Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rumor has it I was on vacation...

I have a confession to make. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but sometimes I look forward to coming home from vacation. This is more likely if I've been sharing a hotel room with my children and I'm tired of having to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. Or I'm tired of them keeping me awake past my bedtime. Or I'm tired of living in a space that resembles their bedrooms. If the beach is factored in to this equation it's even worse because I grow weary of dumping sand out of bathing suits, and shorts, and towels, and shoes, and buckets, and chairs. I find sand in the tub, on the carpet, and in my bed. Everywhere I turn there's a body scrub waiting to happen.

Regardless of whether I'm looking forward to the return to my daily routine or I'm dreading settling back into my ho-hum existence, the exit strategy is always the same for me. Once I've decided it's time to go, I want to go NOW. No lolly-gagging. No dragging it out. All the dirty clothes get shoved into one suitcase, everything else gets packed willy-nilly, and we toss it all haphazardly into the van. Then we all fall asleep and leave Rob to the driving, though I occasionally I stir to ask him if he's still awake.

Within moments of arriving at our heavenly abode, the reality of home sets in again:
  • A week's worth of laundry even if you've only been gone for two days
  • Sorting out everything that was thrown willy-nilly into any old suitcase
  • The stench in the bathroom where someone forgot to flush the toilet
  • Dog pee in the tv room; poop in the basement
  • The dust and hair bunny family waiting at the front door 
  • The ensuing allergy attack compliments of the dust bunnies, dog, cat, and guinea pig
  • 238 work emails and 5 office messages, 57 personal emails and 2 phone messages (the percentage of which are not junk? Maybe 5%)
  • The stack of daily newspapers reminding you of how much bad stuff happened while you were living in fantasy land
  • The stack of bills letting you know how much you owe from your trip to fantasy land
  • The sand that followed you home and is now pouring out of every suitcase, towel, bathing suit, shoe...
I have officially been home for 3 hours and 23 minutes. I've sneezed 62 times. And, you guessed it, I need a vacation. But this time, I'm going to go as my nephew William. This kid does vacation right!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Death of Passion in an Age of Multi-Tasking

I bet not many of you fell asleep recently with a band saw singing you a lullaby, punctuated only by the occasionally "Woo hoo!" from the craftsman working in the basement below your bedroom. On Thursday I spent the evening at my parent's house, my childhood home, where my father was engaged in his passion for woodworking. As I tried to mentally block out the noise from dad's power tools, I found myself thinking about passion. Not the romantic kind, but the hobby/pastime, non-human passion that can consume our every waking moment. I realized, to my slight dismay, that I am passionless (and to my dear husband, this is no time for a smart ass "I concur.").

As I pondered this realization a bit, a question came to mind: Can we have true passion in a multi-tasking world?

I've always prided myself on being an accomplished and generally highly effective multi-tasker. Being able to juggle multiple responsibilities definitely comes in handy both in motherhood and marketing. But multi-tasking basically means I'm meeting the basic requirements of lots of different things while not passionately embracing any of them.

As technology aids and abets us in our drive to do more in less time, I wonder what's being lost. How many beautiful pieces of music and classics of literature have been created while multi-tasking? Can awe-inspiring cathedrals and works of art come to life without the maker's all-consuming passion? Do star athletes excel and masters of stage and screen move us while multi-tasking? In her latest book, Reboot: Refreshing Your Faith in a High-tech World, Peggy Kendall even wonders whether we can have a true and fulfilling relationship with our no-tech God when we're living these high-tech, multitasking lives.

As I write this I am home alone, in unusual peace and quiet, early on Saturday evening. I am not checking email as I type. I am not cooking dinner simultaneously (which never works out well anyway). When I post it on Monday, I will be in my happy place, at the beach with two of my favorite things: a good book and good friends. I am going to challenge myself during my brief three-day vacation to indulge passionately in those favorite things and leave the multi-tasker in me at home.

Share what passion you could give in to if you weren't busy trying to do it all.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy!

I have a confession to make. But first, let me provide the background details for this sordid tale.

For about five years now, I have been hiring a college student from my church to watch my children during the summer. First came Laura Jean who was followed by her brother Kevin who was followed this year by Nicole. Each has been an upstanding, intelligent, fun, and responsible young adult...with a driver's license (the #1 requirement for the job).

