Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Not Tough Enough...more 7 yr old wisdom

Recently, Brigham asked me why I take medication.  I thought about the Coumadin, the pulmonary embolii (blood clots in the lungs), and Factor VIII (blood clotting disorder) and said, "Son, it's complicated."  Can you blame me?

Well, Brigham did.  Blamed me, I mean.  He looked disgusted and said, "You know why grown ups say things are too complicated?"

Of course, I had to ask, "Why?"  I am nothing if not curious.

"They say it's too complicated because they are not tough enough to answer the question that was asked."

Ouch!  Not tough enough huh?  He had me right where he wanted me, and yes I found a way to explain to him why I take the Coumadin, blood clots and all. After all was said and done, I was actually quite pleased with my explanation.  Apparently he was pleased with it as well because he asked me to repeat the whole explanation again and again to his older siblings later.

A dear friend of mine used to have a plaque on her wall that said, "Parenting is not for wimps." So true. Being a parent stretches us in ways we could not possibly imagine when we are young and childless. Fortunately, just as I was able to find an answer to Brigham's question when I pushed myself a little more, as parents we find the inner reserves of strength when we are pushed to our imagined limits.  So dear friends, when you feel like you are on the rack being stretched beyond your breaking point...know that you are not alone. Be tough. You are stronger than you know. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On Being in Charge of Yourself...a kid's philosophy of life

After church last Sunday, my brood and I piled into the van.  I noticed that my 13 yr old, Caleb, hadn't put on his seat belt so I said teasingly, "Son, I know that seat belts are 'cool', but neither is being dead."

My seven year old, Brigham, spoke up, "But Momma, then you get to go to Heaven."  Uh oh, I've probably just scared him for life! Quickly I attempted to recover by telling him that yes Heaven is great but we don't want to go earlier than we are supposed to. 

He pondered that and said, "Yeah, if you die young you can't get married, have kids, be in charge of yourself, or play video games."

Ok, the marraige and kids were givens, but "be in charge of yourself and play video games", where did that come from?

I've been thinking about that conversation.  We can guess what "being in charge of yourself" means to a seven year old, but I couldn't help but wonder, will he be disappointed when he grows up?  I mean do YOU feel in charge of yourself? Really?  What would that look like for an adult?  My first thought was to be free of fear.  Or how about free of debt?   Free from addiction?  Can I ever feel in charge of myself while I am overweight???


This is a lot to think about, perhaps I'll take a break and go play a video game.  Maybe Brigham has the purpose of life right after all.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Maze of Depression

Not to long ago, I wrote about the Monster Under My Bed.  I am happy to report that I have (for now) banished the monster.  Banished? Befriended?  Hmmm.  Anyway, today I want to share a little about how I won that battle.

I guess I had been somewhat depressed since before I wrote that (ha, it is hard to admit it still), and this last week or so, the depression had gotten pretty bad.  I kept telling myself that "happiness is a choice", and I really wanted to believe that it was.  Yet, the depression felt like a maze and for a time I could not find my way out.  I tried all the things that have worked in the past.  The most helpful thing was, of course, prayer.  I can't say enough about that, but that is a topic for another time.  When we pray, God often helps us through other people and that is what I want to share today.

I am pleased to tell you that I found my way out of the maze.  It wasn't easy.  It is interesting how it happened. You know the cliche "misery loves company"?  Well, it sounds terrible, but it is true. One of the things that helped was hearing other peoples struggles.  Someone I know recently had a house fire.  They were very close to losing not only their home but their lives.  A short time before that, they had a scare, wherein one of their children almost died.  Hearing her share the story with a group of moms I was with brought tears to my eyes even though I knew the little boy in question was alright.  I felt full of compassion for what this family has been through, and at the same time, I felt strangely comforted.  It was like I mentally put an arm around her and said, "Life sure is hard isn't it?  I'm having a hard time too, but we'll both get through it."  I feel a closeness to her just because she shared.  Another day at a church party, a new friend shared a struggle her family had had.  The topic came up very naturally in the conversation, but it made me feel a closeness to her as well. (Thanks Nicole and Anjanette) Some how in all this, I realized I needed to share too.  It is unfortunate how reluctant we are to talk about depression, and yet talking is so helpful.  Finally, I told my husband and a few friends that I was struggling. And slowly...with prayer, hearing other people's struggles and sharing my own, I found my way out of the maze. 

Now back to enjoying Christmas!  I hope Christmas is a joyous time for you, but if you find yourself lost in the maze, pray and share with a friend...I think it will help you both!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas Tradition...What shall we call Him?

What shall we call Him?  So often at Christmas time we hear the lament that people have forgotten the real meaning of Christmas.  In an attempt to keep that message constantly before my children, and myself during this wonderfully busy time, I started a tradition of studying the names of the Savior.  After all, when a couple is expecting a baby, they spend much time pondering a name, so what better way to celebrate our Savior's birth than to focus on His many names?  

Good Samaritan

In my search to learn more about the names of Christ, I came across some wonderful surprises.  Good Samaritan was one of them.  BYU Professor, John Welch, enlightened me in a talk he gave about the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  He begins, "This parable’s content is clearly practical and dramatic in its obvious meaning, but a time-honored Christian tradition also saw the parable as an impressive allegory of the Fall and Redemption of mankind.

“. . .The man who was going down is Adam. Jerusalem is paradise, and Jericho is the world. The robbers are hostile powers. The priest is the Law, the Levite is the prophets, and the Samaritan is Christ. The wounds are disobedience, the beast is the Lord’s body, the [inn], which accepts all who wish to enter, is the Church. … The manager of the [inn] is the head of the Church, to whom its care has been entrusted. And the fact that the Samaritan promises he will return represents the Savior’s second coming.

"This allegorical reading was taught not only by ancient followers of Jesus, but it was virtually universal throughout early Christianity, being advocated by Irenaeus, Clement, and Origen, and in the fourth and fifth centuries by Chrysostom in Constantinople, Ambrose in Milan, and Augustine in North Africa. This interpretation is found most completely in two other medieval stained-glass windows, in the French cathedrals at Bourges and Sens."

Reading this article really opened the Parable of the Good Samaritan for me.  I am strengthened when I picture myself as the traveler, hurt and broken, and the Lord, the Good Samaritan coming to bind up my wounds.  It is easy to for me to imagine because He has bound up my wounds so many times before.

 I highly recommend the entire article, “The Good Samaritan: Forgotten Symbols,” John W. Welch, Ensign, Feb 2007, 40–47 which you can find here.

And naturally finding these new truths in an old story, brings a question to my mind. . .what messages are hidden in the other parables, waiting for me when I am ready to receive them?  There's a Christmas gift to "unwrap".

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"It's a Wonderful Life"

I know that some of you are not ready to talk about Christmas yet, but I can't help myself!  I love Christmas and I like to start early to make it last as long as possible!

My favorite Christmas movie, my favorite all around movie actually, is the classic "It's a Wonderful Life".   Who can resist this wonderful film about loveable George Bailey who wants to be a world traveler but is foiled in his plans time and again.  After a particularly bad turn of events he even contemplates suicide.  Enter Clarence, the bumbling angel, to show him what the world would be like if he had never been born.  The number of lives he had touched is amazing.   As you know, he pleads to go back when he sees what a large "hole" is left without him.

I can relate to George's frustration as time after time hardships prevent him from accomplishing his dreams. Please don't misunderstand me.  I always wanted to be a wife and mother, and I am.  I love that part of my life.  My frustrations are in the things that keep me from being the kind of mother I want to be i.e. working and health issues.  Another frustration is my bike riding.  I have written about how much I love riding my bike, but right now that feels like a distant dream.  Because of health issues (blood clots in my lungs), I have missed a few weeks on the bike.  About a month ago I could ride 12 miles pretty comfortably, and last Saturday, I struggled to do four, ack.  I feel like George when he took that wooden knob from the staircase and almost threw it.  I want to gather up my problems and throw them at the walls that hem me in.

I believe most of us feel this way from time to time.  Just last night a co-worker was expressing a similar frustration with her life.  I wonder if that is what makes this movie such a well-loved classic. Could it be that many of us can relate to the frustration, and discouragement of lost dreams and wishes? Do we long to know that our lives have meaning and purpose even when they are not following our plans?  Isn't it a wonderful thought that someone's life may have been touched because you were there?

Unfortuantely, no angel will come and show us the lives that we have made a difference in, but perhaps we could be a "Clarence" for someone else.  We could write a letter, or make a phone call and let someone know that our life is better because they were there for us.  I can't think of a better Christmas present. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Blue Footed Booby

"Inside of me is a Blue Footed Booby"

Perhaps it was sleep deprivation, perhaps I'm just crazy, we'll never know for sure. 

This morning my son, Ammon, told me he had done a quiz on Facebook with this result "inside of you is a Blue Footed Booby."  I laughed so hard and threatened to make him a sweatshirt proclaiming this new discovery.  And then, I did!  He vows that he will not wear it. . .

With Christmas rapidly approaching, you may be searching for a present for the hard to shop for person.  If so you might want to make a personalized sweatshirt too!  I found a site that has no "minimum order".  It is really easy to use, and best of all, reasonably priced!  Check it out!

