Monthly Archives: January 2014

In Defense Of My Literary Tastes ~or~ Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading

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The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell

I have, what I believe is, an unnatural affinity for young adult literature. I read this book, The Aviary, last week. I enjoyed it very much. I did not enjoy the fact that I subsequently realized it was written for 12 year olds.

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Miss Peregrin’s Home For Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

Then I read this book, the one on the left. It too is classified as young adult literature. I liked it so much I downloaded the sequel. I’m sad to find out the sequel just came out and I’ll have to wait long enough for another that I’ll probably forget I read the predecessors at all. After all, I like young adult literature, but have the memory of a 46 year old woman. That’s on a good day.

Since then I’ve read several more books. None of which are YAL. And I haven’t liked them as much. I’m either not choosing adult literature with as much brilliance as I do the YA, or I’m immature. I think we can all see the writing on the wall here.

It hasn’t always been like this. I actually read some pretty dark stuff when I was younger. I don’t mean to bring it all back to Mr Dreamboat and jail, but those were pretty dark times for me. So dark, in fact that I could watch the most wanton horror movie and feel nothing at all. More dark does not equal darker. Dark is dark and when you are in the abyss of hell you can’t add to it at some point. 

But YAL? It is hopeful. And though a single flame in a large, dark cave of desperation won’t illuminate the entire cave, it will light a few steps, and then a few more. 

On these dreary days of January, when there is no holiday for which to plan, I make no apologies for the little flames I light to brighten the path. There’s no shame in saving the deeper stuff for a sunny day. 

Anyone out there have a good YAL recommendation? I’m growing tired of being a grownup.

no holding backI’ve been holding back. Yes, there have been good reasons for it. Schedules, obligations, holidays and illness. But holding back for whatever reason is not fulfilling. It is frustrating. And I’m done with that.

I am in the mood to take off the safety goggles, forget the helmet and run full on into life. Don’t worry. I’ll take a first aid kit with me. I’m itchy to get on with the business of taking chances, not stupid. I am simultaneously inspired by the fact that I’ve been preoccupied with other things as well as a truly fascinating experiment at some grade schools in New Zealand.

Studies show that children have been wrapped in “cotton wool” on playgrounds. No longer able to truly get on with the business of play, the children are not only disinterested in the overly expensive playground, designed to limit risks, but they are also more likely to bully other students.

Several schools in NZ have banished all rules from the playground. Children play rough and tumble games, bring skate

This is not designed to be fun.
This is not designed to be fun.

boards and scooters and, without the use of the ridiculously expensive equipment, climb trees and play war games with sticks. Makes you want to be a kid again, doesn’t it?

What the once skeptical staff have discovered is that the children are learning appropriate risk taking. You just can’t learn that stuff from a book. They’re busy at the work of play and so they’re not getting into trouble. The kids are happier, the parents are happier, everyone wins.

Me? I’ve been holding back and while I don’t think I’ve become a bully over it, I’m certainly not covered in joyful mud and exhausted from exertion at the end of the day. And who doesn’t love that feeling?

I’m not really sure how a 46 year old woman does this. Perhaps it’s time to start scheduling recess and go in search of my own metaphorical mud. Surely one of the ingredients is physical activity and snacks. Theres should definitely be some snacks involved.

One thing I know for sure is that the way those kids laugh as the slide through the mud and the way they pick themselves up off the ground after crashing on their scooters, those are things that should never be left behind. I don’t care how old we are.

You’ll have to excuse me. I’m letting myself out to recess a few minutes early today. I can’t wait any longer!

Headed out to recess!
Headed out to recess!

The Answer Is Apple Cider Vinegar. What’s The Question?

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Admit it. He’s dreamy.

“You have to throw enough against the wall to see what’s gonna stick,” is one of Mr Dreamboat’s sayings. It’s not his best saying, and truthfully I haven’t heard him say it in years, but I think of it often.

It was when we were young and trying to figure out how to make a living for our family and Mr D was off entrepreneuring. We tried many a venture through those years, testing and researching and abandoning an idea that didn’t work for another. From time to time I would question things and he would reassure me, “You have to throw enough against the wall to see what’s gonna stick.”

I’ve been thinking about that idiom lately. Thinking about it in regard to my adult children trying to find their way in the world. I’ve been thinking about it in regard to my own life and health and finding balance.

For me, somehow I get it stuck in my head that there’s one answer. I want to pursue one dream. If I search long enough, I’ll find the cure. And I’m starting to believe I’ve been oh, so wrong.

