I Saw My First Robin This Spring On My Way To Church And…

The Lil Robin by Bobbi Jones Jones (http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=22188&picture=the-lil-robin)

I saw my first robin this spring on my way to church this morning and smiled. Seeing that red-breasted bird after months of dreary bleakness always brings me hope. The little guy was sitting in a patch of brown muddy grass next to a stop sign – prime worming ground I’m guessing. Unfortunately for him and me tomorrow freezing rain and snow are in the forecast with the official start of spring only days away.

Last year at this time we had unseasonable 80-degree weather. It doesn’t look like even the luck of the Irish is going to bring that warm sunshine this March. Sigh. Yet with the tweet of that “rocking” robin I am reminded that in the coming weeks the trees will bud and the daffodils and tulips will bloom. And while I wait for the warm weather to spring me (get it spring?) from my bulky winter coat and sweaters, I’m taking the time to declutter and purge the things crowding out light and energy from my life.

Yes, in research for my next novel, I’ve been reading a lot about Feng Shui. In particular, I just finished a book by Cathleen McCandless called “Feng Shui that Makes Sense – Easy Ways to Create a Home that FEELS as Good as it Looks.” The principles and ideas behind this art and science of arranging and making a living space a place where you want to spend time and actually enjoy fascinates me. The concepts make so much sense to me. Step one in the form process is to get rid of anything you don’t love or doesn’t provide a practical use. So I’m slowly going room by room to get rid of the CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, cassettes, old clothes, shoes, toys, books, knickknacks and other stuff taking up space in our house. After three trips to Good Will in the last few weeks, I’ve gotten rid of bags and boxes full of stuff and it feels great! In fact it feels better than great, it feels wonderful. I know I have a long way to go, but I will get there bit by bit, bag by bag, box by box. The best part is that my girls are getting into it too. They spent yesterday with me going through drawers thumb up-ing and down-ing clothes and toys. I am proud of their eagerness to make our house more of a home.

As my five-year old said the other night as she explained to her Dad why we were loading two garbage bags of clothes into the van. “Clutter causes confusion!”

Yes an “A-ha” moment from her kindergarten class’ life guiding principles. Yes, indeed…clutter does cause confusion. And so here’s to a clutter-free life filled with clarity and understanding.

What about you? Have you heard of or tried feng shui? Any tips or suggestions?

An Or, an Or, an Oreo…

English: Two regular Oreo cookies. Please chec...
 Photo credit: Wikipedia#

“I want to scream and shout and let it all out. . .An Or, an Or, an Oreo…”

My children have decided these are the lyrics to Brittney Spears latest song and I think I kind of like them better than the actual lyrics. When the song comes on radio (and it seems like it’s every time I turn it on), I can’t help but sing along using the Oreo version, which then is permanently stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

If you think about it, when I’m upset and overwhelmed I do want to scream and shout and then eat a Oreo or two or the whole package! My youngest daughter has been my latest exasperation. She’s afraid she’s going to throw up. Mind you, she hasn’t gotten sick in a very long time. I’m talking years. Nevertheless, from the moment she gets home she starts peppering me with questions about what will and won’t or could possibly make her throw up. She’s afraid any little thing will cause her to up-chuck. If she washes her hands and a soap bubble pops on her lips she’s afraid she’ll be sick. If she sees some thing “odd” in her food (like a speck of pepper), she refuses to ear. She constantly asks me if I think she’s going to throw up or if her sister is or if I am. If anyone even suggests the don’t feel well she starts to freak out and cry. It is driving everyone crazy. I’ve tried reassuring her that we wouldn’t feed her food that would make her sick (at least not intentionally – I’ll admit I’m not the best cook).

This fear has taken over her life. She doesn’t want to go to school and cries every morning and at school as well. We are trying to go ten days without crying, but so far the longest she’s gone is a day. If she makes it to ten, I promised to come to school and help out with “jobs” in her kindergarten room. Her teacher feels she’s just going through a phase and I agree, but right now it’s hard to see her so upset. I’m at a loss at what to do to help. Maybe a Oreo would help? Yeah, that’s a good plan. In fact, I think my little one should give me hers too (just in case they might make her sick). I’ll take one for the team:)

Seriously though, if anyone has any ideas to help her over her throw-up fear, I’d love to hear them!


