Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Creative Avoidance

I've already told you about my movie-lovin' 2 year old. (That's improving, by the way--thanks for asking) His favorite flick right now is Disney's "Dinosaur." This movie came out in the year 2000 and was the first time real picture scenes were superimposed with computer animation (or so the propaganda says). I can see why he likes it; gorgeous visual images, soaring music, a baby getting loved by a family, cute lemur antics. He's mesmerized. That is, until the meteor hits and it gets scary. Sometimes he watches (especially if someone is snuggling with him) but usually he gets anxious and agitated. When that happens, he cries out "help please! help me! help me!" followed by a bunch of gibberish (his vocabulary is small right now) as he ejects the dvd and starts it over. We've seen the beginning of that movie at least a dozen times this week.

That made me think a little about the trials we face in life. How many of us would like to cry "Help Me!" when the meteors hit the water near our little island sanctuary? How many times would we like to start the movie over when we are in the middle of something scary and awful--just to see if the ending changes?

I've actually fast forwarded the disc to the end just so he could see that everything ended well. At two, he doesn't really need to know that life can and probably will be ugly at times. I'd rather he focus on the happiness of family, of babies getting their needs taken care of and being loved. And even though there have been times I would have liked to fast forward through the trials in my life, I am grateful for the lessons I've learned from them. It's a little corny, but it's true.

And that's the other side.

Monday, April 25, 2005

He wears it backwards when it's not Halloween....he loves it 'cause it's orange! Posted by Hello

Ah....the joys of Orange... Posted by Hello

What if?

This essay was originally written in October, 2003, just before my orange-lovin' boy's 5th birthday. It's still one of my favorites. I hope you like it too!

My five year old likes to play a game I call “What If?” Those of you out there who are exposed to four and five year olds will probably recognize the game as I describe it. Usually it takes place in the car, while I am trying to concentrate on driving. He’ll land on a topic and imagine amazing things about it, requiring some input from me as he concludes. Here’s a typical game:

“What if our car could fly? What if we could just push a button and zoom to the grocery store? No! Wait! What if we could be invisible while we fly? No! What if our car could also be a rocket and we could go to the moon? No—wait! What if while we go to the moon we could zoom to Ben’s house and pick him up and take him with us?”

And so on. Eventually, our car is not only an invisible flying rocket, but it has room in it for all of his favorite cousins and other people, decorated with flames, and when we arrived at our destination, all we have to do is push a special button to make our car fold up into it’s own carrying case so we can put it in our pockets and not worry about having to find a parking spot.

My usual response—carefully thought out so that I don’t squash his exuberant enthusiasm or his desire to imagine the possibilities is, “That would be something!” As things become more incredible and amazing, my response changes to “That would be something” and later as his imaginings border on the truly fantastic, “That really would be something!” This satisfies him, and allows me keep the car on the road where it is supposed to be, as opposed to ending up on the sidewalk, around a tree, or up the tailpipe of the vehicle in front of me.

As his mother, I smile and wonder to myself what other mothers do in these creative and imaginative settings. I like to think that when Oliver Wright said, “What if I could build a machine that could fly people around like the birds?” or Thomas Edison said “What if I could get this little piece of tungsten wire to light up?” or Mr. Nokia (or whoever pioneered the cell phone) said, “What if we could talk on radio waves?” the response from those close to them was “That really would be something!”

Now my version of the “What If” game is a little different. Sometimes it’s “What if your room was always clean?” or “What if our five-month-old really did sleep through all of the night?” or “What if the dishes really did wash themselves?” But if allowed to let my creative imagination truly run wild, I would also say to this precious five year old boy, “What if you always stayed just the right size to snuggle here on my lap? What if you always stayed just as you are, right now? What if I could make the world so safe and all of the people in the world so kind and nice that you would never have the chance of being in danger or getting your feelings hurt?”

That really would be something.

