Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lost Art

This weekend my husband and I were talking about sprucing up our house a little bit.  New flooring, new paint, some art; these were the things we were talking about.

I went online to get some ideas about flooring and paint schemes, and while I was there, I decided to look for some ideas on how to use all the wine corks we have lying around.  We have a serious pile, folks.  I was looking for an idea beyond wine cork wreath and wine cork bulletin board that everyone and my mom has suggested.  I came across this picture and was inspired:

It's SO cool.  I can totally do this.
Because we have several high bare walls in our house, I thought: Why not accent one with a big wine cork sculpture?  Never mind the implications of how much wine we put away.  Other people have contributed to our cork collection.  Okay, one other person.  Okay, one time.

So last night, I measured the wall, laid out some paper, and got to work creating a design for the wine cork sculpture.  I even designed it around the heating vent and the thermostat on the wall I was planning on decorating.  It was going to be custom made, and it was going to be awesome.

After drawing, I started laying out the corks.  It took me about an hour and a half to get the design down, with some tweaking here and there to get the pattern just right.  Finally I was satisfied, and went to bed. 

This. Is. Going. To. Be. Amazing.

I got up three times in the middle of the night because I was so excited about how great it was going to look.

As soon as the kids got on the bus this morning, I fired up the glue gun, put the iPod on shuffle, and got to work gluing all those suckers together.  There were some places where the design needed a little more adjusting, and I realized that I would need to glue it in several separate pieces, but after a couple of hours I was finished.

It was breathtaking.  I could not wait to get that thing up on the wall.

I figured I needed to let the glue solidify a little, so I waited.  Like five minutes.  Good art can’t wait, after all.  I totally made that up.

I carefully carried the pieces into the room with the wall and started placing it.  I thought I’d use nails to rest it on between the corks.  A couple of nails per section should do the trick.

Uh, yeah.

Every time I’d get one piece up, it would fall off the wall as soon as I’d start putting another nail in.  As soon as it would fall, it would explode into three-cork sections.  I grew increasingly frustrated as the number of nail holes in the wall increased.

I stopped at twelve holes.  Then I swore.  A lot.  Then I put it back on the floor, screwing up my design in the process.

Just what happened here, exactly?

I am a failure at wine cork art.  I don’t know how I am going to get that thing up on the wall.  At least I can peel the hot glue off and use the corks for something else.

Like a wreath, or maybe a bulletin board.

photo credit

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Schooled

Today I was a substitute teacher in a preschool class for three-year-olds.  I sub on occasion for my friend, who is the director of a daycare.  She was desperate; the regular teacher was sick.  Before I agreed to the job, I whined and moaned and mumbled something about having other stuff to do, as only a good friend can.

Teaching preschool isn’t what I would identify as my life’s calling.  I’ve done it enough times to know about the frustrations with having to decipher various levels of speech ability and self-control among small children.  There are plenty of sweet and funny moments, and it’s an easy way to make a few bucks, but I am definitely not fulfilled by spending time teaching kids how to cut with safety scissors.  I do enjoy children (hello, I have two of my own), but I’ve dealt with enough patience-testing situations with children (my own included) that help me to understand why some boarding schools start at two years old.

I steeled myself for what I expected would be a rather slow morning.  On the way there, I wondered why my friend wasn’t a fashion editor for Vogue and needed someone to try the new It bag, or why she wasn’t an A-list celebrity agent and needed someone to go with her to some fabulous Hollywood party.  I also prayed that I would not have to deal with any potty incidents or crafts that involve painting or art supplies beyond crayons and glue sticks.  Or maybe just crayons.

When I got there, I met eight smiley cherubs who were cuter than buttons under their heavy winter coats and child-sized backpacks.

One half of a set of twins examined my every move as her sister chattered about something to do with feeding pie to babies.  One kid sat me down and never broke eye contact as he narrated twelve scenes of the first Transformers movie with an endearing lisp.  Another boy held me in his liquid brown Bambi eyes as he said quite perfectly, “It surely is cold today, isn’t it?”  I could hardly bear to keep from tearing up from the cuteness as the pigtailed and heavily dimpled girl who insisted on holding her scissors upside down nodded at me earnestly as I repeated over and over to keep her fingers away from the blade.

There were no potty incidents, no battles of wills.  The kids and I were on our best behavior as we sang about the days of the week, completed puzzles, had a snack, and colored shapes.  By the time it was time to go, I was enjoying the slow pace of a three-year-old preschool class.  I found myself wishing that life were as simple as enjoying a packet of fruit snacks and cutting along a line.

No intellectual breakthroughs were made this morning.  The kids did not announce that this was the best day at school they’ve ever had.  The parents were all smiles as they picked up their angels, and I was happy that they shared their children with me for those few hours.

I guess teaching preschool isn’t the worst way to spend a couple of hours.  My friend knows that, and I’m already on the schedule again.

photo credit
photo credit

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thanks for Being Thankful

Am I thankful?

I feel that I consistently thank others.  The bank teller who deposits my check gets a “Thank you.”  I thank the cashier at the grocery store who helps me.  I even thank the person who bags my groceries, throwing in a “Have a nice day” to boot.  It seems thankful.

We teach manners to our children so they will be liked, so they will appreciate others, so they will practice empathy, so they will be polite.  My kids are pretty good at thanking.  They usually say “thank you” without prompting.  Other adults comment on their nice manners.  Yet the more familiar the person, the less likely it is that I hear my kids say thank you.  It's rare to hear my kids thank a friend.  I still prompt them to thank my husband and me for doing something they ask, despite the abundant thank you cards we receive from them on Mother's and Father's Day.  They’re kids, so I sometimes cut them a little slack.

Am I teaching my kids to be thankful, or just to thank?  Are they saying “thank you” just because they’re trained?  

I feel that thankfulness can’t be taught; it must be practiced, and learned by example.  Is my thankfulness adequate enough to be taught by example?  I freely show appreciation to grocery store employees for doing their jobs, but it is difficult for me to appreciate my children or my husband for doing things for me that they most certainly don’t have to.  Mostly, they do things out of love or because I asked.  Did I thank my children for clearing the table after dinner last night?  I remember asking them to clear the table, to “put the cold stuff in the fridge.”  They did, and they didn’t even complain.  And I didn’t thank them.  I wasn’t thankful.

Am I going too far with this?  I roll my eyes when I hear someone go on and on about all the things in life they are thankful for.  It sounds so fake.  Do we need to be thankful for every little thing, when others do their jobs, when they meet the smallest expectation?

I think we do.  I think adults need to practice thankfulness, too.

When others do something for me, being thankful goes beyond saying thanks.  I learn to feel thankful for their service, for their kindness, for them.  Conversely, when I am thanked for doing something for another, I’m much less likely to be bitter about it.  If I feel appreciated, I probably won’t be grudging and grumpy about doing for others.  When I’m thanked, the next time I get an opportunity to do something for another person, I remember how thankful I am that someone was there for me, and do it graciously.

Thankfulness goes beyond “thank you.”  It’s a skill, a practice, a progression, and boy, do I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ponderer

In January, after exhaling the chaos of the holidays, I have a lot of time to spend on one of my favorite yet not always productive pastimes: thinking.

Although my birthday is months away, each January I feel older.

I wish with that age came consistent wisdom to solve what I perceive as life’s struggles, but what are most often non-entities that elicit whining and complaining on my end.  I have always been a pro at making something out of nothing.  I pursue things that most people wouldn’t waste time pursuing, and slog on self-created paths alongside ones that are well-worn and to be honest, easier and better.

I am a navel-gazer of the worst kind.

This may not seem such a horrible thing, for a little self-awareness goes a long way.  It’s good to be sensitive to those around you, to empathize and sympathize and to conduct yourself in a way that you are helping and not hindering the progress of the world that revolves around you.  It’s not good when self-awareness goes so deep that you are incapable of acting for fear that someone else might be affected negatively.

It sounds like post-holiday letdown, seasonal affective disorder, and good old-fashioned depression rolled into one big sad sack, but I promise you, it’s not gloom and doom.  There is a bright side.

The bright side of all this aging is that in January, I feel myself growing into my gentle spirit.  When we’re young, sensitivity is crying, drama, feeling misunderstood.  We use flowery language and it’s weird, and hyperboles most always elicit eye-rolls.  Feelings of inadequacy are embarrassing and are learned to be best left unsaid.  Reaching out to tell friends we love them isn’t cool.  Sensitive doesn’t always fit, and to not fit is unthinkable when we are young. 

As I sit at my kitchen table looking at the cards of encouragement and well-wishes that need to be mailed, I feel none of these things.  I’ll be as flowery as I want and hyperbolic to the nth degree.  This is how I feel, and this is who I am.  Even if people laugh and roll their eyes, I feel justified knowing that I sent my feelings out, that they may help someone else to know that they are being thought about in a good way. 

The slowness of life in January enables me to reach out to others, to grow into myself, and to live my life instead of my life living me.

In January I feel freer to be myself, and that’s not such a bad thing.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gratitude

Thanks, Aiming Low, for publishing me again! 

These people are awesome, and not just because they accept me.  They are.  And yet they do

I'm a Guest Writer today.  You can get the sweet goodness if you follow this link.  (You can check my other post there if you follow this one.)

It's a totally embarrassing and true story about something that happened to me at an appointment with my favorite type of medical practitioner: the Hooha Doctor.  Or Vaj Doctor, if you're from the suburbs.

If that storyline sounds familiar, it's because you've read it here, and not because this type of thing happens to me often.

Thank goodness for that.

Thanks for reading!

Ace

My daughter plays basketball.

I did not play basketball when I was young. My parents had discernment and saw that I was not cut out to play sports of any kind due to an inability to master my quick-growing limbs.  I also showed an early lack of interest in playing sports.  Now, I tend to ignore the sports world as much as I can in every respect.

My husband played basketball among several other sports when he was younger.  He is a sports fanatic.  He watches sports on TV and in person every chance he gets.  He listens to sports talk and games on the radio.  If suddenly there were no sports in the world, he would die from anguish. 

(No, this doesn’t cause any kind of friction in our relationship; why do you ask?)

Despite my ambivalence towards anything sporty, I realize that if you do not “do” sports or “know” sports or engage in the sports world at all, it can be difficult to relate to most people in many ways. Because of my struggle with being sports deficient and my husband’s passion for sports, we encourage our kids to play.  We both hope that they inherited some of my husband’s sporty genes.  We hope that they will find a sport that they love and that this will help them grow into well-rounded adults.

This hope is always a possibility when the kids start a new sports season, and I hold my breath each time that somehow, a love for sports will emerge.

The other night my daughter’s basketball team had a practice.  It was a lot of fun to watch.  The girls wore shirts with messages like “Pool Rules:  #1 – Only cute suits allowed” and “Smiles are my best friends.”  They wore leggings and pink shorts. The coach instructed the girls on the rules of the game, helped them practice their basketball skills, and showed them a new move.  They paid attention and followed his instructions, and in between taking turns, they skipped and turned cartwheels and giggled and twirled. 

I watched the girls who inherited sporty genes sink basket after basket, dribble skillfully, bob and weave around the others.  These girls enjoy playing the game of basketball more than skipping and giggling and twirling. 

I watched my daughter run with the ball instead of dribble, throw it toward the hoop but not often through it, and pass the ball to no one in particular.  I also watched her share some dance moves, lose her balance, and thump face down onto the gym floor.  She jumped up and screamed with laughter, arms flailing and legs flapping.  I smiled and laughed at her silliness.

And then I sighed.  She is my daughter, after all, and there’s always next season.


I wish.
photo credit

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bad Stuff

Holy crap, Football's on.

There's nothing in the world worse than sports announcers yapping, whistles blowing, fans screaming, and people commenting on every single play, fumble, pass, statistic, or whatever else happens in football that annoys me.

Well, maybe this is worse:


Made you look.

I can't even.



photo credit

Monday, January 9, 2012

Damage Control

Take it easy, man.

Nothing hurts more than seeing your own child suffer.  I’ve seen my kids through physical suffering like cuts and stubbed toes, sore throats and the aftermath of surgery.  Each incident causes me pain.

When children are emotionally distressed, the hurts are there, but submerged.  We’re not sure how deep they go, and the symptoms of a hurting child vary as widely as children do: some cry, others lash out, others are silent and withdrawn.  My children exhibit each one of these symptoms when they are hurting inside, and the cures are hard to come by.  Long gone are the days when a cry indicated hunger or an uncomfortable diaper.  The cures for today’s hurts are more complex, and they are beyond my reach.

I remember what being a kid was like – glee one day, gloom the next.  I carried my hurts throughout childhood and into adulthood like cherished possessions I am afraid of using for fear they might break.  I call it sensitivity, and I try using it to empathize with my kids about their myriad of hurts.  Most times I do not know if my empathy does any good, and it makes me wonder if dragging all that baggage around was for nothing.

Ultimately, I cannot make the hurts stop from happening.  Unfortunately, I will have to guide them through the motions of salving hurts that are so similar to mine that I can almost feel them again.  Unfortunately, what worked for me will not always work for them.  Unfortunately, my kids will have to suffer some things until they work them out on their own. 

When my kids work it out, the angels sing.  When they don’t, we buckle down, tuck in, and brainstorm another possible solution, another promising cure.  All that buckling and tucking is exhausting, but it is worth those few times we hear the songs. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Kids These Days

I have a friend who has two boys.  They are good-looking boys, and well-behaved, and polite and well-liked and all that garbage that is important to people.

One of her boys has a friend who is a girl.  Not a girlfriend.  A Girl Friend.

They have been inseparable for years, having been in the same class all through school, even living in the same neighborhood.

Did I mention that this boy and girl are 11?

They are 11.

I also have an 11*-year-old boy.

So my friend with the boys and I have talked about what happens when our 11-year-old boys become 12, and then teenagers, and what this means in terms of them interacting with 11-year-old girls who become 12, and then teenagers.

You know where I’m going here.

When moms talk about their kids interacting with kids of the opposite sex, there is this understanding, this knowing that things are about to change in the lives of our children, this knowing that we will need to put on our big-girl pants and steel ourselves for the inevitability that our children will be hormone-filled raging lunatics just like we were at that age, if we are being truthful about our own wonder years.

We talk about how we will be extra vigilant during the teen years, spying and texting and keeping tabs on our boys and their Girl Friends.  We pledge to be super-annoying and super-involved moms.

We also talk about the Girl Friends.

I am confused about how kids pair up so young.  My friend tells me, when I ask about how these young couplings form, that the girls make the first move, the girls chase the boys, the girls are more aggressive at making claims on the desired boy.  Things are very different now than they were back in the olden days, when we girls sat by the phone in our bobby socks and waited for the boys to call.

Of course I was skeptical, because my 11-year-old boy does not have a Girl Friend, but also because I have a girl – my 11-year-old boy’s little sister – an innocent, breath-of-life girl whose interests are as pure as snow.

Whose favorite singers include twin strumpets Ke$ha and Rihanna, and whose latest creations included scenarios featuring a naked Barbie and Justin Bieber doll sandwich, and who is always sneaking lip gloss.

And who, just the other night, whispered “I love you” to my 11-year-old boy’s 11-year-old buddy as she passed him a Pepsi, and point-blank asked him to marry her.

Oh, boy.

Lay it on me, loverboy.

photo credit

*Not quite 11.  It’ll happen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Back To Life

There’s nothing like coming off of a frenzied two-week hiatus from everything normal to make a person feel like a Boss.

Of Laziness.

I kind of wandered around all day today, doing little things here and there, reading an article, laughing at Twitter, responding to emails and making phone calls.  I tied up some loose ends and created a dozen more.

The all-encompassing holiday madness, in all its rush and flurry, has ended.  I made it through, skidding out of it on my rear end which may or may not be several millimeters or centimeters or inches larger in all directions due to all the traditionally unrelenting eating and drinking.  And drinking.

I’m tired and lost.  I no longer have shopping to complain about, no longer feel the stress about having my house ready for company, no more sabotaging Christmas cheer by worrying that we are missing even one second of Christmas cheer.

The end of the holiday season means that I will have to – again – find myself a routine.  I am a routine kind of person.  I need a schedule to follow.  It’s the reason I make lists, keep a calendar, take exercise classes.  I am not a multi-tasker, and I need organization and focus in order to function.

But today, it has eluded me.  I got very few small things done.  I am thankful that there is no longer any pressure of the holidays to deal with, and tomorrow, maybe I’ll be more productive. 

Or maybe not.

This can wait.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012

A very Happy, Healthy, and Wonderful New Year to you and all your peeps.

I couldn't resist.
Because I am lazy, and love Peeps.
Obv.
photo credit