Boots, Diet Coke and Other Stuff that Make Me Smile

As I lay in bed last night, wide awake, listening to that January northwest Ohio wind do its thing outside, I realized that today is the last day of January and I had yet to blog this month. Not that anyone noticed or even really cared (except maybe my twin nephews. Love you guys!), but I do like to write and blather on. And once upon a time, I made a goal or a resolution or something or other to at least blog once or twice a month and pending this post I would have failed. And I so hate failure, especially mine. Although I know that you must sometimes fail to succeed, I still don’t have to like it.

So I mentally went over the past month, pondering what topic I should wax upon today without seeming whiny or bitchy or depressing. The whole point is to make someone smile as they read along. If I get one smile, it’s all good. I don’t do January resolutions as my birthday is in February, so in my book, the new year doesn’t actually start for me until then. I don’t have a rock star life style, so nothing extra-exciting on that end either. Religion? No. Politics? Definitely No. What then?  I went back to the smile. What makes me smile? I like it. So here it goes, this last day in January, the five things that make me smile the most (at least today anyway).

2013-01-31 07.33.09Cute Cards from My Kids
My daughters make me smile on a daily basis. My girls also make me want to pull my hair out on a daily basis. My kindergarten daughter has proved to be challenging. One day I’ll hear words like “Do you have the biggest butt at your work, Mommy???” as she barges into the bathroom while I’m squeezing into my jeans or “Your hair looks ugly” as the stylist finishes a new hair cut or “You look like a witch” after I finish applying eye makeup, pour out of her mouth. I can hardly wait to hear what she comes up with as a teenager. She’s quick to repent though and when the “what did you say?” comes out of my mouth, she’ll tell me “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings” (you didn’t, sniff, sniff) or “you’re pretty Mom” (too little, too late). She can also be very kind and loving when she wants to be. Last Friday I had surgery to remove my gall bladder. She’s been very caring and concerned. She’s brought me cards home from school every day this week telling me how much she loves me and how I’m the best mom in the world. These little notes and the ones from my other daughter from days past hang on my cubicle walls and on the mirror in my bedroom. They always put a smile on my face.

2013-01-31 08.28.22Cappuccino and Diet Coke
Yes I am predictable and have certain rituals. One of those being that every morning I walk down to the corner Shell station and get two 20 ounce Diet Cokes and in the winter a yummy Cappuccino (today’s blend is chocolate-covered strawberry). I know both these addictions will not help the cause of my yet-to-be-set resolution to lose weight, but oh well. I can’t seem to give them up. And sure I could save money by getting a twelve pack or a two liter or whatever, but I like taking my walk and talking to the girls that work there. I always have a smile on my face when I leave.

2013-01-23 20.10.08

Boots, Sandals and Handbags
Shoes, shoe, shoes. Yes! I love my shoes. In the winter, it’s the boots. In the summer, it’s the sandals. And purses? You can’t have enough of those. A dear friend of mine always gets a new purse at the beginning of each season. An awesome idea, that I have joined her in. A new bag on a dreary day, makes my days. Pulling on a pair of black, knee-high boots paired with some skinny jeans and long sweater almost always makes me feel happy. It’s like hey me — You look good? Trendy? Fashionable? Passable? At least not like a frumpy mom?  Who am I kidding? (Well obviously, I’m trying to kid myself! Duh!) Anyway I like wearing them, so who cares what everyone else thinks! (Me? Shut up you irritating, little, downer voice in my mind).

reviewsA Great Review
If you don’t know, I write romance novels. Well, I wrote two anyway and am working on the third. The first, Take a Deep Breath is published and the second, Take Your Time, will be out there soon. Getting lost reading or writing a good romance is a sure way to make me smile. Romances always have a happy ending. Count on it. As an indie (that’s the new cool word for self-published) author, I always have misgivings and doubts about my talents as a writer. So whenever, I get an email or someone posts a review on Good Reads or Amazon and gives my book a great review, I can count on a smile to be pasted across my face for a good ten minutes or so (until I scroll down and find a review where someone hated my book). So the review thing is definitely a double-edge sword. On my writing loops, most authors advise not to even bother reading them. Somehow, I can’t help myself. I’m drawn to see what others think. I confess that I am a needy writer seeking approval. Yes, I said it (wrote) it. I’m an approval junkie. Sigh. Maybe that should be my number one would-be resolution for this year.

