31 May 2010

Have I Got A Deal For You....

Memorial Day Weekend Sale!  Hurry, hurry, you don't want to miss the savings...
According to the Department of Defense there are approximately 3 million Military Service Members both Active Duty and Reserve serving today.  According to the Census Bureau web site there are approximately 310 million people living in the United States.  Which, if you calculate the percentages, approximately 1% of the population protects the rest of us on a daily basis.

Memorial Day was created for those who have died in our nation's service. A small remembrance of respect and appreciation for the very freedom of the ground we stand upon.  Remembrance to honor those who gave their all.  I just thought I would educate the 80% of the American population as to the real reason you get a three day weekend at this time of the year.  I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt that you truly did not know what was going on around you today and why.  And might I also suggest that you educate yourself on how to conduct yourselves when the American Flag passes by.  Maybe learn the pledge of allegiance and what it meant to Americans at one time in history.  And just for extra credit, Google 'taps' so the next time it plays you'll know what what it sounds like... and hopefully will know what to do.

Today, to honor our great nation's dead, I leave you with a letter that I learned in my history class way back in high school, long before a movie called 'Saving Private Ryan' made it popular...
Executive Mansion, Washington, November 21, 1864.
Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Massachusetts:
Dear Madam: I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
Abraham Lincoln.

28 May 2010

Elvis Has Left The Building...

It is official...  Elvis has left the building.  Senior Prom is [finally] over.  I now have ONE week to clean my house from top to bottom.  Help organize the Graduation Party because not only are Danielle and Nina graduating but so is one of their cousins.  So the three girls are combining it all in to a Grand Affair.  [Actually, my sister-in-law and I need to get together to make it all come together...]
I know I need to get pictures up of the girls all dressed up posted here... and I will.   UPDATE: SEEEEEEEE......  Nicole made Danielle's beautiful green dress and helped Nina find  this cream one.  I'm so proud of all of them. 
I will even get pictures of our maple tree that was uprooted during the lightening storm night before last.  It narrowly missed the fence and truck.  We  happily have electricity again (finally) and so I am doing the Happy Snoopy Dance now that we can flush the toilet (we have an electric pump on our water well), take showers and wash clothes.  The kids, however, are only doing their own Happy Snoopy Dance because they have internet back.  (They think I have my priorities backward)  ::roll of eyes::  UPDATE:  Still working on the last two but will be trying again to fix it soon!
If you have ever had or been around kids near graduation time, you will know the chaotic miasma my life is in at the moment.  The kids and I are counting down the days til graduation but like the above Happy Snoopy Dance, it is for totally different reasons.  
So as soon as I get can spare a moment in my 'copious amounts of free time', I will add pictures to the post.
Oh.  And tell you about an incredible new story about a few ordinary people who win the 'You Make A Difference Award'...
Oh.  And our spanking new bathroom biological weapons warning alarm...
Darn it.  I don't have time to even look up a quote of the day...  So here is my mantra... from Alice in Wonderland...
QOTD:  "I'm late.  I'm late.  I'm late for an important date.  No time to say 'Hello', 'Goodbye', I'm late, I'm late, I'M LATE!!!!"

