Thursday, May 28, 2009

Not My Scene


We decided a late-night meal was in order.

The kids were all in bed, Allen was burning the midnight oil at work and I was hungry. The only challenge was finding a place that was open after 10:00 p.m. on a weeknight which did not have Mc or King in its name. I called a few of our favorites, however, they had all closed already. We live in a college town for Pete's sake! Didn't anyone cater to the late-night crowd? I pulled out the phone book and searched the restaurant listings in the yellow pages.

Applebee's! Open until midnight! Visions of Oriental Chicken Salads danced in my head!

The parking lot was packed - especially for 10:30 on a Wednesday night. The interior was just as crowded.

As I walked in I was greeted by the strumming of an acoustic guitar as a live performer sang the final strains of a Dave Matthews song. "Just one?" the friendly 20-something host asked. "I'm just ordering for take-out," I informed him. "Have a seat at the bar," he instructed, "and someone will be there to help you in just a moment."

Have a seat at the bar. I assessed the situation as I approached the bar and quickly determined that it was not exactly in my comfort zone. But I could play it calm, cool and collected. I uncomfortably slid into a seat that was somewhat isolated from the rest of the crowd and waited. The bartender asked if he could get me something to drink. "I'm just here for take-out," I told him as I placed my order. And then I waited.

The 2 guys to my right impeded my view of the guitar player so I pretended to be interested in the play-by-play of today's sporting events (without sound, mind you) that was on the television.
"Here's to jail!" one guy yelled (a bit too loud) as he and his pal laughed and raised their glasses of beer for a toast. (I am not making this up!) I became even more engrossed in the sports statistics on the big screen.

The guy to my left knocked his drink over and a concoction of brown liquid and ice cubes came cascading down the bar and stopped within 2 feet of where I sat. "Sorry!" the man yelled to me over the resonating sound of the guitar. "It's okay," I assured him with a wan smile as I rested my chin on my left hand, blatantly exposing my wedding ring. I tried to appear completely absorbed in the scandalous story of some well-known sports figure on the T.V.

"So, you're really into sports?" the bartender asked me with a knowing smile.

"Not really," I confessed anxiously, "This just really isn't my scene."

"I'm sorry the food is taking so long. It should be out in a few minutes," he assured me. And then, instead of chatting it up with his customers at the bar, which I'm sure would have increased the amount of tips they would leave, he stayed and talked to me. He asked where I was from and how I ended up in Utah. He asked about my family and marveled over the fact that I had 9 kids. And then I began to realize... he was trying to make me feel less nervous. And it worked - the people and atmosphere around me had not changed - I had. All because a bartender had sensed my discomfort and helped put me at ease.

Before I knew it, my food was ready to go.

I paid for my order and stood, once again ready to retreat to the familiar interior of my vehicle in the parking lot. "Hey - thanks," I called to my bartender friend. "Thanks for everything."

"No problem," he answered.

And you know what? He really meant it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

We bought some of the brightest of these
And did some of this on them
Then we drove over here
And sent our messages of love to the heavens
Then watched as the sky swallowed them up.
We shared some great memories

And visited some friends.
We marveled over the beautiful landscape
Then headed back home.
It was a happy Memorial Day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

If I Should Wake Before I Die

Photo from cdowk.org
Have you ever watched Little House on the Prairie?

One of my favorite episodes shares the title of this post (yes, I totally plagiarized it, but look, now I'm giving credit where it's due). The premise is that Miss Amy, one of the elderly residents of Walnut Grove, decides to stage her own funeral (with the reluctant help of the Ingalls family and Doc Baker) in order to get her family to pay her a visit. And it works. Not only is she able to attend her own wake, she is able to overhear many fond memories and thoughts in her behalf. When Miss Amy finally reveals to her children that she is, in fact, alive and well - they are upset with her. What happens next is the part that really gets me thinking.

Miss Amy's daughter asks her, How could you do it? How could you let them tell us you were dead? And then her son adds, You had no right, Mother!

