Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dealing with change

How well do you roll with the punches? Do you see fun, new challenges and adventure behind every change or are you one of those people that resist change with all your might?
I've never been an adventureous person, and change was never a strong point with me. I like knowing what's ahead, and I like knowing what to expect. I don't like any variations from the routine because then I'm afraid something will get missed. It won't get done and life as we know it with be altered forever.
That was before I got married. I didn't realize it at the time, but I married Indiana Jones. Adventure is his middle name. Last minute adjustments to the schedule were something to be expected. Dealing with details at the last minute--or not at all--not a reason to panic. Things were still accomplished. Life continued. He takes all that in stride. Shoot, he creates most of all that change!
I've said before that being married to my husband is like watching him dive out of a plane. I grab onto his shoelace and plummet after him screaming, "Wait! We don't have a parachute!" Quite a shock for a non-change embracing person like me. I have learned to be a little more flexible, though. After twenty-one and a half years of marriage, I've learned to accept most changes. Most of them won't hurt me, life truly does continue, and I will not die if my schedule is skewed a little at the last minute. That still doesn't mean I find changes comfortable. I don't usually hit the ground running after a (figurative) jump out of the airplane. I'll roll a few times and then lay there, taking stock. I stare at the vanishing plane thinking, "I can't believe he did that! I don't want to be here. I want back on the plane!" Then I grumble that, if he'd warned me we were jumping, I could have at least gotten our parachutes and packed a lunch for the trip. After all, it never hurts to be prepared. Then I start realizing how much the landing hurt. I whimper and nurse my bruises, all the while aggravated that he never even seemed to notice how close we came to death. (Or at least to discomfort.) Then I finally sit up and look around, taking note of how beautiful it is here where we've landed. I grudgingly admit it's probably better than it was on the plane. Then I excitedly jump up, eager to embrace the adventure ahead. Only then do I realize my husband broke his ankle on landing, and we're stuck for the next six weeks in rehab. LOL
So I'm still not so good at adjusting to change. But I still try to accept small changes without acting as though my life has been altered forever. It is funny how many people can't take any change at all, though. For instance, today I rearranged the desks in my sixth grade classroom. Some of the students weren't getting the full advantage of class in their original locations (i.e. they paid no attention and goofed off a lot) and some students tended to disrupt the others around them. So I announced that I was rearranging the seating. They were all thrilled until they found out they had no choice in where they relocated. I told them some will hate their new seats and some will love them. There were even some that weren't changing location at all. When we finally finished and everyone was sitting in their new spot, one thing became totally clear. I had managed to upset every child in the class. No one was where they wanted to be. No one liked their new seatmate. I told them I would accept no complaining. Their new locations were for the good of themselves and for the good of the class.
The other teachers are betting it takes months before the students automatically go to their new desks instead of their old ones. The kids also complain that the new seating messes up their speed drills in math class as well. I'm sure they'll get over it. No one died over the change. Some of them will eventually embrace their new location. After all, it's not like I asked them to jump out of a plane!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Over training

I think training is a good thing. You focus your mind on one certain thing and learn all you can about it. Once principles are learned, you apply them on a regular basis, to reinforce the knowledge you've gained. I drill this into my students' heads all the time. Repetition and review are keys to learning. When my students learn a new vocabulary word, I encourage them to use it in conversation. I make them write sentences using the word. The more it's used the more it becomes ingrained in their vocabulary. Eventually the word will feel and sound natural when they use it.
But sometimes I wonder if it's possible to be over trained in something. In high school and college I took shorthand classes. I know, no one uses that anymore, but twenty (plus) years ago it was required for any secretarial major. I took dictation at 80-90 words per minute in high school, and 120 wpm in college. That's pretty fast. And I could actually read what I wrote when I was through. I also used shorthand for taking notes in other classes. I never missed a point, but my seatmates got annoyed. They'd ask, "What was that last thing he said?" as they looked over my notes. Then I'd get a weird stare before they turned to the person on their other side.
Anyway, shorthand worked out well for me and I still use it occasionally. But at the height of my training, I noticed something odd. I was thinking in shorthand. If I was listening to a lecture or sermon and I wasn't taking notes, the shorthand forms of the words I heard still wrote themselves out in my mind. It happened while watching tv, or even in casual conversations. It really started getting annoying because I couldn't think without the shorthand version coming to the forefront of my thoughts. Thankfully, as my use of shorthand faded, the intense response went away as well.
Now I'm teaching English for sixth through twelfth grade. I cover the same material on nouns, verbs, pronouns, etc., at least 5-6 times a day. I've always had a good grasp of grammar, but this daily exposure to rules and regulations started honing my abilities. At first it was irritating. I'd start writing and have to stop and ask myself what the rule was for that situation. I knew the correct thing to write, but I started questioning my knowledge unless I had the rule at my fingertips to back me up. Eventually, that lightened up and then my writing really started to fly. Not only could I avoid mistakes, but my brain would whisper the "why" of what I wrote as I was working. Part of my problem now is that my brain doesn't work as fast as my mouth does. I'll say something and then start correcting myself if I realize that my grammar was wrong. The other day I was trying to explain something to my husband. I made a statement that he didn't understand. At his puzzled look I said, "Oh, sorry! I forgot the preposition." I said the sentence again with the preposition properly in place. It made my sentence clear, but by then he wasn't listening anyway. He was staring at me as if I'd sprouted dictionaries out the top of my head.
Seriously, isn't it a little odd if your brain whispers the following to you as you write, talk, or communicate? "Subject. Predicate nominative. Direct object. Comma follows each word in a series of three or more." It's happening now as I'm writing this blog! I think I need to go focus on something mindless. I'd watch tv except that I'd find myself diagraming the actors' sentences. Maybe I can find a test pattern playing somewhere.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dressing in the dark

