Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Grateful for Second Chances. And Thirds. And Fourths.

Remember when I challenged myself to blog every day? What crazy pills was I taking? How do people blog every day? It's beyond me. So here's the down and dirty gratitude list of the missed days:

- Thankful for scoring free Portland Trailblazer tickets (through a client of The Man) and watching them stomp all over the muddied carcases of the Chicago Bulls. It was a doosy of a game and I loved every minute of it. From the babysitter, to the expensive but close parking, to the FREE tickets (did I mention they were free?) I had the best time. Later, The Man apologized for not being more chatty during the game. I hadn't noticed. I was drinking in the bigger than life arena, the skill of the ridiculously gigantic players, the Dr. Pepper in my cup holder.... I was on cloud 120 (that was the ridiculous score of the Blazers achieved during the game). It was totally awesome.

- Thankful for friends. I have the best friends. And they are good to me. Really. I'm totally undeserving.

- Thankful for the little Man's new favorite phrase - "Poopoo in the tub mama" because (this is really the only really good thing to come from this new fascination, because frankly, I get really annoyed every time he says or does it) it will be good blackmail when he's engaged to some fantastic girl, and we're looking through photo albums and reminiscing about old stories, and I say, "Remember Little Man when you used to poop in the tub? And you talked about it incessantly? And you wouldn't stop talking or doing it for like a couple months? Remember that?" And he'll feel uncomfortable and she'll be speechless and I'll be laughing. That's the ray of sunshine here.

And finally,

- Thankful for The Man coming home early today to start the Thanksgiving festivities. We are so lucky. Even when we're unlucky, we're lucky.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!

Poopoo in the tub!! Good one!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gratitude Day 4: My Grandpa's Pipes

My Grandpa was quite a character. The only man I knew that owned more silk jackets and white leather shoes than I own diapers. For the record, I own lots of diapers. He always wore his hats at a jaunty tilt and had a joke, sometimes with a four-letter word in the punch-line, at the tip of his tongue. He was so fun to be around and made everyone around him feel happy. He was the kind of Grandpa that hid candy bars around his den, and would take us to McDonalds whenever he was in charge. He bought blue soda in bulk (hand it to the Canadian grocery stores) and when he couldn't remember your name he called you "Gorgeous" if you are a girl and "Handsome" if you were a boy. No one corrected him when he forgot their name. He drove a little red and white scooter around town as a retired senior citizen and loved to strike terror in the hearts of neighborhood wildlife and house pets. Otherwise a non-aggressive guy, he did love to shoot crows. From his balcony. In his underwear. I miss him.


For the record, I stole this picture from my cousin Carly's Blog - thanks Carly!

He had a career in radio and his voice could melt butter. He and my Grandma performed together (he sang and she accompanied him on the piano) and performed at many venues, especially retirement homes, weddings, funerals and church functions. They made a CD a while back, and I love to listen to it during the holidays. It reminds me where I came from and helps me remember him. In his underwear. Shooting crows. I miss him.

He passed away two years ago. The funeral was lovely and unforgettable. At the end we played a recording that he had prepared for his funeral long before he was even sick. At first I thought that perhaps singing at your own funeral would be strange and I wondered if people would think it slightly gauche. True to form, the beginning of the recording was my grandpa saying, "If you're listening to this, I'm gone now. And whether I'm going to heaven or hell, I'm sure I'll see many of you there" which preceded a beautiful version of the old gospel anthem "Going Home." The idea that we were departing from a beloved grandpa and had his own voice soothing and comforting us while celebrating his life, was very therapeutic and moving.

Fast forward to today: Sundays are usually chaotic around here. We attend Sunday afternoon church and my kids usually have quiet times/naps during that time. By the time the sun sets, my children resemble manic depressive rabid monkeys on uppers. Tonight, between time-outs and food fights I turned on my grandpa's CD and just sat. The Red Baron came and sat on my lap, and the Little Man soon followed. His soothing voice, repeating the songs that I loved as a rabid monkey, spoke to my children somehow, and they both calmed down. It was only a moment, but I know they heard him and something tells me they recognized his voice. Maybe he and the Little Man high-fived while passing in heaven (Grandpa died 2 months before the Little Man was born). I hope the Little Man got some good jokes out of him while there too. Something to make me secretly laugh, but publicly send him to time-out. Because I'm sure the jokes are inappropriate for even monkeys.

So today, I'm grateful for my Grandpa's pipes.

