Thursday, December 30, 2010

Oh, Hey There. Remember Me?

So, yeah, um. Hello. I've missed you, you invisible sphere of eyes and ears. So much I want to say, but first I will address the question of where the heck have I been? Well, I have been working on a project of lofty literary aspirations. A book. A. Real. Book. Wow, I feel so grown up and stuff. I felt that in order to focus my attention on that project so that I might actually complete it, I needed to take break from this here little baby. Is it completed you ask? Noooooooooooo. But close, very close and boy am I excited about it!

Now, frankly, I can no longer contain the verbal spew frothing out of my brain and since this is my preferred method of expulsion of said spew (I always have had a flair for public spectacles) then let's be off.

We are moving to Guam. Where is Guam, better yet WHAT is Guam, you ask? Well, it's on the other side of the world, in a land far, far away. It sits east of the Philippines and north of Australia. It is an island. A very small island with a large military presence. Hence the move.

Properly articulating my sentiments about this is difficult because they are a twisted and convoluted ball of emotions that I can barely disassemble enough to make proper sense of. It is becoming easier, as the days go by. When I first heard the news all I could do was google the place until my eyeballs felt like they were bleeding. There is no doubt it's beautiful. There is also no doubt this will be one of the hardest things we(read: I) have ever done. But, in the process of wrestling with my inner self about this I have learned a few things. And here they are.
Lessons I have Learned About Myself While Under Duress:
My first reaction to any news that I don't particularly like is to throw a mini temper tantrum. These tantrums are usually directed at the people I love the most, including God. I don't scream or throw things, but plead, reason, and whimper until I have said all I can say about the why NOTs the SHOULDN'Ts the we CANT's. And's done. And for a while I'm just quiet in the depths of my soul. Empty. Broken. And in that place of quiet brokenness I make a choice. A choice to accept the inevitable. To embrace what WILL be and not to fight. I submit myself to what is yet to come. And that's when something magic happens.

In the place in my heart where there was despair, something begins to creep in, slowly at first and then like a flood. Like turning on a light in a dark room. It is a heady little thing, a veritable Fizzy Lifting Drink for the soul. Hope. Do not underestimate the power of hope. Once I let go of my own personal desires, and gave in to the inevitable a world of exciting adventures and possibilities opened up and actually became glad at the prospect.

I've said it before but it bears repeating so I'll say it again: Every thing I've overcome in my life has in some way prepared me for something yet to come. If life has prepared anyone for this kind of life of frequent transitions, it's me. I'm the girl who changed schools every couple of years. The girl who knows what it feels like to stand in the lunchroom full of strange faces, holding your tray, wondering where and with whom to sit. The girl that never knew what it was like to say: this is ____, we grew up together. The girl who got really good at saying goodbye...without shedding a tear.

So, in a way, I have been the guide for this family in acclimating to new environments. I am usually the first to smile, to say hello to a stranger I think looks like a good potential friend. Which is sometimes a weird and awkward feeling, like I'm five all over again. Hi, I'm Jill. Do you want to be my friend? You can come over to my house and play with my toys! Except offers of playing with toys have turned into play dates for my children and coffee for me. There is something very vulnerable feeling about it, slightly uncomfortable. And yet, it's the stepping out of my comfort zone that has proven to be so rewarding. Granted, my comfort zone is MUCH larger than most peoples, but still.

Ironically, after all of this life experience, it was my husband who was more excited about this move. He had to win me over (after my tantrum of course). But win me over he did. And once I gave in and submitted to the inevitable, the hand of Divine Providence on our lives, I felt the same excitement that he did. And so that is where we are now. Waiting for the next chapter to begin in this grand adventure of our lives. But until then, until the day we step foot onto the plane and for the first time in any of our lives leave the United States, the only home I've ever known, I will cherish every moment here. The moments with the people I love, the way the air smells, the softness of the grass, and all the birds I have come to feed and know on a daily basis. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson: It has been my experience that you don't truly know how much you will miss a place until you have left it. That is so true, but my experience in leaving, packing up and saying goodbye has taught me to treasure the things that make a place unique. To store them in my heart, because no matter how ready we are to ever leave a place, we WILL always miss it when we have gone.

And so the adventure begins. Wish me luck.

*Technically, Guam is still US Territory, but you get the idea.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Writing Exercise: Part Duex

Our writing exercise a couple of weeks ago was very interesting, I'd like to share it with you. Here are the rules: You have fifteen minutes in which to write, you must use the words, sentences, or phrase given at the beginning of the exercise in your piece. The rest is up to you. Here were the choices of words which we could write about: (there were several but all I can remember are these) drunken chickens and cupcakes, and This is for my mother Ruth. I chose the latter and the following is what I wrote.

This is for my mother, Ruth

Dear Mother,

As I sat by your bed this morning we talked about the lilacs and how they've finally bloomed. Their heady perfume drifted in your open window, past the billowing lace curtains, and into your mind. You told me about the year you planted the lilacs. It had been a long and particularly harsh winter, and when spring finally arrived they were the first thing you put in the Earth. Your Earth, you called it. You remember the lilacs...but you don't always remember me.

It hurt the most at the beginning when I would come to you with your favorite tea, made just the way you like it: one scoop of sugar and a splash of vanilla cream. You would greet me with a puzzled expression, "Oh, who are you?" you would ask, a trace of deja vu on your brow.

"Mom, it's me, Naomi, your daughter. Remember?"

"Naomi? My daughter is but a child, and she's still at school now" you replied.

Like burning darts into my soul those first times were,ripping and seperating pieces of who I am from who I was, and it was as if an actual piece of me was lost along with your misplaced memories of me. But, no matter how much I tried to wish the hands of time back, or at least still, they moved forward, ever forward as they have always had a way of doing. And in those moments between then and now, past and present, the searing pain became a dull ache and I learned to love the new, absent you.

It's strange the things you forget and those you remember. You recently heard the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show and exclaimed that I should run and get Naomi because her favorite show was on. It was my favorite show, and for a moment I wanted so badly to take a step back in time and be Naomi in pigtails, Naomi with homework to do, Naomi with a mother who remembers her. was fleeting, and as reality, the present, settled back in, I pulled the covers up under your chin, smoothed the creases to the edge, and gently kissed your forehead. "Ill go and get her," I said "She's probably just finishing her homework."

Friday, June 11, 2010

For Gordon

Dude, this one's for you.

I've been meaning to do this for a long time...and then, you know, life kinda happened. But here we are now. So gather round the fire children and I'll tell you a bed time story. It is a tale part dreadful and hair raising but a tale mostly of great courage from a small hero.

The year was 1997. My parents had left for a week in Cancun, a week without their children. Oh now that I have two children of my own I can just imagine the scene as they left us behind, their hands clasped together, the two of them skipping with joy at the thought of their short bit of freedom. My brother and I , well, we were skipping with joy for reasons of our very own. Being left alone for a week meant that we could stay up as late as we wanted, eat pizza for every meal, and we definitely, most definitely were not going to clean anything up....until right before they got home that is.

This was the year I turned 17 which would have made my brother 12. I lorded my seniority over him with an iron fist, never letting him forget my place as first born and eldest. Shotgun, you say? I THINK NOT! I'M OLDER! IN THE BACK SEAT, TINY! Oh, what's that? You'd like to watch one of YOUR shows? NOT AS LONG AS I LIVE IN THIS HOUSE! I was not always a cruel sibling though. I picked him up from school, threw rocks at kids who were mean to him, and once I even let him come to my birthday party...only after he had to go and cut his head open and be a cry baby about it.