More Christmas shopping suggestions to come.  I love Christmas.  I love shopping.  Life is good!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Check it out...Sumo Ride

I can't NOT share this with you.  Too funny!  (Sorry the link doesn't work any was linked to a news article showing a picture of several bicyclists riding their bikes in sumo wrestler suits.) Oh! Found a new link, I think this one will last longer.  Sumo Ride

All I can say is great minds think alike.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Monster Under My Bed

"When you were little, you could swear there was a monster under your bed--but no one believed you. On the eve of your 30th birthday, you hear noises coming from under your bed once again. The monster is back and has an important message to deliver to you." Experiencing a little writer's block, I googled 'writing prompts'. Many thanks to WritersDigest Forum for this...

It was actually my 40th birthday when the monster came back.  He whispered in that half growl that monsters use "death to youth, beware, beware".

Of course, I ignored him wouldn't you?  After all I was only 40, hardly old or so I thought at the time, and besides grown-ups don't believe in monsters under the bed.  I should have listened though, because he was right.  Since I turned 40 my health is the like down-hill skiing, unfortunately I don't know how to ski.

The monsters of our adulthood are different than childhood, but still very real.  In an attempt to be "mature" we give the monsters different names, but they never really go away.  As a child, monsters have names like "loneliness", "boredom", "friendlessness", and "darkness". The monsters get uglier and scarier as we get older.  The new monsters have names like "bankruptcy", "cancer", "divorce" and many others.
As children our parents came up with a variety of methods to help us with our monsters, everything from trying to convince us that there were no monsters (but we knew better, as we do now), to my favorite "monster spray".  As adults, no one will come turn on the light and assure us there are no monsters.  No one will come and spray under the bed and in the closet.  No one can make the monsters go away for us.  So what can we do?

I would like to share something I have done with limited success.  This is no miracle cure (no monster spray).  I'm still working on it, but even in it's testing period as it is, perhaps it will be helpful to someone.

My grown up way of dealing with monsters is to befriend them.  I know you were hoping for something more Beowolf-ish weren't you?  A sword and a battle and well, some action...all I can say is if your monsters leave you with any energy for that sort of thing, give it a try and let the rest of us know how it goes.  For me monsters under the bed, by their very nature affect your sleep and energy and hand to hand combat is simply out.  Friendship is much less strenuous.

How to befriend a monster then?  Well, it depends on the monster, but here are a few ideas.  You can pick and chose what might help with your monsters.

The first is acceptance.  I believe I learned this one from my wonderful husband.  He is a problem solver.  When a problem arises, he rolls up his sleeves and gets to work on solving it.  He never wastes time trying to decide whose fault it is that this problem has arisen and he doesn't waist time mourning over it either.  He just gets to work on solving the problem.  He inspired something I say to my children, "Look for solutions, not excuses."

How does this work in real life?  Well, take Money Monster for example.  This is a good one, because strangely enough no matter how much money a person makes it never feels like enough, so you all know Money Monster right?  So the first thing is to accept your situation.  As long as you have a roof over your head (even the in-laws roof counts), food on the table (beans and rice count, top ramen not so much), and clothes on your back (yes, thrift store shopping is are getting the idea)...if all these things are in place, things are not that bad.  When I lived in Venezuela, I knew people that struggled daily to get food on the table.   Even the poorest people in America have food stamps, food banks, etc at their disposal. 

Another way to befriend a monster is creativity.  With the Money Monster, creativity is almost as good as a sword.  Whether it is the daily struggles, or special occasions, creativity can make a potential disaster into a fond memory.  An example of what this looks like is here in Budget Anniversaries.

Another friendship choice.  Here is where some fighting could come in.  Happiness is a choice.  I remember as a child having a reoccuring nightmare about falling into a large pit.  My mom and siblings were at the top, and I was in the hole.  They couldn't figure out how to get to me so they left.  Maybe they went to get help, but I felt abandoned.  As a child, the dream ended there.  As an adult, I would not accept that fate.  I would dig out hand and foot holds and inch by inch I would climb out of that hole.  That is what happiness feels like something I have to claw my way to, but worth it.  Happiness is worth the fight it sometimes takes to get there.

The monster I'm trying to befriend now is the Fear Monster.  He is dreadful.  Remember as a child how scary the Abominable Snowman was?  That is the kind of monster I live with now.  He is the shadow of another monster I am dealing with, "Poor Health Monster".  Acceptance is helping me deal with "Poor Health Monster".  It serves no purpose to spend too much time lamenting the loss of good health, though I have to admit one would hardly be human if one did not spend some time in Lamenting Town (just make sure it is a vacation and not a permanent residence).  "Everyone has some kind of struggle and this is mine," I tell myself. So "Poor Health Monster" and I have an unsteady truce.  It is his buddy, "Fear Monster" that plagues me now.  I try to accept that this is what my life is and focus on all the good things in my life, namely my adorable children who give me a reason to smile everyday, and my husband who makes me laugh.  That is where the Fear Monster gets to me though.  "How many tomorrows?" he whisper-growls in my ear.  "How many tomorrows?"  That is the thing that keeps me awake at night. 

Some day I will have to come to an acceptance that none of us knows the answer to THAT question, and simply enjoy today.  But I'm too tired for that acceptance right now.  Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bike Love

Introducing my new baby, my new-to-me bike.  Isn't she a beauty?
For my fellow bike lovers...she is a Vintage Schwinn Traveler.

And here is me in what my daughter calls my "dork cyclist" outfit.
Yes, I always wear my helmet, it's just not in the picture.

After a couple short neighborhood rides, I took her out today for a 12-mile ride with my bike buddy Shawna.    It's love!

Since he tried to sneak in the last picture, here is my other baby, Ryker.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tell me more about that...

I have been thinking about words.  Yep, words.  I like language; I like communication.  You have heard about the importance of words like "I'm sorry", and "I love you".  Those are important, but not nothing new to ponder there.

I was thinking about other important words.  I really like, "...tell me about that."  What an awesome phrase when it is followed by real listening.  Listening seems like a simple thing, but it is a quality that most of us need to work at.  It's something you might not think about until you come across someone who is a really good listener and they say, "tell me about that," and then really listen.  It's powerful.

I also like "I wonder..." and "what if"...these are words that have the potential to expand our horizons.

I adore "what do you think?" or "I would like your opinion..."  Whenever someone asks me for my opinion, I laugh in delight and say, "I love to be asked my opinion.  I consider it a great compliment, ask away."  

Any "words of affirmation" like "I'm proud of you", "good job", "well done"...make my day anytime.  You could throw in "I love your blog" if you like...I wouldn't mind. 

We learned as children the saying about 'sticks and stones'.  It's such a cliche that I don't even need to finish the sentence, but it is true.  If someone punches you, the bruises heal, but when someone says something hurtful to you the "wound" from that can go on for years.  Thankfully, though, the opposite is also true.  Kind things that are said to you can live in your heart and bring a smile to your face for years as well.

One of the best things about words is that they are available to any of us, no money or special skills required.

Years ago, I read a inspirational quote from Mother Theresa.  I have searched in vain for the actual quote, but it was something to the effect that there are people who are hungry not just for food, but for the warmth of a smile.  People who are naked, who need to be clothed in kindness.  I was living in Venezuela, surrounded by poverty and despairing about how little I could do when I read her powerful words.  I could give a smile.  I could be kind.  I could be a friend.  There was something I could do.  Powerful.

I think words are amazing.  What do you think?

Friday, September 18, 2009

P.S. Bethel

I apologize, I was writing my last post One Step Forward, One Step back, when I got an important phone call I was anticipating.  In my nervous energy, I hit "publish" instead of "save as draft".

I know from previous experience (kind of embarrassing) that I can delete on Blogger, but it will still post on Google Reader, and maybe Facebook too, I'm not sure.  So what you got was the ROUGH draft version.  Sorry to torture you that way.  Don't laugh, maybe I have some obsessive-compulsive editor friends, you don't know!

Anyway, I just moved and can't find my pictures of Bethel.  Most of them were of my dog anyway.  I found these pictures for you though.  These are a must see, this photographer did a great job "capturing" Bethel.  You will really get a taste of it, and maybe that will help you get the bad taste of my rough draft out of your memory. Wink!


One step forward, one step back

One step forward, one step back.

That is how I feel about my progress on the bike.  It is really two giant steps forward, but it doesn't feel like it yet.  You see, I have a biking goal that I am really excited about...dare I tell you?  Hmmm, I don't know if I ready for that level of commitment.  Oh, alright, of course, I am committed to this goal.  Alright, crossing the Rubicon here, I have a goal to ride the RSVP next year.  That is an annual bike ride from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada.  It is roughly 180 miles in two days.  I've done my research it is a realistic goal!  If I increase my mileage by 10% a week, I can be ready. 

In order to prepare for it though, I've decided to "throw away my crutch" or in another words, I stopped riding the electric bike.  I'm all on my own power now.  This is a huge step for me, but it feels like a step back because on the electric bike I could cover 10 miles in about an hour.  Now on my own power, I can do four miles an hour.  That is a bummer!  The other day I was riding and feeling a little frustrated about this when my inner voice said to me, "Leslie, be realistic.  At em...weight and fitness level, being on the bike at all is a victory.  It doesn't matter how far you go, every time you get on the bike is a victory!"  The rest of the ride was bliss.  I need to send that inner voice some flowers. (No chocolate, I'm watching what I eat!)

