Sunday, July 26, 2015

Do it now! Finding a life balance can be tough

Devotees of "The Simpsons" are familiar with the popular family fun spot Wall E. Weasel, known for its memorable tag line: "We cram fun down your throat!"

This summer, I have been the personification of that restaurant. I have been positively giddy about having and scheduling fun - for myself and the family - nearly to the point of exhaustion.

Part of my issue is the climate. Sure, others in my neck of the woods may look outside and see sunshine and balmy temperatures, but I remember those arctic winter winds that chilled me to the bone. And I know, I KNOW, they're just around the corner. Winter will be here before we know it - mark my words.

So if we're going to the lake, to the pool, to the bonfire, to the back yard - if we're taking walks, building s'mores, making road trips, visiting friends - we need to do it NOW.

The other part of the equation is time. Time, as any Trekkie will tell you, is the fire in which all men burn. We can't control it. We can't stop it.  I look around and I see my kids getting older, my friends battling health problems, and I feel a slight panic rising in my soul. How did all this time pass so fast?

Am I doing enough? Too much, or too little? Am I living, loving and laughing enough?

It's hard to tell. No, it's impossible to tell. All you can do is the best you can do. Striking a life balance is tough.

 All I know is when I sit in my back yard swing and hear my kids laughing, watch the dog playing and see my husband manning the grill is that today, I'm making it work.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Semantics key to success in blogging, life

The door to my daughter's teen cave opened with an ominous creak.

I saw this from the corner of my eye. I was in the master bedroom, multi-tasking: folding clothes, listening to music, and quasi-dancing to earn steps in my weekly Fitbit challenge.

The daughter inched closer and stuck her head in the door.

"That song is on my playlist," she said, sounding puzzled, looking at my phone.

Uh-oh. Not good. ONE TIME, about FIVE YEARS ago, I made the mistake of alluding to a song she liked that was playing on the car radio. "We use that in Jazzercise," I said innocently. Had I looked into the rear view mirror, I would have seen her face frozen into a mask of horror. She later informed me she had been permanently scarred.

I don't even take Jazzercise anymore. (And there isn't anything wrong with it. It was fun.)

But it doesn't matter.

Semantics matter. She's a teen. I'm a mom. Not mommy. Mom.

I used to "mommy blog." But I stopped. It seemed stupid. My kids were older; I wasn't really a mommy anymore, was I?  It had been fun. But that ship had sailed.

"You could 'family blog,' " my husband suggested. Hmmm. Wait.

I could, couldn't I?

Semantics. Maybe that's the key.

After all, I used to be a features writer. Now I'm a "content creator."

I still get paid to write.

Semantics. Mommy, mom, content,  articles .... It is, in the end, all just a manner of speaking.

Words matter, of course - just ask my daughter. But as we all know, actions matter more.

"Okay," she said doubtfully, looking at my phone. "I guess you can listen to it." She looked up at me pleadingly. "But .... just don't dance."

Monday, June 30, 2014

Age is just a number - for shelter animals, too

13-year-old Clinton is waiting for a forever home
 (photo: Humane Society of  Huron Valley)
I'm a volunteer at a local animal shelter. I go in on the weekends, and walk dogs, clean cages, distribute pet food - whatever they need me to do.

I've never been much of a volunteer, so the fact I'm actually doing this - and not just thinking about how I should be doing this - is kind of unusual for me.

But I love animals. And the shelter I'm at is outstanding, where there is no limit of time on adoption, and there are many programs in place to promote publicity for the animals.

Usually, after I come home from volunteering, I'm ebullient. It's not a sad place. The animals are wonderful, the staff is appreciative and I feel like I've helped them accomplish something good.

Except yesterday. Yesterday was crowded, with many clients looking at dogs and cats, and interested in adopting them. That's great. But then I walked into the puppy room and saw a woman pull her teen-age son away from a corner kennel.

"That's not a puppy," she told him. "That's an old dog - you don't want some old dog."

She was right on one count; the dog was not a puppy. He was an older dog. There are sometimes so many animals at the shelter that grown dogs are placed in the puppy room. But I was appalled at her callousness. It bothers me enough that so many senior dogs end up in shelters in the first place, but when I heard those words, my heart just sank.

It stayed low for the rest of the day. I couldn't get her words out of my head - because they're wrong. Very wrong. Senior dogs can be wonderful companions for many who don't want or can't handle more energetic,younger dogs. They are usually gentle, sweet-natured and affectionate, and I think their graying whiskers are beautiful. Yes, if they have medical issues, that needs to be considered before adoption. But I hope people know that it's not always the length of a relationship that makes it meaningful.