This time though, I remember us having a pretty good time. Our parents had put our dog, Gracie, in a kennel while they were gone thinking that it would mean less responsibility for us. As if we could have been and LESS responsible. So it was just Gordon and I, endless pizza, and way too much TV.

I had taken to sleeping in my parent's room while they were gone, I think it may have been another display of seniority on my part, who really knows what teenagers are thinking. My brother had been falling asleep every night on the couch to cartoons, this was perhaps the pinnacle of his young life at the time. On this particular night I was awakened by a great clap of thunder. It was loud and close, close enough to startle me awake. For some unexplained reason, my adrenaline began to rush and I was afraid. I listened for more of the storm but the night replied with silence and cicadas. This further disturbed me so I crept into the living room and woke my brother up.

"Hey. Psssst, hey, Gordon. I'm scared, will you come and stay in Mom and Dad's room with me?" I asked plaintively.

"What?" he grumbled, "No, go away, I'm not sleeping with you."

"But please, I'm scared," I pleaded.

"I said no!"


And so I did. I scooped him up, young thing that he was, easily and carried him to our parents room where I put him in the bed with me and he fell fast asleep. Although I was comforted by the familiar body next to me, I still couldn't shake the sense of uneasiness I felt. I lay in the dark and listened to every tick, every breath, every rustle, and then I heard it.

Someone, or something, was prying the screen from the window and trying to get into our house to do what, I could only imagine. I leaned forward, gripped with fear, and saw in the small space of visibility between the blinds and the window, a man. He was crouched down and working furiously to get into the window. I was so consumed with fear that for a moment I could not even breathe, much less move. And then I snapped out of it long enough to shake my brother and hiss: SOMEONE IS OUTSIDE THE WINDOW RIGHT NOW TRYING TO BREAK INTO THIS HOUSE!

He sat up, transformed into a man in the blink of an eye, and said: get in the closet. I grabbed the phone and we both got into our parents large, walk in closet. As I dialed and began to speak to the operator with 911, my brother, who was TWELVE, picked up our father's 30-06 rifle, loaded it, and aimed it at the window.

Now Dear Readers, let's take a step back in time for a moment, shall we? Let me tell you about my brother as an even smaller child. Sure, he liked cars and trucks and playing in the mud like most little boys, but what he really, really liked to play most of all was heroes. He had his favorites: David, slaying the great Goliath, and of course there were the Ninja Turtles, but his best, his all time favorite, his gold standard of heroes was Superman. Sure, every kid wants to be a hero. Every little boy dreams of saving the day, but how many have done it? How many could pick up that gun that weighed more than they did and point in the face of danger and say: BRING IT! My brother, that's who.

As I sat in that closet, on the phone with the 911 operator and watched my brother act with such great courage, time seemed to stand still. The voice of the operator faded into a tinny echo in my ear and I remember feeling a great sense of calm come over me. He's got this I thought to myself, he's really, really got this. He will kill that man if he steps foot in this house, and I feel good about that.

I wonder what it must have felt like to have been on the other side of that window? One minute you're down for a little late night raping and pillaging and then the next thing you know, you're staring up the long, cold barrel of a gun that could blow you seven different ways into next week. And then when summon the strength to glance up to see just who's staking claim on your life, you meet they eyes and face of a child. A child with the heart of a lion and a look on his face that says, oh yes, I WILL kill come on in here, I DARE you.

Needless to say, the guy fled...probably because he needed to change his underwear after that. I know I did, I kid, I kid. It took the police over 20 minutes to get to our house because they were all probably at Dunkin Donuts. When they finally got there and had a look around, they found our screen a few dozen feet away from our house, twisted and broken. They suggested we spend the night with a friend (which we gladly did) and then they were gone.

It all seemed to happen with great speed and so slowly, if that even makes any sense. We lived. He saved us. My brother, not the police. And that night something changed. Even though I was still older, he was the bigger one now. I have learned time and time again that it is in our darkest hours that we discover the stuff of which we are made. And it is in the trials and difficulties of life that you can observe what others are made of. I have often been disappointed by others in tough times, but in those few harrowing moments in the closet, I realized that I would never have to be afraid if my brother was around. In the words of Mark Twain: it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

Even though I still like to pick on him and call him names, I have a great reservoir of respect for my brother, because, as I like to say to him: Ya got moxie, Kid.

My brother, Gordon, is on the right. Perhaps a bit of real-life foreshadowing, eh?

Well children, did you like that story? Good! Now let's review the lessons we learned tonight, shall we?

1) Never leave your children unattended and run away to a foreign country with spotty phone service.

2) If you MUST leave said children alone, by all means, leave the dog at home.

3) The second amendment is COOL!

4) Guns don't kill people, PEOPLE kill people, and we WILL kill you if you try to break into our house...or car...or backpack.

5) I am most definitely NOT a pacifist.

*I do realize that this post may incite some people's fear of guns. I would just like to say, for the record, that my brother and I grew up around guns. We were taught that they were not toys and to respect them and only use them for their specific purposes, which in my family happened to be hunting. There was never an incident when they were used as toys or in an inappropriate manner. I believe it is ignorance and irresponsibility that causes accidents. That being said, Jeremy and I will teach both of our daughters how to care for and use them...when the time is right of course.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bicycling With Children

Fat bottomed girls they'll be riding today, so look out for those beauties, oh yeah.

I haven't written about my bike in awhile. Just in case you were wondering, I am still madly in love with her. Although, our relationship has changed in some ways. Just as the passage of time creates wrinkles and scars on all of us, so it has on my beauty. She has nicks in her paint and her skirt guard has faded to more of a cream, her basket liner is stained and she no longer holds a baby seat. But...just like each scar tells a tale about us, and as women we bear the badges of motherhood proudly (sometimes, wink wink), so each nick and stain tells a story about my bike.

The scratched paint near the bottom of the front basket is from the time I crashed on the trolley tracks on St Charles Avenue in New Orleans. We were but young lovers then, me and my bike. I didn't quite know how to handle her, but now we speak the same language and are almost like a horse and it's rider (except in this case it is I who have to do all the work) in that I have learned to anticipate the next move and maneuver accordingly.

We've come a long way from the shiny, white maiden cycle and timid (no, PETRIFIED) mother of only one baby. I now am able to hook the Chariot up and have it out of my apartment with the kids loaded (which is no small feat, BTW) in less than 10 minutes. I bike almost everywhere and I have learned to be cautious while really enjoying myself. Believe me, the world is much better appreciated from the seat of a opposed to a car.

I have many friends who are just getting into cycling, some with kids, some without, so I thought I'd just share some of the things I do/don't do and some tips I've those of you seasoned cyclists who may read this, if I've left anything out, please comment and let us know.

I make it a point to walk almost everywhere that is easily walkable, this gives Ellie a chance to ride HER new bike. These places include the grocery store, the post office, dry cleaners, pool, and Hooters (bet you didn't know that was one of my favorite wing places). For those places that are further than reasonable walking distance with two kids, I ride my bike. I pull both kids in a Chariot Cougar 2 which, by the way, is just about the MOST. AWESOME. THING. EVER. Not only can it hold over two large reusable grocery bags full of food in it's storage compartment, but when I reach my destination, I just unhook it and convert it to a stroller and VOILA!