* I'm trying to figure out how to upload my very favorite song onto this blog. If anyone knows how to do that, please tell me and I will forever be indebted to you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gratitude Day 3: Surprises

Since being "stuck in the mud" I've decided that I need to work harder at making my life a little more spontaneous and magical. But I've decided that the organic surprises (aka ones you don't fabricate yourself) that pop up naturally are the best way of un-sticking oneself. Today's organic surprises:

1) Finding out The Red Baron is way tougher than she looks when it comes to weather. Went for a walk today with her, and she wanted to go further and further in the pouring rain, with inadequate gear (thanks to her ill-prepared parents). A very pleasant surprise for this Northwest family.


2) My husband is a machine when it comes to basement organization. A huge surprise.

It's just funny that right when you feel like you know someone really well (my child and husband), you find these hidden talents. Just kind of keeps me on my ill-maintained, unpolished toes.

In other news, the Little Man is getting more and more in the thick of incivility and toddlerhood and I'm starting to feel like I can't take him anywhere. But in the spirit of this gratitude post, I'm grateful that he's really cute.

I should really be a propaganda spinner.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gratitude Day 2: Babies

Today I'm grateful for babies. Other people's babies. Ok, ok, and my own.

Today I watched my friend's gorgeous little girls, which was so much fun. The older daughter played with my kids, which kept them all occupied and I got to hold the infant. Which was so fun. It's been a while (approximately 22 months give or take) since I could just sit and stare at a baby, and I forgot how fascinating that is. It's somehow very soothing like watching a fish tank at the dentist's office.

And I remembered: it's so much fun to hold other people's babies. I've become so consumed with my own babies, I really haven't held other people's babies in what seems like forever. Usually it's the last thing I even think of. But lately I've found myself gravitating to them. The promise of that baby smell, without the responsibility of producing that baby smell (my babies naturally smelled more like rotten milk or last week's diaper bucket), has been slightly magnetic. And I thought, "I should baby-sit more often for this friend of mine, this is so much fun." I need to also mention here that this particular baby is the smiliest, most mellow baby ever. Even her cry is cute and her puckered lower lip to show distress is the most delightful thing you've ever seen. It's like she's some kind of tron-baby.

And it made me miss this stage of my own kids. They were beautiful babies, if I do say so myself. And I realized that part of this gratitude theme is to appreciate what I have now. Today. And today I have two very opinionated toddlers that would launch into hysterics to know that I still refer to them as my babies. The Little Man's eye-brows would disappear over the crest of this forehead and the Red Baron would actually turn red, and it would be all over for me. So today I am grateful for holding other people's babies and for having held my own. They really were quite something.
The Red Baron with her first traces of red. 1 mo.

The Little-ist Man of them all. 1 week

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Miss Me?

The Little Man has a couple choice words/phrases right now, which have provided ample entertainment:

"STOP!" Shouted with both arms out, and eyebrows arched beyond health.
"NO TOUCH!" Shouted with both arms out, eyebrows arched beyond health and a vehemence reserved for Eastern European dictators during war crime trials. This phrase is especially used when The Man around here puts the moves on me.
But mostly he says,
"STUCK IN THE MUD!" to just about everything and everyone. This is a fan favorite and applicable to any scenario.

But mostly, this is how I've felt lately on a very minor level. I've felt stuck in the proverbial mud of anticipation and energylessness (not a word, but should be). I would love to blame oinking fever but let's be honest, at this point it's my laziness, pressure of the holidays and perhaps the gloomy realities of the weather setting in. I've even had some real doosies to write about but haven't had the time, focus, or technical support to execute. My computer is still acting out and my camera is driving me crazy. But those are all just excuses. Again, this is such a mild case of stuck-in-the-mud irritation that if it were a soap they wouldn't even put a sensitive skin warning on it. So not to worry, this Pieface is not suffering. I'm just stuck in the mud.

So, to liven things up a bit I'm going to challenge myself to blog every day for the rest of the month on the theme of gratitude. Beyond being appropriate and timely, I think the gratitude shovel might be the best thing to get me out of my muddy mess. Lately, whenever I get ready to wind up and pitch myself into hurricane winds of complaining, I realize - wait a minute, these really aren't problems. My camera doesn't sync with my computer? COME ON PIEFACE!! You've got to come up with bigger problems than THAT! This country is in two wars and there's no cure for cancer for crying out loud!! If you're going to complain, vent about despair, or pain, or the loss of hope. But save your techno-dinosaur dance for another day.

