Sunday, March 31, 2013

April Fools

Happy April Fools Day

When the kids were younger we made a big deal of April Fools Day.

I'm not sure Oldest Girl has forgiven me yet for my first real trick on her.  She was 3 years old.

I made lentil loaf in two round cake pans then frosted it like a birthday cake with mashed potatoes.

hello-julie via photopin cc

She knew something special was happening because I had the professor keeping her out of the kitchen.

When I carried the "cake"in  on the special cake pedestal, her eyes got big.  This was the best thing that had ever happened to her.  Birthday cake for dinner.

Then I served the cake and she was mad.  Really, really mad.

In retrospect, things would have gone better if I had included in the meal a real dessert, although nothing really makes my family happy about lentil loaf.

Now the tricks in the house are played by the kids.  Music girl tinted the milk blue this morning.  The most entertaining part of this was watching her try to convince everyone to have milk.

"Imagination boy,  do you want me to get the milk out for you for your cereal?"

"Oh, you're having a bagel today.  Are you sure you don't want cereal?  You're sure?  Would you like me to pour you a glass of milk to go with your bagel?  You want juice instead?  Are you sure you don't want a glass of milk?"

Then she watched very closely while her father got his morning coffee to see if he was going to add milk.

Thankfully the Professor played along and she headed off to school satisfied.

The best pranks cause no harm and no lasting hard feelings.  My advice, if you are going to make a child think lentil loaf is cake there better be some real cake in the picture too.

Friday, March 29, 2013



My Dad's body was broken.  Cancer, beginning in the colon.  Traveling to the liver.  And the lungs.

The lungs had been broken for awhile.

And the chemo drugs broke it more.

The heart began to break.

And our hearts broke to watch the breaking down of his body and the thoughts of continuing on without him.

And then he wasn't broken anymore.  His body lay on that bed.  Still. Quiet. Empty.

I sit in church and hear the familiar words, "This is my body broken for you."

Jesus was broken.  For my dad.

And because Jesus was broken, my dad is no longer broken.  He is whole.

Here on earth I still feel broken, some days more broken than others.

Jesus was broken.  For me.

I will be whole.  And I will be with my dad again.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Memories or Junk

One of the hardest parts of any move is sorting through all the stuff that you never use but somehow find it hard to part with.

And how do you decide which of the kids artwork and handicrafts make the cut?
quinn.anya via photopin cc

My mother and my mother in law neatly illustrate two opposite ends of the spectrum on this issue.

When we were newly married and trying to furnish an apartment, my MIL offered us a dresser that was  in her basement.

"You just have to clean it out first," she said.

It turned out to be full of the Professor's school papers.  And I'm not talking interesting stuff like stories he wrote or drawings.  It was full of ditto master worksheets like circle the object that starts with the letter "C" and old spelling tests.

My mother, on the other hand, had to be watched carefully or she would throw away a book I was reading that I had left sitting on the coffee table.*

As a mom now myself I can emphasize with both approaches, the desire to hold on to tangible evidence of a time now past and the desire to have a clean slate and live in the present.

So when the kids were 7, 5, and 3, and we were facing a downsizing move, I decided to turn some of the decision making over to the kids.

I started with Oldest Girl.  I gathered up all her artwork, school papers, etc. and made a huge pile.

"I want you to sort through all these things and decide what is important to you to keep.  See this trash bin?  Throw away anything that isn't really important to you.  See this big bin?  This is for artwork that is special to you that you want to keep that we will put into storage so you won't have it now but will have it again someday.  And see this little bin?  This is for those few things that are so special to you they need to move with us so you can have them near you."

Oldest girl took the job very seriously.  She sat down and carefully considered each piece of paper.  Some items moved from the storage box to the keep box and back several times as she weighed her options.  In the end, there was an overflowing trash bin and full storage and keep bins with their lids on.

So I moved on to music girl and gave her the same instructions.

Music girl looked at the situation.

"You have these sizes wrong," she said, switching the larger storage bin for the smaller keep bin.  She then got down to work.

In the end, there was nothing in the trash bin, a couple items in the storage bin and a completely overflowing keep bin.

I didn't even try with Imagination boy.

Sometimes it is hard to part with the objects that spark memories.  I'm greatful that I never have to part with the memories themselves.  And thus this blog.