The questions began with apple cider vinegar. Organic, if you please.

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Best Brand. Buy It.

I’m taking a dose of apple cider vinegar every day. I’m doing it as a weight loss tool, but it just so happens to cure the eczema that’s been persecuting me for the last YEAR (emphasis added to communicate exasperation). This got me wondering exactly why it would cure eczema, which sent me down the path of ALL the things apple cider vinegar cures or cleans. You should get some. You can read all about it here at Mind Body Green.

The article does a nice job of explaining the basics of body chemistry and how it is affected by ACV. And I started imagining this very complex system of a body I’m trying to run, and all the different “cures” there are out there. Some snake oil, some legitimate. And they tell us the cure is in our feet and they tell us the cure is in our teeth, or our chakras or our stored memories or in the receptors in our brains or in our attitude or we should exercise or never, ever, ever eat McDonalds, or, or, or… ad nauseam.

Which brings me all the way back to the brilliance that is Mr Dreamboat and that we have to throw enough against the wall to see what’s going to stick.

We have to test the waters. We cannot possibly know what to do with our lives is we don’t try a lot of things. We have to

Imageclear our chakras and say our prayers and we have to keep searching for answers, not the answer, just answers. Because the questions keep changing and maybe what wasn’t the answer yesterday is the answer today. Throw it against the wall. See if it sticks. You know, like pasta, cooked just right.

I’m going to drink my apple cider vinegar this morning. I’ll probably work out. And then, I’m gonna start throwing some seemingly random stuff against the wall. I’ll let you know if I have any stickers.

The Poetry Of The Mundane

I don’t know about you, but I find the Berenstain Bears to be genius. Unadulterated genius. For years their books have dawned the shelves of nurseries and libraries, small homes and large daycares. And if you deign to read them, inside you will find a pithy plethora of parenting perspective. Yes. That just happened.

This morning I awoke at the Young Family Ranch & Zombie Apocalypse Retreat with with the Berenstain Bears would Imagesurely categorize as a “Too Much Birthday” headache. If I recall correctly, in the Berenstain Bears book, “Too Much Birthday”, it’s sister bear’s birthday and she is so excited and so indulged that it doesn’t take her very long to become a bothersome, tantrum throwing bear brat. Her party ends with her in tears and the book ends with a poem that explains to us how we can avoid such a birthday tragedy.

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This is celebrating Max’s birthday AND eating Southern comfort foods. Two birds, one stone.

It wasn’t my birthday it was my son’s, but in the last 10 days I’ve spent just two nights in my own bed and I’ve indulged in holidays and adventures, in sleeping in (at the beach) and southern comfort foods (in Nashville). And I’ve enjoyed it all. I loved visiting my children in Tennessee and I love the peace and quiet of the beach, where I often accomplish nothing more than read a few books (5 in the last 10 days) and catch up on my sleep. 

This is all good.

But there comes a time in everyone’s indulgences when it becomes crystal clear that there is a time for adventure, indulgence and holidays as well, and there is a time for the mundane. There is beauty in the every day. There is a lovely spot for daily ritual and for the necessary tasks that are meaningless but, well… necessary.

My radio show airs live this morning (on drkevinradionetwork.com, you should join me, it’s a super interesting guest) and then I have to… do mundane things. I need to get organized and get back to work and learn some internet stuff and figure out what to make for dinner and make sure Chase gets picked up from school. And I’m really excited about it. 

There is beauty in the mundane. Our lives are simply fraught with perfect moments that are disguised as perfectly plain. But if you take a close look, the simplicities of our daily lives make up the majority of them. And if you take each moment, say, the scrubbing of a pan or the checking off a list some necessary task, or the interaction you might have with a service provider, you will find a simple kind of poetry and beauty that cannot be had anywhere else.

I’m off to find my own poetry this Monday morning. I surely hope you find yours too.

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Who Are You?

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Hi. Do you know who I am?

I have to write another bio for myself. I’m not complaining, but I am saying it’s not easy. I don’t know anyone who has an easy time writing a paragraph or two to define themselves to others. How does one do it without sounding self gratifying? How do you do it without limiting yourself by the words you choose? Turning your back on so many others.

