Sunday, June 28, 2015

Life's alternate ending - another dream diary entry

I had a dream last night where I walked and talked with my friend Jen, who died over a year ago.  She had a long up and down battle with cancer beforehand and it was hard to watch her go.  It was an emotional time amongst our high school classmates as we sent cards and messages, gifts and facebook comments.  She responded back and it was sad to slowly watch her drifting out, but we got in our goodbyes.

Last night in my dream she and I were walking in our hometown and I asked why she was here, alive now.  She said that this was the "alternate ending" if she had been cured of the cancer for the time and was back to living her regular life.

our family hike this weekend 

As she and I walked along the neighborhood streets some of our classmates approached.  Both guys and girls made some frustrated comments in her direction.  I couldn't make out distinct words but the feeling of their jeers were frustration that she wasn't giving enough back to them.  They wanted the "original Jen" who did things for them that they were used to and made their lives more convenient and fun.

She told me that although she no longer had cancer it had changed her body and she was barely keeping herself going, so she couldn't give them what they needed.  We walked slowly and talked gently about this change and about people's expectation.

I was still thinking about it as I awoke to my spasming arm and weak hand.  I woke up to the remembrance that the lawn needed mowed.  I told Casey:  We need to talk.  And then I totally submitted to my broken pride in announcing that I can no longer mow the lawn.  It's hard to explain how it was one of my last bastion of normalness and independence.

Sure, I still cook and clean, and bathe and clothe, but that just makes me your everyday housewife :).  And man, my pride wants to deny that that is my life's work.  Mowing the lawn and working outside proved something, I thought, related to saving money from hiring someone else, or making me an independent woman...or something.

But back to waking up.  When I wake up I remember what is really going on with my body.  I have been having intense muscle spasms on only the right side of my body.  They are happening in my neck, my face, my shoulder, above the elbow, on the back of my upper arm, at the front of my lower arm, in my hip, in my thigh, in the back of my calf, around my ankle.  You get the freaking picture, right?  I have soreness and tough little knots from them.  I go to the Dr tomorrow and I'm almost nervous to explain my symptoms because those muscle spasms are EVERYWHERE --- but just on the right side.

Next, I'm starting to lose grip strength in my hands and dropping a lot of stuff with my right side.  I also have tingles that run down the front of my face right under my skin, just on the right side.  That has only happened twice but I am noting it since it's part of the "all on one side" theme.  As I walk along the path of seeking healthcare and watching my own physical decline, I think this dream had some instructive themes for me.

  1. We all have a different path.  Jen's is just as valid as mine or another winding health fluctuation path.  She has her path, her lessons, and her legacy and I don't need to bemoan or regret hers since I don't have the all the answers of what happens when we die.  It feels callous to say there is good in her path, but if her soul is still existing on some plane she may have had say in how it went and may feel it was the best ending.
  2. I am still worthy of love and belonging as my skills and abilities change.  In the dream I wanted to correct Jen and her naysayers to let them know we LOVED having her here and just being able to BE with her.  I wanted all those people to drop their expectations of what they wanted from her and just embrace that she was there!  The others didn't know the alternate ending that I did from "real life" which was her death we experienced.  That perspective made me think about being gentle with myself and the value of my life, with or without the contributions people are used to having from me.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Getting out in the RV

I love the hope in the first

We bring our little "Majic" home

for the sunny, warm days

of summer.

The dirty, adventurous, READY days
of summer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Big Blonde Hair

I haven't done an unnatural color in my hair in like a month.  I KNOW!  Talk about self-restraint ;).  I'm actually trying to grow my hair out because I feel most "me" with light blonde hair and I've really wanted to have more of it to do bigger hairstyles.

I thought I'd gather up some style ideas to keep me inspired to grow it out and give me ideas when I have enough of it to GO BIG!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

I Dream of Italy

Some ideas and feelings and dreams are so personal it is scary to share them.  Maybe because I fear they won't be handled with the tender feelings they are felt about inside me.  However, I think sharing is one of the best things I can do with my time on earth and I love people so I will tell you about my dreams :)

I've had a few vivid dreams lately but the one with the most lasting impact was my dream of Italy.  Now at the time, I wasn't thinking "gee, I'm in Italy."  I was simply feeling a lot of happiness and enjoying my life.  In particular the day of my dream we had been driving through steep mountain countryside, in the green valley and traveled to a couple of different friends' houses.  We enjoyed time with these friends, I spent some time discussing private things in a bedroom with a close friend, but also playing with and hanging out with their whole family in their living room.  Later we were back at the townhouse type place we lived and I ran over to a neighbor's house to borrow something.

What gripped me in that dream was two feelings:  1.  That I was loved and happy and 2.  That we needed each other - those of us that were my friends in that foreign land.  There was nothing particular about the culture or where we were I just knew the whole time it was Italy.  I have no idea where that came from because I haven't really had any desire to go anywhere foreign, and I've never traveled off this continent.  I really do not know where it came from.  But the feelings it invoked haven't gone away so I've been doing more reading about Italy and especially looking at pictures.  When I see scenery like what was in my dream it makes my heart leap.  I thought I'd post a few of the photos I found online that resemble what I dreamed about.

One funny thing is I didn't know there were mountainous parts of Italy.  All I had seen are seaside resorts so I guess I just assumed there wasn't mountains.  My dream made me curious if the beautiful scenery really existed, so I've read about the dolomites.  I learned some new geography but I also gained more curiosity and attention to the bigger world out there.  I often get discouraged about the little struggles I have here in this area, in this stage of my life and it was nice for dreamland to transport me somewhere else.  Only in one other instance have I looked at something and felt a heart-pounding realization that I knew it before and it was a big part of my life somehow and it was nice to have that spiritual connection again.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Househunters - What You Don't Know

When I told my story about what it was like to be on the show, another show participant came forward to share the following with me.

Their words edited for grammar and privacy:

Sorry I'm so late to the party in writing this, I guess it's taken me a little time to gather the courage to speak up.  The timing of your story hitting the press was a godsend for me.  our episode aired in (month) of (year) and like you, everything was fake.  We already owned the house, they thought our apartment was boring so they changed the story to say we were living with my in-laws.  The worst part about it was that my husband and I were portrayed as spoiled rich kids who were unrealistically picky and who were rude to our Realtor.  All of the houses featured on our episode were beautiful, and I would have been happy to live in any of them, but you would never know it by watching our episode.  You'd think I was some high maintenance wife where nothing was good enough.
It was our fault for being so naive and being so willing to follow the instructions of the director of the episode.  He thought it would be great if I flipped out over an outdated bathroom, and convinced me to oblige him with an over-the-top performance.  I was so naive about it that it actually took a while for me to realize that we had been demonized.  I could tell that the director knew exactly what he had done to us, because after the show aired, he said something like "I'm glad you like the episode and that you're not mad at me."  When our episode first aired, I was amused because the way we were portrayed was so ridiculous, but then I realized that most viewers took it very seriously.
There were the comments on local message boards that we were such an "annoying couple" and that I need to take a "chill pill."  We even received anonymous hate mail (sent to my husband's workplace, which was featured on the show).  How stupid of me to not realize that people would believe the whole thing was real!  I was both hurt and shocked that people would react that way and also stunned that my acting was actually believable!
We live in a small state, where I think only two episodes of HH have ever been taped, and it feels like the whole state watched our show.  So when we talk to people about our episode, the first words that come out of our mouths are "it was all fake, and we were acting the whole time," but nothing corroborated my story more than when your account hit national headlines, so thank you so much for that!
The whole fakeness has ruined the show for me, and I simply take no pleasure it watching it or any reality TV show, for that matter.  If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Additional Child Chore Tips

This is a continuation of yesterdays' post.  If you want more of an explanation of this summer's chore plan for our family you can read about it here.

  • Mini rewards:  "mini-people" like things in small doses.  Sometimes I do too!  One of the biggest surprises I've found this summer is how big a payoff we get for the 15 minute chore.  And by 15 minutes I mean, the reward of 15 minutes of electronic time.  Often that amount of time is sufficient to feed the dinosaurs in a game or check an online shop for a desired item or google a recent question.  It's a quick mental payoff for the kid, which is just enough incentive to do the small job.

  • Mini chores:  I need to add that the time it takes to earn electronics time in our house isn't 1:1.  Sometimes the chore takes more or much less time.  For me it corresponds with the difficulty of the task or how big of a help it will be to me in running the household.  This morning I needed toilet brushes upstairs in the right bathroom.  It would really help my own cleaning efficiency and so I offered it up to a kid who couldn't think of a chore they wanted.  In exchange for simply checking the bathrooms to see what cleaning supplies were where and then bring them to the places I needed them, my son earned 15 minutes of his video game time.  He was quite pleased with the ease of the "chore" and honestly it wasn't hard but it was timely, so for me it worked.  

  • Mutual Benefit:  It's working because it is based on what helps me the most, what they need to learn the most, and what is most efficient for our household.  This is the biggest change for us versus other years because I was trying to adapt other people's ideas or cute crafts.  If a cute chart is motivating for you, more power to you, but for our family we've just found a different groove.  The key to this was just being honest with myself about how our family works and not worrying about how it looked to others.  Cause frankly there's nothing really cute about moving toilet brushes or a 7 year old who MUST feed his dinosaurs in the next hour...but that's us.  

  • Happy Mom:  It sounds selfish but the bottom line truth is that chores are still working for us because they are *helping* me.  Being a mom is great, but being a mom is tough, especially when combined with trying to keep a clean home, a healthy learning atmosphere, etc.  The fact that this is making our household run smoother for me and keeping the kids happier is what keeps my motivation level high in keeping to the time amounts of the rewards (they test the limits!), or making sure a chore is done fully.  It's tempting to just let them take more time or not check on a chore, but the rewards of their learning and satisfaction at doing well as well as actual, literal HELP around the house for myself are keeping it going.

Are you doing chores with the kids this summer?  Share what tips work for you, too!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Summer Chore Tips

As we are really getting into our summer break groove (we are 3-4 weeks in) I thought I'd share what is working for us this year, that's been quite a struggle in the past.

  • Find the right incentive - I messed this up for years.  I always thought it was money.  Their interest in earning waned quite quickly.  So I changed the currency, took them shopping more often so they'd re-gain interest, and even tried changing what chores they needed to do for what amounts.  Turns out for them, money was just a very short lived incentive.  This summer they work for electronics time and it has all been in short increments.  They do certain chores for an hour, some simpler ones like switching the laundry for 15 minutes.  Electronics time for them is TV, movies, Netflix, computer games, phone time (for the oldest), internet research, etc.  

  • Use the right time-frame - Like my failed incentives I found that the time frame from work to pay wasn't right for the age group I was working with.  I had my kids write down the chores or reading they were doing and keep a "log" to be paid a large amount at the end.  After all this kind of pay system works for adults, right?  Kind of, but for kids it isn't the ideal.  Through trial and error I found that my kids were most motivated by immediate reward and ongoing negotiations.  Therefore they come to me either to propose the chore they will do or ask for ideas and then we set a time.  One of the regulars lately is unloading the dishwasher which earns an hour of electronics.  That one they can do without asking, so it is often done early in the morning when they are super excited to start their summer day :).

  • Pace myself for the work - Yes, MY work.  If I've learned anything over the years its that the chores are for their benefit, not mine.  At least at first.  Implementing a system and/or just teaching basic skills to kids isn't necessarily fun or efficient.  But it is an investment worth making.  So knowing that this is my summer work, not really a vacation, is a good mental position for me to take.  Examples of this include laundry amounts that fit into the washer, reminders about cleaning the lint trap, and physically demonstrating a pattern of vacuuming to cover the whole floor.  Sure, after a few times they learn these basics but nothing can frustrate a new learner of a skill than to just throw them to a task they've never done with no instruction.  We adults hate that in the workplace, so its fair to give kids plenty of advice and stick by them their first few times.

  • Breaks are Good for everyone - A reason it has turned out well to go chore by chore with the work and then the reward is that it makes an automatic break in the activities.  Health-wise, after an hour playing a computer game, getting up to stretch and move is good anyway.  Kids (at least mine) don't have the self control to take breaks like that of their own choosing.  But I've found that having an adult enforced break and doing something physical keeps their mood positive over the day, in addition to the obvious benefit of learning the cleaning skills and relaxing in a more peaceful environment.

  • Creativity Time - My kids aren't little cleaning robots.  They have their limit :).  And I'm okay with that.  My intention isn't to have them work their carefree summer days away.  When they decide there is no incentive worth doing anymore chores for, they are still free to enjoy their days.  Since the incentive is electronics they simply forego time with those.  As a result we have had a lot of baking, impromptu dance parties, kid-directed plays, water bucket filling outside, dirt "road" construction behind the house, and a LOT of reading.  Open ended time is what I love about summer, so its been a win on cutting electronics use.  They still work for some but it is much more concentrated and planned and enjoyed.

Those are my newly learned tips.  What works for you?

Is there more to life than cleaning?

Is there more than this?
the back and forth of a lawnmower
as the bugs fly out
and the fresh smell exhales

Is there more than
a red toy
a yellow toy
and an odd sized truck, sorted into bins?

What about the sizzle of a fry pan
filled with water
soaked to remove the remnants
of last nights' feast?

Dough rising in the humid kitchen air
whirring of a plugged in vacuum
and balls being thrown
from their freshly sorted bins

Why would there be more than these?
the color, the smell, and the taste of life
This heart center
birthing fresh dreams

With them.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Food From Friends

When Casey had just gotten home from his surgery a couple of friends from church offered to bring dinner.  We all felt so loved and nurtured to eat their special cooking.

It was fun to see how much the kids loved it.

Thanks, friends!!!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Real Women are Strong

I have been reading about frontier women in this excellent history I got from my local community college's library. It's such a full and well-researched narrative - I highly recommend it.

Anyway, what I am finding surprising is how held back we have been in innovation just due to sexist social norms.  Things that were invented and in general use in more liberal areas were very slow to make their way in areas where the women were more submissive to men.

Since women were the frontiers-people who spent their days almost completely inside their makeshift homes, windows were often overlooked.  If the man spent the day farming, he usually was not in the home during daylight hours, and being the leader and decision-maker could deem access to light or fresh air not a necessity when he was there to simply eat and retire to sleep.  His day time life in the sunshine and elements would have a completely different feel than the life of his partner of similar age and upbringing who would spend entire winter seasons in the darkness of a windowless home.  Being a stay at home mom "on the plains," albeit it a very modern suburban home, this struck me hard.

I crave light in the winter.  I open every blind first thing as I start my day of housekeeping and even then my days feel healthier and happier if I have an excuse to go outside or somewhere else for part of the day.  My realization of the suffering of my pioneer sisters was strong.  There's been lots of other, more grim suffering than just dark-filled shelter referenced in the book, but it was at this point in my reading I started making the connections with other downfalls of a society in which women's strengths are suppressed.

How many mothers in the wild smile and nod as you approach their young?

How many call for forgiveness when you have assaulted their little one?

How soon after your taunting or abusing of her cub would she think everyone should just "leave you alone?"

Sexism denies women our birthright.  If you believe in a creator, expecting women to be gentle, soft, and deferential to men seems to deny our very God-given biological strengths.  If our biology grants us the ability to grow the new life - why would we be given weakness in the face of protecting that life we created?

In Half the Sky one of the conclusions of their research that stuck out to me was how having women in leadership or decision making roles drastically improved outcomes for children.  This was the case both in homes and on a larger scale in national governments.  The nutrition, health and safety of the groups' youngest and most vulnerable depend on STRONG women.  Hiding behind religious dogma about "biblical womanhood" cultures and groups can suppress our inborn strengths.

As a female who has often felt a kinship with the fiercely protective mothers of other species, I think we should encourage that fierce behavior.  Our hearts know how we feel about our children's safety. We can be strong in keeping the kids protected even in the face of social or religious shaming about what "real women" should be.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Summer 2015 Scrapbook Post

I had a gel manicure two days ago in the middle of my husband's gallbladder removal surgery.  Sorry, it seems that's how I handle stress.  I got this great cotton candy pink type shade.  It was a little light going on so the lady ended up doing 3 coats and I looove it.  Really, I'm in a pink groove.  And my hair isn't even pink any longer (it's blonde).  But I'm okay with that because it opens up lip and nail and clothes possibilities.  And for those that are wondering I got right back to him when he woke up from surgery.

But staring at my nails as I type and edit photos here on my computer this morning reminded me of all of that.  My husband is home recovering and the kids are running back and forth from the house to the camper.  Since Casey has lifting restrictions it might be awhile before we *go anywhere* to camp but that hasn't stopped he or the kids!  He joined them out there yesterday for some Yahtzee around the table and together they watched the city workers bulldozing our street.  I guess the potholes were beyond repair or something.  Anyhow, the kids are back out in the camper today.  It makes for excellent pretend play even when it stays in one spot :).

May has already felt like a full summer (the kids are ready to go back to school - yikes).  We've enjoyed the outdoors, the backyard and the mud.  Casey ran a 5K with the girls (pre-surgery of course!) to earn money for the middle school they'll both attend.  My oldest had her play and the second had a band and chorus concert right before school ended.

The bright pink shirts they got for their run have been a staple for lounging around the house or as a post-bath cool nightshirt.  Pink just seems to be coming in from lots of places and for some reason it is the color that makes me happiest right now.  Having a backyard full of pink peonies or dahlias or roses would make it even better, but for now we'll hope for veggies.

If you want to dye your hair pink, or close to pink, here are some ideas.  I know that seemed like a random suggestion, but not for me.  If I'm obsessed with a color it seems to make its way to my hair...