*This was especially true if the book had a scantily clad woman on the cover, which happened a lot since I read a lot of science fiction as a teenager and it was practically a requirement to have a scantily clad woman on the cover whether the story included any women or not.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Here is the eulogy I gave at my Dad's funeral.

Image courtesy of topstep07 /

Giving good gifts was not one of my dad’s many skills.   I think all of us kids who were alive at the time can remember the Christmas Dad gave mom a pair of scissors.  

She was not impressed. 

One of my jobs growing up was to make sure Dad bought Mom a poinsettia at Christmas time and a lily at Easter time because he just couldn’t be trusted to remember on his own no matter how many times Mom told him this was a requirement.  And although every birthday and Christmas gift I received from my parents said love Mom and Dad I knew Dad really had nothing to do with it.

But even though Dad may not have given me tangible gifts, he gave me something much more valuable.  

He gave me the greatest gift any parent can give their child.  

My entire life I have known without question that three things were true.  

Number 1, Dad loved me..  

Number 2, Dad loved Mom.  

And number 3, Dad loved God.  

This is the gift my Dad gave me.

But as you may have noticed, I am not an only child.  Dad also gave this gift to his other 10 children.  But even more than that Dad gave this gift to the world.

Dad loved me.  He loved me for who I am and not just who he wanted me to be.  All of us kids have done things and made choices that disappointed Dad.    Dad could and did get angry, not often, not quickly, but it did happen. 

But he never stopped loving us, not even for a second.  

And that doesn’t just apply to his children.  Dad loved people this way.  My parents are the most loving, forgiving people I know.  Through all of his life my dad loved and reached out to all people around him but especially to those people that others overlooked, the poor, the powerless, those with special needs.  Dad saw past skin color, IQ, worldly wealth and importance and just plain loved people where they were at for who they were.

Dad also loved Mom.  

My parents were married for over 53 years.  On their second date my dad told my mom he was going to marry her.  She immediately replied, “Oh no you are not!”  I think we can all be glad she eventually gave in.  In today’s world where so many elements fight against solid marriages, my parents set an example of give and take, of compromise and cooperation that we all can follow.

And last but definitely not least, Dad loved God. 

Dad loved God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind.  And he loved his neighbor as himself.  Dad didn’t just say he loved God, he lived it.  Sometimes this made life hard for Dad.  His ministry career had lots of bumps in the road because the fact of the matter is that lots of us say we love God but not many of us really live it.  And it makes us uncomfortable when someone challenges our comfort zone by not just saying they love Jesus but actually living like Jesus.  That was my Dad.

When I reflect on Dad’s life and all the people he had an impact on, I pray that I can give my children the gift he gave me, to love my children and others, to love my husband, and to love God.  And I know that Dad’s prayer for all of you would be the same.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

One Year Ago

One year, one week and a couple of days ago I got on a plane and flew across the globe to be with my Dad and Mom as the end approached.

One year, one week, and one day ago, my Dad said, " I don't know why all you people are traveling to visit me."

"Dad, you do know."

"Yes, I do.  And I appreciate it."

"We just want to spend what time we can with you because we love you."

"I love you too"

One year and one week ago I sat with my Dad and my oldest brother and his wife and daughter and watched a DVD of another brother preaching.  My sister in law and I had a conversation on the protestant versus the Catholic view of communiion.  Dad didn't engage in that conversation.  Clearly he was dying.

One year and six days ago I did the dishes while Mom sat next to Dad and held his hand.  They didn't talk.  They didn't need to.

One year and five days ago live continued on in the house while Dad started to slip further away.

One year and four days ago I sat at the computer and tried to complete some work long distance.  Dad asked me about it and we ended up discussing church budgeting priorities.  It was the last real conversation we had.

One year and three days ago Dad couldn't really walk anymore.  He still wanted to join the family at the dinner table.  We put him in the chair and wheeled him to the table.  He seemed totally out of it.  The children were bickering. Mom asked Dad if he wanted to pray.  He did.  He prayed that the family would be able to pull together and support each other.  It was his last clearly lucid speech of any real length.

One year and two days ago Dad spent the day in bed.  Random things came out of his mouth at random times.  He spoke of flying and looking for a luggage cart.  He saw things that weren't there.  He worried about things from his childhood.

