Monday, April 23, 2012

On Planning

I don't know what the deal is lately...but I don't have time to finish anything without either depriving myself of sleep or something that truly needs to get done.  I realize that I have the same 24 hours in a day that I have always had...but the ones that I have free seem to keep getting sucked up into a vortex of unreality that causes me to periodically look at the clock and go...

Say what?  Nine o'clock?  I just got home!

Obviously not.

I don't know if is the years of overdrive living or the fact that at nearly 5-0...I am finally not quite as quick on the uptake as I used to be. I mean...I certainly save time by not doing stuff that is about as productive as beating my head against the wall after trying that path for many moons.  I have learned when it is a "no"...a "possibly" and a "I'm on it" within 30 seconds of having an option presented to me...and I rarely deviate from that initial much as I regret my inability to change horses in midstream. I used to just "make it happen" without regard for possible burnout or whether "it" was actually worth it or not.

Perhaps I learned that I just like following a game plan. 

I'm a planner, you see. I think of something...and one of three things is apt to happen: I'm going to make it happen, I'm going to determine that it is not happening...or I'm going to schedule it for some point in time.

I honestly do this.  And the last option is the one I choose most frequently.

I mentally move something I want to do to a different point in time that gives me time to prepare to actually get it done rather than freak completely out because I can't do it the second that I conceive that I want to do it.  Because I have a natural tendency to be all wound up and Type A-ish...I had to choose "intentional procrastination" or "losing my mind."  I went with Plan A.  I consider this to be growth.

Some people call it denial.  But they would be wrong.  Because I actually do get to the projects pretty much in the time frame that I set out to get to them. And sometimes?  My desire to do something changes...or the opportunity passes and it is okay...or I get more information that makes something even more awesome.  I do love it when that happens.

And people wonder how I have time to do all that I do because I work full time?  Well, that is because I usually am planning big things at least nine months out, things I'd like to accomplish three months out, and cool stuff I'd like to do for people a month to six weeks ahead. 

So, yes, I booked the September trip I'll be taking to France in January...and asked someone to do something special for Jill's graduation last Fall.  I figure that if God makes us wait nine months for little people to get from miniscule to full-term babies...that there is probably something to that time frame with regard to big things that require preparation. 

Fortuately, we are not elephants.  They are pregnant for two years...bless their hearts.  (No wonder elephants never forget.  Would you?)

The three month time frame is there to give you time to actually focus.  How much better things are when you actually have time to think them through!  I mean...if you wait until the last conceivable are going to throw something together that could have been far better than what you can whip up overnight most of the time.  Of course, sometimes life will force this last minute Katie-bar-the-door method of planning on you...and if it is an every once in a while's totally doable.  It is when last minute planning and execution  is a way of life that it begins to resemble burning a candle at both ends.  Maybe if just feels that way...exhausting...draining...and messy.

A month to six weeks out is about the minimal amount of planning that you need for a small gathering, addressing wedding invitations,or planning to rearrange or clean out something in your house.  The random "Gee, I think I'll clean out the hall closet today..." is nice to be able to do...but chances are...if you don't plan isn't going to happen.

At least at my house.

By planning most of these the things that are time consuming...I normally have snippets of time to do things like send a note to someone, write on this blog, or clean something that needs to be dealt with every day.  As long as I have time to do something that I want to do every day...I stay pretty happy.

Relatively speaking, of course.

I do have some "loves" that are very time consuming including my dogs, reading, and scrapbooking...when I am actually able to focus enough to scrapbook.  I don't waste a lot of time doing other things like watching TV (I watch two scheduled hours a week and I DVR them so I can get to them whenever)...and when I'm watching I normally am doing something else like folding clothes or sorting something (like the piles of stuff that float into this house via the mail every afternoon).  But sometimes...nah.  I just sit there and veg.  Because I can.

This system has worked for me for a long time.  People sometimes think it is odd when I say that I've planned to look into something down the road...but it is just normal to me now.  And normal is good, right?

Except that today I read in a devotional guide that was compiled from the writings of Charles Spurgeon...that excessive planning is like bowing at the altar of control...or something to that effect.  Am I really a control freak?  In a bad way?  After all, I've worked my system for a long time...because it works for me.

But then again...I thought I'd better run through some questions that I have to ask myself from time to time...such as...

Do I have time to volunteer my time doing things that come up or am I so tightly scheduled that this is impossible?

Do I let people down because I refuse to change my schedule?

Is my life in disarray simply because something or someone has thrown a monkey wrench into my plans?

Is my plan more important than people?

Am I being selfish with my time?

Am I rude or unkind to people who mess with my plans?

Do I secretly resent people who seem to be able to do a lot more than I I am constantly striving to do more and more and be more and more efficient doing it?

Or not.

Right now...I think not.  For the most part, anyway.  I have been really selfish with my time lately...but that is because I usually consider May and December the busiest months of the year...and I'm already in late May in planning my weekends...which comprise the majority of my free time.

