Monday, December 12, 2011

21st Century's Ordinary Wife's Guide

My Personal Revisions to the Original "Good Wife's Guide"
I did not particularly care for this 1955 version of how to be a good wife. I thought it needed some updating so I've swept off the cob-webs and condensed the finer points of this Article's 19 guidelines down to just 11 rules. My changes correlate alphabetically below the originals. Follow at your own risk, I'm not in a very good mood today...

1)  Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have be thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.
A) Text him that you've had a very hard day at work and/or being domestic and the prospect of him picking up some Taco Bell on his way home would really be awesome.  This way he will know you have been thinking of him and are concerned that you both get fed. 

2)  Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
B)  Put your sweats and T-shirt on, wash your face and throw your hair up in a bun when you get home from work. This way maybe he won’t get the idea to attempt any funny-business while you're trying to relax. You're weary from working and/or watching his kids all day, but he has needs so perhaps an exchange can be negotiated? Suggest retiring to the boudoir early for a little procreation ‘trade’ should he be inclined to give you a foot rub or, if he is really ‘in the mood’, have him clean your bathroom. After all, that's the kind of thing that actually turns a wife on.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Somewhere Between Miss and Ma'am

My knee-jerk response rebuttal to Lynda's, "45 Is NOT the New 25"

I found a new blogger I'm in lurve with. My other bloggie friend, Christina, turned me on to Lynda, and she is a hoot. We share some core beliefs on snarcasm, self abasement and child education.  I think we would make good friends if we were not three-thousand miles apart.  Lynda has a moderate following of 80 or 4,000 readers, so that makes her pretty popular in blog-land. She probably is so busy writing her next post right now to notice my little crumb of the blog pie. I don't expect she has time to read what I think and I'm counting on that based on what I'm about to say (hiding safely in my little inconspicuous corner of her territory).  For I am a chicken and in no way seasoned enough to challenge this woman personally.

From what I've read and far as I can tell, Lynda and I probably don't disagree on much, except this one teensy thing. In September she posted a manifesto on acting like a forty-something and I was intrigued to read her summation on what will be expected of me during an age that will surely be the dregs of my mid-life crisis. You see, Forty is rapidly hunting me down like a ravenous beast and fast as I'm being chased by its imminent approach, running in my flip- flops (or Toms depending on the weather), I will go down thumping the forty year old monster like a scared little bunny rabbit donned in lip gloss, slightly impeded by my tight trendy jeans and sparkly low cut T-shirt. This is where Linda and I part ways.  While she solemnly intends to abide by her self imposed rules for women over forty and though her vehement suggestions are all good and well for her, I could not miss the stern mother-tone in her pitch that implied the whole lot of us girls over forty ought to better follow suit. Now, I happen to agree with a few of her proposals so to save time I will just give you the bullet points to which I cowardly raise the gauntlet.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Being Misunderstood

     It's easy to make assumptions about people. I am a master profiler myself (hold on while I snicker smugly and flick the lint off my shoulder). I learn a lot about folks just by the way they carry themselves, and I ask questions. If you didn't already know, I'm a Realtor from nine to five, it's my job to read people and get 'in their business'. I like to think of myself as more of a noticer than nosy. It's always been easy for me to pick up on subtle nuances in tone, inflections, body language and mood patterns.  Mostly because I have radar ears and x-ray vision and I can smell a secret smothered in peanut-butter and buried in dog poo. It's a gift, really. I'm always searching for what's missing from the puzzle, taking notes on what you're not doing, listening for what I didn't hear you say, generally looking for what's out of character. It's how I bust my kids every. time.

But for someone who possesses such keen sensory superpowers as I, it's taken me twenty-plus years to realize that sometimes my E.S.P. aint so popular with others.  Folks pretty much don't want to be figured out, psychoanalized or dissected. It makes them kind of, "uncomfortable".  I've noticed most people don't show a lot of gratitude when I'm pulling the rug out from under them either. Calling someone out is no way to get brownie points, I have discovered.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Viva la Mexi-No No

I recently returned from my first vacay out of the country. The hubs and I flew to Cancun with some friends. I took some notes and here's what I ended up with.

Upon exiting the plane, I instantly felt the tropics in my hair as every fiber of it frizzed in the warm salty breeze. We had arrived to the promised-land.  I was expecting the pungent fragrance of a palm tree and pina colada nirvana, so as I drew the humid air in through my nostrils I was totally unprepared for the assault on my olfactories. Cancun smelt like a basement.  Since this was our friend's fifth trip to Mexico, I asked them about the musty odor wafting through the airport and they replied something like "ahhh, that's the sweet scent of Paradise, you'll grow to love it!"  Cancun didn't look much like paradise from behind the windshield wipers sloshing through torrential downpour so our friends were eager to divert our attention towards it's more positive attributes and show us the heart of downtown, roads less traveled by most tourists.  A few miles beyond the hotel zone we saw why they were less-traveled.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Learning The Hard Way

This post wont come as any breaking news to those who know me up close.  And for those who don't, well just wipe the drool off your mouth because I'm not about to disclose anything scandalous either.  However, I broach today's topic with a little trepidation.  Regret. Talking about regret means I have to admit stuff. Although my past is not weaved with the seduction of Reality-TV fodder (well, maybe a little), neither is it a chaste and innocuous tale I'll be sharing with my kids anytime never. Whether the details of it are unsavory or mundane, some of it just plain embarrasses me. Indeed, there is a price I've paid for every choice, good and bad, and lord knows there's not enough room on my blog to illuminate all of the glorious details but I'll give you a peek inside my past--of what not to do-- because I have a point here, I'm sure.


I spent my entire educational career obsessed with something totally unrelated to academia. Pulling a 'C' average was just a means to maintain my social life, 'cause Monday through Friday it was my personal mission to snag me a boyfriend! This private manifesto began in kindergarten with a boy named Chris (who would never let me lay my nap-mat next to him), and was galvanized by Joey in 2nd grade (who I always chased and kicked in the nuts because I thought it was "flirting"), and eventually scrawled over 300 tear-stained pages of my high school diary. Unfortunately (or fortunately) boys didn't like me until I was about fifteen years old. I was a lanky, underdeveloped, freckle faced, red-head with braces.  I knew the odds were stacked against me, so I had to compensate. 