One year and one day ago we walked around the house in hushed tones, waiting, knowing it couldn't be long, not wanting it to end but not wanting it to continue either.

One year ago today I stood around the bed with my mother, my brother, and my sister and we all touched Dad as he breathed his last.

One year ago today Dad died.

It was too soon.

One year.

Tomorrow I will write happy memories.  I will write of my Dad and my children because everything I am as a parent is due to the love and training my parents gave me and they gave me so much.

But I am just sad.

Duct Tape

My dad could fix just about anything with duct tape.

Your prom dress needs hemming.  Duct tape will solve that.
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane /

Muffler falling off.  Duct tape to the rescue.

Textbook falling apart.  Duct tape again.

If it wasn't duct tape, it was clothes hangers or paper clips or old shoe laces.  He was good with his hands and it made him happy to fix things using just the supplies he had to hand.

Dad was also an optimist.  He believed nearly everything could be fixed if you just put a little time and effort into it.

So his garage and basement were full of all the broken things he intended to fix someday and the tools and odds and ends he intended to use to fix them.

During one of my visits near the end, the dryer stopped working.  Dad had some suggestions for repair but eventually I solved the problem on my own.

The problem was excess lint clogging up the exhaust system.  I gathered all the wire coat hangers I could find, bent them out into a line and duct taped them together.  I then went outside and used my improvised snake to clean years of accumulated lint from the pipe.

Mission accomplished.

Like my dad I can use duct tape to give a bit more life to items that are on their last legs.

But it doesn't last forever.

Duct tape doesn't fix cancer.  Duct tape doesn't hold life in a body when it is time to go.

But every time I pull out a roll of duct tape to fix something or solve a problem, I'll think of my dad.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Am I Like My Dad?

I enjoy telling stories about my dad that gently poke fun, but how much am I really like him?

I wrote about my Dad's attempt to teach me to drive.  His approach was basically to throw me in way past my comfort level.  I would never do that to my kids. Would I?
irina slutsky via photopin cc

So yesterday I'm driving my van with Oldest Girl in the front seat.  I had to roll the window down to show my ID at the gate.

Since I was driving the car the Professor normally drives, I forgot that it is important never to completely roll down the window since the automatic window motor is old and tired and doesn't like to work that hard.

(The fact that I drive a car with a worn out but not replaced window motor is yet another sign that I am like my Dad and an even bigger sign that I married a man who is very much like my Dad.)

It isn't that big of a deal because you can always get the window back up if you pull up on it while the motor is working.  Just giving it a little help so to speak.

The only problem is this requires 2 hands which is a problem if you are continuing to drive.

Now Dad could have solved this easily as he was skilled at steering with his knees.  I remember him folding newspapers and delivering them while expertly driving hands free.

I am not that much like my Dad.  I apparently lack the knee steering gene.

So there I am driving along with the window stuck down and cold air rushing in.  Other people might have pulled over to fix it but not my Father's daughter.

"Oldest girl,  Grab the steering wheel.  I need you to steer while I pull up the window"

Oldest girl did not think this was a good idea.

"Come on Oldest girl.  You will be learning to drive soon.  This is good practice.  Just steer for a bit.  What could go wrong?"

Oldest girl still did not think this was a good idea.*

"How are you ever going to learn to drive if you aren't willing to steer a little bit?"

Finally Oldest girl reached over and grabbed the wheel.  I turned my attention to the window and managed to get it pulled up while Oldest girl very carefully steered us.

"See I told you this was a bad idea," Oldest girl said.

"You did fine," I assured her.  "We didn't hit anyone or anything and the window is now up."

Oldest girl was not amused.

So maybe I'm more like my Dad than I like to think.  But maybe being like my Dad isn't such a bad thing to be.

*For the record, Oldest girl wants it pointed out that I drove right past a perfect opportunity to pull over. and in addition, her arguing with me about steering was not due to fear but rather that this was not the best way for her to learn to drive. In fact, she mantains that she was never steering the car but merely touched the wheel to make me happy.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Choosing a Family Activity

I wrote a post about choosing a family activity over at the morebettersmarts website.  Check it out here

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

We are not the Blankers

We can all look around and see someone whose life looks a lot like ours but just a bit better.