Here is Miss Amy's reply:
Rights? You're talking about rights? Whose rights? I've got a right to see my own children and grandchildren. It comes before anything else! And you ask how I could do it. Well, it isn't hard when you've tried everything else, when you're so hungry for the sight and feel of your family. You can't sleep at night thinking of them, and when it comes to you, the one thing that will bring them to you is your own wake...well, it isn't hard to do at all. Sean, I heard you say it. "Why is it," you said, "you have to wait until they're gone before you know what they mean to you"? Well, you mean everything to me, you three.
80 years old, and I don't have many birthdays left. Maybe...maybe not even one. And when you think of that, you have...you have to be foolish.

Every year when Memorial Day weekend rolls around, I think of this episode.

I think of my Dad's funeral and what a remarkable gathering it was.

I think of how much he would have loved being there, reminiscing with old friends, laughing over memories of days past, hearing about how much his friendship and kindness had influenced others.

And, like Miss Amy, I wonder - why do we wait? Why do we hold back and not let others know how great we think they are or how much we love them and treasure the times we've shared? Why don't we make time to enjoy these relationships while those we care for are still around to enjoy them with us? Why should we wait until a funeral to really come to understand and express how much someone means to us?

We shouldn't.

I think Miss Amy was on to something.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Embarrassment + Time = Comedy

It all started in my friend Holly's living room.

I had gone to her apartment to hang out, and there he was... her brother, Ted. He was laying on the couch, watching TV, as Holly and I went about our business. The fact is (and I am not proud of this), at the time I was pretty much infatuated with anyone who was male and paid any attention to me at all. I noticed Ted was watching us... and that was all the encouragement I needed.

In those awkward teenage years there was one thing I knew for certain: guys liked funny girls. And so I tried to think of something witty to say. Nothing was coming to me. Ted was still watching.

As Holly was talking to me I looked around and found a small, plastic object sitting on the counter. Its shape was such that it made me think of a walkie-talkie. I grabbed it and pulled it to my mouth, responding to Holly's dialogue with, "That's a big 10-4, good buddy." Holly laughed. I was clever! Hilarious! Witty!

I stole a sideways glance at Ted. He was still watching me, his eyes open wide. Yes, I thought. I have his attention. Before we know it, he'll be asking me to prom.

"Over and out!" I spoke into the plastic, holey walkie-talkie. Ted sat up. He was going to talk to me! Holly just kept laughing.

"Um, Gerb..." he started, obviously uncomfortable. "That's my cup."

"What? This thing?" I asked, inspecting it from all angles. "With all these holes, it must not hold much water!" I retorted, tipping the 'cup' to my mouth as I pretended to drink from it.

"No... I mean, it's my cup," he answered, looking slightly disgusted. "Not like a drinking kind of cup."

"There is no way this thing is a cup," I answered, smiling at him demurely as I batted my eyelashes in his direction.

Ted looked to Holly for assistance. She was trying hard not to wet herself. He continued, painfully. "You know how I play football? Well... that's my athletic cup," he explained, motioning toward his nether-region with a cupped hand.

Oh. His cup. That cup. I am sure I turned 37 shades of red. I quickly set it back down and tried to play it cool. But honestly, how do you recover from that kind of social suicide?


Oh, in case you were wondering- he never asked me to prom. I think he was the kind of guy who liked cheerleaders, not funny girls.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Overheard

Photo from corbis.com

I overheard a conversation in the copy room at church last week.

It was between two women I do not know very well, but I could not help listening in as they spoke of another member of our congregation.

"She is just the sweetest lady you'll ever meet. So thoughtful and kind! She is always going out of her way to make people feel welcome in the neighborhood. And she is the greatest mom - I love watching her with her kids. She makes everything fun, even her food..."

I couldn't wait to hear who they were speaking of, although I had a pretty good idea of who it was. In fact, I had a great story of her kindness to add to their dialogue and so I made my presence known by stepping into the room.

"Well, here she is!" the one lady said to the other. "Have you met Gerb yet?"

What? I thought to myself. They were talking about me? I am the woman who makes everything from scratch? I am the person who goes out of my way to make others feel welcomed? I am the greatest mom? And so on, and so on. It was kind of overwhelming, to be honest. And it got me thinking about the whole situation for the rest of the day.

Here's what I realized: nobody's perfect, even if others think we are. We all have our faults, our weaknesses, our own little skeletons-in-the-closet. Yet many times we are the only ones who are aware of these flaws. Should we broadcast our personal failings and correct others who put us on a pedestal? I don't think so.