In middle school I probably wasted the bulk of my paper-route money on aqua-net and wet-n-wild cosmetics in attempts to make myself beautimus for all those boys who had no interest in me. Freshman year, I spent all four-hundred dollars of my baby-sitting cash on a brand-name wardrobe that was sure to catch their eye. To my horror, I found out labels didn't have the same boyfriend currency in high school as they did in 8th grade. I was sixteen years old before I finally went steady with someone longer than a week and, as irony had it, he attended our rival school.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Confessions & Whatnot

I've been going through a sort of bloggers-block lately. I don't have any poignant thoughts to share but I do not want to lose my audience, so I'm hoping this post will placate you until I ponder something a little more enriching 

Remember when the "25 Random Things About Me" was circulating on Facebook in 2009? Well, I revisited my old list and noticed  this and that has changed some. So in typical narcissistic fashion, I decided an update was in order.

I like this picture.

  1. I struggle with the classic dichotomy of appetite vs. vanity. My sister, Sarah, suggested I call the disorder "Burgers & Bicycles" or "Donuts & Diet Coke."  She is an excellent writer and I wish she'd start a blog. Truth is, I'm just a self-loathing glutton with a gym membership.

  2. I pronounce the word "bag," like "beg", and "lackadaisical," like " laxidasical" and "topography," like "top-oh-graffy." Sometimes I just make up my own words...I don't like people bringing this to my attention, it makes me feel bad about myself.

  3. I continue to maintain a big bag (not beg) of candy stashed in my closet. I also keep a refrigerator in my closet.

  4. I wear fake tanner. It's part of my ever growing makeup/preserve my youth routine--spray face and decollete, blow dry, moisturize. I plan to introduce formaldehyde to my skin care repertoire soon. Staying young is all about balance.

  5. I take humongous bites of food as if someone's going to steal my food and then I swallow really fast, sometimes it gets stuck in my chest and I get the hiccups.

  6. I had my eyebrows tattooed on.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

10 Things That Happened While I Was On Holiday...

I have finally stolen a few moments to mind-dump from a very momentous vacation of firsts.  Destination: Kona, Hawaii at the Bff's place. During my ten days away from the mainland I experienced some things and learned a couple things. All of which I shall unload forthwith on you...

1.  Experience:  This was my first solo trip away from home for more than 4 days, a chance to clear my head, break away from the monotony of daily hum-drum, spend quality time with the bff,  focus on my goals...

     Lesson:  Ten days is too long to be away from my family. I missed the chaos that is my house... Jamey's theatrical hysterics, Audrey's incessant prattling, Jared's jokes and Jeff pining after me (yes, he pines).

2.  Experience: Audrey, the last child to exit my womb, lost her first tooth while I was gone and I wasn't there to yank it out. This first loss of tooth also commences her gangly-kid stage. I might not be taking very many pics of her for the next year or so...

     Lesson: I felt like a deadbeat tooth-fairy. She got $5.00 and Dada gloated in all the glorious credit. I am sad she will have her grown-up teeth soon and my baby wont be a baby anymore.

3.  Experience:  I swam with manta ray sharks at night in the dark black sea.  Perhaps these giant monsters wouldn't have been so intimidating had I not been floating prostrate atop the ocean waves peering down into the abyss while the behemoths charged at us like UFOs with their mouths gaping open, looking all ravenous and able to swallow a baby elephant if they so desired.

     Lesson: The scary mantas were actually quite amazing and docile. Despite my attractive plankton-colored skin and terrified screams, they did not eat me. For this I am grateful.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How Not To Be A Soccer Mom

Last week was Audrey’s 1st kindergarten music performance...Arrrrrgh.   As much as I want to be ‘into’ my children‘s school programs I’m just so over the stuffy, crowded gymnasium thing these days.  Don’t get me wrong, I mean, I still gush watching my kids show off and all.  That night was no exception, Audrey delivered as usual, animated as ever in her lavender chiffon dress and gaudy plastic hi-heels. You couldn’t miss her distinct bellow above all four combined classes of kindergartners. She was the one  flailing her arms flashing her red food-color stained jazz hands at every inappropriate moment. Entertaining as it was, after fifteen years of these multi-annual school functions, I've become disenchanted.

Once upon about seven years ago I used to be one of  ‘those’ moms, you know, the kind that drives a mini van and chauffeurs her kids to soccer games.  Except I rocked a station wagon and drove the runts to little league.  For the better part of  my first twelve years as a mom, I tried to replicate the domestic bliss I saw my peers institute within their families. As former wardrobe Gestapo and a recovering food Nazi that lorded over my children, back in the day, I had the stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) thing figured out. I had rule boards, chore charts, weekly menu plans, and our monthly budget on Excel spreadsheets.  I rewarded the kids with gold stars and allowance and punished them with a wooden spoon and time-outs. I used a pay scale  for good grades and packed their sack lunches with nutritious goodies and handwritten love notes.  I  taxied to piano, dance lessons and church twice a week and saw to it my bubbies had proper clothes and shoes for whatever or whomever needed impressing. Gathering the family at our table for four-course dinners every night was our mainstay. I did the whole T-ball, cub-scout routine, chaperoned field trips, hosted umpteen birthday parties, brought cupcakes to the kids’ classroom, paid my dues at Chucky Cheese, clocked serious hours at the park, on play dates and pulled through multiple slumber parties with vim and vigor.  I even ran a small in-home baby daycare for extra cash. For social time, I sang in the church choir and hosted dinners for our small group every Friday night.  By the time our fourth child was a year old, we had built and moved into our second home, sold the station wagon for an SUV and had very little debt.  Call me Suzie or Martha, or Supermom, I was the shizzle. Go me!

