows when enough is enough.

So how much sleep do we really need? And is there really such a thing as burning the candle at both ends? I guess the bigger question besides asking 'Is it time for a nap?' is whether it's ok for a 40something year old wife and mother to admit to her readers that she watched Curious George for 30 minutes ... lol.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's Back To School Time

Today marks the second successful day of school around my home (for K-12). Most of the college students already headed back last week. I had to laugh today when my boss (the church's pastor) said that the Sunday School parent meeting had only 5 people attend last night. He sounded a little discouraged until his wife (who is an elementary teacher) reminded him that yesterday was the first day of school.

As parents, we know what that can mean ... emergency forms needed to be filled out and signed, school supplies needed to be purchased, lunches had to be made, bedtimes had to be enforced and if you're like me ... a headache needed to be treated. My daughter is a high school junior this year and all I can say is 'boy was she wired last night'. My husband and I sat at the dinner table and listened patiently to the full blown details of every class she has, every teacher she has, the sophomore/junior/senior ratio of every class, who said what to whom, what instrument she would be playing in the orchestra this year (switching it up and playing bass instead of the viola ... a fun challenge), and to top it off when I asked her if she had found any of her friends to eat 'A' lunch with she smiled and informed her father that she did and is eating lunch with some of the guys on the boys' swim team. Statements like that will make the hairs on the back of her dad's neck stand out every time. Fortunately we know who one of the boys is and dad approves. It's funny though. When her older brother was in school he had more friends that were girls than boys and now I see the same similarity with my daughter. While she has A LOT of girlfriends she also has a lot of boys who are friends who stand in as brothers, which is not a bad thing.

So, whether you are responsible for running your kids to soccer practice, making the lunches, carpooling to girl scouts or chaperoning the marching band at the weekend football game ... I tip my hat to you in respect. School schedules can be just as busy for parents as they are for the students, but years from now we'll all hopefully look back and smile. Time flies by too quickly as it is. Enjoy this time with your kids. There is no other time like it and you can't get it back later. Makes sense to enjoy it while it's here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day ~ A Day For Reflection

I just spent a fun afternoon today with friends at a local parade. Some friends I already knew and others were ones I just hadn't met yet. My daughter is a high school junior this year and while she's an active viola player in her school's orchestra, this year she decided to join the color guard as well to be part of the high school marching band. Today they marched in the Romeo Peach Festival Parade. The weather left a little to be desired. Just two days ago we had a high temperature for the day of 95 degrees. Today it hovered right around 59 degrees, with plenty of low grey clouds in the sky, a light wind that made it feel much cooler and an occasional light drizzle thrown in just to keep things interesting.

I was amazed by several things today. The camaraderie of the band booster families that were there to support their children could not have been more evident. Everyone brought a dish or snack to share. There was a lot of food and no one went hungry. They even grilled hot dogs for the band students so they'd have food once they found their way back to our make-shift camp following the parade.

The parade brought the usual sights of clowns riding bicycles, Shriners driving small cars, policemen riding well groomed horses, marching bands playing their school songs, cheerleaders cheering, firetrucks sounding their horns, and several local dignitaries walking along to smile and shake hands. But what tugged at my heart the most was seeing the veterans march by. Young ones and old ones. There were veterans from WWII and there were mothers marching along holding pictures of their sons who are currently serving. The beautiful part was the cheering, clapping, and people getting up and out of their chairs to wave and salute the veterans. There was one man (who I know from my church who is the father of two teenagers) sitting nearest to the curb with his family. He had obviously served in the military at some point. He wore a polo shirt with the American flag on it and a hat that had several military patches on it. When the WWII veterans went by he stood proudly and saluted them. One of the veterans stopped and walked over to him, looked him straight in the eye and saluted back at him. They exchanged a few private words and the older veteran placed some sort of a makeshift medal on a red, white and blue ribbon around the man's neck. The crowd grew extremely quiet and just observed. I don't know what words they shared and it really wasn't any of my business, but at the same time I felt extremely honored to be witnessing such a solemn moment. When it was all done, one woman seated a few feet away said 'Wow, I didn't know I was going to cry today. That was beautiful.'