20 May 2010

Paying It Forward…

I don't often pay as much attention to this concept as I should.  Today I remembered it because of an anonymous person who did something incredibly nice for me.  Because I could not thank them I came home and looked up Paying it Forward and Random Acts of Kindness.
I have made some amazing discoveries I wanted to share but first a definition.  One of the best ones could find on the internet came from WiseGeek:
"One of the most important things to remember about paying it forward is that it should be done with a selfless spirit. This means you help another person without hoping for repayment or good deeds in return. In fact, there are some organizations that allow people to pay it forward anonymously, donating money or performing good deeds without hoping for recognition. As far as the receiver of the money, gift, or good deed is concerned, he or she is told only to pay it forward." "Paying it forward doesn't have to mean giving a large some of money or expending a lot of effort. It could be as simple as holding the door for someone laden with bags or giving up your place in line to someone who appears in a rush. It could even mean spending a little cash on coffee for the person behind you in line at a coffee house. For those who have money they can afford to give, there are always people in need, but even the smallest, free gestures can make a difference."
Paying it forward is a concept that is older than you might think.  In a letter Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) wrote to Benjamin Webb on 22 Apr 1784, he requested the following…
“I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you [...] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro' many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) in his essay "Compensation", wrote: 
"In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody."
Wayne Woodrow “Woody” Hayes (1913–1987) was an Ohio State University football coach won five national titles and 13 Big Ten championships in 28 years. He misquoted Emerson as having said:
"You can pay back only seldom. You can always pay forward, and you must pay line for line, deed for deed, and cent for cent." 
He also shortened the (mis)quotation into "You can never pay back; but you can always pay forward" and variants.
Robert Anson Heinlein (1907–1988), an American science fiction writer, used the term “pay it forward”'Between Planets'. in his 1951 book,
Paul Erdős (1913-1996), a brilliant Hungarian mathematician who published more papers than any other mathematician in history, working with hundreds of collaborators. In one of his visits to Harvard University, met a promising young math student on the verge of expulsion for inability to pay his tuition. Erdős paid the young man's tuition in full. Years later, the man offered to return the entire amount to Erdős, but Erdős insisted that the man rather find another student in his situation, and give the tuition to him.
Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote the book, 'Pay It Forward', published in 2000.  It was made into a movie of the same name.  Her book differs from the original philosophy by describing an obligation to do three good deeds in repayment of one good deed that a person receives. These deeds should be things that the other person can not do on their own.  This philosophy would then spread exponentially throughout mankind with an end goal of making the world we live in a better place for everyone.
In April 2009 Pay it Forward even made its way to Craigslist and Youtube.  A simple craigslist posting said: 
"I can help you with groceries, give you a ride if you need one..."  
Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project has a different spin on this in her post "Happiness Myth No. 7: Doing “Random Acts of Kindness” Brings Happiness" and surprisingly, I don't agree with her that this is just a myth.  It's a very thought provoking and interesting read, especially the comments.  I particularly like this one commenter who said:
Just a week or so ago in Phoenix, someone at a fast food drive through paid for the order of the vehicle behind in line. Believe it or not, this continued throughout the day. It made the evening news. Not only did the original driver achieve some degree of happiness, but also the employees of the restaurant, the following customers, the news crew, and those who saw the broadcast as I did. This would seem to demonstrate that some modicum of happiness, however fleeting, can indeed be achieved through random acts of kindness. In addition, it can also multiply far beyond the original intent.~ Posted by Rich

18 May 2010

Exercise Can Kill Ya...

It was just another day yesterday of playing chauffeur for the kids.  I had picked up the middle three kids from the High School and were taking them home when Nina asked if we could get memberships to Planet Fitness.  Now I'm all for being fit and healthy, in fact I am seriously thinking of taking up kickboxing.  Rachel, however, had another idea for getting fit.  (I swear that girl could give Stephen King a run for his money if she ever decided to become an author!)  
Her suggestion was to start the workout regimen of a serial killer.  Her reasoning was that they must get quite a workout.  Rachel, "Dig that hole!  That's right, put your back into it!"
Danielle, "Hey, that idea has promise.  20 lunging stabs.  20 neck twists watching for the police.  Hey, lift those bodies with your  knees, not your back!"
(And yes Rachel was also the child who came up with the idea that Santa Clause should be arrested for breaking and entering, stalking and animal abuse...)  Believe me the conversation got a lot more detailed with Rachel, Danielle and Nina all helping to fine tune the workout.  I'm kind of embarrassed to say that it was hysterical in a sick, morbid kind of way.  Kind of like gallows humor only with the Lemon Stand's family brand of wit.  Personally, I'm just glad it wasn't initially a conversation for the dinner table. (I don't know why the kids are suddenly taking such an interest in working out.  You'd think they'd get enough exercise with all the running off of their mouths and with all the luck they push...)
I suppose it shouldn't come as any surprise though considering that my family (minus yours truly) used dead bodies as a unit of measure when observing the trunk space of my new car.  Some days I truly wonder if I am the only sane person in my family.  I feel like I am reliving 'The Munsters' television reruns of my youth.  In most families, it's the kids who need therapy from growing up with their parents... not the other way around.  I guess I am just blessed with a family that thinks 'outside the box'.  (Or maybe I should make that 'inside the box'?)  Still... I can't say there is ever a dull moment around my house.  I should know because I'm always looking for a dull moment in which to rest.  I believe the Chinese had a curse that went something like, "May you live in interesting times."
QOTD: "It is remarkable how one's wits are sharpened by exercise." ~ Pliny, the Younger [It's obvious that good ole Pliny never met my kids]

17 May 2010

So, What Kind Of Day Are You Having?

