Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Small Print to Wedding Vows - Beware!

I was thinking about the traditional wedding vows today as I was loading and unloading the dishwasher. At first I thought that they needed to be revamped to properly reflect my husband and my relationship, but then I realized that they really said all that they needed. It was just that I did not read the fine print underneath.

I, Dawn, take you, George, to be my husband,
To have and to hold
–to be touched by you and all future children at all times and at any time no matter how I feel about it; regardless of the fact that we will have two children within 22 months that will suckle endlessly from the same breasts that you will want to tend to as part of your marital privilege later.
For better or for worse –Despite losing jobs, losing our health insurance, and losing my mind in the day to day grind of life.
For richer, for poorer – And poorer and poorer and poorer, when we choose to add kids into the mix.
In sickness and in health – I will make sure that I still take care of the kids, do the laundry, and make dinner.
To love and to cherish – despite your disgusting habits that you are now passing onto our children.
From this day forward until death do us part – Who knew death would look so appealing? Is that really an option?

Of course, I guess my husband’s would be:

I, George, take you, Dawn, to be my wife,
To have and to hold my tongue even if I disagree with you.
For better or for worse dressed and I’ll revert to the “have and hold my tongue” when it is worse.
For richer, for poorer when as the college educated one, you choose to stay home with the children.
In sickness and in health, I will go to work to earn the money for our family
To love and to cherish and never speak of my frustrations to anyone, especially my mother.
From this day forward until death do us part which isn’t too far away if I keep working so hard.

Who knew these words could have so much meaning? The romance of getting married is like icing on the cake, living together day in and day out, surviving the trials and tribulations is the actual cake itself. It is the structure and the support. It is what makes the romance beautiful and worthwhile. It is the substance of the cake that makes the frosting so sweet.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


In this economic time, saying that you are moving is more of a question than a statement. My husband took a new job in February and we began to get the house ready for the market. It went on the market on June 2nd. Here we sit in July with no real action to speak of. Now we have to contemplate changing the price. Of course, the discussion about changing the price led to a difficult conversation with my husband. Who finally frustratingly told me to “do whatever you want”. As if I want any of this! I would rather just enjoy my home and friends here, but I’m not for forever transitions either. Half of our life is packed in boxes in the cellar. We’re afraid to sign up for anything because we don’t know if we’ll be here. We didn’t even plant a garden.

I understand his concern of leaving money on the table, but I am afraid of never even getting to the table.

Ironically, this weekend we visited with friends that moved out of town last year. They had their house on the market, sold, and moved half way across the country in less than 45 days. It took us 4 months to get the house to market (and there are still projects to finish), it has been on the market for two months, and I don’t think that we are anywhere near the end. I remember thinking that they had underpriced their house, but perhaps they were smarter than all of us as they are happily resettled in Missouri.

I wonder when this economic downturn will change. As I reduced our price, which will take effect next Monday, I'm making a bet that it will be longer rather than shorter. Now I have to worry that we’ll have enough money to buy a new home up in Massachusetts.

Anyone else stuck in this real estate bubble? What strategies are you using?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Needs vs. Wants

It is so easy need things. I need this fancy new knife in my kitchen. I need a new car. I need a new skirt. But are these truly needs? I have knives in my kitchen. My car is still running and perhaps I can get by with my old skirt a bit longer. We are such a society of consumerism that I think we have blurred the lines between these two words, which have very different meanings.

It may be a very interesting experiment to ask your children to write such a list to see what they may put in both categories.

I found it interesting this last Christmas that my daughter was not even clear on the word “want”. Even a want for me requires some ongoing use, otherwise why bother having it at all. When we had gone with Girl Scouts to PineGrove Dude Ranch, my assistant leader and I became a little side tracked at the air hockey table (Ok, the girls would use the word addicted). The girls are old enough to go off on their own, so we gave them strict instructions to stay in the buddy system and to check in with us at certain time intervals. Of course, the check in location was the air hockey table in the lobby. Sherry and I would both be embarrassed to divulge the amount of money we spent in that machine over the course of three days. Our arms actually ached on the way home, but boy did we laugh. My daughter took this as a sign that I wanted and needed an air hockey table. She began her campaign to make sure that I had one for Christmas. Her campaign was not long needed as my father quickly fell into her web. Needless to say, for Christmas I got an air hockey table. My daughter was thrilled, she thought that she had found the perfect gift. I was a bit distressed. I love air hockey and go right to it whenever I find a table in our travels, but truthfully, who needs a 6’ x 3’ (maybe 8’ x 4’ - I don’t know) table in their house. Who has time to play more than just a few times a month even when it is right there under your nose? Boy, can I think of a lot of other items that rank closer to the need side of my list that could have been purchased for that money.

Needs vs. wants not only do they need to be separated, but wants need to prioritized and ranked against what you may give up in order to fulfill your want. Please understand, I am not a monk myself and recently have done my own damage in wants at Lia Sophia jewelry parties. But especially as we are culling through 12 years of living in our home and packing for a move, needs and wants are becoming very important to me (and very heavy too!). So perhaps my family and maybe yours too need to start really thinking about what the difference is.

If you tried the experiment, let us know your results.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Points of Perfection

Every once in a while, I touch perfection. I never know when it may happen. The first time I remember recognizing it was when my husband and the kids were making a gingerbread house and I was in the kitchen making Chex Mix. Christmas carols were playing on the radio. I turned around from the stove, wiping my hands in a towel. I was ready to say something, but I shut my mouth and thought this is it. Please let me put this moment in a bottle. Tonight I have had another moment, it was nothing special. George and I were finishing up a movie. The cat curled up against my leg. I pet his head. A moment - - -a single moment of pure perfection.

I’ve had a few others that I remember, but I’m sure there are even more that I may not be aware of. I encourage each of you to look for those moments of perfection. This doesn’t mean planning them or spending money to create them. It means simply being open to them, being aware of your blessings, recognizing their fleetingness and savoring them.

Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things. ~Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Benefits of Marriage

The men are back home . . .It has been a long quiet week: only one load of laundry. I think I ran the dishwasher twice. No meal planning – I think we had baked potatoes one night, clams another. It was so easy and quiet. Did I mention how quiet it was. Now they’re home, I have a homemade lasagna in the oven and there is a pile of laundry to be done. This situation might beg the question – why do women get married? I think all married women have asked themselves this question at one time or another (except maybe those that are still in the honeymoon phase.). Sometimes it seems that the husband takes as much time and energy as the kids. Wouldn’t it/ Couldn’t it be easier alone?

Each time I ponder this question, I fortunately come back with a resounding “NO!” The men – my son and husband – are critical members of our family. Quiet may seem nice but truthfully it is BORING. No laundry and no dishes are nice, but without lively conversation and a reason to clean who cares.

I remember years ago, when my mother and I were arguing about why I was marrying my husband. Why would I give up a man at MIT to see an electrician? My answer was simply that he made me laugh. And to this day, he continues to do that. He makes me laugh, cry, yell, smile. Our relationship makes life worth living. Our relationship takes life from survival to emotion. It is the difference between a flat line and a health sinus rhythm.

What makes your spouse worth your time and energy?

Well, I better finish this up so that I can go get some Italian bread to go with the lasagna.

PS. I did talk to the neighbor’s wife. I simply started by asking if she was ok. . .I’m not sure that it helped at all, but I was able to get out that this is not something you want to do around your son and reminded her that our door is always open.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Moral Dilemma – Help!

You are out walking your dog and you hear the neighbors having an all out brawl.

“XXXXX, why the F---- did you have to come in here?” He booms.

I cannot understand the response, but can hear the yelling. And then their 5 year old lets out a piercing scream and just keeps screaming as the parents are screaming around him.

What do you do?

How about if this isn’t the first time? Several years ago, when the 5 year old was still in a high chair, I was out walking (understand, I am not spying or eaves dropping. Our house is set back and in order to get from my house to the road, I have to walk down my driveway which runs directly beside their house) when I heard the screaming and then the heart breaking sound of their son screaming. This time it was worse because I started to hear things slamming into the wall. I couldn’t stop myself. I went right over to their house. Their front door was open. I called their names and walked in to take their son out. Drips of blood was on the staircase. It was then that I thought – whoa, I have crossed the line. I could be putting myself in danger. The husband was obviously embarrassed but started to explain what he thought was the “reason” for his behavior. I simply said that whatever was between them was between them, but their son did not have to see and hear it. I actually was so brazen to go up, unstrap their son from his booster seat. My hands were shaking. “I’m going to take him outside.” The wife followed me out and the angry husband ended up driving away.

My husband thought I was insane when I told him what I had done. I tried to tell him, he would have done something himself. There is no way he could have heard the boy’s screams and ignored them.

The hard part is that as neighbors, we are obviously privy to more information. I have seen this father with his son. His son is his life. He is attentive and caring. He spends every free moment with his son. The mother, although very nice, I think has a drinking problem. I think that is why we have never really hit it off. We’ve had tea a few times, but other times when they have had us over, I have seen her slur her words. I have watched the awkwardness with her son; the overly loving, praising mom that comes with the a few extra drinks.

What we each do in our own home is our business, but not when it concerns a child. How do I explain to these people the damage that they are doing to their son, even though they never strike him? How do I look them in the eye after I have this conversation?

Last night, I’ll tell you that I did not burst in. I just started walking my dog very loudly; praising him for listening and loudly encouraging him toward the house. I hoped that if I could hear them, they could hear me. Of course my goal is not to get them to be quieter and truthfully, I don’t expect that they will never fight, we all fight; but, I want them to wake up and realize that they are behaving this way in front of a very small child who will bear the scars from this night forever. I came home sick to my stomach wondering if I should call the police. What would I do if something horrible happened and I knew in advance?

I’m thinking today, I will go over to talk to her but I just don’t know what to say.

I welcome any suggestions.

Ironically, on one of my other blogs, , I was discussing saints vs. sinners and that not all choices are black and white. While I put the entry together, I came by the following quote which can certainly be applied to this situation. Here he is talking globally, but the same applies locally. “I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.” Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Prize Speech

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Freedom at Risk

This morning on the news, there was a story about insurance companies adjusting rates based on the number of miles you drive. They do this a bit already when you declare how far you drive to work, but this program would take this a step farther. They would like to electronically monitor your odometer. The theory behind this is that the farther you drive, the more likely you are to be in an accident. It was sold in the news story as a possible way to reduce rates for those of us who drive less. In my experience, any short drive savings, if there are any, will be set off strongly by the increases imposed. Frighteningly, most of the people that were questioned during the news story were enthusiastic about the idea. They felt if it might reduce the cost of insurance, they were all for it. HELLO –People! Why don’t you just sign over your privacy now?

People don’t realize that the loss of rights doesn’t happen in one striking blow, but in small acceptable steps. Recently, I read the book book Night by Elie Wiesel. His first chapters illustrate this idea in horrifying truth. Elie was a young man growing up during the time of World War II. He was Jewish. He watched first hand as the people in his town complied with Nazi’s requests. Move to the Ghetto – ok, it may be better to live together anyway. Be prepared to move on - at least we will have our families. As they arrived at the death camps, let us revolt – let us keep our calm and see what happens. Elie writes in frightening detail about what comes next. They have gone too far to do anything to stop what comes next.

I often think that people would willingly place tracking devices in their children if given the proper persuasion. If it was said that the government was requiring implants, the people would rise up. But if the same “request” was formed as a way to protect and keep children safe, mothers would line up for miles never considering that something so good could be used for wrong later on.We must be vigilant about our rights always. Our freedoms can so easily slip through our fingers under the guise of what is right and “good for us”.

Free people, remember this maxim: We may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost. ~ Jean-Jacques Rosseau

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My New Life

As the family is strewn across the state in summer camp, I am left home alone during day for the first time since my daughter, who is now 13, was born. It has been a very exciting week filled with blogging, walking the dog, cleaning the house, and I even let myself get out and watch a movie I been interested in seeing since I read the book (The Mists of Avalon). It has been such a change since I stopped working in April. And this week even more so since I did not even have the kids at home. Tuesday morning I spent a very exciting time grocery shopping – Wooohooo! I dropped my daughter off at the bus, completed payroll at church, went to Wal-mart to pick up a Boost Mobile card (since my daughter has been using my emergency only cell phone for all sorts of conversations with me), and then headed over to BJ’s, where I found out that they don’t open until 9:00am. Not wanting to waist the gold I put in the gas tank of my car and since no one was waiting for me at home except the dogs, I opened the windows all the way and pulled out a book to read for the 45 minute wait until the store opened. It was then that I got a glance of my old self. At about 10 of 9:00, a woman drove up to the store. She parked her car, got her carriage, and went to the front door. When she reached the locked door, she became upset. As she stormed away, she saw me sitting in the car. “Mame, Do you know when the store opens?”

“The sign says 10 am. That is why I am just sitting here reading.”

“Humf!” She stormed toward her car. She got in and sped away.

I thought this was me a year ago. Hurry, hurry, rush, rush – angry at things that were beyond my control. Frustrated by our schedule. Now here I was reading a book, relaxed. What a difference a year can make.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Life is Going to the Dogs

It is 10:00 at night and I am out walking the dog to do his business before we go to bed. Sometime between 5:45 and 6:15 am, I’ll be up to walk him again. I remember being so upset with my mother when she refused to get another family dog after our Keeshond, Niki, died. Now those words ring in my ears every day. I wish that she was still alive so that I could tell her I understand now.

We actually have two dogs and a cat. The cat is very independent. All I have to do is feed him.

The dogs, well, we have had James, another Keeshond, for 12 years. We didn’t choose him. He kind of came to us. My brother decided that my parents needed a dog, but my parents, especially my mother did not want another one. She wanted to travel and do things. She knew that a dog would prevent that and so he came to live with our growing family in our new home. James was so easy. If we let him out, he stayed by the house and came in when he was called. Our neighbor would take him whenever we traveled. Unfortunately, age has been creeping up on him. So my husband started to mention the idea of getting the puppy. We did not have James when he was a puppy and truthfully even if we did the kids would be too young to remember him at that age. I knew I was in trouble. Then he mentioned the wish to his younger brother. I just shook my head. I tried to explain my position. I finally was free from small children. I did not want to get tied down with pets. But I knew my pleas were falling on deaf ears. His brother, whose partner shows dogs, began the search. I kept trying to say. We weren’t looking yet. We would be looking after our current dog passed away, which might be years from now. Then the call came in. His brother was at a show out in Missouri and there was a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy available – four months old. When the first pictures arrived by email,

I knew it was all over. Spartacus Maximus, Max, came home a few days before Christmas.

Max is the cutest, most adorable dog ever. He doubles size almost every month. I can’t even pre-buy his heartworm and flea & tick supplies in advance, because he can jump to a new weight class from one month to the next. Now my life, along with the regular “mom” stuff includes grooming dogs (having it done professionally for one is one thing for two, it is too expensive), unending vacuuming, repeated visits to the vet, and constant dog walking. Unlike James, Max doesn’t do as well without a leash. We have spent more than a few hours chasing him down or just hoping he will come home. His favorite game, when he gets loose, is to hide in the woods. He stands so that he can see you, but so that he thinks you can’t see him. It is the doggy version of hide and seek.

But just as I thought, I am completely strapped to the house. When my husband travels, I can’t go with him. When we want to plan a day out, I have to think about how long the dog can last without going out. I have to get up earlier than I would like to walk the dog in the morning and when my husband is traveling, I can’t go to bed as I please, I have to wait until I walk the dog for the last time. And worst of all, since we are moving, we won’t have the family and friends around to help out on those rare occasions when it is just impossible for us to get back.

I now know exactly what my mother meant and I know why God makes puppies so cute – just like babies.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Flossing Your Life

Sometimes inspiration comes at the strangest times. Last night as I was flossing my teeth, I thought that it was a metaphor for my life. Not to be disgusting, but the floss was going in and the gunk comes out. In April a job that has been part of my life since I was old enough to see over the counter ended. I am home again with the kids full-time. We are getting ready to move, so I am purging all kinds of household items. And summer itself pulls away some of the tartar of life. I’m not sure if I’m cleaning my life or uncovering a severe case of gingivitis.

It’s like when you go to the dentist and get reprimanded for not flossing enough. When you first get home, you pledge to floss three times a day. Then it falls to two. Who is near a place to floss in the middle of the day? Then, one; why floss in the morning? You haven’t even eaten anything. Then, I was too tired. Oh my goodness, my appointment is next week. You try to catch up, hoping your bleeding gums don’t give you away. But after the appointment, you are back to old habits. How do you keep up the good habits? How do you keep the tartar away and the teeth gleaming white and clean? For me:
  • I need to figure out how to enfold myself into my life so that the deepest me is exposed and not buried.
  • I need to say “no” more often.
  • I need quiet to be me (sometimes).
  • I need to stop being afraid.
  • I need to stop thinking that I responsible for things beyond my control.
  • I need to stop saying, "I'm sorry".

    What do you need to brighten your smile?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Publically Correct to the Nth Degree

Please know that I believe that it is important to be sensitive to people’s differences and to find all possible ways to be inclusive, but I think that I have heard of the most ridiculous case of this ever. I happened to catch National Public Radio’s (NPR) show Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me yesterday as I brought my daughter to the library for her volunteer service. This show does a great job of making being knowledgeable funny. The host leads contestants through a series of questions about current events. I know this sounds like a nerdy way to spend your time, but I dare you not to laugh out loud. On this particular show, one particular story caught the panel and me completely offguard. It was a story about people with disabilities. I am sure if I asked you whether we should break down barriers so that people with physical challenges have more opportunities that you would immediately agree with me. But and this is a B I G “but”, what if that person is blind and he or she is applying for a job as an air traffic controller.

I’ll give you a minute for that one to sink in. Yes, I said blind and air traffic controller in the same sentence. Apparently on the Isle of Scily in Great Britain, the St. Mary’s Airport is making the job application for air traffic controllers available in Braille. Ok, I’m all for inclusion, but this is SILLY. What is the benefit to anyone? Isn’t this taking the idea beyond its logical conclusion? While it was funny in the news story, it doesn’t strike me as funny in real life. It strikes me as stupid and a waste of money and time. Does anyone have common sense?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What Flavor is Your Mood?

I have come to the decided that moods have flavors. I came to this conclusion today as I decided that I wanted tea. As I reached for the tea box, I knew today was a peach day. It is sweltering out (in fact my daughter thought I was insane when I asked her to put the kettle on). I thought about what all the other flavors meant to me: Lemon Zinger – sick; Berry Flavors – Good mood; peach – refreshing; Chamomile – relaxing; Pomegranate – a little crazy. But then I thought about it – this flavor equals mood didn’t just apply to tea, but ice cream, lip gloss, coffee, and more.

What flavor is your mood?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Losing Game

Ok, it is official I am old. For the first time, my daughter (13) let me win a game. How pathetic is that?

As I mentioned on my Homeschool with Heart blog, my daughter has been going to theater camp. While there, she has learned how to play a card game named “Spit”. Don’t worry I didn’t know what it was either. This was the first hint that I was beginning to edge over the proverbial hill. She begged me to play tonight and I relented. As it was over 90 degrees, we set up the cards in my bedroom. We tried it first directly on the bed, then on a pillow, and finally set up a laundry basket upside down. (This is not the optimum playing area as laundry baskets are slick and move around when placed on the bed, but when it was as hot as it was today, you are willing to sacrifice for relief.)

She started trying to explain the game to me. Of course the first cards she put out had pictures on them and were not marked with the original six hearts or seven spades. Strike one against me. I could barely read the cards: my eyes aren’t what they used to be. I had to insist that we change decks. I should have given up then. She carefully reviewed the rules. It quickly became very apparent that my older reflexes were not up to the contest with a 13 year old who has been playing this game every day for two weeks. She started slowly for me and then it became very apparent that she was giving me clear benefits. She was purposely hitting the wrong pile; she was delaying her play when she saw that I had a move to make. . . She was throwing the game. It was like when she was little and we were playing Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. She wasn’t overtly loosing. She was carefully controlling her play so that I had every advantage and therefore would begin to win and continue to want to play. This was the ultimate insult to my pride. Even after a couple rounds and learning that I needed to use both hands, I couldn’t overtake her. Her youth was clearly her advantage: her eyesight, her reflexes, her speedy thought processing.

I know it is pathetic to be competitive with a thirteen year old and I wouldn’t care if she beat me, but I really care that I couldn’t beat her. Is this the beginning of the end? When we finished the game, even she admitted it. “Mom, when we play tomorrow, I’m not going to go so easy on you.” I’ll have to let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Black Socks Cause Memory Loss

Where are my black socks? Where are the report covers? Do we have watch batteries? Do you have the kids’ camp health forms? Where was I going when I walked out here?

What is the difference between these five questions? I could answer the first four, BUT #5 - - -well, needless to say, I just walked back down the hall and whatever I needed must not have been too important because I seem to be doing ok without it. I am now convinced that the AMA (American Medical Association) should immediately conduct a study about the correlation of women’s ability to store worthless information and women’s memory loss.

Let’s do a quick test:
1. What is your husband’s social security number?
2. List all the birthdates for your immediate family?
3. What is your child’s school’s phone number?
4. What is for dinner tonight?
5. What 5 things do you need to pick up at the store?
6. Do the kids have books out at the library?
7. When is the next doctor, dentist, orthodontist appointment for a family member?

I am sure that I could list 50 more questions that you could answer. But now for the trick question – where are your car keys? For me it is not always that specific even. Sometimes it means not remembering the name of someone you’ve casually known for years or going in the other room to get coffee and coming back without it (of course on that same trip I got a pen, wrote my husband’s doctor’s appointment on the calendar, and got my son a cookie, but I still came back without my original intent – what was that again ??? Oh, yeah – coffee).

I think the AMA would find in their study that while men do experience some memory loss with age that the most pronounced affect would be found in women. I primarily account for the space saved in a man’s brain by their ability to block all birthdays and anniversarys. Let alone the fact that many only schedule their own time and are not responsible for the comings and goings of every member in the household. Also, they don’t really have to know where their black socks are because they know that they can always just ask you.

BTW – My husband claims that GoldToe Over the Calf dress black socks are the best and they are in the top drawer on the left.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Squirrels may seem like a strange place to begin a blog, but for anyone that is, knows, or have ever dealt with a “Woman”, you know that we must follow our inner callings. Today, mine is the squirrel (Kingdom- Animalia; Phylum-Chordata; Class- Mammalia; Order – Rodentia; Family – Sciuridae). Today, I have been convinced by the common squirrel that Charles Darwin’s theory on natural selection, “Survival of the Fittest” is flawed. For an animal, that evolved 60,000 years ago, it defies logic and Darwin’s theory that they have not learned to avoid roads or at the very least that when a car comes by to turn and run in the OPPOSITE direction. I am very sure that in my many, many hours of shuttling kids here and there that I have been responsible for the murder of multiple squirrels. While these murders have not been premeditated, they would still be considered vehicular manslaughter and there are countless others that may fall under attempted murder. While in my defense, I have done everything in my power to try to avoid the damn rodents, short of driving my family into a tree, I am still definitively guilty of Squirrelacide. My question is - where is the evolution here? According to the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology, squirrels can live from 8 -18 years but on average only live to 7 months – probably due to the multiple car accidents that befall them. One would think that these darn animals would evolve. Shouldn’t the dumb ones be killed off and the ones that understand “DANGER” survive, passing on their developed senses onto their offspring? Darwin, Oh Darwin, the squirrel may be your downfall.