But why could I rattle those off so quickly?  Because I've had to overcome every one of those barriers.

I don't know how you use your 24 hours every day.  Perhaps you spend the majority of it in service to others...or maybe you use it for self-improvement, study, or to get through a particularly busy season in life. 

Just know that I'm certainly not judging, either. I just hope that you are finding what works for you...and that there is a lot of joy in your life.

Because the projects will keep on coming. The options will be out there.  Do all you can of the important stuff and let the rest of it go.

That may mean that you have to divest yourself of things that are wonderful...but not for this season of your life. 

Or you may need to be more assertive about refusing to do things that people should be doing for themselves. (Guilty!  It is difficult to recognize when your kids are grown.) may need to divest a lot of the things that keep you tied up caring for them...possessions...not people.  Seriously...if you don't have time to dust you need it?  Answer: no.

One final thing...plan some time to just pray and breathe, sing and move, love and learn.  Every day.  After all...sometimes planning to be intentional is the only way that we will be. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Towanda's Ten Rules For Successful Living

Earlier today, while stopped at a red light, I pulled up Facebook to see what was going on.  Of course, in Montgomery, in busy areas, traffic lights last three minutes and sometimes when you are pretty far down the just know that you are going to be sitting through it twice.  I've learned that instead of wishing a pox upon the household of the people in front of me...that it is a little more productive to just distract myself with my phone.  Yes, the one that I'm not supposed to be looking at while I am operating a motor vehicle.  (Except that I'm stopped and I consider that an exception to the rule.) impressed with the maturity.  Lord knows it has taken me long enough to pass that virtual course that I refer to as"Not Getting Hyped Up About Things You Cannot Control 101."  But lest you become too impressed...know that I passed with a "C-".  (I'm currently failing "Not Getting Hyped Up 102" ...but whatever.)

Because most of you know of the existence of Towanda...she of "Fried Green Tomatoes" fame as depicted by Kathy Bates...I thought you might enjoy a condensed version of her "rules for success" so to speak.  But back to Kathy Bates...I love her as an actress...but have absolutely no desire to see her in "Misery."  Because no.  Just no.

But here she is as Towanda...

Towanda is the outward expression of that pent up feeling that I have found is pretty much inborn in Southern women...which makes us tolerate a whole bunch of c-rap ranging from discrimination to sorriness...and everything in between.  Most women I know were trained to be peacemakers and peacekeepers and peaceloving individuals.  They were taught that others were more important than themselves and that taking care of other people is a virtue.  All of which is true, of course, unless everything gets all cattywampus.  In case you don't know what that is loosely defined as "seriously out of sorts."

In my life, I have tried to overcome a lot of things.  And I've been successful at many of these...with God's help and permission.  But there is a side of me...when I am getting jerked around...that shows up when an internal switch moves from "rational" to "Towanda." 

In analyzing these various events that have triggered the "switch flip"...I have realized that most of it is common sense...but some of it is just because people insist on bringing it out in me.  Intentional or otherwise.  Am I blaming others for my behavior?  Absolutely not!  But much like people that have peanut allergies are wise to avoid Reese's Peanut Butter cups in spite of their fabulousness...there are certain "commandments" that just must be observed.  Unless, of course, you'd like to meet Towanda personally.

My children will assure you that this experience is highly overrated.  So will the people at FTD...and if you would like to relive that whole it is

Towanda shows up when someone needs to say what needs saying and the wrongs need to be set right.  When people need to be spoken to more directly than our genteel Southern heritage traditionally deems appropriate as a general rule.

Here are Towanda's Ten Rules For Successful Living.  Which interpreted are ten things to avoid to keep Towanda happy and quiet.  Because happy and quiet is better.  Much better.

Here we go...

1. Thou Shalt Not be a Bonehead

This goes for every business that I come into contact with, by the way.  I have absolutely NO problem calling customer service, writing letters, or slamming a company's Facebook page until someone deals with a "situation."

With people, though, it gets a little bit tricky.  Now, at first glance, you might be saying to yourself, "Well, I can do THIS." Of course you can!  We all can!  That's the whole point.  If you are a thinking human being...chances are this will be very easy for you to accomplish without further instructions.

Sadly, NOT so for a certain segment of the population.

Included in this would be people who just can't seem to understand a few simple concepts.  Like "sometimes life isn't fair" and "we aren't all winners."  See, I was born into a time when there were actual winners and losers.  And even worse than that...I was more of a "loser" than a "winner" in many ways who was born into a family of "winners."  If you can't understand that me when I tell you it is beyond "not fun."

In spite of what I had hoped for...there were times when I didn't make the team or when I was told "no." When I tried to help people but was way out of line.  When I just wanted to find my place...but didn't know that it wasn't where I was at the time.  It took me a while to grow into myself.

Some things were just out of my reach and instead of knocking down everyone else around me...which I quickly found was a recipe for disaster...I started actually - genuinely - getting excited for great things that happened to other people.  Why be jealous?  We can't do everything in this life, you know.

