Wednesday, March 26, 2008

1 - 2 - 3...

This is a day that the Lord has made. Today I'm just rejoicing because I'm glad of it. That's all really. Nothing too special to post at the moment. Just counting my blessings I suppose.

I sit at my desk and look at my kids beaming at me from their most recent photo and I think of a close friend who had to undergo a hysterectomy this week because she was plagued by fibroids. Her husband has a child from a previous marriage but they have none together and he is still wrapping his mind around the fact that now they never will. She's OK with it really but what a way to have your hand forced. Like the choice was taken away. I am blessed indeed.


Later I was in my car on my way back to work after a lunch break, munching on Twizzlers - I LOVE Twizzlers - and thinking about Mr. T's frequent calls while he was in the midst of booking the annual take-the-kids-to-the-grandparents'-house-and-give-mommy-and-daddy-a-break
-for-a-month summer vacation. Usually my retired father pays for the trip but it's a year into our no-longer-new house and the money is finally settling down, so I'm just glad that when my father told me this year it would be too tight to pay for airplane tickets, I was pretty confident we'd be able to swing it all ourselves this time so no one loses momentum. Now I'll just be glad when I can give them back even a fraction of the money they've given me over the years since I moved out and became "independent." Family who give and expect nothing back - traits instilled in every generation of us (if not necessarily every one of us)? I am grateful to be part of it.


So as I drove on my lunch break - to the stores, back to work - my mind was fluttering between thoughts of a possible job for Village Works along with all our marketing plans, and thoughts about how much I want to re-do our closets next year. If I can handle it, maybe I'll have them throw up something in the garage too. And you know, since we aren't using it for the cars anyway (someone would always be blocked and inconvenienced), maybe we can paint it, put down flooring and put my treadmill out there (and some portable heaters while I'm at it) and that way I can have my workout and treadmill-free family room too without turning the garage into something that a future buyer couldn't envision as a garage. (ABTPV - Always Be Thinking Property Values!) A space to call, and decorate as, my own? Still thanking God for it.


Last night I sat talking with a couple of mothers as our sons did their cub scout thing. One of the moms takes our sons to the meeting and I take them home but last night was the pack meeting so we were both there. The other mom is someone Mr. T knows from his church and though her personality isn't one that normally draws me, it's still good to have another community connection like her. The den leader is a ham. A good woman though who the kids enjoy and as tired as it makes me week after week, I'm glad Son has another outlet other than school and church; one more place to meet different people and round himself out as a person. I don't know where he'll end up but I do enjoy the journey with him to get there.


I was sitting at work (A lot of this is work related today, I see.), minding my own business, when someone yells out the question about whether or not it was safe to eat lunchmeat she had accidentally left on her kitchen counter earlier that morning. Another co-worker tells her no then asks if I concur. I'm not 100% certain it's not OK so I ponder out loud about the circumstances surrounding the forgotten food. That prompts a web search for proof of the first person's point. Then another chimes in that she absolutely shouldn't eat it. Talk of tainted turkey and the feeding of crazy roomates and wild animals ensues as we volley the pros and cons of consuming questionable meat. This runaway train of thought lands me at the memory of a sandwich that went missing in my own home one day - to be found on top of the fridge over a week later in Mr. T's basket - and I add this to the growing list of examples. Before long, no one is quite breathing. Clearly it's after 3 p.m. and we're all a little giddy. Having a job where spontaneous silliness is the norm, sometimes met by a boss with his or her own version of the story du'jour? Yeah, that's a blessing too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Peep This

One of the best things about Easter - setting the spiritual component aside a sec - is the day after Easter which is when I can pick up some cheap chicks and reduced bunnies and savor the flavor.


Monday, March 24, 2008

March Madness

No, not the basketball. I hate to watch that stuff on TV. In person is better but overall, I'm no sports fan.