In the midst of letting the small children experience the laughing clowns and the moments of scrambling for the candy that was being thrown to the curbs, they got to see people young and old showing respect to perfect strangers. What a wonderful act to share with them.

There is so much busyness in the world today, so many agendas, so much turmoil, so much loss of hope for so many. Be sure to keep your eyes and your hearts open and ready. A 'respectful' moment can occur at any given time. It'd be shame to miss it. They can mean so much to everyone involved.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Some Things We Just Can't Control

Are you a control freak? I know there are times when I am and I'm mature enough to admit it. Truth be told I think there are times when we'd all like to know what is going to happen and when. Unfortunately, that could be good or bad. There is such a thing as destiny, which to many is always known as 'God's Plan'. God's plan is something that none of us have any control over and maybe that's for the best. If I knew what was going to happen to me tomorrow I'd probably do one of two things ... first if it was a good thing I'd probably try and rush it to make it happen sooner (and probably mess it up by interfering) or second if it was something bad I'd be so angry and depressed that I'd ruin today. You can see where it might be best for everyone if we were to let God handle our destinies for us and just sit back and go along for the ride. Have faith that God will do what's best for you. If something good happens, that's awesome! If something you would have preferred did not happen happens anyway have faith that God will give you the strength you need to get through it.

Below are a few quotes by Charles Swindoll that I have always enjoyed. I hope they make you stop and think as much as they do me.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The True Value Of A Word

Words can be simple or they can be complicated. The choice is always there and always yours. You've probably heard the old sayings 'choose your words carefully' and 'if you can't say anything nice then don't say anything at all'. I can't think of better advice. Words have the amazing ability to be anything. They can be heartfelt and supportive or they can be hurtful and mean-spirited. They can be comedic, witty and punny or they can be warm, endearing and inspiring.

Words can be singular and powerful like 'GO', 'STOP', 'YES', and 'NO'. Words can also become clear phrases when put together that tell us exactly what someone is thinking: 'I LOVE YOU', 'I'M HUNGRY', and when my kids were young ... 'BRUSH YOUR TEETH, IT'S TIME FOR BED'. I don't think a parent can be any clearer than that. Words can be very effective. They can used to form meaningful prayers that guide us when we are in need, the rhymes in a greeting card that make us smile, the lyrics in a song that warm our hearts, or create life-changing effects in a politician's speech.

I have a favorite website that I go to when I want to read words that are unique; words that make me think or make me laugh. The website is called the 'Quote Garden'. You can type in any category and you'll be blessed with a wide variety of quotes, some by people you've heard of and others that you haven't. The fascinating part isn't always 'who said what' but rather 'what was actually said'. Words have the keen ability to entertain us, but also to make us stop and think.

Here are a few quotes that caught my eye today.

You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him. ~ Leo Aikman

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. ~ Jimmy Johnson

Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time. ~ Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I thought growing up was something that happened automatically as you got older. But it turns out it's something you have to choose to do. ~ From the television show Scrubs

What are my words for you today? Think of what you want to say to someone or what you want to write ... hear them in your mind first or read what you have written ... listen to or read the words carefully, be sure you are clear and that they are the right words. Remember that once you use them you can't always get them back. Make them count and use them wisely.

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's not all about you!

I've come to realize that while my life and schedule are extremely busy and important (at least to me) ... that it's not all about me. Yes, I have responsibilities and agendas and hopes and dreams, but then so do a lot of other people. Mine certainly aren't any more important than theirs are. Of course, I'm sure there are times when all of us (if we were to be completely honest) think that the world revolves only around us, that what we do is most crucial, that our time is more valuable that anyone else's and that what we think and have to say is always right. Wow, is it just me or does that last sentence sound really selfish and perhaps even delusional? We've all experienced people like these.

