Sunday, January 31, 2010

Something New, or Stick with the Tried and True?

What's your philosophy when making choices in life-- something new, or stick with the tried and true? Does it depend on the gravity of the situation, or do you always approach choices with the same idea in mind? Just wondering, just pondering, just thinking up trivial sh** to fill my blog entry for today :-)

My son has been pestering me for the last hour, wanting to know when the dessert will be ready to eat. Usually, dessert for me involves chocolate, chocolate, and a little more chocolate, but tonight I mixed up lemon pudding and whipped some egg whites for a lemon meringue pie. I'm telling you, somewhere, somebody named Lucifer just got a chill because hell must truly be about to freeze over if I feel like lemon instead of chocolate! Sugar is sugar is sugar, so my son is game for lemon pie, but my husband just made a face at the pie and grabbed the bag of Oreos on his way out of the kitchen. Which brings us to the question of the night. . . do you like to try something new once in a while, or do you always stick with the tried and true?

As for me, I like to try new things, but I have to admit I have my boundaries that aren't likely to be crossed. Chocolate can be replaced with coconut creme or mixed with a dash of chipotle pepper, but it's not very often that a taste for lemon intrudes upon my sweet tooth. Ooooh, that last sentence reminds me of the dark chocolate candy bar spiked with krispy/poprocks-like bits and chipotle pepper that I discovered sometime before Christmas. . .mmmmm, sounds detestable, but tasted delectable.

I tend to think that last paragraph describes my approach to lots of things in life, not just desserts. I have my boundaries (or, more likely, my fears), but I like trying new things. Okay, I admit it, I'm half worrier-before-the-fact pessimist and half everything-is-good-in-hindsight optimist, so my trying new things is almost always on a small scale. You know, I'd rather risk taking a tumble off the side of a mole hill in pursuit of a fairly good view than risk free falling thousands of feet off a true mountain in pursuit of a spectacular view. Good? Bad? Who can really say? I think it all depends on whether you have to live in real life or get to reside in a pretty ivory tower, or maybe it all comes down to whether or not you have responsibilities to other people? or, maybe, it all comes down to what/who you hide behind as your excuse for choosing safety?

If I knew the answers to all those questions, do you think I'd be sitting here typing away? Nah, probably not. . . I think I'll go try a slice of that lemon pie, now :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I read an essay titled "The Trouble with Television," and I have to tell you about it. Robert MacNeil wrote this over twenty years ago, yet it still has resonance today. In fact, he could probably edit it to include "All of the Latest Technology" and still have it resonate.

Trust me, I am not going to tell you television/internet is the root of all evil. I love to watch a movie, love to secretly enjoy a soap opera-ish show, love to surf the 'net. . . but doing without access to the Internet at home has highlighted both the good and the bad of the computer age for me. I'm also one of "those" moms who's usually guilty of letting the kids watch television more than they should. . .but this week's grounding from television until after homework, supper, and baths has surely created some peacefulness that has me thinking in devious ways, wondering how to extend this without the kids really realizing it, LOL. I'm of the "let them figure it out for themselves camp" when it comes to non-life-threatening issues, so I've always figured the kids would eventually get tired of television on their own and wean themselves. So, in a nutshell, my stance on television and the internet and other fast-time goodies is that they're okay to enjoy in moderation, BUT. . .

The "but" is that you have to make yourself aware of all the sneaky ways those things change your life so that you don't let them change your personality. Mr. MacNeil's assertions about television discouraging concentration should be heeded. I have come to think about it in terms of what television has done to my patience (or lack thereof). I can sit down and read a good book for hours, but put me in front of the television, and my thumb is in danger of being sprained from all the clicking. I watch two shows at once and end up complaining because "there's nothing good to watch on television." I can melt glass for hours without losing my enthusiasm. I can sketch for a good, solid hour before getting tired. The list is practically endless, once I start to think about it. Unfortunately, television and the internet seem to automatically flip a switch in my brain, the impatience switch.

I'm running out of time at the library for tonight, so I'll end my musings for now. If this were another day and age, though, I would be writing, brainstorming, and re-writing my own essay covering many points in response to MacNeil's points. Think about that. . .

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So, In Case You Are One of the Two People on the Planet Who Haven't Yet Heard This Story...

We moved to our house in October. We tried to find a house and get moved before the new school year started, but you know how it goes. . . Since the new school was twenty-some miles away from good ol' Irvington Grade School, commuting to it from the beginning of the school year wasn't an option.