And then I got my real estate license. Shortly after that, tragedy struck my tight little ship and everything went to crap.

Funny thing how the twists and turns of life will do an overhaul on people.  The demands of my new career coupled with having to deal with devastating loss, literally turned all of us into hamburger for a while. By the time little Audrey was born, she was welcomed into a completely remodeled family. Our oldest, Alley and Elih, moved out before she could remember they lived here. And after all the blood, sweat, tears, threats and ‘creative’ discipline we used on those two guinea pigs,  they ended up being their own freewheeling selves anyway.  Both of them were barely legal when they went in directions we didn’t anticipate and as gut wrenching as their autonomous decisions were, it didn't kill us!  I think what surprised Jeff and I the most was how little we had to do with how awesome they actually turned out. Now they protest how 'unfair' it is the other kids don't have to suffer like they did...hee hee.

I've since  taken off my cape, hung the proverbial white flag from my front porch and chalked my efforts up to a lesson learned: Don't pretend to be someone you're not, Lisa. However, most of my SAHM friends still do stuff like home school, churn butter, can fish, scrapbook and make jam. They’re into fancy things like organics, gardening, and drinking raw milk. My SAHM's friends are still good influences on me. Some are so organized I have to bribe them with lattes to come over and fix my piles.  Others have taught me how to pinch pennies hard enough to make Abe Lincoln cry. A couple of them go to the gym like it’s church and their dedication and unrelenting invites sometimes guilt me in to going with them.  I've been tricked more than once into debasing myself during a hip-hop or cardio class that (unbeknownst to me) demanded my physical coordination. They knew balance and rhythm were not my thing! I'm convinced sometimes my friends set me up just to laugh at me.  But in all fairness, these women are masters of their craft, out of my league, and I've never been able to attain their Utopian grasp on SAHMhood.  Probably because I was trying too hard, but more probably because I had to try so hard.

The honest truth was, I just didn't like home economics. You never would have guessed it though, I didn't complain or drudge through the motions. I was grateful and am still grateful to be privileged to stay home with my babies. I just assumed  the ‘fun’ of it would eventually kick in as I plowed the course.  What I discovered on the course though, is that my favorite parts of parenting are the baby and teenage years, it's where I shine!  But to my chagrin, Jeff turned out to be the better 'mom' to our offspring aged four to thirteen. So we’ve adjusted, exchanged some roles and the way I do SAHM stuff now looks nothing like my first twelve years of parenting.  I don’t think that whipper-snapper was any ‘better’at it than I am today, we just don’t see eye to eye anymore.  Now that I've raised two full-grown children and have three left in my nest, I’m sitting on a different branch of the tree with a broader perspective of  how this mother hen thing works and I've become more confident, less persnickety, this is especially true when it comes to domestic engineering.

These days our 'other' kids eat one or maybe two-course meals at the kitchen counter, with or without their siblings. Their dad doesn't get off work until after seven and we don’t believe making them starve till he gets home is such a practical idea (anymore). Once a week we have FFY for dinner,  it means ‘fend for yourself.’ Frankly, I just don’t care if Audrey eats clam chowder for breakfast or has an occasional cup of coffee, she's six, she knows what she likes and if  mashed potatoes make Jamey gag, I won’t make him eat them...not after watching more than one of my kids throw up on their plate.  Some battles aren't worth winning.  I’ve even become a fan of bribing the kids with soda and candy once in a while.  Gone are the chore charts and menu plans, our kids consult a white board now. The rules are pretty general: 1. Don't be an idiot. 2. You get one (or three) warning(s).  3. If I get quiet it means you're in deep ****.  The excel spreadsheets became obsolete by way of  the pile of  bills that linger on my desk.  I allow the younger kids to ride their bikes to school now. In fact, I made Jared ride his bike to Karate lessons during his last two years until he retired a brown belt last summer. I've virtually  eliminated spankings in favor of giving my children lots of liberty and gadgets. I let them have cell phones so I can track them on GPS and call them home or text them from the bathroom whenever I want something. It's like having room service.  Toys make for much better persuasion when I threaten to snatch them from their sticky, clenched fingers.   If they’re especially naughty I’ll just take their bedroom doors off the hinges or ground them from their favorite clothes. Their privacy and whatever they value is all fair game.

Perfection isn't the standard I aim to set any longer because sometimes I’m the jerk that has to apologize.  I've decided it’s OK to let them see me trip once in a while.  I’m more concerned about setting a good example, showing them what genuineness, integrity and living by faith looks like…which means I've got to behave and that’s a lot of pressure.  So I've lowered the bar and given myself some grace. I let a lot of things go that I didn’t used to and changed my mind on just about every parenting philosophy I would at one time have vehemently defended. I've humbly learned never to say never and that having children is God's big scheme to teach us all, kids and parents, an unquantifiable lesson in people skills, forgiveness and tolerance. My priorities now are making sure I spend lots of one-on-one time with each child, whether that’s a trip to the grocery store or a getaway to somewhere on an airplane.  After nineteen+ years of parenting I've come to grips with the reality that I live in the land of "everything nice I own gets broken, where ‘Nobody’ does it".  I’d probably get a C+ if  Mommery were graded.  But all things considered, I like my life better this way.  I like me better this way.  And I’m enjoying my little people more than ever.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Our New Normal

Well we did it, the unthinkable. Steve moved in with his rifles and our family is going off the grid, people. With the impending Apocalypse, we've bought our beans and rice, stocked up on toilet paper and got enough bleach to purify water for a year, maybe more.  Now, we begin our journey in a cash and barter society...well, er uh, till the economy (real estate) picks up anyway.

If it's not obvious, our fam is in a bit of a monetary pickle these days.  Well, you're not going to hear me whine and blog about what I can't control.  Instead, I choose to broadcast our predicament as an adventure. From now on you'll watch us learn, in real time, how to manage and live with what we do have--and that is a dependable, single and sufficient income earned by my hard working #1 man, Jeff.   

