Don’t Touch My Cupcake

Someone wants to lose some fingers!

“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.” ~M. F. K. Fisher

I have an issue. I hate sharing food. Hate it. And, now that I truly reflect on it, “hate” might not be a strong enough word for the feeling that stirs deep inside me when someone eyes something I’m quite happily, peacefully nibbling on. I guess I’m sort of like my dog that way. If I walk into the room where she is eating, she will glare suspiciously at me out of the corner of her eye as if to say “Don’t even think about it, lady.” I have no interest in ingesting her dog food, but she’s not taking any chances. I get it. She and I are simpatico that way.

I blame this deep-seated food selfishness on my mother. I suppose because so little of what she had while we were growing up was hers and hers alone she coveted her food. My sisters and I were not allowed to touch a morsel on her plate. I distinctly remember being in restaurants with her where we would ask for a bit of her meal only to be told, “If you wanted this, you should have ordered it.” Touché. We learned quickly that what was on our plates was solely ours and that no one had a right to it unless we offered it first. Actually, I’ve simply considered it good etiquette not to ask for a bite of another person’s meal. If they want to share, they will offer. And I never want to share so I never offer. End of story.

I only bring this up now because 16 years ago I married into a family of food sharers, and I have struggled with this little complication ever since. The other night we were out to dinner with my in-laws, and the food sharing conversation began. Phrases like, “Oh….that looks good!” and “Wow. How is that?” dotted our table. As soon as the comments began flying, I bristled. In their defense, my extended family loves to eat and they are generous food sharers. They are foodies with extensive palates and insatiable curiosity about foods and flavors. And, while I understand their desire to trade food with others to sample new things, like my dog at her stainless steel dish I cower defensively over my plate when the food talk starts. If you wanted this, you should have ordered it.

The other day hubby and I were home together but making separate lunches. I had acquiesced to release the leftovers I truly wanted so that he might have them. In exchange, I had grilled what I considered to be a second-rate alternative, a ham and swiss cheese sandwich. He gave it an admiring once over. I snapped at him.

“You had your lunch. Back off.”

He wisely determined it was my low-blood sugar condition talking (the one that makes me meaner than a bear after hibernation when I’m hungry), and skulked away.

It’s not that I’m anti-sharing. I will happily share most of my things without a second thought. But if you want to keep all ten of your digits in tact, you’d best keep them away from my food. I haven’t bitten anyone for stealing food off my plate yet but, like my docile and seemingly sweet border collie, I wouldn’t rule it out.

Not a Fantasy

"Win some/Lose some" is a lot less enjoyable of a sentiment when it comes to the playoffs.

Sometimes things are harder than they should be. I had all these grand plans to be good about writing every day. And, now here it is, 10 p.m. and my blog lies neglected. In my defense, it was a busy day. Spent my morning cleaning the house to host hubby’s birthday dinner. Later there was grocery shopping, shoe shopping for the boys, preparing food for dinner, wrapping gifts, picking up cupcakes, and then entertaining Steve’s family for dinner. And, don’t even get me started on clean up afterward.

But, sometimes no matter what you put in place things just don’t work out the way you plan. Today, for example, Aaron Rodgers (my #1 draft pick and star player) was supposed to lead the undefeated Green Bay Packers to yet another victory, this time over the sub par Kansas City Chiefs. Aaron Rodgers was supposed to score mercilessly multiple times on Kansas City so I could eke out one last game for my fantasy football team this season. Apparently, Aaron Rodgers didn’t get my memo. The Colorado Cougars went down in a football of flames.

Like most people, I have a tendency to get frustrated when things don’t go the way I had hoped they would. I handle sadness, anger, and rejection better than I handle disappointment and frustration. I’m starting to realize, though, that there are only two ways to handle unexpected roadblocks: 1) find a new way to your destination or 2) sit down, catch your breath, and enjoy the scenery from your current location. So, tonight I’m whipping my way through 350 words just to keep my promise to myself to publish something every day for a month. And, tomorrow, I begin my forced early retirement from fantasy football with a promise to myself to enjoy the rest of the ride to Super Bowl Sunday with my players even if it’s not for the win. It’s all good.