I used to love these dress up dolls. I thought it was fascinating that they could have so many ties, zippers, buttons, snaps, etc., on one doll. They always fascinated me, and I worked through each fastener to make sure it was done correctly. I guess I must have missed something though, because I can't seem to get the same finished results for myself.
Recently I was getting dressed to head to work, and I pulled on a long-sleeved, button up the front shirt, intending to wear it open over a t-shirt. I usually leave the cuffs on this shirt buttoned, but apparently the last time I wore it I had rolled up the sleeves. I rolled them down, but had trouble fastening them because of some weird, french-cuff thing it was working. I couldn't remember the shirt having french cuffs, but then I never had to mess with the cuffs, so what did I know? I got to work early and sat at my desk, getting my lesson plans in order for the day. When I finished, I stood up and straightened my shirt before heading out to the morning faculty meeting. I ran my hand down the front left side if my shirt and realized something: there were no buttons. With a closer look, I realized I'd put my shirt on inside out. That's why I had trouble buttoning the cuffs! That's also why the collar would not lay right.
It would be funny if it happened once, but twice? The following week I pulled on my black, elastic-waist skirt. It's elastic all the way around, with a seam up both sides. I wore it to the faculty meeting, and then throughout the school building as I stopped to talk with one person after another. I finally spoke to my son's teacher, who kept looking at me strangely. I dropped my hand to my side as I talked, and was startled to feel my seam allowance. I was horrified to realize I was wearing my skirt inside out! I excused myself and hurried to the bathroom, where I corrected the problem. What an idiot! I know a woman who wears her sweats inside out at home because she doesn't like the tag to bother her. I often laughed at her, but what's my excuse!
I now find myself double-checking my clothes numerous times each day. I'm really getting paranoid, although I think you'd probably agree that I have sufficient grounds! Even my eight year old can manage to get his clothes on right-side out. Although, he does sometimes put them on backward.
Excuse me ... I've got the sudden urge to go check and make sure my shirt tag is in the back.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

There's no stopping the flood

You know it's coming. You struggle with it, hold it back, and finally think you're getting victory. Right before the dam bursts. How is it that our brains can trick us into ignoring or not believing what we know to be true? My body lies to me all the time.
It lies to me about illness. I can feel a little off and just know I'm coming down with something. My head hurts, I feel achy, and I'll head to bed, knowing I won't be able to move come morning. Instead, I find that I'm doing much better. That's the good part. The bad part is when I think I can head off a little cold, only to have it turn into the flu. I'm feeling pretty good, no problems, when all of a sudden my throat or head hurts and before I know it, I'm flat on my back.
My body also lies to me about self-control. I've been dieting lately, and I'm doing pretty good at it. But every once in a while, my body will convince me that I can handle temptation or that I can make myself behave it we eat out. I believe it too, right up until I put that temptation in my mouth! Now why would my body lie to me about something like that?
The worse way my body lies is in the area of emotions. We all have times when we feel like crying. A certain song or phrase comes along and we swallow hard because of the emotion is dredges up, or the memories it brings. We swallow the tears back and our body assures us that we do still have control. We're not going to lose it in public. My body tells me this lie right up until the tears erupt. I'm not a public crier. I don't like to be seen in a sad emotional state. But recently, tears welled up at something someone had said. It wasn't hurtful, but it did bring back memories. I swallowed hard and shoved the thought away. I was so sure I was doing it. I was conquering my emotions! I saw my husband watching me and I attempted a reassuring smile and that's when the dam broke. I burst into loud, embarrassing sobs and had to excuse myself and run from the room. I was so embarrassed. The people we were with were horrified at the thought that they'd said something to make me cry. I finally mopped myself up and came back, but everything was really awkward by then. I apologized and they apologized, but no one really wanted to look anyone else in the eye. Now I figure, if I'm in the mood, I might as well watch a sad movie and get the thing overwith. Sometimes a good strong cry is cathartic. Tissues anyone?

Friday, January 25, 2008

How much is too much

I like things that sparkle, don't you? I enjoy necklaces, and I love a gorgeous pair of earrings. I have a friend who wears absolutely gorgeous jewelry. It's understated and delicate, but obviously quality. Some of my friends prefer small pieces, but I like things that dangle and flash a little more. Can't have things too bold, though. After all, I'm a pastor's wife and an English teacher. I have a reputation to uphold. LOL
As much as I love sparkly things, though, I have to wonder when we might hit too much of a good thing. I've seen some enormous pieces of jewelry. Have you noticed the earrings (or chandeliers) that women are wearing on the red carpet these days? You've got to wonder how much that must hurt to have that much metal hanging from your earlobes. Do they have to use the ear equivalent of botox in order to keep their lobes from stretching permanently to their shoulders?
In addition to the standard jewelry of earrings, necklaces, pins, bracelets and rings, there's several other pieces that are getting attention these days. There's the ever-popular belly ring (eewwww!), along with nose rings and tongue rings. Definitely too much bling. Piercing my ears was as much pain as I want to go through in the quest for beauty.
Besides jewery, there's other ways to sparkle as well. First to mind comes the teeth whiteners. Your teeth can now be so white they glow in the dark. Plus, there's body sparkle. This is an iridescent spray that gives a light glitter to your skin. Someone gave my daughter some when she was twelve. Yeah, right. That wasn't happening either.
You can even use glazes now to give an extra shine to your hair. Personally, I'm happy if I can just tone down the gray. Yeah, you can make almost any area of your body glitter. But there's one area where I really thing that the quest for bling has just gone too far. The other day I saw an older woman with fake eyelashes. Now, they would have been eye-catching enough, especially since the edge of one of them kept popping away from the eyelid. But the most noticeable thing was that the fake lashes were studded with crystals. Not just glitter, little shiny stones scattered across the fake eyelashes. I was so fascinated, I couldn't focus on what the woman was saying because I was watching her eyelashes. Did they ever fall off? Did the stones make it harder to blink? I couldn't help but wonder if it took extra effort to keep her eyes open. Did they hamper her eyesight at all?
I'm just thinking that if the bling actually hurts your ability to see clearly while driving, you ought to dial it back a notch.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A shocking loss

