Saturday, May 28, 2011

When You Wish Upon an Eyelash...

I’ve said it before here on this blog, and I will say it again: God gave us children so that we will remember to laugh.
1. Seven year old Grandson Avatar spent last week visiting his relatives in Iowa Heaven and South Dakota. His first night in South Dakota was a little unnerving for him and he cried to his mother, “I just want to go home!” Since home was an 18 hour drive away, that was not possible. Instead, my daughter Em offered to say a prayer with him, so that he would be comforted. When the prayer was over, he was still quivering, and said, “There’s no place like home.”

Chunk and Avatar

2. Granddaughter Hoolie, who is nearly eight, is leaving in a few days to spend the summer with her father in Las Vegas while her mother and uncle are spending the summer in Europe.  In the car tonight we had a little conversation about how much I will miss her:

Me: Hoolie? I love you!
Hoolie: I love you too.
Me: But do you know how much I really love you? Do you feel it?
Hoolie: I know, Grandma.
Me: I will be so sad when you leave. Have you ever had a paper cut?
Hoolie: Yes.
Me: Do you know how much they hurt?
Hoolie: Yes. I’ve had one before.
Me: Well, if you pour lemonade on that paper cut, that will be how much my heart will hurt when you are gone. So if you want to, you can call me any time, okay?
Hoolie: Oh, goodness gracious! If it’s going to cause you that much pain, I’ll do it.

3. I learned something new from little Hoolie tonight, something I never learned in school.

Hoolie: Grandma, did you know if you pull out your eyelash and make a wish, it will come true?
Me: No, I have never heard that.
Hoolie: Well, it’s true. I pulled out an eyelash today and my wish came true!
Me: You did? What did you wish for?
Hoolie: Grandma! I can’t tell you that! Actually, I did it twice and both times my wish came true.
Me: Where did you learn such a thing?
Hoolie: From Gregory [her friend.] He did it too and it worked!
Me: I have never heard anything like it.
Hoolie: Yeah—wishing on an eyelash is so much easier than wishing upon a star.

Good thing eyelash extensions are the rage.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dance until you cry

It’s understandable when people cry at sad things. Tornadoes wreak devastation across the Midwest, hurricanes wipe out entire cities, children die in freak accidents, or a beloved mother struggles with breast cancer.

It’s also certain that people will cry at happy events. A daughter gets a surprise proposal from a worthy young man, an elderly couple celebrates fifty years of commitment to each other, a childless woman gets pregnant after years of trying, or a struggling couple gets a financial boost from a supportive community.

Just like you, I’ve wept over both devastation and joy. What I have never been able to understand though, is why I cry while watching dance performances. I have gotten choked up at a Riverdance performance, at teenagers swaying to Romanian folk dance, at preschoolers tapping tiny toes in tutus, at a well-executed hip hop routine, at television dance programs, and at my daughters’ and granddaughters’ dance recitals.

Today, granddaughter Hoolie had a May Day celebration at school, which involved several dance routines for each grade. Hoolie is a natural performer and I choked up with pride at her mastery of the steps and arm movements. I also got all quivery-lipped at the kids in older grades when they fell to the ground in a waterfall during the song Lean on Me, when they synchronized their movements to songs I remembered from the 70’s, and when they flitted around beautifully braiding ribbons around a pole with seemingly little effort. But nothing hit me in the heart more than this:

The little kindergartner was not like his classmates. He consistently gazed at the floor, and appeared to be disengaged from what was happening all around him. He could not perform on his own, yet a loving teacher wrapped her arms around him and performed the steps and arm movements with him so he could participate with his friends and make his mother proud.  When the music stopped and the applause began, she guided him back to the arms of his mother, where he ignored the rest of the program.

My cousin has done me the favor of helping me to be aware of differently-abled children. Thanks to her steadfastness in helping raise consciousness, I am more aware to speak normally and smile when a stranger with “Up” syndrome wants to chat. My students now know they shouldn’t call each other the "r" word.” I am more compassionate and less judgmental when I see an older child throwing a tantrum in Walmart and see his mother put her arms around him and speak soothingly. And like today, tears spring to my eyes when I see a teacher who gives a mother peace of mind—a peace of mind that gives her confidence to release her son into the capable hands of a teacher. A teacher who vows to love her child, hold his little arms, and dance.