For my family growing up, that family was the Blankers.

Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc
The Blankers were a lot like us.  They had about the same number of kids and fairly close in age to us.  Our parents worked together as missionaries in a foreign country so we spent a lot of time together as families.

But somehow life for the Blankers always seemed just a bit better.

The Blankers kids got bigger allowances.

The Blankers lived in a bigger house.

The Blankers ate dessert more often.

The Blankers had later bedtimes.

The Blankers didn't buy the kind of cheap peanut butter that you nearly broke your arm trying to stir the oil off the top of the jar back into the peanut butter so you could spread it without tearing your bread.

The Blankers didn't have to make their lunches with homemade bread (I know. Trust me. This seemed like a real hardship at the time).

The Blankers didn't have to wear matching outfits for their missionary photos.

Naturally we kids complained about the unfairness of all this. Often. Not that it did any good.  Mom's answer was always the same.

"We are not the Blankers"

I have no idea where the Blankers are today or how they turned out.  But new Blankers pop up in life all the time.  In the age of social media it is even easier to find people whose life looks a lot like ours but better.

But the truth is we only see the outside of other families.  We see what they choose to show us.

So Mom was right.  We are not the Blankers.  We are ourselves.  And that is okay.  It is better than okay.  It is good.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tooth Fairy

At our house it can take many days for the tooth fairy to remember to visit.
land_camera_land_camera via photopin cc

Usually by that time the tooth has long since disappeared which (as I explained to my children) isn't a problem because as long as there was a genuine lost tooth at some point, the tooth fairy is happy to leave money.  When she finally remembers to visit.

Hey, what can I say,  the tooth fairy's brain doesn't function all that well in the evening.

It wasn't always this way though.  When Oldest Girl was losing her first teeth the tooth fairy was much more on the ball.  Once she lost a tooth while we were on vacation in France.  She went to bed, tooth under pillow, confident that the tooth fairy would find her.

So the Professor and I stayed up late writing a letter from the tooth fairy  IN FRENCH,  which, no, neither of us really knows beyond a few words, using only a English copy of Harry Potter and the French version of Harry Potter (which happened to be in the cottage we were renting) to find the necessary vocabulary.*

She was delighted.

Fast forward to this morning.  Imagination boy loses a tooth while eating breakfast.

"Hey Mom,  Do you want to just buy the tooth from me now so I don't have to bother putting it under my pillow and I don't have to keep reminding you every night?"

Sigh.  Where has the magic gone?

*the crazy things we did in the dark days before we had smart phones

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Refridgerator Repair 101: Don't try this at home.

One of the last projects Dad and I tackled together was refrigerator repair.

The treatments had stopped and Dad was home.  He had had a scare with his heart and was now confined to his chair or bed for the most part.  But Dad had not given up on life or living.
Pain Chaud via photopin cc

Mom left the house to run errands and Dad suggested I pull out the fridge so that I could look at the back and see if I could pull off the one little part that he figured was the reason the ice maker no longer worked.  

Just looking at things didn't seem like a bad plan at the time.  

Dad shouted directions from his chair around the corner and I did the work.  

We were a wonder team of creative problem solving and brainstorming.  Can't find the right tool, no problem we can fix that with a rubber band.  

There was a point in there when we questioned whether attempting this was really a good idea but by that point we were in too deep emotionally.  

Soon dad couldn't resist coming around the corner and sitting on his chair to watch the action.  It wasn't long after that before he was on the floor next to me.  

Then mom came home and caught us.  

We managed to get the suspect part off and I took it to the repair store for testing.  Unfortunately the part tested out just fine which meant we had solved nothing.  I came home and put the part back on.  

Here was where things went a little pear shaped as the British would say.  

I put the part on and Dad insisted on inspecting it to see that I had done it just right and he agreed it was good.  So we plugged it in and let the water flow.  Mom got to do the honors of trying to get a glass of water from the water dispenser (which worked perfectly at the beginning of the day).  

She pushed, no water.  

Dad and I could hear and feel the water running through the pipes at our end so we figured she needed to push longer. 

Note to any of you at home who may plan on attempting foolhardy refrigerator repairs at home, when you can hear and feel the water rushing in and it isn't coming out the proper location, holding down the button longer in hopes of a miracle may not be the best plan.  

