Thursday, June 30, 2005

Musings as my children turn another year older

I've come to a conclusion about something. I have great children. I've have seen subtle evidence of this over the past couple of weeks.

As I've mentioned, Allison's new passion is the rock wall at the gym. She has amazed me at how far she has come, but something has amazed me even more than how far she climbs. I watch how she interacts with the others there. She is always chatting with someone, girls and boys, like she's known them forever. She helps others with getting their harnesses on before they take their turn. She will stand there and root for the others, calling out to them "Keep it up!" as they scale upwards, or "Great job!" as they come down, no matter how high they might have gotten. She is quite the little motivator, and I see a leader. Here is my show-off picture. I finally remembered to bring the camera with me!

Samantha, although she is three years younger, is decidedly more compassionate and emotional than her sister. Not that Ally isn't emotional and compassionate, but she is more of a head-thinker than a heart-thinker. Just yesterday I had thought I dropped one of my diamond earrings down our sink drain, and after moaning about it for a few minutes (Bret was amazed that I only said "God Dammit" vs. the other things I might have said. See she can learn some restraint!), Sam came up to me, said "sorry mama," and rubbed my back. What a beautiful gesture from a 5 year old! A week or so ago at the mall, they have this small play area for the kids to romp around in. She was also helpful, offering a hand to other children who wanted to get up on top of the equipment the way she had. She also loved playing with the babies crawling around, but I think that is because she doesn't have a younger sibling and never gets to be in the older sibling position (and NO, since you all might be thinking it, there will never be an opportunity for her to be an older sibling!).

Both of their birthdays were last week. Samantha was so excited to be turning 5! Because she finally was old enough to try to rock wall, just like her sister! She is in the black, but I took it from further away to show the perspective of how well she did on her first try:

So here I sit, as the birthday excitement from the huge party fades into the distance, and I listen to my children in the other room, another year older, alternating screaming and playing with each other. And I love the sound. You always hear of mothers saying they never want their kids to grow up. I, for one, want them to. I love watching them grow and evolve. I am excited and anxious to see their successes and their failures, and see how they deal with both. To see the sort of adults they will become, and to see the lives they make for themselves someday.

If how they are now is any foreshadowing into how they will be as adults, well then all I can say is this:

I have great children.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A "P.S" to Seeing It Again

OK, so we are now on the last movie. At least of the ones we own.

I, of course, have been reading the intros that come across the screen for each episode. Bret read the first one, and included the "...." at the end.

So, after I read each one, both kids in unison say "dot dot dot dot."

God I love my children!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Seeing It Again For The First Time

The time had finally come. While at a good friend's home last week, my girls saw a glimpse of "Star Wars, Episode 3" (of course I will not divulge how they got the copy, or who they are. Big Brother is watching, don'tcha know?). They were SO into it, and asking SO many questions, I figured it was now time to introduce them to the movies that of course Bret and I were brought up with. Since they survived the ending of the most recent movie, they would be just fine with the 1977 one. Besides, they both have spent several hours co-piloting their father during his 2 Star Wars video games.

So for our weekly family night, the movie was "A New Hope". I have never remembered it being so much fun to watch! I know the reason for this was watching it with them. They gasped at the opening scene where Vader first enters. They continued to gasp at every twist and turn and surprise. They thought Leia was SO pretty, and kicked butt when she had a blaster in her hands. They both tried to speak like a Wookie. There was a loud "YAY!" when the Death Star exploded (by all four of us).

I was grinning through the whole thing. I remember being just as captivated by the movie the first time I saw it. I reminded them that we had 5 more of them to see. They couldn't wait. So the next day we watched "Empire". My older daughter kept asking if Luke was going to die. That got a bit old after the 5,000th time, so I told her yes. She got the hint. ;-) She also made the connection that Vader is Luke's father, though I think she figured it out from watching 15 minutes of Episode 3. She said it was because Luke was cute, and that Vader was cute before he became Vader. Ah, that's my girl. Making the important connections. :-))

My younger daughter didn't grasp everything the same way, but of course that will come in time. She did pick up more than I expected however. She commented at the end of Empire (after the Falcon escaped), that "someone was going to get choked over this.."- OMG I laughed so hard!