And that’s the other side.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Feelin' Otherworldy

Today I am in a surreal state of mind. I found out yesterday that one of my dear friends of the past was burying her daughter Megan. Megan would have been 20 this July. She'd had since birth some mild cerebral palsy and epilepsy--but you would have never known it. She had some paralysis on her right side so did everything one-handed--even tie her shoes. She was fiercely independent. She worked in a bakery, went hiking, canoeing, rode zip lines, loved her siblings, did chores around the house, went to school--all with one hand. The last time I spent time with her, I was wearing my Mary Kay beauty consultant hat and asked by her mother to teach her how to wear makeup. "It'll be easier for her to hear coming from you rather than me." her mom said. It was fun.

Megan was fun to be around. She was bright and cheerful. She never complained. I didn't know her well, but I liked being around her when I was. I only found out about her funeral about an hour and a half before it started. I just knew in my gut that I had to be there. As other's shared their stories about Megan, as her beautiful mother, my friend spoke about her daughter without breaking down, I cried. Even though my religious faith tells me she is in a better happier place without the constraints of her handicapped body, it was easy to see that she is leaving a hole behind.

Her dad told this amazing story at the end of the funeral. Her parents were having a hard time choosing a cemetary for her. After driving around all of the ones in the area, they decided that it should be a family decision. So the next day they pulled the other kids (5 of them) out of school and drove around again. When they got to a small, out of the way, kinda in the middle of nowhere, they unanimously got a strong feeling that this quiet cemetary was the right cemetary for Megan's final resting place. They made the appropriate phone calls, and waited for the caretakers of the cemetary to arrive. As they waited, they walked around looking for the right plot. Far away, down at the other end of the cemetary an old man jumped up, waved at them and called "Hal....Hal!" Since no one in their party was named "Hal," they shrugged it off and kept looking. After the man did this a second time, Megan's aunt said, "I think he's saying "Help." Megan's dad admitted that he was selfishly caught up in his own grief and worries to give it much thought. (I probably would have been too!). Her aunt went to investigate, and found that the old man was bleeding badly from a cut in his arm, and had been crawling around the cemetary for well over a day, trying to get help. They called 911, and got him the emergency care he needed. He was dehydrated, and slowly bleeding to death. If they hadn't been there at that time, he would have died. Megan's father felt that it was her influence from the other side that led them there--so that they could help him. Megan loved people and she loved helping.

I'm going to make her mother a card and mail it to her. I didn't have time to make one before the funeral. In it I will tell her mother again how glad I am that we were close once, and how I cherish her friendship. Then, as per her mother's wishes as to how we knew Megan, I will tell her mother that I thought Megan was beautiful and bright. I will tell her that I never saw her handicap.

I have a poem brewing, and when I finish it I will share. For now it's just:

The world is dimmer today.
the Light you brought to it has
followed you home.

Farewell Megan, even though I wasn't a big part of your life, you made an impression on mine, and I will miss you.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Shoes, Wonderful Shoes!

This was originally written in September of 2003. I think it's worth reposting.

Okay, let me say right now, that this essay will deal with women and generalities. While I know that it is impossible for ALL women to love shoes, it is a common idea that MOST women love shoes. It is on that platform that some of my remarks today will be made.

I am one of those women who love shoes. I especially love black shoes. I think I am safe in saying that most women have more than one black pair of shoes and really couldn’t part with any of them. At this time, I own over seven pairs of black shoes; each has their own special place and purpose in my closet. If you could love shoes like children, then sometimes I do.