That's a lot to be grateful for when so many (including myself) these days can barely scrape together enough change to keep food in their mouths. I'm going back to earning the 'fun' money. Too much pressure being a bread winner. Besides, I'm liking all this extra time with my kids and I'm going to start a new hobby that will save us money. Have you heard of it? 

Living the 'American dream' has made a mess of our finances. We've never had so much available credit to play with in our whole life, I think we're up to 100K+ limit now!  Irony is, paying our credit bills was getting to the point of stealing from Peter to pay Paul.  We needed to do something drastic and responsible.  So we spent the last thirty days in sort of an experiment,  living on just cash and a prayer.  Well, and creative rearranging, cutting, slashing, starving and denying ourselves and, we did it.  We survived, paycheck to paycheck. I have to admit though, I woke up in sort of a panic the other day.  I could feel big brother whispering in my ear, reminding me of all the stuff we still 'need' and it propelled me to do something even more radical and more mature... I got out of bed and chopped up our plastic money, all of it. I know, so unpatriotic.

(Don't worry I blurred and scrambled all the numbers)

Actually, we've done quite a few new things to cut corners these days. We had the Naz family move in with us and  communal living has been not only fabulous but productive! The kids are quieter, each a little less rambunctious with having a roommate buddy to hang out with 24/7 (sans the fist fights).  Having extra muscles in the house has afforded us lots of finished honey-do's like, re-painted cabinets, walls and trim...

My curtains finally got rehung, there's someone else to cook dinners three days a week and there's eight extra hands to help with daily chores.

Oh!  By the way, meet my "#2", Steve, he's doing yard-work today ((squee!)).

My only complaint is the laundry. I just cant get ahead of it.  There are nine bodies living here.  That adds up to at least fifty articles of  rags, towels, changes of clothes, pajamas, underwear and socks to launder per day, at minimum. But Lisa, you say, why not have a greener attitude and conserve, have the kids re-use their towels, take less showers and not wash their PJ's after every use? Okay then smartypants, tell me how to police them without acting like a hovering she-devil on a rampage?  I do not have the energy to fight that battle. Not with two little girls who require two towels per shower and play dress up with their wardrobe. Not with two teenage man children who smell like ground beef and sourdough bread by mid-day. Not with two pre-teen boys who wipe their mouths and snot with their shirt sleeves and collars. I'd rather just keep a-washin'

Okay, so maybe we aren't exactly 'off the grid' and we will probably have to come up with plan 'B' when the Armageddon happens. I just count my blessings, baby steps will have to do for now.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Living In Squalor

I was watching "Hoarding: Buried Alive" on Wednesday night. I love that show because it does multitudes for my self esteem. I love to gape and gasp at the slothful slovenly conditions these people voluntarily live. I can't get my head around why they would  choose to reside in such filth and clutter and chaos but mostly it blows my mind that these people are so brazenly selfish. Most of them live alone, having sacrificed family and precious relationships over their altars of garbage. The people featured on the show all seem to be poisoned by the same toxic gruel; A recipe laced with tragedy, chalked full of loose screws drowned in gallons of foul selfishness.

I think I hate selfishness the most of all things noxious in human beings because selfishness is the root and pulse of every vile deed. All of us are innately selfish to a degree but  the hoarders' selfishness is epitomized in such an explicit heap they make it easy for me to feel superior.  They provide an extreme benchmark to which I can compare myself and say, wow Lisa, you're only, like, a level one hoarder (selfish), so you're still OK with the world.  I feel justified to ridicule them on the TV and sneer when they blubber about how they 'just don't understand why' they do this. Cry babies. I tell them why. I belittle them as they lament over their hoard and waffle over the possibility of exchanging it to get their families back. I would spit on them (in a virtual anonymous way) if I could. For one sick, self-aggrandizing hour, this show provides me a pretend world to unleash my hate-venom for all things selfish.  Until I met Kelaine.
Kelaine is an eccentric artist who hoards banana peels,  penguins and frogs. She says she got that way because her mother didn't love her and never made her feel welcome in her own house growing up. Kevin, her live-in boyfriend of 11yrs, was begging Kelaine to reclaim just the kitchen and living room so he could cook for her and entertain company. Kelaine snarled that Kevin's expectations were 'unrealistic'. But upon later sessions with her gentle, coaxing therapist, Kelaine came to realize something poignant about herself and she chokingly admitted, "I've never said I wasn't selfish...No one in my world matters to me as much as I do. I mean, that may be wrong...but its honest." She was visibly regretful that she'd made Kevin to feel like her mom made her feel and the sorrow of it caused her to decide to change her hoarding ways. And with that I decided I liked Kelaine.

Rarely have I witnessed a person, so put on the spot, own up to their selfishness without excuse. All it took was someone who didn't judge Kelaine and showed her an ounce of kindness to spark a little flame of introspection and *pouf* love motivated Kelaine to change.  And in that moment I realized someone should spit on me (in a metaphoric pseudo kind of way).
There's a nugget of truth a wise friend of mine just said to me a couple days before I watched this episode. His words punched me in the throat and rang in my ears:  "And oh, this thing about 'loving the sinner, but hate the sin' is about the most disingenuous piece of manure ever. People who spout off that non-sense hate other people's sins, but not their own"--David Cho.  Here I just wrote a dissertation on how to play nice and make friends meanwhile, I'm holed up with my television ripping total strangers a new one.