Instead, here I am playing catch up again. I thought about you all while I was in church yesterday - Happy Belated Easter! - and at that moment I just knew I'd have the energy later to go home and blog. I don't know why I thought that. I had already gone through piles of wash the previous two days but still had a few to go. We had to go see my MIL because she cooked and had Easter baskets for the kids and who wants to turn down a wonderful meal or baskets you didn't have to buy? (We, at my church, literally don't buy into the commercialism of Easter but that doesn't stop the kids from wanting the candy and who can blame them? They get what they want and I get to stick to my principles.) Daughter's hair needed to be done but she refused and after awhile I wasn't up for the fight.

March has been truly hectic and all the bloggable moments have been missed because I was too busy living it to write about it. I did manage to get Son's birthday in here, so that's cool. But I didn't tell you about my little plastic surgery visit. Mr. T took before and after pictures because I guess he thought I'd want it preserved for posterity. I believe that is the opposite of what you have the surgery for in the first place, silly man. I may have more thoughts about that one later but for now, let's say the worst part of it was getting the local and having my kids stalking me until I went to sleep because they wanted to poke at my bandage. Otherwise, it was cool. The last time I got stitches I was about 7 or 8 and I don't recall that being particularly pleasant but I may be mixing it up with my mother's reaction because I do recall them asking her to wait in the waiting area because she was a little too stressed for them. Hopefully taking these babies out won't be a big deal. I hate pain. I'm a wuss.

The there was our visit to the accountant who told us wonderful things about getting back money and I told Mr. T wonderful things about the furniture we were going to be buying for the living room. I am so in my glory right about now. I even got inspired enough to finally figure out how to lay out my family room and that took a whole year to mull over. No small feat, let me tell you. It still may not be perfect because of the bowling alley shape of the room but it's a plan and with that, I have finally figured out every room in the house and that makes me happy. We'll also be adding another piece or two to each of the kids' rooms (aside from the dresser I just bought Son) so they too are thrilled and eventually we'll add another zone for better heating downstairs. I can hear the property value hitching itself up now!

This past weekend was the visit to the marketing guy for my business. This guy has tons of experience, lots of locally known customers and he says we've got a good, unique product that simply hasn't had a fair shake yet. It's all a matter of just getting it out there. Gee, is that all? But he didn't say anything we didn't know when it came to the viability of what we have. He had lots of great ideas for how to get it out there but in the end, "Just do it" was the key to it all. "Don't plan anything. Get the new marketing photo taken and start writing letters." It all comes back to time. But he'll be hounding us in May and Bizzy Girl and I both seem to need that. April will be crazy.

Oh, and there was also all the wonderful life events. I know 3 people getting married in May, within days of each other. The invite from one in NY just showed up and she is getting married on a late Friday afternoon. I can't wait. She and I struggled together about 3 years ago now in our quest for release from a job we both shared and both hated with the same intensity. She is one of the most patient, determined, smart young women I know and watching her walk away from some things that I know would makes others cringe was simply inspiring. As a result, she got even better than what she had - including the man she is now engaged to. I'm proud of her. Her wedding will be a treat to attend.

And my sister-in-law's same-named stepdaughter came up from NC for a visit with her young family in tow, which includes her beautiful new 4-month-old son. So we had to go see them and hug on that baby, especially Daughter who persists in her quest to get a new little sibling of her own. The baby was a little tired at the time but agreeable enough to let her hold him - while I helped - for a split second. I had hoped that would quiet her but I think it made it worse. Daughter ran between helping with the baby and helping with the 2-year-old who was sick at the time. Keeping her from being underfoot was difficult but she just wanted to help and be a big sister. It's cute but little does she realize that one of the reasons NOT to have a baby right now is because she requires all of our eyes to be on her lest she disappear in a crowd or get hit by a car (she drawn to streets like a magnet to true north). And holding that baby didn't get my mommy senses tingling so it's clearly not yet time.

There were also the not-so-good things like finding out Mr. T's nephew was hit in the head with either a wrench or a crowbar while manning the door at his wife's teen sister's birthday party in LA. His jaw is wired and NO ONE is happy because his wife didn't call anyone here until days later. She said he said not to call but that is no excuse. He said not to call his mother or grandmother? Well, there are tons of others she could have reached out to like my husband, for instance. He has no family but her out there. This could have been fatal. That boy is about my brother's age and he's been like another little brother to me and I wish I could go there myself and shake some sense in that wife of his. I swear I don't think she really knows what she has in him. There's too much to his ongoing story to go into here but it makes me sad for him and as an in-law myself, I keep trying not to hold anything against her as reasons to do so stack up against her. It's their marriage and all we can do is pray he will ultimately get the good things he wants and deserves.