I have two baskets on my bike. In the front one I usually keep: A small purse, a bottle of water, my lock and keys, and whatever else I collect along the way...hey, injured rabbit, want a ride to the hospital? In the rear basket ( which was conceived out of necessity to hold MORE SH&T!) I have been keeping library books, goods from the farmers market, or just bags of stuff I have purchased. (husband, if you are reading this, that was just a little joke, no matter who says they saw me doing it, I DID NOT go shopping this afternoon) It could hold takeout and beer or wine nicely, although I have yet to figure out how to get a pizza home on it.

In the storage compartment of the Chariot (which we shall hereafter refer to as Hercules) I usually keep: an extra change of clothes for each kid, a few diapers and wipes, hand sanitizer, snacks, drinks, and a tire pump and patches. After today, I think I'll carry an extra set of clothes/skivvies for myself because after biking about 10 miles in the BLAZING HEAT, I looked like I had peed myself. Lovely, I know, but I'm telling you this to spare you from the same disgrace. You see what I just did there, that's called self sacrifice, and I do it because I looooooove you.

That leads me to my next point, while those Copenhagen girls may look perfect all the time, if you run into me on my bike this summer, I'll probably be as brown as a paper sack and dripping sweat like Michael Jackson at a T-ball game...oh wait, that was wrong wasn't it? Can't help it, cuz, I'm BAD, I'm Bad, you know it, I'm bad! OOOOOOOOOW! Sorry, now where was I? Yes, appearances. I do get dressed nicely and put makeup on before I leave the house, but it is hot, and humid, and there are a lot of hills here and my bike only has three gears. least I try, right?

I do NOT wear a helmet. I also do NOT ride my bike in the street, EVEN if there is a bike lane. Sorry, but I'm travelling with two small kids and there's half of Central America driving like they're being chased by INS WHILE talking on their cell phones on these roads. Not for me, no thanks. These kids have to live. If something happens to them who's going to change my diapers when I'm old? With those points being said, I am VERY careful. I use cross walks, give pedestrians the right of way, use hand signals and look both ways...twice and inform someone when I am passing them by saying on your left or right or by just ringing my bell at them until they move over. I also shoot daggers with my eyes to those dotes who pull their vehicles out into the crosswalk when I have the right of way. AGHHHHHHH! That makes me want to use language that my children need not learn. But hey, I was stupid(er) once too.

I live in a pretty bike friendly city with a lot of trails and I try to use them whenever possible to avoid the main roads. Sometimes I prefer the main roads for the sense of safety they provide as some of the trails are in wooded areas and don't seem all that safe to me, AHEM, Chandra Levy anyone? But overall, if there are a lot of other people out, I feel it is a pretty safe place to bike almost anywhere.

My kids are actually their happiest when riding in Hercules. I give them snacks and drinks and a couple toys and they can see the world and all the action it contains. Although you will notice in the pictures that the screen is up on Hercules, when I am cycling, I always put it down because you never know when your bike or a car or an act of God might kick up a small rock or piece of glass and them BOOM! another pirate in the family. And...OH OH OH, I am almost too excited to tell you this, but...we just ordered a harness and leash for our pet dove, Olive so that he can come with us on bike rides too. He thinks I'm his mate, which is another post entirely, but I feel bad leaving him all the time. Anyway, we'll see how that goes.

I'm going to leave you with the hand signals for cyclists...who knows if the drivers of cars even know the signals but it seems pretty obvious to me that when someone is on a bicycle and is pointing left, that they're probably going to turn left.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sometimes My Life Is A Drama, Today Its A Comedy

Looking back on this here little blog, I am kind of shocked at how morbidly serious I've become. Back in Ye Olden Days I was just The Good Time Girl, always ready with a quip and a perpetual laugh that bubbled over and spilled out of my soul. And then...DUN DUN DUN (aww, you missed that didn't you) I don't quite know what happened. I suppose I've spent far too much time alone and reading the instruction manuals of children's products which include about fifty pages each of warnings that all ultimately end with: COULD RESULT IN IMMINENT DEATH!!! Yeah, I actually read the booklet when I installed Ari's toddler car seat and was shocked to discover that for about two years I have been driving around with Ellie's seat fastened improperly which...COULD RESULT IN IMMINENT DEATH!!!

So freaked out was I after reading this manual with picture after picture of the crude outline of a baby with it's neck snapped and those lightning bolt symbols implying IMMINENT DEATH!!! that I drove first to the police station to see if they could help me make sure I had it installed properly, they could not because they all happened to be at Dunkin Donuts when I showed up. TRUE STORY. So then I went to the Fire Department. God bless those firemen! Even though they weren't certified to inspect car seats, they came out (in the rain I might add) and checked and pulled and pushed and fastened until we were all pretty sure that even IMMINENT DEATH!!! wouldn't mean imminent death.

Oh, but look, I got distracted. That seems to happen a lot lately. I make myself a cup of coffee, someone wakes up, I start their breakfast, someone else needs me to wipe their butt, the phone rings, someone needs me to email them right away, second person wants milk, but not THAT milk, different milk, the bird needs food, first person needs to be wiped down because she has smeared blackberries all over herself, her hair AND the wall, and all in the midst of all this I have started and abandoned about five cups of coffee. WHEW! Wait a minute, where did I leave my brain? I think it's somewhere next to that first cup of coffee.

Anyone that knows me will tell you I'm a clown...most of the time. Except when I'm warning you about IMMINENT DEATH!!! In light of all my seriousness over the past year or so, I wanted to lighten things up a bit and tell you some of the humorous things that have happened around here lately.

While waiting for our cars oil to be changed, Ellie and I went to Dunkin Donuts for some breakfast (TRUE STORY). The girl behind the counter, who happened to be very nice and accommodating, also happened to have the teeth of GOLLUM. As we were waiting for our order, Ellie, who had been staring at this woman's mouth, said something about how her teeth hurt. I begin silently praying that she would not say anything about it. I wisked her away to the bathroom where I explained that while the lady's teeth were very unusual, it was not polite to point them out to her because it may embarrass her. Ellie said that she should just see a dentist at which point I explained that dentists can be very expensive and not everyone can afford to have one fix their teeth. We left it at that and went back out to claim our food. After we sat down, I could see that Ellie was thinking intensely and before I could even do anything, she stood up on her chair, yelled: EXCUSE ME, MISS, BUT DID YOU KNOW THAT MY DADDY IS A DENTIST AND HE IS A VERY NICE MAN AND HE CAN FIX YOUR TEETH BECAUSE HE IS A VERY NICE MAN!

Oh. My. God.

What do you do? Smile? Apologize? Leave as quickly as possible, never to return? All of the above? That, and then when you're alone with your family (sans kids) you laugh because this was just one of many moments of verbal toddler diarrhea in your life. You laugh and wonder at their innocence and gall and deep down vow to be more like them...only with more grace.

And then there's Jeremy. Oh, Jeremy! I married my opposite, have I ever mentioned that? I love it, to be sure, but there are those moments when I just stand back and go...what the???
This guy is a numbers guy. He makes handwritten calculations of how he would divide hisPowerball winnings and what his return would be on a 6.73444444% investment over 30 years. Yeah, fun stuff like that. He can fix anything, knows more about cars and bicycles than I would EVER care to. And his life philosophy is more along the lines of let's check all the rules first and then if we still aren't sure, we should call ahead and ask about the rules so we can make sure we're following them. Mine is more: it's better to ask forgiveness than permission.