Shame. on. me. 
Though I'll probably continue to watch Hoarders because I think I'm addicted to the show. But I'm going to give the folks a little more grace from now on and not snark at the TV so much. Fortunately for me there is no camera crew filming my selfish indiscretions (wouldn't you like to know) so I gotta give these brave people props for putting their junk out there and trying to change, which is leaps ahead from where I sit.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Religiously Outing Myself

Radical Views on Faith and Why I'm Starting Over

I'm rebellious and I like pushing peoples' buttons, love is like that. That's why love is my most favorite law, because its reckless and unruly, it has no boundaries and there are no laws that supersede it. Love can't be bossed around. I'm kind of a nosy person too, but love is an interloper and even undignified at times so that makes me feel better about thrusting myself on people who do and don't know me that well. Love also multiplies and illuminates the great in people regardless of what else is lurking or lacking in their soul. How awesome that I can shine the light of it on someone whose bulb is burning out and recharge them!  Love is forgiving, it overlooks mistakes and faults and who doesn't need this kinda grace in their life? Love in action, makes it possible for us to push through the rough patches. The best thing about law of love is, anyone can live by Love's mandates and reap its benefits! Agnostic, prostitutes, Muslims, celebrities, scientists, politicians, teenagers, my cat, even Christians.

Yes, I said Christians, and I am one of them. Aren't Christians, by definition, people who exude love? I wish, but we've screwed a lot of things up these past 2000 years and have quite a bit of apologizing and reformation to do before we will ever be famed as a group notorious for its bleeding love instead of religious rhetoric. 
Most of us are not a hopeless bunch though, and if we want the world to know what we're really about, we're gonna have to start by being a lot nicer. I think it begins with making making friends, real friends, outside our clique of 'Born Agains'.  

We need to have other friends beyond the church walls, with people we share common interests besides dogma. Friends are the family we get to choose so we should pick them based on how they enrich our lives, not whether they'll take our advice or affirm our philosophies. It is possible to be friends with people we like and admire who don't share the same religious views, have different morals, values, ethics and political views. As long as we are respectful and kind and agree to disagree it is possible to be great friends because that's what love does and we all are capable of loving. 

I'm not talking about missionary friendships though. The Bible tells us  that God, the Holy Spirit, is the one that draws men unto Him. It's not the Christian's job to convert or browbeat people into believing Gospel.  We have not failed humanity or God if someone doesn't take our word for it. Where we fail is when we withhold love (as if it were a commodity) from others because they don't buy what we're selling.  Just grasping the concept that God is in control and trusting that love always wins really takes the pressure of those of us who believe we're supposed to share the 'Good News'. What a relief we don't have to peddle the Bible or have an agenda to be friends with anyone, we just have to care for them. Cliche, albeit true, people just don't care what you believe unless they believe you care.

But befriending someone for the sake of beguiling them into our belief system is not very friendly or even genuine in my opinion.  My father-in-law is right. Who wants to be friends with someone whose sole intent is to change them?  Even Jesus didn't do that. He came to earth to say; "I love you just the way you are, follow me and I'll take care of you, I'll comfort you through the bad stuff. You might sink in your troubles but I won't let you drown. When you fall, I'll pick you up.  If you break, I'll glue the pieces back together. If you get lonely I'm here and I'm listening.  If you lose faith, I have faith enough for both of us.  You may get sick but I can heal and when or if it's time to go, I'll take you home with me"  Isn't that the attitude we all should have towards others anyway?

Some of us need to stop manipulating, stop befriending non believers for the sake of or on the condition we convert them. Cults do that. We weren't called to brainwash, we are mandated to freely love others and share where we believe that love originates from, like Jesus did. Take it up with Him if you don't believe me, His friends were thieves and prostitutes. If we love like He loved, we don't need to strong arm anyone into our brand of faith. If Christians truly believe that God IS love, then Love (God) is perfectly capable of persuading people all on Its own--as long as that love is being expressed through us daily and organically.

I wish some of the brick and mortar churches would just let God be God and stop putting its faith in marketing twelve step programs of seven methods and three formulas we can use to find the ten keys to redeem a sinner. We don't need to sell Jesus with a light show and a latte on Sundays. We don't need  to tickle the ears of our audience with a rock band or a feel-good message to lure them into becoming a member of our 'church.'   Loving others and telling them the truth, IS relevant enough. People are the church, you and I. Where we gather is a place for worship, fellowship, teaching and encouragement.

Now here's a funny, you can thank me later:) 
I'm not opposed to making worship a fun and culturally contemporary experience, I still go to a church, but I'm disenchanted by what I see corporate greed and power and pride have made of some of our hallowed buildings. 

If being a Christian is not a religion but a relationship, then it's time I started acting like it. I think God is rousing a lot of Christians from a religious coma these days. It's time we stop depending on one pastor to tell us what to do (as if God ever intended his church to be run autocratically) and start taking responsibility for our own spirituality. We are not robots and the church is not a machine. I suspect God is tired of us being run this way and frankly, so am I. 

Hokay, so if you're still awake after reading this essay and wanna hear a true short story about a friend of mine that illustrates such radical parallels on faith and friendship, read on... (you can do it!)

I was with one of my bff's, Stephany, recently at a pub in downtown Vancouver. She was visiting from Hawaii for just a couple of days and this particular watering hole was a familiar hangout to gather all her peeps together for a short visit, she's pretty popular. Actually, Stephany is kinda famous among her friends and I'm sure it's because she's one of the kindest people we have ever met. 

I've known her since we were 13 years old. The nice girl image she projects is not fake and the the love she exhales is not duplicitous. The light she radiates and the warmth she emits actually attracts people to her. She doesn't even have to try to get people like her and if I were a jealous person I would make her go live in a gingerbread house, wear fondant underpants and eat gumdrops the rest of her life for being so sticky sweet all the blipping time.  But I'm not envious, I'm just like the rest of her friends who want to be around her.  I'm not trying to paint Stephany as a deity, I mean, she is an angel most the time but when her wings fall off she flies on her broomstick and you'd best lay low. She is a normal human like everyone else, capable of the full gamut of emotions, but what makes Stephany special and sets her apart is that she's made it a conscious life goal to love people and love them unbiasedly.  Pretty ambitious enterprise for a girl who doesn't subscribe to any particular religion, but she lives it.

