Monday, July 30, 2007
I was born in the year of the dog.
According to the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco (and they would know), people born in the Year of the Dog possess "the best traits of human nature." Why, little ol' me? Aw gee.
"They have a deep sense of loyalty, are honest, and inspire other people's confidence because they know how to keep secrets." I AM loyal. That wasn't always the case, however.
Well now that didn't come out right. What I'm getting at is I was loyal to my grrrlfriends, but not necessarily my boyfriends. I wasn't a one-boy kinda grrrl. I was honest about it though. When Rob asked if he could call me his grrlfriend after several months of pretty intense courtship, I said... nah. I was a grrrl who liked to keep her options open, was how I reasoned it in my head.
Mostly, it was that I'd get so aggravated when I'd lose best grrlfriends to boys. It really curled my hair when one of my fun grrlfriends would suddenly be unavailable for nights out because she had to go to dinner and a movie with some boy.
I had a lot of energy and there was a lot to do at UW-Madison. "You're going to see a movie? On a Saturday night? But we're all going dancing! Oh, argh..." was my lament. Some guy had to be really amazing for me to choose him over my best grrls. And I hadn't found any yet. They could join US, of course, but if there was any choosing involved, the guy was gonna get the short end of the stick.
"Dog People are somewhat selfish, terribly stubborn, and eccentric." See, says so right there. I said I'm not giving up my carefree lifestyle and I meant it. "They care little for wealth, yet somehow always seem to have money." Or thanks to waitressing, free food and lots of change for parking meters and 25 cent taps. :)
"They can find fault with many things and are noted for their sharp tongues." Ooh ya, I used to get a big fat kick out of tossing out zingers with my biting wit. In fact, one such night stands out sharply as marking the turning point in my relationship with Rob.
Rob, unlike me, had steady girlfriends all along. If he had a grrrl, he was loyal as a dog (despite being a rooster), and before me his latest long-term (as in four years - egad!) relationship had been with a prima donna. His friends had pretty nearly hated her because she competed with them for Rob's attention. She was very pretty and very spoiled. And word on the street was she wanted to get a good look at me. Check out the new grrrl, that sort of thing.
So, we were out on the town and it was late. Walking down the street we passed the bar where she was known to hang out and I said, "Let's go in." Rob wasn't sure that was such a good idea. But I was feeling confident. Knowing a meeting was inevitable, I figured it'd be better to catch her off-guard than the other way around. So in we went. The ex was pretty surprised but she recovered quickly. The old saving face game began and she started sizing me up. She was deep into a game of darts with her new boyfriend, who stiffly shook Rob's hand. She played pretty well and started telling us she was known as the "Dart Queen." Then she looked at me and pointedly asked, raised eyebrows, slight smile and all, "Wanna play?"
Ah, so it's gonna be the ol' make-the-new-grrl-look-bad routine, show Rob he'd made a horrible, terrible mistake in letting her go. Imagine, he could still be with her, and she was a Dart QUEEN.
I made a bit of a fuss that I hadn't played in a long time, but said I'd give it a try. She was nearly giddy with anticipation and said I could go first. So I did. I looked coyly at Rob, who knew what was coming, and threw my 3 darts - double 16, double 18, triple 20. I clapped my hands together and gave a little shout as the Dart Queen's mouth dropped open. Her boyfriend gave out a "Holy Sh*t, that was amazing!" and she didn't like that one bit.
Lucky break, she thought. She tossed some not-so-bad darts, and it was my turn again.
Double 20, triple 20, bulls-eye.
She was steamed by now and actually said she didn't want to play any more. I said, "Dart Queen, huh?" and someone else said "Look like she's been de-throned!" and we left before it got any nastier.
My previous boyfriend had dart machines in his apartment and he and his friends played constantly. Let's just say I'd had a little practice.
I realized I must really like Rob if I felt the need to protect my territory. From then on I was his grrlfriend.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
They've come back to see us every summer for three years straight now, we're that cool. (Oh, and they drop in on family, too.) So for three years straight we've hosted the reunion here. It's a short visit, but we pick up right where we left off.
Here are some of us in our photo shoot for next month's Martha Stewart Living. Notice there's no tablecloth. Or centerpiece. The next issue is all about keepin' it simple. Actually, I had four tables and only three tablecloths. Who knew the adults would seek out the only unadorned, faraway, sliver-filled table?
Here you see the wily teens nabbed one of the prime seating spots. There's a nice view of the neighbor's horses from there, and a killer view to the southeast. You can see the nuclear towers in a town 25 miles away. That's called ambiance.
So the teens get a hold of our cameras, and things like this start to happen. There are 100 more just like it. I'm not kidding this time.
Here are the women minus Martha. Yooohoooooo, Marthaaaa.... where'd she go?
Time for the pics of the kids. Last year Brady was shorter than all those teens, who are all older than him - wah! How can 5'2" me have a towering child? Thankfully Jonathan is still a wee nugget. (He loves it when I talk like that, too.)
And after an hour of photos, we girls get silly. Hey, where's Joan? Sheesh, can't we all just stay put? Joaaannnn.......
(Left to right - Bryant, Jordan, Chris, Wayne, Rob)
Hey, there's Martha. Now stay put, woman.
(Left to right - Martha, Pat, Joan, Jill, Sharon, me)
Joan's still missing and we're starting to get a little loopy.
We had a delightful time (in case you can't tell by all the pictures) and we look forward to next year's gathering already. The food with this group is always divine, the friendships extra special, and it's so very good to be together.
Until next time, my friends... Until next time, Namaste.
In unschooling, our attitudes toward all sorts of things are fodder for examination. Especially when something is a trigger - it means we need to take a closer look. Whether it be a dirty basement or a child who can't do long division, why does something send us into a panic? Why do we get angry? Or resentful? Or pitch fits, or stick out our lower lips, or whine to our friends about how bad we have it? Or all of the above? Where do these feelings come from, that seem to rise out of nowhere? Mine breathe fire and have two heads.
My task today was cleaning the house. I could feel my exasperation rising (along with its partner, resentment) after I'd spent all morning picking things up just so I *could* clean. I asked the kids for help, and they kindly obliged. Ok, feeling better. But then I started cleaning the basement.
If I had to rank all the things I hate doing, cleaning the basement would arm wrestle against cleaning the garage - and win. It would trounce mowing the lawn and even throw a knock-out one-two at ol' cleaning the shed, because at least I can be outside for the shed and let the wind carry away the clouds of dust and icky stuff. It trumps laundry and bathroom cleaning and cleaning up dog vomit for the grand prize of "Most hated chore." It really harshes my mellow, man.
It's an all-day event, which means it doesn't get done very often (both a cause AND an effect). But I avoid it like the plague. I will stay out of the basement for weeks at a time because I know if I see it, I'll morph into my evil twin, "Clean Freak Me." Clean Freak Me often can't go outside without suddenly finding herself on hands and needs pulling weeds along the edge of a flower bed (or two, or seven). Or can't pass a countertop without whisking dirty dishes into the sink or taking a quick swipe with a dishcloth. Or put away new groceries without cleaning out the fridge. So she can't enter the basement - at all - unless she's got something like 4-8 hours on her hands and an itch to get jiggy with a dust rag.
But we have overnight guests coming in a few days, so it had to be done. The only guest bedroom is down there and it hadn't been assessed in such a very long time. It helps that the basement is nearly finished now, thanks to the diligence of Rob and Brady. But something about basements... they're just dustier than all get out, damper than damp, and bugs seem to like them. Before it was finished our basement was a giant free-for-all playroom, where every loud, obnoxious, extra-large toy ever given to us was banished. Despite my repeated attempts to separate the storage items from the playthings, my kids would rearrange everything they could find and I'd enter to find a labyrinth of stuff, everything covered with the sort of dust basements seem to belch on a daily basis. I used to warn people to enter at their own risk.
Now that it's morphed into living space, however, it needs to be cleaned. And more often than the toys-and-boxes-labyrinth of before. And that, frankly, really bums me out. Like I don't have enough stuff to clean. (There I go again, getting all poor-me.)
But I was proud of myself today - I didn't allow my simmer to boil over, and I didn't take out my anxieties on my kids as I would've done before. I asked for their help several times, and each time they did what I needed. (And then they'd silently slip away - smart kids.) And I recognized my irrational anger for what it is - a deeply worn habit, a burned neural pathway that'll take some work to overcome. Old habits are indeed hard to break, and I didn't like who I was while I was cleaning the basement and tempted to unleash my venom, but step one is to admit you have a problem and I'm there, baby, I'm so there.