So, a few days ago while attempting to feed her turtle, Ellie accidentally poured THE WHOLE CAN of turtle food into the tank. It was a brand new can mind you. We fished out as much as we could and bought some new filters to help clean the water out. It wasn't working. When I walked into Ari and Ellie's room yesterday to get Ari up from her nap, I thought she had had one of those colossal poops that make even the parent of said child want to heave into a bucket. And then I realized it was the fish tank. We ended up losing all but one fish and the turtle, and when Jeremy came home from work, he took everything out including the rocks and cleaned it all thoroughly.

Later, after dinner, I was speculating why it had killed everything and smelled so bad. IT WAS JUST NASTINESS, I said.
"Actually, Jill, it was the bacteria in there that after feeding on the food depleted the oxygen levels and suffocated the fish."

"DAY-UM, BILL NYE! I was just going to settle with the conclusion that the sheer nastiness killed them and then you had to get all science-y on me!" He then chuckled in way that seemed to say: HAHAHA fool, you are a mere troglodyte! Stand in awe of my math and science prowess! At which point I used some words that have more than four syllables which caused his eyes to glaze over and smoke to come out of his ears. Yeah, that's how we roll. Tomato, tomah-to.

And then there was last night. We both laid in bed and giggled, about what, I don't even remember, for over an hour. Silly things, old things, us things. And it felt really good to just laugh like a kid again. I vow to do it more often...even in the face of: IMMINENT DEATH!!!

WHAT!?!? You laughed without ME!!! I am BEYOND insulted! If I could properly articulate my great umbridge at this heinous offense, I would declare the both of you negligent and grossly unfit parents, while promptly informing the proper authorities. Since you people can obviously not decipher my attempts at communication with you because it's complexities are far beyond the grasp of your insufficient and age addled minds, I shall have to, instead, inform you of my great displeasure by relieving myself on one or both of you at the next opportunity!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Slight Ramble On A Grand Subject

I would pay a horde of pennies for her thoughts

I like Abigail Adams a lot. Like probably more than I should. But in an age when role models really aren't modeling anything other than pantiless crotches for the paparazzi and values seem to have gone the way of the steam engine, I find it heartwarming to know that even if she did live over two hundred years ago, me and Abby had a lot in common. She endured long separations from her husband which only served to strengthen their marriage. She took care of their farm and children predominately by herself while still managing to read good books and write letters nearly every day. She struggled with deep bouts of loneliness and depression and yet had to remain strong for the sake of her family.

One day we will no longer be able to play airplane on my feet, until then, she can fly any time.

I am in no way as disciplined, brave, or influential as Mrs. Adams, but I do very much look up to her and aspire to emulate many of the habits she kept. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, once I stopped buying the gossip magazines, and stopped watching TV, and pretty much stopped listening to almost all pop music; I was no longer as aware of the "role models" our current society proudly sets before us like tiny china pieces, mere fragile things, on the edge of a high shelf. WE put them up so high, on the shaky pedestal of our affections, and we wait with baited breath for them to fall. And inevitably, they all do. Some of them getting back up, and some, sadly, never able to pick up the pieces and recover fully.

A clothes line, two old sheets, and some clothes pins = fun for hours

It is a game, and yet not, some of us taking them so seriously that we lose ourselves in the process of trying to become like someone else. I am guilty of it myself, the thoughts drift like low lying fog into my head...if only I were...I just need to...then I will be completely happy. It is a game, but a dangerous one. Perhaps it was the second daughter that came to me that caused me to finally brush away the last remnants of the pop culture house of cards in my life. They will watch you, you know, I said to Myself. I know, Myself replied. You will be the one who teaches them what it is to be a woman, don't let them repeat your mistakes. Time is precious and it is fleeting so you must take this very seriously. OK. I was, for once, in agreement with myself.

So with the education of my girls comes the education of myself, for despite what you may have heard, I do NOT know everything. And I say comes because it will be a life long process, a never ending process. We humans, we are living things, and just like our bodies continually change, so do our minds and I intend to keep stuffing and shaping mine until the day I am gone. Hopefully, at least it's the goal, I will stuff mine so full of good things, right things, important things, that it will overflow and not only affect my girls, but all of those around me. Foremost of these I hope will be kindness and love and respect, not only for others, but for self. It is a quality I find very little of in many young ladies I see today, and one that I sorely lacked in my impressionable years.
Sometimes, silliness wins out, even if they think I'm a nerd.

This mothering, this is the hardest thing I have ever done. Sometimes I want to cry...and sometimes I do. I Sometimes when I'm laying on the floor with my children, a human throw pillow, I laugh a laugh that comes from a place so deep and content I feel as if this is what I was made to do. I feel the depth and the full scope of what it really is that I'm doing. I'm a long term investment banker. Investing into the hearts, minds, and souls of PEOPLE. Sometimes that great and precious responsibility can get lost under the heaping piles of dirty dishes and laundry. Sometimes I forget what it really is I'm here doing when the clean shirt I just put on gets spit up on in the first five minutes and the chocolate milk that was supposed to remain at the table somehow ends up in a puddle on the carpet in the living room.

Those details can overwhelm me, because underneath all the love and desire to be patient and kind is a nagging voice that only sees toys scattered across the floor, dishes in the sink, smudges on the glass, and says: You're a failure. You can't keep up, you're not doing it right, I bet everyone else can do it all, AND have time to workout AND put makeup on every day. But not you, because you're just not as good as them. Both my parents are perfectionists, so this nagging urge to be something that is not even realistic runs deep with me.

I have to stop, drop, and roll those thoughts right out of my head. Because comparison is also a very dangerous game to play. Just like my children, I am a work in progress and just as they are my students, I am also theirs. In teaching them to be kind, I learn patience as I repeat the same calm phrase over for what seems like the 500th time of the day. In teaching them the importance of values, I learn to be creative by thinking of stories to challenge and introduce new concepts into their minds. By teaching them to love and seeing their love demonstrated liberally and without conditions, I learn to love in kind.

And then sometimes it's the little things, like cake, that make us smile.

Each new day presents itself like an obstacle course for me to maneuver, and as I turn and go this way and that, sometimes I hit a dead end, make a wrong turn, a bad choice. And in the times when I recognize those wrong turns, I say so, reassess my options, take a step back, and try a different direction. Some days I feel like all I do is make wrong turns, others, I don't even care about finding my way out. I just grab my girls, a blanket, and a picnic basket and have a little party for three right in the middle. Because after all, the sun will rise again tomorrow, but these small moments with these small people will be gone before I can even fully absorb them.

* Moms, I would like to hear from you. Do you struggle with these same issues, and if not, what are (were) your struggles as a parent? How do (did) you overcome the obstacles and the details?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's Been a Long Time, Shouldn't of Left You Without a Dope Beat to Step To

Almost three months ago I packed my car with two weeks of clothes for the Lovely Ladies and myself and I made the days journey from DC to the place my heart calls home: Indiana. What was to be a short bit of respite with my parents has turned into a very long and drawn out porterhouse steak of respite. I can't even articulate properly (and believe me, I've been TRYING) how this trip has rejuvenated and restored me. You see, in case you aren't one of the chosen few privy to the inner workings of my personal life, let me explain to you what is happening in the lives of The Hayes Family as of late. Last year Jeremy entered a two year residency program at the National Naval Medical Center...AKA: the President's hospital. He is specializing in comprehensive dentistry, a specialty, while not officially recognized by the ADA, is pretty much The Bees Knees in the military.