I also learned  - the hard way - via Towanda's first cousin...Karma...that that whole "reap what you sow" thing is not just words in a Bible.  It is truth.  After a bitter harvest or have to I live free of this or do I just continue being miserable? 

Yes.  Exactly. 

Instead of resenting people who could do what I could not do or had advantages I could only dream about...I learned to just admire and support them instead.  I can also attest that this way of thinking has brought me a whole lot of joy. 

Sometimes in life the winners aren't very nice people (ie Tiger Woods) and sometimes they were unbelievably gracious (ala Tim Tebow).  Some of us were made to do big things and some of us were made to promote other people doing big things.  It really doesn't matter if you just get on board with celebrating other peoples' successes.  Because when you have a success?  They'll be cheering for you.

So, don't be boneheaded and whine incessantly because your life isn't what you want it to be.  Here's a little secret:  Nobody's life is perfect.  Trust me on this...and be happy!  I mean...if you are reading should thank God for allowing you to read, to own a computer or a smart phone, to be able to see, to be able to retain the words to make sense of them, that you have electricity (or a good battery charged by electricity) and probably indoor plumbing.  Seriously, that last one?  Huge deal.

The Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day in 1999 and 2000 broke me of my aversion to port-o-lets, and made me forever fully appreciate indoor plumbing.  Ever taken a shower in the back of an 18 wheeler with a dozen naked women you've never met with so-called curtains separating you? 


2. Thou Shalt Not Make It Harder Than It Needs To Be

Some people in life grab the directions and just take off putting something together.  Others ignore the directions and head off into the wild blue yonder of their own accord.  Just so you know...I have just described myself and then Big Dave.  I am a direction reader...and have no problem asking for help.  Big Dave only consults the instructions if there are more than 744 parts, he has something left over, or it won't work.  We both eventually get there...we just come at it from different directions.

The only problem occurs when we are trying to put something together...together.

I don't know what your natural bent is...but if you insist on doing dumb stuff like failing to leave on time, forgetting what you are supposed to do and where you are supposed to be, waiting until the last minute, or exhausting yourself for no productive almost deserve a counseling session with Towanda.

Sometimes I give them to myself...because I am in serious violation of rule #1.

My kids and their friends will tell you that if you want my'd better not even think of coming all up in here at the last minute.  I will hurt you.  And then hurt your feelings by telling you "no."

This also goes for all of you uber-perfectionistic people that have to have it "your way or the highway" because if I've learned anything from Big Dave in 29 years of our life is Advanced Passive Aggressive Behavior.  I'll just laugh and quietly make you wish you hadn't hitched a ride on the Towanda Express.

3. Thou Shalt Not Mess with My Offspring, Family Members, In-Laws, Friends, Neighbors, Church Friends, Sorority Sisters, Classmates, Work Associates, Casual Acquaintances, Or Anything I Support.  Like ever.

Yes.  Just ask a girl named "Audra" who got all up in someone I "follow" on Facebook's business over a comment about Angelina Jolie.  Uh, yeah.  Adult women. 

Last time I checked...Angelina Jolie isn't really someone I worry about being "bullied."  I weigh less than 100 pounds, have worn a vial of blood around your neck for some inexplicable reason, and have more kids than I can keep up with after ripping off Jennifer Aniston's husband...according to the tabloids...I pretty much think you can take care of yourself...if not teach the seminar. 

Audra just couldn't understand why everyone was so upset that she couldn't object to the seriously snarky-lite comment on someone else's Facebook page.  Then she just beat that dead horse until everyone jumped her like she had tossed ten dollar bills in the air and yelled "come and get it!"  But why could Audra not understand this?  Answer: Because Audra is a bonehead (see #1).  Time and place, Audra.  Time and place.

I can accept "constructive criticism" just like everybody else...which, if truth be told is "not well."  But when it comes to someone I care about...take that feeling and multiply it by a gazillion...and that's how I feel if you mess with my kids, my dog, or even Big Dave (who can seriously take care of himself and smile at you while he's doing it.) 

If you are a know what I mean.  Let's just say that if my "babies" are in the wrong...I'll definitely call them out.  That's my job.  If someone thinks that they are going to do that on my behalf...this is pretty much what they can expect...

Yeah.  That.

4. Thou Shalt Not Lie to Me

Hey, it made the BIG "Top 10" so no further explanation needed.  It just amazes me how often people will do this for no reason and then create even more "explanations" to cover what I just found out.  Because for some reason...I usually find out.  In spite of my best intentions not to.  Except...

Okay, fine...I won't lie...I Google.  Which probably explains why I already know stuff about the people my kids date and they always wonder how I know...

5. Thou Shalt Not Cancel on Me at the Last Minute

Although this is also covered by #1...and bears repeating.  Yes, there are emergencies.  And there are times when something comes up that is completely unexpected. Someone is sick.  There is a deadline at work that was unanticipated when we set our time to meet.  But because you're tired?  You don't feel well?  You got a better offer?

I think not.