Soon mom had left the room cause this clearly was not the place for the faint of heart, and dad and I were lying on the floor on opposite sides of the fridge.  

It was around that time that I managed to give myself a nice electric shock and soon after that that all the water that we wondered where it could possibly have gone made its appearance on the floor.  

Clearly it was time to retire to the comfy chairs for some creative problem solving.  

After talking through the situation, we decided that no one really needs to get water from the fridge door anyway and we unplugged the offending part and put the fridge back in it's place.  

We pulled out the ice maker and now Mom has more space in the freezer.  

Win-win right?  

We tried to convince Mom that this whole project was undertaken out of our deep love for her and desire to provide her with the ice cubes she craves, but I'm not sure she was buying it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Is it Punishment if You Enjoy it?

Imagination Boy can be difficult to discipline.

Wesley Fryer via photopin cc/td>
When he was in 1st grade his teacher told me she was trying to find the right combination of incentives and punishments to get him to follow the rules.  I told her if she found something that worked to please let me know as I had been trying to answer that question his entire life.

Imagination Boy was born very happy and self sufficient.  Where his older sisters genuinely desired to please their teachers, Imagination Boy was perfectly happy to tolerate his teachers as long as they didn't interfere too much with his agenda.

He came home from 3rd grade one day and told me he had gotten in trouble at lunch and had to sit alone at the naughty table.

"How did you feel about that?" I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders.  "It was kind of nice.  There was no one to interrupt me while I made stories in my head."

Another time he had to stay after school for a minor infraction.

He was all smiles as he got in the car carrying a paper mache shark almost the same size as him.

"It was really lucky I had to stay after school. Some people didn't bring their sharks home and today was the last day to bring them home and the teacher was just going to throw them out so I got to bring this home with me."

Punishment is all in the mind of the one being punished.  How often do you reward someone you mean to punish?  "If you are going to ignore me, I'll just stop talking to you."  To punish, as in so many other things, you have to truly put yourselves in the other person's shoes and see from his perspective.  And sometimes, once you truly do that.  You lose the desire to punish.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Saying "I Love You"

For some people, saying "I love you" does not come naturally.

My dad was one of those people.  I don't think I heard him say "I love you" to me until the final year of his life.
Nina Matthews Photography via photopin cc

But he told me he loved through his actions all the time.

When I was in high school, Dad drove me in the 3 miles to school every morning.  He also went out of his way to pick up my best friend and give her a ride too.

Dad loved to sing to the two of us in the car.

Dad had a beautiful preaching voice: strong, commanding, nice to listen to.  He did NOT have a beautiful singing voice.

He had the kind of singing voice that made babies cry, young children cover their ears, and people near him cringe.

And his choice of songs left a lot to be desired as well.  His favorites for those morning drives included his high school fight song and a lovely ditty about the cow kicking Nellie which included the refrain,

     "Second verse, same as the first, little bit louder and a little bit worse."

Which he would then proceed to do.

Of course this embarrassed me to tears and as we would pull up to my friend's house each morning I would beg him not to sing today.  He would solemnly agree and then as my friend got in the car he would burst into song with great enthusiasm.

Teasing was his love language.

Dad didn't say "I love you" but he lived it.  It's nice to hear the words, but, if you have to make a choice, choose the one who acts in love every time.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sing out loud and proud

Music girl loves music.
jDevaun via photopin cc

She will sing anywhere, anytime, for any reason. She sings with emotion and passion and has for as long as she has been able to sing.

When she was little, heads would turn with a smile in church to see where that loud little voice was coming from.

Thankfully, she sings very well.

Music is her form of expression.

She skipped ahead in her piano book to teach herself to play the song, "Go Down Moses"*

She would play this whenever she was feeling particularly oppressed like if I asked her to do something totally unreasonable like put away her clean laundry or set the table for dinner.

The more upset she was, the louder she played.

Music girl is easy to spot at her choir concerts.  She no longer sings at a volume twice that of anyone else but she has no hesitation or fear of expressing emotion with her face while she sings.

At her grandfather's funeral she sang a solo acapella.  It was her tribute, her eulogy.

So keep singing and playing Music girl.  Sing out loud and proud.