I'd waited all week for my turn to be with Stephany and meeting her in a bar at 10pm on a Thursday night was all I got this go round.  But no sooner did I find a seat than she was up flitting about the room working her friendly prowess, that's the thing with social butterflies I suppose. So I just sat there, alone, staring into my glass of lime water, listening to her cool friends Tasha and Shina croon on the open mic.  Until I overheard her other cool friend, Steven, gushing over Stephany behind my back. I turned around to see him with his arm over her shoulder, staring into her eyes in the most serious platonic way (she's married to another really cool and really giant biker dude) and Steven said to her "Stephany, you are the most beautiful person I have ever met. You're not just gorgeous on the outside but your gorgeous on the inside and that's why I love you." 

I can only hope at the end of my life that what Steven said to Stephany is something my friends will also say about Lisa. I want to make others feel necessary and loved and appreciated like Stephany does.   Whether Stephany believes in God is irrelevant to me, I want what she and Jesus have in common, God (love) living through me, making a difference, infecting others with the kind of love that is contagious. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pre Murder Syndrome

Just a little FYI to my sistas suffering from PMS. When you reach your thirtysomethings, beware.  'The Change' from pre-menstrual to pre-murder will sneak up on you.

In high school PMS presented itself as a general bad mood that lasted  a few days and ended with cramps that put me in the fetal position. 45 months of pregnancy, 30 months of nursing and at least 162 lady cycles later, something changed.

I woke up one morning and just didn't feel like getting out of bed. Coffee had lost its punch, I decided work could be put off til tomorrow. I felt subdued with no urgency to accomplish the slightest task. In groups I started to withdraw. I believed it was because I was just tired or absorbed in my profound thoughts. The next few days I would grow more on edge. I'd notice how much everyone in the world was so husband, kids, small appliances. If I caught anybody engaged in a pet peeve I passive-aggressively deemed our relationship over. Then I started to bloat, become narcoleptic and crave cake batter. I didn't want to cook so I'd defer to fast food, willfully clogging my family's arteries for dinner. When I scanned the house I pessimistically noticed everything that needed to be done; the cabinets coming unhinged, the food avalanche on the pantry floor, the tsunami of dirty laundry consuming the clean clothes, the baby quilt I started for Audrey six years ago.  Month after month I was demoralized by the indisputable evidence that I'd failed at being a mediocre mom and housewife. 

Then, I'd snap. 

"Stop burning a hole through me with your laser beam star trek vision!...Everyone get out. Get OUT! GET OUT!!!... Fine, If you're not gonna clean, I'm going to my room and YOU can entertain the company" (said to husband while he was cooking dinner).  Or, I'd cry.  It could be at anything...the news, cleaning the litter box, email spam (I don't cry so it's a reliable sign I've cracked).

At some point I'd start muttering substitute expletives and become completely convinced my marriage was a jail sentence, my kids were chaos incarnate, my house was a ramshackle, my clothes were rags, my face was a mountain range and I sing like a kazoo. But  I managed to push through it. Sometimes I'd go to the neighbors and drink her cokes. Sometimes I'd have coffee and eat warm brownie dough, like I am doing now.

But then I'd wake up with a telltale headache and  know labor like cramps would be upon me within 24 hours followed by cursed Aunt Flo.  And I'd remember, Oh silly, you were  just having hormones!

This pattern continued for at least a year before I caught on. 
 I finally went to the doctor.  I begged for a cocktail of anti depressants, Vicodin, and Tetracycline. Unfortunately he diagnosed me as 'normal' and suggested I get back on the pill to regulate things. So I did. It might have resolved my issues but I kept forgetting to take them which threw my cycle into another tailspin. I'm just not the regimented type.                 

It's been about four years since the new developments in my cycle surfaced and I've learned to manage them on my own. I'll warn my family if I start to notice the symptoms.  Though the signs were unfamiliar and not easy for me to detect at first, I still don't usually notice the shift until I've insulted someone and they call me out.  If its too late, I  just apologize, a lot.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Don't Knock, No One Else Does

This post was originally written in August 2010. I've since updated it and felt impressed to enlighten you.

Common sense drives the bus of what I do no matter how bad my little feelers bleed all over the steering wheel. Virtually nothing escapes my analytical filters before they reach my heart. Weave my judicious rationale through the tapestry of my life and you will begin to see how I arrive at making choices that don't always appear, um, rational.
For example, my newest revaluation that communal living is the grandest, most fantabulous practical idea. Ever. 

Allow me to expound on a couple of my other major life choices so I may convince you: I married Jeff.  Of course I loved him, he's athletic, good looking, tan and a super nice guy...yadayadayada. Said virtues being standard issue, it was actually his steady job, family values, and o.c.d. work ethic that charmed me into a virtual arranged marriage less than 150 days after we met. Today, it's his killer back rubs and brawny super-human ability to scrub toilets and clean up kid vomit that keeps me wedded.

Fast forward seven years and two more kids later, I became a Realtor. It began as a short term gig. I mean, I had dreams, I was an Artiest. I had journals to publish, grammy's to win, more babies to make! Originally I had assisted my mom at the Real Estate agency to make a few extra bucks.  After a couple months I learned how to do her job.  So, I got my own license! We needed the money, I was good at schmoozing and arguing, it seemed like the thing to do. Poof, another seven years later and I am still working this job I never dreamt of. Literally.  *Sigh*  Well, it pays the bills.  Or so I thought it did until the housing market got diarrhea.  Now it's 2011 and the economy's still in the toilet, sooo I am basically unemployed. Which  got me thinking about this communal living thing. Then, I saw a TV show on plural marriages and I was SOLD. 
Stay with me. 

In our house there are no extra wives or additional husbands but we do have revolving door policy that begets a steady stream of company at any god-given moment.  Visitors are constant and our hospitality protocol is something outside folk just don't quite get. It is what it is though and I love that people like to hang with us. I learned a long time ago that if you feed your company they will come back! And come back they did. But times got lean and we were trying to get out of debt. Money quit growing on trees when the houses quit selling and we were feeling the pinch.  We needed to do something.