Speaking of children, my nearly-nine-year-old daughter is discovering shoes. Her feet are on the brink of fitting into Women’s sizes. She is finding out what her shoe personality is, as the shoes in her size go from decidedly little girl sandals and mary janes to shoes with heels (to get the proper emphasis, you should say the word “heels” in hushed and reverent tones…as she does). This new stage of her life is fun for me; we are bonding over shoes. We were shopping in Goodwill the other day (my favorite place to find shoes, as I almost always walk away from the store with a new pair of $80 shoes for about six bucks) when I asked her to point out what kind of shoes she liked. Oh the response I got! She started pulling a pair of shoes off of the rack. The first pair was a little strappy sandal, more girly than grown-up, with a chunky 1-inch heel. “These are nice” she said, but I could tell she was still in what she felt was safe territory—answering mom with what she thought I wanted to hear. “Yes,” I answered, “but they are your size right now, and you don’t really need them.” She took this statement for what it was—permission to find what she liked, not what I wanted her to like. Immediately she began grabbing shoes—a high-heeled wedge here, a colorful spiky heel there, the occasional purple mule, and landed finally on a two-strap platform slide—black chunky heels, leopard print straps. These shoes were somewhere between trendy and trampy. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “I love these!” Wouldn’t you know that they fit perfectly? She wore them around the store, and all I could do was smile at her, knowing that she was too young to know that high heels hurt after awhile. Even though I didn’t really like her choice of shoes, I couldn’t help but enjoy her youthful enthusiasm about growing up.

That’s when I realized that shoes have become a female ritual in our modern non-ritualistic society. Gone are the days when you knew a girl was becoming a woman because she could now wear her hair up. Gone are the debutante balls, the cotillions, and the change from pedal pushers to shirt dresses. Instead, girls today get their first pair of heels. Heels are grown-up shoes for grown-up girls. They are a tangible proof of maturity, an unmistakable sign of adulthood.

I eventually talked my daughter into a different pair of shoes. We bought shoes that were appropriate for a girl nearly nine—a girl who is somewhere between little girl and grown-up. A pair of Doc Martins (remember, $80 shoes for six bucks…)—a great pair of shoes with a chunky, platform-like heel and mary jane straps. Shoes that were tough, yet feminine. Of course they were black.

And that’s the other side.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Here's to Joyce!

I love to watch "The Amazing Race." It's one of about 3 shows I watch anymore. I don't think I've missed much more than one or two episodes in seven seasons. It's been fascinating to see these ordinary people cry, strive, laugh, fight, bicker, get lost, get hurt, push past their fears, cheat, lie, and love as they race around the world for a million dollars. The full spectrum of human behavior unfolds against a backdrop of the wonderful and exotic in the world. Some events are shocking (Jonathon and Victoria) and some are marvelous (I can't remember their names right now, but I'm still impressed by the sister team from Utah where one of the sisters unrolled hay bales for over eight hours searching for the clue. Every other team had moved on, but she kept unrolling those hay bales. She never quit. Phil, the host of the show, finally came to her to tell her that they were eliminated from the race. It was dark, and they estimated she had unrolled close to 200 ginormous hay bales. There's stamina and integrity for you!). I especially love watching these people test their courage.

Today I am especially impressed by Joyce. She and her husband Uchenna entered this race with the twin hopes of rebuilding their relationship and winning the money so that they could afford to battle their infertility difficulties. In the last episode, they chose to go after the elusive "Fast Forward"; by earning the Fast Forward, they earn the right to skip all tasks and go right to the pit stop. Teams winning the fast forward are usually in first place and are ahead of all the other teams. This race is almost over, and winning the fast forward now could mean winning the race. Now the Fast Forward is usually a daunting task--more difficult than the others. In this task, racers had to undergo a Hindu good luck ritual--shaving their heads bald. No problem for Uchenna--he's already shaven. But Joyce wasn't. They took a lot of time finding the fast forward. Going back without winning it would have surely meant elimination. Joyce was mad. "I frickin' knew it!" she yelled. "All right then, go ahead!" she said, ripping off her bandanna. Uchenna tried to stop her--"You don't have to do this honey." "We are DOING THIS!" was her reply. You could hear the frustration and hurt and fear in her voice. She cried as the scissors started cutting her hair off. Not only was she losing what had to be an important part of her female self-definition (I mean, what woman isn't a little vain about her hair?)--she was about to be bald on national television.

It was marvelous to watch as her tears of anger and loss changed as her hair got shorter and shorter. "It's only hair--it'll grow back. It's just the outward appearance." You could feel Uchenna's pride and love for his wife radiating from the tv screen. "You are so beautiful!" he kept saying to her. And it was true. She was absolutely regal. She was stunning. She was inspiring.