Because this program is basically a four year program condensed into two years, we don't see him very much. And, that's OK, we knew that it would be this way going in, it just gets lonely sometimes. And with that being said, I ran away my mommy and daddy, and YES, I DO still call them that. I will most likely still call them that as I wipe their butts and humor their dementia riddled tales of yore in the years to come.

I have been in my old room at the top of the stairs in the Lemon Drop House for almost three months now. I have shared laughter and tears with my family...but now it is time for me to go. Back to life...back to reality. In my brief time on this Earth I have learned some hard but valuable lessons, one of them being that, just like it was written a long, long time ago: for every thing there is a season. And while I am sad that this very special season with my parents is drawing to a close, I am looking forward to what the future will hold. Until then, I will give you the short list of what has happened in the last three months.

I got two flat tires, both of which had roofing nails in them. And while this may at first appear to be a bad thing, it afforded me some one on one time with Ellie on a very large playground while we waited for them to be repaired. And it was there that she dutifully taught me that not only can angels be made of snow, but they also come in the SAND variety!

I dropped my iPhone in the toilet. And, NO, surprisingly I had NOT been drinking! Lesson learned: Find more appropriate means of entertainment whilst in the loo.

I turned 30! I arose, looked at myself in the mirror, felt the same and went on about my business without much hullabaloo or fanfare. I DID however visit the Indianapolis Museum f Art and consume an alarming amount of carbs, both of which are my favorite things to do on MY day.

I watched Lilacs, poppies, peony's, and irises bloom with baited breath and a great deal of excitement. After such a long and laborious winter, I can't recall a spring I have enjoyed more.

I planted things in the Earth. I felt the dirt in between my fingers and underneath my fingernails. I remembered the satisfaction I derive in the cultivation of living things.

I watched six baby chicks grow into almost adults and in doing so, I watched Ellie draw from wells of compassion and maternal instinct that I did not know she possessed. It warmed my heart and soul to know that not one downy feather on their little bodies was harmed while under her care.

MY BABY TURNED ONE. Has it already been a year, Dear Readers? How is it that life passes me by with such speed? She has six teeth, can call cats and dogs, and sign many more things and possesses a spirit tantamount to that of Mount Vesuvius. Lion was an appropriate name for her because she is a fierce and all together wondrous being.

I talked to God on a golf course and was moved to tears on more than one occasion at the beauty of this life.

I lost the last of the baby weight, fit into pants long forgotten about and found myself once again, not in the skinny jeans, and not in the job, but in those quiet moments I stole away for myself.

Now as I pack our things and prepare for our journey back east, I can feel a sob threaten to rise in my throat and break through my granite facade. It hurts sometimes, this life. I wish I could have it all: My husband, my parents, a white pickett fence, and a happy family free from trials. But I know better. Experience has taught me that, much like diamonds, our characters are forged through great trials and sometimes great pain. I will miss this place, but I also anticipate the resuming of my life. MY. LIFE.

I will leave this place once again changed from the form in which I arrived, but then again, that's the point isn't it?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Working 9-5

It's 6:30 am. The Weepies sing The World Spins Madly On as my alarm begins to go off. I lay in bed allowing my eyes to adjust to the darkness before I hang my feet over the edge deciding on an exit path that won't involve me stepping on Ellie who is sleeping peacefully on a pallet on the floor beside my bed.

I carry Ari, who was also awakened by The Weepies, down the creaking stairs, across the cold, wooden floors and through a darkened house straight for the coffee pot. God bless my mother for always making the coffee ahead of time! Ari watches with interest as I pour myself a cup, black, with a splash of sugar free hazelnut creamer. I walk quietly into my parent's bedroom, holding Ari with one arm and clinging to my coffee with the other. "Mom," I whisper. "Mom, it's time to get up." I hear shuffling in the darkness and a few minutes later she emerges in her bright red terry cloth robe, her and Ari both in head to toe red, seeming overly festive for this dark and early hour. I hand her the baby and head up the stairs with my coffee.

My pants and shirt are laid out neatly on top of the dresser; I ironed them the night before. The girls clothes, socks and shoes are also laid neatly out on a cardboard box, the shirts and sweaters resting above the pants and the shoes below them as if they were once filled with the bodies of children who suddenly just vanished. There is a list in the kitchen outlining for my mother what my children normally do in a day, what time they eat and sleep and what games they like to play. Two bags of breast milk sit on a shelf in the fridge waiting to be heated ad poured into bottles.

I'm going to work. I have never left Ari for more than a few hours and I have not had a job for almost four years. I'm apprehensive but excited. Outside of my writers group, this is the first thing I've done for ME since I was pregnant with Ellie.

After I've showered, done my hair and put on my makeup, I gather my things: my purse, a computer bag, and my breast pump in it's discreet black shoulder bag. I kiss my children goodbye and head out the door feeling as though the majority of my heart is still there behind the glass waving with sticky, syrup covered fingers. So, this is how working women do it, I think to myself. How do they do this every day? How do you leave your life, your children at the door and put on your work face? I'm about to find out.

Although I am joining the ranks of working women today, there is nothing typical about this day or this job. I climb into the waiting car driven by my father. He has decided to go with me. You see, I'm working at a golf course for part of the summer as a cart girl. This place was my home for many summers and two thirds of the rest of my family are nearly permanent fixtures here as well. I don't play golf, but I grew up surrounded by it; I have a dog named Fairway for God's sake. Of all the roads diverged in yellow wood that this Dilettante has travelled, THIS one is my favorite.

We pull up to the clubhouse and I open the heavy wooden double doors and step inside. The pro shop at first seems empty, but then a familiar mop of dirty blond hair atop a bespectacled head pops out from around the corner. It is attached to a tall, lanky body covered in a lime green polo shirt and white pants. It is my brother and just like the rest of us he marches to the beat of his own drum and those white after labor day and before Easter rules go in one of his ears and out the other.

So many things are the same and yet so many things have changed. My first year working here was over seven years ago. My brother and I were both still living at home, he was in high school still, just as tall but even lankier. I was in college, early twenties, and looking for a summer job. At that time my brother and a few other high school kids washed and put away the golf carts at the end of the day. Just as I'm doing now, then I was a cart girl. I was scared that first day, nervous about maneuvering the steep hills in the beverage cart, nervous about talking during someones swing, but mostly just scared of the unknown. "Don't worry," my brother said, "it's just like Caddy Shack out here, you're gonna love it." And he was right.

Today, as I walk down the limestone steps to the snack bar and look out over the cart path and the first tee, I am flooded with memories of this place. They come in fragments and faster than I can absorb all of them as if this part of my life was flashing before my eyes. I see myself younger and laughing, always laughing, as I speed around the narrow asphalt cart path, I hear The omnipresent sound of The Dave Matthews Band in my ears, I see warm summer evenings and fireflies, I see myself hand feeding two orphaned raccoons and several deer in a manicured, Wonderland like setting, I see spilled drinks and bets about drive distances, I see swarms of cicadas and kissing in the cart barn, I see me at twenty three and it's as if I've blinked and now stand here turning thirty. In an instant I see everything that's occurred to the wild blond girl from then to now. And here I stand in the same place, surrounded by the same people and the same things, in the same skin and bones I wore almost a decade ago...but I am not the same.