It was time I had to face my budget, or lack thereof, if we wanted to keep feeding all these people. But to have a budget meant we needed to figure out how much of our (my husbands) income should be allocated for food, utilities and debts. This forced me to reveal our my food spending habits. Not the ideal or fabricated spending plan in my head, but the uncensored budget-- the dirty, fat and carb laden truth of what I'd blindly on purpose spent two-weeks wages on every month.
That's right, two-weeks!  I poured over three random bank statements and added up totals from every grocery store, restaurant and drive-thru we invested in. A disappointment of Costco size proportions was unveiled.

I discovered that we didn't generate enough
income to subsidize our open soup kitchen. The fact that we spent equal parts on food as our mortgage meant we had abruptly come to the end of a 12 year era. We were devastated.  How would we be proper disciples of Christ and have Bible study without the loaves and fishes and wine and chocolate cake?!  How were we to reconcile the food bill and desperate lack of funding and function in the reality that there would always be vagabonds at our house anyway??  We were doomed.

(dramatic sobs ensued)

Then, a still small voice. I was reminded about co-habitation.  We could find a house guest or family in need to live with us and start charging!  It would solve everything.   It was brilliant!!  It would only be temporary, we could do it!!!!  And it'd benefit all parties, RIGHT?!  Right?...right?

**UPDATE 3/16/2011**
Ha! We did both!  Erm, the house guest thing didn't end well, but that's another post. The 'family in need'  turned out to be my x-bro in law, Steve, along with my two nephews and niece.

So far so good! My BIL's kids are about the same age as our three so we bunked them all together. They're lovin it.  Steve brought with him another flat screen and uber manly sound system. He goes to school the same time as his kids so he's here when they come home. We split the groceries, house chores and he cooks 2-3x a week! And get this--he also fixes stuff, Hallelujah!!! He's already painted, rotated our tires and installed closet systems.The possibilities are endless.  It feels like I'm in that episode of King of Queens when Doug got two wives (one for fun and one for labor), teehee. Anyway, don't think there's any funny business when you hear me callin' Steve my #2. He knows his place and we're all living happily ever after:)


We converted half our garage into a 'dorm' room for the teenagers... 

 Upstairs are 5 additional bedrooms. This is the girls' room...


Jamey & Colby's room was too messy to post here but you get the idea.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Teacher Conference Day...@#%$#!

@#%$#! as in, Arrrrgh!!! (c'mon, you know I wouldn't say that;)

I dread teacher conference day, even more so than I did when I was the the subject of dissection. The meetings feel more like an inquisition, but what kind of mom would I be to worm my way out of them?  It's my parental duty. Was it in the fine print of the contract I signed at the birth center that I would go, of my own volition, to these lynchings? It really doesn't matter whether my kid has been scoring A's or F's, I know it's all a ruse.

Nowadays, I arrive to the ambush donned in full armor. My defenses engaged, walls up, and already bristled by what terrible slanderous things the teacher is going to say about my child, to which she'll actually project on moi and my careless decision to over-populate the planet with yet another humanoid that doesn't  fulfill their duty to society by spending all their free time studying, brooding, over their ginormous pile of home-work of paralyzing proportions. Unwittingly I'll nod as the teacher gingerly points out how my child is not testing at neighborhood state guidelines and how he/she will degenerate into a complete mental retard within the next two years if I don't start reading to them ASAP

Call me a bad example but I didn't sign up for 'Teacher" classes in college. I'm not good at teaching academia and I don't pretend to be. I'm a concrete learner, I learn by doing. Unfortunately, I birthed children who learn different than me and my knee jerk response to them is to lose my ever-loving mind when they don't get what I'm trying to explain. It frustrates me to the nth degree. I boil on the inside and call my kids mean schoolyard names and banish them to their rooms for not understanding what I said the first time. I want to spoon out my eyes and shave my head with a potato peeler.  But I have, however, embraced imparting morals, values and ethics into my kids, illustrating love and relationships, instructing them on manners, and disciplining them on accountability, integrity and self control.  I presumed there was a perfectly good public school system in place my tax dollars were paying for that would teach them all the reading, writing and arithmetic stuff. I'd depended on it. Apparently I was mistaken..

A teacher told me once in a conference how brilliant my son was in school.  He was a natural whiz, a truly gifted and bright child. He aced all his advanced math tests and showed utter genius on his written science exams...but...he never turned in his homework so she was forced to FAIL him... Eh? You mean, he's proficient in all the material and he's learned what you taught him but he's, failing? "Yes. And its your fault. You have failed him by not helping him do his homework."  But I don't know how to do his homework, I flunked pre-algebra three times. "Well, Mrs.Frey, how can you help me solve this problem?" about you don't give him homework?!  *big pitiful grin*

Last week I attended my daughters first teacher conference.  She's in kindergarten.  I was just coming down from an unfamiliar high after wrapping up a rare, glowing five-star conference with my son's 4th grade teacher.  I should have known better than to frolic into my daughter's classroom on that glittery bubble of merriment and delusion.  There sat her teacher, just waiting for me with her pitch fork. Crap.  I'd left my armor in the other classroom.  So on she went, tersely telling me how my daughter is behind national world levels and giving me lots of helpful tips on how I could teach my daughter how to read...Eh? You mean, she's here in your class for 8hrs, 5 days a week and she hasn't learned how to read yet?!  "Well, you'll be amazed at how fast she will learn if you'd just go over these 17 worksheets, have her memorize these 9 pages of  sight words, practice her handwriting, plus have her read aloud to you the 3 books I send home with her every day and then just read to her 30 minutes every night!"

I left that conference totally dejected and angry with myself for not having taught my 6yo how to read before she started school. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Now she's bombing Kindergarten and in imminent danger of becoming an illiterate homeless person and I was all to blame. How did I become such a base and shamely slug of a mom? Who was I to ever reproduce?

But then I got over it. And then I was mad. It can't all be my fault?!  There's just got to be something wrong with the way our schools are teaching our kids when we are 7 months into the school year and my daughter, who spends most of her waking hours with her teacher, cannot phonetically sound out words!  When; my neighbor home schools her kids, spending just 2 to 4 hrs a week with her 4yo and he is basically at the same reading level as my daughter. Based on this pathetic fact alone, I would home school my kids if I had the patience. But I don't...besides that someone would eventually call CPS on my arse. So, kudos to you home-schooling moms! I envy you.