An actor named Heath Ledger died this week. I happened to go online shortly after it happened, and the news was plastered across my homepage. I was shocked because I actually recognized this man. My husband and I both liked the character he played in a revolutionary war movie several years ago. I haven't seen much of anything else he's done since then because I haven't cared for the content of those particular movies, but I really liked the way his character believed in the cause of freedom in the one dvd we did watch. Isn't it strange that we would feel like we know so many people that we've never met because we see them on TV or movies? This man was only twenty-eight years old.
After I read the news article on his death, I went and told my husband. He was as shocked as I was. But then, as always, my husband brought it down to the most important point. He said, "I wonder where he is now."
That can be a scary thought for many people. I have no idea where Heath Ledger was spiritually. But I do know that the Bible says you only have two choices for the next life: heaven or hell. John 3:18 explains this. Back up a couple of verses and we read that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Romans 3:10 and 3:23 tells us that everyone has sinned. I think if we're honest just about everyone can admit that they've done something wrong at some point in their life. Rom. 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death and hell. Rom. 5:8 explains that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. He died so we don't have to. According to Rom. 10:13, if we believe that and accept Christ, He will save us.
I John 5:13 tells us we can know we're going to heaven. I made the decision to accept Christ and I know where I'm going when I die. Do you?
Heath Ledger already made his decision. He had no idea that he'd run out of time to make that choice. Won't you make the right choice before it's too late?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Outgrowing homework assignments

Why are homework assignments so difficult? And involved? And complicated? I have thought long and hard, but I never remember teachers giving such difficult assignments when I was a kid. Today homework is really tough! Items to look up, pictures to find, art projects to create ... it's a never-ending stream. It's really difficult, time-consuming work, and I think teachers are not being realistic when they ask it of us. That's right, us--as in parents. Some of these projects are so involved, there's no way a third or fourth grader could do these on his own.
For example, last year my sons had to do animal notebooks. They had to find pictures and label and categorize them, write reports, and arrange everything in an attractive notebook. Being a frustrated scrapbooker (I like the idea, but I never had time to sit down and do it), I put all my scrapbooking efforts into helping the boys with these notebooks. They used foam letters for the introductory pages in each section. Their pictures had scalloped edges from using my scrapbooking scissors. Instead of writing out labels, I helped the boys design them on the computer. They used glitter glue, stickers and dye cut figures to decorate the pages. When we were finished, their books were twice as thick as anyone else in the class. Not because they had more information; they had more decoration. The teacher awarded them each three extra points for their creativity. All that for six points. And I tried so hard!
This year my son had to make a poster with a 3-D picture of a flower or plant, using craft items. My son chose to do the pitcher plant. He says he chose that one because he'd never seen one. I had to look it up as well. The top part is wide open and looks like it would attack you ala Venus Fly Trap. Then it has a little bag hanging from it. The bag is streaked with colors. How were we supposed to do this in 3-D? Why couldn't he pick a daisy? A few cotton balls and a yellow circle of felt and we'd be done. As I looked for items he could use in his poster, I came across some tie-dyed balloons. I was ecstatic. A balloon could be used for the bag part of the plant, and since it was tie-dyed, it would even mimic the streaked color.
When we got home I helped him use some moss to cover the bottom of the posterboard. Then I opened up the bag of balloons. They were small. Really small. There was no way one of those would represent a bag. Then I found about seven in the bag that were still attached to each other. They'd apparently never been cut completely apart. I was pretty sure we were finished until Joel pointed out that if we curved that attached line of balloons in a circle, it looked like the mouth of the plant. I blew a little air into an additional balloon, and we used that one for the bag. After all my agonizing and planning, my son stepped in and made a workable suggestion in about 2 seconds. So why does he need me? I finished my homework years ago. In fact, I think I'll go see about assigning additional homework for the students in my English classes. I'm sure their parents could use the extra work.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The hair says it all

My hair has a mind of its own. It has natural curl, and while that sounds wonderful in a novel, it's a pain in real life. For years I tried to style my hair into some semblance of order. I always ended up with little ends sticking up, or a rebellious wave surging through an area where I wanted smoothness. My hair is thick and does not respond well to humidity. We moved to Florida this past summer, so if I'm not careful it sticks out in frizzy agony all over my head.
A couple of years ago I got sick of always having to settle for a style "close" to what I actually wanted. I asked my stylist for her opinion, and she told me to quit fighting the curl. She said I had so much of it, I might as well just work with it. She showed me how to use a diffuser and I was set. At least, I was as long as she did my hair. I liked her results, but the next morning I couldn't copy them. Lots of practice finally got me to the point where I could live with the results. Some days its looks really curly, and some days it just looks like I didn't bother to use a brush.
A couple of months ago I decided to go back to a more sedate style. The problem is, now that my hair had a taste of style freedom, it didn't want to go back. I straightened and struggled and cut, and it still wouldn't do anything other than stick out. My problems weren't helped by having to find a new stylist when we moved. The first person I went to scared me. I got a coupon for a new salon and so I thought I'd try it out. The one stylist there informed me that her main focus was in coloring. She could tell me just the right shade of red to use to highlight my dark brown hair. Except I didn't want color. I wanted a haircut. So after shampooing my hair, she sat me in a chair in front of a mirror. She then began examining my hair from all angles. She lifted up a piece here and there to study it. She dragged her fingers through it. She did everything short of putting her hands up with her thumbs out the way directors do when they're trying to visualize a scene. If it was for theatrics, it might have been impressive except that she took so long I finally got worried that she just didn't know how to cut hair. I have a basic layered cut, and it shouldn't be that hard to trim.
After she finally trimmed my hair, I asked if she could texturize it. My hair is so thick, that it really gets bushy unless they use those scissors with big chunks taken out of it, like sewing shears. She picked up the scissors, but instead of using them in different spots, she used them only on the very ends of my hair. The end result was bushy hair with tiny wispy ends that stuck up all over my head.
Since then I've found a better stylist, but I'm still learning to communicate exactly what I want. Recently I told her that my layers in back were getting too full and I would like them thinned out. She said okay, and started cutting at the nape of my neck. Now, I have short hair, but not that short. Is thinning the same thing as cutting it off? Fortunately, she stopped before she went too far. Now my end result is hair that is shorter than I wanted it, but I do have to say that the fullness is gone. Completely.
So now I'm letting it grow out a little and at the same time I'm running other descriptions through my head so I can express myself better when I go back. I just have to wait for some hair to grow in before I can get it cut again.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The vanishing remote