So March isn't over. I don't know what the rest of the month will bring but those new beginnings that 2008 promised keep popping up all over like roses to tint my winterized glasses. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama Speaks

Balancing is a tough thing to do, especially faith and politics. God seems to have given this man a gift to do just that. Does Barack Obama deserve the chance to set this country back on a path of overall prosperity? Increasingly I say yes, he does. It would still be an accomplishment to vote Hillary in but more and more I think the time for Obama is now.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Birthday Buddies

I should have taken more pictures. I should have blogged on the actual day but I was so busy on Friday buying my son a much needed dresser and getting food and such for his slumber party that I didn't even think of a picture - besides the official blowing out of the cake (trick candles and all) - until the next day.

Son turned 8 - my favorite number - and 3 of his friends came over to wish him a happy one, but only 2 stayed the night - and stayed up ALL night, at that.

Daughter, so cute she is, played the hostess, helping me get things together, taking the presents the boys brought over, arranging their things in Son's room. She knew it was his special time and I had already told her to let him have his space but she must be a part of things because he is her brother and her best friend and sometimes she acts like she's the big sister and....darn it! My kids are truly adorable sometimes! My girlfriend brought her 8-year-old daughter (one of the remaining members of the trio since the other one moved South) and her daughter's 10-year-old sister. So my Daughter claimed them as HER guests and had her own fun for awhile. When it comes to playmates, age is nothing but a number for dear Daughter.

Son was in his glory because it all somehow turned into a DS party. His friends brought their Nintendo DS and favorite games and they swapped, chatted by WiFi (yes, they were sitting next to each other as they chatted via DS) and generally kept their eyes on the game but barely on each other. Nevertheless they were all happy campers and I survived my first child's first sleepover.

My Son -

You have made it eight years and yet you are still as dramatic as ever, silly as ever, sensitive as ever. I remember being your age and so I am realizing just how grown up you probably THINK you are right about now. But you should see you from my perspective. You are still so small to me and the depth of your innocence is astounding. I fight to protect that every single day as I ask you about your day and what you learned and who did what or said what to you. You are my biggest test of patience that I fail pretty much every day and I thank God for that test pretty much every day. I was happy before you but until you, I had no idea what real fulfillment felt like. You will probably never understand real pride until you have your own mini you. All the achievements in the world are simply pointless unless I am doing it for you. And fight? Oh, the fight I have in me when you tell me some other silly child had the audacity to even look at you the wrong way or some adult overstepped their authority.

It sounds so corny. It IS so corny but it is so very true,
my world was merely black and white until God gave me you.

I love you. Happy birthday. - Mommy

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Do A Little Dance, Ditch A Little Book

Ever have one of those days where you just want to dance? Just because? For the past 2 weeks as I've been embroiled in projects at work, taxes, and small business development, I've had Kool Moe Dee running around in my head rapping "I Go To Work!" He came out with that one while I was in college and in college I kept up with music religiously. One of my girlfriends still swears if you wanted the latest of anything (in the genres I listen to, that is), go see Monica!

Every now and again I remember the songs that moved me way back when and I download the good ones in iTunes. People from this generation are free to disagree with me, but the music from the 70s, 80s and even the early 90s are leaps and bounds above the mess going on the airwaves today. Every now and again someone breaks out from the pack and originality (with a dose of old school) prevails. (NeYo, for instance, or Alicia Keys. Love them.) But iTunes didn't have "I Go To Work!" Imagine my dismay! YouTube, however, did and along with my love of KMD returned my respect for the truly great rap artists who could shake and bake those words with nary a profanity in sight. It's an art, I tell ya. They are artists.

This includes Will Smith who - gasp! - some people didn't even know was a rapper before he was an actor. Honestly. Am I REALLY that far along in life now? For those who are too young for my train of thought, KMD did Wild Wild West which Will re-did for the movie. (Great example of dancers in rhythm too.) So here's that one because I was feeling them both all day yesterday, as my co-workers will attest to as well as my son who laughed while I put these on one screen of my computer and danced my heart out while he played his Disney game and jumped up and down with me.