I don't know if Uchenna and Joyce will will the million dollars or not--but maybe they have something better. When they started this race, they admitted that their relationship was in a rocky place. After watching them earn that fast forward, and watching them grow together and work as a team, I would be surprised if they still felt that way. They have integrity and obvious love for each other. Uchenna respected and loved Joyce enough to lose the race if she wanted to keep her hair. She respected and loved him enough to let her hair go. I hope that if I am faced with the choice of losing something important to me (but ultimately trivial), I'll have the courage to make the choice. Would I give up my hair for a million dollars? Maybe. Would I give up my hair to make my relationship with my husband better? Definitely.

And that's the other side.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ode to a Nap

Ah Sleep. That elusive elixir of life. At least for me. I've been blessed by children, who as babies, were rough sleepers. Now that they are older (my youngest just turned 2), and are sleeping better, somehow I'm not. I'm still programmed to wake every couple of hours. I just listen a second and then roll over and try to go back to sleep. Sometimes my 2 year old is crying--he still wakes at least once a night and needs some attention. (and yes, we've tried all of the "help your baby to sleep on his own" tricks. More than once. More than twice. Thanks for thinking of them.) Usually everything is fine, and I am only conscious for a second or two.

Then, however, I am floating in that in-between conscious and sleeping unconscious stage for about 20-30 minutes. Just to go through the same thing again in a couple of hours. It makes for one tired Mama! Today I woke up a little before 6 am and couldn't get back to sleep. I survive by getting a nap. Today will be a nap day.

Things must be just right for me to nap; my baby must also be down for his nap (terrible at night, great during the day--go figure!). I have a little nap corner on the extra bed in our office/scrapbook nook area. I must lay across the bed at a funny angle. I must lay on my right side. I must have a pillow to cover my face. I must have my favorite quilt all cocoon-like around me. My son must have something to do that will occupy him for at least an hour. Then I can nap.

If all is well with the "musts," I can power nap. I can slip into a nearly unconscious state in minutes. Many's the time I have awakened so relaxed I have been in what we call "the drool zone." My DH is adept at reaching the "drool zone"--not so much for me. I try to only nap for 30-45 minutes. More than that and I am still funky-tired and irritable. If anything wakes me up before the requisite 30 minutes--the phone, a child needing attention, etc., then the nap is lost to me and I and everyone around me just have to suck it up and deal.

Nothing quite matches the euphoria of waking up from a good nap. I feel more like a person. I remember myself better. I am more balanced. Naps are essential for my well-being.

Today is a Nap Day. And that's the other side.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Me, only better! Posted by Hello

How Cool is That?!?!

Okay, I'm about to share a deep secret part of me. I want to be a Scrapbook Celebrity. At least I want to rub shoulders with them and have good parts of me come out in recognizable ways because of what I've learned from them. I would be thrilled to death if they included me in their circle of things. I've been reading all of these great Blogs by these ladies--Ali Edwards, Donna Downey, Cathy Zielske and Tara Whitney (I limited myself to these for starters--I have to get off of the computer SOMETIME during the day to take care of the mundane little details of my life--like feeding my kids, loading my dishwasher, rotating laundry...etc., etc.,). Anyway, I posted to the Simple Scrapbooks message board (SSMB) that I really liked DonnaD's blog and she read my post. And then read my blog. And then she posted a comment that said that she liked it--and me by extension! HOW COOL IS THAT!

So why aren't I a Scrapbook Celebrity? Ah, there's the rub. I haven't tried out. I've been furiously devouring these great books and pages and magazines and layouts and ideas to make MY scrapbooking better but I've not entered anything. Well, I guess that's not quite true. I've sent in a handful of pages. Like three. Not a lot. And not enough to get noticed. So now I'm on a quest. I'm going to work this year to get noticed. And that scares me spitless.