Nothing makes you feel more helpless than losing your remote control for your TV. Our family is so NOT able to function without a remote. We'll wander all around the room, missing part of our program, in order to look for the remote. After all, everybody knows that commercials are louder than shows are themselves. You always have to turn down commercials, and then you have to turn it up again to hear the dialogue on the show or movie you're watching.
And who watches just one thing at a time anymore? I never see commercials. I'm always flipping to see what else is on. I've been known to follow two movies at a time, switching back and forth between commercials or when I come to a scene I' don't care for. So our remote is important. The problem is, it disappeared. I figured it probably ended up under the bed. It has before. I'm not sure how it gets there, but the cat does hang out under there, so maybe she's trying it out while we're gone during the day. This time, though, it wouldn't resurface. I looked around here and there occasionally, but it never came up. Then my husband searched through everything, including the box we have in the corner (haven't quite finished unpacking yet) and he couldn't find it either. I know secretly he blames me for losing it. I also know that in reality, he probably lost it. LOL Either way, that thing is gone. One evening this past week, I decided to take the bedroom apart and find that dumb remote. I cleaned and vacuumed and sorted, and still that thing did not turn up. This was getting ridiculous. If you don't want to get up and change the channel when your sitting on a couch, you sure don't want to do it when you're lying in bed! When I finished in the bedroom, I searched the office, the rec room, the family room and even the boys' bedroom. That remote completely disappeared. I finally did the only thing I could think of. I bought another one.
Well, I didn't actually buy it. I had a small gift card so I used that. It makes sense to have one that controls the DVD as well as the TV, doesn't it? This was better in the long run. I should have done this a long time ago. But I still miss the original remote. It was easy to use. It didn't have many buttons, and it was (until now) big enough to spot easily when you were looking for it. So I used the new one, but I still mourned the old one.
Today I was digging under my bed for a shoe when I noticed something long and dark standing between the bed and the nightstand. You'll never guess. With all the searching we did, I don't know how we missed it, but there was the old remote. So now we have two remotes again. Worse, it was on my side of the bed. In my husband's terms, that means I'm the one that lost it. (I admit, the circumstancial evidence is pretty damaging.)For now I've left it between the nightstand and the bed. I'm not sure I want to resurrect it.
Maybe I should plant it on his side. Now there's an option!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Shades of communication

Don't you just love words? I do. I'm sure probably some of my love of words comes from being a writer. Or a voracious reader. Or an English teacher. At any rate I love words. My children have a three syllable rule: if a word has more than three syllables, I have to use it sparingly. Or preferably, not at all. I like the way some words sound. Take for instance, the word onomatopoeia. This word just looks and sounds fun. It means words that read just like they sound. An example would be buzz or bang. But the word onomatopoeia is fun to say all by itself. It's like a verbal roller coaster.
I also like other words, such as acquiesce. That one just sounds neat. I also like convivial. If you are convivial, you might also be gregarious and vivacious. See? just fun words.
When we cover vocabulary in my classes, I'll often have the class make up sentences using the words on their vocabulary list. Or I'll even have then carry on a conversation using the vocabulary words. Every sentence has to have a vocabulary word in it, and each sentence has to be pertinent to the conversation at hand. One of my classes really took to that game, but they put their own unique twist on it. They gave words their own meaning. For instance, one girl told another student to "shut his veranda." She also threatened to inhabit someone who was irritating her. Her comments were amusing, even though they made absolutely no sense.
When putting together words, though, I have one all time favorite phrase. My kids roll their eyes every time they hear me say it. Occasionally I will point out that I am "imminently cognizant of the gramatical parameters." I can't take credit for this phrase, though. I read it in Apollyon, one of the books in the Left Behind series by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. A self-proclaimed "clod-kicker" revealed that he had graduated salutatorian of his class and was imminently cognizant of the grammatical parameters. "I just talk this way 'cuz it's easier."
I use my big words sparingly because it's easier and innocuous. After all, I'm not insensate. Many people feel these words are incongruous to casual conversation. In many cases they may be relevant, but I would never want to abash anyone with an ostentatious display of affectation. So I guess I'll just drop back to the three syllable or less rule. After all, I would not want anyone to feel repugnance toward me because my vocabulary caused them chagrin.

Leading a horse to water

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. I've been thinking a lot lately about that saying. Most of the time I think about the leading part. To me, that means showing or explaining. This is something I do a lot of in my job as an English teacher. I'm always showing or explaining something to my students: how to recognize a direct object, how to diagram a gerund phrase, etc. I try to get them to learn in different ways. We go over the textbook, and they do the exercises there. We do some exercises on the board. Sometimes I do it to show them, and sometimes I'll have them do it on the board. I use transparencies and study guides. I use sentences with their names in them (it helps them actually pay attention). I have them make up sentences and share them with the class. And always, I repeat and repeat and repeat myself. I repeated review sections with one class for a solid week before they took their latest exam. I drilled them and rewarded efforts. Last Friday I finally saw a little lightbulb go on over some of their heads. They were actually getting it! They were finally identifying parts of speech on their own without my having to prompt them at each step.
I know some of you non-grammar people out there are groaning. But the truth is, in the one section we were covering, they needed to remember three simple criteria for identifying the words we were after. One set of three rules for direct objects and one set of three for predicate nominatives. I wrote the three rules on the board for them to refer to while they were doing the workbooks. But instead of following the rules and reasoning through them, the students would simply make a stab in the dark. Until Friday. Friday they reasoned. They applied rules. They actually thought for themselves. Some of them even paid attention! I was so excited!
Until Monday.
Monday I was back to the same vacant stares and complete lack of attention that they'd had before. No one could answer the simplest question on the rules that they knew so well on Friday. No one could identify the function of different words in the sentences we went over. Somehow in that short weekend, they had managed to forget everything I had taught. It wasn't even a question of jogging their memory. It was as if they had erased it all. We had two more days of review, but over half the class failed the test.
So now I'm not thinking of the leading part of that saying anymore. Now I'm thinking about the horse. Why would he not drink? I guess because he's not thirsty. The students in my class are not thirsty for a better grasp of the English language. Would a horse ever need water and still refuse to drink? I don't know. But I know these students need to grasp what I'm teaching them if they intend to advance to the next grade. Somehow, though, even that doesn't motivate a few of them.
What really bothers me is the fact that this is a roomful of bright kids. But they've never forced themselves to focus on something and work through it. They're not used to having to think for themselves. These kids are junior high and high school age. They don't have many years left before they'll be going out into the world as adults. They'll be taking part in business, working in churches and helping to shape the future of their children, their home and church and our country. It scares me to think what all those things could be like when turned loose in the hands of people who refuse to think for themselves. Who refuse to make an effort to grasp something just beyond their reach.
If they don't drink the water today, I'm afraid we'll all be drinking the koolaid tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Worse than the dentist