I did and still do adore good music and a really good music video where the beat is contagious and the dancers are in step and in rhythm. I just love watching it. Makes me feel good.

You know what doesn't make me feel good? Bad writing! (See that seague? See it? Good huh?)

This book had me SO annoyed when I read it to Daughter recently that I was forced to go on Amazon and blast it because it was just plain stupid. As a writer, I wait in line with many others who are hoping to get traditionally published someday. Granted, I've been too busy to really make an all-out effort but there's stuff I could show an agent if they really wanted to see if I was worth the time. Now how this book was deemed publishable, I'll never know. But instead of restating what I wrote on Amazon, let me just show you what I wrote there word for word. I am on a crusade to stop people from at least buying this book. OK, you probably have to read it to understand the sheer horror I felt after reading it, but please DO NOT BUY IT! You'll encourage this poor soul to do it again and that I do not want.

Read on:

I don't know how the previous reviewers used this book, but this was a book my 4-year-old chose to check out of the library to read before going to bed. We go every week. She picks books that look good to her and pile them on a chair to take out. I am certain she was drawn to the color of this book as anyone would be. But boy did this book strike a wrong chord with me, corny pun intended.

I started reading it to her and by the end I had to apologize to her for wasting our time when we could have read something that made sense. I understand the INTENT was to have a book about a jazz virtuoso that followed color value and musical notes, etc. But this does not succeed. The result is a book with words broken down in syllables seemingly scattered all over the page which would be fine if:
1 - the words WEREN'T in hard-to-read cursive
2 - the words were in some sort of easy-to-follow order
3 - the writer/publisher didn't assume that everyone could read musically

I showed this to 4 co-workers to make sure it wasn't just me. They were a mix of parents and single, writers and nonwriters and every one of them stepped back upon looking at the first page. "They aren't ALL going to look like this are they?" Oh yes, my friend. They do.

I have never been so annoyed by a book before! Did the author and publisher think about the kids who were learning to read? The parents who would be reading to them? I must have sounded like I just started hooked on phonics myself!

The mystery here is figuring out how to overcome the instinct to read left to right in order to read the blasted thing and I could MAYBE forgive that. But you don't even walk away with a real lesson about Thelonious Monk to make it all worth while.

I didn't even want to give it the one star I gave it but that star would be for visual interest. We love color and THAT it has in spades. Nothing else.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Signs of Success

My favorite life coach, Valerie Burton, had an interesting thought in her newsletter today as she spoke about the signs of Spring:

It's encouraging to notice the little signs that what you want is on the way - it reminds you that you are moving forward even when it sometimes feels as though the season you are in will last forever. It is very easy to ignore the little signs, but when you do you miss the beauty of transformation as it occurs. My guess is that your life is in a process of change right now - whether in a relationship, your finances or health, your work or spiritual life. There are changes you are making, and sometimes it feels as though the change isn't coming fast enough!

This week, I challenge you not only to notice the ways in which you need to practice patience, but also the ways in which you need to embrace the process. In our world of quick-fix makeovers and instant gratification, we have lost our appreciation for the journey. There is something to appreciate at every stage of your journey.

So I took a moment to consider this in terms of my business. My partner and I were talking on Saturday as Mr. T and I headed to our accountant to drop off some needed info. (I don't think I've named my partner in any way yet, huh? How about Bizzy Girl? Works for me on two levels!) So Bizzy Girl and I were just so enthused by the accountant. He came to one of my business meetings. I liked the way he spoke. I told Bizzy Girl and we set up a meeting with him. Bizzy Girl loved him too. Now Village Works has an accountant and we give him our personal taxes too since they go hand in hand. Mr. T. likes him as well so the accountant is a hit on all fronts.

Bizzy Girl does our finances - and very well, I might add, though she's always thinking she's lacking - so she took him the info she had compiled. Accountant was pleased with her work, as I knew he would be.

"I feel so legit now," Bizzy Girl gushed.

