Monday, November 16, 2009

Is this thing on?

I started writing this little blog a few months ago just to stretch my writing muscles again and see if I rememberd how to turn a phrase. And over that time, I've collected a few loyal readers, probably 10 in all, and a few casual readers from Facebook and my small town. And out of the dozen or so who do read my blog, I'm probably related to a quarter of you. I am not complaining -- just the opposite. I am thankful that anyone reads my blog. I haven't done any of those things that "they" tell you to do to get my blog noticed. I've been pretty happy to just exist over here in my little corner and hear from a few of my Facebook friends every now and then about how much they loved my last post.

When I hear that someone likes a post of mine, it is exhilarating. Of course it's also terrifying, because when I am writing I don't always remember that this is not a "private" blog and that really anybody in the world who knew how to find it could read it. When my hubby's grandmother commented the other day, I did a double take. My first thought, was "Oh my word, I hope I didn't write anything inappropriate." My second thought was, "Wow! I can't believe 'Granny B' reads my blog."

My own parents do not read my blog, much less my grandfather. My father uses e-mail and checks out the latest trends in golf equipment on the internet, but he's not really one to read a blog. And my mother, well, she won't even turn a computer on, much less get on it to read a blog. She feels her life is complete without a computer. I know, that's crazy, right? I can't imagine life without one, but to each his own. She's assured me that if I were to print it out and send it to her via the U.S. Post Office, she would read it. And I've assured her that won't be happening while I have three children at home, and we're both okay with that. Maybe I should just e-mail it to Daddy and make him print it out and have her read it. But then I would have to stop talking about my mother, and that wouldn't be fun at all. Just kidding. Well, sort of.

So, my hubby, a few cousins, some friends from Facebook and residents of the 'Ville read it, but that's about it. But yesterday, I am pretty sure I got my first honest-to-goodness comment from a random stranger here at the Creek. It is embarrassing to know how excited I got. Really. I mean, I know that I have readers because you tell me you read me when we are at places like Halloween parties, but not a lot of you comment. That's okay dear beloved readers, I am not trying to guilt you into commenting on my blog. No. Really. I'm not. It's just that The Pioneer Woman gets oh, I don't know, 1,500 comments on her blog daily, so I'm feeling a little insecure.

Now I realize that comparing myself to the "Queen of Blogging" is probably not an accurate yardstick, or healthy, or any of those things, but for those of you who've been reading me for more than five minutes, you know that I enjoy making myself a little crazy.

Have you read the Pioneer Woman's blog? You should. She is awesome. She makes me want to chuck it all and go live on a ranch with my four children and cowboy husband and homeschool and take never-ending pictures of cows and cowboys on horses, all while I am riding a horse. Oh, what's that you say? I don't have a cowboy husband and I only have three children, and I like having pizza delivered to my house (since I couldn't get it delivered the first 18 years of my life), and I love Tennessee and never want to live anywhere else, and besides, I tend to fall off horses, just ask my cousins Lisa & Jessica? Oh yeah? Well, you've obviously never read the Pioneer Woman.

So, I know I don't have the power to make you want to move to another part of the country and take up ranching, but apparently I do have the power to make at least one person surf in from the blogosphere and like my blog enough to comment on it. And today, that's enough for me. I may not get 1,500 comments on my post about my dog, but by golly Stephanie from Momma's Soapbox, found me somehow, read me and made a comment that said she liked me, she really liked me. Well, not in so many words, but I know how to interpret these things. Keep reading and posting, loyal readers, keep reading and posting (and you could always tell your friends, too.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Failing with Aplomb -- Apparently it's just part of my personality.

Dear readers, I know it's cliched and reeks of martyrish? martyresque? martyrdom? (you know what I mean) behavior and all that, but sometimes I do wonder why I even try. Yes, I know this is the mantra of many a mother out there, but seriously I just need to expect failure in certain areas.

Remember those personality tests I've been taking? Well, one of the things I've learned is that in addition to my lovely traits such as being bubbly, charismatic, outgoing, compassionate, easygoing, persuasive (shall I go on?), I can also be disorganized, easily distracted, self-indulgent, undisciplined, lacking in follow through and undependable meeting deadlines (Enough already! My ego cannot take it.)