Now here's the confession: Each has done a much better job of disciplining my children and taking care of my home than I do. And the sordid part: I've come to rely on this. Oh, let's be honest, I've started abusing using their skills to my advantage. For example, where the children are concerned:
  • I can never get Ian to stick to the pediatrician-recommended one hour of screen time each day. I simply can't deal with the argument we have when I suggest "powering down." But babysitters and other in-charge adults somehow get our children to listen. So Nicole has been instructed to limit Ian to two hours of screen time a day (who are we kidding on the one-hour suggestion?) and I bet she'll have way more success with this than I do.
  • Getting them to clean their rooms is also an exercise in futility. The whining and moaning are unbearable and I've decided that keeping their doors closed is easier. But if I tell Nicole to have the kids clean up their rooms before heading to the pool, I'll I bet you dollars to donuts that they will be clean when I get home (and on a side note, where does the expression "dollars to donuts" come from?)
  • Assignments in general are better delivered by anyone other than mom or dad. I'm not above leaving Nicole a note to "Have the kids sweep the patio, bring in the trashcans, empty the dishwasher, and put their laundry away." It's amazing how much more is accomplished when I'm not in charge!
My summer help has also been a treat on the household maintenance front. Laura Jean was a gem with the laundry, and Kevin was especially talented at ironing. In her first two days, I've noticed Nicole leaves the kitchen looking spic-n-span. Add to this the occasional errand running and the soccer mom shuttling they do for me, and the summers have turned into my opportunity to see how the other half live!

I hereby bestow my summer childcare providers with the esteemed titles of Freakin' Angels! Anyone in your life you feel deserves the title these days?

    Sunday, June 20, 2010

    Just Dyin' to See How This Goes!

    Last week, Rob and I attended his Uncle Joe's funeral. This, combined with my husband's unsafe driving, started me thinking about my own mortality. More specifically, it got me thinking about my own funeral. I suppose that's a rather morbid topic, but I bet I'm not the only person who envisions what that day might be like.

    First and foremost, we all hope our funeral will be well-attended. I remarked to Rob that I had better die relatively young because I don't have a large enough family to ensure a good turnout. I'm going to have to count on coworkers, church family, friends, and neighbors to make up the critical mass. If my sister is still living in Colorado, there's no guarantee she would even bother to make the trip.

    In an effort to encourage good turnout, I also want my funeral to be fun. Not clowns and face-painting fun, but not heavy and depressing with songs that make you want to rip your heart out. I'm thinking something between a Catholic Mass and an Irish wake would be good. Having attended a Catholic Mass for Rob's uncle, I'm pretty sure their purpose is to remind the living that the deceased is in a much better place, if you catch my drift. At my funeral, I want friends and family to stand up and share funny stories. Heaven knows I give you all enough material to work with.

    I do have one specific request and that is for a full gospel choir to sing When I Go Away by Levon Helms. Love that song. It's upbeat and happy and you can dance to it. And I'd like a multi-ethnic gospel choir to perform because that's the one thing missing from my church. We're too damn white and a bit lacking in the soul category. Having said that, I'd like that white boy, soon-to-be-reverend Mark Boyd, to perform the service with the Reverend Rebecca Irwin-Diehl. They don't know each other and probably have nothing in common other than a mutual affection for moi, but I think they'd do a bang-up job keeping it light but spiritual.

    The one question mark in my funeral plans is the whole casket versus cremation thing. On one hand, I'm afraid of fire (having almost burned down my bedroom as a kid) so the idea of being roasted at a very high temperature doesn't appeal to me. It also makes me think of Hansel & Gretel shoving the witch into the oven, and who wants to make that association? On the other hand, I'm very cheap frugal practical and I can't justify the expense of a casket and burial. Being an ocean-lover, I'm leaning toward a Viking burial where they send you out on a boat and shoot flaming arrows at you. Even though there is fire involved, I'm going to be in my happy place and won't be cooped up in an oven.