[ I inserted the photograph because it was taken from behind. My intent is to point out the tenderness of the scene and not to showcase the child's "difference."]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rainy Days in Utah

Something you should know about my living space in Utah--it hardly ever rains. Back in my homeland of Iowa, it could rain for days. When I moved to Utah it would rain for five minutes, then not rain again for another month. If I went to Walmart and it started raining, I would turn on the car radio, listen to a song, and then the rain, rain would go away and I could go into the store, perfectly dry.

Not so this week. It rained for four days straight, so I had an eventful week.  My hair got wet when I went to Walmart.(Wet hair spray makes for some truly unattractive hair.) My jeans got mud- splattered. I had to wear my snow boots in the garden. ( I don't own a pair of rain boots. In Utah?  Pshaw!) But when it stopped raining and the sun broke through the clouds, I did what any sane 21st century woman would do--I grabbed my camera!

I love the drop of rain ready to spill off that leaf.

Apple blossoms!

Our house isn't toothpaste any more--it's mouthwash!

Can you smell it?

First thing up in the garden every year--radishes!

Our back yard is very "rustic."

Winter boots. Yup, I put in this stone pathway myself.

Cinder blocks.

Okay, I may be kind of hokey, but I love taking pictures of  random objects. Especially when they're wood, and even more especially when they're wet.

Chives growing among the plum trees. 

Boundary line between our yard and the neighbor's. A very woodsy feel.

More wet wood. Yum.

The herb garden.

Stump used for sitting around the fire pit.

Have you even noticed that all streets on TV shows are wet? That's because water makes everything more dramatic and crisp.

Grandchildren are especially cute in the rain.

My Mother's Day flowers in my favorite color.

And the very best thing about rain?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Oprah Moment

For almost twenty years now, I have lugged around a Franklin Planner. My attachment began back in my Gateway days, when it was a required accessory. (Woe be unto any management employee who dared to use a Post-It note after having been through Franklin Planner training.) Back then it was a “Classic” size, issued in burgundy faux leather.

When it fell apart, I bought my own, a similar version to the Gateway-issued one. Through the years, I discovered the “Monarch” size, which suited me better because it held 8 ½” x 11” documents. I bought two blue leather ones, and today own a black Monarch made of some washable synthetic material. It holds calendars, planning pages, room to journal, an address book, grading scales, lesson plans, and goal pages. 

My planner is vital to me because I have a problem. I can’t stop thinking.

At any given moment, my mind is racing with story ideas, blog topics, ways to help teach my son, scrapbook projects, organizing tips, songs that I wish they would dance to on TV, gift ideas for family and friends, emails I want to send, people I want to help, trips I want to take, obligations I have to meet, crafts I want to try, books I need to read, chores that need to be done, and so on. I’m never bored. Without my planner though, without a schedule, I could sit for hours thinking about it all. My planner keeps me focused and helps me make sure that I am fitting in all that I want to accomplish.

However, ninety minutes is allotted every day for “free time.”  Lately, more often than not, I am spending my free time with Oprah.

Many of you probably know that Oprah has less than two weeks left in her twenty-five year run. She is spending these last days making every show an impact. It’s been a rare day in the last month since school let out that I haven’t been intrigued by her show.

Oprah’s show the other day featured some of her more memorable moments. One such moment included a candid confession by author Toni Morrison. She said that when her children were growing up, she assumed they felt her love for them because she was always doing things for them and helping them function in life. Surely they knew they were important to her, right?

Her world view was shattered one day when her young son brought her a picture he had drawn. She looked at it and smiled and said something like, “That’s nice.”  In front of her, he ripped the paper and threw it on the floor. She asked him why he did that, because she had told him it was a nice picture. How he answered shook her to her core: “Because I saw that smile on your face.”

She knew very well what he meant by “that smile.” It was the smile of a preoccupied mother. The smile that says, “I’m busy with something else, but I will react just enough to pacify you.” Her son knew it well. I’ve smiled that same smile myself.

Toni changed her attitude right then. She decided that from that day on, her eyes would light up when her children walked into the room. Her children started to really know that their mother loved them. They no longer had to assume that she did by the tasks she performed.

Yesterday I had a similar situation. For Mother’s Day, Weston got me a beautiful white floppy hat, perfect for wearing in the garden or at the beach. I loved it, and told him so. I pictured it shading my face on a hot, sunny day at the beach. Yesterday he approached me and said, “You don’t even like that hat I got you.”

“Of course I like it,” I said. “I love it. I told you I did.”

“But you’ve never even worn it.”  Ouch.

How could I have been so insensitive? Why didn’t I prance around the house wearing that hat the day I got it? Why didn’t I proudly wear it to church even though it didn’t “go” with my outfit? My vision of wearing it on a future trip to the beach didn’t mesh with his idea that a person who loves a hat simply wears it.