How could anything be worse than going to the dentist? I mean, no one looks forward to that, do they? Think about it. Dentists are the only medical professionals that start out promising to knock you out so you won't feel a thing. The rest of the medical community wants to "run a few tests" first, but not dentists. Come on in and get the good drugs! So if their selling point is not "it won't hurt", but rather, "you won't feel it" they've got to rank up there as the worst of the physical upkeep options, don't they?
I always thought so until this week. My new eye doctor changed all that. I can't remember the last time I had such an unpleasant experience. Maybe when I was in labor? And at least the labor nurses also offered me drugs! All I got from the eye doctor were tissues to wipe the tears away.
When did eye exams stop being you looking through the big machine of changeable lenses and reading the lowest line you could on the chart? Now you go through a whole array of machines testing for different things before you ever make it back to the examination room. First is the machine with the roving dots. You're supposed to press a button every time you see the white dot blink. Trouble is, it's roving all over the screen. I'm afraid to blink for fear I'll miss the dot, and they'll get a false reading that says I have some terrible eye disease. Of course, if you don't blink, then you eventually start seeing little spots that aren't really there. I finally just fell into a routine of clicking the button, no matter what I saw. I can't help but wonder what the results were on that test.
Then I sat in front of a machine that measured and calculated an estimate of my current prescription. That's pretty cool. Why did I even need the doctor?
Last was the ever-popular-blow-a-puff-of-air-in-your-eye machine. How pleasant is that? I brace myself, but every time I end up jumping and pulling away. I asked the technician and she said she's never had a patient that didn't jump. I think the machine doesn't actually measure anything. Instead they have hidden cameras recording the reactions of people dumb enough to allow someone to deliberate blow air into their eye.
Finally I'm in the examination room with the doctor. She does the usual stuff, has me looking at the chart while telling if I can see better with lens A or B. Then she does that close up thing with the light and here's where it start's getting weird. She saw a scar on one eye from an old injury. This gets her curious and she actually folds my top eyelid up so she can see the inside of it. I'm getting visions of Conspiracy Theory and the scene where Mel Gibson's eyelids are taped open. It wouldn't have been so bad, except she did it three separate times. She then comments that my eyes look irritated (understatement of the year!). I tell her that I just said goodbye to my son, who was headed back to college after Christmas break. I cried a lot that morning. My eyes teared up again as I tried to explain it to the doctor. She looked sympathetic and asked if this was my last child to go off to college. Now I'm insulted. This is my first, thank you very much. How old do you think I am? I find that out a moment later when she informs me that I'm only a year or two away from needing bifocals. My crying is about to come back in full force. Could this visit get any worse?
Turns out, it can. The last thing the doctor did was put dye in my eyes so she could examine them for injuries. Then she had to rinse the dye out so that it wouldn't stain my contacts. She gave me a large wad of tissues to hold next to my eye and told me to tip my head back. Then she actually pinches my top eyelid and pulls it up with one hand, while the other hand squeezes a bottle of saline, directing a powerful force of liquid up under my eyelid. I gasp and choke and flail around until finally she stops. She has to--my eye is squeezed shut. When she can finally pry it open, she does the exact same thing with the lower lid. Then we moved on to the other eye. By the time we finished, I felt like someone had scrubbed out the inside of my eyelids with a wire brush. It's a good thing that place makes glasses in an hour because I wouldn't have been able to put my contacts back in no matter what. Three days later I was still wearing my glasses to give my eyes a break. I think the CIA could use that woman in the interrogation unit.
So I'm done with eye doctors for a while. I can breathe easy and relax. Except for that sore tooth ... Anyone see the first episode of Alias where the guy is pulling Sydney Bristow's teeth out with pliers? I think I'll just suffer a little longer.

Being supportive ... or not

Remember the sitcom, Home Improvement? In every episode the wife had something going on and she wanted Tim Allen's character to "be supportive". Most of the time he ran around trying to fulfill that demand while having absolutely no idea what she was even talking about. They're idea of support involves some sort of action. Men are fixers. They like to tackle a problem, solve, correct or eradicate the problem, and move on. I've learned this over the past twenty-one years of marriage. We women tend to vent. Or analyze. Okay, maybe we even actually complain about a situation. That doesn't mean we want to change it or fix it. It just means we need to blow off steam. I can remember venting about the lousy customer service I received at a store. I wanted someone to agree with me that no one cares about quality customer service anymore. Or that I certainly didn't deserve that kind of treatment. I don't think he ever understood why I was sharing the story with him in the first place. After all, it happened earlier in the day. I survived it. Why was there a need to bring it up?
One time I complained about an annoying quality in an acquaintance. I wanted someone to agree she was annoying. His solution was that I simply shouldn't have contact with the woman anymore. I didn't want to break off our friendship. I just wanted to blow off steam. That way I could tolerate her annoyance without blowing up at her.
I've finally learned to preface my observations by stating exactly what I need from him during these conversations. I'll inform him that I don't need advice, or a steamroller to make the problem go away. All I want is someone to say, "You're right. You didn't deserve that!" or "Oh poor baby!" At first, of course, my husband didn't quite get that either. He'd parrot the requested reactions back at me sometimes even before I could do any venting in the first place. But now he's learned to watch for his cues, and as long as I remember to announce expected reactions at the beginning, he can be supportive. LOL
It ends up that this is not just a trait of my husband. It's in the male genes, I guess. Last week I had my hair cut and I got new glasses. I was not overly thrilled with the results, and I was complaining to my teenage daughter that I hated the way I looked right now because I was ugly. I just wanted reassurance, and my daughter understood that. She chimed right in with "You don't look ugly; the glasses are nice." My teenage son didn't understand what I wanted, but he understood the concept of support--at least in theory. He spoke up and told her, "Hey! If Mom wants to look ugly, let her look ugly!"
I'm torn between trying to train him and just leaving it up to his future wife. After all, if I had to train my husband, shouldn't she have to train hers?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Open wide

