Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer Bummer

It has been one bummer of a summer.

Things looked promising at the beginning.  Once the hectic schedule of the school year was over, we all enjoyed sleeping in, going for hikes, grilling dinner, making s'mores at the fire pit in the back yard, and lots of other things we only really get to do in the summertime.  There were even a few nice, warm days (that's above 70 degrees here in Del Norte) that allowed the kids to wear the creases out of the new shorts I'd got them and allowed me to bare my ghost-white calves with a pair of capri pants.

Then the bummers started to happen. And they started to snowball.

We got a call saying my husband's grandpa, who had terminal cancer, was nearing the end.  Husband left for a good chunk of time to be able to talk to Grandpa and say his goodbyes.  Shortly after coming back, Husband got another call saying Grandpa had passed away.  He left for another chunk of time to attend the memorial service (and give the eulogy) and help organize some of Grandpa's possessions.  It was a very sad time, compounded by the fact that Husband was away so much and I was on my own with three children who had become very bored with summer and who didn't know how to express their grief over their great-grandfather's passing in ways other than arguments and outbursts.

That was the worst part of summer.  After that, it was a plethora of little things.  Hit Girl came down with a cold, prompting her to wake up several times a night and come into our room to wake us.  I managed to shut the garage door on the hood of our new minivan and scratch it terribly.  Did I mention the garage door was bent so badly it wouldn't work and the motor in the opener caught fire?  Just this last week, Pollyana's constant summer buddy, who was here visiting family in our neighborhood, left her with head lice as a parting gift.  Two hours after discovering this, the washing machine's motor ground to a halt.

So yeah, at this point I'm hoping for a vacation from our vacation.  Our family schedule during school is completely crazy, but its predictability looks pretty nice right about now.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Temper, temper!

I have a terrible temper.

Most people don't believe this about me.  Generally I'm a pretty sunshiny, Pollyanna type of person who skips around surrounded by chirping birds, crowned by rainbows in a sky where the only clouds have sequined outlines of silver.  My little world is a happy place and I stay there as much as possible.  But I don't always stay there. Oh, no.  Sometimes unpleasantness creeps in, embedding itself under my skin, irritating more and more with every breath until it becomes so difficult to ignore that my happy little world dissolves into a cacophony of dissonance, thunderbolts and lightning storms that leaves me gritting my teeth and digging my fingernails into my palms. 

Now don't think I'm easily angered.  I do my best to let things roll off my back and focus on the big picture, asking myself "In the grand scheme of things, will this really matter?"  So when the steam starts coming out of my ears, be assured it's been building for quite a while, which might explain the level of reaction when it finally comes. 

So I find myself wondering...is this healthy?  Is it normal?  I never really had a positive example of how to handle anger when I was a kid and, more than anything, I want to avoid the constant violent outbursts that punctuated life in those days.  Then I come across this:

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
—Colossians 3:8
and things start to fall into place.  While I have a bit of pride over the fact that I am fairly slow to anger, the reality is, that's not good enough.   Temper, anger, whatever you want to call it - it's not from God.  It's a very real example of how easy it is to slip into the "me" mentality when my goal is to always be looking up.  If I give in to the foot-stomping and muttering, I'm grasping tools that, instead of helping me out of the pit of temper I'm in, will tear and bite into the ground to create a chasm of misery.  Looking at things that way, the answer to my question is obviously no, this is not healthy and this is not good.
It's never easy for me to admit I'm wrong, especially when I know I'm right.  My angry thoughts may well be justified.  Let's face it, people in general are not kind, they are not altruistic and they often hurt others in order to benefit themselves.  Anger is a natural reaction.  But it takes something more, something otherworldly, to refuse to let that take hold, to push it aside in favor of humility and obedience and maybe even forgiveness.  A work in progress, I'm nowhere near mastering any of that.  But I can do pretty much anything with God's help, so I'm going to keep trying.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The 4th in the 'Norte

Fireworks over
Battery Point Lighthouse

The 4th of July in Crescent City is a big deal.  Summertime is the only time of year when we're not completely inundated with rain, so this holiday is the perfect one to highlight the beauty and unique features of our area while celebrating the birth of our country.  There are myriad trails that twist through lush redwood trees growing so tall you can only see a hint of blue sky peeking out from above the canopy of branches.  The ground below, pillowed with dried leaves and pieces of bark, springs up with each footstep.  Fallen tree trunks provide hiding places for all manner of forest creatures and excellent climbing challenges for kids of all ages.  Much as the rain during the other 3/4 of the year depresses me and makes me long for a different climate, summertime reminds me why I could never leave this place completely. 