Because if I rearrange my schedule to spend time with someone...I expect the same courtesy. 

6. Thou Shalt Not Ask Me to Do Something for You That You Can Do Yourself

This actually happens to me a lot.  I don't know if people ask me to do things because they think it will be fun to do it together, or if they just think I'll do it better.  I know not.  What I DO know, however, is that one of two things will most likely happen: I will agree to do it and spend my (relatively limited) free time doing it...and you won't appreciate it because it won't be the way you would do it OR I will refuse to do it because you are as capable of doing it as I am...and you will act all "funny" because you think I'm not being a good friend.

I lose either way.  Please don't make me go there.

7. Thou Shalt Not Utter the Words "I'm So Fat" in My Presence

I realize that your slightly tight jeans are making you feel a little out of sorts.  Oh, but please.  When your stretch marks have stretch marks or you are in the last trimester of pregnancy...we can talk.  No?  Well, how about you just shut up and go to the gym or quit eating Snickers bars and drinking three Dr. Peppers a day.

8. Thou Shalt Not Assume I Can Read Your Mind

Although I have a ton of experience in attempting to do this in my work my is annoying.  If I make you angry...tell me.  If it happens may want to rethink our friendship or your expectations of it. 

I'll be doing the same.  Because if there is anything that I is disappointing people. 

Because honestly?  Who has time for trying to figure out why you are mad at me?  Answer: Not me.

Does that mean that you aren't valuable to me and that I don't want to make it right?  Absolutely not!  I'd just like to skip that whole "pouting/not talking to me/eye rolling" phase if at all possible.  I get enough of that from my kids.

9. Thou Shalt Not Whine About Something You Can Easily Fix

If you are in love with your problem...and are unaware of this fact in spite of the fact that you have talked about it incessantly with anyone and everyone who will listen...I'll help you reach...shall we say?  An understanding.

Whining can be therapeutic, and I do it myself.  We all do!  It isn't attractive, but we understand that there is more room "outside" than "inside."  So, take whining out for a spin...but please...don't own it...or worse than it over 60 months.  Some of your other friends may not tell you...but...ahem....

You've got it...

10. Thou Shalt Not Take Thyself So Seriously

Intensity is something that can be really attractive...if you are Steve Jobs...but it can also be ridiculous.  My kids can attest to this...because Towanda has embarrassed them on NUMEROUS occasions by getting all flustered over someone else's inability to do what they are supposed to do correctly.

I don't know if you are apt to go into "Towanda mode" or if you are one of those who struggles to speak your mind.  I used to have a lot of trouble confronting people...but now I will chew someone a new one if the situation warrants it.  But I have come to realize that there are some people who are so "out there" that they will never see my point of view and to even attempt to deal with them would be a serious waste of time. 

And for heavens sake...don't lose your temper over something stupid and end up getting yourself shot or put in prison for assault or road rage.  I know it is a fine line.  And yes, that lady who just took your parking place is a total...well, whatever.

But remember to try to respectfully speak your piece.  Say what needs to be said without the emotion that normally accompanies this kind of thing.  And quit letting other people "control" you by their bad behavior, expectations or unaddressed problems such as perfectionism or control-freakishness.  Life is too short for that kind of abuse. 

Yes, I expect decent customer service, but I am also incredibly patient with people who are busy and honestly trying.  Just acknowledge that I am standing there.  I can overlook what I perceive to be a "training situation" and will gently remind them on how the transaction could have gone smoother while thanking them for what went right.  But I have my limits.

For instance...I absolutely, positively refuse to put up with people telling me which direction to put the toilet paper on the roll in the bathroom at work or have people guilt me into doing things that I don't want to do.

I'm pretty much over all of that.

Thanks for reading.  Towanda thanks you too.  :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Three Years

On April 17, 2009, I sat down at the same computer from which I am writing this and started navigating through the world of blogging.  I actually started this earlier in e-mails to friends, or to a series on my "Apples of Gold" experience called "The Reluctant Apple." I have thought about putting it here...but it was written when I was 45 years old...and I think you just had to be there.

In fact, I just looked back and I meant to put it on here in 2009, actually.  It is still a "draft" along with three other half written posts that I'd either lost interest in or totally forgotten about.  The other 480 plus or minus posts have been made over this time period.

That amazes me, by the way.

For two reasons...that I have that much to write about and that anybody actually cares to read my thoughts.

I have written about everything from colors to Christmas to cantatas.  From Foo Fighters to Favorite Things to FTD.  My dog, Rebel, has even been a guest blogger. 

Sometime in 2011, I figured out how to add pictures and videos...and that has just totally broadened my horizons. 

My goal when I sat down three years ago was to have a place to sit and ponder, to whine and moan, and to explore life's joys and curveballs.  The blog doesn't really have a point...and those who read it are doing so out of kindness to an old friend or because they have a minute or two to just sit down and waste reading what I write. 