Changing schools is never a fun thing, but lots of us did it as kids and/or know someone who survived and thrived. I changed schools in the middle of second grade, and I think my mother was ready to tear out some hair (I'm not saying whether it was her own, mine, or both, LOL) after listening to the constant complaining from me. I survived it, though. I made friends, and by the time my sister started first grade the following year, Howevalley Elementary was "home."

There are things I remember about switching schools, but those things pale in comparison to what my son did to my daughter when we finally moved. What you should know is that my children are easily recognizable as siblings-- blue eyes, blonde hair, lots of the same expressions, etc. There's really not much doubt that they are blood relatives.

Um, well, at least I thought there shouldn't be much doubt until I was stopped in the cafeteria by one of James' classmates one day. She wanted to know, "Mrs. Garren, is it true that Katie is adopted?". You can insert all kinds of fireworks and whistles blaring and steam rolling out the cartoon characters ears right here if you want to imagine my true reaction underneath the tactful and sweet, "Oh, no. Kate's not adopted. Wonder what made you think that?"

I. knew. what. or. who. made. her. think. that. . . and I was livid that my son did that to his sister. I also thought it was a pretty damn funny stroke of genius in the sibling rivalry wars, but I wasn't in the mood to laugh about it quite yet. I figured after a few weeks, and more than a few re-tellings of the story because it is actually funny to almost anyone who's ever battled with a brother or sister, I would be fine with laughing about it.

The said few weeks passed. I laughed to myself whenever I heard this story mentioned. Then. . .well, then, I went to Kate's first basketball practice and met some of the second graders' parents. One of those parents was so thoughtful and kind when she explained to me how her family had talked about adoption and how wonderful it is that Kate has a home where she can be loved. WHAT??????

Yep. What a story. I hope she gets even with her brother some day to the same degree, but I'm not sure I want to know about it when it happens. . .I mean, really, how can ya beat this one?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sink Your Feet into This

Twenty minutes before the sun rises over the top of the barns and silo of the farm to the southeast, I quietly unlock the front door and gingerly tiptoe across the shivery cold concrete of the front porch to grab the morning paper. Even through thick chenille socks, my feet feel the funny mixture of slick and chalky texture of the concrete. One foot stretched behind me to keep the storm door propped open, I make the grab and quickly hop across the tiny rows of ridges of the threshold and slide for a second on the laminate floor. It's not quite the shellac-ish slide of a real wood floor, but more of a faintly cushioned glide. Winter morning wake-up for the soles, that's what all that is.

My soul has been contemplating the freshness and joy of soles going bare. I just read Born to Run by Chris McDougall, and my barefoot-going-whenever-possible self is itching for a break in the freezing winter weather. Actually, the forecast for here calls for temps in the 40's this week. . . and that just might do the trick for moi. If only the recent snow had already been completely absorbed into the soil, I might even do a little barefoot dance in the not quite all green, but not quite all brown either, yard. Tales of Caballo Blanco and the Tarahumara and Barefoot Ted get in your head (along with the stories and studies and hypotheses about why we were born to run), and the itch to fly barefoot down a trail starts to infect you. Never mind that you aren't in shape. Never mind that you cringe at the thought of accidentally landing on a soda pop top at the edge of the road. Never mind that it's wet and cold outside (and will be for a few more months). Sh--, never mind practicality. . . after all, my CB handle way back when was Barefoot Princess. Ahhhhhhh, wiggle your toes with me, and just think about all the pleasures of going barefoot.

Soft cushions of coarse grass filling in the lawn in spring, giving bare feet landing spots as you pick your way across, trying to avoid the spongy mud in between those sparse clumps. . . Silky, thin blades of blue grass teasing your toes with a little bit of coolness in the summertime. . . dry, fat blades of tall grass at the edge of the mowed yard, tangling between your toes if you traipse through the ditch. . .

Little sharp peas of gravel scattered here and there in a driveway, keeping you alert as you pick out the best, and shortest, possible path back to the porch when your shoes aren't handy. . . half dollar sized pieces of gravel smooshed into the layers of dirt and rocks, creating tiptoe-tiny islands of relief for even the toughest of bare feet. . . puddles so fresh and clear from a late afternoon summer rain that you almost hate to step in them and stir up little columns of swirling miniature mud tornadoes. . .