* Lyrics: When Israel was in Egypt's Land,
                Oppressed so hard they could not stand,
                Let my people go.
                Go down, Moses,
                Way down in Egypt's Land.
                Tell ol' Pharoah,
                Let my people go.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Making decisions

Making major decisions is difficult.  It is even more difficult when you need to consider the needs and desires of more than one person.  And it is extremely difficult when those persons have different decision making styles.
hang_in_there via photopin cc

The Professor and I have very different styles.  We both believe in research but approach it opposite ways.  I look quickly for something wrong so I can eliminate options and narrow down the list.  The Professor thinks outside the box and comes up with ways that we have even more options than it previously looked like.

So if we start with 10 good options, by the end of the day I will have things narrowed down to 3 and the professor's list will now have 20.

This is not the stuff marital bliss is made of.

And it isn't over once the decision is made.  Once I have made a decision I consider it done. Closed.  Over.  I don't want to hear anything that might make me think I made the wrong choice.

Not so the Professor.  He likes to do a lot of post game analysis on decisions.  After we bought our first house he continued to read the housing ads in the newspaper for months always sharing with me when he found a house that might have been bigger, better, cheaper than the one we bought.

Neither approach is perfect.  Several times we have ended up living in a house that we loved that I, in my rush to narrow down the list had already eliminated, and the Professor insisted on putting it back on the table.  On the other hand, at some point you do need to stop adding choices and researching options and make a decision.

So, as in many other ways, our decision making strategies complement each other.

And that IS the stuff marital bliss is made of.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Paint Your Toenails in the Winter

quinn.anya via photopin cc
Why would anyone paint their toenails in the winter?  After all if you live anywhere with genuine seasons you always have socks on (and probably slippers, shoes, or boots as well).  Nobody but you even sees your toes and even you only see them rarely.

And that's your answer.

On a cold winter morning--when you wake up to see a driveway piled high with snow that needs to be shoveled and you check to see if maybe, just maybe, please sweet Jesus, it might be a snow day and it isn't--stepping into that nice warm shower and glancing down at your brightly painted toenails reminds you that flip flop weather will return.

Or after taking the dog for his bedtime walk in the freezing cold, when you soak in the tub, the sight of your terrific toes perched on either side of the faucet brings a grin to your face.

Some parts of beauty can be just for you.  Celebrate them.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Learning to Drive: Stay off the Sidewalks

My Dad was of the throw-them-in-the-deep-end-and-they-will-learn-to-swim school of parenting.

Teaching me to drive was a classic example of this.
Paul Mayne via photopin cc

To call me a hesitant driver would be a bit of an understatement.  I was terrified of the thought that I would be in control of 3 tons or so of metal that could in seconds cause death or disfigurement to me, innocent bystanders, and property.

The day after I got my permit Dad drove me to an appointment downtown.  As we walked back to the car, Dad suggested I should drive home.

Given the fact that
   a) I had never been behind the wheel before
   b) We were downtown in a major city
   c) It was rush hour
   d) The drive home included expressways, and
   e) His car was stick shift
I didn't think this was the best place to start.

Dad seemed genuinely puzzled by my hesitation even when I pointed out my reasons, but he reluctantly agreed to drive.  He then spent the entire drive home demonstrating and explaining in great detail how to shift without using the clutch.

The next day Dad took me out on the quiet suburban streets of our neighborhood to practice driving for the first time.

I was nervous. He was not.

He was however full of advice and direction. Non-stop.  Occasionally contradictory.

Next thing I knew I was crying too hard to see the road.  And I was parked on the sidewalk.

Dad drove us home and Mom took over as driving instructor.  I didn't drive with Dad in the car again for years.

The last time I was in a car with Dad was the day I drove him home from the hospital.

It was 4 days after the surgery, 2 days after the diagnosis of terminal, stage 4 cancer.  I helped him climb into the car and carefully arraigned his oxygen tank between his knees.

I didn't cry on that drive home and I didn't drive on any sidewalks, but it was hard.  Much harder than learning to drive.

Work = Candyland

I have played numerous hours of Candyland, one of the most boring games in the world.

It started when I was a teenage babysitter and one little boy made me play every time I came over.

Then I had children of my own and of course someone gave Oldest Girl Candyland and she loved it.

dolanh via photopin cc
So I've gritted my teeth and played more than my share of Candyland.