And so, a new generation of Star Wars begins in my family. And why wouldn't it? Any child of the 70's knows that Star Wars is a staple- like food or water. Not raising your children with the Star Wars movies is like not giving them air. :-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Power of Gratitude

The Transformative Power of Gratitude
Simple practices can reconnect us with the flow of life.
By Kim Ridley

My life was humming along last year when the universe delivered back-to-back wake-up calls. First, I lost my job when the magazine I edited went belly-up. A month later, my father landed in the intensive care unit. It felt as though life were peeling my layers, like a tree being stripped of bark.

Not knowing what else to do, I drove down to my parents' house. Their vulnerability terrified me. I visited my father at the hospital every day, trying to hold back tears as I stood awkwardly by his bed and stroked his thick white hair. At home, I cooked, answered the phone, and washed the dishes. One afternoon, I held my mother's hand as she wept. Its warmth and softness, its aliveness, astonished me. And that's when the most unexpected thought welled up from some fresh chink in my heart: I am so blessed to be here right now.

Suddenly, I felt lucky to have the time to be with my parents, to witness them, which I wouldn't have been able to do if I hadn't lost my job. Now, I had all the time there was.

I felt even more grateful for this gift of time when my father returned home. Grateful for the smallest things: poring over seed catalogues together, watching sitcoms with him, listening to his breathing while he slept in his recliner. Grateful for the cold wind on my face as I cross the supermarket parking lot on an errand for my parents. Grateful for my brother's love and care, for my mother's humanity, for the moon climbing the maple trees outside my old bedroom window.

Looking back, I never would have chosen the crises of my father's illness and losing work I loved. But my parents' vulnerability—and my own—frighten me less these days. Gratitude opened the gates of tenderness—right in the midst of fear and uncertainty.

Since then, I've started making a conscious effort to practice gratitude in some small way every day. When I do, I feel much more connected with the flow of life, instead of isolated and alone in my own struggles and fears.

Gratitude can be a powerfully transformative practice. Psychologists Robert Emmons of U.C. Davis and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami have found that practicing gratitude can actually improve our emotional and physical well-being. Their ongoing Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness has found that people who keep weekly gratitude journals had fewer physical symptoms, exercised more, had a better outlook on life and were more likely to reach their goals. People with neuromuscular disease who practiced daily gratitude "had more high-energy positive moods," felt more connected to others, and felt more positive about life in comparison to a control group.

"Practicing gratitude helps people extract the most out of life," Emmons says. "People can also experience an overall shift to a more benevolent view of the world. I think it's kind of a spiritual shift for some people because it makes them more aware of life as a gift."

To help strengthen my own "gratitude muscle," I asked Emmons and several inspiring practitioners to share their suggestions. Here are daily practices anyone can try.

1. See the giver behind the gift. "We ask people to focus every day on a particular person who provided them with a benefit," Emmons says. That's really what gratitude is. It's not just something you're happy about." It could be anyone from the spouse who made you a perfect cup of coffee this morning to the person who bagged your groceries.

2. Ask yourself three questions every day. A powerful way to cultivate gratitude is to focus on what is really happening in our lives, rather than falling into the traps of complaining and drama, says Gregg Krech, author of "Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self Reflection," and co-founder of the ToDo Institute in Monkton, Vermont. The basic practice of Naikan, which translates to "inside-looking," consists of asking oneself three questions every day: "What have I received today? What have I given? What trouble have I caused?" While Naikan doesn't deny the difficult parts of our lives, it puts things into perspective, says Krech, who asks himself these three questions every evening.

"When I list everything I received and then everything I gave each day, what I have in the giving column is always so much shorter than what's in the receiving column," he says. "As we become aware that we've received so much more than we've given, not only does that cultivate gratitude, it also cultivates often a sense of wanting to give something back to the world."

3. Practice even when you don't feel like it. "One of the mistakes people often make in our culture is thinking you have to feel grateful to practice gratitude," says psychologist Miriam Greenspan, author of Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair. "You can practice anytime—when you feel sorrow, great anxiety over a parent's imminent death, if you have a disabled child. Whatever one can muster at these points as a prayer of gratitude—okay, I'm still breathing, or I have friends who care about me—tips the experience from being immersed unmindfully in one's suffering to moving into the present moment with a more holistic perspective. We see that there is suffering, but there is also this gratitude, and we can hold them together."