Years ago, I saw a news segment about Linda Evans, star of The Big Valley and Dynasty. Her former husband, John Derek, said something along these lines: “I used to love being around Linda because every time I walked into the room, her eyes lit up. Then I realized that Linda’s eyes light up no matter who walks into the room.”

Don’t you love it when you see someone you know, and their eyes light up at the sight of you? Our children deserve to experience that same feeling in our presence.

I’ll be wearing my hat in the garden tomorrow.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Things My Mother Taught Me

 She taught me how to love reading when she taught me my ABC’s, then sat me down with a newspaper and made me read to her.

She taught me how to make a child feel smart when she would pretend like she didn’t know a crossword puzzle clue.

She taught me how to have fun with my children when she played a marble game called “Wahoo” with me and taught me how to play Rummy.

She taught me that even ordinary objects like sticks, pieces of fabric, and buttons can be playthings and can be the source of hours of amusement.

She taught me how to express love when she would tuck me into bed and say every night, “See you in the morning, I love you, goodnight.”  It was our mantra.

She taught me the meaning of protection when she called up the mother of someone who was bullying me and issued a “cease and desist.”

She taught me how to stand up for what was right when she chased away a man who was trying keep a black family from moving into our neighborhood.

She taught me not to play favorites by loving each of her children equally. We never knew who Mom’s favorite was, although I am sure it was me.

She taught me the importance of extended family by telling me all about her brothers and sisters and how much she loved them. She had fourteen of them. She always said her brothers were German and her sisters were Irish, though I think even the brothers insist to this day that they are Irish.

She taught me to never waste an opportunity to celebrate a holiday, though I haven’t gone as a far as wearing shamrock antennae and a green top hat. I am however, trying to get people in Utah to accept the tradition of leaving treats and flowers on doorsteps on May 1.  It’s not that easy.

She taught me about marketing when we had a bowl of bread, milk and sugar for breakfast and thought it was the best treat ever.

She taught me what LOL really means when she would stand in the aisles of the Hallmark store, reading all the naughty birthday cards, and embarrass me with her loud laughter.

She taught me about honesty when she would correct a cashier who had undercharged her.

She taught me the fine art of practical joking when she would make lunches for my brother-in-law, but would stick a piece of cardboard between the slices of meat.

She taught me how to relax when she would make popcorn, season it with fried minced ham and parmesan cheese, and settle on the couch to watch Johnny Carson.

She taught me about fine dining when she would make herself a radish, cucumber and baked bean sandwich. She also taught me that there was no greater delicacy than a large juicy onion. Okay, that’s a lie. There is no greater delicacy than a ripe Iowa tomato.

She taught me that no job is too “belittling” when she worked her fingers into an arthritic state by putting radios together at Zenith and when she sorted through other people’s garbage at the Goodwill.

She taught me that it’s never too late to learn something new when she began oil painting after her kids were grown.

She taught me about the importance of being able to laugh at yourself when a bird pooped in her hair and she said, “I probably ratted my hair too much so she thought it was her nest.”

She taught me about selflessness when she would get up at 4:00 a.m. to get herself and her kids ready to go in the morning, would work all day, would come home exhausted, would immediately begin dinner, housework and laundry, and would fall into bed around 10:00.

She taught me about compassion when she would try to make my single motherhood easier by sneaking into my house to wash dishes, make my bed, vacuum, and cook dinner for me.

She taught me how important it is to take pictures of family life, even when it seems mundane. You will never know when that photo that shows a kitchen clock in the background will become a way to prove your side in an argument.

She taught me the meaning of inexpressible grief when she died.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Male/Female Communication, or Should I Say "Miscommunication"?

Last year, when we moved into The Toothpaste House,  we discovered rocks of various sizes parked throughout the yard. Some of them were flat instead of rounded, so I thought they would make good stepping stones for a garden pathway.  Because there is always a good year or two between the time I come up with a great idea and its actual implementation, it was this week before I finally broke ground.

I had the job of digging the hole and Weston's job was to place the flat stone into the hole. After he had successfully inserted several rocks into the ground, I had to take issue with his last attempt.

"There's something not quite right about this one," I said. I walked around the rock, viewing it from all angles. Finally, I said, "It needs to be moved ever so slightly to the left."

He was a little frustrated because even though he is quite the buff little guy, he does have his limits. He lifted the rock and moved it ever so slightly as per my command.   "There. That looks much better."

"But Mom. I moved it less than an inch."