One of my online girlfriends has a quote in her signature line that goes something like "What we risk is also what we value." Well, what I am risking by putting my work out there to be noticed is me. Myself. I. So the real question then, is, how much do I value myself? Do I value myself enough to go through the effort to take some digital pics of my layouts and size them to the right dpi so I can submit them electronically? Do I value myself enough to figure out what the heck a "dpi" is? Do I value myself enough to just try?

One step...a journey begins with one step. Time for me to make that step. It's better than not trying at all.

And that's the other side.

Here's my self-portrait, courtesy of Ali's challenge. (see above)

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Why am I Paying for Cable?

In this house, we have been hostages to a 2 year old. Every toddler out there in the world fixates on something. It's in their nature. As kids grow and realize that they are separate from their mothers and that they can control their legs, arms, voices, they want to use that power to control Something Else. For some it's a blankie, a doll, a toy, their clothes, etc. In our house it's the television.

Well, actually, it's the DVD player. My son is obsessed with movies.

When he wakes up in the morning, he likes a little snuggle. I speak to him softly, asking him if he slept well, telling him a little about what we need to do that day. I know it's only a matter of time before he looks up at me, smiles sweetly and asks, "Mo-Mo?" That is toddler-speak in our house for movies. Now you think any old movie would do, or that you could distract him with some wholesome public television programming....not so. No Way. Not gonna happen. At the tender age of two, he is a conoissueur of animation.

Not only is he VERY picky, he knows what he wants to watch. He doesn't verbalize much yet, so choosing movies is usually a matter of holding up the DVD case and watching his reactions. "No!" followed by unhappy screaming is a very telling way to see what he doesn't want to watch. When we've happened upon the one he does want to watch, he chortles with glee and let's out a stream of unrecognizable happy gibberish, grabs the case out of our hands and loads the movie into the dvd player.

Yes, he loads his own movies. He insists on it. We've tried to stop him, since we've already lost one expensive dvd player (a 5-disc changer he tried putting about 12 movies in) and 2 dvds (one belonging to the public library). We spent months with the glass doors to our entertainment system taped shut. He learned to remove the tape. He insists as only toddlers can, on doing it himself. Sometimes, he'll load a movie we've foolishly allowed him to be able to reach, watch the previews, take it out, load it again, watch the previews again, and so on and so on. He even knows how to press the fast forward button until the menu comes up and then he can press play. It's rather inspiring to see such mechanical genius in one so young. Sort of. (I didn't like having to buy another DVD-player).

If by some chance someone else in our family wants to use the television for Nintendo, their own movies, or say, actually watch television, things get ugly. Remember when the Tasmanian Devil chewed and snarled and spit his way through the forest to where Bugs Bunny was standing with his carrot? It's like that but worse. I usually respond to this outburst with "Oh Honey, I'm sorry you're upset...But you don't get to control the television. Don't forget to kick your legs while you're down there throwing your fit!" I do not give in. He watches enough movies while no one else is at home. Plus I don't want him to always have that much power in our house. I don't like being held hostage, and I'm bigger than he is.

We only have one television. This was a choice we made purposefully. We only have one dvd player (a cheap one this time, in case the DVD commando breaks it again somehow). We bought a Nintendo gamecube long after the initial release of the machine. We limit the time it's on. We have "No Screen Time" days where we do things BESIDES watching television and playing computer games. We enjoy the television for entertainment (LOVE the digital recording feature of our cable box), but don't let it rule our lives. We are more than what we watch.

But how do you teach that lesson to an obsessed two-year-old? In this house, we go for a little at a time. We go for walks. I take him to the park. We go to the library. We run around the house. We run around the yard. We read books. We go outside and get wet and muddy and play with chalk. We play dinosaurs or Little People or Rescue Heroes. It's not easy--especially when the television is so easy. Pixar makes a great product. I can sit through their movies again and again. And it's hilarious to watch my toddler mimic all of the sounds at the beginning of Monsters Inc. (from the "THX" mwangh sound to the screaming of the "child" during the new recruit's test...he does them all). But when you start thinking that the butler Edgar should have bumped off the old lady instead of the Aristocats, you've watched the movie too many times.