One day, when Oldest Girl was two we dropped the Professor off at work. The baby needed to nurse before the drive home so we sat there in the car and Oldest Girl looked out the window at all the people in business attire heading into the tall building.

"Are all these daddies going to work with Daddy?" she asked (never mind the fact that many of the "daddies" were women).

"Yes, honey"

"What do they do at work?"

Hmmm, how to explain that at a 2 year old level.  Time for the old standby.  Answer a question with a question.  "What do you think they do?"

She thought for a moment. (One of the things I love about Oldest girl is that she always thinks for a moment, much like her dad and unlike her mom).

"I know," she said with excitement. "They play Candyland."

The thing is, that isn't such a bad description after all.  Some days at work are like Candyland from my perspective: boring, repetitive, advancement seems to be just a game of luck.  Some days are just about turning over the cards to see what your lot is, and some days you are stuck in the molasses swamp.

But some days...  Some days at work are like Candyland from Oldest Girl's perspective: exciting, fun, full of all the colors of the rainbow, and delicious treats.  Some days are looking forward to turning over the cards because it just might be a double color card or even better it might be Queen Frostine and you get to leap ahead of all your competitors and the end is in sight and winning in your grasp.

The trick, it would seem, is choosing a job where more days are like Oldest Girl's Candyland.

But the secret is deeper than that.  The trick is choosing to view whatever job you are in like a 2 year old views Candyland:  comfortingly familiar yet full of exciting new possibilities each day.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Blender Breakfast

My Dad loved technology.  He especially loved putting technology to creative uses that others wouldn't think of.  Sometimes this worked and sometimes...not so much.
star5112 via photopin cc

When I was in middle school my mom went back to work.  Her shift went from 6 am to 2 pm so it fell on Dad to get us kids up and out the door in the morning.

My dad was many things but a modern hands on, diaper changing, omelet baking kind of dad he was not.  Like most men who came of age in the 50's, the only cooking he did was outdoors.

Mom was a bit concerned about leaving Dad in charge of feeding us a nutritious breakfast.  (For mom, despite the advertisements on the Fruit Loops box, a nutritious breakfast must include a cooked egg in some form or another.)   She informed me that as the oldest daughter, it was my job to supervise Dad in the kitchen and make sure he did it right.

That first morning I stumbled into the kitchen to supervise Dad.  He was cheerfully singing to himself as he prepared breakfast.  He cracked several eggs into the blender.  I figured the blender was a bit of overkill for scrambled eggs and certainly not the way Mom would do it but I could let it slide.

Then he picked up the raw bacon and started to add that.

"Stop" I shouted.

"Why?"  he asked, genuinely perplexed.  "Bacon and eggs taste great together.  I always crumble the bacon and then add the eggs in the same pan when we are camping.  Putting it all in the blender first just saves a step."

"Dad, you can't blend raw bacon and eggs.  It won't cook right."

"Sure I can.  It will be fine.  My way will be more efficient."

"Dad, the bacon won't cook and you will poison us all."

"It'll work great."

There was no stopping him.  I had failed Mom I reflected as I sat down to my incomplete breakfast of Fruit Loops with no egg.

No one but Dad ate the eggs.  He insisted they were delicious, but that was the last time he tried to use the blender to make breakfast.

Small kitchen appliances are a wonderful thing, but the blender is not the answer to all meal prep situations.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sometimes You are the Idiot

We all dislike the idiots who bring grief and frustration to our day:  the jerk who cuts us off, the person with 20 items in the 10 item or less aisle and the clerk who doesn't say anything to her,  the couple walking slowly hand in hand down the store aisle blocking the way so you can't easily get past.  I could go on and on here.  The world is full of inconsiderate idiots.
Sean Molin Photography via photopin cc

But sometimes you are the idiot.

I've lived several years now in countries that drive on the opposite side of the road from the country of my birth.  Getting used to this was surprisingly easier than I had expected.

The trouble comes when I visit home and have to switch back.

One holiday time I was visiting my parents and had driven alone to my brother's house a couple hours away.  I was coming home late and the roads were really empty.  As I pulled off the expressway I turned left unto the road with two lanes in each direction.  I'm driving happily along glad that in 5 minutes I would be able to crawl in to the comfy bunk bed at my parent's house.