"It's a woman thing," I told him. "Get used to it. You'll be married someday."

I Take a Stupid Pill

Last night, Computer Geek, Neo, and I were watching The Brady Bunch.  It's one of the geeky things we do as a family, every Monday through Friday at 5:30 sharp. (When I was eleven years old, I never dreamed that forty years later, I would still be able to watch my favorite show!) In this episode, Marcia Brady was attempting to show that she was equal to boys by joining the all-male scouting troop. My husband made some comment as to how that episode was an example of the Hegelian Dialectic Process in action (don't ask.)

For some odd reason, I was highly annoyed by his comment, especially when Neo agreed with him. I started making comments like, "Oh, you're right. Maybe Marcia should just go cook something," and "Poor Marcia. She's too stupid to do what boys do. Maybe she should just get out her sewing machine."  Yeah, I'll admit I was a little a lot sarcastic. Then I got up and said, "Maybe stupid ol' me will just go do some dishes or something."

 A little later, Computer Geek was headed out to a city council meeting and I had a meeting I had to go to, so he said, "I left your keys in the car, in between the two seats."

You should know that our car has a mind of its own sometimes and at random moments it will spontaneously lock and unlock itself.  I can be driving down the highway and hear the door locks going up, down, up, down. At times, I have left the car unlocked only to come back later and see that it has locked itself. With that in mind, I said to CG, " I don't like when you leave the keys in the car because I am afraid that it will spontaneously lock."

He said, "That's why I left the window open for you."

Keep in mind I have just spent the last hour being sarcastic to this man with my biting "Oh, I guess women are just TOO STUPID." comments. Nevertheless, I responded with, "Oh, you expect me to crawl through the window to get the keys?"

He, being a smart man, said, "No. I expect you to reach in the window to unlock the door."

Boy, was I feeling kind of sheepish.

I Take a Grumpy Pill

So now, this morning, I was vacuuming, when I noticed a lack of tracks. Many women know that part of the joy of vacuuming is seeing those tracks, indicating "Hoo-boy, is my carpet ever clean!" This is the third day in a row this has happened. CG solved it the other two days by reattaching the vacuum cleaner belt. Today, when it happened again, he said, " I looked this up online. Is the hairspray you use really sticky?"

I retorted with, "So now it's my fault? Yeah, I take the vacuum cleaner into the bathroom and get my sticky hairspray all over it!"

Time to feel sheepish again.

"No. It just said online that if you spray the belt with a sticky hair spray the belt won't come off so often."

So yeah. The past two days I've been eating some delicious humble pie.

It didn't stop me from making Weston move the burn barrel he was installing in our new fire pit.  "It needs to be moved over just about an inch." 

It has to look right, doesn't it?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Frugal Fiesta 5-2-2011

    If you've been hanging around this blog long enough you know how euphoric I get over things that are CHEAP or FREE.  I hit the jackpot this week and feel I must share before I explode.

    First of all, through one of my fav-o-rite websites,  I obtained a coupon for $1.00 off Reach dental floss. Our local Walmart had Reach dental floss for only 88 cents, making the floss F*R*E*E. Then, I got a coupon for $5 off Tylenol's Precise pain reliever. You can use the coupon for the topical pain relief cream or the heat patch. Our Walmart had these for $5.97 each, making my total cost for the pain cream only 97 cents. And that, my dear friends, was only the start of the week.

     On Saturday, we had to go shopping for a new kitchen faucet. Ours has been dripping constantly and many times we come home to mini-floods on the kitchen floor. Weston scored a FREE T-shirt at a hardware store, just because we made a purchase.

    That same day, a local grocery store had bananas on sale for 44 cents a pound. I gathered up as many as we could, and brought them home to freeze. I used to dehydrate them, but have decided instead to freeze surplus bananas for more versatility. Simply peel, chop into slices and pop into a freezer bag!

    Whole unpeeled bananas can also be frozen. The peel turns brown, but the banana itself does not. When you're ready to use, you can thaw, cut the end off, and squeeze the banana out like toothpaste! If preferred, you can unpeel and use whole.

    At Walmart this week they had Easter items on sale for 75% off.  Here's my frugalista tip of the week:
Even if you don't need any leftover holiday items, still check the sales. 
Many times you can pick up inexpensive items for other events.
    I found these adorable gift bags in the Easter close-out section for only 25 cents apiece. I picked up four, knowing that they can be used later for feminine birthdays.

    I feel complete, now that I have shared the joy with others. What frugal tips do you have this week?
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