Sometimes I hear from people that something I have written here has hit a nerve...or made them think...or brought them joy.  I like to think that those are the times when God uses this medium to touch people in ways that is sometimes impossible to do in a two way conversation.  I know that it is He who gave me the desire to write...and it is He who pretty much dictates what shows up on here. 

I say "pretty much" because sometimes my inner Towanda takes over.  Yes.

But most of the time what you will find at My Points In Time points in time.  Whatever is going on in my life...or in the life of my family or friends.  Many of you have inspired me by something you've said...or because you have asked for my take on this or that.  I am honored when you delighted when you comment...and am awed when you share.  I realize that I am just a solitary person living a life that has been better than worse and who is going through all of the ordinary things so many other people do.  I just feel the need to put it out here for everyone to read and comment about whenever you choose.

Which, sometimes, is not always ideal.

I have hurt peoples' feelings by something that I've said that was misinterpreted on here.  I may have had something in mind when I wrote it...but find that it could apply to other situations as well.  Usually after I've written it and the damage is done.  But people who know my heart understand that this is an occupational hazard, so to speak.  I cannot possibly think through everything I write...or I'd never put anything out here.  Which is why you will often find spelling, punctuation, subject/verb agreement issues, or the wrong tense of a verb. I try to be careful...but I don't strive to be perfect. 


But the lessons I have learned from doing this have been pretty interesting.  And although I haven't written as much in the past year as I did in the first two...I have been exploring other interests.  I took a year off from doing things that I dearly love doing...such as scrapbooking...because I wanted to spend more time doing other things that I hadn't made time to do.  I've been trying to spend my time intentionally...and have tried not to feel guilty when I'd rather just go to bed than sit up and write.

This from a night owl...I know...blasphemy!

There are a lot of people I'd like to thank for always being supportive...for checking those little boxes at the bottom of each blogpost just so I know that someone was here.  To the 47 people who "follow" the blog and the 228 people who have "liked" it on Facebook.  To the people who comment frequently...and the ones who send me the private messages to tell me that something I wrote was particularly meaningful or funny to them.

I never know what a given post is going to be could be an essay, a rendition of something that happened, or a Sunday School lesson.  I know not every time I sit down here to write.  Including this time. 

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank YOU for being here for me.  For your comments and your love and the time that you take to read.  For gently nudging me to write more...or not so gently nudging me (you know who you are :)). 

You are part of the reason that I do this, you know. 

The true part, though, is that God created me to express myself through words.  I've been a poet and an avid letter writer for many years.  Almost as long as I can remember if truth be told.  So consider this blog an ongoing letter to you and to the world.  I just want to try to honor God with what is on here content-wise.

Happy Anniversary My Points In Time!  Three years.  Wow.

And thank you for always. 

On All Cylinders

In the normal fare of awful TV that comes into this house via Big Dave has been at least two different car shows.  One is about auctioning cars, and the other is about renovations.  I should tell you that Big Dave, unlike many of the male species, has not taken a particularly strong liking to car renovation...although he does his share of changing fluids, belts and pads around here. 

They talk about things that I know not carburetors, manifolds and gauges and often remark that they are glad that the pulled out this or that to clean or see so that the car they were about to pay a small mint for is running "on all cylinders." 

If only I could get that kind of checkup.  In spite of the fact that I spent time last week (and have another one this week) getting this or that checked...only to find out that I need less fuel and more time moving...I have been firing kind of randomly lately.

Let's take my attention span, for one.  I have always been able to keep at least five balls in the air at a time without dropping one...and I multitasked when that wasn't even a word.  Now I find this impossible.  I can juggle at least three things at a time, with a fourth short term something or other, but the fifth thing tends to either not get off the ground, or ends up being dropped in a most unsatisfactory and/or unflattering way.

Where I used to keep up with the schedules of four people, two dogs, a cat, friends of mine, friends of my children, my parents, my siblings, the nieces and nephews, assorted neighbors and church people...I am doing well if I get myself to where I am supposed to be when I am supposed to be there.

Because frankly....I just cannot seem to get it all done.

Don't even get me started about work, remembering birthdays, attending special functions, my daily devotional, or filling out the mounds of paperwork that I touch every day of my life.  I'm just tired.

I have spent the past twenty-five years with an "S" on my chest with various people asking me how I manage to do it all.  (Okay, not literally for those of you who aren't getting the fact that I am quite liberal with the metaphors.)  So, naturally, it should make perfect sense that it is time to move over to the letter "T" for "tired.

Personally, I'd prefer something like "I" for "intentional" - because that's what I've been shooting for.  But it has been backfiring.  That's because I'm not firing on all cylinders.

Part of it is probably a function of major change coming in my life.  Jill is graduating in less than three weeks and I am - as we have already established if you ever read these - in my 50th year.  There is some uncertainty in a couple areas of my life, and now the doctors want me doing things like "moving" and "reducing."  Dang.

I've changed from feeling like I had a whole lot ahead of me that I had to get through to that point where I don't know what tomorrow holds...and all I want to be is tuned up well enough to go out there and do whatever it is I am still drawing breath to do.