Actually, it's a big fat lie to say I've just figured this out about myself. The fact is, I've known it for years. Maybe I'm just now old enough to embrace all the parts of my personality, work with who I am and what I want to be, and not sign up for things that aren't a good fit for me, like say, anything having to do with details or organization. Okay, I'm good with being the big picture person who comes up with the creative ideas that I need others to implement. We all play our roles.

But, what does one do when she's the mother of three and is responsible for eleventy-hundred* details in her children's lives, but she has issues with disorganization and follow through? She tries, dear readers, she really does, but as you can imagine, she fails quite often and sometimes quite spectacularly. Like, say, when the school has a Veteran's Day program that requires her child to wear particular articles of clothing.

A month ago the kind music teachers at our school let us know there would be a Veteran's Day program at school this year. Now, unlike many areas of the country, Veteran's Day is a big deal in our little town. There is a parade, there is a breakfast honoring our Vets, there is a program at school. That's how we roll here in the 'Ville, and we love it. Two years ago the Veteran's Day program from our school was held at a mega church in the town next to us and our sweet little elementary-aged cherubs sang with that church's symphony, and there were pictures of all the Vets that the children were related to on-screen, along with their branch of service and what war they fought in. There was even a picture of a British soldier who is related to a family at our school, and we all thought it was wonderful. Yes, we even recognize our Allies on Veteran's Day here in the 'Ville. And let me tell you, that night there was not a dry eye in the house. Not one!

So, this year's program was not quite that elaborate (I'm pretty sure the music teacher can only do that once every 5 years or so, because it was a production!), but it was still important nonetheless. A month before the program we were told that our patriotic children had to wear navy pants and either a white or red shirt. Nothing fancy. In this economy, they didn't want any one worrying about having to buy extra special clothes, just basic solids from your drawer.

Well, since my 9-year-old has grown more than three inches since the summer, he did not have any navy pants that fit, so it was off to the store for me. I didn't mind at all. He needed some new church pants. Now, you've got to realize that going to the store ONE WHOLE MONTH EARLY, is amazing, unbelievable, absolutely fantastic for me. I do not shop a month early for things such as this. I usually go out the night before and run all over town crying tears of panic, because I can't find pants in the right size. That's how I roll. But alas, dear readers, I have determined to add "margin" to my life to help tamp the crazies down just a little, because there is no reason for me to be crazy if I just plan ahead -- or so I tell myself.

So, off to the Target to buy pants. Precious son tries them on and for some reason these size 10 pants are 4 inches too long on my gangly son who is only about 4 or 5 inches shorter than me. Wow, wasn't expecting that. Guess I have to take those back. But I hate taking stuff back to Target since they've become the receipt Nazis, and they try to guilt me into using a credit card to purchase things, so they can keep up with my receipts (since I can't), when I much prefer using my cash envelopes, thank you very much. So, two weeks later (still two weeks ahead of the game) I take them back and buy a pair of 8s. They look like big 8s, so I think they will fit. A week or so later, I remember to try them on my son. As I am sliding on pants that now look overly big, I spot the H next to the size 8. Yep, I bought the size 8 husky pants. Crap, I say (or something like that), I have to go back to Target and return something AGAIN! Oh well, I can do it.

I remember to take back pants the day before the dress rehearsal and exchange them for regular 8s. I just know these will fit, right? I mean, the 10s were 4 inches too long, surely the 8s will be just right. I remember to try them on my precious first born that night after he got home from Scouts. Too small. As in, he would have gone all day without using the bathroom, so he wouldn't have had to button them again small. But, God bless my boy, he was thrilled to have them. They were, after all, the blue pants he had to wear to school for the dress rehearsal the next day.

It is now 8:30 at night, my husband is out of town, and my son's pants, the pants he has to wear the next day, do not fit. Yes, he could have squeezed into them for two days, but then he would have never worn them again, and I'm not throwing $15 bucks down the drain! So what do I do? Go to good ol' Facebook wherein a flurry of messages begins with my school mom friends, and I find out that very dark jeans are acceptable. SCORE!!!

Next morning I tell my son to wear his dark jeans and red shirt, wherein he has a meltdown. Complete and total. He is slightly hysterical in telling me that Mrs. H said "No jeans!" So I tell him that I will go the Wal Marts just up the road and find him a pair that fits and will bring it to him at school before the program. "NO!" he screams, and tells me he is not allowed to change his pants, only his shirt at school. So, being the awesome mom that I am who handles fits such as these in a mature and loving manner, I tell him he can wear his dark jeans or no pants to school. It is totally up to him. I'm sure you're surprised to hear he wore the jeans.

So, true to my word, I run out to the Wal Marts and find a pair that really look like they will fit. My Mom and Dad get to town, and Mom and I go to the program while Dad keeps Little Bit at home. I take the pants. My Mom, being the awesome "I" personality like me says, "Don't worry about it. He's fine now. It'll be too much hassle." Seeing half of the other kids wearing track pants and green t-shirts to the dress rehearsal, I agree. This, I will find out later, was a mistake.

After the performance I go see him and tell him how proud I am and what an awesome job he did and maybe -- just maybe -- he should sing when he is up on stage doing his synchronized flag waving routine with the blue plates, and we all go home happy.

Now, my Mom and Dad have come into town because I cannot go to the actual program Thursday night. When I say "can't go" what I actually mean is "don't want to go." You see, there is this awesome thing called Christmas Village going on, and I am part of the group that puts it on. For the last 13 years, I have volunteered at the show and have even served on the board pre-children. I get a free ticket to Sneak-A-Peek every year, which is the pre-show where they sell wine and lovely ladies shop and there are no strollers or crying babies or people I want to put the smack-down on because they've snatched up the last of whatever I was just looking at.

Sneak-A-Peek is one of my favorite events of the year. And when the school sent out an e-mail concerned about fitting everyone into our tiny gym for the performance, and added a performance, and split people up into alphabetical order to decide when they could see said performance, and even asked parents to come during the day to dress rehearsal instead of the performance if they could, I figured I was golden. Mom and I would go to the rehearsal, dad would take son to performance while mom babysat girls, and I would go shopping. Fool-proof plan, right? Not exactly.

I ran around yesterday afternoon getting ready. I washed red shirt and new navy pants (which fit) and got them ready for the performance. I even got the basketball outfit ready for his practice that was after the performance. I ordered pizza for my precious angel son to eat an hour and 15 minutes before the performance, and I got ready to leave. I told precious angel son that his clothes were on his bed, ready and waiting. I said this to him while he and my father were watching the Golf Channel. I made precious angel son look at me and respond that, yes ma'am, he understood that his performance clothes and basketball clothes were on the bed ready and waiting for him when he needed them. I gave my mom, who was downstairs, directions for my girls and then headed off to get Amy to go shopping.

It was awesome, it was blissful, it was all that was good about Sneak-A-Peek. Amy drank wine and handled me talking to every other person in the crowd with grace. She just left me to go shop, and then I called her to find her. It worked really well. We should do it again next year, Amy.

So, I return home triumphant from my shopping excursion at almost 11. My mom tells me that my son didn't go to basketball practice after the performance because he was tired, and I could care less. Don't blame him. Didn't really expect him to, but I got him prepared anyway, because I am an awesome mom. I ask my mother if dad liked the performance and if he could see him. I was a little worried he wouldn't be able to see his grandson in the sea of faces, because I had forgotten to tell him where said grandson was going to be standing. Mom said that Daddy had no trouble at all seeing him, because he said, "He was the only one in a blue shirt."

What? Wait. What was that? I thought you said blue shirt. (Internal dialogue: "Don't panic and don't yell at your mother, because you have a tendency to yell at your mother, and it's not what nice grown-up, 36-year-old women should do to the mother they really adore.) That can't be right, because he had to wear a red shirt, remember? I put his long-sleeved RED shirt and navy pants out on the bed for him. Mom gets that completely innocent and puzzled look on her face and says, "Well, you know, I wondered if that was what he was supposed to wear."

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!!! I scamper up to my son's room and the performance outfit was still right there on his bed undisturbed, and the blue graphic ringer t-shirt he wore to school that has some sort of gas station-type logo on it is crumpled on the floor. Yes, my son wore a graphic t-shirt to the Veteran's Day program at school where everyone I know saw him, seeing as how he stands head and shoulders above the rest of his classmates, and you apparently couldn't miss him BECAUSE HE HAD A BLUE SHIRT ON. My mom did say he remembered his patriotic scarf and had it wrapped around his neck, so it sort of hid the logo. Well, I guess I should be thankful for small favors. All I can say is, "Epic Failure."

Now, I realize dear readers, that wearing the wrong thing to a school program is not, in the grand scheme of things, a big deal. It's just that this is so classic for me and my family it is painful. My son is walking through life with his head so far up in the clouds that I'm surprised he remembers to eat. He is an awesome kid, and I love every inch of him, but he is so much like me it makes me a little crazy. And please don't get me started on the mother I love who would help me kill anyone who hurt my children and hide the bodies. All I can say is I didn't fall far from her "oblivious to details" tree. When she saw the other kids at dress rehearsal in inappropriate clothing, she assumed the blue shirt he had on was fine. And my Daddy, who I love and adore, is not one to notice things like clothes, unless of course you are wearing something showing too much skin or that makes you look hideous, and then he is the first to comment. Needless to say, it was the perfect storm for not getting to the program with the right clothes on. And yes, I totally blame myself. I should have put them on him myself before leaving, but I didn't want pizza sauce all over them.

So that's why, dear readers, I give up. I'm just not worrying about things like dress codes and appropriate attire anymore, because obviously it is an exercise in futility, and I just refuse to beat my head against that brick wall anymore. And next year I'm making Amy drive to Sneak-A-Peek, so I can drink lots of wine so that when I get home to my next failure, it won't matter quite as much. By the way, my friend Lori reminded me on Facebook that only the 3rd-5th grade parents were there, so technically the whole school did not see my epic failure last night. Again, thank goodness for small favors.

* Eleventy-hundred is a real number and it means a whole lot.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sanguine with a Side of Crazy

I just spent the last two and a half hours filling out my PLACE questionnaire. What is a PLACE questionnaire, you say? Let me tell you. It's one of those tests that is supposed to tell you what your personality is, what your spiritual gifts are, what your passions are and where exactly you should be involved in ministry. Those are all the things it is supposed to tell me. What it in fact told me is that my special brand of mental illness is as alive and well as I thought it was.

Is is just me, or are the tests really, really hard. I mean, the test at the eye doctor is bad enough. Bless Dr. Katsaitis' heart, she asks a simple question, "Is your vision better with one or two?" And I remain silent while she flips back and forth calmly saying, one or two. I tell her that I can't pass this test, and she laughs at me, because I AM CRAZY, and assures me in her delightful Greek accent that there is no way to fail this test, because there is no wrong answer. But dear reader, you and I both know that there is a wrong answer and when I pick it I will spend the next year with a prescription that is just off enough to make me squint at anything not one foot from my face.

She goes through this routine every year and just calmly flips back and forth until I sort of squint and guess, and we finally narrow it down to a pair of contacts I can drive in, but will still spend the next year giving myself more wrinkles from all the squinting. At my last appointment I told her that I thought I must have diabetes or a brain tumour, because I just can't freaking see without squinting. Needless to say, she took extra time with me and figured out that I have such a mild case of astigmatism that she can't correct it without over correcting it, because that would be worse than me squinting. Yay for me! My vision stinks, but at least I am not crazy and don't have a brain tumor -- that I know of.

So, dear readers, if you think I get crazy over, "one or two," imagine how crazy I get over personality tests. I hate them. I can never answer them correctly. I know there is a right answer for me, but for the life of me I can't figure it out. I so over think these things it is not even funny. When it asks me to pick the answer that is most typical for me, that makes me want to break out in hysterical cackles. Typical for me? Those words don't really go together. I read the question and remember my reaction to said question in third grade, high school, college, when I was working, when I had my first baby, and then last week when we all had the flu, and I just can't figure out what typical for me is. Honestly, these tests make me want to let somebody saw off the top of my head, root around in there to find the "right" answer and pull it out. That seems like it would be easier and less painful.

I also tend to take these tests knowing what other people think about me. I know most people think I am this big extrovert that loves people and flourishes around large groups, but there are secretly times that I do not want to be around people, and all I want to do is lay on my couch and watch TV or knit or eat candy and not have to talk to anyone (especially anyone under 18) for about three days. So, how exactly am I supposed to answer that question about "loves being the center of attention"? Well, sometimes yes, and sometimes no. And the older I get, the more I am starting not to like people. Is there a question on there about becoming my mother? Because, dear reader, I know exactly how to answer that one!

Okay, and just to add insult to injury, it's not just difficult for me because I can't figure out how to answer. It's also difficult, because I know exactly where my weaknesses are and it points them all out with a flashing, fluorescent arrow. My personal favorite was this one, "In your life, do you: a.) not follow-through and have problems with over committing, b.) are organized and are perfect, c.) are methodical and are perfect, or d.) are unorganized and lack discipline?" Oh dear readers, this one made me laugh out loud. How do you decide if your "suckage" areas are more in the A category or D category *Okay, maybe B and C weren't worded exactly that way, but you know what they meant. You are either A.) organized, detail-oriented and good or B.) unorganized, slothful and bad.

So, what did I do? Called my husband, who's working in a plant in Missouri, to say, "Hey honey, which do I suck at more, not following through and over committing, or being unorganized and undisciplined." To which he laughed and answered, "yes." *Don't worry, I wasn't offended. I really called him so I could laugh, because I knew what the answer would be, because it is true, a little ego bruising, but no less true.

Moving right along, we now get into the spiritual gifts assessment. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it is an assessment a Christian can do to figure out what spiritual gifts you've received through the Holy Spirit. I'm actually excited about this part. I've never formally done a study on this, so I'm curious to find out what my gifts are and how that translates into my life. And no fears, says the questionnaire, no one has all the gifts and everyone has some of the gifts. It also reinforces the idea that no one gift is better than the others. There is a passage in 1 Corinthians 12 that talks about gifts and relates them to body parts. I like this part, "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor." This passage tamps down my special brand of crazy just a little bit. When you are poor at follow-through, organization and discipline, it's nice to know that you are still needed.

So, these questions were based on a 5 point scale, and it warned to try to avoid answer 3 (sometimes) which we all know is the cop-out answer. I ended up with five of them at about the same score, and I'm just not sure I answered right. One of my gifts is prophecy. Who knew? Not me. I guess I'll figure out exactly what that means tomorrow. I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean that I will be seeing any burning bushes in the dessert or get thrown into a lion's den. Please don't misunderstand -- I am not mocking here. I'm just curious about it, because I surely don't feel like a prophet.

In fact, these tests make me feel so insecure and inadequate that I want to go bury my head under my pillow and not do anything, because I realize I stink at so much! But, I really, really, tried to answer honestly. Some where easy to answer honestly. Take for instance this one: "If your church needs someone to host members of a youth group traveling through the area, do you volunteer first?" This I can answer without hesitation, "No, never!" Yes, I can make people feel welcome who visit church with a handshake and smile, but I know I do not have the gift of hospitality, because that would require people spending the night, which would require me cleaning my house and cooking, and dear readers, do we really need to discuss all that again?

There were more questions that were easy to answer, such as "Do you enjoy working with numbers or data and turning into manageable whatever, shmermer, shmermer..." I didn't even read the rest of those questions and gleefully answered, "never," delighting in the fact that I know God did not give me those particular gifts.

No, the hard questions were ones about helping other people, needy people. Sometimes I feel like helping, and sometimes I don't. I think it really depends on my mood and who they are, but that seems harsh to me and not very Christian at all. And it certainly doesn't seem like the answer a little girl raised to be a Southern lady would think, but that's the honest truth. Sometimes I don't want to deal with needy people. Okay, ouch, I figured that one out.

I also figured out that I don't like to do menial tasks, and I don't like to work without getting credit. Wow, I was being painfully honest, because it sounds like what I found out about myself was this, "Look at me, yeah, me over here! I'll help out with your ministry if I can get a little credit and feel good about myself." Yep, apparently that's the bad part of me. I'll let you know what I find out tomorrow and next week about the good part -- especially if it makes me sound better than the narcissistic, selfish person I sound like right now. Well, at least I should get some points for being honest.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shut the Front Door, and Other Expletives

We were watching "Castle" on TV the other night. If you haven't seen it, it's about a male crime writer who shadows a female detective for inspiration on a new series of crime novels he is writing. It could be boring or predictable, but we think it's pretty funny -- corny, but clever and funny. The best part about it? It's not missing a moral compass, which is more than I can say for a lot of shows these days.

Anyway, Beckett, the woman detective, hears something that surprises her, and she says, "Shut the Front Door." Now, while her lips were forming the words "front door" my eyes boggled out of my head and all I could think of was, "I can't believe she is going to say the 'F' word during prime time TV on ABC." I was so relieved when she said, "Shut the Front Door" that I laughed out loud, and it has now become one of my favorite expressions. It's fun to say, and it is SO not offensive, which is more than I can say for a lot of things I have heard and read lately.

I'm not saying I am a prude when it comes to language. Some would even say I have a mild case of the potty mouth. I have been known to say bad things when large objects are dropped onto my smallish toes, or to let a bad word slip when I am angry/stressed/in a hurry/feel like it *cough.* And I've even been known to use a very bad word after a couple of drinks when talking with girlfriends about something that perturbed me to the extreme. *Those of you who were there, shut it! Yes, I know I have changed your view of me forever, and for that I apologize. But it was bound to happen sooner or later. I am not perfect and not really all that prim and proper, although I know at least one of you thought I was.*

My point is that in most cases and in most places, I can be trusted to use pretty good language -- including very good grammar, if I do say so myself. Or if I do slip, it's not going to be something you find offensive in the extreme. I think there is a time and place for everything and that includes language. I've already told you how I feel about using offensive language in writing, some times it's necessary. Yes, even on this blog it might be necessary to use a word that some find offensive from time to time, although I would give fair warning for anyone who might be offended.

However, I can't say the same for some of the other blogs I have been reading lately. I was clicking through reading some blogs last night that were linked to some of my favorite writers, and I found one that was intriguing. It was about raising children, imagine that. While scrolling along reading her latest post, out of nowhere comes the "F" word. Really? I thought. Was that necessary or appropriate? Hmmm, maybe she was having a bad day. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. Then I read a few more posts down the page and there it was again. Wow, I'm thinking, you needed to use the "F" word to describe your child's sports practice? But I think the kicker was the fact that she had compared her child to a completely benign inanimate object early in the post and was afraid her readers would judge her for that. I just kept wondering, who are the readers who are offended that you compared your sick child to something like a rock, but aren't offended by the liberal use of the "F" word.

Okay, I get the fact that a lot of bloggers are concerned about honesty. They want you to know they are just "keepin' it real." They want you to see their real lives and not some Stepford version of it. I get that. I really do. I don't want to write about sunshine and puppies and rainbows all the time, either. I think that would be dishonest. I write about my life, which includes the good, the bad and the ugly.

In the spirit of honesty, I am not afraid to tell you that I am a yeller, and I have often yelled at my precious children, especially during that particularly bad week of the month. I have a temper, and I don't like that about myself. Not. One. Bit. So, I am doing something about it. I am praying every day, studying scripture, holding myself accountable with my Bible study friends, and trying desperately with the help of God not to be the mom that yells all the time, forever and ever, AMEN! I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this, so if my telling you that I lose it and yell at my kids can help you realize you aren't the only one and that spurs you on to do something about, then I don't mind being honest. But dropping the "F" bomb liberally throughout my blog, or worse, saying GD this or GD that just to try to make a point, well I don't think that's being honest. I just think that is offensive. So, if that's you "just keepin' it real," I'd rather not read you. Thanks.

Okay, so maybe I should rethink the whole me not "being prim and proper" thing. Maybe I am more of my mother than I realize. Now there's a woman who takes offense to bad language! But, that's a post for another day.