TO BE CONTINUED...(with MORE pictures)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thingamajig Tuesday: Self Sustainability and Permaculture

If you know me personally, you have probably at one time or another heard me talk about my dream life. This life involves living on a self sustaining farm, mostly "off the grid", and farming away to my little hippie heart's contentment. Almost Amish except I'll still dye my hair, shave my legs, and grow hemp. While this has been and always will be my dream, it is just not in the cards for us right now, so I continue to dream. But I promise you this Dear Readers, before I got married my husband promised me that one day I could have a Brown Swiss cow and a island full of monkeys, YES MONKEYS! Golden Lion Tamarins to be precise, and I have not held him to his word, but one day, ONE DAY I WILL HAVE THAT COW! I'll let Monkey Island slide, but only because when I had kids the need to own a monkey suddenly seemed fulfilled.

Over the years as this dream has grown and taken a clearer shape in my mind, I have gleaned knowledge from here and there about this type of simple living and learned that, LO AND BEHOLD!, there are other weirdos out there just like me. People that want to survive off of what they can provide for themselves, people that enjoy a hard days work, digging and planting in the Good Green Earth. According to my dad these people are called Old Burnt Out Hippies Who Are Working The System, but to me they're Inspirations.

Today's Thingamajig is Permaculture...and This house that I want to remake one day just for me and my family.

I mean, SERIOUSLY, is that not the cutest thing you have ever seen?

Now, I am new to the Permaculture movement, but from everything I've read thus far, I want to crawl inside of it and call it mommy. Here's an example: You plant a garden and let your chickens run through it eating pests and fertilizing it in the process. Kill three birds with one stone! I am so all over this it's not even funny. As soon as I get a yard that is. Now, what I want to know is Who's coming with me?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Thingamajg Tuesdays: All Creatures Great and Small

My parents don't have regular television, that is to say, they don't have cable. They don't even have public channels on the main TV in the room where my father's butt has made a dent in the couch from years of plopping down and tuning in. These days he's tuning in to the many free DVD's from the local library, particularly anything English.

He, not realizing that I have two small chiclren to attend to on a nightly AND daily basis, is always trying to get me to stay up and watch hours of old English films with him. Me thinks I doth protest too much. Because I finally gave in two nights ago. And now I'm hooked too. GAH!

He was finally able to entice me with a series based on books that I had read as a youth. The name of this series is All Creatures Great and Small. I asolutely adored these books when I was young, but it was a hard sell to convince me to watch them now. The film is grainy, the lighting is poor; I had a dozes reasons NOT to watch any of them, but I let him talk me into one. JUST ONE EPISODE, I said. And then, despite, the film and the lighting and the difficulty understanding what those blokes across the pond were saying, I fell in love with them just as I had the books.

The series follows James Herriot, a country vet in England, as he begins his practice under the eccentric Siegfreid Farnon. This was an era before gloves, and it is certainly a sight to see Herriot elbow deep in a cowItalic one minute and then sipping tea from fine english china the next, all cheerio and too right, chap.

If you like animals and think more women should wear dresses and more men should wear three piece suits and pocket watches, then these books or films are for you.

Home Again Home Again Jiggity Jig

Last week the girls and I made the trek from DC to Indiana, home. We'll be here for several weeks to give Jeremy some much needed time to focus on his mountain of school work. It. Is. So. Good. To. Be. Home.

Things are still crazy around here as I try to work out a schedule for myself and the girls. Once again we're finding our rhythm, and over the next few days as we do that, my posting here will be sporadic, but I promise you that as soon as I have figured out once again how to get these girls to sleep at the same time, I'll be back at it again every day. Until then...I'd like to repost one of my favorites from the last time I was home. I hope you enjoy it.

Many years ago, when my parents took us to the 1800's farmhouse that they wanted to buy, I cried. It had no air conditioning and smelled like moth balls and remorse. Even worse was the location. It sat in a town outside of Indianapolis that had nothing to offer a nineteen year old girl with a penchant for the night life. Just small town, middle American charm nestled quietly in the midst of corn and soy beans.

Now ten years later, their loving, hand toiled restoration of this house has made it a place I treasure. It has been a source of respite for me in times of great hardship and pain. It is listed in the registry of Historical Places and once upon a time it was called The Lemon Drop House because the woman who lived here would leave a bowl of Lemon Drop candies just inside for the neighborhood children. Times have sure changed, huh?

Red Geraniums, a sign of summer. I used to to hate them and the way they smelled. Now, they are a beacon, a reminder of home. And when I pull up to the front of this house, they remind me of my family and that I am home.

These stairs. I have climbed them more times than I can recall.
Drunk, and very quietly in the middle of the night so as not to get caught.
Fast, two at a time, up to the top, to slam my door in youthful angst and protest at the dictatorship of my parents.
Wistful and swooning. In love for the first and last time.
Offering goodbyes as I left for what I thought would be the last time on my wedding night.
Up to the top again and again as I returned after Hurricanes, deaths, deployments, and babies.
I have knocked myself out running down these stairs.
And one time the mailman saw me naked because I was forever forgetting my towel as I made a mad dash up the stairs to my room.
After a decade, I know every place they creak and every loose spindle. And I know at the top is a room that will forever be mine. Where I will forever be their child.

A room full of books. A better place I cannot think of. Well, maybe if they added a movie popcorn machine it would really rock my world. On these shelves sit The Harvard Classics and from these books came the great enlightening of my mind. You can travel anywhere without leaving the room.
There is a dent on this sofa where my Father's butt has resided for the better part of the last decade. It is oddly comforting to fall into it and then to heave ho myself out of it in a rocking motion. Only not so much while I was pregnant.

Oh, the conversations that have been had on this porch.

Discussions celebrating the life of loved ones lost.

Pontifications about life, God, and things much headier than who Jennifer Aniston is dating.

I have sipped coffee and iced tea in this place and waved at neighbors bicycling past and finally realized that all the other things I used to think were important were just emptiness. And chasing the wind.

I washed my second child in the glow of the amber light to the tranquil sound of the rain on the honeysuckle vines. As I felt her soft skin and examined my aging hands against it, I pondered the journey I have made. I wonder why it took me so long and so many bumps along the way, to finally understand what this life is all about. I wonder if it was the only way to get me to appreciate it. Would these moments be as sweet if I had not experienced the bitterness of pain? Would I love so deeply if I had not felt the searing ache of losing so many? Would I enjoy a life unencumbered by material possessions if I had not lost everything? I can't answer these questions because I'll never know. But, however I got here, I am glad to be at this place. Content.

For so long I vowed to leave this place at the first opportunity. And I did. And I came back to this place. Time and time again. Now when I am away from it I long for the quiet. A quiet punctuated by the laughter of children, and crickets, and the occasional barking dog. It is a stillness and a quiet that allow you to breathe. I have come full circle on this part of my journey. And I am better for it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Blog of Note: Cute Overload

Sometimes you're just having a crappy day. If you're me, that day might involve waking up several times during the night to one or two crying children, and then perhaps an overturned GALLON of milk at breakfast, then maybe a diaper filled to overflowing (onto your shirt) with contents that resemble chocolte syrup, only it's not. You finally get the kids to take a nap and realize that this is the first time ALL day you've been able to sit down. What do you do?