Suddenly I see a bright pair of head lights, pointed directly at me, ON MY SIDE OF THE ROAD.

"What an idiot!" I shout.  Heading home drunk from some holiday party and can't even drive on the correct side of the road. Thankfully there are two lanes on this side of the divider so we pass each other glaring out our windows at each other.

And then it hits me.


I'm on the wrong side of the road.  Me.  I wasn't thinking clearly and I screwed up.  My heart races as I am forced by the snow piled high on the raised median to keep driving forward until I reach a side street.  Thankfully I don't meet any other drivers.

So when you meet the idiots of this world cut them some slack.  Chances are you have been the idiot unaware many times yourself.

Ever wonder why we drive on different sides of the road in different countries?  This website has a great entertaining explanation.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sometimes Oatmeal is More than Oatmeal

Sometimes Oatmeal is more than oatmeal.  Sometimes Oatmeal is love.

nate steiner via photopin cc
When my dad was dying, after the treatments stopped and he was home with hospice checking in weekly, oatmeal was his daily breakfast.  He prepared his giant bowl himself then sat in his recliner in the dining room to eat while family life swirled hectically around him.

And then one day he couldn't.  He couldn't handle being on his feet long enough to make his own oatmeal anymore.

I was there--having left my family behind to fend for themselves on the other side of the globe--to help out for a couple weeks and spend precious time with dad.  I also ate oatmeal every morning for breakfast so the job of making dad's oatmeal fell naturally to me.

I was very bad at it.

Dad wanted his oatmeal just so.  The proper proportions of oatmeal, water, raisins, and brown sugar were apparently essential as was the exact order they were added to the bowl, how they were stirred and the precise amount of time in the microwave.  And of course which bowl and spoon were critical as well. Dad would sit in his recliner and call out directions to me in the kitchen to make sure I did it right.

I never once got it exactly right.

Although he always thanked me for making his oatmeal, he always let me know which elements I had gotten wrong.

And the thing is, I didn't mind.  I knew he wanted to be in the kitchen making his own oatmeal.  He wanted to be still providing for his family as he had done for so many years and not have them wait on him.  He wanted to be healthy.  He wanted to live.

Ironically, shortly after I returned home to my own family, my brother stopped by to visit with Dad and in his email update he sent to us siblings scattered far and wide he included this line:  "Mom made his oatmeal (according to Dad, only Mary can do it just right ... but Mom is second best)"

I laughed and then I cried.

Because for me making that bowl of oatmeal every morning, criticisms and all, was a joy and a pleasure.  I was so grateful for the pleasure of being able do something, anything, to serve my father.  For me that morning oatmeal wasn't just oatmeal it was love.

When Mom called and said Dad couldn't eat his oatmeal any more I knew it was time.  I packed my bags and left my family behind again--this time with an open ended ticket.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Getting Away With It

It may or may not be fair but, people often judge you based on past behavior and not the reality of the situation.
Sam Howzit via photopin cc

When Oldest Girl was in first grade sometimes I would join her class for lunchtime.  It always brought me back to my childhood to see all the children in a line walking down the hallway swinging their lunch boxes.

Oldest Girl was a model first grader in a class full of rowdy boys.  She found it easy to sit quietly and follow directions and she genuinely desired to please the teacher.  (This made it very easy for me to be smug about my parenting skills until Imagination Boy started school, but that's another story).

On this particular day as the children walked down the hall Oldest Girl was behind a little boy who was not following all the rules of proper line walking behavior.  He was skipping and weaving and talking and laughing.

So Oldest Girl took her lunchbox and hauled off and whacked him on the head with it.  Hard.  Then she just kept walking as if nothing had happened.

"Teacher" he cried, "Oldest Girl just hit me on the head with her lunchbox. Hard"

The teacher looked at him in disbelief.  "Oldest Girl would never do anything like that.  Stop making things up and get back into line."

The boy gave up and got back into line.  Oldest Girl smiled and enjoyed her lunch.

You will get judged on your reputation whether it is fair or not.  If you generally do the right thing people will expect you to be doing the right thing and will usually give you the benefit of the doubt.  If you generally do the wrong thing,  they will assume negative behavior even when none exists.