I just had a friend of mine ask me why I was whining.  Why wasn't I looking at my day more positively?  Ahem.  Probably because I feel like almost everyone I have come in contact with so far today needs to be gagged, hogtied and taken out behind the proverbial barn.  What ever happened to plain common courtesy?  And by the way... my name is NOT Dude!  Nor is it Sweetie or Babe to anyone but my husband and even he doesn't call me Babe all that often and Sweetie never has and never will pass his lips!  Normally, I try to just let this all go but when more than a few people, on the same day, are being deliberately rude and mean, it just plain makes me spitting mad and kick starts my stubborn gene..
I'm working on it.... truly I am, but it's just like a reflexive action and it sometimes takes me a while to realize what I have done.  I let them win.  I let them get my goat.  (and I happen to really like my goat, I'll have you know!)
OK.  My friend is right.  I need to get my zen back.  Even if what I really want to do is go back and rip the head off my goat stealer and shove it right up his or her .... er... um... well, where the sun doesn't shine... (Believe me, you really don't want to know what my real description was.  I've discovered late in my life that I should have been born a sailor although I'm sure I could even make them blush!  But my kids sometimes read my blog so I'll just keep it PG because their father has taught them enough bad words)
So as much as I want to dismember my fellow man, I will try to take my own advice.  Advice that I have shared before (I think?  Huh, maybe not...) but it bares repeating (if I have) since it seems as though I am not the only one having a rough time today.  Perhaps the aforesaid people I mentioned?  Hey, they might be suffering from having a brainectomy?  (You never know.  It could happen.)  So here we go...
Repeat after me, "Today is a GREAT day! The three best things that have happened to me, I have seen, heard, read or that I did for someone else just to see them smile are [fill in the blank]." (No matter how long it takes to come up with three positive things today, I am determined to make my day and the day of the people who will come in contact with me, a better one!)
To turn the day around, all the experts on this kind of thing say that all I (and you) need to do is the above exercise and not give anyone permission to get you down, make you angry or upset. Accept what they are saying/doing. Try to analyze the TRUE reason for their action/words. (perhaps they are Professor Umbridge in disguise? no, no, no... I'm not suppose to go there...) Let's see, I'm suppose to try and walk in their shoes because everyone has a story and set of problems. You may find out the family pet just died.... in a most horrific manner.
If this doesn't work and all else fails, then imagine them wearing your grandmother's under-drawers.  (and if you're really desperate you can imagine them wearing such attire... just before wash day!) :o) Does everyone understand this? Nod your head. OoooooKaaaaayyy! So, what kind of day are you having?
(PS Just so you know... I went all the way to my Grandmother's under-drawers on this one...)
QOTD: "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort." ~ Herm Albright (1876 - 1944) 

15 May 2010

Emergency Stress Relief Hotline...

It has been so stressful around here that I actually dreamed I was calling someone and instead got something like the following message.  I think my subconscious mind has been hanging out too long with my husband because this truly sounds like something he would put on our answering machine!
You have reached the Emergency Stress Relief Hotline, if the cause of your distress is due to a person other than yourself, please press 1 and you will be connected with persons who have similar concerns about this individual.  They will then assist you in making plans on where to hide the body.
If the cause of your distress is due to your own behavior, please press 2 and you will be connected with a large burly male with a size 18 shoe named Sue who will be delighted to arrange for your emergency attitude adjustment appointment.

If the cause of your distress is due to an incident beyond your control, please press 3 and you will be connected to your mother, sibling, spouse or best friend for either a sympathetic ear and hug or an appointment at the nearest pub for a few rounds.  Please be advised that your mother would prefer the former, rather than the latter.

If the cause of your distress is due to an incident you are responsible for, please press 5 and you will be re-enrolled in a Kindergarten class of your choice.  This opportunity is being offered to you since it has been scientifically proven that anything you needed to learn about life, responsibility and getting along with others was learned there and it's obvious that you may need a refresher course.

If the cause of your distress is due to a condition you have no control over, please press 6 and you will be connected with your therapist who will once again go over the concept of acceptance of what you can not change.  You will then be enrolled in a therapeutic art class where you may release your emotions onto canvas and then become an overnight sensation of the art world where people will pay thousands for your 'angsty' accomplishments.

If the cause of your distress is due to a condition you do have control over, please press 7 and you will be connected with your Father so you may receive the benefit of his wisdom.  He will then ask you to explain why you are allowing yourself to feel distress over something you have control over, what are your plans to not only survive the adversity but to thrive on the opportunity, because really, that's what fathers are for.