"I know," I gushed back. "Even with the LLC, it's only now that things feel on the up and up."

This is one of those signs Valerie spoke of. When I stop to think of our signs of progress, I think not only of our wonderful accountant but also:

1 - our lawyer
2 - becoming an LLC 2 1/2 years ago
3 - our 7 artists - 4 of whom are people NOT related to us in some way
4 - being able to pinpoint the ACTUAL cost to produce our greeting card puzzles
5 - being able to tell a quick story of how we got started the same way every time (not as easy as you'd think and it's a long story too)
6 - turning our logo into something that says puzzles
7 - finding a real talent to handle our website (though we can't pay the price too often right now so the site isn't as updated as I'd like it to be)
8 - getting into the right kind of store, even if we are paying to be there
9 - having set up a fundraiser program
10 - having finally organized my office so I can think straight and I know what I really do and don't have (now to get the computer files re-sorted)
11 - Mr. T. not putting up a fight when I tell him that whatever money we get back from taxes that is due to my having a business, is money that gets invested back into the business. And for his never complaining about my time away from home, either.

When we started, we both liked puzzles (OK, I loved them) but we had never thought about what it took to make them. Now we understand what it takes, though is always something to learn, and we are able to realistically focus on the marketing of the puzzles and the growth of business and not get tripped up by those pesky production issues that need to be ironed out before you can even give someone a quote.

So far we can honestly guarantee that the recipients of our puzzles will be happy because so far we haven't had a complaint. People tend to come back with the biggest smiles on their faces, especially the custom clients. It's just better than they anticipated, they say. And that gives us the incentive to keep pushing until we find out niche. We know it's out there. For now, we'll take the little signs of progress and wait until it's our turn to blossom.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Scene with Daughter

"Mommy, can I talk to you privately?"

(Raised eyebrows and hands on hip.) Talk to me privately about what?

"Come in your room."

(Smirking now.) Your daddy is in there. That's not privately.

"Come in my room then." (Leads me by the hand.) "Sit down." (Turns on her light and closes her door with a huge grin on her face.) "Umm, when I was in the car, I was talking to daddy and I asked him if we can have a baby brother or sister."

I see. And what did he say?

"He said yes." (Stands up to bounce on her bed.) "I can be the big sister and Son can be the big brother! I'll take care of them. Change their diaper."

I see. And, uh, where is this baby going to come from?

"You and daddy can get married all over again!"

Of course.

"We'll have a carriage and he can ride on my bike."

I see.

"Ok, that's why I wanted to talk privately."

OK then. Thanks for the talk.

(Feeling slightly child pressured now.)

Lead, Follow Or....What?

How do you teach leadership?

This has been something I've been struggling with since I was pregnant with Son. I knew there would be a ton of things I'd want to tell him over the years so I started writing him letters as things came to me when I first found out he was on the way. I'm not sure right now if leadership was one of those topics at that time but it sure is one now.

If you aren't a parent yet but will be one day or if you are brand new at it or shoot - if you're as clueless about some of this as the rest of us, one important thing to remember is people are pretty much born with a certain personality. Life and circumstances affect it, for sure, but a lot of things are innate. The child who succeeds in everything they do. The one who tries. The one who has to be pushed. The one who is friendly and outgoing. The one who is shy. That's built-in stuff, my friends, so don't beat yourself up about it and don't let a therapist blame for you for it later. I believe God wants us to watch these babies, pray over them, try to discover their gifts, talents and natural inclinations, and then take all that to figure out how to guide them in the path they should go according to how God made them - not according to how God made you.

It's not easy. Sometimes our own dreams and ambitions and tendencies get in the way. I know they do for me. But I try to force myself to remember these babies of mine are who they are and they must live their own lives one day. So I want to try to teach them how to be who they are and do what they enjoy and yet how to wrangle their shortcomings so they don't get unnecessarily hurt because of them. I want to encourage the stuff I know will make them strong and happy in the long run. But sometimes what's a "good" trait and what's problematic is all mixed up and I'm not sure what to say about it.