How many times has something come out of your mouth that didn't at all match what you heard in your head? Happens to me waaay to often, and I'm beginning to get worried about it. Some people might say the problem comes from not paying attention, but I think there's something else at the root of this. Typically, I'm not paying attention because I'm thinking hard about four other things. Sometimes I'll open my mouth to answer a question, and parts of words from the four different ideas come flowing out of my mouth. This usually has two different affects on people. Either they laugh hysterically, because whatever I said made no sense at all, or they stare at me like I'm from another planet because whatever I said ... well, it made no sense at all. I have had all those ideas crash as they raced through my brain. That leaves a horrible mess! And usually I don't have one smidgen of an idea left to work with.
Sometimes I'm thinking so hard about just one topic that I forget to answer a question. That happened this morning on the way to church. As we raced along just slightly above the speed limit, my son Luke asked what time church started. I was busy working numbers in my head to see what funds I needed to juggle to pay this month's bills. I continued figuring in my head (carry the one) until I realized there was a long pregnant pause in the van. It was only then that Luke's question registered and I answered it out loud. Unfortunately, I was the only one who noticed the pregnant pause. The kids had all gone on to other thoughts and conversations. So instead of answering a question, it seemed to them like I suddenly spoke up and announced, "9:45" for absolutely no reason. I hate it when I get that tolerant look from my children.
Sometimes, my thought process can just plain get me in trouble. The idea is so clear in my head and I might have even worked through the wording I wanted to use. But when it comes out my mouth, it sounds like something else! Last night before church, the songleader, who is also one of the deacons, asked me if I would fill in on the piano. His wife usually plays, but she couldn't make it. I agreed, we discussed which songs the congregation would be singing, and then I took mental note of what time I needed to be at the piano to play the prelude. You have to understand, I'm merely an adequate musician. Susie, his wife, is a very accomplished pianist. So I'm a little nervous when I have to fill in. I stood there chatting at the back of the auditorium and all the time in my head I'm thinking, "I have to fill in for Susie. I have to do the job Susie usually does." Finally, I glanced at my watch and saw it was time to start. So I walked past Susie's husband and said, "I guess it's time to pretend I'm your wife." I didn't even realize how that sounded until I saw the corner of his mouth quirk up into a little smile. I tried to stammer out an explanation, but everything I said just made it worse. I finally walked off toward the piano, shaking my head. By the way, did I mention that I'm the pastor's wife? Yeah, that was lovely. Good thing the man (and his wife) have a sense of humor.
So what about you? What's your latest episode of foot-in-mouth-disease? Careful. I think it's catchy!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I'll cry if I want to

I don't think women need to have a reason to cry. I mean, let's face it. Those tear ducts can open up at the drop of a hat. (Especially if it's our favorite hat and it landed in a mud puddle!) We know we're more emotional creatures. Sometimes men realize this too. Did you ever see A League of Their Own? It's about female baseball teams during World War II. Tom Hanks plays the manager of the team, and he keeps yelling at the girls whenever they make a mistake. Inevitably they cry, which only drives him crazy. I always laugh at the scene where he nearly has a stroke from trying to control himself and speak nicely to a girl who just made an error.
We cry over movies, or sad songs. Or on holidays or when someone remembers us with a gift or a note. We cry when we say goodbye and we cry when we see someone that we've missed for a long time. It's a given that we cry at weddings and funerals. We cry for happy times and sad times, and there's no rhyme or reason to it. The tears just come.
Most of us try to keep our occasional weepfest to ourselves. When that emotional rollercoaster hits, we try to hide it. Or at least, we try to hide from the world until we overcome it. And of course, most of us would never dream of crying at work. Isn't that almost like death to your career? It's not considered professional.
So if that's the case, why is it okay for someone to cry their way into a Presidential nomination? And why on earth would any one in this progressive, forward-thinking country fall for it? Apparently Hilary Clinton teared up this past Monday when answering a question. It made the news immediately that afternoon, and became the leading headline the following day. But the biggest shock of all was, she was expected to lose in New Hampshire's primary that day. Instead, she led among women voters and won by a large margin. What is up with that? Please tell me we don't have a majority in this country that will vote to nominate someone for President because they cried. I've heard of getting a sympathy vote for a prom queen, but come on! We're not talking about our senior year of high school, we're talking about a potential leader of the free world!
Never mind whether you think a woman is fit for that job or not, is this the image we want for the leader of our country? If people give her the sympathy vote, is that really the impression we want to give to our enemies? Trust me, they're watching this year's election process with great interest. And they already have their favorites picked out. When it comes to dealing with someone that wants us all destroyed, I think we need to be led by someone who gives an impression of strength. You can't give this job to someone just because they're a woman. Maybe you can't give this job to someone at all because they're a woman. That's right, I said it even though I'm a woman myself. I don't want to be represented and led by a woman. I want to be represented and led by someone who's strong enough to do the job. Sometimes you can't cry, even if it is your own party.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