I have no idea. It will probably be Monday or Tuesday before I have a real go at it. For now, it’s got me thinking. I’m pretty sure I won’t use anything I’m about to say here, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Here is a step. Here are some things I use to define myself. Including, but not limited to:

  • I am the member of very large and diverse families on both my mother’s and my father’s sides.
  • ImageI am a poet. Sometimes functioning, sometimes only in my heart. But I see my inner poet when I buy things based solely on the name, or prefer what I misheard someone say over what they actually said.
  • I am an adventurer, not afraid to be afraid but opposed to the regret in not living.
  • I have daddy issues. It’s not pretty, but it’s true
  • I am a mom. All the way deep down in my bones, I am a mom.
  • I define myself as an artist. Perhaps more heart than actual skill. But still. It’s about the heart isn’t it?
  • Would that I could describe myself as fearless, but it would be a lie. I have a ton of fears, but I am unwilling to give myself in to them.
  • I am a woman with a boat load of questions. And while I may be afraid of the answers, I still have to ask.

ImageWhile the ingredients that make me up may not be unique to me, the particular mixture is mine. The flavor is me. Just like you are you and uniquely so.

Perhaps we are similar, maybe we’re quite different. I don’t think that part matters so much as the part where we figure out who we are and then we do everything we can to bring our own brand of brilliance to the world. I’m going to get started on that resume’ and perhaps once it’s done, I’ll know myself just a bit better.

Walkin’ In Memphis ~

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Zoë in the Jungle Room

My two middle children are currently living in Nashville, Tennessee. I have to admit I take a small amount of pride in the fact that I have raised adventuresome beings. Zoë moved here first and Max followed. New city, new jobs, life on their own. Mr Dreamboat and I are very proud of them.

We traveled to Nashville to visit them, celebrate Max’s 19th birthday and do some sight seeing and exploring.

Yesterday the four of us road tripped it to Memphis. The sun was shining, the landscape was all new and the company was brilliant. It doesn’t get any better than that. We DSC_0165stopped by the Civil Rights Museum and had killer barbecue nearby. Mr Dreamboat is somewhat of a historian and knew we should, being in Memphis so very infrequently, walk up Beale Street and go over to Sun Records.

Both Zoë and Max are singers and both received guitars for Christmas. Of course they were game for all the rock and roll history. The main event came after lunch and the crowds on the street. It was Graceland.

A veritable rock and roll Mecca. A pilgrimage I knew I would make someday. After all, I’ve been singing about going to Graceland since the ’80s. Thanks Paul Simon. You’ve inspired us all.

Perhaps the most brilliant aspect of the trip came in the form of insufferable cold. Chilling winds and the need for woolen sweaters, hats, gloves and sturdy constitutions. While this may not sound so wonderful, and certainly it kept us walking fast and seeking cover in Beale Street, it was a blessing no doubt.

Zoë and Max had already visited Graceland in October. Pay to park. Pay to go on the tour. Shuffle through suffocating crowds to get a glimpse of the King’s 18 foot long white couch. Move on. Worth the entrance fee? For sure. But what if…

It’s literally 25 degrees outside. It’s a Thursday afternoon in January, just a little before 4 and who goes to Graceland? No one. That’s who. No one else was there but one other couple and our little band of pilgrims. It felt like Elvis was there to greet just us.

I’m no Elvis Presley devotee. I actually know his step brother and I’m a bigger fan of David than I am of Elvis. No offense to Elvis, I just never met him and I don’t really care that much. But being there and seeing his home and the things with which he surrounded himself, I could have stayed and stayed.

And we went through a Checkers drive through and we listened to music and talked and I couldn’t have had a better day. Really I couldn’t.

Elvis took the picture. He's gracious that way.
Elvis took the picture. He’s gracious that way.

It was about in the middle of our trip that I expressed that same sentiment. We hadn’t done much, but we were having a great time together at the barbecue place.

“I’m having the BEST day!” I proclaimed.

Zoë likes to give me a hard time. “Your standards are pretty low, mom.”

I started to explain myself and she quickly assured me she was just teasing me. I knew she was. I also knew that our day wasn’t from fairy tales.

But I’ve been thinking about it and I’d have to agree. I have low standards. It doesn’t take much to wow me and that’s the way I like it. Here is a chart:

  • A day with no trauma = A good day
  • A day with trauma that ends well = A good day
  • A day with family getting along and laughing = An excellent day
  • A day with family working together through challenges = An excellent day
  • A day with family on vacation and happy to be together = The best day ever
  • A day with sunshine = An excellent day

You can fill in the rest. I have low standards and that equals a recipe for an excellent life. I recommend you lower yours today. And you should go to Graceland. We all will be received in Graceland.