I’m going to work harder on focusing not on my setbacks and struggles but on finding the most appropriate way to deal with them. Maybe with a bit of patience I will be able to avoid becoming one of those people who complains about the things that happen “to” them instead of making other things happen “for” them? Maybe I can even get to the point where the end of my fantasy football season doesn’t even faze me? Oh, fine. I’ll start with a smaller goal. 😉

Christmas Break Is An Oxymoron

What happens to my kids when they are out of school for way too long.

Today is the first official day of Christmas break for my kids, which means that for the next 11 days (not including weekend ones), my children will be in my house. Yes. IN it. I will not get my usual 6.5 hours of requisite peace and quiet daily, the same peace and quiet that keeps me from understanding why some species eat their young. I can look forward to knocks on the bathroom door, toys scattered everywhere, and the sound of my own scream as I yell, “Who didn’t flush?” They’ve only been out of school for 23 hours and already the house looks like a herd of wild bison have trampled through. At times like these, I can’t help but contemplate this thought: “Whatever happened to the good old days when kids worked in factories?”

Oh…and did I mention that my husband is off for the next week too?

I hope Santa brings me vodka for Christmas. Just kidding. Sort of.

 

My Tebow Two-Cents

Is forced Tebowing for a blog photo considered an act of child abuse?

Tim Tebow. In Denver (and probably in other places in the west where the Broncos are the “local” team to root for), Tim Tebow is a big deal. I can’t go a day without hearing his name, seeing his face, or reading an article about him. When the Broncos acquired Tebow, a raised eyebrow was the only interest I could muster. Before last season when he allowed his teammates to shave his head monk-style, he got a bit of my respect for being willing to make light of himself and for being an unbelievably good sport. Then he was only allowed to QB three games last season, and he fell back to the recesses of my brain. This year, however, is a different story. He is everywhere, and I am loathe to admit that he’s gotten my attention. I’m sure I’d be sick to death of him and all the hype surrounding him if he wasn’t just so dang interesting.

The man is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. He completes an average of 37.5% of third quarter passes, but somehow pulls together in the fourth quarter to average 61.3%. His plays aren’t pretty to watch, but his competitive spirit gets the job done. His teammates truly believe in him. He stands on the sidelines singing Christian hymns, congratulates the opposing team when they make good plays, and shrugs off even the toughest physical blows with minimal complaints. His post game interviews are textbook. He’s sloppy and yet capable of being smooth. I don’t get it.

I’ve gone back and forth on my opinion of him as a player. Like most of ESPN’s Sport Center guys at the beginning of this season, I wasn’t sure that Tebow’s QB style would be effective in the NFL. Now I’m not sure that his last-minute, come-from-behind victories this season are indicative of the fact that he will prove the naysayers wrong and become a great NFL quarterback. However, like many of ESPN’s Sport Center guys today, I’m no longer willing to say that he won’t either. I simply don’t know what to think of his potential, and I’m not crazy enough to take any guesses or place any bets on his ultimate success.

 
The one thing I am willing to say about Tim Tebow, though, is that he sure seems like a good person. If you have doubts, watch this. Even if you don’t believe his outward expression of his Christian faith has any place in the National Football League, you have to admit that he is a refreshing change from quarterbacks (not mentioning names but have some in mind) who will drop the F-bomb on the field when things don’t go their way. What Tebow has is a positive attitude and a deep faith that gets him through whatever he faces. I have to admire that. He’s an underdog, and I’ve always rooted for the underdog.

I have no idea how the Broncos will end this season. I have no clue if Tim Tebow will go down in the annals of NFL history as a top-notch quarterback. And, there is no way you will ever catch me Tebowing. Ever. But, for the spirit he’s brought to the Broncos this year, for the way he’s energized the fans, and for his constant examples of kindness, optimism, and good sportsmanship, he’s got my respect. I wouldn’t mind one bit if my boys looked up to him. And, that’s the best endorsement I can give him.

Identify the Essential

What peace looks like to me

In trying to figure out what I could write about in a few spare moments on this insanely busy day, I decided to search for some zen thoughts. I consulted my closest friend…Google. Today, Google generously presented me with this article about 15 Can’t-Miss Ways to Declutter Your Mind. My mind is always whirring, which is why  I am trying to focus on living now and zen.