I hope someone shows more kindness to that woman in her golden years. As for me, I guess the old saying holds true ... eavesdroppers never hear anything good.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Look up - and keep that sense of wonder

There are days when I wish I could be a kid again.

No, I don't miss braces or acne or middle school angst, but I do miss something else - that sense of wonder I feel I often overlook in my harried adult world.

The other day, my daughter and I were driving together on a quick errand, and I was giving  her the rundown of my commute home - heavy traffic, lots of construction, the guy who cut me off ... you know, things that you try not to take home with you but stick with you for awhile anyway.

I was still annoyed - and more than a little cranky.

She was sitting quietly beside me  as we drove along, and she interrupted my rant
"Look!" she said. "Mom ... look at the clouds!"

Startled into silence, I stopped my litany of complaints and looked through the windshield, up into the bright blue sky. A gathering of clouds was billowed together in the distance, silhouetted against the the horizon in thick, soft layers.

"They're beautiful," she breathed.

She was right - they were. And I hadn't even noticed.

I'll try not to make that mistake again.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Just one more parody of 'Let it Go' - for moms

Frozen: A Mom Parody
Okay, Okay, I know - we're all about "Frozen'ed" out.

 And we've all heard a million versions of "Let it Go." (Even though truthfully,  I could listen to it every day).

But if you're a mom, this is one version worth listening to:

Frozen: A Mom Parody

(Courtesy of Granger Church, Granger, Indiana)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

'They grow up so fast' isn't really a cliche

I remember when I used to walk my son and daughter to elementary school. They'd walk ahead of me, giggling and pushing each other, racing to see who could get to the crossing guard first.

One day, when my son was in kindergarten and his sister was in fourth grade, I was walking them to school as always, but I didn't feel well. I felt feverish and all-over yukky, like I was coming down with a flu.

"I'm just going to walk you to the crossing guard," I told them. "Then you two can walk the rest of the way by yourselves."

They looked at me with uncertainty. I always walked them into their classrooms.

But I felt really sick. "Hold hands," I said. "You'll be fine."

They walked across the street, with the help of the crossing guard, obediently holding hands. No problem. Gratefully, I turned go back home. Then I looked back.

My son was standing stock-still, staring over at me with an expression of sadness, confusion and outrage. He yanked his hand from his sister, put both hands over his face, and burst into tears.

She bent down to him. "He doesn't want to go without you," she called. "He wants you to walk with him."

I did, of course. How could I not?

Fast forward to this year, earlier this week.  My son is now in fifth grade; he's a safety guard, so we drive to get to school early. As he gets out of the car, I brush his too-long hair from his eyes. He sighs. "Mom!" he says, batting my hand away, "don't touch it! I just gelled it into place!"

We walk together toward the front door, but about 50 feet away, he says, "That's fine,"
and runs ahead, leaving me standing by the outdoor custodial closet. It's an agreement we have. Each day, he leaves me a little further behind.

That particular day I just stood there, watching him, awash in memories. I realized with a start I'd been standing there for more than a few minutes. My son had long disappeared inside the doors. I turned to go and nearly bumped into a teaching assistant I knew.

She looked at me sympathetically. "It's hard to let them go, isn't it?" she said, and she put her hand over her heart.

You have no idea. Or maybe you do.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sharing, selling your art? That's one tough gig

My brother is the salesman in the family. He could, as the saying goes, sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.

I am not a salesperson. At all. The books I've sold have been by luck, happenstance and word of mouth. And for every sale, I'm very grateful.

My teen-age daughter is an artist - she has been, ever since she could pick up a pencil. But she got a taste of sales this past weekend when she gathered up her entrepreneurial spirit along with
 a portfolio of art she'd created for the occasion, and headed off to a sales booth at her high school's annual anime convention.

It was a tough gig. I knew there would be other vendors there, but since it was just a small  high school convention, I assumed they'd be other students. A few were. But most weren't - they were grown-ups, selling wares from big companies, and this was their livelihood.

Tough competition. And selling to high-schoolers ... that's no easy feat, either.

Some were wonderful. Others were incredibly rude. And still others, apparently used to communicating only through text messages, were oddly anti-social - unable to make eye contact and mumbling so bad they were nearly incoherent.

My daughter simply gritted her teeth and persevered. She made a decent amount of sales, received some good feedback and learned a lot about marketing. (For instance, many people wanted business cards, or her website gallery address. She didn't have either - but she will soon).

I was incredibly proud of her. Putting your work out there for everyone to judge and criticize is tough - something any creative person will tell you. But sharing your work, in most cases, is the reason many of us create in the first place.

It's a tough tightrope to maneuver.

She did learn one thing - she enjoys creating far more than selling.

I can't disagree with her. Not one bit.