The Fury Of A YaYa

This last weekend while we were at the beach and I was on my death bed (reading young adult lit and drinking Gypsy Cold Care tea),

Pre-trauma snack
Pre-trauma snack

my oldest son Adam and my grandson came to stay. When Adam left, Carrie and Dakota came and took over the care of Pierson, the greatest grandson in the history of grandsons. Yes, this is seriously subjective. I know.

I loved having Pierson around even though I was tired. I can’t recall which day it was, but perhaps it was Sunday evening when we had a bit of an altercation. Not me and Pierson. Pierson and Belle Starr.

Belle Starr is a beautiful, pure bred Australian Shepherd. She is Max’s dog and a sweet, sweet girl. All weekend long she could not be deterred from staying by my side as I coughed and coughed and laid in bed. She seemed so concerned about my health, she actually became a bit disobedient, unwilling to get off the bed with me, even though she knows she’s not allowed under normal circumstances.

I am a devoted dog person and Belle is one of my favorites. That said, apparently I have my limits.

Belle has always been afraid of Pierson, even when he was too small to pull her short fur. She’s avoided him and I have to respect that. Maybe it was because I was out of sorts and so she was out of sorts, but a very gentle Pierson went to pet her and bell nipped at him. I saw red. Fire spouted out of the top of my head. I was a YaYa of Fury.

In her defense, of which there is none, I couldn’t see a mark on Pierson, but Dakota saw it happen and Pierson began to wail. I was surprised. Not by Belle, but by my response to her.

Even though Aunt Dakota scooped Pierson up to safety within seconds, I grabbed him out of her arms, and together, screaming Pierson and YaYa on a vicious war path. Apparently, I’m not as mild mannered as I think I am.

I can be good, really...
I can be good, really…

I went after the dog so hard and so fast and with, well, let’s call it a “raised” voice. I actually thought I might upset my beautiful grandson even more, but it seems we both have a taste for vengeance. As soon as I started yelling and scolding the dog, Pierson quieted down, satisfied that justice would be served.

Belle is sufficiently contrite. When Pierson is in the room now, she lays on her back, belly up, looking at me as if to say, “See, I can be good.” I’ve always promised my dogs I would never eat them, unless there were a zombie apocalypse, which I think is a practical admission. But it seems there’s more to it. I amend my confession to my dogs and to all persons in general: I will not hurt you, eat you or harm you, unless there is a zombie apocalypse or you mess with my kids.

I actually turn into this. Literally.
I actually turn into this. Literally. Except I have a gun.

Can’t You Control Your Brain, Ma’am?

The night before last I went to bed feeling anxious. You see, I really meant what I said. I’ve spent a fair bit of time being seriously ill. Especially when I was younger. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it one bit. I didn’t like spending time in the hospital, I felt embarrassed about it, as if I was doing it for attention and worst of all, for my very young years, I had several, let’s call it 3, very close shaves with death.

The other night, when it sounded like a squealing train running through the tunnels of my lungs, dread stayed up with me to keep me

This is how I slept on Monday night. That is, WHEN I slept.
This is how I slept on Monday night. That is, WHEN I slept.

company. I had visions of my own funeral, sad children, devastated Mr Dreamboat. The whole nine yards. Two a.m. is a good time to create horrifying nightmares for yourself and my early morning hours were lousy with them.

Yesterday morning with just a few hours sleep under my belt, I made the doctor’s appointment. I was surprised that I had enough energy to run a few errands before the meeting. I was pleased, being so close to death’s doorstep, that a pedicure sounded like a good idea.

So by the time I got to the doctor and he informed me that not only am I not going to die, but no one else is going to die from being around me, well, what a relief, right? No one dies today? Good news, indeed!

As soon as I found out I needed to buy new jeans instead of a coffin, I felt exponentially better. Shopping for living is better than fearing you’re dying. You can quote me on that.

Yeah, that's a better idea.
Yeah, that’s a better idea.

Not only can the unknown be remarkably distracting, but letting our creative little brains loose on what scares us can take us down roads simultaneously unpleasant and unnecessary. Worse still is the fact that my fears actually made me feel sicker. Turns out I have a cold. With a push in the right direction, the doctor informed me it could easily turn into pneumonia, but for now and with a little care, it’s just a cold. Not even contagious.

For me, the lesson is one I need about every six weeks: Fears mostly don’t come to pass, knowledge is powerful and so are our brains. We should remember to keep control of them as much as possible.