FYI, I am picking up the slack now and reading to my daughter more. *Let us all exhale now* She is sharp as a tack, smart as a whip and I know she's gonna be fine, just like her older sister and brothers. Perhaps I'm a little jaded and the teachers aren't as awful as I depict here...they seem like nice people I might even be friends with otherwise. Under the circumstances though, may have to quit going to their interrogations, bad parent or not.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Manchildren Like These

Most of my friends have smaller kids closer to the age of my younger ones. I am in a weird place in my grown-up life. Not quite middle-aged, not young-n-dumb, just...thirtysomething.  But Jeff and I have already raised and released two kidlings from our nest with three to go, ages 14, 9 and 6.  My friends still have yet to discover what their relationships will look like with their soon-to-be adult children. It's hard for them to imagine, but what they can count on is this: The way their kids are as babies is the way they will be as grown-ups, just more refined. I am fortunate to share a glimpse here of what inevitably awaits least, I hope it will be as glorious.

I was young-n-dumb once, that's how I ended up having a baby at the tender age of 12. OK...that's just what I tell people, though I was barely of legal age when I gave birth to my first child. Because my boyfriend and I were 18 and in careless, ignorant lust, we created a beautiful little son.  It was a hard path I chose and if I had to do over I'd probably do things differently.  But thank God He knew my future and the plans He had for that sweet baby.  Precious little Elih turned out to be my most favorite mistake. 

Elih is all grown up now.  My job raising him is done, he's accountable for his own mistakes and something magical has happened.  We have become friends! Don't misunderstand, I still get to be his mom, boss him around and guilt him into obedience but, he likes me now.  And when we walk hand in hand, people think I'm robbing the cradle, teehee.

He makes me laugh, he's goofy and silly and I'm convinced he will always be a boy at heart.  He's generous and unpretentious, the homeless love him.  His heart barely fits inside his 6'1" frame that suffocates me when we cuddle now.

Sometimes he's too sarcastic and gets misunderstood but he's pretty witty and talks himself out of a lot of trouble..what is it, like 9 traffic tickets now, Elih?!  He's always been a charmer.  He was terrible in school but somehow managed to trick his teachers into taking pity on his adorable brown puppy eyes.  Conferences usually went the way of  "Elih doesn't do his homework and really needs to apply himself, oh, but I just looove Elih, he is such a sweet boy, such a joy..."

Growing up, Elih was also the family guardian, the first on the scene of a scraped knee or bruised elbow.  He would console his younger siblings for their booboo's and confront their bullies. He was just an all around good kid. The only time I was called by the police to come pick him up was when he jumped in between two strangers engaged in a fist fight at the skate park. "your son isn't in trouble ma'am, but you may want to remind him that kind of behavior might get him killed one day."

Elih was always strong willed and determined to win. If he didn't think he could ace something he wouldn't attempt it. He loved free raffles when he was little but he'd cry bitter tears if he didn't get the prize. He was definitely a child persuaded by positive reinforcement. Unfortunately, he was my Guinea pig 1st born and got the tar beat out of him until he was 10yo before I realized money and bribes worked better.

He was always a bit of an independent and a self teacher, too.  He knew how to rationalize pain and make the best of his situation so authority (and punishment) didn't really intimidate him, neither did high cliffs or deep water.  He was smart and his inflated self esteem fed into his assumption that he should already know how to do stuff without reading the instructions.  I'm sure that's why he loved Lego's.  That kid could just look at the box from the age of 5 and put a set together perfectly.  As he grew up that self determination, coupled with a progressing adrenaline addiction, he excelled at video games, skate/snow/wake boarding and driving a stick shift.  Elih spent his senior year in HS switching out the motor of his Honda civic with the help of a couple friends.  It didn't surprise me he taught himself to do it all.

So I wasn't shocked when the day came he told me he wanted to join the United States Marine Corps.  Something inside me knew all along he'd choose the military as a's why I threw away every mailer the USMC and ARMY sent him through high school.  This time my threats and pleads made no dent in his decision.  Elih always had a pension to be the best, a hero-mentality about him.  I'm convinced a traumatic event he witnessed as a toddler jaded him from wanting to be a police officer and he's never been able to stomach blood or gore so being a paramedic was not an option for him either.  Becoming a mechanic or something in the field of putting things together was more his forte but that wouldn't satisfy his innate need to save the world.  However, the Marine Corps embodied all that Elih found appealing, the few the proud, the brave...and free college!

He just graduated USMC boot camp and is finishing up his MOS training.  In a few weeks he will be stationed somewhere on the globe, far away from family but his heart will always be at home, with me.  He still asks his ol' mom for advice and he cares what I think. He still calls me 'mommy' and saves those big alligator tears for me to wipe away. I still lecture him and he still doesn't tell me everything so he can 'protect' me. And now that he's Mr. Moneybags, he likes to treat me to lunch, buy me candy bars and expensive Christmas gifts--that he feels he must constantly remind me of.

He recently forbade me to get a nose ring or tattoo and insists I'm going through a mid life crisis because I got my eyebrows done and started wearing bikinis, I worry him. Ha! I think what he actually sees is his mom as a real-life person and it weirds him out. He'll get used to it and one day we will share a real drink together. Baby steps. For now I am happy to let him buy me a latte while he slurps on his mocha java freezie with extra choco-locolate to drown out that yucky coffee taste.

The military has been good for my manchild. I'm having doubts whether they will ever be able to cut the umbilical cord between us but I am so, so proud of my son and the man he is becoming.

I have plenty more tales to tell about my grown daughter from another mother in a future post. Just never doubt the 6th sense God placed inside you to raise your children up in the way they should go. The rewards are bountiful and I am so excited to see how my other ones turn out.