A Perfectly Clean Room
For me walking into my home to find a perfectly neat, orderly room is the ultimate happiness. With everything in its rightful place, the counters wiped, sinks shining, carpet vacuumed and every surface dusted. Chaos and clutter gone. I can ease back on my couch with a good book, a glass of wine, some soft music and no guilt over something else needing to be done. Now that is pure bliss. And a regretfully, it is only a dream. As you can see, I don’t have a picture for this smile. This state of home-happiness happens once in a blue moon and lasts about as long as a lunar eclipse. The chance to snap that photo has alluded me as of yet. But someday when the members of my household (myself included) finally get on that “let’s clean this place up” bandwagon at the same time, I’ll be sure to capture that moment with my iPhone.

What about you? Tell me… What makes you smile?

Trick or Treat? Bah Humbug!

Halloween inevitably brings with it the custom of “trick or treat.” I don’t know who thought up the wonderful tradition of dressing up in a costume and going door-to-door to beg strangers for candy. I could probably find out in a matter of seconds via Google or Wikipedia (how did we ever live without these wonderful tools), but I actually really don’t care all that much who that genius was. It won’t change anything. Trick or treat will still come. Bah Humbug!

Yes, I know it’s the wrong holiday, but I think am the Scrooge of Halloween or at least trick or treat. Of all the holidays we have, Halloween is probably one of my least favorites. Even as a child the thought of trick or treating filled me with dread. It’s not that a I didn’t want candy…I did. Knocking on a stranger’s door to ask for candy (especially if they too dressed up and had  scary decorations) that could potentially be poisoned or razor-blade filled  made my shy, introverted body queasy. Thus, I would always make my younger sister go first. (I was just being polite. No, really, you go ahead…)

These days trick or treat appeals to me about as much as it did back then. Alas my daughters love to go and so I go for them. As an adult, my aversion to trick or treat is less about stranger danger and more about the weather. The weather? Yes, the weather. What does weather have to do with Halloween you might ask? In Northwest Ohio – everything. Nine out of ten times the weather on Halloween is, how shall I put it? Crappy. It’s cold. It’s windy. It’s rainy. This year will be no different. In fact, I’ve already been given one reprieve as the festivities have already been postponed once due to sleet and high winds and rescheduled for tomorrow night.

Halloween Past
Halloween Past

As we live out in the boonies, we’ll meet up with some friends who live in town to trick or treat. The houses are much closer together. As usual, the girls will bundle up with sweat pants and sweatshirts under their costumes and complain about having to put winter coats on over them. I can empathize with them in that regard as both a former trick or treater, who wanted to show off her cool costume, and as a mother, who just paid a small fortune for the costumes of choice and wants everyone to see how cute they look in them. (In the picture on the right is a pic from a rare Halloween past when we had beautiful weather and the girls were still young enough that they agreed to wear the coordinating costumes I got them!)

After the first block or so of candy gathering, I’ll have a pocket full of empty candy wrappers and be carrying the itchy wig I paid way too much for, while giving the youngest a piggy back ride, because she’s too tired to walk. Trick or treat lasts an hour and a half or so, and lucky for me the girls aren’t greedy and are ready to call it quits after 45 minutes or so and head back home for some pizza and more candy.

Now you may think I’m against trick or treat completely. I’m not. Truly, I’m not. Back before kids, my hubby and I lived in town. I loved passing out the candy to the kids in our neighborhood. Seeing the kids all dressed up and watching the smiles on their faces as I gave them their treats was great fun. Unfortunately, as I said we live out in the boonies and get no trick or treaters. Not even one. Though I still buy candy just in case:)

What about you? Would you rather trick or treat, pass out candy or skip the whole thing?

Weary-Eyed Weekend Gone Awry

OK, I’ll admit it. Right now. Up front. I’m having a pity party for myself right now. Yes, it is “poor me” time, so you can stop reading now if you’re looking for an uplifting pick me up. It’s not happening here. Not on my watch anyway. You see I’m really good at feeling sorry for myself. I mean, really good at it!

What do I have to feel sorry about? Where to start? Yes, as of this moment, I do have my health. My children are both healthy and sort of well-adjusted. My stomach is full and I’m lying in my bed with the covers pulled up. I am truly blessed. I know that in my heart, yet that sunny, happy disposition is alluding me this weekend. The silver lining, the glass half-full thing isn’t doing it for me. The stars are not aligning today.