I'm not sure how this hostage crisis will end. My husband and I are doing our best to balance his movie watching with other wholesome pursuits. Who knows? Maybe the television world will get to the point that we won't WANT to watch it any more. All we can do now is monitor what our children DO watch. And move the dvds to a higher shelf and hope our two year old doesn't learn how to climb.

And that's the other side.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Look for the Happy

A few Augusts ago, my husband, amateur astronomer, decided that we as a family should watch the Perseid meteor shower. Snuggling with my hubby and kids as we looked for shooting stars did sound like a good time, so I readily agreed. It was a warm clear night, and as we watched the skies, pretty soon one of us would point and say, “There’s one!” “I see it!” or “Ooh! That was a big one! Did you see it?”and other various exclamations. My husband and I patiently pointed out the difference between the slow moving satellites and the streaking meteors to our oldest daughter. Then we explained the difference between the satellites and the airplanes we could see flying over us. She quickly understood the difference, and spent most of her time pointing out the various satellites moving in a slow arc over our heads. Our son, who was almost four at the time, also got into the action by shouting, “I see a happy light!”

Now sometimes as parents, we have no clue what our kids are talking about, especially our three year olds. I don’t think I am alone in this. The first night we watched the meteor shower, my husband and I just shrugged our shoulders and played along. When my son wanted to go “watch the happy lights” again a second night, we agreed, thinking that he had decided in his 3-year-old vocabulary that “shooting stars” and “happy lights” were the same thing. That's not a bad association at all. It wasn’t until we had settled into our star watching that we understood what he meant. Our daughter kept up her role of pointing out the satellites, my husband and I tried to direct our children’s attention to the shooting stars, and my son again said excitedly, “I see a happy light!” We still had no clue what he was talking about. Then in his next statement, everything made sense. “Aww,” he said sympathetically, “there’s another sad one.”

When we were patiently teaching about satellites, he heard “sad lights.” Now my son is a very positive and optimistic little boy. Instead of looking for shooting stars and “sad lights,” he wanted to look instead for the “happy lights.” This is in keeping with his wonderful loving nature. When playing at playdates, he learned early that trading toys with his friends was more fun than grabbing things away, and that taking turns was just as much fun as being the sole person to play with the wanted item in question. That August, my husband and I were trying to teach our children about some of the wonders of the night sky; instead, we were taught by this small boy a more valuable lesson: look for the happy.

This is an easy and hard lesson to apply. Many things in life are bad or good depending on your perspective. I can complain about my baby’s night wakefulness, or I can be happy that I have some precious bonding time with my son, and, as an added perk, I don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to make sure he is still breathing! My daughter can complain about having to pick up her room or she can be grateful that she has clothes and toys—and even her own room! I think you get the picture. Our trials can make us or break us, depending on how we choose to look at things. It all comes down to perspective.

This may sound a little preachy, but I would encourage you to try it. The next time you are caught up in stress, bogged down with the no-fun, mundane details of your life—try to change your perspective. It does make a difference. Look for the happy. You’ll be glad you did.

And that’s the other side.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Balance in the Universe

I have a very good friend who is one of “Those Moms.” You never want to eat before going to a Tupperware party at her house because you know she will put out a beautiful finger food feast, complete with matching seasonal plates and napkins (and all made from scratch in her kitchen beforehand—which is now spotless—no hiding dirty dishes in the stove for her!). Other moms will bring a box of crackers for a preschool snack; she will bring homemade peanut butter cookie mice, with peanuts for ears and licorice whips for tails. Her house is always clean and neat, with everything in its place. Her children are well-groomed when out in public. She speaks to them in soft voices—even when she is frustrated with them.

Now, I share these things not to invite put-downs or criticism upon my friend. She has been one of my favorite people for well over a decade. I share her attributes with you because I believe there is balance in the universe, a need for opposition in all things. She is one of “Those Moms” because I am not.