    The one thing I'm sure of is that I definitely do not want a funeral home involved in my big day. What is with funeral homes? They all look like your great-grandmother's house with the same bad wallpaper and outdated upholstery. Definitely not the place I want to spend my final moments with friends and family. We can use my backyard. Would like to get as much use out of the patio as possible.

    Finally, I would like to be laid to rest (or sent out to sea) in my Freakin' Angels t-shirt. This should prove helpful in case I arrive in heaven and God is undecided as to whether I belong there.

    Any final wishes you'd like to share with Freakin' Angel readers?

    Thursday, June 17, 2010

    The Naked Truth

    We've officially entered bathing suit season and as a result I find myself being bombarded with body image messages. Generally they don't bother me, but recently marketers have taken an over-the-top, in-your-face approach that I'm finding rather disturbing.

    It's bad enough when you're in the comfort of your own home, sitting on the couch with a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream, and you come across an infomercial for P90X or the Shake Weight Exercise (which, quite frankly, looks like it has better uses than arm toning). Or, you're reading the latest issue of US Weekly, admiring the beautiful people while finishing your bottle of wine and you stumble across an ad for NutriSystem or Weight Watchers. But now, the less than subtle messages are finding me everywhere I go. Here's just a sampling of what I've endured of late:
    • A public service video message at the gas station that demonstrated how I can work out at the pump. Yes, I can just see myself doing squats and lunges while pumping gas. That won't attract any unwanted attention.
    • The botox ads at the dentist office (as noted in my last post). When I go to the dentist I only want to feel badly about my smile, not about my wrinkles.
    • The full page glossy promo for liposuction, found in the free local paper that I only read at the pizza place. This wasn't just any ad. This was full color, naked, "trim the fat on the dotted lines," before and after shots. No one needs to see that, particularly before scarfing down pizza and beer.
    Each of these weight/body shape encounters has shaken my self-confidence, but nothing disturbs me as much as restaurants that include the fat and calorie content of each dish on the menu. I think it's a law in Philadelphia, and as one of the fattest cities in the country (#20 this year) I guess it makes sense, but it's a major downer. I recently hung out and worked on my laptop at a Starbucks in the city, and I really had to think long and hard about getting that cinnamon chip scone with 540 calories and 29 grams of fat. In the end, I decided that I'd probably burned lots of calories just contemplating my decision, so I treated myself to just one. But still, I didn't feel good about it.

    I wish I could leave you with some words of wisdom about self-esteem, body image, liking yourself the way you are, etc, but I just don't feel up to it. I'll get back to you after I drink a Slim-Fast, wrap myself in plastic wrap, and sit in the sauna for a few hours on my Hawaii Chair. In the meantime, feel free to share the body image message that you find most disturbing!

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    "Dentist: a prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls coin out of your pocket."*

    Lots of folks hate going to the dentist. I never hated going to the dentist, that is, until I started to hate my dentist. Alright, hate's a strong word. I just really dislike him and his fancy Lexus and his perfect hair and his money-grubbing scheme practice.
    I was telling my friend Susan, the almost 50-year-old who whooped my butt on our hiking trip (there, Susan, happy now?), that I have become increasingly frustrated at how every visit to the dentist results in a sales pitch. She told me that there are actually consultants in the business of showing dentists how they can make more money. Well, that explains it.

    There are the typical services that I always question the need for, like fluoride treatments and sealants for the kids. (Isn't there fluoride in our water?) And x-rays. (How often are they really necessary?) But in the past year or so I've also been sold a mouth guard to stop me from grinding my teeth (though Rob claims he's never heard me grind my teeth), and the dental henchmen hygienists have tried to sell me on oral cancer screenings even though I have none of the naughty habits that make me predisposed to oral cancer.

    The tipping point for me and Dr. Smilemaker, however, was Botox. His office is full of promotional materials for Botox. HONESTLY?? So basically, anything on my face is fair game now?? What's next, nose jobs? Eye lash tinting? Eyebrow waxing? Facial scrubs? Nose hair trimming?

    The Botox push (which he was smart enough to NOT recommend to me) was followed by the scam whereby he tried to milk me for more than a cool grand for a procedure until I resisted and he settled less than half of that. I told you about that one in my post on "The Fine Art of Negotiation."