If the cause of your distress is due to the universe in general and bad karma in particular, please press 8 and you will be connected to an astrologist who will read the heavens and tell you exactly what is distressing you and why.  After obtaining this information, please again call the Emergency Stress Relief Hotline phone number and press the appropriate number for assistance.

If you truly do not know the cause of your distress, please press 9 and you will be connected with a travel agent who will book you a stay on a desert isle for as long as needed in which to contemplate your situation.  Please be advised that the accommodations are single occupancy only for the greatest amount of quiet time in which to ponder your life.  Further, be also advised there is no electricity and therefore any electronic devices are discouraged.  When you have returned to civilization, please again call the Emergency Stress Relief Hotline phone number and press the appropriate number for assistance.

For all other questions please press 0 and a customer service expert in India will be with you shortly.  If possible, please have a translator available for a translation of instructions, otherwise our customer service experts will be more than happy to stay on the line and attempt to communicate with you until you understand or have given up in frustration.

Thank you and have a nice day.

13 May 2010

The Monster In The Basement And Other True Tales...

I was lucky enough to have all my kids home for dinner on Mother's Day.  We sat at the table long after the meal was over and laughed and laughed. It's comforting to know that even as the kids start to leave the nest, some things will never change.  

After Nicole, our eldest daughter, left to go home Sunday night I thought about how much she has grown and how amazing it is that she made it to adulthood.  Believe me, her Father and I weren't too sure that was going to happen since we had contemplated several times how to hide the body.  After all, they can't search every inch of 10,000 square acres of state land that we live next to, can they?  It was an oh so tempting daydream at times. (especially between the ages of 13 and 17)  Still, she has turned out to be a pretty good egg so we are very glad we resisted that temptation. 

It seems as though it was just yesterday when we brought her home from the hospital.  That's when life started to get really interesting.  Her father and I would carry her everywhere.  (First baby syndrome)  We finally realized that she wouldn't go to sleep unless we were walking around and talking to her.  She was too young to understand anything said but the sound of our voices seemed to be soothing no matter what we said.  But there was one day in particular that I will not forget.  Apparently, there was a monster in our basement...

I had sent my husband to the Base Exchange to pick up something.  (I think it was diapers)  We lived in military housing on Guam at the time.  Anyway, Nicole was about six months old and very fussy.  As her father waited in line at the checkout stand he started to talk to her, to comfort her.  So he told her that if she didn't stop fussing, he would have to put her in the basement with the monster and did she remember how much she hated being in the dark with him growling?  Then my husband heard a gasp behind him and turned around to see a horrified look on this woman's face.  Realizing what she must have heard and thought he said, "Lady, we live in base housing.  They don't have any basements!"

He came home and described the look on this poor woman's face and all I could think was that I had better clean the house before the base social services showed up.  (and just in case you were wondering... no, they didn't show up) 

I still laugh when I think about the poor, unsuspecting, uninitiated populace of the world who have been caught within hearing distance of my husband.  He always seems to be in the thick of things.

Take for instance, the time he was (again) holding Nicole.  (although, strictly speaking, this was not truly his own doing, but over the years we have learned that the apples did not fall far from the tree and surviving the childhood years is not to be under-rated)  She was probably about two  years old at the time when the two of them were in an elevator at a hospital.  In the elevator with them was a VERY large Samoan gentleman.
Nicole, while looking over my husband's shoulder said, "You're fat!"
Again, my husband came home and told me of the incident and said that HE must have had a horrified look on his face when he turned around and looked up.... and up... and up at this man.  He said he saw his life pass before his eyes!  Luckily, the gentleman in question just laughed and then growled a little at Nicole just to tease her.  She, of course, flashed him her dimples and giggled at him not noticing the white, pasty complexion on her father's face. (nor the prayers he was very likely muttering under his breath)

It's hard to believe that she is a grown woman now, living in her own apartment, paying her own bills. (although her dimples are still in evidence every time she smiles)  Someday, I'm sure, she'll warn her own kids about the "Monster in the Basement" whenever they start to fuss and she'll realize that karma has a way of coming back around to make you pay for all the grey hair you give your parents...
QOTD:  "We do not remember days; We remember moments." ~ Cesare Pavese

11 May 2010

What Has Meaning In Your Life?

I have been struggling with this post for days.  I truly thought this would be a very simple question with a very simple answer.  Here's how it began...

I got a call from a friend of mine who has been going through a pretty rough time.  She decided to get some help and so went to a therapist to help her brainstorm for solutions to help her situation.  Towards the end of the session, the therapist told her she needed to find something that gave meaning to her life.  She asked if that meant the therapist was suggesting she get a hobby or another job?  The therapist replied, "Not unless it was something that would give your life meaning.  It doesn't necessarily have to be something that you 'do.'

As I pondered this I realized, it could be a character trait that enables you to blossom.  A lesson in life that has given you a guideline to live by that ensures you carry peace and happiness inside you.  Maybe the real question here is what is it about our lives that gives it purpose and drive...

Like me, she thought this would be a pretty easy question to go home and find the answer to.  The fact is, as we both started listing the things we did in our lives or thought about our lives, that was meaningful to us, we realized that we were listing things that were more meaningful to the people in our lives.  

I love my kids, but physically taking care of them when I'm 80 is not my vocation.  Making sure our bills are paid and our plans for the future are going smoothly, does not inspire me.  Going on vacation may be relaxing and something I look forward to but even then, I'm taking care of everyone around me.  It never feels like I actually get an entire vacation to recharge and relax.  I do get some, but it's not the same as the rest of the family.

So my friend has three weeks to come up with the answers to this before she goes back to talk to the therapist. What is it about her life that fulfills her?  Gives her peace?  Gives her satisfaction?  Recharges her internal batteries?  What gives her inspiration?  What gives her life meaning?

We are both on the cusp of having most of our offspring either out of the house or pretty close to leaving the nest and flying on their own.  It is amazingly scary to think about, "What is going to fill my days and nights?  What am I going to do with myself?"  

This conversation with my friend has made me look at the black hole of my future.  That has been, frankly, terrifying.  Since I am determined to make lemonade, I have gone back to the beginning (a la 'Princess Bride'***).  Back to the solid rock that anchors me to this life.  My family.  From there I have chosen to start imagining what I could fill that black hole with instead of being terrified that it is there.  After all, I can fill it with anything I choose to.  I have decided that I need to look at it as if it were a blank canvas and I have only to decide at the moment, what color I want for the background.  

So after all the angst and struggling of the last few days, I can honestly say that I have only been able to get a feel for the color of paint I want to decorate this black hole.  To start off with, I'm going to start by painting my colors with words.  I'm going to design it with my own two hands and the imagination God gave me.  I'm going to succeed by playing to my strengths and weaknesses and do things that make a difference not only to others, but especially to me.  

I know I'm not ever going to bring about world peace by myself, but I think I can create it within the life I continue to make as I experience, learn and evolve.  I can carry my easel and paints within me to take out every time I come across something that I didn't realize was important to me so that I can add it to the landscape of my black hole.  When life throws in a smear of paint, before I change it I think I will need to first remember to step back and decide if I like the change, and if not, then dabble with my own palette until I have softened the edges or painted a petunia over it.  I now think the object will not be to finish the painting or decorating the space of my black hole, but to continue to look for things to add or change in it that will be meaningful to me.  That will give color to my world.

I've told you how I perceive this question.  I am very interested to know what any one else may think of this question and if it is as hard a question for them as it was for us.  Maybe we got the meaning of the question wrong?

QOTD:  "Without black, no color has any depth. But if you mix black with everything, suddenly there's shadow - no, not just shadow, but fullness. You've got to be willing to mix black into your palette if you want to create something that's real." ~Amy Grant

***Anyone who does not recognize this quote needs to go out RIGHT NOW and get the movie, 'The Princess Bride'!

10 May 2010

Please Tell Me I'm Just Dreaming That It's Monday...

Huh.  Since it really is Monday and I'm already out of bed.  And dressed.  (with socks that actually match each other... that's really amazing for me on a Monday) I decided to finish the post I've been working on... most of the weekend.  Guess my muse is working the same schedule as the US Senate and House of Representatives.  (In other words, vacations interrupted occasionally for actual work) 

For some reason this post just doesn't seem to want to come out right.  I really wanted to chuck it as a lost cause but because my last post was about not giving up, I figure it would be bad karma to quit now.  Since I needed a little inspiration, I went in search of my favorite quote by Thomas Edison and instead found a treasure trove of amazing quotes by this man.  I've always pictured him as a mad professor type or perhaps a close kin of Albert Einstein complete with hair sticking out of his head in every direction.  Apparently I was very wrong to think he had only one really good quote worthy of remembrance (and he actually doesn't look like he stuck his finger in a light socket!)  Nay, I have discovered he actually has a prodigious amount of quotes worthy of reading (as well as being meticulously well groomed in the pictures I saw this morning).

So since it's Monday and I'm determined to still work on my previously aforementioned post, for the moment I'll give you the same shot of energy (with nary a coffee cup in sight), that I found this morning to start your week off right, too.  (The first one is my favorite one to remember when I am frustrated about something that is not working right but the second... and third are also pretty good.)  Have a great day!
"I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work."
"There's a better way to do it. Find it."

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work."

"Everything comes to him that hustles while he waits."

"I have more respect for the fellow with a single idea who gets there than for the fellow with a thousand ideas who does nothing."

"Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless."

"There is no substitute for hard work."

"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."

"From his neck down, a man is worth a couple of dollars a day. From his neck up, he is worth anything that his brain can produce."

"The world owes nothing to any man, but every man owes something to the world."

"The thing with which I lose patience most is the clock. Its hands move too fast."

"I would like to live about three hundred years. I think I have ideas enough to keep me busy that long."

"If I were a school teacher, I would put lazy pupils to studying bees and ants. They would soon learn to be diligent."

"The only time I become discouraged is when I think of all the things I like to do and the little time I have in which to do them."

"We don't know one millionth of one percent about anything."
"A man is as happy as his feet and his stomach."

~ Thomas Edison

07 May 2010

I Want To Be Running When The Sand Runs Out...

Warning: Lemonade being made today in astronomical quantities... venture ahead only if you have a very large pitcher in your hand... (and maybe a tissue or two... I know I needed them...)
I once wrote a post about my father and since I've been struggling a lot these days, he has been on my mind. I've reread what I had written then and decided to write again of him, because sometimes I need the strength of the most important lesson he ever taught me and because this blog's first mission has been, and always will be, about making lemonade from the lemons of adversity.

My Dad would have turned 74 this year. He died in July 2004. His death was very profound to me. It was sad beyond the reality that I would never talk to him again. Never hug him or be hugged by him again. I would never be able to tell him that I loved him and that I had forgiven him. Looking back, I could probably say that this event was one of the major turning points in my life. A point at which I started my attempt to make lemonade instead of living on a gigantic mountain of lemons.

At that time, I had been housebound for over six years. Sidelined by severe depression and PTSD from my military service. Keep reading because this post does have a positive and happy point to make.

I went to his wake and funeral in a fog. For the next year, I did not grieve. I couldn't. But I did start to slowly look back over his life. You see, my Dad was an alcoholic and I used to think that, in the end, that was all that defined him as a person. During that year though, I started to remember all kinds of things about him.

When he got out of high school, he had a full scholarship to the Boston College of Art. He once told me that he saw the lines of starving artists and instead went into the Air Force. I rather suspect that my grandparents did not encourage him in his talent, and believe me, he was exceptionally talented. They were a product of the depression and I think, like all parents, they wanted theirs to succeed in life and not have to struggle like they had.

I've had a lot of time to ponder this and I think the real reason he didn't accept that scholarship was because he did not have enough faith in his talent, in himself, in the possibility of dreams and the ability to make them come true. His 'art' form was as a cartoonist. He could draw but not write the cartoons and because it wasn't 'serious' art, he didn't think he could make a living at it.

After serving in the military for just over twenty years, my Dad retired. A few years after this he started drinking heavily. This started when I was about ten. By the time I left home, I was hurt and angry at him for not finding my mother, my sisters and I important enough for him to quit drinking. I stayed angry at him until long after I got married and started having children of my own. By then I was beginning to understand that he felt like a failure because he couldn't find a job or that when he did, he couldn't keep it.

He was very intelligent and had gone back to college to get a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering. He came within a year of finishing it when the branch of the college he attended, closed. Instead of continuing to pursue it at another of their campus' a little further away, he quit.

To be fair to him, I think he felt the pressure of supporting our family and instead of making some sacrifices for the short term to better his chances in the future, he chose to try to become an insurance salesman.

That decision, he once told me, was because when his sister and nephews died in a fire in Chicago, they didn't have any insurance and nobody in his family had the funds with which to bury them and so they were buried in pauper graves, paid for by the local Catholic church. It ate at him that he could not have them re-interred back in Massachusetts where their parents were buried, which is what would have happened had she had insurance. (I find it tragically ironic that in the end, he also did not have insurance at the time of his own death.)

With every lemon that life hurled at him, he grew more depressed and since he refused admit he had a problem and seek help he just allowed the lemons to accumulate around him. So he self-medicated himself to dim the pain of his life. The pain of his disappointments. The pain of his demons. My Dad died one morning after an all night binge. It was sad as the final punctuation mark in a life that had so many opportunities missed.