4. Make thank-you your mantra. Every moment offers an opportunity for thanks, says Nancy Hathaway, senior dharma teacher at the Kwan Um Zen School and a family mindfulness consultant in Blue Hill, Maine. She uses "thank-you" as a mantra to return to the present moment. "On the first day of spring, I was raking the gravel off the grass. It was hard, and I was starting to complain to myself," Hathaway says. "When I caught myself thinking, I switched over to 'thank you.' I remembered I really wanted to rake, and I wanted springtime. Gratitude practice for me is about letting go of thinking and welcoming in the present moment."

5. Create a simple family ritual. "In our family, every evening when we have dinner, we say our thank you's," says Greenspan. "It's not a formal prayer of any kind, but just what we're grateful for in the moment, and that's all. It brings us back, it's a touchstone to the miracles of life that we may have been overlooking."

6. Bow to life. "I do three bows in the morning," Hathaway says. "The first bow is to my self as part of the universe. The second bow is to my family, children, and friends to acknowledge and appreciate them. The third is bowing to the universal life force and what is. Doing this helps me let go of controlling, and instead open to the flow of life."
Kim Ridley writes about people creating positive social change for Ode magazine and other publications. She is the former editor of Hope magazine, which for nine years reported on people making a positive difference. She is co-editor of 'Signs of Hope: In Praise of Ordinary Heroes.'

Monday, June 13, 2005

I Owe My Mother

Oldie but goodie...
Good thing I've never used these phrases... and this is just in time for my Mom's birthday!
Happy birthday Mom!

1. My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE.

"If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished

2. My mother taught me RELIGION.

"You better pray that will come out of the carpet."

3. My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL.

"If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of
next week!"

4. My mother taught me LOGIC.

" Because I said so, that's why."

5. My mother taught me MORE LOGIC.

"If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're not going to
the store with me."

6. My mother taught me FORESIGHT.

"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."

7. My mother taught me IRONY.

"Keep crying, and I'll give you something to cry about."

8. My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS.

"Shut your mouth and eat your supper."

9. My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM.

"Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!"

10. My mother taught me about STAMINA.

"You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone."

11. My mother taught me about WEATHER.

"This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it."

12. My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY.

"If I told you once, I've told you a million times. Don't exaggerate!"

13. My mother taught me the CIRCLE OF LIFE.

"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

14. My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION.

"Stop acting like your father!"

15. My mother taught me about ENVY.

"There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't
have wonderful parents like you do."

16. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.

"Just wait until we get home."

17. My mother taught me about RECEIVING.

"You are going to get it when you get home!"

18. My mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE.

"If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they are going to freeze that way."

19. My mother taught me ESP.

"Put your sweater on; don't you think I know when you are cold?"

20. My mother taught me HUMOR.

"When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."

21. My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT.

"If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up."

22. My mother taught me GENETICS.

"You're just like your father."

23. My mother taught me about my ROOTS.

"Shut that door behind you. Do you think you were born in a barn?"

24. My mother taught me WISDOM.

"When you get to be my age, you'll understand."

25. And my favorite: My mother taught me about JUSTICE.

"One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you!"

Don't you hate when

you go to hairspray your hair (like what else would you do with it?) and the nozzle is clogged, and when you push the pump you get hairspray in your eyes?

At least they will stay open today...I'm pretty tired.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

19 More Things

More things to think about... this time from a friend safe in the Canadian hills...

Lucky him.

Since George Bush has become president, please ask yourself this if you support his presidency.

1. Has there been more scandal or less in his term? Compared to previous presidents. (Whether you agree or not)
2. Has there been more Americans dead or less?
3. Has the American people's freedoms grown or diminished under his leadership?
4. Have the richest gotten richer? Have the poor gotten poorer?
5. Are their more jobs than before?
6. Has he lead the way in protecting the environment from business interests?
7. Has he brought Americans together more, or has his leadership divided the country?
8. Are the elderly treated better or worse? Do they have better access to prescription drugs and better health care?
9. Are the poor given more opportunity through government programs to retrain and rebuild?
10. Has their been more personal and corporate financial debt or ruin, or has their been less?
11. Is America's persona on the World Stage better or worse?
12. Has Bin Laden been captured? (The staple of his campaign)
13. Is Iraq truly at peace and settled?
14. Has terrorism around the world become a bigger business or less?
15. Have the borders and relations with Canada and Mexico better or worsened?
16. Has America become more welcoming or more insular?
17. Has he been a more open or closed president to media scrutiny?
18. Has Bush been a more honest President or less?
19. Has Bush and his government taken responsibility for mistakes, or made excuses?