What about you?  What "little victories" do you have that you are not recognizing in your life?  I'm sure you have them.

One step forward, one step back seems to be a common theme in my life.  I was recently reminded of a time in my life that felt like a falling into a pit, but turned out to be a pole vault forward. 

It was a long time ago, before I was married.  My best friend and roommate, Charice and I had decided to move to Alaska to get a job in corrections.  Alaska and Nevada are the highest paid states.  Somewhere in the back of our minds the knowledge that in Alaska the men outnumber the women 7 to 1, might have influenced us ever so slightly.   It was around that time that the Alaska Men's Magazine was created, but mostly we went for the job.   You believe me don't you?

Anchorage was a dream.  Moose that walked right into town!  After awhile I stopped taking pictures of them because it was such a common occurence.  A bear came into town once too, but I didn't see him, I just heard about it on the news.  Indescribable beauty everywhere you turn, and I have to say, growing up in Arizona that was new to me.  No offense to my fellow Arizonians, but there is no comparison!  I could go on and on about how much I loved Anchorage and all the things I loved there, but just thinking about it is making me homesick.  I don't think I could tolerate the snow and cold as well now, but back then it didn't bother me at all.  I loved Anchorage and I planned to live there the rest of my life. 

I got a job working in a half-way house.  It's main purpose was to be a jumping off point for men getting out of prison which is a much needed place in society.  We also had temporary "boarders" when the jail was over-flowing.  Imagine my surprise when one day I was doing orientation with a new group of "boarders", I was reading their names outloud from a list when to my utter surprise, I saw a name I recognized.  I looked up and sure enough it was the Arnold Schwarzenegger of Alaska Men's Magazine.  I mean, he was a gorgeous guy that had a muscular build that I had oggled.  (Did I just say that?)  He was "just" there on a DUI, but it really made me laugh. 

Anyway, we had been in Alaska for a year, when finally I got a call for an interview for a state job.  Remember that was the reason we went to Alaska.  No, really it was, it...ah, never mind.  The interview was by phone, because the job was in Bethel.  I interviewed and was offered the job.  I should have been thrilled.  After all it was a dream job.  A good career move for me at that point in my life...but Bethel?!  I didn't want to go to Bethel.

Next thing you know, I'm on the plane to Bethel.  I cried half way there.  Although I accepted the job, because it was such a great opportunity for me, I knew I probably would not like Bethel.  How could I be so sure?  Because Charice had been there before and she told me about it.  I'll explain.

To get to Bethel, one must fly.  It is on the west side of Alaska and there are no roads that go out there (read: single girl leaving civilization as we know it!)   In Bethel, I was able to rent a darling little house that looked like a log cabin.  The catch was that like a cabin, it had no running water.  That is actually quite common in Bethel.  Because of the tundra, they can't bury the water pipes, and they will freeze above ground.  Some people have running water, though I can't recall how that was accomplished, only that is was less common for someone to have running water than not.  So imagine bitter cold winters, below zero is not uncommon, so what do you do with the outhouse?  Well, it is generally attached, like a porch, to the house.  Imagine yourself coming to visit me, as you walk up to the front door, to your left there is another door...the outhouse.
Now you are beginning to understand why I cried!

They don't call it an outhouse though.  It is called a "honey bucket".  Because of the tundra, they can't dig a hole like a traditional outhouse, so a bucket is used, thus the name.  You may be wondering how they empty those things.  Once a week the "honey bucket man" comes to your house in his truck.  He has a large truck with a big tank on the back and a hose.  He walks into the Honey bucket room and puts the hose in the bucket.  Ewwww!  Yes, it's true.  When my children need a little motivation to do their school work, I remind them about the "Honey Bucket man" and threaten them that this kind of job is what happens when you don't get an education.  Truth be told, those guys probably make a lot of money...who would do it otherwise?

Another man comes to your house with another hose and fills your water buckets.  The water buckets are literally large garbage cans (that have never held garbage) that you keep in or near your kitchen.  Then you use this water all week for cooking and washing.  For bathing, some people went to the laundry mat where you could rent the public shower (like at a truck stop).  There was a sign on the door, "one person at a time, please." I was able to shower at work.  I found this really much for prettying yourself up BEFORE you leave the house.  It was quite common, however.

The houses in Bethel are on stilts, and every now and then the men go out and measure and level things up again, because the tundra does not make for a sure foundation.  Most people in Bethel don't have cars because any car in Bethel has to be flown in and there is really no where to go as the roads only go around Bethel.  In the winter though, the river freezes solidly and people drive on it like a highway.  When Spring comes and the first car goes through the ice (just the tires, generally) they know it is time to stop driving on the river. 

There is one doctor in town.  There is also a hospital, plenty of doctors there, I'm sure, but you know what I meant.  The hospital is only for the Natives, pregnancy or emergencies though.  I had a friend whose child broke her arm.  She didn't like the local doctor (I don't know why, I liked him just fine), so she had to fly to Anchorage to have her daughter's arm set and casted.

As if all that was not enough to make a girl go crazy, there didn't seem to be any single men in my age range in Bethel.  I don't know where my "seven" where, but they weren't in Bethel.  There was one, though.   One night when I was still new in Bethel and in Culture Shock there was a very powerful wind storm.  Eighty-five mile an hour winds.  I thought I was one of the three little pigs, and living in a house of wood, you can guess what I thought my fate would be.  Somehow I managed to go to sleep, and when I woke up my house was still standing, but it was bitterly cold.  The storm had disconnected my propane tank for the heater.  I called the landlord and he guessed it...the only single guy, my age, in town.  There I was freezing, homesick, unshowered and I open my door to an Alaskan Brad Pitt.  I wanted to die on the spot!  I swear he could read my mind because I remember him laughing for no apparent reason.  He got the heat back on though for which I was immensely grateful.  Since I didn't die immediately, I did not want to die of hypothermia.  I saw him again sometime later and he asked me out.   I was thrilled, but unfortunately we had different goals.  I had limited dating experience, and that was with young men who shared my religious values.  If I had known what Alaska Brad had in mind for the night, I could have saved him the money on the lobster dinner!  I got dinner and he got zip.  Score one for naivete!

Whenever I talk talk about Bethel today, I put a strong emphasis on the second syllable.  To be fair though, most of the people I met in Bethel live there because they love it.  They ride snow machines to work in the winter and dog sled on their days off.  In the summer they fish, though how they keep from being carried away by mosquitos I don't know.   My sanity while I was in Bethel was the local theatre group.  They had an incredible theater group that put on four performances per year!  What fun!

One step forward, one step back...remember I mentioned that moving to Bethel ended up being a pole vault forward?  Well, I met my mother-in-law to be while I was in Bethel, and because of her, I met my then-future husband.  Imagine that, I went almost to the west coast of Alaska, so I could meet and marry someone who grew up in Portland, Oregon.  Life is funny like that sometimes.  Enjoy the dance!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Am I an Athlete Now?

When I was a child, one of my favorite books (that my mother read to me) was Little Cottontail. It was one of those "Golden Books", remember the ones with the gold spine? It was about a little rabbit that wanted to be grown up. "Am I grown up now, Mother?" he would ask. The mother would say, "No, Little Cottontail, first you must. . ." Then there was a list: learn to find food in the winter, how to zig zag to avoid the fox and a couple other things. By the end of the book, the little rabbit did all these things and asked if he was gown up. The mother nuzzles him and says, "Yes, Big Cottontail." (By the way, that does NOT count as a spoiler since it is a children's book!!!)

One day my friend, Shawna, and I were biking together and I guess I said something about wishing I were an athlete. I have always been the clutsy nerd type, never an athlete. She said that because I was biking six days a week that made me an athlete.

"But Shawna, aren't athletes. . .um. . .thin?" I hate to point out the obvious, you know, that I am NOT! (Shawna is one of those beautiful, size 4, runner types so how could she miss this not-minor-detail?)

She just smiled and said, "What about Babe Ruth?"

Was he overweight? All I know is that he was a famous baseball player. I asked and she assured me that he was overweight. Wow. I was feeling pretty good about that until she said, ". . .and what about Sumo wrestlers?" I pictured myself standing with a sumo wrestler, and my "athlete dreams" instantly vanished. Thanks for the visual Shawna.

This conversation started me wondering. What is an athlete anyway? Is it someone who puts on a uniform? Because I wear my helmet, gloves and bike shorts whenever I ride. Yep, I am sure I look absolutely "sumo wrestler-ish" in my bike shorts, but they are oh so comfortable. (Comfort in the saddle is very important for long rides.)

Of course, I looked up definitions of the word athlete. I found that I am not the first one to have asked this question. It has been discussed by other inquiring minds on forums many times before apparently. But it doesn't answer my question: am I an athlete now?

I read a definition somewhere that I really liked. It said an athlete is someone training for a goal. I have a couple goals I am training for. Am I an athlete now? Somehow it just doesn't seem like enough.

So I looked up the definition of "cyclist". It said, "someone who rides a bike". Ok, I qualify for that one!

Just call me a cyclist then!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Technical...err...Emotional Difficulties

Remember back in the day when you would sometimes turn to a TV channel and instead of a program there would be a message "Experiencing Technical Difficulties, please stand by."

What if you clicked on a favorite blog and there was a message that said, "Experiencing Emotional Difficulties, please stand by."

Just saying. . .