Natural rock steps in the rocky land at your grandparents' place, soaking up sunlight's heat and scorching your feet a little bit if you don't bounce across quickly. . . fresh-looking blacktop, still with that black-black-black look instead of toned down grayish black, sizzling hot even on a summer morning, making a desert badland that makes your barefoot self wonder if a candy bar and cold Coke from the little country store will make your singed tootsies feel all or better in the end. . .

Ahhhhhh, barefoot is good, isn't it?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Earworm. . .Needs More Earworm

Ha! Say that in your best Christopher Walken voice! Then, when you get tired of cowbells and such, switch to your best Squidward and Patrick voices. Yep, my new favorite short dialog is from SpongeBob:

Squidward: Patrick, exactly how dumb are you?
Patrick: It varies.
Heh. Heh, heh. I think that's all for now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yodeling Yellow Yaks Yo-Yo'ing During Yoga Yesterday

That's what an afternoon in kindergarten will do for you-- beckon strange earworms into your head to stay until they are chased away by "Her name was Lo-la" or "I fell into a burning ring of fire." So, gentle readers (I've always wanted to write that), welcome to the world of Y words. I hope your stay is a pleasant one :)

Remember the fun of meeting Miss A and Mr. R and all those other crazy alphabet characters? Remember when you could feel the wheels turning in your brain and the words you wanted came miraculously tumbling out of your mouth? Remember the awesome feeling of being able to name five words that begin with the letter ____? It's fun! It's sheer joy for someone who loves words as much as I do!

And it's slightly annoying when you can't switch modes after leaving the school building, LOL! As I drove down the main street of the small town where I've been subbing, I had to wonder how many other grownups in their cars were trying to think of more words that begin with Y. Was that woman fiddling with her phone at the stoplight really trying to find a thesarus or dictionary app so she could find more Y words? Was that guy scratching his head, instead of driving at least the posted speed limit, really just stumped because he couldn't remember what animal names begin with Y? Yeah. Don't think so.

Nope, it was probably just me cruising along at 45 and fiddling with yo-yo's and yaks and yellows and yodelers and yoga and YESTERDAY. . .AHA! Yesterday, all my troubles were so far away. . .hmm, sounds familiar! Oh, yeah, the Beatles to the rescue! I have my new earworm, and I wish you luck with your Y list :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Things We Can Do Better If We Practice

You know, I started writing the title of this entry as "Things That Get Better with Practice," but even though the words were flowing, my brain was throwing up a flag and screeching "penalty!". Things don't get better with practice. We get better at doing things when we practice doing them. Maybe I'm just channeling an English teacher from my past (thank you, Mrs. Howard, Miss Mattingly, Mrs. Alicna, etc. ), but this nitpicking with the order of words in my sentence has a purpose.

Go ahead, try it. Say to yourself, "Things that get better with practice." Let your mind fill in the blanks. Notice anything? If you're like me, your self-(un)confidence started jumping up and down and shouting out a long list of all the things you don't think you can do well. Can't draw. Can't throw a spiral pass. Can't jog a mile. Can't this. Can't that. When I think about it in those terms, my list keeps expanding. Can't fix things. Can't quilt. Can't knit. Can't, can't, can't.

Now, rephrase it. Try saying to yourself that there are "things we can do better if we practice." Aha! If (and that can be one ginormous IF at times for me) I practice drawing every day, I will get better at sketching from pictures. If I practice walking a few steps every day until I'm ready to jog a few steps every day, I will start running. If I practice fixing things every day, I will know where most of the tools are hidden in the house and garage and shed. (I can tell you with certainty that I still won't be any better at fixing things, but I will improve at finding the tools that would help another person fix things, LOL).

So, I'm rephrasing my soft and loopy and hard to pin down New Year's resolutions. For starters, I am going to draw something every day. In fact, I've been doing that this week. This is where I say once again that Capt. Elaine's sketches, drawings, and paintings are an inspiration! For a few years now, I've watched her progress. Ah, another semantic point-- progress can be a noun or a verb! What amazes me about Elaine is the way she puts the verb "progress" into action. Anyway, the idea is that practice is good. Practice is beneficial. Practicing, instead of practicing thinking about practicing, is good and beneficial. It leads to progress.

I'm ready to "be" that verb for a while, ya know? I'm ready to progress.

Here's to the new year and new skills and new confidence!