Don't get me wrong. I loved my father and I never doubted that he loved me and his family, but it was never enough for him. We weren't enough for him to be able to overcome his demons. The legacy my Dad left to me was the knowledge that giving up is worse than trying and failing. Allowing adversity to suck all the life out of you is worse than picking yourself up and trying again, even when you know it is likely that you will fail again. Defining your life by your past and what you let slip by instead of what you reached out and grabbed for even if you fall... well, that's just a waste.

It finally occurred to me that, with the exception of the alcohol, I was traveling the same road he had taken and that if I didn't do something drastic, I would end up in the same place he had. I don't know what it was about a song playing on the radio, that suddenly clicked a switch inside of me and helped me bring my own life into crystal clear focus. It came out of nowhere, or maybe it was just the right time for me to really see the big picture. Whatever the reason is, I heard a song by Rascal Flatts that nailed my father and I cried like a baby. I finally allowed myself to grieve for the man my father was. The man he might have been. But more importantly, the discovery that I still had time to change the course of my life.
I spent the morning at an old friend's grave
Flowers and amazing grace, he was a good man
He spent his whole life spinning his wheels
Never knowing how the real thing feels
He never took a chance or took the time to dance

I stood there thinking as I said goodbye

Today's the first day, of the rest of my life

I'm going to stop looking back and start moving on

Learn how to face my fears
Love with all of my heart, make my mark
I want to leave something here
Go out on a ledge without any net
That's what I'm going to be about

I want to be running, when the sand runs out.
Well, that about said it all for me and though there is more to the song, I think you get my point. The legacy that my father left could have been very negative, but instead I choose to believe that he showed me a possible future with the knowledge that it didn't have to be that way. All I had to do was choose to live. Choose to love. To look at adversities and change them into opportunities. To take chances and to pick myself up, every time I fell because trying and failing was infinitely better than not ever having tried at all.

I now believe in my heart that my father was a good man who lost his way and could never find his way home again. So every time I struggle to leave the house now and brave the world outside it's protective doors, I think of my Dad and the most important lesson he ever taught me. I still struggle daily with my own demons. That, unfortunately, hasn't changed, but even from the depths of my despair, I know that I have to keep trying, to keep working on my own life because the only way I can fail, even in the worst of times, is to not try at all.

I wish I could tell my father one more time that I loved him and I pray he is, at last, at peace. For myself, I pray for one more day with my own family because I truly do want to be running when the sand runs out...
QOTD: "It's not what you take with you when you leave this world behind you, it's what you leave behind you when you go."

05 May 2010

Bathroom Library...

I'm curious to know if other people's bathrooms have libraries in them...

You know, like National Geographic (there's nothing like reading a story on ancient dinosaur poo to really put you into the mood), or National Scientific (learning new ways in which to design better electrical zapping tools for those who dare interrupt your time in the throne room), or perhaps even War and Peace (hey, you never know when you are going to have to take an extended vacation in there, because there are just some things you can not rush... kind of like the Paul Masson commercial, "...we will sell no wine before it's time...").

In our house, we have two bathrooms.  One downstairs for the girls and one upstairs for my husband and I.  (that was the only thing on his non-negotiable list when we went looking for a new home was his own bathroom... with a lock...)  Now the downstairs bathroom can often be seen sporting magazines such as Teen Vogue or Gourmet magazine (yeah, I know that's an odd place for that magazine but then hey, I've never claimed our family was normal so it's all good).  

Upstairs?  There is a bookcase next to the toilet.  It's sad but true.  Since my husband often acts like it's a trip to the library, I put in a short, narrow bookcase with five shelves for his reading materials.  To be honest, I'm just waiting for him to one day add a cooler for his beer and a little tv to watch his Red Sox games.... then his sightings will become as rare as the DooDoo Bird... um, or rather DoDo Bird...
QOTD: "Like when I'm in the bathroom looking at my toilet paper, I'm like 'Wow! That's toilet paper?' I don't know if we appreciate how much we have." ~ Peter Nivio Zarlenga

04 May 2010

Wild Wakeup Call... Or Is That Wake Up Call In The Wild?

I need to get one of these for our house.  Immediately.  Our neighbors have one (I know because I've  heard it) and now I know why it is essential safety equipment for any one living in the middle of nowhere country.

Anyone who has spent any time at all in the military or around military knows the chaos that is an base-wide exercise.  There are various types of these but they all mean that everyone will be working just about 24 hour days from before the exercise until right after the exercise when everyone drops dead from exhaustion...