In my spiritual life, I have a wonderful church and Christian friends that pretty much make life easy for me.  I have people who I don't have to be anything but myself around.  I attend church and Sunday School regularly and I am growing in my faith.  I won't go into some of it, but I feel like I have finally figured out a lot of the walk part...but I have at least one bad "spark plug" that is keeping me from firing on all cylinders.  Even though I tend to read at least four books at a time...most days...the Bible is not the first one I pick up.  That needs to change.

With regard to paperwork...I am still filling out forms that are not my responsibility.  I'm not talking about helping someone out...I'm talking about filling out forms for the three people who live in my house who are perfectly capable of filling out their own forms.  Do I really want my children bringing me their tax forms and doctor questionaires when they are thirty?  No. That needs to change.

And housework?  Why do I feel the need to spend every moment of my time off doing something in this house and feel like I've fallen short if I don't?  No.  No, I don't.

I spent most of this weekend doing absolutely nothing productive.  I went to a Sunday School party on Saturday and spent the entire day eating good food and talking to wonderful people.  There was no way that I could do laundry, change sheets, clean bathrooms, or dust.  It was glorious.  I won't even tell you about the beauty of the place, how perfect the weather was, or how much fun we had getting to know each other.  You've been there.  Just probably not often enough.

I also won't go into how on Sunday afternoon I started feeling pretty lousy and spent the afternoon in my gown watching DVR'ed movies and ignoring my to-do list.  Because I did that too.

I think that the secret of being happy is being intentional, of knowing your limitations, and balancing your "have-tos" with your "want-tos" more effectively than I have been doing.  Then again, I think that you can rise above your circumstances and experience joy even while you are washing windows or regrouting the bathroom. 

I mean, Big Dave certainly does.

I'm going to do my best to continue my quest to be more intentional. To take care of myself and others...but not to be a part of things that I don't have an overwhelming desire to do.  I have done so much of that in my life that I can only hope that a tune-up isn't even possible.

Surely not.

And you?  Are you like me...or are you in that phase of life where you are still trying to do everything and you are cutting corners on things like exercise, diet, your spiritual walk, housecleaning, relationships, work, yardwork, decluttering, and educating yourself because you just simply do not have the time?  Ask for help.  Schedule downtime.  Breathe.  Pray. 

Stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

I'll be doing the same thing. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Gardening With Big Dave

Most people I know have a secret dream.  They don't realize that it is a dream in the classic sense...but that it is...uniquely disguised as something that they have tried to do and cannot master.  We all are trained to believe that dreams are all caught up in being something beyond our owning a business, building a home, running a marathon, winning the Olympics, or being on a reality TV show. 

(By the way, if the latter is on your "dream" can probably make it a reality since 95% of all television programming is in this genre...including sports.)

But dreams can be little in scope and still qualify, in my humble opinion.  I think that we sometimes forget that "beyond our capacities" can include things like making a decent batch of homemade biscuits (no, the frozen Pillsbury ones are delicious but they don't count), sewing curtains for your living room, planning and executing a wedding without filing bankruptcy, or putting in a garden.


Big Dave grew up in a family of four stair-step children...with the oldest four years and three months older than the youngest.  The kind of child grouping that involved a serious need to keep them occupied and out of trouble as well as finding a way to supplement the grocery budget by growing their own food.  Perfect solution to both? A garden.

Although I have not verified this with any of the other kids or his hear Dave tell it...he was dragged out of bed at some ungodly hour to hoe and pull weeds uphill in the snow for eighteen miles one way for every second of summer for fifteen years.  Or something like that.

He has an aversion to anything involving a garden...other than eating what might come from one.  So imagine his dismay when his bride of two years - in 1987 - thought it would be "super cool" to put in a little garden in outside our little apartment (quadraplex) in the ghetto!  He did it anyway, and I put in one of every imaginable kind of vegetable in with little regard to things like row spacing, water, or how much sun the garden would get.  Soil testing?  Say who?

Yes.  My first colossal failure as a gardener.  But even way back then...a dream was hatched.

Fast forward a few years where we had finally saved enough from living in the Dalmation Arms (a name given to the quadraplex by a member of my family because the building was white and had spots of black mold or mildew all over it) to build our own home.  By this time I was busy raising kids and trying to figure out other intracacies such as wallpapering, bible studies, and how to survive a strong willed two year old while pregnant with my second one.

But one day I thought it would be a grand idea to plant sunflowers along the back fence line.  I could already see their faces lining the ultimo tacky chain link fence in the backyard providing just a perfect pop of color.  Oh, the sunflowers popped up all right...and were quite prolific.  Except they faced the opposite direction of the fence and my backyard neighbor got the view I coveted.  I didn't consider it a complete disaster, but it certainly left a lot to be desired.  We ended up putting in a little garden in that house, and I have a photo of Jill with stubby little ponytails (she was about 18 months old) walking to the back yard and pulling one of our seriously undersized tomatoes off and eating it.  What she didn't eat...something else did.