So if you’ve gotten this far you may be asking yourself so what has gotten this rambling woman on a pessimistic, woe-is-me bent this windy, rainy evening. Well, here is my top three list of peeves of the weekend – one for each day. I figure if I write them all down, I can move past them and as Scarlet O’Hara once said, “Tomorrow is another day.” (And I hope it is better than this one!)

Friday Peeve # 1: My hubby took Friday off to go on a bird hunting weekend with his nephew. I took Friday off to get a handle on the chaos that is called our home – dusting, vacuuming, laundry, throwing away clutter, moving piles of crap from one room to another. You got the idea. I did make a noticeable dent in the disarray – the living room does look nice for the moment and I did get in a 45-minute nap, but I have to admit, that I’m still slightly, bitterly, passive-aggressively angered that he never takes days off to “clean house.”

Saturday Peeve # 2: The day started off good in that I did wake up, but then I got out of bed. I dressed in my favorite jeans and BGSU sweat-shirt; the girls and I were headed to a tailgate party with my parents. As I was fastening the orange and brown fused glass pendant that my mother made me for my birthday around my neck it slipped from my fingers and the metal hook broke away from the pendant. Sigh – warning sign # 1 to go back to bed.

Next, as the girls brushed their teeth and looked for their DS (in case they got bored), I headed out to the van to clean out any trash left behind. I noticed my five-year-old had left behind her slushy cup on the floor. Frowning, I picked it up and realized it was half full. I realized this as the bottom fell out of the foam cup and soaked my suede boots, jeans and sweatshirt with half-frozen mountain dew. So much for the perfect outfit. But even more horrifying my beloved, iPhone was in my pocket and it too was coated in the sticky, sweet concoction. At this point I must say I let out a string of explicatives, and yes, one of them happened to be the “f” word. Yes, this was warning #2 to go back to bed. You’d think I’d take the hint. But, no….we headed to the tailgate party and game where I ate entirely too much food and listened to my oldest daughter whine about how hungry she was, but how she didn’t ‘like’ anything there was to eat. We ended up leaving before the game even started – which – wasn’t so bad as shortly after we made it back to the car it started to rain. So I guess if I were looking for bright sides (which I’m really not) at least I averted a second drenching of the day.

Sunday Pet Peeve #3: My daughter wanted to go to a rabbit show to sell a couple of rabbits from her last litter and look for a dwarf hotot. I’d been looking for someone to teach my Sunday school class without success. My daughters were bummed about missing the show. As luck would have it (or not), we got a text from our hunters saying they were headed home early because it was too rainy. We now had our substitute Sunday school teacher (he only had to play a DVD so he was good), we hurried to load up the rabbits and make it to the show before registration ended. Yes – we were running behind as usual (due to the snooze button). As I loaded one of the rabbits into the carrier, she bit my wrist – hard enough to draw blood. This was warning #1 to go back to bed. Finally, we had everything loaded, Waze programmed to our destination and we headed out.

Not familiar with how to get to the rabbit show location, I was paying more attention to the lovely GPS voice and the fighting in the back seat than to my speed. Unfortunately the nice officer that pulled me over for going 68 in a 55 and gave me $125 ticket was paying attention. Sigh. Yes, warning #2 was upon me and still I pressed on. We made it to the show and got set up. The show was crowded and loud. Not good for a woman who is deaf in one ear, fuming over a stupid, speeding ticket and at her rope’s end with her children who were still “hungry” after just eating McDonald’s. Three hours later, we still had all the rabbits we’d come with, a new carpet square thing-a-ma-jig to pose the rabbits on, and I had a migraine. As we headed home (early as I couldn’t take it anymore), my oldest was bummed because we didn’t buy a dwarf hotot, even though we found one and the youngest was starving and thirsty. And I still had a headache…

In fact, I can still feel it there in the back of my skull, so for now, I am going to go to bed – that place I should never have left…and hope tomorrow brings, well, I don’t know what exactly. Mostly, I hope the rabbit bite on my wrist doesn’t get infected and my headache is gone in the morning….

Ok, the violins have stopped playing. The party is over. Good night!