Only this week I was sitting in 'clearly marked' construction where signs indicated for a good 1/2 mile that the 'left lane would be closed ahead'. While I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the right lane patiently waiting my turn (or at least I'd like to think I was patient), car after car sped by me in the left lane thinking that there was no need for them to wait their turn like everyone else, that it was perfectly acceptable for them to suddenly cut me off and merge into my lane ... AS IF their time was somehow so much more valuable than mine or everyone else who was sitting in the right lane. I tried to show them some grace ... I swear I looked for the flashing lights on top of their car to indicate that they were a police car or an EMS vehicle on their way to saving someone's life, but try as I might I just didn't see those flashers. Go figure! So what is my point with all of this, besides the clear disregards for other people's time? My point is that we need to look outside of our own little bubbles sometimes. We need to make a bigger effort to support other people, whether that is through everyday courtesies to total strangers (in the backed up traffic lane, in the cashier's line at the grocery store, or merely opening up the door for a young mother who is struggling to push the stroller all while holding the hand of a distracted 4 year old). Sad to say but we shouldn't even have to think twice about the situations above. These should be natural instincts.

But we can take it a step further and put more effort in to it. There are so many ways to support the people around us. We just need to slow down and observe, take the time to really pay attention. Look around you and take note ... what are your friend's or family's passions and interests? Go to your 8 year old nephew's baseball game. Cheer him on. It doesn't matter if he's the MVP or the bench warmer. Cheer his name, let him know you're there for him. Trust me, after YEARS of attending hockey games, dance recitals, school concerts, half time shows, and charity fundraising events people welcome the support. I remember years ago when my husband was coaching the high school's roller hockey team. I would sit in the bleachers (at EVERY game) and cheer for EVERY boy on the team. I know that schedules can get demanding, but it was sad to see a 16 year old boy score a goal and look into the stands for his parents (who weren't there). That's why I made the effort to know the name of each player on the team and cheered for every one of them. See, it's not all about me or my son. Of course I should probably add a disclaimer that lets you know that I am one of 'those' fans ... the kind that scream and cheer and stand for most of the game. I'm not an athletic person, but have ALWAYS loved high school sports. At one high school football game I was cheering and carrying on after the home team scored a touchdown when another parent said 'Wow, you sure are a proud parent. What position does your son play?' I just laughed and said, "Oh I don't have a son on the football team, my son is in the drum line with the marching band!' The look are the parent's face was priceless.

There are so many ways to show your support. Your gesture doesn't have to big, just letting someone know that you're paying attention can be huge. This week I attended my first garden walk. It was amazing. This couple had beautiful gardens at their home. They'd obviously spent a lot of money and time planning, planting and pruning their plants and flowers. It was well thought out and just plain beautiful. The fun part was watching how excited they were to talk about what they had accomplished and how they'd done it. While they appreciated the support, I enjoyed the view!

This morning started the 2011 Susan G. Komen Michigan 3 Day Walk for breast cancer. I walked in the event last summer, but was unable to participate this year. I know several of the walkers who are out there walking or volunteering today. As a past walker, I KNOW first hand the impact the enthusiasm from the cheering stations has on the walkers. It's what they need to keep going as they walk 60 miles in 3 days in the hopes of making a difference for research and for finding a cure. If you should see a walker out there today or in your town, make a friendly sign, honk your car horn, wave to them, give them sandwich bags filled with ice cubes, anything ... but show them some support!

In any of life's situations, a little show of support can go a long way!

Friday, August 5, 2011

What a busy week!