In 2001, we moved to our current location in the thriving metropolis of Pike Road, Alabama (yes, I live in a town named after a road...but whatever) onto a fine five acre lot with a lovely pond in the back yard.  Plenty of space and lots of potential.  Except that it is situated on that gosh awful dirt called "prairie soil" - which is just a kind way of saying - "dirt which sucks."  In a particularly dry summer, it cracks so much that you just kind of hope that the dogs have enough sense to stay close to the house...which is situated on a red clay pad and isn't going anywhere (or so we hope).

For the past ten years, we have been trying to grow a decent tomato plant.  It just hasn't worked out.  Primarily because after they are planted, it seems the plant needs stuff like adequate sunlight, water, and insect and weed control.  Let's see...that would be fail, fail, fail, and fail.

Until this year.

Now I like to think that I have adequate sense, but the truth is...I have relied on Big Dave to provide the garden expertise.  Since he grew up tending to gardens and since he has planted the actual gardens every year.  Makes sense...right? 

Not if you know how much Big Dave hates gardening.  Take "with a passion" and multiply that times ten and you'll be close.  Which gardens have failed because I was too stupid to know what I needed to do, and he was too smart to go out there and do it for me...knowing that just one successful garden would change his life forever.

To say that this was "a revelation" is an understatement.  Passive-aggressive behavior at its finest. 

One of the things that I have been trying to do is learn how to garden.  So, a week or so ago I went to an organic gardening class taught locally at the Hampstead Institute (( for you local Montgomerians)...and it was fun.  Here's a brief recap of what I learned:

1. Compost is life.  (I felt like I was ahead of the curve on this one having received a compost bin for my birthday in March.  People were got WHAT?) 
2. Every year...and I learned this from people who do this for a living...something in the garden fails. (Better than everything fails every year...but nice to know that some failure is actually just part of the game.)
3. There are people in the city of Montgomery who are WAY too excited about gardening.  These weren't the people whose job it is to be excited about gardening, either. (There was a lady in front of me who almost couldn't contain her enthusiasm.  Think Will Ferrell in "Elf" - but not in that "isn't it cute?" way either.)
4. People who compost in open piles can expect rats (which is why my bins are plastic and closed).
5. Compost actually generates heat. (And there I thought it was only an "aroma" and gnats.)
6. Worms in your soil are actually beneficial (I thought they were just gross.)
7. It is not an "if" with regard to pests in your is a "when" and "what" you are going to do about it.  (Meaning that my default of "nothing" totally does not work.)
8. It takes years for fruit bushes and trees to establish and you'd better get on it if you want to actually experience these in your yard. (Two blueberry bushes and one fig tree have since been planted with more to come.)
9. Roses love banana peels.  Shred and put in the soil around them.  (Excellent source of potassium.)
10. Fall gardens are easiest for new gardeners.
11. Tomatoes are considered an "advanced" crop to grow.  (Who knew?  Obviously not me.)

(Okay, a couple of those I didn't get from my the bananas and the fruit trees...I got those from my reading.  It was just easier to throw them all together.)

I also learned that I am really very interested in being a good gardener.

There are some things in life that you just expect that you'll be able to do because of the family you were born into or the environment in which you were raised.  Athletic ability appears to be inherited...and the interest in athletics is generally encouraged and nurtured in these families.  Some people learned to cook from their mothers and grandmothers who learned from theirs and on and on.  Other skills include woodworking, teaching, or even water skiing.  Or, you may have learned strong Christian disciplines as a family heritage, read voraciously, or have musical ability that runs strongly in your family branch.  I mean, the Osmonds, Jacksons, and any number of family groups bear this out. 

I should be able to do this gardening thing.  My grandmother could grow anything she wanted...and my mother can root gardenia plants from a twig.  Seriously.

I'm not ready to invest a whole lot of money (other than in my typical purchase of starter plants, some soil, mulch, and a bag of peat moss) in this venture.  But I will tell you that I have already put in my order for a stirrup hoe for Mother's Day. 

Yes, I learned all about stirrup hoes at that seminar, too.  They are best for weeding.  And since I pretty much suck at that...I thought I'd try to make it as simple as possible.

Big Dave is actually being cooperative.  He has apparently been convinced that I am serious about it...and that it is something that we could do together as a hobby.  Of course, he has always enjoyed he does yardwork while I work at the latest attempt at a garden.  With regards to hobbies, we have been seriously limited in the past.  Everything else we do excludes the other because of ability, interest, or it is a solitary activity (such as reading or scrapbooking). 

So this is good, yes?  We spent two days together doing everything that needed doing...and we had a blast.

Hopefully, I will not lose interest as the weeds pop up and the temperature goes from the nice
80 degree mark to Hades lite as it is inclined to do every summer here in Alabama.  The jury is still out on that one...but I'm going to try to stick with it.  I believe that growing your own food is a magical and amazing endeavor, and with the price of produce these days...I'm willing to give it a whirl.  I already know how to make pickles and jellies...a throwback ability to some ancestor that I am exceedingly grateful to...or if I just happened to stumble upon a person at work who gave me two pickle recipes in 1988 that are seriously the best. 