Sometimes I look for words of inspiration in one of my favorite books, sometimes I stare at the wall and try to absorb the silence into my soul so that I can remember it later when 1,845 battery operated toys are going off at the same time. And then SOMETIMES I go to this site: Cute Overload.

OHGEEWHIZ, if a bounty of really cute baby animals isn't enough to make you smile, well then, I don't think there's any hope left for your soul. You may as well go check in to The Hotel California. But I'd wager that it is, so go, go on, check it out.

I stumbled upon this blog one day while googling the word cute...because I do things like that, just google random words. You should try it, it's fun. Anyway, I ended up going through almost every post on there and still wanting more. I hope you enjoy it.

I mean, come ON, if that lil thing doesn't make you scrunch up your face in delight and do a little dance of ohmygoodnesswookathiswiddweearsnoseandfeets! then I don't think I even know who you are anymore!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Three-ing

Sometime last summer, on a warm and breezy day, the kind of day where you leave all the windows open and drink sun tea, I sat down to enjoy said tea and the most recent issue of my (now defunct) favorite magazine, Domino. I had miraculously gotten both children to take a nap at the same time and was oh so looking forward to a few quiet moments alone. With my tea, and my thoughts, and the remote control for once.

I began to flip through the first few pages of my magazine when I heard the voice of a child yell through my open window. "HEY," they shouted," YOU KIDS BE QUIET! BE QUIET KIDS! YOU HEAR ME? I SAID BE QUIET OUT THERE!"

Geez, I thought to myself, what a piece of work that kid was! Whoever his parents were, they obviously weren't doing a satisfactory job of keeping that mouthy little thing in line. And then I smiled to myself, congratulating myself on the fact that MY children would never be so rude, so outspoken. They were on a schedule, sleeping like little angels in their beds just as I had told them to do. Because I was after all, the one in charge. I was running the show, those kids couldn't tell ME what to do.

And then my own private Parental Awards Ceremony for myself was abruptly interrupted by the sound of one of the bedroom doors opening. I craned my neck to see who was coming down the hall way. It was Elsbeth. She stood before me with her legs apart and her hands on her hips, very much like Superman, scrunched up her nose, contorted her face into the most sinister shape a two year olds could be, and said, "Those kids were making too much noise out there so I told them to BE QUIET! BE QUIET, I said, I'M TRYING TO SWEEP IN HERE!"

And then it dawned on me. It hadn't been someone else's child I had heard yelling so forcefully outside, it had been my own. The tiny voice that she had used to affect such an authoritative tone had been carried out her window and over to mine just a few feet down. As I sat there letting this realization sink in, I began to laugh. She continues to amaze me.

Since the time she was still an infant, this child has been in possession of an old soul and a temperament so fierce and strong it impresses even the most hardened of dictatorial types. Case in point: All my dad had to do when I was a kid to make me cry was to look at me a certain way and perhaps add a Dirty Harry-esque sneer. I would turn into a blubbering heap of pigtails on the floor. Ellie? Not so much. Once, on my parents patio, Ellie had been playing with her toy horses when my father kept trying to strike up a conversation with her. She was repeatedly quite rude and disrespectful to him, making faces and frowning at him. This had been going on all day with the two of them and I could tell my dad had about reached his limit. He and I both warned her not to speak to adults in such a way and that if she continued there would be consequences. I was thinking more along the lines of a time out, but apparently my dad had other plans.

He asked her a question, very nicely I might add, and she looked up and said, "HEY PAPPY DON, I'M NOT TALKING TO YOU!"

I saw "the look" cross my dad's face. He picked up one of her horses and hurled it over the fence. "You see?" he asked, "You see what happens when you talk to me that way?"

A maniacal glimmer lit up in Ellie's eyes and she squealed with glee. "OOOOOOOOOOOO, throw this one next, Pappy Don, throw this one next!" She wasn't phased. Not. A. Bit.

I feel like I spend so much time correcting her attitude and dealing with her strong will that I sometimes forget how small she really is. She's always seemed so grown up. Like we are practically the same age, just trapped inside different sized bodies. And then I hold her. And I feel how delicate her body is; how delicate she really is, and I want to hold her there forever, never letting her go, never letting her grow up. Holding on to this moment for as long as I can if only with my mind and my camera.

It's her voice that gets to me the most now. It's almost like a chipmunk's and yet the things that come out of it are sometimes profound and blithely Innocent all at once. It's an ironic dichotomy. I'd like to share a personal video with you. I've never shared video here before, one because I can't stand the sound of my own voice, and two because that takes this blog into a whole new level of my personal life. We are about to go from a two dimensional relationship into a three dimensional. Dear readers, will you still love me tomorrow? Do you promise to call?

There are things about this video I wish were different. I wish I wasn't in the bath tub. I wish there weren't dirty clothes on the floor. I wish Ellie's hair was done and her shirt was clean and wasn't on backwards (that was HER doing BTW). But you know what? This is reality, there is no glossing over here. This is a snippet of my life with an amazing little girl. A little girl, who is just that, a little girl. No longer a baby and yet still so small. I have to remind myself of this sometimes, especially after she tells me that God told her that she could have lollipops for breakfast and drinking milk in bed does not in fact hurt your teeth no matter what the resident dentist says.

Untitled from Jill Hayes on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

New Feature ~ Thingamajig Tuesdays (Or My favorite iPhone App)

Every Tuesday, I'll tell you about one of my favorite gadgets...things I love, things people I know love, hell, you love something? You want me to talk about it? Send me an email and tell me about it (as long as it doesn't involve adult nudity or refined sugar, the consumption of which has been known to make people blind AND develop hairy palms...sorry Uncle Jim, at least you can't see your hairy palms), and maybe I just will.

Today's Thingamajig is my favorite iPhone app, it's called Polarize. It takes any of your photos and turns them into much cooler polaroid photos. Now, if they could just invent an app that could do that to some people I know. There is even a Flicker group for people who use this app to share their photos. When I got it, this app was free, I'm not sure if it still is though, but even if it's not, I think it's worth a few bucks.

At first I did have some problems with it crashing on me and not allowing me to upload the photos to Facebook, but lately those things haven't seemed to be a problem.

And now (insert ascending drumroll here--->) for the pleasure of your tastefully discriminating eyes, I will share some of my favorite photos that I've taken with this app.

As you can see you can also add sharpie-esque labels to them...all I have to say about the above photo is: W-A-T-E-R, Helen. You fellow nerds will get that; all others, carry on in your dithery.

This is Olive. Despite his pure and chaste looking appearance, he has an unquaffable need to impress "the ladies" with extravagant courtship dances and songs..."The ladies" that he finds particularly interesting are white socks, crumpled paper towels, and a beanie baby dove that he has had his way with countless times.

Husbands are like a box of, wait, that's not right. Why is it that the snarkier I get, the more he laughs?

Dupont Circle...I have vertigo...nuff said.

And this wasn't the first time I've caught them in a compromising position either. Momma warned me about those Barbie dolls.

You want some books from the library, Ellie? Well, you're just gonna have to work for them, now, MUSH!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Natural Cures for Depression...That Don't Involve a Sledge Hammer and Jack Daniels

When I was a kid I loved bologna. I can remember really digging one of my favorite snacks...cold McDonalds french fries rolled up in a piece of bologna. Seriously. That was three decades ago. Everyone loved bologna didn't they? I mean, wasn't there was even a song dedicated to our Bologna's first and last name, extolling all it's processed and saturated fatty virtues? I believe there was, and don't lie, you know you loved it too. Shoot! That song is the only reason that I even know how to spell B-O-L-O-G-N-A.

Now when I think of eating a piece of bologna, or even cold McDonalds french fries, I can choke back waves of nausea. What we know about food, and the way it is processed and handled before it gets to us is so much more than we knew thirty years ago. It's just like cigarettes really. Everybody was gleefully lighting up and puffing away, unashamed, before they knew of it's full dangers. And so it is with our food. The age of innocence in regards to what we eat is drawing to a close. It comes on the heels of widespread and various cases of tainted food, recalls, and sick people and animals around the world.

Movies like Food, INC and The Future of Food have opened the eyes of a large and growing group of Americans. We are demanding better options for our ourselves and especially our children. We've taken the red pill and there's no going back now. Words like red # 40, yellow #5, BPA, and high fructose corn syrup don't puzzle us anymore. They're not just words on the back of pretty paper boxes. They now translate to: DANGER. And maybe we don't know exactly what danger, but we know enough to say no. No more. And that is how change is affected. That is how you fight the Goliath of food corporations, an FDA that doesn't seem to have our children's best interests at heart, and a government who is too slow to act. We fight those Goliath's with our voice and in true American fashion, we fight them with our wallets.

We choose to buy foods that don't contain those ingredients, foods whose ingredients we can pronounce and are familiar with. Ingredients which we probably already have in our cupboards and refrigerators at home. But, I've gotten on my soapbox again when all I really intended to tell you about was my battle with depression. Let me shove this weathered soapbox back under my bed and have a seat at the kitchen table. Come, sit with me. Let me tell you a personal story. And don't worry, this time I promise not to talk about child birth. Well, not ALL about child birth.

After I had Ari I would wake up in the morning barely able to walk upright; my joints and back ached so badly and I had little bruises all over my body. I attributed these symptoms to the recovery process. I also suffered from bouts of seemingly incurable sadness tempered with fits of rage. And sadly, the rage was often times directed at my family, not The Machine. I saw three different doctors, explained my physical and emotional symptoms and the issues and medications I had dealt with because of my eye. They all chalked it up to stress, depression, and child birth. They sent me away with advice to seek counseling and a tidy little prescription for Zoloft.

I desperately wanted some relief for my symptoms, but I had a gnawing suspicion that this Dr. prescribed remedy was merely treating my symptoms and that we weren't dealing with the problem. The propensity for American doctors to do this, hand out RX's like they're candy and never really trying to get to the root of our problems was causing me to have a growing distrust of our current health care system. Almost everyone I know is on some kind of anti-anxiety/ anti-depressant and has been for years. What I wonder is, at what point does that stop? Does it go on forever? That was not something I was ready to discover.

I took the RX home and started googling. Sure, I was depressed. But I was also a nursing mother and just had a nagging feeling that there was something else causing my problems. The doctor had said that my joint pain was probably just the depression manifesting itself physically, but I knew that it was something else, I just didn't know what.

In the course of my internet research (and this is the part where any doctors reading this go: Oh geez, another one of THOSE people. Self-diagnosing, self-medicating coo-coo birds) I discovered that depression can be caused by a lack of several essential vitamins and minerals. The doctor had told me that with the Zoloft I may have to take it for several months before I noticed a difference, and even then we may have to adjust the dose and wait months again to see the effects. With these vitamins and minerals there were no warnings and no waiting months and months. I had nothing to lose, so I headed to the closest health food store, which happened to be a Whole Foods market. I bought every thing the internet article had recommended and took them home.

Within three days I was a different person. The pain in my body was completely gone and the bruises vanished within a week. I had energy, I was happy, I yelled a LOT less frequently. (Don't get me wrong, I have two small kids...I still yell sometimes).

Because of my success with these things and willingness to tell just about everyone about it; people frequently ask me to tell them exactly what I take. I thought I'd consolidate the effort and put it all on here for your viewing pleasure.

I will say right now, and for the record though that I am in NO WAY a doctor, nor do I have any formal medical or health training. I am merely one person who had a hunch that my body was trying to tell me something. That maybe it needed something that I wasn't giving it, and I just couldn't believe that my body could request a chemical compound synthetically created in a lab. So, I took a leap of faith in myself, and listened to what I thought my body was trying to say.

Here is everything I take in a day (minus the Calcium/Vitamin D/Vitamin K tablets I take twice a day...I'm out of them). Now, not all of these were found in the article about naturally curing depression, but some of these things I have been turned on to by various other health nuts I associate with and I have found every thing you see here to be essential in my feeling my absolute best. I am thirty years old, still have baby weight to lose and don't workout nearly as efficiently as I once did, but I feel better physically and mentally than I ever have, and I attribute much of that to these things. I would be happy to discuss at greater length with anyone any one of these items, just send me an email at

*Every morning I take one flax oil capsule, 250mg of magnesium, a women's multivitamin, a B-complex, and a shot of Bragg Apple cider vinegar.
*After every meal I take a scoop of Green Super Food and Fiber smart in about 6oz of water. Warning: it is NASTY, but totally worth it. You can also mix them in smoothies if you just can't handle it.
*I use really raw honey in my tea with a sprinkling of cinnamon and cayenne pepper. I also give everyone (minus the baby) an spoonful when they have a cough or sore throat. In addition to that, when my face is dry or needs to be exfoliated, I mix 2T really raw honey with 1T Raw sugar for a wonderful scrub/mask.
*I drink a couple cups of green tea every day...I've heard that there are beauty treatments you can do with this stuff too, but have yet to discover or try them.
*Every evening I take another 250mg of magnesium, a calcium combo, an iron pill, and another flax oil capsule.
* And then there's the coconut oil...some people I know swear by it's weight loss promoting abilities, but I'm not so sure about that. I use it as a deep conditioner on my hair about once a week, as lotion for the whole family, and even as diaper rash ointment. And then sometimes I just eat a spoonful to make me feel like I'm in Hawaii.

On top of ALL of that, I only drink green tea and water (well, I have 2 cups of coffee in the morning...but that's it) and I eat about 80% all natural, non-processed, non GMO, organic foods. I think this has also played a HUGE part in my overall health.

** Click on the above underlined words and phrases for links to great articles and information regarding the dangers of common ingredients in our lives and food.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Weekly Feature ~ The Sunday Blog of Note

There will be a new weekly feature over here at Confessions of a Dilletante: The Sunday Blog of Note. Every Sunday I will feature a blog I have discovered or have been referred to that I think you, Dear Readers, might enjoy. If you have any ideas or suggestions for a Blog of Note, please send them my way at . I would love to hear from you.

So, without any further ado, the first Blog of Note is: Kalyn's Kitchen . I stumbled upon this blog during a search for some recipes for the South Beach Diet and I fell instantly in love. Not only are the recipes delicious, (I know because I've tried a few) but the pictures accompanying them are beautiful and guaranteed to make you hungry. She also has the site set up so that there are printer friendly versions of every recipe, saving you precious ink.

Hope you like it and enjoy your Sunday!