So given that point of reference, you might be able to understand that when my husband got up at 3am (after having come home and gone to bed at 10pm for more days in a row than I want to count), he wasn't in a very clear frame of mind.  All he was thinking about was his desperately needed cup of coffee that he was going to buy on his way to work.  When he opened the kitchen door he didn't quite register the large, dark shadow on our porch.... sniffing around inside the empty metal garbage can she had knocked over.

Luckily, he had not tried to open the storm door yet (although the critter was so close to it that it would not have opened very far anyway (it was that close).   Thank heavens for small blessings). He said it took him a minute to realize just what was blocking his way...  A four to five hundred pound brown bear.

Personally, I think I would have had a heart attack.  My husband?  He pounded on the storm door (while still holding on to the main steel door) to get Mrs. Bear's attention in order to scare her off.  Apparently, my husband is not sufficiently impressive enough for the bear because he said she looked up at him with an expression that said, "Oops, my bad.  Was this your garbage can?"  Then she just turned around and sauntered up the driveway and down our dirt road.

He told me that he had finally discovered something that could wake him up faster than caffeine.  Now that is a real wake up call!

Now I need to move the garbage can back off the porch where it stays during the winter.  This also reminds me to make absolutely sure I remember to bring in the grill part of our BBQ grill every time we grill because the bears like to lick it.  I kid you not.  (It is absolutely gross to think of bear slobber on something that is supposed to cook your food)

But first?  Time to go buy an air horn to keep by the door, because believe me, that kind of wake up call would give me a stroke!
QOTD:  "In light of the rising frequency of human/grizzly bear encounters, the Montana Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, backpackers, hunters, and fishermen to take extra precautions and keep alert for bears."

"We advise outdoorsmen to wear noisy little bells on their clothing so that the bears are not startled unexpectedly by a human's presence. We also advise outdoorsmen to carry pepper spray with them in case of an encounter with a bear."

"It is also a good idea to watch for fresh signs of bear activity. Outdoorsmen should recognize the difference between black bear poop and grizzly bear poop. Black bear poop is smaller and contains lots of berries and squirrel fur. Grizzly bear poop smells like pepper and has little bells in it."
~ Montana Grizzly Bear Notice

03 May 2010

How Do I Love Bacon? Oh, Let Me Count The Ways...

As usual, the dinner conversation was wonderful... but unfortunately, not bloggable. (At least not if I want to wake up with my eyebrows intact.)

So I was thinking of another family conversation from the dinner table a few years ago. To set the stage, so to speak, I must tell you that we had Mexican Hamburger Helper made with ground turkey. Yes, even I can sink to feeding my family this every once in a great while. Anyway, we were discussing the possible types of 'Helper' meals out there...
Nicole, "They should make a Bacon Helper"
My husband's eye's lit up and he got this dreamy look on his face, "Wow, just imagine TWO pounds of crumbled bacon!"
Danielle, "What would you put with it?"
My husband, "What else is needed to achieve nirvana?"
This is obviously a rhetorical question from the look on his face.
Me, "I may be tired, but I am not dead yet so don't even think about it. Unless, maybe, it's turkey bacon."
My husband, "You really know how to kill a man's dreams, you know that?"
Me,"Well, make a list of what you really want at the grocery store, that won't kill you, I reserve that right for myself, and I'll have Rachel help me after school tomorrow."
The next day, I took Rachel grocery shopping with me with the grocery list. I was tired and not feeling good and truly only wanted to go back to bed, so I let my daughter pretty much do most of the shopping.
We get to the register and get this really talkative cashier, "Wow, you did a lot of shopping."
I'm beginning to realize that my daughter had 'padded the cart' with stuff.

She and I are both watching the total increase at an alarming rate.
Cashier, "Wow, I think this is the biggest order I've had all day."
I looked at Rachel and she looked at me. Then we both pointed at each other and said, "It's her fault!"
Me, "Wait until we get home. I'm telling your father that it was your fault the grocery bill was so high!"
Rachel says, blissfully unconcerned, "Well, what does that make you look like? You let a twelve year old make the choices...."
Sigh, she's right. Guess I need to go back to shopping alone.
QOTD: "It's a good idea to 'shop around' before you settle on a doctor. Ask about the condition of his Mercedes. Ask about the competence of his mechanic. Don't be shy! After all, you're paying for it." Dave Barry (1947-) American Writer and Humorist