    Since you're so kindly letting me vent on this issue, I'd like to close with a list of other dental misdemeanors:
    • When injecting Novocaine, remarking that this will feel "just like a bee sting." Really? I can't recall having ever been stung in my GUMS before, so that's probably not a real accurate description.
    • Asking me to bite down and tell you how everything feels...after I've had three bee stings in the mouth. Um, you actually expect me to be able to feel something??
    • Requiring me to don protective, orange-tinted, wrap-around plastic glasses like 90-year-olds wear, under the guise of "protecting my eyes." Are you telling me to expect shrapnel to come flying from my mouth? Aren't you actually trying to hide my eyes from your view so you can't see the fear and hatred in them?
    • Informing me of every move you're making while working on my teeth. As if I'm going to stop you and suggest a different instrument or option?
    • Telling me I can't eat for 30 minutes after a fluoride treatment or, until the Novocaine wears off. You realize that even if I noshed at an all-you-can eat buffet for two hours before my appointment, the minute you tell me I can't eat as soon as I leave here, I'm going to be ravenously hungry, sick, and near starvation.
    Whew. You can tell this dentist issue has been gnawing at me. Hope I didn't bite off more than I can chew with this post. I think it's a topic I just really needed to sink my teeth into.

    Happiness is your dentist telling you it won't hurt and then having him catch his hand in the drill.  ~Johnny Carson

    *Thanks to Ambrose Bierce for the title quote.

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Of Horses and Hand Grenades…or It’s the Thought That Counts

    Hey Freakin' Angel readers, I'm sharing my first ever guest post! You're in for a treat from Rachel Gilmore, Judson Press author and host of The Gilmore Girl's Blog. Enjoy, and then check out her site and her books!

    So I’m thinking life in cornfield-turned-suburban-sprawl Illinois is pretty tame compared to life in sunny Pennsylvania. In fact, dare I say it, I’m beginning to fear Pennsylvania and all its Freakin Angel residents. Mad-dogs, emo spouses, fireworks at the church picnic…what is this world coming to? However, I do hail from the state that spawned the esteemed impeached governor (currently on trial), so perhaps she who lives in a glass house shouldn’t cast stones…but I digress.

    And while I don’t have an insane dog who eats like a goat, runs like a deer and swims like a fish, I do have a horse with ‘tud. She’s 20 going on 12 and has totally mastered the tween/teen eye roll, head snap and tail flick (which is equine for “Whatever!”), and, like my children, she teaches me valuable life lessons, the most recent of which was that it’s the “thought” that counts.

    Now typically, LadyJ doesn’t get turned out with the herd because she’s kind of a trouble maker, with a capital T.  A little eye roll, a little head snap, a little tail flick and a nice healthy buck with her back hooves and that girl’s in a whole world of hurt, literally.

    And, sadly, thanks to all the recent rain that flooded the front paddocks, we arrived at the barn to discover that she was out with the masses, and had no intention of coming in. The closer I got, calling her name, the deeper she moved into the herd, turning her head and flicking her tail.

    However, trouble with moving into the herd to get one horse is that everybody tends to get a little antsy as they sense perhaps that lazy grazing time is over. Nervously they glance about, their ears flattening and raising like satellite dish antennae, and you can almost hear them thinking, “Is it me? Is it me? Is it dinner time? Do I have to go in? Can I go in? Can I race you? I’ll race you to the barn. No, first I’ll rear up. Then you rear up. Then we’ll all turn on our heels and race to the barn. Who’s up for a stampede? On your mark, get set, GO!”

    So as I’m crossing the field with its 3-foot high crop of whatever the heck it is that grows back there, I quickly discover it’s also flooded with 3 inches of muddy water, along with meadow muffins too numerous to count, and, I’m quite sure, the occasional corn snake (which I know is waiting for me). I desperately want to look down and watch where I’m going but also just as desperately I want to keep an eye on the herd, which is eyeing me suspiciously and starting to snort and paw the ground. I know what they’re thinking, and it’s not good.