Don't worry, I'm fine. I just mean that there has been a longer pause on my blog than I intended because I was a bit stressed. It seems I can write when I am happy, or when I am sad, I can even write when I am mad. BUT when I am the emotional equivilent of a shaken soda, I can't think clearly let alone write.

The fact that I am writing this now is an indicator that I am feeling better, so no worries. Why was I so stressed? Suffice it to say, on top of a stressful job that keeps me up at night, literally, and almost a half dozen children, we moved. . .need I say more?

Bobbi Jones Jones
All this makes me think, what if we all had signs, I mean not just on the blog, but on a t-shirt or a name tag? You know, for those bad days? Something along the lines of "Danger, do not approach" or "PMS: Enough said", "Bottled TNT" or "Emotional level: Nuclear Alert".

If we had signs like this then on a "Nuclear Alert" sort of day, some unsuspecting store clerk won't ask, "how are you?" and get blasted with an honest answer. Or an oblivious husband won't ask, "what are you planning to do today?" and be nuked by his wife for his trouble. If I were wearing a "Bottled TNT" sign, my children would have fair warning that they better get their chores done, or find shelter. In short, the world would be a better place.

Maybe simply a sign that says, "Emotional difficulties: Please stand by."


Photo Attribution: Bobbi Jones Jones

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Room 101

You know I hate spoilers, but I must. . .

At the end of the book, 1984 by George Orwell, one of the characters is tortured by being forced to face his worst fear. Throughout the book, the character Winston had nightmares about rats. So he is taken to Room 101 where a cage full of rats is strapped to his head, to eat his face. He breaks and gives his enemies what they want. I don't blame him.

Last week I could have sworn that I was in Room 101 facing my worst fear. (Truth be told I have a ridiculous number of fears and this might not be the worst, but allow me a little poetic license here. . .)

I have a phobia, as I am told many people do, of the dentist. I don't care about the shots or the x-rays, but I dread everything else about it starting with that horrible chair! It makes me feel vunderable like a child, and that is almost insufferable. I don't even like to have my teeth cleaned because of the chair and the fact that metal touching my teeth for me is what nails on the chalkboard are to others. Ewww!

Like many people with phobias, my response to this has been to avoid the dentist. Which, naturally has taken a toll on my teeth, which I can no longer ignore if I want to keep them.

The cause of phobias is not certain, though scientists believe they can be genetic or from tramatic experiences. I say let's blame it on the genes.

So my dentist office is trying to work with me. I have to say they have been really great. They offered me Laughing Gas and Valium if the Laughing Gas was not enough. I decided to try just the Laughing Gas.

The first time with the Gas was wonderful. Seriously, wonderful is not a strong enough word. I was completely relaxed and in my own little world of philosophical thoughts. I thought to myself, "Wow, if this is what it is like to be drunk, it is no wonder people get addicted!" I actually found myself looking forward to my next appointment!

Phobia cured! Right? Sadly no. . .I don't know what happened, but the next time the Gas did not make me laugh. It did not make me relax. It had precisly the opposite effect. I felt more scared than ever, and on the verge of tears the whole time. (I did cry for a good long time in my van as soon as I got out of there.) The gas dulled my mind enough that I couldn't think of how to tell the dentist what the problem was. Each time he started the drill I would practically jump out of the chair and he would stop and ask if he was hurting me. I would shake my head no, and he would start again.

What is the hand signal for I feel like I am in a nightmare and I can't wake up?

Phobias are irrational. And yet knowing this does not lessen the fear. Logically, I can tell myself that the dentist was really kind, and that nothing bad happened that day other than my fears. but it's like my phobia does not speak English. I have considered the Valium option for next time, but have a fear (likely irrational) that it will put me in that fearful state for a couple hours until it wears off.

I have another appointment with Room 101 on Aug 24th, whatever shall I do?

How about you? What are your phobias? Are there people who don't have any phobias? Is that possible? How do you tame your fears?

Tame your fear. . .I like that. Next time I'm in the chair in Room 101, I'll imagine that I am a lion tamer and I will crack the whip on my fears. Yeah, that will help. You believe that don't you? Ok, me neither. Ugh.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Disclaimer: Teenagers

Ok, time for a disclaimer. In my last post, I talked about seeing my life through my children's eyes. Perhaps I should have warned you. . .this only works with children. Don't do this with teenagers!

Yes, I didn't mention it (poetic license) but my three older kids Ammon 14, Caleb 13, and Vienna 10, were there Letterboxing the other day as well. If I had looked at the day through their eyes, my reflections would have been very different.

Take Ammon, a young teen, but a teenager all the same. Through his eyes, I would get, "Mom, why are you so-o-o slow? Man, I climbed Mt. St. Helen's with the Scouts faster than you are doing this 4 miles. But, I guess you can't help it, cause you are so-o-o old."

When I told him about my biking goals, he laughed and he didn't even try to hide it the way my husband does!

Caleb has a quick wit and I don't dare ponder what he might have been thinking.

Vienna is sweet, but brutally honest and she's not even a teenager yet! Recently we were trying to explain to my husband why he should not be the "pitch man" for his gardening invention that he is ready to launch. Caleb said, "Let Vienna explain." When she came in from another room, we told her the goal of the conversation. She thought for a moment and then grabbed a pillow from a nearby chair. It was a serviceable, but plain pillow. She said, "Daddy, this is you." She then grabbed a pillow from another chair, this one very elegant, in a satin type material, and said, "This is what you need for your video." Ouch!

So, you see what I mean? Don't try this at home, and if you do. . .don't say I didn't warn you!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Through the eyes of a child

Steven R. Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote that one should "begin with the end in mind". He said, something to the effect of, think about your funeral and what you would like people to say about you and work to make that happen. The funeral idea is. . .is. . . well, do I really need to explain? It's too close to home, enough said.

I prefer to imagine my life through my children's eyes. What will they remember about their childhood, which I have a large role in shaping.

Lately as I return from my bike rides, my youngest, Peter, who is three, greets me at the door. "Hat! Hat!" He says reaching out to me with a smile. Then I take off my bike helmet and put it on his head. He loves hats so he is thrilled. I am thrilled because I love the idea that he might remember me, with a bit of pride, as some sort of an athlete, something I never before imagined for myself.

Yesterday we went Letterboxing, Peter and next to youngest, Brigham, who is seven, happily ran up and down the trail. I imagined the whole experience through their eyes. Not just the wonder of the forest, but the joy of family time.

Along the trail, there was a plaque with this quote, "I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. . .what business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods." Henry David Thoreau

Experiencing the woods with a child, keeps you in the woods in spirit.

One trail we followed had a lot of tree roots to step over. Peter was having a hard time managing that and fell several times. He is tough, independant child though, so he would just get up and go again. If he stops for cuddles, I look for blood. This is why I was so touched by an incident that happened later. Brigham got caught by a branch and hurt his leg. It was minor, but Brigham wasn't convinced yet that it was minor, so he was sitting on the trail pondering his "owie". Peter ran over to him, squatted down in that adorable way three-year-olds do and looked at the leg, and then gave Brigham a big hug. Awww, precious.

These things are magical to me, because my own childhood memories are complicated. My parents loved me and did their best, but their parenting efforts were limited by their alcoholism. As you can imagine, the alcohol taints everything. Seeing my own children have such a happy and relatively carefree childhood is very healing for me.

Getting back to looking at my life through my children's eyes, there are times when I look through their eyes and cringe. I see myself tired and grumpy and I think, "oh, I hope THIS is not what they remember!" Of course, that kind of thinking reminds me to take a "mom time-out". There is a fine line between correction/discipline and cranky mom. I try not to cross that line too often. Sometimes I see myself very busy and realize I need to stop and take time for them. Yesterday was one of those days. We put the packing aside (we're moving, but just a couple miles from where we live now), and went "out to play".

Thoreau had it right, not just about the woods. Life can be stressful and hectic. Quite often, my life feels more like zipping down a freeway than a peaceful walk in the woods. But as Thoreau said I am alarmed when it happens that I have passed another week of my life without getting there in spirit because I was too caught up in the day to day details to see the big picture, or the things that matter. What business have I living day to day without appreciating the wonders that are here, the fantastic little people that share my life, my adoring husband, my God, my job which is both trying and rewarding.

Seeing my life through my children's eyes, helps me be here everyday "in spirit".

Friday, July 24, 2009

You Gotta Believe

It is funny how the most profound things can come to you and then seem so simple that you laugh at yourself for not seeing it sooner. I had one of those moments of mirth filled enlightenment yesterday on my bike.

I was riding along (it was a great ride, by the way!), and thinking about how much I love riding my bike and well, you know me...dissecting why that is. I don't know why I dissect ideas either, it is like breathing. I do it naturally without choosing to. So I was pondering bike riding, about the wind blowing on me, about the freedom, the amazing sense of being young, and all the things cycling people love I guess. Then bam! It hit me.

I love it because I believe. I believe that this could lead to a thinner, fitter me. And that new me could ride farther and longer.

You are probably thinking, "well, duh, Leslie!" The amazing thing, though, is that for a long time I really did not believe I could lose weight. I was sort of like an alcoholic who says, "I can stop drinking anytime I want," but they don't try because somewhere deep inside they don't really believe they can. "All you have to do is eat right and exercise," I used to think. And yet I didn't do those things because I didn't believe that I could.