Son. You knew this would be about him, didn't you? He's my challenge since he's my oldest. Early on we could tell Son might be a follower. I can't explain it. It was just what we thought, much like we can clearly see Daughter is a leader, and not always in a good way. When they're together, Son comes down to Daughter's age level. But that's OK. She's a smart cookie so he's not stooping that far. They basically get along and play together and what more can you ask of a brother and sister with 3 1/2 years between them?

Son has Pokemon trading cards. I bought them for him for Christmas and he was truly elated when he unwrapped them. I still don't know if this is HIS thing or just another must-have picked up from the group he hangs with at school. At the ages of 7 and 8, a lot of things are going to arise from that collective mentality, I know.

Last night I picked up Son and one of his friends from their cub scout meeting.

"Mommy, Z won't give me back my Pokemon cards."

"What? You brought cards with you?"


"He has your cards from some other time?"

Son then spoke in tongues as he explained how last Thursday, Z wanted some weird-named card and Son traded him two other strangely named cards for two equally tongue-twisting cards. At some point, Son decided it wasn't a good trade and wanted them back but Z wasn't giving them up. Great. A debate. Just what I was looking for during the ride home. On top of that, I could see Son was going to get upset.

So what do you say? They are trading cards, after all. That's what he did. You can't get trader's remorse afterward. You suck it up because you should have thought of the importance of them before you let them go. But on the other hand, you say you are friends. If one friend is going to get upset, are you really going to let trading cards be the reason for it?

"Son, these are trading cards. That's what they are for. You wanted what you traded for at the time so you should live with your decision. Z has a right to keep them. It's the code. And Z, you see Son is upset. This is your chance to be a friend and swap back. Friendship isn't easy but it's more important than cards. It's your decision. You two work it out."

I wanted that to be the end of it. I didn't want to be in this. But Son wasn't letting go. Z was unusually quiet as Son nagged him to trade back. "Please, Z?" Eventually Z blurted out, "Ohhhh, stop it! Give me time to make up my mind!"

We got to the parking lot where I hand Z over to one of his parents but we had to wait a bit for his father to arrive.

"Please," Son continued begging. "Please! Please!"

If you had been there you would have seen my skin crawl and watched it turn red as my blood boiled. It was all I could do to stay out of it. Son appealed to me again.

"What do you want me to do, Son?"

"Call his mother."

"To complain about trading cards? I don't think so, baby."

Z's father showed and out he went to get into his own car. Son's crying got louder but I didn't realize it until I got back into my car and closed the door. I waited until we were driving once again. I could only imagine what Z was saying to his own father.

"Let me tell you something, Son. Don't you ever, EVER beg that boy or ANYONE for anything every again! Got it? They're cards, for crying out loud. You're upset? Fine. Cry at home! But don't you allow yourself to break down in front of these kids."

Extreme talk, I know. And I knew I had to explain this but first I had to get that off my chest. Z is a leader. A strong one. I've listened to him malign Daughter to Son during the few times I've taken her with me to pick them up, telling Son, "Just ignore her," when she tried to be part of the conversation. Z is a middle child and has no sisters so I understand the psychology of it all but I made sure he understood (and Mr. T has had to say the same, I found out) that he was not going to belittle my girl to my boy and start a rift in a perfectly good relationship. Son already acts like she isn't there when friends come over and I expect this but it hurts her feelings and she doesn't get it.

I could see years of Son being a lapdog to Z and God knows who else and I wasn't having it. I was already trying to figure out how to get the boy to do independent thinking. The last thing I needed was for him to get labeled as a baby among his peers for crying over trading cards. But in explaining all this, there's the whole balance of reacting to things as they really are and then telling them how it should be and acting as if it were. It's a difficult dance to master.

I told Son about being a leader and being a follower and standing alone.
I told Son it's alright to cry but you have to learn to check those feelings in certain places.
I told Son that Z wasn't wrong about the cards and neither was he. It's life.
I told Son to start thinking about his criteria for friendship and making sure people fit the bill before you bestowed that title.
I told Son that the school years are tough and kids can be mean. Don't make it easy for them to make your life hard.

Hopefully he gets his cards back but what I'm really hoping is that he'll never trade his self-respect for someone else's approval.