My house is always seems to be cluttered, my daughter sometimes has, shall we say, eclectic taste in clothes, my son often looks like he needs a haircut (he has strong dueling cowlicks on the back of his head that make his hair impossible to comb), and while I enjoy baking, I am usually the Mom who just remembered as she left the house that morning that it was her turn to bring the snack and so runs back into the house and grabs a box of cereal (because it was the only suitable thing I could bring that was unopened and the school won’t cook macaroni and cheese—the only other edible thing left in my pantry). When something like this happens, I am also usually muttering “safe” (and maybe not-so-safe--depending on how stressed I am) swear words under my breath (Hock-key Puck! is a favorite…). At a recent women’s group meeting to discuss ways to cope with stress, other women spoke of exercise, listening to classical music, and writing in their journals as a their way to relieve stress. I raised my hand and said without shame, “I eat chocolate, and yell at my kids when I’m stressed!” Based on the supportive reaction that rippled through the room like a wave on the ocean, it was obvious that I was not alone.

Now, while my home (and sometimes my parenting) is not magazine perfect, it is comfortable. It’s like that one old shirt that you know you should get rid of, but just can’t because when you wear it, you feel most like yourself. My home is like that. I will not make excuses for myself; I am what I am, and my house is what it is—a place where anyone can come and feel welcome and safe, where they know that they can just be themselves. It’s a place where ideas and opinions are validated, even if they aren’t agreed with. A place where cousins can come and crash on their way to someplace else—even if I haven’t seen them for over fifteen years—and feel right at home. I like it like that.

Too often in this life we compare what we perceive to be our worst to what we perceive to be another’s best. The time has come to stop making excuses for our shortcomings and to learn to be happy being who we are. There will always be someone whose strengths and talents differ from yours—and that’s okay. It's like that for a reason. Your goal should be to discover and celebrate your strengths; instead of concentrating on your weaknesses. Because no matter what, somehow, there will be balance in the universe, and it’s okay to be on whatever side of the scale you are on.

And that’s the other side.


For awhile there, I was writing these columns and sending them to my friends via email. I'll be posting a bunch of those already written essays in the next week or so. Then I will be writing new ones.

Thanks for "listening!"

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A bit of explanation about the name...

I wanted to explain a bit about the name of this blog. I called it "The Other Side" because I've learned in my life that I tolerate annoying people better when I try hard to see their side of things. (Sort of a "walk a mile in their moccasins" approach). That made me think about the other side of things that people generally take for granted. That made me think of how I had benefitted from looking at "the other side" of things, especially when I realized where the previously mentioned annoyances were coming from. So, the title "The Other Side" seemed appropriate when I started writing my meanderings of thoughts down in print.

I hope you enjoy this blog, and it brings you some benefit--a smile, a laugh, and maybe, a greater appreciation for "the other side" of things.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Love...How do you Know?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the question, “How do you know you love me?” This has been preceded by the fact that two of my very close friends (who married each other…) are divorcing—his choice, not hers. I’m baffled by this. After fifteen years and five children together, he decided he didn’t love her any more. She had no idea he wanted to leave. I’ve only talked to her about this and heard her side. Apparently, he’s shedding all trappings of his old life, and that may include me. I still don’t get it. How do you decide you don’t love someone, when you have so much history together and five very good reasons for making your marriage work?

I’ve often felt that staying in love is a choice. We have the responsibility to our partners to find reasons to stay in love. Many of us who have been with the same person for a long time know that the exciting rush of first love doesn’t last. It’s either replaced by something finer and more solid or it’s replaced with nothing. On the other side of the story, we have a responsibility to stay attractive to our mates. Now, before you get your dander up, you should know that I’m not talking about hours on a treadmill or starving to stay a size 6 and so on. There are other ways besides the physical to stay attractive.