The article is especially relevant at this time of year. I scrolled through its suggestions and my mind got stuck on this idea today: “Identify the Essential.” I have a nasty habit of biting off more than I should chew. It’s never more than I can chew. It’s just more than I should force myself to chew. I am a highly energetic doer, so I nearly always manage to find a way to accomplish anything I set myself in motion to do, even when that means sacrificing sleep, time with my family, and peace of mind. I too often take on the unessential in an attempt to make things “more special”. It’s ridiculous, really.

 
Let me give you an example. Right after Thanksgiving, I started thinking about ways to make the holidays more memorable for the boys. So, I added things to our to-do list to add in these memories. I bought gingerbread house kits, tickets to see lights displays, and crafts for us to do as a family. I scheduled trips for skiing, ice skating, and play dates. And, I added all these things to our already packed holiday calendar. All this has accomplished is making me more frazzled than I already was. I’m shoving my kids into the car, dragging them off places in a tizzy, and I think all they’re really getting out of my attempt to create positive holiday memories for them is a lasting impression that their mom becomes even more psychotic each and every holiday season.

So, next week, we’re packing our bags and heading to our home away from home to relax. We might go skiing or snowshoeing. We might go skating, sledding, or to the hot springs. We might cuddle on the couch with the snow falling outside and watch Christmas movies. Or we might just stay in our pajamas, playing board games and doing puzzles. Maybe we’ll just nap and rest up for Christmas? All I know is that after an entire month of self-inflicted chaos, we’re going to take four full days to focus on the essential…time together. Because deep down inside I know that what is essential to my boys is time with us. Sure. They love their Christmas gifts. When the trees are taken down and the gifts are long forgotten, however, what they will take away from the holidays will either be memories of stress and discord or memories of fun and togetherness. I think they’d prefer the latter.

God’s Plans

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...

My life has not turned out at all like I had originally planned. When I was an innocent 18 year old in 1986 heading off to the University of Colorado, I planned to get my PhD, become a writing or literature professor, travel the world, read great books, and see amazing things. I had no plans to get married or have children because I felt my personality was not suited for either of those things.

Fast forward to 1999. I’m married because I met a fantastic guy who made me feel 100% comfortable and loved and who was a blast to be around. He was also willing to put up with me for the rest of my life, so there you go. I’m finishing my Master’s degree and working on my incredibly specialized thesis on sophistic rhetoric and its applicability to modern technical communication (yawn). I realize there is no way I actually want to pursue my PhD because I can’t see myself in a working environment with the professors who would be my colleagues. I mean, who wants to spend their days listening to some overinflated coworker carrying on about how he is the foremost authority on diary literature of women in the 19th century (double yawn)? Add to that the prospect of a dissertation and suddenly the professor gig is not worth the effort.

Jump forward twelve years. It’s 2011. I have my Master’s degree, am still happily married, and now am the career-less stay-at-home mother of two sons. Huh. I earn no paycheck, clean toilets (and if you’ve ever cleaned the toilet in a boy’s bathroom, well…all I can say is Ewwwwww!) and do laundry, and manage our small household. Not at all what I had planned.

There are days when I truly struggle with where my life is now compared with where I dreamed at 18 it would be. I never expected to be here, and yet all the choices I made brought me here. This means I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Even though I understand this on an intellectual level, my ego still has difficulty accepting that the life I created is not outwardly successful as I imagined it would be. I struggle not because my life is not great, but because I can’t seem to relinquish what I thought was supposed to do.

Once I saw a bumper sticker that has become a regular mantra in my life when I am struggling: “There are God’s plans and there are your plans. Your plans don’t count.”

I need to remember that not all divergent paths are negative ones. The detours I’ve taken may have led me off the map I had set for myself, but they’ve still gotten me somewhere. It might be a more circuitous path, but life is about the journey and not the destination, right? So, maybe the secret to success isn’t in the achieving all your intended goals. Maybe it’s in appreciating the experiences you’ve had, especially the ones that were never part of your plans. Most of my greatest joys have come through things I never thought were supposed to happen. Maybe I’m not off track. Maybe I’m actually onto something.

Mom Lottery

Sum Total of My Life's Work Thus Far

Some days I am certain I am not qualified enough to be a parent. On those days, I can’t seem to do or say the right thing. And, reminiscent of that scene in the film Parenthood, I half expect that one day one of my sons will climb to the top of a bell tower and open fire on an unsuspecting crowd simply because I messed him up so badly. Who knows? Maybe the other one will be up in the bell tower too, egging him on and cursing me out? Yesterday, however, was not one of those days. Yesterday I got that nanosecond glimpse of how I must be making some sort of positive impact on them after all.

Joe wrote a book report on Sunday. The first one he ever wanted to write without my help. In fact, he wouldn’t even let me in the room while he was working. When he handed me his draft and I read it, I smiled hugely. It’s not that it was the finest piece of literature I’d ever read. It’s that it was complete and well-thought out. It had his own inflection in the words. There were even capitals at the start of sentences and periods (in most cases) at the ends of them. Being an editor, I took a red pencil to his paper and corrected the spelling and punctuation. Then I asked him simply to rewrite it so it would be legible enough for teacher consumption. When he got to the car yesterday, his teacher followed and approached my window. She told me that his rough draft was excellent, so much so that she didn’t need him to do a final copy. If I hadn’t been sitting in my car, I would have executed a perfect, cheerleader-worthy, celebratory jump for joy. Progress. I’ve been working diligently with Joe on his writing, and he’s making progress. Sigh.

As we start to pull out of the school parking lot, Luke makes this announcement:

“I signed up for the school spelling bee.”

I nearly choked on my Coke. “You did what?”

“Signed up for the spelling bee,” he repeated.

I tried to gather my composure. “Can I ask what made you decide to?”

“Well,” he replied, “I thought it would be a good experience. I know I’m not the best speller in class. Jason is. But I’m going to try. If I get out on the first round, I won’t even mind. At least I will have tried.”

Seriously? Where is the camera? I have to be on Punk’d, right?

If there is a Mom Lottery, yesterday I took home the big money. Now I remember why I work so hard at parenting every day, even on the most difficult, depressing ones. It’s because, sometimes, when you least expect it you will get a crumb of positive affirmation that you’re doing a good job. Oddly enough, that crumb can sustain you for a long time.

Hell Week

Ground Zero

In college there is this lovely ritual where new pledges are hazed mercilessly for a full week while under conditional acceptance to the fraternity they are hoping to join. I have to admit that I recall that week of school each year with particular fondness. Nothing like watching college guys strip down to their skivvies and dance around in the University Memorial Center fountain while Madonna’s Like a Virgin plays. The tradition is aptly called Hell Week, and when it’s someone else’s week of hell it’s genuinely amusing and in good fun.

The seven days from December 12-December 19th each year comprise my own personal Hell Week. While I’m not being forced to carry around a baby doll while wearing a giant diaper on the outside of my clothing, it’s still a test of my spirit, my holiday spirit. How far am I willing to go and how much stress can I take? Why is this week my Hell Week? Well, in addition to all my “normal” life activities (cleaning, laundry, cooking, errand running, homework coaching, care of pets and children, etc.), I have the holiday crunch. Christmas cards have to go out, wrapping must be done, gifts for neighbors and teachers made and distributed, boxes must be shipped, and school Christmas parties attended. To top it all off, December 20th is my husband’s birthday, which means I’m also looking for birthday gifts, birthday cake, and preparing to host family for that celebration. My current to-do list, which does not include any of my regularly scheduled responsibilities, is over 20 items long. I’m going cross-eyed looking at it.

In my constant effort to find greater peace in my life, I could just shred the list, pop A Christmas Story in the DVD player, pour some Bailey’s into a mug of hot chocolate, and let it all go. I could do that. But, I know how much all the holiday fanfare means to my hubby and my kids. Just because I would rather pack a suitcase, lock up the house, and spend the entire Christmas holiday on a beach in Hawaii doesn’t mean that’s their holiday fantasy. So, I suck it up.

I know I’m not the only person who does this. I know we are all overburdened this time of year. My method of dealing with Hell Week is simple. I pause occasionally to find stillness and to breathe consciously, even if remembering to find temporary stillness requires setting the alarm on my iPhone. When I stop rushing, remove myself from the chaos, and quiet my life momentarily, I become centered and find the energy to begin again from a better place. To adjust my Grinch attitude, I try my best to do this:

“Learn to become still. And to take your attention away from what you don’t want, and all the emotional charge around it, and place your attention on what you wish to experience” ~ Michael Beckwith

Namaste, friends.

Absolutes

Joe at the regional Science Fair

My oldest son is a deep thinker. When he was 5, he told me this: “God is all-knowing. I’m not all-knowing yet, but I am knowing.” The boy never stops thinking. I honestly don’t know if his attention-defecit is a result of his constant thinking or if his frenetic brain activity is the cause of his attention-defecit.

Lately, Joe has been very conflicted. He goes to Christian school and is taught in absolutes. The problem is that as much as he loves God and his school, he also loves science. He struggles to make peace between the things he’s taught at school and the scientific theories that have taken hold of his imagination. Although he can see in shades of grey, he lives in a black and white world.

It is partially because of Joe’s concern about absolutes that his father and I have kept him in Christian school. We thought it might be best for him to learn young that even within a like-minded community there are dissenting opinions, and that lack of accord is not necessarily a bad thing. Recently, though, Joe told us that he thinks he should go to public school because his scientific beliefs put him at odds with most (probably all) of his classmates and teachers. He longs to fit in but feels he doesn’t because he doesn’t think the Earth is 6,000 years old or that dinosaurs and humans ever coexisted. He feels he is not being a good Christian because of his views on science and, therefore, he should not attend Christian school. I can’t tell you how incredibly sad that makes me because I believe God has room to love us all, creationists and evolutionists alike.

As we struggle with the dilemma of whether to keep him at the school he has attended now for seven years, myriad questions filter through my mind. Why are we humans so insistent on maintaining absolutes? What do we gain by refusing to acknowledge other view points and ostracizing those whose brains see things differently? Why must our beliefs trump someone else’s to be valid?

I hope Joe will come to believe that God loves him even if he believes the fossil record exists in millions of years and not thousands of years. I hope that we’ve given him conviction enough to stand with his faith even if it differs from those around him. If Joe has to focus on an absolute, I hope that it would be that we are all entitled to be loved by God and judged by him alone.

Unexpected Gifts

Lucky Girls

Today is my friend Celeste’s birthday. Last night she called and asked if I would be willing to go for a manicure/pedicure with her today to help her celebrate. Well, what kind of friend would I be if I had denied her birthday request? So, today we sat side by side in Tootsies Nail Shoppe in Wash Park enjoying some pampering. It was heavenly.

Afterward we had just enough time to stop into The Tavern for a quick beer and some long overdue conversation. As we sat there catching up, though, it occurred to me that what made the day special was not the manicure and pedicure that left my winter hands and feet sparkling and soft. It wasn’t the “me” time or the ability to afford it. It wasn’t even the time spent with a good friend musing about life. It’s the friendship itself.

It’s easy to become preoccupied with life’s minutiae and lose sight of what’s truly important. Celeste and I met at the Taste of Colorado. In an act totally out of character, I started a conversation with a stranger who would become one of my dearest friends. With our busy schedules, sometimes we lose sight of each other for weeks at a time. I’m grateful when we can get in a skate or a coffee date or a hike with our boys. I’ve learned a lot from Celeste, like how to bargain at a garage sale and how to t-stop on roller blades. She’s taught me it’s okay to laugh at myself when I do silly things, like showing up at the zoo unintentionally wearing two different flip-flops. We’ve tried new things together (snowboarding) and trekked 50-miles in Southern California for MS. And, if I ever decide to go on the Amazing Race, Celeste would most definitely be my first choice for race partner. I’m a better person today because of the time we’ve spent together.

Although it was her birthday today, I was the one who got a gift…a reminder that it’s not the little things (like manicures) that make life worth living. It’s the intangibles like unexpected friendships that matter most.