You have to first believe that a thing is possible before you can begin the journey to attain it. So simple, and yet profound. The idea is not completely new to me. I am profoundly religious, if you will, and therefore faith or believing has been a part of my life for a long time. Somehow though, I had not expanded that idea outside of the church walls, figuratively speaking.

I imagine that you are reading this and thinking, "But Leslie that is so simple."

Yes, it seems that way on the surface, but look inside yourself. What are your unrealized dreams? What goals do you want to accomplish but haven't started yet? What part of yourself is waiting for you to believe?

And most importantly, what will it take to help you believe and begin to accomplish those goals and dreams?

Sometimes the journey is the best part of the trip. I started riding the bike because I thought it could help me lose weight if only I could stick with it. Biking has changed me though and now I don't ride to lose weight, I want to lose weight so I can ride, stronger and farther.

I blog because I love to write. I have always loved writing and for years have dreamed of writing a book. I don't know if I will ever be published, but I do know that my blog has brought me a lot of joy. I love writing it. I love that all of you read it, especially when you keep coming back. Thank you for coming back, your reading is like a gift to me.

What about you? Dare to believe in yourself in your goals and dreams, in your potential. Give yourself permission to fail, the journey is valuable, but believe that you could succeed! You have probably already achieved many goals in your life. Believe and accomplish some more! I believe in you!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Living, breathing flesh. . .Count Time

I've been thinking that I should finish my book, Everything I Needed to Know about Parenting, I Learned in Prison. So, here is another excerpt for you (to help motivate me).

Comments: complimentary or constructive are more than welcome!!!

Living, Breathing Flesh. . .Count Time

Count time is what it sounds like...the time we check to see if all the inmates are "present and accounted for". Kind of like the "roll-call" we remember from school. During count time all movement stops. Inmates are sent to their cells. Yes, I used to tell grown men to "go to their rooms!"

When inmates are checked at night while they sleep, we, officers, are taught to look for "living, breathing flesh". As you might have guessed, this is has evolved due to problems in the past such as inmates leaving stuffed pillows under their covers. Inmates are not very happy when a guard opens their door and awakens them because they couldn't see them breathing, but such is life in prison.

Parents instinctively know about checking for "living, breathing flesh". From the time we bring that first babe into our home we can't stop checking the sleeping baby so make sure he or she is still breathing!!! My oldest is almost 14 and I admit I still check in on him when he is asleep. It's just what moms do!

Count time is similar to parenting in another way. Almost every time we get in the car I look in the rearview mirror, "one, two, three, four, five, OK we can go." I had heard stories of moms forgetting their children at the store or the laundry mat. Once waited for a mom to return after she left one of her children at an activity we both attended. I never wanted this to happen to me. And yet, it seems it is inevitable!

One day we were visiting with my friend, Charice, and her family at their home. On impulse we decided to go to another house around the corner to pick something up and then return. Charice and her kids, and I and my kids (or so I thought) piled into her van and drove around the block. I hadn't seen Charice for quite sometime because she lives in a different state, so I was really absorbed in our conversation while she got the things together we had come for. Then it hit me! One of my children was missing. Oh my stars! How could I have left one of my children behind at a home that was unfamiliar to him?! Charice assured me that he would be fine. There were adults to care for him and children to play with. Still I was on tenter hooks until we returned to the other house. When we got there I expected to him to melt in a puddle of tears, and I would have to apologize with many hugs and kisses, but he hadn't even noticed we were gone. Makes you feel so indispensible as a parent. . .

Unfortunately that wasn't the last time that happened either. Another time we were at a Church Christmas party and we had sat down to eat when my husband asked me where one of our children was (ironically it was the same child! Poor kid!). I was mortified, not only had I not noticed that he was missing, but I had no idea where he was. Fortunately, my daughter, who is a little mom, said, "I know where he is." He was with Santa. Oh yeah, I remember now, I told him he could get in line to see Santa.

One, two, three, four, five...I need to keep working on that one.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Fitness World's Best Kept Secret

I have a new love in my life. Don't worry, my husband knows and he is supportive. My new love is bike riding!

How did this happen? Well, in May, one of my co-workers, Sara, announced that May was Bicycling Month. She tried to encourage us all to form a team and commute to work. I thought it sounded great...only a few small obstacles: I live 20 miles from where I work, I haven't ridden a bicycle for over 20 years, and I'm more than 20 lbs overweight...a lot more. But hey, it wouldn't be the first time I dreamed a dream that was a little out of my reach! While I was not able to partipate in commuting to work (I'm not certain but I don't think Sara got any takers), I couldn't stop thinking about it.

My husband and I have an "electric assist" bike that we bought for him to commute to work (7 miles). He was doing great, riding it every day, rain or shine! But then, he crashed and broke a rib! Well, we think he broke a rib, "Jonh Wayne" refused to go to the doctor. (He's mostly recovered now!) So the bike sat there waiting. . .I could swear it was calling to me every time I walked by. How could I resist? I got on the bike one day and immediately fell in love! Selene Yeager explains so well what I feel when I am on the bike.

"The simple act of swinging your leg over a bike and pedaling away delivers nearly instant freedom. Feeling free from all the no-fun stuff of being an adult. The crushing responsibilities. The bills. The worries over the kids. The worries over aging parents. The worries over too many worries go out the window when you're on your bike. Nothing brings back that buried youthful exuberance like riding a bike. Nothing. Ride regularly and you never have to feel like an over-burdened adult again." Selene Yeager, Every Woman's Guide to Cycling

Of course, I don't ride to work, but I ride! And the most amazing thing has happened, I find myself looking for "excuses" to ride! Do I need anything at the store? Do I need to go to the post office? the library? I have discovered the perfect excuse to ride's exercise! Wow! If you had told me a month ago that I would look for excuses to exercise simply because I love it, I would not have believed it. And yet, here I am. Another "excuse", if I get one of my boys to go with me (which I love, but they merely tolerate) it's bonding!

All this and there is still more: cycling is easy on the joints. I think cycling is one of the fitness world's best kept secrets (or perhaps, like Sara, they have been trying to tell us all along, but we weren't listening.)

Another fringe benefit of riding is stress relief. One of the main contributing factors to my being overweight is that I turn to food when I am stressed. So imagine my surprise when I was feeling stressed and annoyed the other day and the first thing that came to my mind was not chocolate, but "I need to go for a ride." I had the strongest instinct that a good hard ride would help me release the frustration I was feeling and relax.

I know what you are thinking and yes, bike riding is not without its hazards.

"The sound of a car door opening in front of you is similar to the sound of a gun being cocked." Amy Webster

Car doors opening, storm drains, railroad tracks are all potential hazards for cyclists, so when I can't ride, I read books (like Every Woman's Guide to Cycling by Selene Yeager) to help me learn some of these dangers and hopefully avoid them.

After one week and 50 miles, I have another "out-of-reach dream". It seems a bit unrealistic right now, but I'm hoping someday it won't be. I want to do some cross-country cycling. I have some specific goals, but I won't elaborate on them...I have already endured my families teasing about that. Suffice it to say I have big dreams (and I don't think that is a bad thing).

Why cross-country? Well I have always liked traveling and seeing different places. Cross-country cycling would simply combine two of my great loves. Ernest Hemingway understood this:

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle." ~Ernest Hemingway

I'm almost done here, but before I end.... thanks to the Quote Garden . . .where I found all these great quotes.

For all you girly girls, check out this blog written by two girls that "ride in style".

Here's a thought to ponder while you are riding your bike (or driving your car, if you must!)

Consider a man riding a bicycle. Whoever he is, we can say three things about him. We know he got on the bicycle and started to move. We know that at some point he will stop and get off. Most important of all, we know that if at any point between the beginning and the end of his journey he stops moving and does not get off the bicycle he will fall off it. That is a metaphor for the journey through life of any living thing, and I think of any society of living things. ~William Golding

Monday, June 22, 2009

Friends and Family, Family and Friends

"Love is a moment of stillness that sometimes a word can shatter to fragments or love can be a thing that endures, a rich deep current that flows unending down the years. I do not think that one should demand that love be forever... Each life sails a separate course, although sometimes, and this is the best of times, two lives may move along together until the end of time? Listen to the music out there. Is the song less beautiful because it has an end?" The Walking Drum, Louis L'Amour

In addition to being a beautiful description of love, this can apply to friendships or phases of our lives. Think of a long lost friend, or a stage of life like a pregnancy, or childhood - "Is the song less beautiful because it has an end?"

My heart is sad tonight. A dear friend of mine is drifting away. If she read this, she would say she isn't and tell me everything will be alright (we had this discussion) but I can see it. Things are just not the same between us. I think of this quote and it helps, but only a little. I guess some hurts just need time to heal.

It makes me think about friendships and how important they are in our lives. How fortunate it is when our closest friends are our spouses or family because those relationships last longer (or they are supposed to). I find it fascinating to ponder on my husband and I's relationships with our siblings, how those relationships have changed (mostly for the better) over the years. The amazing thing about that is that often family members are people that you would not necessarily CHOOSE to have a relationship with, but you are put together by family bonds. "For better or for worse" takes on new meaning as you come together year after year for family gatherings, celebrations, funerals, joys, and tragedys.

My sister or sister-in-law's are not the ones I call to share my daily ups and downs, and yet they are the ones I spend the holidays (the most important days of the year) with. They are the ones that will continue to be a part of my life year after year as my friends come and go.