That Diet Thing

It's January. That means one thing to millions of women. Time for the diet. If you're like me you probably start, stop, fail and give up more diets in one year that anyone needs to. It's a never ending cycle. Point to a half a dozen people that you know, and you'll find someone who just started a diet, someone who's really doing well on their diet (don't you just hate them!), someone who's just given up on a diet, someone who's failing a diet, someone who's researching diets and possibly, someone who needs to gain weight. (Hate those people too.) January is the only time of year when the majority of us are all in the same place with our diets. We're starting out. We're trying to honor that New Year's Resolution. It's kind of a wipre-the-slate-clean time. Something about the whole new year thing makes us feel like something's changed. This time we can actually do this.
Did you ever notice that people that have just started a diet are really annoying? They've suddenly become diet experts. Plus, they're so enthusiastic! Don't you just want to sabotage them sometimes? Talk them into splitting a dessert with you when you go out, or convince them that you need a binge-buddy and if they're really your friend, they'll help you through this time. Then when they crash and burn we can say, "I knew it wouldn't last."
If someone sticks to a diet enough to see some results, then you have a problem. You can't sabotage these people. It's one thing to take down a smug person who wouldn't have succeeded anyway, but if they actually start losing weight, it's just too cruel to try and derail their efforts. So you outwardly congratulate them, even while inwardly you turn green with envy as you watch their weight seemingly melt away. It hurts to see them where you want to be. It hurts so much, you find yourself eating extra chocolate to console yourself.
The ones who are failing are the crabby ones. They've deprived themselves of food long enough to get over the initial euphoria of doing something good for themselves. Now they're just hungry and burnt out on celery sticks. They're not giving up yet, so you can't share a celebratory "love yourself no matter what" dessert. They'll stick to their roughage, but they're not happy about it.
I get a kick out of the diet researchers. Don't get me wrong; I'm all for checking out what's available and making your plans based on what's best for you and your lifestyle. (Although I must say, if you had the right kind of lifestyle, you probably wouldn't need to be researching diets, now would you?) No, I like the ones who've spent years researching the best diet for them. They may have made a few practice runs on different methods, but they're still trying to find the one that fits them best. They're not losing weight and probably never will, but they could definitely tell you which diet works best for your body type!
I think the happiest people are the ones who just recently gave up on a diet. Just like pregnant women get to use the "eating for two" mentality, diet quitters have a little no-hitting zone. They just came off a diet that wasn't working. They've suffered and deprived themselves. So they just enjoy food for a little while without worrying about what it's doing to their hips. Or their heart, or blood pressure. For a month or so they don't worry about it. They're the most fun people to be around.
Unfortunately, at this point I'm not one of those happy people. I started a diet on the first. That's right, I didn't even wait until the 2nd. Who cares if the first was a holiday? I started my diet anyway. In the past week I've lost 4.5 pounds. I'm past the insufferable I-know-everything part, but I haven't lost so much that I'm in that you-can't-touch me zone. I've had enough lettuce to be a little cranky, but I'm not failing yet.
I've finally realized the secret to dieting is motivation. You have to want something else, more than you want your chocolate. I knew a man who bought his wife a new outfit every time she lost 10 pounds. That doesn't quite do it for me, although I love new clothes. For some people health is a big motivator. It does motivate me to some extent, but not to the weightloss I need. Sometimes people use an upcoming event, like a family reunion or a class reunion to motivate them. After all, who wants to carry an extra 50 pounds when meeting up with people who gave you the nickname "Olive Oyl" in high school?
So where are you in the dieting cycle? And what motivates you? What would it take to get really serious about this? Think of that for a few while I go watch my husband eat some chocolate for me.
This is so sad.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Cutting the apron strings

Why is it so hard to let go? Our oldest son left last fall for his first year of college--17 hours away from home. He's been looking forward to this next step in his life and eagerly preparing for it. I've been happy for him because he's so ready. So why did he seem like such a little boy when I left him last fall? He came home for only two days over Thanksgiving, but we've had him for three whole weeks over the Christmas holidays. He flies back on Thursday. I worry that somehow he's not ready--that there's an area somewhere that I've missed in preparing him to be grown up and out on his own. I trained him to be responsible. I trained him to do the right thing. I trained him to make the right choices.
And yet, still I find out that he has trouble getting out of bed for his first hour class. I grit my teeth, wondering what I could have done to hone that rough spot down into submission a little better. And then I remember that I always had trouble getting out of bed on time. Sheesh, I still have trouble getting into work on time.
One day he called home to ask his dad how to fix holes in the wall. Apparently he and some of his dorm buddies got a little carried away with wrestling. I groaned at this destruction of property, accidental though it was. Then I remembered that his father had a penchant for wrestling in the dorm when we were in school. At one point he and his wrestling partner cracked the ceiling in the room below theirs.
He's staying up until one o'clock in the morning, doing homework. Or talking. Or something. As I head to bed at midnight, setting my alarm for five in the morning, I worry that he's only getting five hours of sleep. How will he survive?
He's not eating regularly and he's skipping breakfast. Surely that will affect his studying and comprehension abilities. There's a reason they call it the most important meal of the day. But then, I never ate breakfast in college until I had a free hour third period when I would go to the coffee shop and order a bagel and a coke.
It's funny how he seems to be doing a lot of the same things we did. We survived. Maybe he will too. And then maybe someday he'll go through the agony of watching his son head off to college. To learn the same things, to make the same mistakes. I'd laugh at him then, but I'll probably be worrying right along beside him. After all, someone's got to show him how it's done.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

... It will grow back tomorrow!

It was crunch time. Just me and the clippers. Well, the boys were there too. It was time to face this boogie monster that had bothered me for years. It wasn't that hard. I could cut hair. I would cut hair. I opened up the bag and pulled out the little plastic thingys, muttering to myself, "#2 on the sides, #4 on top, blend it with a #3." I knew what to do. I was ready. Until I pulled out the first guard. Instead of a number it had two words on it. "Right Ear". Wait a minute. You have to change the guard to cut around the ear? No one ever mentioned that. Was this an absolute? Did this mean I couldn't use a #2 around the ear? In the scale of 2,3, & 4, where did right ear fit in? And the biggest question of all: did this mean just his right ear, or did it mean his right ear as I faced him, which would actually be his left ear? This was too hard! I wasn't meant for this kind of pressure! Out of curiosity I dug through the rest of the guards until I found the one marked "Left Ear". At least now we were equal. I agonized for long moments, but I finally decided to stick with my original plan. In one quick motion I fastened the guard (#2 of course)on the clippers, flicked the on switch and ran the thing up the back of my son's head. That was easy. And kinda fun. I continued until the back of my son's hair was clipped short, the rest of it sticking out like a furry mane. But this was the easy part, after all. I moved to the side of his head and hesitated. The right ear guard lay on the counter, glaring at me. I was doing it wrong. What if I ruined my son's hair? What if I cut off his ear? What if I ignored the right ear guard and just kept cutting? And that's what I did. I couldn't believe how easy this was. In fact, I got so caught up in it that I forgot to switch to a #4 when I moved to the top of his head. He won't be needing another haircut for a while. But it still looked nice. I finished up and moved to son #2 and then son #3. I actually remembered to switch guards with them, so their cuts looked even better. And then, in the midst of all the fun, I finished. (My two teenagers refused to let me near them. guess they'll be paying for their own cuts!)
It was so easy and so fun. I started counting how long it would be before the boys' hair would grow enough so that I could cut it again. I bragged on their good looks. I pointed out their haircuts to everyone that saw them. This was easy! Maybe I should take it up professionally. Surely people would pay lots of money to have someone with such natural talent cut their hair. I basked in my own glory for all of three days.
The third morning, my youngest son got out of bed and came to where I was working on the computer. I turned to speak to him and noticed that he had a small thatch of hair sticking straight out from the side of his head. It wasn't huge, but it was definitely more than a strand. And it was longer than all the other hair around it. Where had that come from? And why hadn't I seen it for the last three days? I clipped it and acknowledged that even people with natural talent can miss something once in awhile.
That same morning I realized that son #2 also had hair issues. He's the one that got the short cut, which was really good for him anyway. He has a mass of cowlicks across the front of his hairline, so all that hair sticks up anyway. He had a burst of stray hairs coming out of one of those cowlicks. How had I missed that? It was kind of obvious; not the sort of thing you'd ignore when you had clippers in your hand.
During the past week I've noticed several other--problems--on the boys. Okay, so I'm not quite perfect. But I'll get it right. Just give me about six weeks or so and their hair will be needing cutting again. And I'll be ready. I just have to avoid that right ear guard. I know it's lurking in the closet, waiting for me.
Anyone up for a trip to the salon?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Hair today ...