Thirty Things

1. My husband and I divorced over religious differences.
He thought he was God and I didn't.

2. I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.

3. I Work Hard Because Millions On Welfare Depend on Me!

4. Some people are alive only because it's illegal to kill them.

5. I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

6. Don't take life too seriously; No one gets out alive.

7. You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me

8. Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

9. Earth is the insane asylum for the universe.

10. I'm not a complete idiot -- Some parts are missing.

11 Out of my mind. Back in five minutes.

12. Nyquil, the stuffy, sneezy, why-the-heck-is-the-room-spinning

13. God must love stupid people; He made so many.

14. The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

15. Consciousness: That annoying time between naps.

16. Ever stop to think, and forget to start again?

17. Being "over the hill" is much better than being under it!

18. Wrinkled Was Not One of the Things I Wanted to Be When I
Grew up.

19. Procrastinate Now!

20. I Have a Degree in Liberal Arts; Do You Want Fries With That?

21. A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

22. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance

23 Stupidity is not a handicap. Park elsewhere!

24. They call it PMS because MadCow Disease was already taken.

25. He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless dead.

26. A picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up three
thousand times the memory.

27. Ham and eggs. A day's work for a chicken, a lifetime
commitment for a pig.

28. The trouble with life is there's no background music.

29. The original point and click interface was a Smith and Wesson.

30. I smile because I don't know what the hell is going on.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Escaping the heat and blowing off steam

Ah, the 'ol rec center. Where I am spending a couple hours just about every day this summer. At least so far. I'm only about two weeks into summer vacation, but we pretty much have a routine.

We get there, I drop off Sam in the kids corner, then Ally and I check in. She runs the track or plays video games until the climbing wall opens. I go upstairs and play hampster for awhile (this means either the treadmill or the elliptical).

But the main event is when the rock wall opens. Ally is hooked.

It's been fun watching her take it on. Seeing her think through the puzzle of where to put her foot next, where she can reach. All ready in two weeks she's made such an improvement on how high she can go.

Her sister sits and watches, and complains that she can't do it yet. I tell her to be patient- in just two weeks she will be able to try it herself. She always wants to take on everything her sister does, then gets frustrated because she just isn't physically capable of doing it just like her big sister. Oh it's so rough being the younger one!

As for me, spending 5 or 6 days a week there has helped me in all sorts of ways. More energy, less pudge. What more could a mom with her kids home all day during swimsuit season want? :-)

Morality and Social Responsibility

More thoughts from one of my favorite independent thinkers! (And I am not just saying that because he loves my sister-in-law... :-) )

I'm not a Democrat. But I am part blowhard, part fragile flower, part nutbag, and part reverend (from the back or Rolling Stone Magazine circa 1970).
And I am a Liberal/Progressive/Whatever - all, of course, depending on your/my definition. I believe in "Morality" and the idea of it's polymorphous permutations. I believe in Social Responsibility. And I believe that any superior society should have the heart - and does have the wherewithal - to take care of those that can't take care of themselves. It's all about morals and whether you have them or not..

It is very disheartening to me that the only way that some people can relate moral behavior in this morally-confused country/world is through religion. And my big problem with that is: If the only reason you are being "moral" or ethical is because you want to have your seat saved in heaven - then you aren't, by what I understand of "gods" design, being ethical or moral at all. How can someone "love" his neighbor and not actually be moral? I dunno. I guess that depends on how someone defines the morality of "love."

If someone acts "moral" only because he feels that if he does not, that he will be forever sentenced to hades - then I don't think he is being truly moral. Is Morality the belief in doing the right thing..? Or is it doing, or not doing, the specific thing that will award you a place in the golden hereafter..? Or is that being an ethics whore? - prostituting your behavior to an institution and their beliefs.

Do these "moral' people think they can trick or fool their god? Is this certain god, that these vapid people believe in, so stupid or short sighted that he/she doesn't see the depth of who we are? - as shallow as that might be in some people.