Maybe I should call my sister tomorrow and tell her about my day. . .

Friday, June 19, 2009

TIES the Limit! Father's Day Tradition

Forgive me this moment of self-indulgence! I have always wanted to take a picture of "The Ties" and share it. While we were making this years tie, it occured to me to share on my blog! What a concept.

Back in the day when I had only two children, I decided to make my sweetheart a tie with the boys handprints on it (that one is not shown here, it's MIA at the moment). Judging by the picture you can guess what happened...he loved it and wanted a new one every year. I told him no, he could only have a new one when we had a new baby. You can see who "won" that discussion since there are seven ties (and a few that are missing) and I 'only' have five children. How could I disappoint a proud dad? Yeah, he actually wears them to church, every Sunday!

I should have put them in better order for you...the third one from the left was probably the second tie ever. Just handprints and one dog print (yep authentic dog print!). After that I started to get more creative. All of them are some variation of handprints and finger painting.

From the left: peacocks, bugs, simple hand prints, snowman, ASL letters spell Family, rabbit feet (my husbands nickname from his Scouts is Rabbit) and this year's creation I call Lion King. Those are the handprints of my two youngest, with finger painting by the older kids. There are more ties than are shown here, for example the fish one showed up mysteriously after the camera was put away. Maype I'll post a picture of it later.

Happy Father's Day to my sweet husband. You are the best. I would choose you to be my children's father again and again!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Eureka!!! An insight about Mom Guilt

Surely this has happened to you too. . .you have an "aha!" moment, something that feels revolutionary and then after a moment you think, "That's so simple, I can't believe I didn't think of it before." Tell me I am not alone in this!

So I had one of those moments, and because it NOW seems to obvious, I'm wondering how I can explain so that you will appreciate what an empowering moment this was. Let's start with a couple questions.

What causes your Mom Guilt? (Or Dad Guilt...wait, do Dad's have Dad Guilt...hmmm, there's a pondering for later.) I digress, what causes your mom guilt? Think for a moment about specific instances were you felt like you were not doing enough, or being enough for your children. Imagine specific moments when you felt like you were failing somehow as a mother. Don't you hate those moments? I know we all have them because I think about it all the time: either my own mom guilt or as someone else is sharing a story about their mom guilt. We are either commiserating or laughing (after the fact).

I have a friend who is re-evaluating her life and her values (yes, she is in her 40's, but I'll avoid the mid-life crisis jokes since she reads my blog). One of the things that she told me was on her mind was identifying more clearly what it meant to her to be a mother. What were her values and goals? Specifically, what were HER values as opposed to those imposed by society or culture. I thought it was a great question.

As I pondered how I would answer those very same questions, Eureka! The answer to Mom Guilt. I realized with clarity that most of the time when I feel "Mom Guilt" it is because I am trying to comform to someone else's ideas of what the "perfect mother" is.

I am no June Cleaver. And yet, many of my acquantainces are. I mean that in an affectionate way. It makes me feel like a grasshopper among ants. Yet, when I really took some time to crystalize what my goals and values are as a mother, I felt good, very good. I AM succeeding in the areas that matter most to me. I have some visible weaknesses, but the things that matter the most to me are where I really shine. More importantly, that is where my children shine as well.

Amazing! So simple and yet profound. Try it. Sit down and ponder what YOU think are the most important roles of a mother, and how are you doing in those areas? I think you will be pleasantly surprised about what a great job you are doing, in the areas that matter most to you.

THAT is what I call sucess!

Kalidescope Moments

I love Kalidescopes; I always have. My life right now reminds me of a kalidescope. When I start to feel frustrated because I am not feeling well, I turn the kalidescope or more simply put, I chose to look for things that make me happy. Some kalidescope moments:

Cottonwood seeds: At least I think they are Cottonwood seeds. It's white fluff floating around on the wind. It looks kind of like snow, but it doesn't simply fall down, it floats. Sometimes it floats horizontally, sometimes it floats higher then comes down. I sit in the sun and watch my 3 yr old play and watch the white fluff floating and think that life doesn't get any better.

The Beach: Through Letterboxing, I discovered a new beach (I live in the Seattle area). It reminds me of a place in Anchorage that I loved and have been homesick for. Recently I took my children there with the explanation that I was going to take them to "Mom's Happy Place". What a thrill when my 7 yr old loved it as much as I do. He took off his shoes, walked in the sand and cried out, "Mom, this is the Promised Land!" The only thing better than having a happy place is sharing it!

Ice gel packs: I have inflammation in my shoulder and frequently it aches. I put an ice gel pack on it, and ahhh, life is good.

Music: Not too long ago, I got my first MP3 player. Wow! The right music is like a massage for the spirit. Happy sigh...

Art: One of my favorite things about the Internet is that it brings great art to my fingertips. Whether it is great paintings or beautiful photos, I can get lost in them. When I had the MRI that I mentioned in an earlier post, I had a hard time with my claustrophbia. (Note: yes, I was offered a sedative before hand, but then I would have had to have someone drive me. So I declined.) I almost panicked, but as you can imagine, I really wanted those test results so I "talked" myself through it. One of the things that helped me was picturing in my mind a favorite peace of artwork and imaging myself there. Needless to say, I'm going to get a copy of that to put in my home.

Knitting: I have become an obsessed knitter. When I knit is like the stress flows out of my finger tips leaving me relaxed, and I get to create something at the same time. Bliss! When I am not knitting, I am looking at knitting books or simply thinking about what I will knit next. Knitting is my 'Zen'. I think everyone should have a 'Zen'.

My children: Just talking to them, marveling at the wonderful people they are becoming. When I held my first child as a newborn, I thought "I love this stage." Then he started walking and I thought, "I love this stage." Then he became a Cub Scout, and I thought...well you know. Each stage that has come along so far has been my favorite. It never gets old. Never.

My husband: If I could make a wish for everyone, I would wish for them a happy marraige like mine. Every life brings struggles and sorrows, but it is easier to get through the bad times when one has support. I have the most wonderful husband. His patience, humor and adoration are a Balm of Gilead.

My mind: This is in a sense my best asset because when I can't be in the places I described or with the people I love, I can think about them. In my mind, I can travel passport needed, be with anyone, even those who have died...and no one can take that away.

When I get discouraged about my health, I just turn the Kalidescope to one of these things and life is good again. What more could a girl ask for?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Reflections

So, I already gave you the spoiler, but I will say it again because it feels so good...I do not have a brain tumor.

As you know, I have a lot of health issues, and this was not the first time that I contemplated having a shorter life than most. These kinds of experiences change a person. I can't speak for others, of course, but for me I can say it has changed me in positive ways.

I am closer to God than before. There have been many times when I have prayed and said, "I can't do this alone. Please help me or I can't do this." That help comes in different ways, but it always comes.

I am closer to my children and my husband. Every moment is precious to me. I praise the children more, and make a greater effort to spend time with them. When I have to chastize them, for example if they don't do their chores, I stop, think and find a kinder but still firm way to do it.

I care more about people, and but have little patience for contention.

I value time.

These are good things. Life is a good thing.

Waves...May Drama

"Waiting is worse than knowing. Knowing shreds the heart cleanly that it may begin to heal, waiting shreds the spirit."I read that quote eons ago when I was a teenager, and I have always liked it...until now.

Now, I'm thinking that waiting is not so bad after all. If I don't have an MRI on Monday, and I don't get the test results, and I don't get bad news, then I can stay in my lovely cabin in Denial forever. That doesn't seem so bad.

I'm doing ok. Sometimes I think I can handle this, not denial just a sense of peace. Other times though pain or fear wash over me. These waves can come at unexpected times. Today I woke up and was sitting up in bed, pondering the day when a wave hit me. I sat there with tears streaming down my face when my oldest son walked in unexpectedly. I frantically wiped my tears and hoped he didn't notice. If he did, he didn't mention it. He broke the spell, and I was fine again.

Later, I was a the local high school production of the musical comedy, "Little Shop of Horrors". I always get touched my young people performing, I can't explain it, but that little bit of, "Aw, isn't that awesome how good they are?" somehow morphed into near sobbing. Fortunately I was able to put the kabosh on that quickly. An emotional scene would have been so embarrassing, and I would have missed the rest of the play! Horrors!

That experience reminds me of when I first saw the movie, My Life with Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman. It is about a man, whose wife is pregnant with their first child, and he has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I started sobbing early in the movie and cried all the way through. I missed a good deal of it and I had to watch it again later to figure out what happened. Amazingly, it is one of my all-time favorite movies...though, as you can imagine, I have no plans of watching it again any time soon.

Denial can be a beautiful thing...May Drama

This was a good day:

Denial can be a beautiful thing.

Probably not always the healthiest course of action, I'm not sure, I'll have to ponder that one...but still a nice break, you know?

I read about metatasized melanoma (just musing if that is what this could be since I have had melanoma) and it was grim. For people who have melanoma spread to the brain, the prognosis is about 1 year or less... Frightening stuff. I think I read too much. Knitting is a better hobby.

But today, I am blissfully in denial. I am fine. I am invincible. I don't know what is causing these obnoxius odors, but I feel good and there is nothing seriously wrong with me...well except for the usual stuff, LOL. No tumors though. Too bad that happens to other people. After last night, I have more compassion about what they must be going through...but I'm sure that is not me.