    And, horrors upon horrors, my sweet baby girl has apparently been rendered deaf and blind, as she gives no indication she knows I’m approaching, calling her name and making kissy face noises. Instead all I get is a full equine moon at 2 in the afternoon. Finally close enough to make contact with her rump and begin talking to her in earnest, I can tell it’s too late. The herd is ticked, and there’s restless movement around me, a sea of horseflesh tensing and flexing, muscles on high alert. Then Dantor gives the signal, an eerie guttural scream, rears up and tears off, racing the rest of the herd who’s half a pasture ahead of him. And that’s all she wrote.

    Having not peed my pants yet conveniently decided my gym shoes were actually water shoes, I slog back across the pasture, without regard for meadow muffins or corn snakes (they can’t swim, right?). Praying that my daughter is still standing and had time to close the mid-field gate, I hear her sweetly calling LadyJ and watch in disbelief as that darn horse trots ever so daintily and agreeably over, slips through to the side pasture and gives Kailie a kiss on the way in. Yet all I get is another full equine moon, and I’m quite sure a head snap, eye roll and tail flick. Whatever! My new motto is simply: “Be alert! The world needs more lerts.” Because, gentle readers, it’s the “thought” that counts with horses (and hand grenades).

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Four for the Road

    The stupidity of some people never ceases to amaze me. Today, at the height of rush hour, a mom with her dog and two kids, one of whom was on a bicycle, meandered along the busiest roads in our area. It should be noted that there are no sidewalks in my community so this is an incredibly risky move and very frustrating for those drivers who are eager to get home without running down a dog or child.

    Now before you join me in a hearty "amen!", I should probably point out that the dog was mine. The kids were mine. And the mom was me. Clearly, this wasn't one of my finest moments or brightest ideas. But this is what we're driven to when:
    • The active kid (Abby) is whining about being bored.
    • The inactive kid (Ian) has already spent the allotted time today playing computer games
    • The dog is being a pain in the rear
    • And the only solution that everyone agrees on is a trek to Rita's Water Ice
    So I didn't stop to consider that it was 5:00 p.m. and that we would  have to travel on two of the busiest roads in the area. Oops.

    This post is intended to serve as a public service announcement. When you see clueless kids and frazzled moms wandering around in places they shouldn't be at inappropriate times, please cut them some slack. As a driver, you have the power to stop traffic at your intersection and wave them across to safety. As a driver, you can inch a bit into the other lane (assuming no cars are coming) so the kid on the bike doesn't have to veer off into someone's yard because you came as close as possible to hitting her.

    And now, on a very serious note, can we all reconsider the importance of checking that text message or making that call while driving? The reality is that a split second can be the difference between life and death. On our trek, Abby was on her bike and therefore a good bit ahead of Ian and I who were walking with the dog. She had pulled into a friend's driveway to wait for us and when she pulled out to join us she totally neglected to look for cars. And a car was right there. If the driver had been driving too fast or was the least bit distracted, she would have hit Abby. Every parent's worst nightmare.

    On that note, safe travels this weekend. Enjoy these beautiful summer days, but be careful out there!

    Love, your Freakin' Angel

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    There are Three Good Reasons to Be a Teacher

    This is a shout-out to all you teachers. Especially you crazy folks dedicated saints who work in the elementary schools. Today I went on Abby's third grade field trip to Longwood Gardens, and the most valuable lesson I learned wasn't about the flora or fauna. Instead I learned that I made an excellent career choice when I chose not to become a teacher.

    I've been on plenty of field trips over the past six years, but for some reason today was different. I think I was in a bad mood. I'd kinda been roped into chaperoning. I was wasting taking a vacation day that I would have preferred to use at the beach. I had a lot of work to do in the office. And, I've got a million three other school events this week.

    To add to my already irritated state, I was stuck in the group with the chaperoning dad and no teacher. We were left all alone with eleven third-graders. I think I'd have done better with the same number of ex-cons. They might have at least flirted with me to keep things interesting. Instead, I had to:
    • Spell stuff ("chrysalis")
    • Deal with disappointment ("Sorry, we won't have time to make it to the third treehouse")
    • Remind them that they weren't the only visitors in the park ("Slow down. Watch where you're going. Try to avoid trampling other guests!")
    • Reprimand ("Please stop playing with your water bottle; it's distracting")
    • Provide updates on the time ("Only 10 more minutes till lunch; will you make it without passing out?")
    • Entertain the lone ranger ("I'll stay with Susie-Q while the rest of you go through the maze")
    • Manage potty breaks ("Anyone else have to go...AGAIN?")
    And don't even get me started on the noise level on the bus or the kid sitting in front of me who had such bad gas we had to open the windows so as not to asphyxiate anyone. 

    I don't know how you teachers do it. The patience. The empathy. The genuine love and care you show day-in and day-out. I'm in awe; I salute you; and I deem each and every one of you a Freakin' Angel. Enjoy your well-deserved summer off!

    [P.S. I'll buy a drink for the first person who responds to this post (in the blog comment section) with the three good reasons to be a teacher!]

    Monday, June 7, 2010

    The Psychological Power of Pie

    Hiking is among those things that I think I should like. After all, I'm outdoorsy, as in I like to drink on the porch. (Stole that from a greeting card). So several months ago when I saw a Groupon for $15 for two hikes with Terramar Adventures, I decided this was my chance to give the hiking thing a shot. I waited until it was about to expire (you can tell how psyched I was to use it), and then booked a "Hike & Pie" with my friend Susan. Yesterday was our six-mile adventure in the Delaware Water Gap.

    I learned several things on my hike:
    • Having a 2nd degree black belt doesn't mean crap when it comes to hiking (unless someone would have needed me to break through a piece of wood)
    • I'm not nearly in the physical condition I thought I was
    • I'm not afraid of snakes, even timber rattlesnakes
    • Having your period while hiking especially sucks (TMI guys?)
    • Every group has to have one annoying person in it
    • I think all frogs are cute
    • Hiking in a downpour isn't as bad as you would think if you're already soaked with sweat
    • You should always bring a change of clothes in case of said downpour
    • Either my bandana or my hair color bleeds in the rain (I ended up with some Native American looking black stripes down the side of my face)
    • Everything is tolerable when there's pie at the end
    After we concluded our hike, we drove about 1/4 of a mile into the little town of Water Gap for pie. And let me tell you, this wasn't just any pie. This was the best damn pie I've ever tasted. Think you don't like pie? You've never had this pie. We sampled three of more than a dozen kinds available:
    1. Fruits of the Forest pie
    2. Peanut Butter Chocolate Cream pie
    3. Warm Apple pie
    The warm apple pie was to die for, and that got me thinking. What if everything depressing, negative, or difficult ended with pie? (Kind of like the way you can tolerate childbirth because at the end you get a cute baby as a reward.) Imagine this:
    • Pop quiz in school. Ugh. But hey, when you're done, there's pie!
    • Significant other breaks up with you. Bummer. But he/she brought pie!
    • Laid off from work. Pink slip plus pie!
    • Black belt test made you vomit? Here's pie!
    • You need a root canal. But the insurance pays for pie! 
    • You've just moved up a dress size? Bet you have more room in your jeans, skirt, pants, etc. for pie!

    The possibilities for pie are limitless. Who knows, perhaps world peace is just a piece away!

    I'll I can say for certain is that the next time I have an opportunity to go hiking, I'll ask myself one simple question:  (wait for it...)

    Will there be pie?

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    Do Hard Things

    I've been hearing voices for quite some time now. They used to tell me I needed to "Call Mary." Now they instruct me to "Do Hard Things." Do Hard Things is actually a Christian book that came out in 2008. I haven't read it, and with the subtitle Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations, I'm not exactly the target audience. Still, about a week ago, "Do hard things" started repeatedly popping into my head.

    There are a whole lot of things that we complain are "hard." For example:
    • Typing when the "h" on your keyboard keeps sticking, as mine is now
    • Losing five pounds (for me anyway)
    • Managing four school projects at one time (just ask Ian)
    • Scoring runs in baseball (have you watched the Phillies lately?)
    The reality is, however, that many of us, me included, have had very few truly hard things to deal with in our lives. Depression and psoriasis. Those are the only two big challenges I can recall facing -- and both are treatable.

    "Hard" is the situation my cousin Mary finds herself in. Mary is probably in her 50s by now. She is married with two adult sons. She never went to college. Never had a career. Never left her hometown. Far as I can tell, Mary's life hasn't been a bed of roses. And now, Mary is raising her two granddaughters.

    Grandparents raising their grandchildren is becoming increasingly common. Common, of course, doesn't mean easy. Raising your grandchildren when you're supposed to be preparing for your golden years is hard. It's hard to be 50+ and to deal with all the stuff little ones put you through. Heck, it's exhausting when you're 25.

    What makes Mary's situation even more difficult is the circumstances by which she ended up as the legal guardian for these little girls. Their mom left them, and their father, Mary's son, is emotionally unfit and on medication after trying to commit suicide on more than one occasion. Hard stuff.

    So I'm hearing voices. I've been hearing these voices since I saw Mary and her granddaughters at my uncle's funeral back in August. I was heartbroken at the sight of these little girls. The sadness in their eyes, the lack of meat on their bones, the complete absence of life in them. I was told a bit about how they were being raised, and my head and heart screamed, "do something." 

    For nearly ten months now I've listened to the voices in my head, these gentle but relentless nudges from God, telling me to "do something." But I have done nothing. Why? Because it's hard. And messy. And complicated. Do I want to get involved? What if the needs are greater than what I have to offer? What if I discover that these little girls are worse off than I already imagine them to be? This is family. Is that a reason to stay out of it, or a mandate to jump right in? Ultimately I come back to the thought, "Every child deserves their best possible shot at a good life." This is my chance to make a difference. But it's so hard.

    God's been very patient with me. He's really good at that. But I can't wait forever to do something. This week I got Mary's phone number. She's been waiting for me to call for ten months now. I'm going to call this weekend. And I'm going to start by saying, "How are you? How are the girls? What can I do?" That shouldn't be so hard, should it?

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    Is it Because "Cleanliness is Next to Godliness?"

    It has come to my attention that I am "always cleaning." This will come as a tremendous shock to those who have known me for most of my adult life. I'm sure my parents, sister, and college roommates are picking themselves up off the floor right now, having just collapsed in a fit of laughter. Abby, however, insists that it's true and Abby has been correct about nearly everything for the nine years she has spent on this planet.

    I suppose I have been cleaning more often than usual as of late, but I attribute that to a number of factors:
    • I dismissed my latest cleaning service. I've gone through at least three or four over the past few years and have tired of the substandard work, random breakages, and unsolved disappearances. It's also expensive and I'm always looking for ways to save a buck (so I can use the money to eat out instead). 
    • Home renovations. We just had our bathroom and much of our bedroom gutted and renovated, plus we had hardwood floors refinished. No matter how often I clean, the dust seems to appear again the next day. 
    • I finally have areas of my home that are worth cleaning. We redecorated the living and dining rooms and they really deserve to stay looking nice now. That wasn't the case a year ago.
    • Dog and cat. Dog went swimming again today. Cat is shedding her winter coat. Enough said. 
    • Two children. Requires no further explanation.
    While I suppose I'll never be able to blindly accept the dust bunnies, hair balls, crumb hills, or sink overflowing with dirty dishes, there are some efforts that I'm beginning to rethink, including:

    • Folding my children's clothes. It's rare that they put them away without being reminded a minimum of five times, but even putting them away doesn't ensure they will stay in the condition I delivered them in. This morning, Abby took everything in her drawer and tossed it around like a salad in search of one particular shirt. Ian has limited space so his idea of putting clothes away is to shove them in his drawers in whatever manner will allow them to fit. Spending time on laundry is clearly not a good use of my time.
    • Making a decent dinner. Short of frozen steak sandwiches, waffles, or pancakes, my children express their displeasure with nearly everything I make. Another waste of time.
    • Picking up "stuff." Every mom knows this is a complete joke. I've been tempted to leave a dead body on the kitchen or TV room floor just to see if anyone even notices. 
    • Cleaning the toilet. I could paint it neon green and still the men in my house would aim for the floor instead. 
    • Washing the glass on the front door. Does anyone even know there's a handle that can be used to open the door?
    I'm definitely going to give my household efforts a bit more thought in the future. After all, no one would believe I'm "always cleaning" once they see my house!

    Share your thoughts. What household chores do you consider a waste of time and effort?