Learn to compromise. Watch your tone of voice when speaking to your partner. Don’t pick fights just because you are feeling a bit peckish. Realize that sometimes it is okay to serve your partner and receive service in return (you make him a sandwich one day, he puts gas in your car the next, etc.) Make sure you are treating this most important person in your life with the same courtesy you would give strangers on the street. Be sure you aren’t asking more of your mate than you are giving. With that said, (and hopefully understood), I would like to say a few words about physical attractiveness. Bathe. Wear clean clothes. Wear clothes that fit well. Do care about your appearance in general. Do these things also for yourself as well as your mate. Spend time together. Talk to each other about more than just your agenda and the mundane details that make up the business of life. Take the time to remember why you fell in love with that person in the first place. Realize that the very thing that’s driving you crazy for the moment might in fact be one of the reasons you love that person. For instance, it might make me a little crazy when my husband spends his free time helping friends or other members of his family with their computer problems instead of spending that precious free time with me and our family. But, one of the reasons I love him is his generous heart. And I love that he can solve mysterious computer problems easily. And I love his family. So I have to figure out a compromise. Anyway, I think you get it.

So back to the question “How do you know you love me?” I asked my husband this, and he answered. “I just know.” So much for great words of wisdom and clear understanding there! But then I thought about it a bit more. Sometimes the answers to the complicated questions in life are simple. A big part of love is trust. A big part of trust is hope. For me to feel secure in my relationship, I have to trust that I’m doing my part to make that relationship work. I have to hope that my partner and I have laid the foundation for communication so well that if someone else starts looking better to him, we can at least talk about it before he decides to leave. I don’t know how to help my friend, other than to be the best support to her a friend can be. I do hope to learn from her trials ways to better my own relationship with my husband. And I choose to stay in love with my mate every single day.

And that’s the other side.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Meaning of Life

I found my high school boyfriend the other day. I was checking out my name on one of those public record information sites--you know, the kind that get passed around different Yahoo groups, usually with the panic button attached that people will now be able to steal your identity because of this information site, and I got the idea to plug his name in. He wasn't there--at first--but another link put me right on his home page as a professor at a university. I was initially surprised. Not because of his choice of career, but because suddenly the picture of the boy I remembered was put up right against the picture of the man he now was, and I had to change my inner picture of him.

I was also very proud of him. While we were dating, he had a specific list of things he wanted to do with his life. And according to his resume, he did all of them and more. Basically, he was the same person he was in high school, but all of the the things that he loved that made his high school years awkward were the very things that made him successful as an adult. That got me thinking about things. Had I done what I wanted to do? What memories does he have of me? How different was the grown-up me from the teen-age me?

I should give a little background. He and I had a relationship for about three years. One year dating as Seniors in high school, and two years in a long-distance relationship, writing letters and having phone calls as we went away to college and other things. He was my first real boyfriend; I was his first real girlfriend. Our relationship didn't end with a dramatic breakup--rather it just quietly stopped. He went out of the country for awhile; I moved out of state. Eventually the letters no longer arrived. Towards the end, truthfully, we were more friends than anything else. But because our relationship never had a concrete ending, I always wondered about the "might have beens."

Now that I know a little more about his life after me, I found myself wanting to meet his wife. I want to know if she was anything like me. I want to know if our relationship influenced his choice of spouse, because I knew that it had for me. I want to know if our past relationship has any meaning to him, because it has meaning for me.

I was once told that we should treat people we meet in life as if they were wearing an invisible sign around their necks reading "Make Me Feel Important!." I think all of us search for meaning in this life. But rather than discuss some deep metaphysical answers here, I'd like to propose that rather than searching for the meaning in life, we are all needing to feel that we are important to someone else. We need to know that we mean something to someone.

Parents of small children will understand what I mean best. It never fails that the very moment you are involved with something, anything, from a project to a phone call, that will be the same moment your toddler will demand your attention. And toddlers are very good at making themselves hard to ignore. They need to know that their needs matter.

So back to my high school boyfriend. I don't know if I will ever have the answer as to whether or not our relationship mattered. I don't know if I will ever know if I still mean something to him today. But I think I will send him an email to tell him that he mattered to me. I'll tell him that our relationship had meaning in my life. If you have someone in your life that matters to you, tell them. Let them know that they have meaning in your life.

And that's the other side.