So here we go:

Today, I am grateful for TECHNOLOGY (picture Kip, Napoleon Dynamite's brother serenading you right now). Even though it can be perplexing, I'm sure I would be lost without it. And you wouldn't be able to see the Red Baron's new look. Watch out Tyra.

The Red Baron's Small Smile

The Red Baron's Medium Smile

The Red Baron's Big Smile

My Favorite Eastern European dictator ever

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Having "The Talk" With My Stuff

It is one of life's great ironies that as soon as you can't do something, you want to do that thing all the more. And I'm afraid that I fall victim to wanting what I can't have all the time. Except in my case it's practically debilitating. As soon as an option is off the table, I am dead set on it and my brain does mental cartwheels and triple sow-cows until I can get this unattainable thing in my humongous, amazon hands. It's a sickness really and most recently it happened while I had swine flu.

I had just finished reading Peter Walsh's book "It's All Too Much - So Get It Together" about how getting rid of stuff leads to a better life, and then BAM! Swine flu drained my energy and my desire to even stay upright, let alone comb my attic and flush out my basement. While the book is geared toward the juvenile reader (and let's be honest - if I'm anything, I'm immature) and despite the continuous references to cleaning out your locker and returning your friend's Seventeen Magazine collection, the theories in this book were completely applicable to me as a home owner and mom. But suddenly because of my case of oinking fever, I couldn't implement these uncluttering truths and it was killing me. Not because I am unhinged at messiness (quite the opposite unfortunately), but because I was suddenly physically incapable of doing it. In my blurred vision and 102 degree fevers, I should have envisioned steaming cups of tea and warm comforters, not mislabeled boxes under my bed and mysteriously full garbage bags in my crawl-space.

See how complicated I am?

I've recovered from oinking and I'm trying to focus my pent up organizational energy with a vengeance.

But there's a problem: I've learned that I assign feelings to inanimate objects. These aren't just objects with emotions, they are much more than that. They are wedding gifts, mementos from the past, nay - they are members of the family. The guilt is pretty thick, like I'm letting them down, if I even think of clearing things out. Because my relationship with my stuff is like my relationship with people. And since no one is perfect and every relationship can be improved upon, I tend to give my stuff more lee-way that it deserves. So, it shouldn't really matter what the differences are between me and my unused fondue pot; everything can be resolved with some quality time and mutual respect. If I just focus less on my needs and hone in on the needs of my still-in-the-box kettle corn turner, somehow we can make it work.

But the personification of my stuff doesn't stop there. Whenever I take pictures of things to list on Craiglist, part of me feels like I'm taking photos at a funeral and in my head I hear "We have gathered here today to reflect on our dear friend, the futon." I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to add the line "to a good home" when writing the selling descriptions. Once while a Craigslist patron was looking at our old kitchen table, she expressed that she wasn't interested, and I got offended. All of the sudden I was thinking--with an Italian accent and punctuating my imaginary thoughts with double hand gestures--"What? You think you're better than this table? You think that this table that fed my children isn't good enough for you? Move along, this table doesn't even want to go home with the likes of yous." That's probably when I knew I had a problem.

Peter Walsh to the rescue! He says that we need to change the relationship with our stuff in order to successfully de-clutter not only our homes but our lives, and I knew as soon as I read those words, he was talking directly to me. So I've been having the talk with my stuff and there are some key lines I've been using to move things along. "It's not you, it's me" to lessen the blow. "You're going to a better place" to seal the fate. "You'll be happier where you will see the light of day" to illuminate the bright side. Last but not least, "We'll always have Maui." And I have to say, as strange as it is to admit publicly that I'm having to verbally define my relationships with my stuff in the same way that one would speak to a romantic interest, I am loving the feeling of closure and release.

I know I have a long road ahead (I'm tormented with my inability to provide solace to my 6th grade "Save the Whales" t-shirt), but I'm fairly proud of the two huge garbage bags full of stuff that is going to Goodwill this week and the stack of boxes that I've sentenced to recycling. It's a good start for me.

And as I escorted those garbage bags of stuff out to the back of my car, I could feel my house breathe a sigh of relief that I was finally lightening her heavy burden.

"You're welcome house," I said.

"Just call me Bernice." She replied.

10/20/06 - Computer Desk... and friend.
02/17/09 - Kitchen Table, looking especially dressed up.
10/20/06 - RIP Futon, may you continue to help people sit or sleep, which ever they prefer.