Obviously the idea of "Morality" is tricky business. But it seems to me that "Morality" must include the golden rule, and the basic freedom to believe whatever you might want to believe, and do whatever you might want to do, as long as none of this hurts anyone. Of course this is where it gets tricky. I like to wear my Spider-Man T-Shirt and speedos around the house, even when it's cold - some may find that immoral... certainly tasteless.

I hear from friends that say they hate discussing Politics. Personally, I am disgusted by the tenets of what we call Politics... but I also know that it's the process used in this world, by which a lot of the important things get accomplished... so I persevere.

Lately I've watched these new Republicans pompously and arrogantly lie, using more lies about their morals to justify their actions. And I've watched their followers come up with every excuse they can to justify following these ideologues. I've watched the Democrats snivel and whine with their tail between their legs... and come up with their own excuses for being cowards.

Most of us are not Polititions. We're just people. And we are all being manipulated by a cadre of supreme manipulators, including a copiously complicit media. And to persevere, we absolutely need to be/get involved. This is a place to start. If you think you're a moral person... then be one.


Saturday, June 04, 2005

A quote to muse about

"We do not attract what we want, but what we are."

~James Lane Allen

People come in and out of our lives for different reasons at different times. What I tend to notice about myself, is that the greatest people enter my life when I need to take a good hard look at the path I'm on, or have wandered away from.

A reminder, if you will, of who I really am and who I want to be. Once I'm back on my path, some leave, and some stay. Some are just crazy enough to stay for the long haul. :-) But I believe that every person you meet and make a connection with has a reason they have come into your life, and a purpose for you.

Another quote- taped to my monitor:

"If, in your course, you don't meet
your equal, your better,
then continue your course

There's no fellowship with fools."

~Dhammapada 6

A code of ethics we should all follow

Native American Code of Ethics

1. Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. The Great Spirit
will listen, if you only speak.

2. Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit,
anger, jealousy and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will
find guidance.

3. Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not allow others to make your
path for you. It is your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with
you, but no one can walk it for you.

4. Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve
them the best food, give them the best bed and treat them with
respect and honor.

5. Do not take what is not yours whether from a person, a community,
the wilderness or from a culture. It was not earned nor given. It is not

6. Respect all things that are placed upon this earth - whether it be
people or plant.

7. Honor other people's thoughts, wishes and words. Never interrupt
another or mock or rudely mimic them. Allow each person the right to
personal expression.

8. Never speak of others in a bad way. The negative energy that you
put out into the universe will multiply when it returns to you.

9. All persons make mistakes. And all mistakes can be forgiven.

10. Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice

11. Nature is not FOR us, it is a PART of us. They are part of your
worldly family.

12. Children are the seeds of our future. Plant love in their hearts and
water them with wisdom and life's lessons. When they are grown,
give them space to grow.

13. Avoid hurting the hearts of others. The poison of your pain will
return to you.

14. Be truthful at all times. Honesty is the test of ones will within this

15. Keep yourself balanced. Your Mental self, Spiritual self,
Emotional self, and Physical self - all need to be strong, pure and
healthy. Work out the body to strengthen the mind. Grow rich in
spirit to cure emotional ails.

16. Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you
will react. Be responsible for your own actions.

17. Respect the privacy and personal space of others. Do not
touch the personal property of others - especially sacred and
religious objects. This is forbidden.

18. Be true to yourself first. You cannot nurture and help others if
you cannot nurture and help yourself first.

19. Respect others religious beliefs. Do not force your belief on

20. Share your good fortune with others. Participate in charity.

Author unknown

Thursday, June 02, 2005

YEA! meeee....

"Mom, I'm bored."
"Mom, I'm hungry."
"MOM! She hit me!"
"Well, she did it first!"


Dear God. Who is this 'Mom', and why do they keep calling her? Didn't I just spend three hours with them at the Rec center, letting them run around like lunatics while I ran 3 miles on the elliptical? And why, even though I was running, did I not get away?

And yesterday, another three hours at the pool. Hoping to sweat them into a sleepy submission. Not a chance. All I have to show for it are red shoulders.

Oy... it's gonna be a long ass summer. Which is why I will have plenty of THIS on hand: