Friday, July 24, 2015

Solitude, Imagination, and Humor - A Diary Page

Tonight I experienced something that doesn’t happen very often. I had the house to myself. Unlike those who will order take-out and watch a favorite movie in your much loved cozy spot, I head straight to the kitchen to cook and bake, turn on my classical radio station and set my mind to its internal writing mode.  After a light spinach and feta salad I baked up a batch of peanut-butter, chia seed, and chocolate chip cookie bars.  By the time I’m finished my mind takes its usual turn and begins finding mundane things funny, a common occurrence when I spend time alone. No, I’m not crazy, just enjoying the freedom to let my imagination roam.

Not only is this environment a recipe for delicious food but for humor. It’s here where my mind creates visual absurdities and imagines the kinds of things you might see in an animated film. As I clean the kitchen and load the dishwasher I imagine all the dishes, particularly the forks, knives, and spoons to be animated characters loading up for a ride in the large, square bathtub. As I slide the lower rack in, I can almost hear the utensils yell “ouch” as they give each other dirty looks and start fighting as I bang their heads against the side of the large metal wall, just like people being shoved into the subway car at the end of a long day at work.

With the dishwasher closed, faces appear in the patterns of my ceramic tile floor.  I’ve seen these faces before, they also live in my master bathroom.  As I head down the hall for my sketch pad and pencils, I get distracted and end up on another journey. I could spend hours in this “zone” accomplishing very little. Except that I’ve experienced a thoroughly enjoyable and therapeutic evening. This is how I decompress and refuel after an overly cerebral and hectic week.  When I used to oil paint I’d stay up until 2 or 3 am and completely lose track of time which is a problem when you have to work the next day. As a young adult I went through a phase where I refused to wear a watch thinking that if I didn’t acknowledge time it would go away. It didn’t work. As time has marched on, I’ve traded painting for writing. Oh my gooodness, it’s 10 p.m! How did that happen? 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Mother's Day Gift to the People Who Call Me Mom

I'd like to dedicate my Mother's Day 2015 to the incredible people who call me Mom.  Without them, this day would have little meaning.

Justyn -  I admire your loyalty, steadiness of character, discipline, and sense of humor. You're one of the kindest women I know. You finished your BSN degree and made the Dean's List to boot! In the five years it took you to complete school - including one gap year for refueling - you experienced six moves, three schools, your own wedding, and a family crisis but, with God's grace,you persevered and finished 2014 united with your new husband in a new state with your new dog starting the next chapter of your life.You have become more strong, determined, faithful, and beautiful than I ever imagined. I love you, I miss you, and I can't wait for you to come back home some day.

Andrew -  With your gift for music, for languages, and your thirst for adventure you are truly my "Renaissance Man."For the boy who always wanted to be on the go you've chosen a perfect vocation. You're my only child who went to 4 different high schools in 4 years - now, that's an adventure. Realizing pretty quickly that you were made for action and excitement, for travel and new cultures, you are serving your country and have endured some rigorous training in the process - being strapped down and submerged in an aircraft , Wow!  I have no idea what skies you'll be flying but please call once in a while. In case you decide to slow down at some point, you can always call this home. I love you.

Olivia - Your complexity makes you the most difficult child to describe. You are a combination of drive, determination, zeal, compassion, and thoughtfulness, you acknowledge that through all the hardships you're encountering are from the hand of your loving God. You have lived with chronic pain for 18 months and are now facing back surgery. Your journey through college may be as unconventional as your sister's was, but I believe that you will get through school and physical therapy and will become a more beautiful person through it. Although this past year you have had to say good-bye to your brother, your sister, and your dad and the house feels so empty sometimes, you don't lose hope. I love and admire you, girl.

Patrick - What mother could not love a son who is so much like herself (maybe I shouldn't say that.) You're a diverse young man who is an incredible blend of artistry and analysis. You make a plan and stick to it. You love being around your diverse group of friends but you like your alone time, especially after everybody else goes to bed and the house is quiet. You have an amazing sense of order and style, of right and wrong and responsibility, and a great sense of humor.  I pray that God will allow you to pursue your dream of dentistry and that you don't decide to go to Marquette for dental school...haha. I'd miss you too darn much!

Dominic - Mr. Personality!! If you had your way I think you'd go into the theater or some sort of performing arts but you know that's not the best use of your gifts. You are a caring, compassionate, and kind young man with a powerhouse personality who will stand up to injustice. Whether you choose broadcasting or some sort of community involvement, you'll definitely make things "happen." And if the way you treat me is any indication of the way you will treat your wife, she will be a very fortunate woman indeed. I can't wait to see where the Lord guides you.

God has given me five fun, dynamic, smart, and funny people to call my children and if I weren't your mother I'd be pleased to call you friends. I love you all and don't forget to call me or bring me Yankee Candles on Mothers Day!


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Brain Matter and Sex Matters


With all the talk this week about the openly homosexual NFL draft pick as well as the Houston City Council voting on optional bathrooms for transgendered, I finally turned off the news today. As your average liberally educated, Pacific Coast grown mom of five, looking for a job and trying to help my young adult kids make good life choices, I don't have the time or the energy to spend fighting The Spirit of the Age.  Sitting in the orthodontist’s waiting room for my twins to have their bands adjusted, I picked up a copy of Scientific American May 2014 edition.  

No it wasn’t the only magazine on the table. The choices were cooking, decorating, and travel magazines but since my life experience consists of plenty of cooking and home decorating and travel – in my family we call it relocating - perhaps physics would be a nice change of pace. I didn’t get any further than page 4 when a small ad for an Alaskan cruise caught my eye. Apparently, great minds of science take vacations together to discuss current theories and discoveries that will illuminate and inform those of us with a lesser brain.  Larry Cahill, Ph.D., Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior, School of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine would be speaking. Among his work is a paper titled Fundamental sex difference in human brain architecture.* Wait a minute; I don’t want to think about sex differences! Remember I turned off the news. Maybe I should have picked up Bon Appetite instead. It was too late … my mind was racing.
Part of the article read, “…Sex Matters… even if it was once scientifically defensible to assume that sex does not matter to brain function, it is no longer. The reason is simple: we now know that sex influences—small to medium to large—are extremely widespread on brain function. The validity of the assumption that the sex of subjects cannot powerfully alter, negate, and even reverse findings (hence, conclusions) has been crushed under the weight of evidence proving that it can and regularly does …” 
So, if somebody decided they’re not really a man, that whomever or whatever created them made some cosmic mistake, medical science can now change their physical structure. Fair enough? But given this scientific update, what is there to make their male brain change to a female one?  I know from experience that a male brain trying to tell a female body what to do doesn’t go over too well. Just come to my home any day that female hormones are flying and you’ll see what I mean. Talk about irreconcilable differences.
Now this is NOT news to any mother of boys and girls and I didn’t need a Ph.D. to tell me there is a foundational difference. But in the wake of so much controversy, it's great to have some clarity from the scientific community. Looking back on when my children were born and birth certificates were issued, I didn't notice any box where the doctor could check "undecided." When asked, I tell people that I have three boys and two girls. Imagine the panic within the medical community if, years later, parents began notifying obstetricians at the hospital that one of their genders has crossed over to the other side and that the doctor had it all wrong!



Thursday, October 3, 2013

It's a Jungle Out There!

I always thought Husband should have lived during the time commonly referred to as "The Age of Exploration." You know, Christoper Columbus, Ponce de Leon, and Vasco de Gama. I think he has a deep-seeded need to explore, travel, and conquer. Okay, so it's three hundred years later, but better late than never! He's working deep in the jungle of Central America, Panama to be exact. Each day he's driven an hour and half one way to get to work where he manages a team of laid back workers who he's trying to turn into productive American-style workers. Trying is the keyword.

The Jungles of Panama

So, while Husband is managing the workers in Panama, I'm managing the workers here in the forth largest, and rapidly growing, metropolis in the nation. The updates since August are numerous so buckle your seatbelt and pray for least until December. Husband's initial expedition was to last until end of October. However, as is customary for his employers, the date continues to extend. In the meantime, I'm preparing for yet another move toward the end of November to the next county which is closer to my work and closer to the kids schools. Eldest daughter moves downtown near the Med Center to continue her B.S.N program with all its intensity. And if things weren't eventful enough, she and Her Guy decided to bump the wedding date up one year - to THIS December. Everything in me has shifted into turbo charge and I find myself approaching it with the same enthusiasm of designing a client's home. Her Guy will only have a two week leave (hopefully) over Christmas so we'll combine a Christmas celebration and wedding which means I actually get to see my extended family around Christmas. Personally, winter is my favorite time of year, even in the Big H so I'm very excited. Although my extended family will be here, it looks like Husband will only be making a guest appearance to give the bride away, then taking off again for uncharted lands. C'est la vie! Although Husband's gone, I'm seldom short of companionship because I've added two more adult children to my household who I will miss very much when they're no longer here. Like so many other young men in my midst, Mr. S will be flying high into the wild blue yonder come October 29 and Ms. J will be heading downtown for school after Christmas. Well, with any luck, the next post will contain wedding pics and a recent photo of Husband so I don't forget what he looks like! Cheers!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Fig Tree in the Courtyard of Eden

The first year of our marriage, my husband took me to church hoping to settle some questions that had arisen in our relationship, which it did, but it also opened a Pandora's Box of questions. Questions like, who is the statue of the women in the corner? Why does everybody repeat the same prayer in unison? What is a bird bath doing at the entrance (no kidding?) Well, twenty-four years later I'm still full of questions, to my Husbands dismay. Now his well rehearsed response to everything is "that's a good question." He no longer feels compelled to answer my inquiries, which I actually never expected in the first place...I was just thinking aloud like any good philosopher.

Moving to Texas has generated, not surprisingly, more questions. Why do certain cars have "Ben Hur chariot" style hub caps. Why do people live in such big houses that just have to be air-conditioned 6 months out of the year? Why is there so much grass in a place so hot and prone to drought. In response to that last observation, I've decided not to plant grass in the backyard of the new house. Instead we'll create a courtyard garden with lots of brick, lots of plants, flowers and shrubs, and enough trees to provide shade from the heat and fruit trees to make me happy and, of course, an area with a gas hookup for Husband's grill. I've done my homework and have an exhaustive list of heat tolerant and drought resistant stuff.

I love figs and they grow tremendously well in Texas. Funny thing is that I never had one until I was in my 40s. Until then I thought, like others from my generation, that they were some sort of man-made candy filling for cookies. I came across an article that gave a bit of history of the fig in North America.  A fig tree seems a perfect fit to my Garden of Eden, or should I say my Courtyard of Eden. Gardening is one of my passions, I always get the sense of being close to God with my hands in the earth and seven long years without my own plot of soil has required great patience but, Lord willing, my wait will be over this fall and I can get back to working in my garden with God. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

From Baby Boxes to Barracks and other Milestones

Several years ago, Husband bought a book entitled "How to Beat Burnout." The fact that I was pregnant with child #3, we had recencely moved, and Husband had changed employers (but stayed in the same field) and fighting L.A. traffic had him a bit concerned.  The author said when one experiences any three major life changes such as a birth, death, job change, major move, etc your likelihood of experiencing burnout is extremely high. Well, we soon realized that we always scored five or above at any point in our life. Some people call it burnout, we call it life. So here is an update.

Like many other families at this time of the year, we celebrated another high school graduation. So now it's 3 down 2 to go, for high school that is. I guess we start the countdown again once college graduations come and go, huh!  Yes, Middle Daughter graduated this month which was a great reason to have family from far and near join in the festivities. #1 Auntie from CA spent a week with us which was another good reason to meet and share a meal with our newly discovered Counsins who happen to live in the Big A...No, not The Big Apple. Guess again. We shared a day of celebrating milestones and getting to know Cousins we didn't know we had. But that's a long story reserved for an episode. Does finding out you have multiple additions to the family consistute a birth?

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, Eldest Son informed us that he'll be Anchors Aweigh in January. Yes, three years of Sea Cadets during high school and two years of college have set him up to continue studying Linguists through the Navy.  If he had his way, he'd be gone now but these government agencies do take their time in processing paperwork. Three years of ROTC-type participation comes with it's benefits...if only I can find those certificates. I think I tucked them away in his Baby Box. When I stashed them away three years ago I had no idea I would be pulling them out for this. So it is possible that come 2014 we will have only three children left at home. Would two less children living at home qualify for another life change? To add frosting to the cake, after six years of moving and renting, we have bought a home and yes, we have downsized. So, I guess we are sticking around for awhile. Or at least I am, Husband is in France as I'm writing this post. Just kidding, he is only gone for a week. Although the thought occurred to me that when Husband goes on a business trip, 50% of the time it mens another move, but no, we are not moving to France, only to the next county at the end of July - just as we are helping Eldest Daughter settle into UT to finish the last two years of her nursing degree.

Well, so much for burnout. We just call it an adventure and are thankful for all the places we have lived, the people we have met and continue to meet, and for family that still comes to visit.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Maraschino Cherries and Other Urban Legends

"Don't eat those, formaldehyde is used to preserve them."  Did I really say that to a sweet 19-year old girl I hardly knew? Quickly seating myself at my computer and consulting Google, I discovered that I had just lied. This was only an urban legend promoted by my gullible generation, along with the wait 30 minutes after eating before swimming myth. Experientially, my summers were spent in the pool and ocean and if I did remember to eat, I guarantee I didn't wait 30 minutes to get back into the water. What kid wants to be bothered with eating when the ocean waves are calling your name.

But, back urban legends. Although I have fooled myself into thinking I value truth among all else, I often find myself propagating lies.  Not long ago I told a friend that sugar feeds on cancer cells, another myth I picked up from an unknown source.  Yesterday, in researching the food pyramid (more faulty information promoted by the USDA) I discovered the sugar claim is only half true.

It's hard to know who or what to believe with so much information available. The latest nutritional curiosities on the rise are super foods. You know, food that give you more bang for your buck. These include flax and chia seeds. I recently blended coconut milk - don't use the low fat stuff - 4 tablespoons of chia seeds and honey then let it set in the frig to solidify and chill. It was delicious and particularly so because it was healthy! I just hope it doesn't take forty years to find out if the super foods are really so "super" or just another urban legend.