Cutting the boys' hair. How hard can it be? I've watched many times as someone else cut my sons' hair. Looks easy enough. Just follow the curve of the head. Oh, but wait. Why are they changing out the little plastic comb thingy? Oooh, nicked the ear! Happens all the time.
When we were making a little more money, I took the boys in to a hair salon once a month. After answering the usual questions of "are they all yours?" (five boys), I'd tell the stylist, "#2 on the sides and back, #4 on top and blend it with a #3." Clear directions, easy to follow, simple haircut. Apparently it was difficult even for trained professionals. Once I got two of the boys' haircuts for free because the stylist accidentally zinged a bald spot on the side of their heads. Two boys in the same day!
Well our days of affluence are over for now. They boys need haircuts. I watched a friend do it once. She used the same guard the whole time. (I know what the plastic thingy is called now!) Twice over the whole head. Guard off and work carefully to trim sideburns, around the ears and at the collar. Is it even? Any little hairs sticking up? Looks easy enough, but still ...
I waited until my boys were long past shabby before attempting haircuts on my own. I toyed with the idea of taking them to a salon again, but I just didn't think they'd consider that kind of thing a decent Christmas present. They looked a little shabby at Thanksgiving and during the school Christmas program. By the time the church children's Christmas cantata rolled around they were downright unkempt. Finally I could stand it no longer. My husband offered to cut their hair, but he refused to use clippers on top. Scissor cut was best, he told me firmly. But the boys don't ever remember to comb their hair! A style with little upkeep works best for them, and a good #4 saves time for all of us. I'll do it, I insist. I've watched and I've learned. The time has come. How hard can it be?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Hit what you aim at

If so many people make New Year's resolutions, why don't they work? Have you ever failed one? Maybe I should ask, have you ever succeeded with one? I know I've failed hundreds. Actually, maybe I've failed hundreds of times with the same three or four resolutions. This year I put some thought into why resolutions fail. First, I think sometimes we don't set focused goals. For instance, if one of my resolutions is to reduce stress in my life, that's pretty general. What's an acceptable level of stress?
I know sometimes I confuse resolutions with wishful thinking. I may set a goal to be organized, but I really don't have any motivation to achieve that goal. I just wish I were more organized.
Then there's the people that plan for failure. They put a "sort of" or a "maybe" in their resolution. Or they may have a secondary resolution if the first one seems too hard. They might set a goal of eliminating all their debt, but then in the back of their mind they appease themselves with the thought that they'd be happy with just paying less out every month.
And one of the final reasons for failure may be tackling too much at once. Two resolutions (three at the most) are probably the most that people can handle. After all, if we change too much, we'd be perfect and who would want to be around us then?
For those of you that don't take resolutions seriously, I made up a list to amuse you!

1. Stop eavesdropping on the soap opera life of the girl in the next cubicle.

2. Quit telling little white lies. (Switch to really big black ones.)

3. Start caring for neglected children. (Starting with mine.)

4. Set a new record for the number of Botox injections received in a year.

5. Invent a type of chocolate that increases energy and burns calories.

When you get that last one done, call me!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Top Ten Resolutions

So have you started on your New Year's Resolutions yet? I set some every year. I fail at most of them, but I still make them. After all, to not make resolutions at all is just to admit that much earlier that I am failing. Who wants to start out the New Year admitting failure? Some years I've really struggled to come up with resolutions. Not because there weren't any areas to improve on, but because there weren't necessarily any that I really wanted to commit to that year. In case that's where you're at this second day of 2008, I've done you a favor. I've compiled a list of the top ten New Year's resolutions that many people make. This is a completely unbiased list gleaned from a little internet research, a little poling of a few friends and just stuff I wanted to include. Here it is:

1. Lose Weight--Come on, you didn't see this one coming?

2. Get organized --Fits almost everyone's list, doesn't it?

3. Exercise more--Sure, use the word "more". Like you exercised at all last year.

4. Get out of debt--Just in time to go nuts on next year's Christmas list.

5. Spend more time with family--if you have to schedule this, maybe you need more than a resolution.

6. Quit smoking--Careful! The stress from your other resolutions might make this one more difficult.

7. Quit drinking--Again, you might need more than a resolution if you have to set this goal.

8. Read the Bible through this year--Definitely a must. I think everyone should set this resolution every year.

9. Improve your spiritual walk--This one just might help with some of your other resolutions!

10. Get a better job--If you're resolving to do this one, maybe you need to resolve to get more of a life outside of your job.

So there it is. Bear in mind, these aren't necessarily my top ten resolutions. I thought about listing those, but then everyone else knows what I'm striving for and doesn't that make me more accountable? Come to think of it, it might help me stick to them more. That's something I'll have to think about! In the meantime, what resolutions did you set for this year?
Related Posts with Thumbnails