I feel like I've neglected my readers and this blog lately. Sorry about that. Last week I took 4 days of R&R (minus the rest) to drive south with my family. 1,150 miles in 4 days doesn't leave a whole lot of time for sleep. I got to spend time with my son in Bloomington, IN and then (as a family) we drove further south on Saturday to attend my brother's wedding in Louisville, KY. I had a really good time! The weather was mostly clear (but hot) - one night we watched an unbelievable lightning storm. It never did rain but for an hour we watched the sky continually light up with horizontal lightning bolts. That's something I'm not used to seeing. I've seen vertical bolts look like they stretch from the top of the sky all the way down to ground, but can't say that I've ever seen that much horizontal lightning. It was almost as if someone was flashing huge construction lights at us ... at one point when we were outside walking back to the van my kids said they could actually feel vibrations coming up through the ground and up their legs. That was a bit freaky. I must say we ALL got back to the van pretty quickly after that.

The wedding, though, was wonderful. My brother and his new bride make a beautiful couple. The chapel was historic and had amazing stained glass windows. It was really something special to see.

We got back late on Sunday night because I needed to be back to work for Monday morning. The church where I work was hosting VBS (vacation bible school) all this week. More than 130 children were registered. The weather held out (a true blessing when you have games to be played outside), no one was injured, no one got sick, no one got lost, and except for a few minor cases of 'mommy-itis' the week went off extremely well. I always enjoy watching the enthusiasm that the children (and volunteers) display. The theme days are always a highlight ... pajama day, mismatch day, crazy hair day (my favorite), and dressing like your new friends for twin/triplet day.

Needless to say, it's been a long 10 days or so but I'm hoping to get back on track now. Although I'm not sure how I would react if I had a non-busy life to live. That's one of the secrets to staying young at heart, right? I hope so, because that's what I always try to tell myself.

So what's on my horizon now? Let's see ... maybe find an hour or so to clean up my flowerbeds this weekend, get primed for volunteering at my daughter's high school marching band mini-camp next week, and hopefully finish up my current library book since I got an email this morning that the next book that I had on hold is in.

After weeks like this I think I know just how a hamster on a wheel feels ... kind of like you're not sure if you're coming or going. But exercise is good for you, right?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Some Favorite Michigan Memories

About this time of year I seem to notice several articles, advertisements, and flyers asking for people to send in some of their memorable vacation photos or favorite Michigan spots. I think this is when companies must start thinking about planning the photos for their next year's business calendars. I've seen inquiries posted for banks, area chambers of commerce, tourism companies, etc. I don't know that I have any to send in, but it did get me thinking about what some of MY favorite photos would be. I found a few of mine and some that my children took.

Let's start with the baby bunny in my own backyard. He seems to like the shade of the tall grass (as well as sitting under my black-eyed susans). As long as he's happy, right?

My son took this photo of Miner's Castle while in Michigan's Upper Peninsula attending a friend's wedding.

A beautiful shot of a lighthouse off the shore of Mackinaw Island.

Bike riding around Mackinaw Island, my daughter snapped a photo of Picture Rock. We did hike up to the top, but decided the view was better from the bottom!

We moved on the next day to downtown Petoskey, MI. So peaceful!!!

This friendly guy was just keeping himself cool on a hot afternoon at the Polar Bear exhibit at the Detroit Zoo. I think he had the right idea!

What are some of the favorite places you've been? Even if they weren't in Michigan I'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sometimes It's The Little Things That Make You Smile

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seemed to go wrong? Not even necessarily wrong, but the kind of day where for every item you crossed off your 'To Do' list, you seemed to add two more? Usually they call that a 'Monday'. But sometimes a 'Monday' can seem like it repeats itself in the same week. Just this afternoon a co-worker was filling out their time sheet and said 'Is today Monday?'. I couldn't help but smile and say 'Sorry, but it's already Wednesday'. We both chuckled over that one.

For me, this week has been pretty good. Busy as usual, but I think that's the only routine I know. Sometimes I have a difficult time shutting my brain off at night to go to sleep and this has definately been one of those weeks. But I noticed something over the past couple of days. Nothing really startling, but something I apparently needed reminding of ... that sometimes it's the little things that can make you smile. In the midst of life's craziness I had a couple of those little moments.