Time Musings

Missing Tooth

As I walked along our deserted country road this warm summer evening, holding my five-year-old’s hand, my mind wandered back through time. Last week she lost her first tooth. This afternoon she told me how she got to cross the road all by herself to get the mail, looking both ways to make sure no cars were coming of course. And in less than two weeks, she’ll start kindergarten. My eyes water already at just the thought of watching her climb aboard the big yellow bus and disappear out of sight.

I only have to close my eyes and I feel her tiny fingers wrapped around one of mine, her soft cheek pressed against my breast. I can hear the little sighs and gurgles she made as slept in my arms. I can smell the sweet pea shampoo in her freshly washed hair. I can see her little legs carry her across the living room, one shaking step at a time to reach my outstretched arms.

I try to wrap my mind around that elusive concept of time. Some days the seconds drag by in excruciating slowness. Yet in this moment it feels as if the years raced past me. Some days I wish I could pull a brake and slow time down and other days I want that fast forward button to take me some unknown place in the future that has to be better than the now. Some days I greedily wish for more time and other days  I wish it away.

Time…60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in day, 7 days in a week, 356 days in a year…The math adds up the same every time, yet in my mind I still struggle and wonder how that can be.

I try to live in the present. Not think too much about the past or skip too far to the future. I know I only really have this moment and then its gone. The moments turn into memories and if I contemplate too long I’ll miss it and the next time I look at my daughter, she’ll be leaving for college…

Handwriting – Nature or Nurture?

keyboardMesmerized a moment, I watch my 10-year-old daughter as she carefully writes instructions to her father on how to take care of her rabbits while she is gone. She perfectly forms each letter in neatly uniform lines, asking me how to spell unknown words as she goes along. I’m always amazed at the exact neatness of her hand when I read over her homework, a note, a song or a story she’s written. At ten, her scroll is neater than mine has ever been or will be. Her handwriting  reminds me of my mother’s and sister’s teacher-perfect neat script.

I’m sure no one has ever (or rarely if so) pointed at a word or sentence they’ve written with a confused look of disdain on their faces and said, “What does that say?”  I on the other hand have heard those oft spoken words from teachers, my grandmother, mother and the like.  My brain, my thoughts, my ideas typically come fast and furious, and my hand with a pen in its grip can’t keep up.  The faster I write to keep up, the harder those words are to translate into meaningful prose for the untrained eyes and sometimes even my own. You see, unfortunately for me there are times my brow furrows in the same look of confusion as I concentrate on my script trying to decipher what I wrote only perhaps days before. Huh, I can’t read it either… Wracking my mind, though most times I can translate the cryptic writing into some form of English.

My handwriting resembles my father’s and paternal grandmother’s looping scrawl. No matter how hard I tried, how hard I concentrated, how much I practiced I could never train my letters to look like my mother’s or my sister’s. As a grade-schooler, a high-schooler and even into my college years, this mark of inadequacy both bothered and haunted me. The only “D” on my grade card I ever received was in third grade handwriting. In high school, the nun that taught me freshman English kept me after school one day to admonish me and tell me my handwriting was atrocious and that if it didn’t improve my career, my life would be going nowhere, it would limit me and hold me back. I sat stunned, holding back unshed tears. I knew my handwriting was bad, but would it really hold me back in life? In reaching my dreams?

My father, who is also in the messy handwriting club, tried to encourage me and help boast my self-esteem after my talk with Sister Neat Handwriting. He pointed out that Einstein’s handwriting was practically illegible and he’s considered a genius! He went on to name famous inventors, authors and many others whose lack of penmanship had not held them back (although maybe if they’d got a gold star in handwriting they’d have gone even further…who knows?). However, I’ve always strove to please others and the bad handwriting black mark on my so-called record was one I desperately wanted to erase. It wasn’t that I was lazy or didn’t try or didn’t care. I can remember sitting at the kitchen table, a pen posed in my hand above the lined paper of my composition book, writing my letters over and over and over. Hours and hours of practice made my handwriting legible when I wrote slowly enough, but never would it be called neat.

Luckily for me though, the age of keyboards, computers, and laptops appeared just as I began college. The advent of these beloved inventions rendered my bad-handwriting pointless and mute. I rarely have to write anything using the antiquated pen on paper. The typing class I took my sophomore year of high school is probably the best, most helpful class I’ve ever taken. My fingers fly over the keyboard, keeping pace with my thoughts and ideas turning them into words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and even a novel. And as read back over the pages that streamed through those fingers, I can read every word without question.