Why?

Because I know that others whom I admire have their own Achilles' heel(s) that I am unaware of. And you know what? I prefer the unknown.

Besides, the people I revere sure look great up on that pedestal.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mr. Fix-It

The other morning Hubba yelled to me through the crack beneath my bedroom door, "I am going to fix the gate!"

"Mmmmhmm..." I mumbled, not really listening, hoping for a few more minutes of slumber.

When I finally rolled out of bed and walked into the dining room, there he was.

"I fix-ted the gate, Mom!" he proudly proclaimed. And sure enough, he had.

Baby O mastered the stair descent a month or so ago. Because of this Allen had removed the latch from the gate so Baby O would be free to join his siblings down in the dungeon whenever he so desired. Apparently Hubba did not like this idea.

He found the latch in the kitchen junk drawer, searched out the 2 screws that held it in place, grabbed a screwdriver and put himself to work.

Not too shabby for a four-year-old!

I'm going to let him play in the garage today and see if his know-how is enough to build me some bookshelves with the tools and materials available in there.

(fingers crossed!)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Inspiration

The kids brought it up again. As much as they know I hate the subject, they had to ask.

"Mom, can I have a birthday party this year?"

I sighed. I am not exactly talented in party-planning. I would prefer to pay each kid the amount it would cost to host a party and call it good.

However, there are the rare moments when my mind can surprise me with its pure genius. Moments like today.

I started out by answering Thumbelina's birthday party inquiry with another question. "How old are you going to be this year? Thirteen? Unlucky number thirteen? Who celebrates that number? No one, that's who."

And then the idea began to form. It was like magic.

"Actually, Thumbelina, I think you totally should have a party!" I exclaimed with excitement.

"Really?" she questioned skeptically.

"Definitely! It can be a 'Series of Unfortunate Events Party'. You know, because you'll be unlucky number thirteen?"

Thumbelina likes this series of books, so her interest was piqued. "Okay..."

"Yeah! We can send out invitations and everything. You can even invite thirteen friends! And on the day and time that they arrive, we can have a sign on the door in a fancy 'Series of Unfortunate Events' font! It will say:

Due to a series of unfortunate events,
today's party has been canceled.
Please leave your gifts at the door
and attempt to make your way home.


What do you think?" I asked, really, really super excited for the first time in my life about throwing a birthday party.

She just rolled her eyes.

What?!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rain Song

Photo from flickr.com

Two of my favorite things are rain and music. But putting the two together? Awesome.

So, maybe you care and maybe you don't, but this is a list of my top ten favorite songs that mention rain (in no particular order).

1. Remember When It Rained (Josh Groban)

2. Thunder (Boys Like Girls)

3. Broken (Kenneth Cope)

4. Unwritten (Natasha Bedingfield)

5. Laughter in the Rain (Neil Sedaka)

6. Can I Have This Dance? (High School Musical 3)

7. Running To Stand Still (U2)

8. A Little Fall of Rain (Les Miserables)

9. Fire and Rain (James Taylor)

10. Lost (Michael Buble)

And now, what say you? What rain songs do you enjoy?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sticks and Stones

Yesterday my two oldest girls were telling me about an incident at their middle school. Apparently a group of kids decided to bully one of the school janitors who has some disabilities. There was a schoolwide announcement made that the bullies could turn themselves in and receive a lesser punishment or wait to be discovered by the school and be dealt with more severely.

I hate hearing stories like this. I much prefer living in my little bubble where I believe that the world is good and people with disabilities are treated with love and respect.

Part of my anger upon hearing of the school incident stems from the fact that I have a tender spot for those with disabilities. You probably don't know that if I had graduated from college my degree would have enabled me to be a teacher in a special needs classroom.

But the deepest, darkest part of that anger is derived from my own days at school where I was the target of bullies. These are times I still prefer not to speak of - the feelings and emotions they dredge up are still tender and difficult. Because of this I do not and will not tolerate bullies.

You know the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me"? Rubbish.

I prefer physical pain. Physical pain is tangible. Physical pain can be soothed or fixed. Throw a stone at me. Hit me with a stick. It will hurt for a while but the pain will eventually go away.

Not so with the emotional heartache and pain that come from name-calling and teasing. This is intimidation and endless torment. This is anguish in its purest form. This is the power of words.

Because of what I was forced to endure throughout elementary and middle school I have developed what I call 'super empathy'. I can not see or hear of an injustice such as the incident at my girls' school and not want to do something about it, yet I often feel powerless to do so. Which brings about this question: what can I do, really?

I can persuade. I can educate. As difficult as it may be, I can share my own stories and hope they make a positive impact. I can raise my own children to seek out those who could use a friend- to understand that those who are labeled as 'different' are really very much the same as anyone else and deserve to be treated as such.

As the saying goes, I can be the change I wish to see in the world.

And I can work on that every day... and hope it makes a difference.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Child's Prayer

In a prayer over breakfast (by Princess):


... And bless us to be safe. And good. And nice to everyone. And bless the food.

And bless that everyone in the world will not be constipated.


When her prayer was finished (and my laughter was stifled) I asked her if she knew what constipated meant.

"Yeah!" she said, "Remember when you showed me how to say it in sign language?"


Actually, no. I don't remember. I don't deny it, but I can not recall sitting down with my 6-year-old and showing her how to sign 'constipated'.

She then proceed to show me the various signs for different types of poop,
thus confirming her story.

And so I stand corrected.

But hey, the good news is... no constipation for anyone today!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Treasure

Mother's Day was, in a word, awesome.

I got a beautiful new rosebush with "Our Mother's Day Mailbox Rosebush" labeled on the front.

Throughout the day I found letters from each of my kids nestled in the bush... including this classic from Coolister (who, may I point out, is almost sixteen).
On Monday there was no school and I was surprised with Mother's Day, Part II. I was spoiled so rotten I was afraid I was beginning to stink.

When I went outside I found that Allen had built a planter where the new rosebush could reside.
Throughout the day the kids would ask me, "Did you plant your flowers yet?" To be honest, I figured that if I held out long enough they would be planted for me.

No such luck.

As I washed the breakfast dishes this morning Princess called to me, "Mom! There's a mailbox by your flowers!" I looked out the window thinking that perhaps I'd find the purple Columbine flowers I received from church on Sunday planted by our mailbox.

Here is what I saw instead:
Indeed, a quaint, rustic looking mailbox was there in the flowerbed. And the flag was up. You know what that means...

Mail!
It was a letter from my sweetheart.
I'm not going to tell you what it said. Some things are for me alone. I will say this, though: Boy, oh boy am I a lucky lady.

I decided that after all of the work he put into everything the least I could do was get those roses in the ground.

I left the kidlets in the house with ElemenoB (who was home with a sore throat) and set to digging myself a hole. Almost immediately I hit a rock.

Cursed ground! I thought. I tried to pry it out with the shovel and found that it was not a rock at all...
It was some kind of burlap sack. Buried treasure!

Suddenly the kids' excitement for me to plant the rosebush the day before made sense. I pulled the sack out and unwrapped its contents, anxious to see what was hidden inside.
I grabbed the drill and removed the lid...
Pulled off the newspaper...
...and found my buried treasure.

I am absolutely overwhelmed at the effort that went into making this Mother's Day(s) completely unforgettable.

But you want to know where the real treasure is?

Right here.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. -Matthew 6:21

Monday, May 11, 2009

Oh, Happy Day!

To Cowgirl's Kindergarten Teacher:

I just had to say thank you.

Thank you so much for instilling the hand-washing OCD in my little girl.

Your lesson on germs had such an effect on her that even now, two years after the fact, she obsessively washes her hands after touching almost anything.

Swing sets. Television sets. Tea sets.

Doorknobs. Bedknobs. Broomsticks.

Before meals. After meals. Sometimes even during meals.

If cleanliness is indeed next to godliness then Cowgirl is headed straight for heaven.

Perhaps you think I am exaggerating some. Allow me to prove my case...

Cowgirl recently received a crisp, new dollar bill from the Tooth fairy. What do you suppose she wanted to spend her newly acquired cash on?

Stickers? A new puzzle, perhaps? Some candy?  Oh, no. She wanted to buy hand sanitizer.

She could not hide her excitement when she asked me if hand sanitizer was available at the Dollar Store. I told her we could check and her face lit up like it was Christmas morning.

When the day came for our Dollar Store excursion Cowgirl was beside herself. As she practiced piano the song she was playing became the melody for her own special lyrics:

Hand sanitizer, my hand sanitizer, Today is the day! I will buy you today!
Hand sanitizer, my hand sanitizer, I get to go buy you today!

She was singing about hand sanitizer. I am not making this up.

Imagine her excitement when she realized she could purchase a package of two small containers of hand sanitizer. It was frightening.
So, Cowgirl's Kindergarten Teacher, I really just needed to take the time to say thank you. Thank you for completely freaking her out when it comes to germs. Thank you for fostering a love (cough... obsession) for hand washing.  She couldn't be happier.

Sincerely,
Cowgirl's Mom

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Simple Perfection


Early morning sunbeams
Find my face, warm my skin
A gentle reminder
It's time to begin

Around the house I wander
All things rest in their place
I pause at each doorway
And savor each face

One by one they wake
I greet them with a smile
Or, "Good morning, Sunshine!"
(I'm so versatile!)

We sit 'round the table
Share stories and laughter
Indulge in some pastries
And speak of dreams after

This day then provides
Substantial time for me
To spend with each child
Such grand company!

We have time for writing
For singing and baking
Enjoying the sunshine
And memory-making

There's time for the garden
Even time for a walk
My dear spouse and I find
Some time just to talk

I am not judgmental
There is no time for fault
All negative thinking
Has come to a halt

At day's end the sunset
Is completely divine
Its breathtaking beauty
Is etched in my mind

The children then relish
The stories that are read
And drift off to dreamland
When tucked into bed

I soak in a warm bath
Write words that inspire
Eat something indulgent
And then I retire

Now, candy and flowers
And gifts are all grand, but
My preference is elsewhere
This is where I stand

These earnest words I've penned
Reveal the things I'd say
If asked how I would choose
To spend Mother's Day


Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms who are reading this.

May your day be filled with all of the simple pleasures that bring you happiness!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Time Out

You know what I love?

Okay, in addition to my husband and kids.

I'm not talking about Clementine Izzes.

Besides donuts.

Apart from storm clouds and pouring rain.

Not counting my rollerskates.

Hint: the photo gives it away.


Yes, books.


I love to read. Books take me on magical journeys to places, times and situations I could only begin to dream of or comprehend. Books take me into the minds and perspectives of others. They introduce me to characters who quickly become my friends... or enemies. The pages of a book are often a welcomed furlough from life.

As they said in the movie Top Gun, I feel the need. The need... to read. (Is that right? I always mess up those movie quotes.)

Would you please excuse me for a time while I take a little blog vacation?

I have a few people I am anxious to meet as well as some old friends I'm planning to visit.

See you soon.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Make New Friends And Keep The Old

(Photo stolen from Pam's Facebook page)

Last night my brother and I were able to meet up with an old friend who was in Salt Lake City on business.

When I told Allen that I was going to have dinner with her, he asked, "Who?"

I told him her name may sound familiar because when I am reminiscing over my high school days I will often mention how Pam always got the parts I auditioned for. The parts I wanted. We were in drama and choir together. We never really hung out but we shared a lot of the same interests.

He remembered. And I went.

I went mostly because I am a grown-up now (okay, I pretend) and I enjoy catching up with people from my past. Also, I am now much more mature (pretending again) and do not harbor any ill feelings towards the teenage girl who could out-perform me.

Our visit was delightful. I learned all about what Pam is doing these days along with what she has been up to since our graduation back in 1990.

We talked about schools, jobs, life events, other friends, how stalking is totally underrated...

And here is what I realized.

There are so many great things we can miss out on in life when we keep our vision of others so narrow. When we base our perceptions of people on a limited amount of information we are depriving ourselves of the chance to broaden our circles of friendship.

Last night I realized that I missed out on something great in high school. I can't go back and change that. I can't undo the feelings I harbored towards someone I never really gave myself the chance to become acquainted with.

I also realized that it is never too late to start over.

Pam, it was so wonderful to "meet" you again.