July 4th, 1915 on Front Street

The amount of activities going on the 4th is astounding for such a small town.  The entire schedule is printed in the local paper, and it's possible to be involved in something from before breakfast until the wee hours of the night.  The one thing I never miss is the parade, which seems to be getting longer each year.  It begins at 10 am and goes until noon this year.  All but one member of my family are part of it and numerous friends and their children are also participating, so the enthusiasm that brings should hopefully overshadow the length.  Two hours is a looooong time.

After tomorrow, Crescent City will return to the sleepy little town it usually is, minus the rather colorful populous that makes the newspaper and the news of record on a regular basis.  Enjoy your 4th and be safe!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The girl is crafty like ice is cold!

Four. Feet.
 I just got back from a wonderful afternoon crafting with three of my favorite people.  While I worked on the neverending crochet shrug (FOUR FEET of the same stitch over and over and over), Rainbow Bekah and Easily Amused Jamie made flowers and hair bands and all manner of cute creations I couldn't make from scratch if my life depended on it (The lovely Miss Mandy spent her time holding the cutest. baby. ever.). 


After my hand went numb from single crocheting an hour of my life away, Bekah took pity on my flowerlessness and showed me how to make a fabric flower clip of my very own.  Not too shabby for a beginner, eh?  Now I'm desperate to go through my fabric scraps and see what flowers I can create.  My girls are eager to help, and I'm sure this will end up being a project for the three of us.
Currently holding a pocketbook, comb, brush, receipts,
hand lotion, sanitizer and one small blue racecar.

The sewing machine is intimidating me less and less, and I have two projects to show for my determination to show it who's boss.  The first is the Amy Butler Birdie Sling.  Since making this one, I've ditched my teensy handbag and embraced the gigantic shopping tote-sized purse I made from the pattern.  Sure, it's huge.  Maybe a little ostentatious.  But boy, can I fit a lot of stuff in it!

The second is a dress I lovingly refer to as Pollyanna's First Mumu (for blogging purposes, I've renamed my children The Professor, Pollyanna and Hit Girl. More on that in another post).  The pattern is for your basic pillowcase dress, of which you can find any variation on the web.  Just google. 

Not to be confused with the
sound a cow makes.

Because she's 7 and taller than the toddlers pillowcase dresses are designed to fit, I let Pollyanna pick out any fabric she wanted off the clearance rack so we could make the dress as long as we wanted. True to form, she chose a very loud flowery rayon type material that resulted in a flowy, parachutey look that she loves.  I'm still forming an opinion on whether I like how it turned out, but being enamored with anything Mama makes, Pollyanna is thrilled and has vowed to wear it as often as I'll let her. 

Obviously, I'm still a fledgling crafter, but each time I make something I feel that much better about my skills.  Maybe someday I'll create my own tutorial or be featured on one of those fantastic craft lists all the creative bloggers make!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Father's Day

Father's Day is one of those holidays I've never seen a point in celebrating.  My earliest memory of Father's Day is in second grade, when I presented my mother, a struggling single parent, with a card that said "Happy Father's Day to the best dad I know" - a wry twist of humor that sends a pang to my stomach even now.  At that point, my biological father had been absent for a little over three years. He'd abandoned his children in favor of a life and another child with someone he'd been seeing at the same time as my mother.  A couple years after that, he ended up in prison for a violent crime, and that's where he was when I gave that homemade card to my mother.  The following years saw him re-enter prison shortly after he was released, and saw me with a new stepfather who didn't do much to earn the title of father, apart from being a male presence in our home. 

Growing up without a strong male role model was tough.  I had grandfathers I loved dearly, but didn't really feel particularly close to them.  Male teachers were few and far between, but those I did have, I had a great respect for and did my best to impress them with my academics.  Kind as those teachers were, the space left by the absence of a decent father never has been filled. 

Thankfully, I had the good sense to marry a kind, family-oriented man who is extremely involved in our childrens' lives.  The knowledge that my children are growing up with a fantastic role model who obviously loves and cares for them gives me a bit of peace about my own fragmented upbringing.  I can deal with the aftermath of failed fathers knowing they'll never have to.  And that, my friends, is a happy ending.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Take Me to the River...

Way back in the spring of my senior year of high school, I was baptised.  Growing up in the Southern Baptist church, there was no infant baptism.  Parents were encouraged to dedicate their children to God, which had the family standing in front of the church as the pastor prayed for them all, and specifically that the child being dedicated would grow to lead a life pleasing to God.  But there was no water involved, apart from the tears of emotionally overwhelmed grandparents.  I don't think my siblings and I were ever dedicated, but I saw many other kids in our church dedicated over the years.