Yep, denial is beautiful. I'm going to build a cabin and stay here as long as possible.

What does expedite mean to you? May Drama

Here is another one of those posts from my May nightmare:

What does expedite mean to you?

Last night was a bad night. I had bad nausea and a bad headache. It is hard not to be worried when I feel so sick.

So today, I called the Radiology to set up the MRI. Apparently, the radiology department doesn't have the same definition of expedite that I do. They won't even schedule an appointment for me until the radiologist reviews the order. And that will take...24-48 hours. Today is Thursday, so it could be Monday before I can even schedule an appointment! Ack! Of course, I told her that my doctor said to expedite it but she was unmoved. "This is our policy," was all I could get out of her. I was speechless for a moment, finally I said, "Oh, it's just a possible brain tumor, what's 48 more hours?" The receptionist apparently does not understand sarcasm because she said cheerfully, "Ok, good-bye." I wanted to scream, long and her ear!

I didn't have much better luck with the Neurologist's office. They won't schedule an appointment for me until a Neurologist "reviews" the referral. Nevermind that it was a Neurologist that told Dr. Chapman they wanted to see me. At least they said they would call me later today. The receptionist then cheerfully told me to "have a nice day". I wanted to reach through the phone and slap her. "Have a nice day," yeah right. Not today, thank you. Do these people have no sensitivity whatsoever? Geez.

Be afraid for the next stranger that greets me with a cheery, "How are you?"...I just might tell them.

Real Life Spoilers

I hate spoilers. Whether it is a book or a movie, I hate spoilers. Years ago, I was on my way to see a movie called "Taps" and my brother said, "You won't like it, the hero dies at the end." I was so mad at him for spoiling the ending! He was right though, I hated it. Looking back, I think he was really just trying to help. I should have listened to him and avoided that movie.

When it comes to real life though, I have decided that spoilers can be good. In fact, I would love some spoilers! (read: clues, ideas about the future). The reason I am thinking about spoilers today is because May has been a hard month for me. I used writing to help me along the way, and now I am ready to share some of that with you. I really debated whether or not to share, I mean what is it that people read blogs for anyway? Certainly not for depressing stories, right? And yet, we are all suckers for a movie like "Steel Magnolias" now and then. I have asked myself a lot lately why we like those kinds of movies. Possibly because seeing other people deal with their pain, helps us in a way to deal with our own? That is my best guess. . .leave me a comment if you have a better idea, I would love to hear it.In the spirit of helping you deal with the hard things in your life, I will share some of mine. Besides after all what is a blog, if not a journal?

Which brings me back to the point about spoilers. In the beginning of May, I started having olfactory hallucinations, or in other words smelling things that were not real. Apparently that can be an indication of a brain tumor. The spoiler is that I do NOT have a brain tumor. The mystery is that we still don't know for sure what is causing it, but idiopathic is better than brain tumor any day.

So with that "spoiler" as a buffer, I would like to share some of what I wrote to help me cope and process during that frightful period.

May 7, 2009 Not too long ago, I wrote a post joking about how I felt like my life was a version of Rip Van Winkle. Today, I feel like a badly written version of Steel Magnolias, or Friday Night Knitting Club.

My doctor called. I'm always nervous when I answer the phone and hear the voice of one of my doctors. You know they are not calling to talk about the weather. Sure enough, Dr. Chapman was calling to tell me that the Neurologist wants to see me. He said the uncinate fits (that's doctor lingo for my fake smells) may be caused by something electrical, so I need an EEG. The "fits" could also be caused by a mass (read: tumor), so an MRI was recommended as well. Would I mind doing that, he asked. I wanted to say, NO! All I really want to do is turn back the clock and somehow make all this go away. But as you know, turning back the clock only happens in fiction, and my only possible way through this is forward. So I agreed to the tests. What choice did I have? He said when he put in the referal he asked them to expedite it so I wouldn't have to wait. I appreciate that.

I haven't even told my husband yet (I will before I publish this blog if you are reading this he knows). I thought about telling him when I got home, but he was in such a happy mood. I didn't want to take that away from him.

I was on my way to a Staff Meeting when I got the call. As they were talking about work-related issues, I couldn't help but think how possibly soon none of that stuff would matter to me any more. Amazing how your life can change so quickly. It was also fascinating to me how I could sit there and ponder such things as brain tumors with people all around me who have no idea that today is any different than any other day. It makes me wonder what "secret pain" other people hide.

Young girls in love often doodle their name with the last name of the boy they love, thrilling in seeing it on paper. In similar fashion, I try to imagine myself saying, "I have a brain tumor." I try to imagine the doctor saying, "You have a brain tumor." I type it here in my blog, all trying to come to grips with it. None of it helps.I wonder how my husband and I will tell the children. That is the worst part, even worse than telling my husband. I wish I didn't have to tell them, but I have never been one of those parents to take them to Nursery (at church) get them distracted and then slip out. I've always believed it is better to say good-bye, and let them cry rather than let them wonder when I am going to "disappear" next. This is no different. Better to say good-bye and cry, together.

I pondered briefly NOT telling my friends and co-workers. I don't want a lot of sympathy and people feeling awkward around me, but I can't keep this to myself. I am an open person and I have to be open about this. We'll all just deal with it the best way we can, I guess. I can't do the 'strong, suffer-silently' role. It's just not me. Drama queen is more my style. I'll try not to over do the drama on this one.

Perhaps it is time for another meeting of Worrier's Anonymous.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Letterboxing, Anyone?

I'm probably the last person that should be talking to you about Letterboxing, since I have never done it. But ignorance has never stopped me from writing before. . .

I just heard about this hobby (overheard, if I were being honest), and I was hooked immediately. If you like the outdoors, treasure hunts, art or collecting things, this is the hobby for you. It is very simple, and inexpensive (as hobbies go).

Letterboxing means that you get a set of clues (I'll tell you how to do that in a second), and you go where the clues lead you. This may be a local park, or a hiking trail. You follow the clues in search of a "treasure box". In the treasure box, you will find a visitor's book and a rubber stamp. You use the rubber stamp from the treasure box to mark your "journal" and you leave your own stamp or mark in the visitors book. As you find different treasure boxes, your own log book will fill up with stamps, kind of like a passport or a memory book of some great hikes.

Can I tell you I love this idea?! A few years ago, I used to take my kids on "Family Hikes" often with my good friend, Heike, and her children. My husband, the die-hard Boy Scouter, says they were more like "Family Walks" than Hikes. . .whatever, My Love. One of my fondest memories is of going to Maple Lake during different seasons and observing the changes there. Another memory is of Heike and the boys going off the trail and scaling the mountain while I stayed behind (with the babes and toddlers), bit my nails and pretended I wasn't scared to death for them. Yes, Heike is the braver of the two of us. One of my sons still bares the 3 inch scar on his scalp from one of our less successful excursions. (That day, Holly was with me, not Heike.) A hike in well named Rock Canyon. He was just a toddler and while we were taking a short break, he climbed up on a boulder. As I was reaching for him, saying, "No, Honey, you'll fall." Sure enough, he fell. What a day! Do take your First Aid kit when you go out!

I haven't been on a Family Hike/Walk in a long time and I miss it. Part of the reason we haven't gone is because I am really more comfortable navigating my way around the Net, or the local bookstore than the trails. . .so without a buddy like Heike, I just didn't know where to go. One of the things I love about the Letterboxing hobby is that it solved this problem!

I just went to On the blue bar, I clicked on Letterboxes. That opened up a new page with a map and I clicked on my state, then chose a local city. After a little browsing, I now have 5 or 6 new hike locations with directions not only to the site, but to a treasure box. What could be better than that? All I need now is a tank of gas and a sack lunch!

Another reason I haven't been on any hikes for awhile is I didn't want to take the little kids out alone (when you have a Rock Creek incident it is nice to have another adult to help). Now my oldest is 14 and taller than I am. He and my second oldest, 12, are fine young men, and have both taken first aid in Boy Scouts. So I'm ready to venture out again.

I think all my children will love the 'treasure hunt' idea too. Who could resist it? Whether you associate it with Leprechauns or Pirates, "hidden treasure" appeals to everyone! Once you have some clues printed out, then get an inkpad, and some kind of journal to keep your stamp collection. You are ready to go! Letterboxers usually have a rubber stamp (bought or handmade as you wish) to leave their mark in the "visitor book". I like this tip from Atlasquest: New letterboxers often use a thumbprint signature temporarily until they acquire a real trail name and signature stamp. Be creative...make your thumbprint into a smiley face, an animal, a flower...whatever you want!

Guess what my kids and I are doing this Memorial Day! Hey, Heike...I challenge you to a Letterboxing Contest. Let's see who can collect the most stamps by the end of the summer. Anyone else want to join us?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

GNO (Girls Night Out) at...The Range???

I have seen my women friends from church with guns many times...glue guns, that is. Last week though we had a different kind of activity with guns. As you can see, we had Girls Night at the Range.

When the idea was presented to us, it was met with a lot of nervous laughter. When the evening arrived a group a brave souls gathered for a safety lesson. Some of the ladies had used weapons before, but most had not. You have to know, that I have handled guns is a requirment for Correctional Officers. No, I never carried a gun on the yard, that would be too dangerous, but I did have guns when I drove the perimeter. I also knew what I had to do with one of those guns if I ever saw a prisoner trying to escape and he refused to "Halt" when I asked him to. My superior officers filled our heads with images of the havoc an inmate would reek on the community if one was allowed to escape.

I have to say that going to the range with a group of women was much different than going with my fellow Correctional Officers. In my COTA class (Correctional Officer Training Academy), it was mostly men (you kinda guessed that didn't you?) Men are so competitive! So when I went to the range with them, there was some joking around, but mostly it was serious business. With the ladies, nerves led to much laughter and we had a blast. I don't mean to imply that we were friviolous; we weren't by any means. Before we went to the range our mentor taught us the safety rules and said if anyone did anything unsafe he would blow the whistle. I am proud to tell you that he never had to do that with us. (Pssst...a secret, he did blow it when he took the husbands!)

While I have used guns before, it has been a long time (never mind how long!) At the Range, the first gun I tried was a pistol. I remember putting my hand on it and thinking, "This is not right! Ack, this goes against my very nature." And yet, when I picked it up and pulled the trigger I was hooked! I have no reasonable explanation for this. I do not ever plan to shoot an animal, and I would only shoot a human in self-defense (family-defense). I pray that never happens. So why the fascination with the guns?

I think it was many things. It is overcoming fear. That is exciting in itself. Yes, I was nervous, it's been a long time. It is competing with yourself to make the next shot a little closer to the bulls eye. And what can I say, it is some thing primal about holding something so powerful and controling it. The AK 47 (semi-automatic) puts out a flash of flame when you fire it...who could resist that?!

In the name of science...(pretend you believe me)...I will tell you which weapon was my favorite. The ladies had very different tastes about which one they prefered. Some chose pistols, others rifles. My favorite hands down is the shotgun. It is probably the least expensive of all the weapons we tried that night, and the ammo is inexpensive too. (Budget is always a considering factor). When you shoot the bird shot at the target, it makes a really big hole. Impressive. The real reason I love the shotgun though is the classic sound it makes when you chamber a round. If that doesn't scare the bad guys away, nothing will.

All that said, I do not own a gun, so you are still safe to visit my home. Just don't come unexpectedly in the middle of the night, because I do have a big dog and his bark is not what you need to worry about! Ok, ok I dog is old and he has hip dysplasia, not very ferocious. But then I know you won't come in the middle of the night so "no worries" for either of us!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Worriers Anonymous

Thank you all for coming the the first meeting of Worrier's Anonymous. No, no don' are all welcome. You don't have to be on time, and you don't have to worry about what you are wearing. I won't make fun of your tattered bathrobe (but...ehem, Mother's/Father's Day is coming, you could ask for a new one...)

You know why we are all here. We worry, and we worry a lot. I like to tell my husband, "Worrying is a mother's job and I just happen to very good at my job." Lately though, I am worried that maybe I worry too much.

Is it just me, or have you noticed that a lot of the things you worry about NEVER happen? You too? Thank goodness I'm not alone, because I was worried about that.

You have probably noticed then that while the things we worry about rarely happen, the bad stuff blind sides us! There's no preparing for that, ya know? All that precious worry spent on the wrong things! If only we had known, we could direct our concerns better.

I remember worrying that my grandmother was getting old and would soon die...years before she passed away. And yet, I was totally blind sided when I got that call that a beloved niece had a brain tumor. (Oh, but yes all my nieces and nephews are beloved, especially one that blogs...hi Tyler.)

Oh, and have you worried about things that later didn't seem so important? Me too! I used to worry about dating (or my lack of dates). I was sure I would end up a spinster, and yet about the time I decided that being single indefinately was not the end of the world, I met my husband, who thinks I am the world.

Years ago, I heard an interesting quote: "You wouldn't be so worried what other people think of you, if you knew how seldom they do." Ouch!

I think more likely we would be surprised to learn all the good things people think about us. At least, I hope so. Sometime ago, I decided to work on the hypothesis that everyone needs love and acceptance, even those people who seem to "have it all together". The plan was to focus on making the other people in my life happy, and try not to worry what they thought of me. I reasoned that if I did that everything else would fall into place. After all, how could you not like someone who makes you feel good about yourself? It has worked beautifully by the way. One less thing to worry I can make room for other worries.

You have probably heard about the idea of a Gratitude Journal, a place where you write all the things you are grateful for to remind you of the good things in your life that you are worried you will overlook. I wonder if for those of us die hard worriers if a Worry Journal is in order. If we did that and saw page after page of things we worried about that never came to pass. . .well, I just wonder.

Some worry has it's place I suppose. Worrying about being late, for example, helps me work harder at being on time. I have made some great progress in that area. Still it seems that it would be healthier to replace worry about being late, with desire to be on time. Wouldn't that get the same results with less stress?

Well, now I am worried that I have taken too much of your time, so I'll end this. Thanks for coming by, you've given me a lot to about.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

EIGHTEEN: What It Means For Foster Kids

Remember when you moved out of your parents home, your first dorm room or apartment, first roomate, the thrill, the fears? Remember calling home for cooking help, laundry tips and money?

Unforunately, for many foster kids, this transition time is much more complicated. With no parents of family to fall back on, many end up on the streets homeless or in jail.

Of the kids who age out of the foster care system:

One in four will be incarcerated within the first two years after they leave the system.

Over one-fifth will become homeless at some time after age 18.3.

Approximately 58 percent had a high school degree at age 19, compared to 87 percent of a national comparison group of non-foster youth.

Of youth who aged out of foster care and are over the age of 25, less than 3 percent earned their college degrees, compared with 28 percent of the general population.

Statistics courtesy of a website written specifically for kids in foster care.

I stumbled upon these statistics while doing research for a newletter for work. They are troubling, and what is even more troubling to me is I don't know what the answer is. The teenagers that I work with have very poor attendance at school. As staff, we try to motivate them to go to no avail. Homework hour is a regular part of the schedule. "The system" tries to leave them in the same schools when they are moved to different placements.

And yet, those things are just band-aids on the greater problem. They have other needs that have to be met before we can begin to think about these issues. The whole issue underscores for me the importance of family, the importance of parents and unconditional love.

A family is a powerful thing.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Move over Candyland....Games Families Play and LIKE!

I have bad news today. My muse has gone on vacation. . .without me. How rude. The little voice in my head reminds me that in all those writing classes (from eons ago) say that when you have writer's block you need to just sit down and start writing. Well, you see how well that is working for me, sorry to put you through this.

Let's see how far we can get without the muse. This week is Spring Break and I had these illusions of spending a lot of time with the kids playing games and doing fun things. Don't ask me how that is working out, ok? (Best laid plans of mice and moms...grumble, grumble, mutter)

Speaking of games, I confess I have absolutely no patience for some of the "classic" children's games like Candyland, Hi Hi Cherrio and Chutes and Ladders. I dislike them so much, that we don't even have them in our home. How did such mind-numbing, parent-torturing games become "classics" anyway? Classics are supposed to be good things. (oops, sorry this is why the muse left me. I'm grumpy.)

I was fortunate to stumble on "Max", many years ago. I still like playing this with my kids. Even very young children can play this game with a parent or older sibling because it is a "co-operative" game. This means that all the players work together against the game. This is great for those little ones that can't deal with losing yet.

In Max, there is the cat and there are three little animals: a squirrel, a mouse and a bird. Everyone playing the game works together to get the three little creatures safely to their homes, so Max won't catch them. Sometimes, you get all the little creatures home safely, sometimes you don't! Kids of all ages get a kick out of this game. Even adults will find this game enjoyable. It's a great way to spend time together.

If you try Max and love it (as I know you will), there are other co-operative games available as well. My family has tried others. Some we like, some not so much, but Max is by far the favorite. Any one of them is hands down better than Chutes and Ladders! One worth checking out, if you have girls, is Princess. In this game the players work together to come up with imaginative solutions to obstacles. My daughter loved this one, but the draw back was she played it with her brothers who had a vastly different idea of how things should go. For example, when the obstacle was to wake the sleeping princess, and the "tool" card was a bottle of magic potion, my daughter wanted to pour some in the Princess' mouth, her older brothers thought it would be more effective to bonk the Princess on the head with it. Since all the players need to agree on the solution, this game didn't work so well for them (unless of course laughing is the goal!) My daughter, having no sisters, had better luck playing it with her girl friends.

You can see more co-operative games, tons of other games and best of I love being able to read reviews of a game before I buy. This feature alone is enough to make Funagain my favorite site to buy games.

While you are at Funagain, you might want to check out Rat-a-tat Cat. This is a darling card game for kids approx. 6 and up. We found it a couple years ago and it has been a favorite in our family since then.

For kids who are older, say 10 and up we love: Man Bites Dog, and Fluxx. They are card games that are quick to learn, and fun to play.

If my fourteen year old read my blog, (he doesn't - no loyalty in my house), he would say I MUST mention Munchkin. He and his friends love this card game. We even had a Munchkin night once (kind of like Poker night for the younger generation.) One word of caution, there are all kinds of add ons for this game, which my son thinks are fabulous, but I think they bog things down. Munchkin is a Knights/Dungeons themed game, but they also have SuperHero Munchkin, and Ninjas, Space etc. If you like a game that makes you laugh, you must try this one!

While I am waiting for my muse to return, I think I'll go play a game with the kids! Enjoy!