As you read this I am off to Nashville to visit my two middle children. I am with Mr Dreamboat and we are likely holding hands. This is so much better than anything I imagined at 2 o’clock in the morning. So much better.

control your brain

It’s Cold & Flu Season ~ A List Of Ten Things I Know

ImageOver the weekend I spent a good deal of time… doing nothing. Nothing at all. Okay, that’s not true. I read a couple of books. I went to Bi-Mart one day. That said, when I asked the checker how she was, she looked at me with concern and meaning in her voice and asked, “How are you?” When I said, “Fine,” her brow furrowed and so I followed up with, “I’ve been sick,” she nodded her head as if this was abundantly obvious.

So pretty much all I did over the weekend was nothing. Nothing at all. Which is what I’ll probably do tomorrow. Except maybe go to the doctor.

I have spent some time in my life sick. I’ve been to Pulmonologists and ENT’s and I’ve spent my time in the hospital. And once, when I was young and naughty and had a run in with a dubious brownie which I may, or may not have made… I ended up in the ICU. Not my finest moment, but an entertaining story in retrospect. I like to call it The Killer Brownie Episode.

With all of this experience under my belt, and little imagination at my disposal, I share with you 10 things I know about being sick:

  1. Really, if you don’t have your health… you don’t have much. A beautiful sunset loses its allure, family time is only so so when you’d rather be sleeping and who wants to go on an adventure when you get out of breath walking up a flight of stairs. Folks, let us guard our health.
  2. A stitch in time… Years ago I would run and run until I could run no further. If I got tired, worn out or started to feel sick I wouldImage run faster as if I could outrun the germs. This was a great plan if you’re trying to end up in the hospital. Which I did. On more than one occasion. Which is why I’m going to the doctor tomorrow. A little co-pay to the family practitioner is a way better deal than 20% of an extended hospital stay. Wisdom oozes.
  3. Food is stupid when you’re sick. Nothing sounds good. Even the things that sound slightly yummy are slightly nauseating when you’re sick.
  4. When one gets sick, everyone has advice. Usually about how not to die. Thanks so much for that. I’m doing my best, but telling me stories about other people with similar symptoms kacking out of nowhere? This is not designed to make me feel better.
  5. Not feeling well limits thinking ability. I’ve had the hardest time coming up with the simplest words. But superfluous words that no one really needs when you’re sick? Top of mind. It’s maddening.
  6. It’s remarkable what you don’t care about when you’re sick. How you look, tidy house, flossing your teeth. None of it. I did floss though. Flossing is very important.
  7. The demon depression sneaks its beady head in the door when you’re not top of your game. I’ve had all these dark thoughts and then I realize where they’re coming from. Nasty little bugger.
  8. No amount Imageof healthy living or natural cures or organic foods makes one immune to being human. Wejust are. We are mortal andmore’s the gratitude because we are so blessed much of the time.
  9. There is something so powerfully medicinal about someone taking care of you. A bowl of soup, a blanket tucked around your toes and understanding when you’re not pulling your weight. Kindness, if not the whole cure, is a good portion of it.
  10. Little attainable rituals, like writing a blog post or flossing your teeth or checking your email, they can make you feel a little bit normal. And sometimes, today, and this weekend, normal is something to which I aspire.

Take care of yourself and be well.

A New Tool From The Toolbox Of Life

ImageI tend to live my life full out.  If you ask me to run a mile I’ll run two. If you tell me eating kale is good for me, I’ll buy a big ol’ vat of it and eat it until I cannot stand the sight of it any more.

There are certainly good points to this personality characteristic. I’m not the girl who joins the gym and expects results simply by havingImage the membership. If you ask me to be a part of you’re team I’ll do my best to pull my weight.  Yes, my “head down, power through the pain,” mentality can certainly be an asset.

Sometimes.

I’ve been working on a chest cold for a few days. It took up residence a week ago and simply sat there for days like a cat curled up and waiting for a chance to claw its way out through my throat.

The sleeping cat is now awake.

I am doing my very best to live my life and be kind to my body all at the same time, but this requires a new skill set. Nothing held back is not the way to wellness in all circumstances. What serves me at the gym or in business situations is not always the way to wellness.

Let us welcome to our lives ~ Gentleness.

Getting enough sleep, eating soothing foods, taking on less responsibilities and a little nap. These are powerful tools when playing full out is not.

ImageAnd as I write this I wonder about many other times when go big or go home may not have been what served the situation best. I think, at least in my life, a gentle hand might be a seriously under used tool in the toolbox of life. I don’t know about you, but I could use all the help I can get.

You should know, as you’re reading this, instead of my favorite art class, I’ve likely gone back to bed. At least in this case, I agree, go big or go home. I’m going home.