As a child, I was a non-swimmer.  Even now, at thirty-four years old, I can only manage to swim a few feet before panic sets in and I need to touch bottom with my feet in order to calm down.  One really bad experience with the water left me afraid to ever submerge my face, which meant baptism was out of the question, no matter how much I felt I wanted to do it.  Discussions with my pastor about the possibility of performing a baptism that kept my face out of the water were fruitless.  Unless I went completely under, he said, it wasn't an actual baptism.  I still fail to see the logic in this (did he suspect the symbolic washing away of sin would leave my face vulnerable to bad, bad things?), but that's the way it was.  Finally, my senior year of high school I decided it was time to suck it up and get baptised.  I'd been doing daily bible study and was interested in truly living the type of life Jesus outlined in the New Testament, and in order to be obedient, this was the next step. 

My timing could have been a little better.  The baptism took place in March, after our sanctuary had burned down as a result of arson (still unsolved, by the way).  Because we didn't have access to a baptismal and this was before the days of portable hot tubs, we waited until the rain stopped for a few days and trooped to the banks of the Mad River.  Looking back, this was downright crazy. The water was freezing and the river was swift and high.  I'm not sure whose idea this was, but they probably weren't firing on all cylinders.  Anyway, my turn came and I waded out, breathless because of the coldness of the water.  I still remember the sensation of icy wetness over my face before being hauled back above the surface, gasping for air and plunking my way to shore to scattered applause.

I'd like to say I took things seriously enough to have a solid Christian experience from that point on, but as most young adults tend to do, I became self-involved and relied heavily upon my own logic to get through daily situations.  That particular issue has been a cyclical struggle ever since.  But I managed to get it together partway into my college years and do my best to be mindful of the way I'm supposed to be living and who I'm supposed to be relying on for even the little things (hint: not myself).  I figure if I counted on Him to get me through the two seconds underwater that felt like much, much more, I can certainly count on Him to get me through the harder stuff that doesn't terrify me half as much.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Play, Magic Fingers!

When I work out on the elliptical machine each morning, it's become a habit of mine to watch a show I've recorded on the DVR that I'm sure nobody else in my family wants to see.  Most of the time it's an episode of Troy Dunn's The Locator or Antiques Roadshow, but occasionally I'll have a full length movie that I break up over the course of a few days.  This week I've been watching Immortal Beloved, starring the ever-versatile Gary Oldman.  It's about Ludwig Von Beethoven and the search to find the mystery woman he willed all his possessions to after his death, referred to only in writing as Immortal Beloved.  I'm just over halfway into the movie and it's goooooood.  So good that I'm tempted to watch the rest of it during the day, but I can't because my little one's here and it's rated R.  So I get to wait until my next workout session, which is probably good incentive to exercise anyway.

Over the past two years or so, I've taught beginning piano lessons to several kids in town.  In my home I have a two foot high stack of music books, several hymnals and chorus books, and a portfolio full of loose sheet music for piano.  Despite all this, it's been years since piano practice has been part of my routine.  I'll sit down every now and then and play for ten or fifteen minutes, but it's never a regular thing and besides, there always seems to be five million things to do and five million kids running around making noise, asking me why someone else is making noise or complaining about noise in general.  With three very active kids, it's very easy to let piano practice fall by the wayside as I have done.  It's a lame excuse, but it's still an excuse.

So, spurred on by the life of Ludwig Von Beethoven and the haunting beauty of Moonlight Sonata, I'm going to make an effort to practice on a regular basis.  Right now my goal is three times a week, even if it's just ten minutes each time.  I've dusted off my copy of Fur Elise and after twenty minutes of play, my creaky fingers are slowly warming up to the tune I could play with my eyes closed in high school.  Cross your fingers I can keep it up!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

*tap tap*

I am one of those horribly annoying people who arrives at her destination five minutes early on purpose.  I hate being late and will go to great lengths to avoid it at all costs.  The thing is, I completely understand that the rest of the world doesn't think like me, and I have no problem with waiting an extra ten minutes for the other person to show up...as long as they actually show up.

Today I had an appointment. Well, the appointment was originally scheduled yesterday but I got a call shortly before the scheduled time with a request to postpone until this afternoon.  No problem.  I re-arranged a few things and made sure I'd be able to meet at the place we'd agreed.  True to form, I was there five minutes early and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  After being there fifteen minutes, I threw in the towel and left.  A couple hours later, I still have yet to get a phone call or text explaining just what happened.  I'm not typing in a fit of rage, but I'm more than a little irked.  It seems to me if you care enough about an appointment to reschedule it because of your own poor planning, you ought to care even more about making the rescheduled time so you don't look like a completely inconsiderate person.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Food for Thought

Forgiveness has always been difficult for me.  It's easier to hold onto the negative feelings associated with the things people have done in the past than even consider forgiving them and moving on.  I think that tendency to hold on causes more damage in the long run, and I'm making an effort to move closer to forgiveness of the wrongs done by a few specific people long ago, though I will never forget them.

Bearing all that in mind, Mr. Donald Miller shares a poignant view of the topic at his blog.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


A couple of days ago I did something I haven't done in years.  I cried in front of someone - someone besides my husband.

I can hear you now.  "So what's the big deal?  Everybody cries, right?  Who cares if someone sees it?"  Let me tell you, it's a big deal to ME.  In my twisted little brain, crying equals weakness, and you don't show weakness unless you're prepared to have it used against you.  Shoving emotional displays down until they're smooshed into a teensy ball of something that can be filed away for sometime later when I'm alone has become a sort of defense mechanism of mine from childhood.  And there are a million examples I can give you to show how good an idea it was when I was growing up, but that's a topic for another day.  

Suffice it to say, I modeled my EQ (that's emotional intelligence quotient) after this guy:

After a while, the Vulcan in me became second nature.  No irrational outbursts and absolutely no crying in front of people.  That is, until Friday, when I found myself talking about things I really thought I had an emotional handle on.  Out of nowhere, I started getting teary-eyed.  It still frustrates me to think of allowing my exterior to crack like that.  Luckily I was with a dear friend, and she encouraged me to be emotional if I felt like it. 

I feel like I'm going though a lot of personality upheaval lately, and while some of it is welcome change, some of it - like this crying thing - unnerves me.  It's left me not quite sure what to think, but I suppose if change is coming I'd better figure out the best way to adjust to it.  Maybe I'd better stock up on eyeliner and Kleenex...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

He who sings scares away his woes. ~Cervantes

I love to sing.  To those who have known me longer than ten minutes, this comes as no great surprise.  Ever since I can remember, I've had one song or other going in the back of my mind at all times, and when content I tend to hum along with the music as I do chores and tasks throughout the day.  I do play a handful of instruments as well, but I consider voice my primary instrument and take the most pleasure in using it and using it often.

Since moving to Del Norte, the prospects of using my voice for anything more than group worship on Sunday mornings at church have been very dim.  This area of the state isn't exactly known for its booming music scene, and being the shrinking violet I was for a large chunk of time after we moved here, I was far too anxious about meeting new people to go out and seek out opportunities to sing with them.  So I sang with the radio and reminisced about my high school and university choral groups.  Not at all satisfying.

Then, wonder of wonders, a community choir began right here in Crescent City!  I eagerly joined and had a complete blast for a while, even garnering a solo on a song I wasn't all that familiar with.  But slowly, the glitz of the choir wore off and I was left feeling dissatisfied, wanting to be more than one voice in a group of nearly a hundred.  Something was lacking in the experience, so I started looking again. 

Our church worship leader had approached me about joining the team for a while, but the schedule never worked out for me.  A couple of weeks ago, I was able to move some things around and showed up for the first time ever to worship practice.  My voice was still recuperating from a nasty cold, so I did a little bit of keyboard and waited impatiently for the raspiness to go away.

This Sunday everything clicked.  Not only was I able to sing most of the notes (the cold is almost gone!), but it all felt right.  Everyone was in top form so the instrumentation was fantastic.  I got to do vocals with a dear friend who doesn't give herself near enough credit for her singing abilities, and I had a sense of peace and belonging about being up there that I've never had with any other group I've been part of.  Without a doubt, this is what I'm intended to be doing right now and I plan to enjoy every minute!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Super-ize me!

This morning was our local Pregnancy Care Center's Walk For Life.  The center is near and dear to my heart because they do such good works in our community.  Not only do they provide information and care for women in every stage of pregnancy, they also provide free pregnancy tests, counseling services and parenting classes.  An entirely pro-life organization, they counsel women on the benefits of going to term with their pregnancies and the options out there for women who give their unborn children the very best chance at life they can.  It's a noble organization and I was really pleased to be able to participate in a fundraiser that supports them.                

The team I joined for the walk decided to do a superhero theme.  We were christened the Pro-Life League, so I put my creative powers to use and came up with the perfect costume:  The Pacifier!  I put my meager but mad sewing machine skillz to work and threw together a cape, mask and pretty sketchy pacifier symbol for my shirt.  Turns out, we were the only ones in costume, so we won the costume category by default.  Despite the drizzly weather, we completed the walk, raised money for babies and mothers and had an excellent time, all while playing dress-up.  Great day!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cough. Cough.

Stay far, far away from heavy equipment while on this stuff.
I am sick. Again.  For something like the fourth time in 2011, I have lost my voice.  For a singer, this is maddening.  I can handle not being able to yell at the kids and having to squeak my way through phone calls.  But not being able to hum along with the radio or sing silly little songs to the kids to hurry them along in the morning?  Completely unacceptable!

I spent all day yesterday in a Mucinex-induced haze.  I could breathe great, but my head felt like it was made out of Jello and I still don't quite remember how the laundry got out on the line.  Smart me grabbed the extra strength Mucinex, forgetting that even one Benadryl is usually enough to knock me for a loop.  I just wanted this stupid cold gone.  I ended up going to bed at 9:00 and sleeping like the dead, which never happens.  This morning I'm feeling a teensy bit better, but the voice is still pretty rough.

Naturally, I lose my voice before my very first practice with the church worship team.  I've been hoping and planning to be a part of this group for over a year.  When things finally lined up right with practice times and prior obligations, it only makes sense that I catch a cold that renders me vocally useless, right?  Thankfully the worship leader is planning to throw some instrumentation my way, so it'll all pan out but yeesh.

So I'm chomping vitamin c, drinking water and crossing my fingers that I'll be back to normal soon so I can stop feeling sorry myself and get back to enjoying life!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Losing It

Over the past seven years, I have lost a total of one hundred pounds.  The weight loss came in increments, first significant and jubilant, but eventually became grudging and small.  I'd work for weeks to find a loss of one or two pounds.  It was demoralizing and difficult and not helped by comments I received from people who'd known me for years, telling me I looked "sick" or giving me a hard time about watching what I ate, as if my desire to become more fit and healthy were a flashing beacon pointing to their own struggle with health and weight.  

An effective instrument of torture
 The thing is, I wasn't thrilled about having to work so hard to lose weight.  At first, I tried numerous fad diets, diet pills, whatever promised decent results without exercise.  From early childhood, I've always preferred a good book and solitude to running around outside.  My school memories are filled with being the very last person picked for teams during P.E. because, well, I stunk at any type of physical activity. 

Inevitably, I came to the realization that nothing was going to work for me but a healthy, low calorie diet and regular exercise.  And not just walking around a track, but honest to goodness cardio that made my heart pound and made me sweat:  My own personal definition of Hell.  Even now, after doing it for so many years and making it a part of my daily routine, I still hate exercise with a passion and have to talk myself into actually doing the routine each morning. 

So anyway, after the whole process of weight loss I feel much better about my looks, but have accepted that I'm never going to be satisfied or happy with my physical appearance.  When I look in a mirror, I don't see the weight that's been lost.  I see the lumps and bumps that remain and vow to work that much harder to get them gone.  In photos where the faces are hidden, I don't recognize myself right away.  It's usually after thinking the clothes look familiar that I realize it's me.  You might think that'd be a pleasant surprise, but it's a bit unnerving.  A friend of mine told me "You're skinny, but you still think like a fat girl."  I suppose she's right.  But if it helps keep me grounded, I suppose that's something I can live with.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Return

Considering my last blog post was in July, I'd say I can be placed squarely into the slacker category.  Apart from a pretty short, recent stint over at Hubpages, my writing has been at an all-time low.  Sad.  I still cherish a dream of becoming a children's author, but unless I put forth some actual effort, that's going to remain a dream.  Luckily some good friends have started blogging for themselves, which has shamed me enough to blow the dust off this blog and vow not to let it lapse this long ever again.  Cross those fingers!

So what have I been up to in the past year?   I've become Piano Teacher Extraordinaire to no less than seven students, continued to work part time at my kids' school, and have become happily entrenched in a circle of friends who have changed my life immeasurably for the better.  All of that has me constantly on the move, but in such a positive frame of mind that I don't really mind the chaos it sometimes brings.  And, thankfully, the hustle and bustle of a crazy schedule has helped me carry on through the dreary months of Fall and Winter.  The endless drippy gray skies don't seem as depressing when you've got fifteen minutes before a cheery ten year old shows up to bang out a dutifully practiced Old MacDonald on the keyboard.

Soon blessed Summer will be here, and I'll be in a state of perpetual cheer (never mind that last post from July. Heh.) with sun-filled days and campfire-y, s'more-y evenings.  In the meantime, I promise to blog as regularly as I can!
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