Not too long ago, I was at a different stage in the "chill out" program. I'd begun sighing when frustrated. My sigh was the last calm before the storm and I didn't realize how often I was doing it. One day, both boys were in the kitchen and for some reason I sighed the kind of extra-loud sigh that meant I was growing exasperated, and Brady, probably 8 at the time, recognized the impending danger. He sternly told Jonathan to come with him and he rounded the corner (very sweet of him to save his younger brother, don't you think?). Jonathan, younger and less intuitive, asked why Brady was making him leave. And this is the exchange I overheard:
Brady: Did you hear that noise Mommy just made? That means she's getting frustrated.
Jonathan: Oh. I thought she just had too much air in her mouth.
I doubled over in hysterics, and after I'd wiped away my tears, stretched out my cramps from laughing, and composed myself, I apologized to the boys. And then I took stock of my behavior.I don't get huffy every time anymore, today was a lapse - a rather bad one. So I bit my tongue, took deep breaths, took a shower, and told Rob I needed some time to myself. He had the slightest curl of a smirk on his face, as he could see my struggle to fight my own inner demons, and we both laughed when I said I was so glad everyone was leaving when they left for a soccer meeting.
This is the mindful work I do. This is how I strive to be better. This is progress. (Believe it or not.)
Friday, July 20, 2007
See these grrrls? They rock. And there's more of 'em, too. And these pictures were taken at our spring retreat. And today I get to leave for our summer retreat. And in October we'll have a fall retreat. And well, you see how it goes. We're kinda spoiled, getting to retreat all the time like this. And we know it. And we love it. And we demand it. And our husbands have finally realized resistance is futile. We're going.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
Rob and the boys spent 3 days at the Cornerstone Festival where they camped and listened to bands with Uncle Terry and cousins Abbey and Trevor, and as you already know I didn't want to go so I opted to stay back. (And got 3 days ALONE - ok, still excited.)
There are a couple of things that make this trek interesting and a bit out-of-character for us. Cornerstone is a Christian rock festival and no alcohol and drugs are allowed. The drug-free environment helped us decide it'd be a good place for the kids to get their first concert experience. They've gotten more and more into music in the past few years, but knowing how obnoxious concert goers are, and knowing full well what goes on before and during most gigs, we were less than eager to introduce them to the experience. (In fact, I refuse to attend Jimmy Buffet concerts anymore for the sole reason that the entire outdoor venue becomes a giant urinal about halfway into the festivities, and these days I am neither tolerant nor intoxicated enough to be ok with that!) However, the reeeeally interesting thing about attending Cornerstone for us, then, is we're not Christians. There, I've said it. It's out.
What are we? We dunno exactly. We eschew labels and refuse to be placed in small boxes.
Ok, not really.
We're Unitarian Universalists by membership, if not active participation at the moment. And UUism is the perfect place for a spiritual mutt like myself. The seven principles of UUism speak well to my love for honoring the spiritual search and unique path of each individual, and as with most things in life, I don't believe there is one-true-way.
I'm not anti-Christian - perish the thought! So before you go wondering if you should X us off the ol' holiday list, remember I was raised Catholic and still feel a definite fondness for those roots and our little country church that's just around the bend. But I am inspired by all sorts of people and all the world's religions and I just can't seem to confine myself to only one religion's definition of faith or spirituality. Even UUism, as it gives me the blessing to be on my own spiritual path, somehow doesn't capture it for me - it isn't the 'end all, be all' for me.
I told Rob that if there was a sunrise prayer session or something appealing like that at Cornerstone, they should consider attending. There are parts of Christianity that I firmly reject, but there are parts where I find beauty and peace as well. I would not forbid my children from trying it on for themselves any more than I would require them to don the same spiritual cloak I wear. They did have a prayer moment with a friend, and they enjoyed the experience and the new people.
They were surprised to see the variety of self-expression in the way of piercings and tattoos and unique clothing choices, and this bodes well for the broad spectrum of Christian interpretation, me thinks. These days the definitions of Christianity seem to get more and more narrow, more and more paralyzing, especially what with the pope fussing over driving rules and whatnot. And I wonder where the religious middle-ground folks are, the ones I knew growing up, who went to church but didn't get all up in my stuff about it.
Our experience has been that we know too many amazing people of various faiths to decide there is one-right-way for all of us. I learn as much from my atheist friends as from my Buddhist friends, my Christian friends as from my humanist friends. And I always love that what I may even learn is what I don't want as much as what I do, what doesn't speak to me as much as what does. Whenever I engage in conversation with someone with radically different beliefs, I either come away with something new to ponder or more content in my chosen path. It's a win-win.