Monday, July 28, 2014

Don't Know What You Got- Til It's on Vacation

My kids are driving me crazy.

Both are teens, and both are bored out of their skulls. Looking for new friends in the neighborhood consists of sticking their heads out the door, looking both ways and saying, "Nope! No one to play with, Mom! Can I watch a movie?"

Not to mention it's too hot/humid/rainy/sunny/windy outside. Sigh.

The summer days have been filled with bickering, bored teenagers- a parent's dream...NOT.

Then a reprieve. A family friend offered to take my daughter down the shore with her for a week. Who was I to deny my female offspring this treat? Not to mention when my daughter asked if she could go, her "Bambi-eyes" were bigger than dinner plates. Of course I said yes. From Saturday to Saturday she was going to be on vacation at the beach. I desperately wanted to hide in her luggage- I haven't been on vacation since our honeymoon seventeen years ago (and no dear, camping doesn't count).

After my not-so-little girl left, I realized something- I really depended on this kid as my household helper. She did a lot of chores (willingly, unlike the other teen I have who would happily sleep until it was bedtime again), and she helped me do a lot of other things, like tend the community and backyard gardens, take care of the cats, and chatter happily through the day, giving hug attacks whenever she walked by me.

Lord, I miss that girl. And it's only been three days!

My son, however, has also realized just how much his pain-in-the-butt sister helped him- now that he has "double duty". (He calls it that, but we're really sharing her chores...shh...don't tell him that though- he won't believe you). 
Because of his Aspergers, when he gets an idea in his head, it's hard to shake it. That can be good or bad, depending on the situation. In this case it's good, because he decided to step up to the plate and help more.

We worked out that if I give him a list and leave him alone, he does a much better job than me telling him what to do all the time. I'm happy to say that while my husband and i were out food shopping after church yesterday, he was left alone with his list- and we came home to a cleaner house.

Nothing makes a mom more proud and happy than seeing her kids do a good job- and knowing they have the ability to care for themselves when you're gone for a while. It's also comforting to know they have the skills to not live like a pig when they eventually leave the nest- and trust me, they will leave- either by design or by a parental foot to the rear.

Maybe by then my husband and I can afford another vacation!

In the meantime I'll wait for my baby to return and tell me about her adventures down the shore. I'll also let her know just how much I appreciate her help and her sunny disposition. I miss you, Sweetie!

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Brain Age

I've done this. You've probably done this too. You want something. You think it's perfect for you, whatever it is. Then one of two things happen; one, you get disappointed if you don't get it, or two, you go into panic mode when you realize that if you do get it, it might be the biggest mistake ever, and you start praying not to get it.

That my friends, is what I call the "Brain Age" -when the brain goes from being a toddler (I want that, and that, and that) to adult ("I don't really need that, but would have liked it", or "what the heck was I thinking?!?")

That happened to me just this past month. Twice.

The first time was about my book. Not only did I have one agent interested, I had two- and both in the same agency. I was ecstatic. Imagine me, some newbie wannabe author snagging two agents in the same company? Oh baby, I was headed for the bookstores. I sent my proposals in the hopes of getting the interest of at least one of the agents.

Agent number one wasn't interested and asked if I could write about being a housewife. I was disappointed, but at least she thought I had potential, since she wanted to see me write about the grand and glorious lifestyle of the domestic artisan. I made a notation to gather information to write a housewifey book, and waited for agent number two to contact me.

A week later I received and email. It was a very nice email, telling me that my book was in too small a niche for him to sell. It was a book for women. He's a guy. And I had no idea women were becoming extinct. Ah well. At least he didn't think my book was moose drool. He liked my work, but he didn't feel he was the one to sell it. Fair enough.

So- They liked my writing, but it didn't fit their needs. I'm down, but not out. The potential is still there, which is good. Disappointing, but good.

Now for the second event. I was offered a chance to apply for a job. Full-time but temporary (a two month stint), it seemed perfect for me at the time. The phone interview went well, and I was slotted for a second interview face to face. I was going to nail this job- I just knew it.

The interview went well, up until he said a few "red flag" phrases like "Might be working Sundays", "Door to door four hours a day", and "Possibly every day if the numbers aren't met". It also didn't help that my hands would be deep within two events during the two months I was supposed to be working for them. One is a big community event I run (no second-in-command yet), and the second is a writer's conference I was destined to go to (lots of humorists). There was no way I was going to miss that sucker for anything.

It doesn't help that above the knee I'm not the fittest person on the planet- four hours of walking around strange neighborhoods? I might need a new body when the job was over. I also wasn't wired like he wanted me to be. I had to have a smart phone and a web camera for Skyping- whatever that is.

The job I had so desperately prayed for was something I now prayed fervently against. What on earth was I thinking? Yes the money would have been good- fantastic even- but at what other costs? It wasn't worth it to me to neglect my family, run myself ragged and jeopardize my writing career for extra cash.

God must have known this because I didn't hear a word from the guy since. Apparently I didn't get the job. It would have been nice if he'd at least called or emailed on that fancy smart phone he was brandishing about during the interview. Ah well. Maybe I ought to go into customer service as a coach instead.

My toddler brain is still mad that it didn't get what it wanted. But the adult brain just gave it something shiny by telling it "Psst- we still have the conference, and a lot of awesome people to meet!" and the toddler mind took that in both hands and is in a corner somewhere, hoarding it's precious trinket.

By now I've learned to pray that God's will be done, because my will ain't worth a burnt hot dog if what I want isn't meant for me- even if I think it is. God has better plans for me anyway. He just doesn't tell me because He knows the toddler brain will whine and cry and yank on his sleeve asking "Now? now? How about now?"

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dreaming Big

I admit- I'm a dreamer.

I love to think "What if?" and dream of being a great success. I could dream all day, but that won't get me anywhere; I have to actually go out and do something.

So I found something to do. I write. 

I write a lot. 

In fact, I wrote so much I have a book written.

Once the book was finished, I told my friends, family, neighbors, people I don't know, and their dogs- "I wrote a book! I'm going to sell so many copies, I'll be a millionaire and do all kinds of good stuff with the money!"

My friends, family, neighbors and people I don't know told me, "Great!" Some of them even said "I hope you do!" 

Of course the dogs just wag their tails, lick me and sniff to see if I have any treats.

A few of my friends and family said, "A millionaire author? That's too big a dream, don't you think?"

And I thought to myself, is it? I began to think that maybe my dreams had bitten off more than I could chew.

Then one friend said "That's a pretty big dream- what's your plan?"

Plan? I had to have a plan? But what he said made sense. If I was going to dream big, I had to have some kind of action plan to pull it off. So I started setting up goals. But I didn't start them from the beginning- I started from the end. I went from being a millionaire author back to where I am now. 
That helped me to think bigger, dream better. Get the book on talk shows and radio programs? Why not? Contact all the big book sites? Of course? No step was too big to consider- after all, I was going to sell a ton of books! 

As for the nay-sayers that said I dream too big? If they're not big-time millionaire authors, I should take their advice with a grain of salt- a shaker of salt, really. Maybe the one that guy lost in that really popular song. 

There is nothing wrong with dreaming big and having lofty goals- as long as you're willing to put the work behind it. Otherwise we're just another dreamer in a crowd of dreamers.

I saw a need, and I wrote a book to fill that need. This world needs clean humor, and yes, though my book does touch on subjects ladies go through, it's still clean, funny writing- something desperately lacking on the bookshelves and online stores. My goal is not just to become a millionaire author (though that would be awesome!) but to encourage people to laugh. I want them snerking in the bookstores, chortling online, and giggling with friends when they read my books together. 

So I suppose my biggest dream is to make the entire world laugh. If you're going to dream, why not dream as big as possible? Or would that be impossible?

Dream big. Have a plan. Let no one stop you. Your only regret will be that you didn't do it sooner!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Extraordinarily Ordinary

I have little cards taped onto the shelves in my writing space. Some are instructional (deadlines, common grammar mistakes to look out for), and some have encouraging messages. One in particular says "Become world famous- not ordinary!"

Does this mean I want to have center stage at the Met with thousands of people cheering my name? No! Honestly, if that happened right now, I would need a mop and some medics on stage with me. What that statement means to me is this- step beyond the boundaries of ordinary and turn your ordinary life into something spectacular- and see what happens.

I am not quite ready for fame, nor do I want to be what the world determines is "famous"- I want to be the kind of famous that influences people long term that also makes them laugh when they think of me- and thinking deeper as they laugh.

That's one of the reasons I wrote my book (which is now in the hands of an agent as we speak- YAY!). I want to make the world laugh and to remember the good stuff- even if what happened wasn't particularly funny at the time, because it happened to me. Of course if it had happened to someone else, I would have been hysterical, but that's beside the point.

I like being "Extraordinarily Ordinary". It's awesome to see the world in a way that others don't, and I love seeing their eyes light up when they see things from a different perspective. That's a connection I hope to make with anyone I come in contact with- and I hope they would be willing to reciprocate. I enjoy seeing through their eyes too!

And that in turn makes us all just a bit more awesome...doesn't it?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Commom Sense

No, it's not a misspelling. I said "commom" sense- as in common sense you learn during motherhood.

Things we have learned as a mom (kid ages birth through potty training):

Babies aren't as fragile as we think.
We can handle smells that would fell the biggest, toughest man on the planet.
Avoid anything with yellow mustard- just to be safe.
Your hearing becomes so acute you can hear a gnat sneeze.
You can get away with watching any kiddie shows, as long as you have a toddler with you.
Toddlers teach you to have fun. In the mud. 
Sometimes it's isn't mud they track into the house.
A sleep deprived body can still care for the entire household without falling over- much.
Despite these little people messing up the house and turning us into sleep deprived zombies, we can still love them more than anyone else.

Things we learned as a mom (toilet trained until puberty):

Kids aren't as tough as they think.
Sometimes we get nice smells- like when they pick the neighbors flowerbed clean and hand us a bouquet of flower heads- no stems.
Yellow mustard can now be safely put back onto the menu.
When the noises stop someone is either doing something they shouldn't, they are definitely doing something they shouldn't.
Kids make you change the channel because they are "so over" those shows for babies.
Kids teach you to have fun- by making you run for the ball, Frisbee, or anything else that rolls or flies through the air. 
They still track mud in the house- and by this time, you're glad it's just mud.
When you're sick, the kids are old enough to care for you- as long as you don't look in the kitchen and can live on dry cereal or kibble.
Despite these semi-little people messing up the house and making us exhausted, we can still love them more than anyone else.

Things we learned as a mom (puberty to semi-adulthood)

Even big kids need their Mom.
They enjoy tormenting us with excessive body odor or noxious emissions- girls included.
Anything in a squirt bottle needs to be confiscated, due to ketchup and mustard fights.
No noise is the goal, but silence also means they could be sneaking around and raiding your private stash of snacks.
Watching anything together becomes problematic; your shows are much too boring or silly, and their shows lack any kind of plot or makes sense- unless you've learned astrophysics in third grade like they did.
Teens help you to have fun by programming your multi-media gadgets, yet don't tell you how they programmed it, so you can no longer use it without consulting them.
Mud becomes anathema unless they are heavily involved in sports. The stuff tracked in has now reverted to organic matter, because they were too busy texting on their phones to notice what they stepped in.
Teens have no problem caring for you if you're ill or hurt- as long as you don't ask for anything and enjoy canned soup.
Despite these semi-adult people messing up the house and forcing us into therapy, we can still love them more than anyone else.

As for when these people become adults? I haven't gotten there yet, so I'll have to let you know. My kids are lucky that they survived this long. And yes, I still love them!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Critique vs. Criticism

Do you remember that old cowboy song Home On The Range? There's one line that stands out to me- "where never is heard, a discouraging word...". Can you imagine living your life without ever hearing a word of discouragement? Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?

The song doesn't say you'll never be critiqued- because that is something entirely different. Criticism lacks advice, while critiquing encourages by giving advice on how to make it better. 

I never realized just how often I criticize my kids instead of critiquing. A perfect example of these differences happened this past Father's Day.

My daughter drew my husband a picture for Father's Day. I expected the work in full color, because I've seen her put in a mighty effort in when she drew for her friends. However, when Father's day came, she handed him a pencil sketch- no color. It bothered me that she didn't put her best foot forward for her dad, though the drawing was excellent.

"I thought you were going to color it." I blurted, just as she handed it to her father. My tone was one of disappointment. Her face flushed, and I realized that I had embarrassed her as well as made her gift look less than it was. 

I had criticized without giving her helpful information.

Of course, my husband loved it- she put a lot of effort into the line drawing and even added a little background scenery that she'd thought he'd like. But she and I both knew from exchanged glances, that she didn't do all she could have done. So I changed tactics. I wanted her to give him her best, but not embarrass her further.

I suggested, "If you color that for him, I'll put it in a nice frame so he can hang it on the wall and see it every day." She perked up at this (because she loves it when we show off her work), and happily agreed to do so- and dad will have something awesome to hang when she's finished.

Crisis averted.

Okay, so this wasn't a crisis- but it helped me to see what I was initially doing was wrong. Too many times I've criticized my kids when I could have been encouraging and teaching at the same time. Too many times have they stopped doing something because they didn't want to hear bad feedback- and it is bad if I do nothing but tell them "That doesn't look right" without actually telling them why- and how to fix it. Intonation counts too- I come from a City of Snarkiness where sarcasm abounds- and it flavors everything I do. It works great in comedy and blog posts, but not so great when raising kids.

I'm not the best mom, but with God's grace and patience, I'll learn new things each day and get better at it.

Maybe I'll get the hang of this child-rearing stuff by the time they graduate. Sigh.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Snap, Crackle, Pop- And I Don't Mean Rice Crispies

Living for the better isn't easy.

Lose weight, they say. All you have to do is eat right and exercise. And by "eating right" they mean eat three spinach leaves and a handful of something you hate a day, and by "exercise" they mean running a triathlon, build a house, and ignore the fact that your joints sound like bubble wrap. And only then you might lose weight. Phht.

And by "they" I mean anyone who gives advice on weight loss without ever having a weight problem in their lifetime.

I'm lucky if I can get up on the first lunge out of bed- most times I look like a walrus on it's back, limbs flailing helplessly as I try to make myself vertical. When I do manage this feat, gravity hits and I'm somewhere between Jabba the Hutt and a human puddle of flesh. I step on my own body parts as I make my way to the bathroom to depressurize and deflate.

I no longer look in the mirror- the last time I did, my hair looked like Don King and Einstein had a love child and my skin resembled a (nearly) hairless Shar-pei. Not entirely a motivating sight first thing in the morning. I really need to get a poster of Keira Knightly- I'd never have to worry about my looks or weight ever again. Or a cat. One that's smiling. Anything but the older chick with the wisdom highlights and crows feet so deep it looks like Big Bird hop-scotched across her face..

Getting dressed is fun too- I have to lower the bra further and further to scoop up the girls- pretty soon I'll be perky again- all I have to do is wait a few more years and I can roll those puppies up like socks and tuck them in. Then I'll be good to go. I'm not quite in wind-sock territory yet, but I have no qualms that that day is coming- probably sooner than I think.

There are also surprises sometimes when getting dressed- like finding my feet. I thought I lost them last week, but I found them again this morning! Of course when I stand up, I lose them again, but I have faith that I'll find them later. If I can't I'll ask my husband- he knows where everything is.

Stairs have become interesting. My knees crack when I go up or down, so if I do it right, I sound like a metronome. Sometimes I hum a tune in time to my knees- I wonder if I can hire myself out to traveling musicians- as long as they don't travel too far- a couple of blocks and I'm winded.

By this time, I've done more snap-crackle-popping than Rice Crispies- and I haven't even had breakfast yet. If I listen to the experts, breakfast will consist of a single bran flake, one raisin, and water. I'm a rebel, so I usually have eggs with cheese and bacon- I add a little tomato and spinach to the eggs to make the experts shut up. 
Exercise after breakfast- what could I do? Forget jogging- not only would I get two black eyes from the momentum, but all that bouncing would probably make something rip off- and it's never anything you'd want ripped off. Besides, I'd have to jog outside, and all that joint-popping and skin-slapping would probably get me fined for breaking the city noise ordinances.

Luckily by body compensates for this and makes me run up and down the stairs to the bathroom and back every few minutes. I never have to leave the house. I am the StairMaster.

It's time to eat again. Lunch consists of  some peas and a lettuce leaf. I shoot the peas at the groundhogs in my garden, then garnish the lettuce with a cheeseburger. 

After lunch I'm tired, so I take a nap. Most times I don't intend to- I find out I needed one after I wake up at the desk- or the couch- or when reading a weight-loss book.

I've tried walking. This I can do rather well, if I have the right cheer to go along with my knees. It usually goes something like this:
Snap, crackle, pop,
never gonna stop
Til my snap goes crackle,
and my crackle goes POP!

By this time the POP is my hip, and I'm done walking for the day.

Dinner is supposed to be any kind of salad, so I make mine with french fries, pizza, and Italian sausage- not that crumbly kind they use at the pizza shops, but those whole links you get at the grocery store- them's good eatin'! Oh, and extra cheese and crumbled bacon on the fries and a little fresh parsley- that last topping makes it count as a green salad.

Yet for some reason, I don't lose any weight. Experts my big fanny. "They" don't know squat!

Living for the better isn't easy. But at least it's fun!