Earlier this week, my husband and I had our weekly date night while our daughter was at the high school having a marching band sectional (don't get all excited ... it was our $5.00 pizza night at Little Caesars, although they do have the best crust in town.) The thing that made me smile was when we got out of the car there were a few puddles in the parking lot from an earlier afternoon rain shower. Apparently there was narrow drain pipe that ran underneath the sidewalk (probably from the gutters). Water was trickling out of the pipe into the puddle. My husband said 'Look at that.' There was a big frog sitting in the opening of the pipe playing peak-a-boo with us. It was pretty comical and definately made me smile. When we came out afterwards he was still there.

The 2nd thing that made me smile happened just last night. It's been in the mid 90s here all week. My neighbor was just heading out to take his dog, Ruby, for a walk. To appreciate this you have to know Ruby. She is a 2 1/2 year old yellow lab and truly a wonderful dog. She has this thing she does when she's on her leash in her front yard (she sits under a tree and watches 'life' go by ... whether it's a car, a walker, or a kid on a bike). She likes plastic water bottles and even better if they still have water in them. I generally refill my water bottle several times throughout the day, so when I get home from work and she's sitting in her usual spot I usually bring her my bottle, of course I always make a point to add some water to it just before I head home. She gets so excited. I toss her the bottle and she catches it then heads over to lay down under her tree. She then proceeds with her little routine. She traps the bottle under paws, chews on it a bit and very orderly removes the cap, followed by the plastic ring, followed by the paper label. Then she barks at it, tosses it in the air, barks at it again, then spills the water out, then finally chews the bottle apart until there is nothing left. She's never swallowed the plastic pieces and she's never choked. She is REALLY ocd about her routine. But the other night she was getting ready to go for her walk when my daughter rushed out of the house and said 'Ruby ... I got something for you!'. Before I could explain that Ruby was about to go for a walk, my daughter had already completed the official 'toss of the bottle'. Ruby caught it, but was completely thrown off by the fact that she was in my driveway - not her front yard. Her owner still wanted to take her for the walk, so Ruby carried the full bottle of water in her mouth all the way down the street and all the way back. When she returned home to her own front yard, she looked at me, barked as if to announce herself and then did her entire water bottle routine. This one definately made me smile and definately made my night!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Someone really did read my blog!!

The most awesome thing happened to me last week. I discovered that someone really read my blog! I have to admit I felt a bit of a rush. I know that I write for myself and the pure enjoyment of it, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it's nice to hear sometimes that someone else is reading it too.

A couple of blog entries ago I wrote about entering contests and asked people to share what the coolest thing was that they had ever won. My brother then emailed me to tell me that a couple of years ago he had won Super Bowl tickets when the Indianapolis Colts were playing. My son also emailed me to ask that 'if' I should win Cedar Point tickets could he drive in to town to join us. So I soon discovered that just because people didn't post their comments on the blog didn't mean that they weren't reading it. I guess they're just more comfortable sharing their comments with me directly. And that's o.k. (although I'm sure other readers might have enjoyed reading what they had to say).

If you didn't read that particular entry feel free to scroll back and check it out. I'd still like to hear about any crazy (or not so crazy) things that you've won in the past. Ok, back to the awesome thing that happened. Someone I know contacted me last Friday and offered me tickets to the local Josh Groban concert the next night ... they said 'I read somewhere that you were a HUGE Josh Groban fan'. OMG!! Not only did someone READ my blog, but I wrote something that apparently was memorable! How cool is that? And by the way ... the concert was AMAZING!!!

So THANK YOU for the tickets (you know who you are)! You totally made my weekend.