Possibly both.

Currently, our tomatoes are in buckets, in a small bed by the house, and the bed from last year - the one that has far too much shade - is growing mint, basil, cucumbers and spaghetti squash.  The latter because I intended to purchase crookneck squash...but failed to read the labels properly.

Oh well.  It will probably turn out the best.  And then I'll have to figure out what to do with it.

Good problem to have.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dressing for Success

Back in 1981, I received a book for high school graduation that gave some really great advice about how to dress for work.  It went over things such as "dress for the job you want, not the job you have" and some do's and don'ts that I flipped through like the clueless high school senior that I was.  At that point in time, on one end of the spectrum my wardrobe consisted of jeans (boys Levis, Jordache or if you were really wanting to throw down with some money...Calvin Klein) , tee shirts, Izod (now Lacoste) shirts and the best that K-Mart, Belk, or the rare trip to Macon Mall had to offer.  On the other end of the spectrum was church dresses and those clothes that we didn't wear very coats.  There was very little in between except during the summer when shorts and bathing suits were added.

I won't go into the high heeled "Candie's" shoes that Ralph called "slut shoes."  They stayed in the closet most of the time...but they were indeed in my closet.

Oh, I read those Seventeen magazines and occasionally others to try to create some sense of style because it isn't something that comes naturally to me.  Not so for my mother or my daughter, though...the little fashion divas!  And since my grandmother could also pull together a snappy little outfit...I am fairly certain it didn't just skip a generation in my family like some other things apparently did.

I won't elaborate.

But fashion was something I aspired to...just didn't quite figure out.  Not for myself anyway.

Fortunately for me, I am not growing up in today's "hoochie Mama" inspired haute couture (which I believe is French for "high sewing" or "high dressmaking" or "high fashion" according to Wikipedia...the haute couture...not the hoochie-ness.)

Imagine trying to figure out how to wear...this.

What makes it better is that they are also tottering around on heels that look like this:



So, what do you do when you aren't sure if this is a tunic top...or a dress?

Well, I don't know.  Tell them to wear tights and not to bend over?  Demand that they march right back upstairs (or wherever) and change immediately?  Send them to a convent? 

What I'd really like to do is backhand every dress designer who is making my job more difficult as a mother.  Not that I have had a lot of trouble with fact...other than the occasional questionable skirt length, I haven't had to deal with the other end of the spectrum..."extreme cleavage."

Now you may not have any issues with this, but I do.  I believe that the more cleavage you have, the more of it you need to cover up.  Rule of thumb: if your cleavage in the front looks like a butt crack on your chest?  You are showing too much.  And no, I'm not envious. 

By the same token...I know women on the other end who have the attitude of "why bother with a bra" and I'm not a fan of that look either.  It isn't that difficult, people.  Cover it up! 

So, put all of this together? And you get...

Yeah, you know exactly what you get.


Big trouble.

I realize that business fashion has relaxed over the past twenty years or so beginning with "casual Friday."  What used to be acceptable for "casual Friday" is now pretty much "casual Monday-Thursday" and Friday involves jeans.  The author of the book I received for graduation is probably either reeling from the shock...or rolling in his grave.

To me, the dress code being relaxed is just a sign of the times.  In just about every way.

I don't think that we should revert to looking like Laura Ingalls Wilder...but I do think that a little bit of modesty is definitely in order.  Because as "cute" as these girls think they look...there are others of us out there with alternate opinions.

Including Big Dave.  We were at a wedding recently and three high school girls were walking into the church with skirts that were way too tight, too short, and with heels that made them four inches taller than they actually were.  He commented on how inappropriate it was that they wore that to a wedding...but also said that he guessed that's what the style is. 

Trust me when I tell you that for him to make a comment like was pretty bad.

I don't know what the answer is...other than to vote with your pocketbook and strongly suggest that those who are spending your dollars in the form of daughters or your way.  Granted, this will pass before long as most fashion fads do...but it may get worse before it gets better.

As if.

I mean, fads are just that.  Fads.  Currently, the most popular nail polish colors are black and a color by O.P.I called "You Don't Know Jacques" that is a great neutral that is all the rage with the college girls...and just about everybody else.  Years ago...if our nails were this color it was because we'd dropped  a brick on our foot and our toenail was about to fall off.

One of the current fads - according to my daughter - is a bandeau top underneath a sheer top.  Sadly, the people that are going to emulate this fad are those that we are going to wish wouldn't. 

The same people weighing north of 250 wearing a bikini at the beach...which totally violates Big Dave's rule #1 involving spandex...which is...if he looks better in it then they do...they have no business wearing it. 


Sorry for the mental picture, there, guys.

(Dead opossum, dead opossum, dead opossum)

Better?  Yeah.  Me neither. 

Thanks for reading.