On a side note, I added an email sign up box on the right side of the blog. Feel free to enter your email address. You'll receive my blog entrys automatically that way. I know I have a couple of blogs that I follow and way too often I forget about checking in on them because I get busy with other things.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Join Me On A Stroll Through The Garden

Last summer I was busy training for a 3 day 60-mile breast cancer walk. Walking was pretty much all I did for 6 months when I wasn't working, eating or sleeping. This year I'm taking some time for myself. Of course I'm still working and eating and sleeping, but this summer I've been taking time to work in my flower gardens. After last year, they were screaming at me for some attention (figuratively speaking). That being said I thought I'd invite you along for a stroll through my garden. I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What's the strangest thing you've ever won?

I've been on a kick lately of entering contests? I've kind of given up on winning the lotto ... haven't had much luck with that one. I guess the real question should be 'Do you feel lucky?' You'll always meet someone who says 'I never win anything' and yet someone else seems to have been blessed with 'lucky gene' because they seem to always be winning something. My husband had an uncle once who won tickets to the Super Bowl. Seriously ... who wins tickets to the Super Bowl? I can't remember the whole story, but I seem to remember it had to do with a nationwide contest through Coca Cola or Frito Lay or some big company. His odds of winning must have been astronomical to say the least.

Whenever I enter a contest I first look at what my odds of winning are. Is it a local contest or a nationwide contest? Through a newspaper or a radio station? It can make a huge difference in whether or not I even have a fighting chance.

Probably one of the first things I ever won (and maybe the strangest) was a hot pink stuffed rabbit for my son. He was probably 4 or 5 years old at the time. We went to a local drug store just before Easter one year. They had a basket next to the cashier with a little stuffed rabbit. The sign said to fill out an entry form and win the rabbit for Easter. My son thought it was cute, so I thought 'What the heck, I'll give it a try.' The store called me a few days later to tell me I'd won and could I stop by the store to pick it up. So we made a quick trip to the store. We told the cashier we'd gotten a call about winning the stuffed animal. She was all smiles then and said she'd get the manager. He proceeded to congratulate us and asked if we needed any help getting it to the car. I told him it was no big deal that I could handle it. He said 'Are you sure?' and then brought me this 4 foot tall hot pink fuzzy rabbit with ears that flopped all the way down its sides almost to his big feet. I think the awestruck look on my face said it all. Apparently it wasn't the 'little' rabbit I'd seen, but this HUGE rabbit that was bigger than my son. Dan loved it and couldn't wait to show it to his dad that night. All I could think was 'Exactly WHAT am I going to do with this big rabbit after Easter?' It sat it the corner of his room for at least a year or two. Then one year when I was working at a private country club the manager was planning decorations for a big Easter brunch they were going to have. Long story short ... my 8 year old entrepreneurial son sold the rabbit to the manager for $50! Now that was a strange outcome (and an awfully good investment on my time).

I've won concert tickets through local radio stations, one time I even became the grand prize winner which included a limo for the night, dinner before the concert, and a private meet & greet (with photos) with the singers. Not too shabby. A few years ago I read a small blurb in the local newspaper about a congresswoman in my area who was giving away a $100 gas card each week to help stimulate the local economy and give people in her area a break. All I had to do was send her an email. I did and two weeks later she called me and told me I'd won. It was great timing. I was taking my daughter up north that summer for a girls' week with my sister and niece. She had a condo for a week. So I drove. It worked out good for everyone.

Last summer I won 4 Ceder Point tickets through a radio station so my husband & I took our daughter and her friend, then the same week I won 2 tickets to a Tiger's baseball game. I couldn't use the baseball tickets so I gave them to someone else to use.

Sometimes it's not so much about what I could win, but more about the fun of it. I always try to share the wealth, so to speak. So what am I entering this summer? I entered a newspaper contest over the weekend to win 6 Ceder Point tickets. My daughter already has it planned who she's going to invite. Guess she's feeling lucky. Personally I'm holding out for the Josh Grobin concert tickets in a few weeks. That's one meet & greet I wouldn't mind. :)

What's the strangest thing you've ever won? I'd love to hear the story.