Thursday, April 29, 2010

sometimes, you just know . . .

so today . . .  i feel like i am an alien in a foreign land.

yesterday i read a tweet from one of diandra's friends that said she was craving brussel sprouts.  brussel sprouts!!

i'm sorry, but you don't crave vegetables--especially brussel sprouts!  you crave things like brownies or ice cream or lay's bar-be-que potato chips, things that are bad for you but that make you feel good.  and i am pretty sure that brussel sprouts do not fall into that category . . .

i seem to live in the land of vegetable eaters.  my five- and six-year-old school kids will eat cooked spinach--limp, cooked spinach--and broccoli and green beans!  and they like it!!  the first time they served spinach at school, i didn't even know what it was.  i had to look at the menu to identify the vegetable of the day.  and when i saw it was spinach, i thought, "this is crazy!  no one is going to eat this."  but they did.  some even had seconds . . .

then at band rehearsal, i made some sort of dismissive comment about brussel sprouts only to discover that almost everyone else likes brussel sprouts!  and asparagus!!  and i am talking about teenaged boys here.  teenaged boys who eat their vegetables!  even the icky ones! 

it's like i am living in some sort of alternate universe where up is down and black is white and green vegetables are delicious. 

i don't know how this happened to me.  my motto has always been "if it's green, it had better be an m&m."  but even i have learned to like broccoli in the last couple of years . . .

maybe it is the sunshine.  maybe it is the multi-cultural influence.  maybe it is the fear of french fries.  i don't know . . .  all i know is, i do not like brussel sprouts OR asparagus.  i am sure of it! 

even though i have never actually eaten either one . . .

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

and another "absolute" falls . . .

so today . . . i think i love shania twain.

this worries me. i hate country music. really. a lot. it all sounds the same to me. and the twang just kills me! it makes me want to walk like a chicken. i can't explain it--it just does.

(yes, that is diandra holding a chicken! i thought this might be a good spot for a chicken picture, even though you can't see it walking. i guess you will have to imagine it!!)

and then two summers ago diandra and i took a road trip to portland to visit my parents. we took my new car, crammed every inch of trunk space full of stuff (well, it is kind of a small trunk, and we are girls so we had a lot of stuff,) and headed north on I-5. we talked, we laughed, we listened to my music--for the first twelve hours of the trip . . .

then we crossed the oregon border, and stopped at the talent, oregon wal-mart.

there is nothing special about this particular store. we actually pass several wal-marts on our way to portland, (not to mention that there is one just a couple of miles from our house,) but for some reason i always feel compelled to stop at this particular store. even if i don't need anything, i will usually stop. because you just never know . . .

(part of the appeal is probably the lack of sales tax. we have adjusted to the outrageous sales tax that we are forced to pay here in socal, but when you don't have to pay it, it is like everything is on sale! so we shop until we run out of money and feel perfectly justified in doing so, because we save so much money without the sales tax . . . yes, that is our story, and we are sticking to it!)

anyway, we went into walmart, and diandra bought a cd by a cute little blonde girl named taylor swift. and then she wanted to play it in the car. i don't live in a cave, so i knew this was country music--which i hate--so i wanted to say no. but i love my daughter, and she was in the midst of some pretty difficult circumstances. i wanted to see her smile, so i reluctantly said ok, we could listen to it. once.

and then a strange thing happened. i liked it. i really, really liked it. the words of the songs just seemed to resonate with both of us that summer, and before we reached portland (two days later, because we went to over to the coast first,) i was starting to sing along to some of the songs. even the ones that started out twangy.

we listened to that cd all the way to the oregon coast, all the way up the oregon coastline, back inland to portland, AND THEN all the way back down to LA!! yes, you read that right. we did not pull another cd out of a jewel case for the rest of the trip. we put the top down and sang at the top of our lungs. it was cathartic. for both of us. (i know i am not singing at the top of my lungs in this picture, but when we were singing, we weren't taking pictures. so this is the best i can do.)

i had to admit that even though i hated country music, i liked taylor swift. then i learned that i liked some rascal flatts and a little carrie underwood. and tonight, while watching american idol, i kind of think i might love shania twain. i'm not 100% certain yet though . . .

i am thinking maybe my debit card and i should wander over to itunes, listen to some shania, put a few songs in my shopping cart, and see what happens . . . ;)

Monday, April 26, 2010

lessons from my lunch

so today . . . i had lunch at chick-fil-a.

when i started working at my current job, the hours were somewhat negotiable. while i didn't get exactly what i wanted, they came pretty close. i chose to take just half an hour for lunch and go home half an hour earlier. most days it works for me--that is enough time for me to eat at school (or dash to 7-11 for brownies,) and i like getting home a bit earlier in the afternoon. but this year it was necessary for the school to make some adjustments which resulted in an hour long lunch for me on mondays and wednesdays. since i have a full hour, i like to go off site, and i seem to have settled on chick-fil-a as my destination of choice. there are other fast food places i could choose that are all within a couple of miles of my school, but i find myself going back to chick-fil-a most of the time.

today as i pointed my car in the direction of chick-fil-a, i started thinking about why i keep going back, monday after wednesday after monday. and as i thought about it, this is what i came up with:


10. it is close. although i have an hour, i don't want to spend any more time than i have to getting there (even though i am getting there in my cool car.) the longer it takes me to go back and forth, the less time i have to eat. and read.
9. they serve chicken. chicken is good for me, right?
8. they have cross-cut fries. ok, i know they are not good for me, but crispy cross-cut fries are hard to resist. and if i get them in a . . .
7. kid's meal, then i only get a few. also, a kid's meal comes with a toy. i can either put the toy in the treasure chest at school, OR . . .
6. trade it in for ice cream. well, actually they call it ice dream, and i am not exactly sure what it is made from--probably plastics--but it is pretty good. especially if i buy a brownie to put under it. yum!
5. they have self-serve ranch dressing (or any other dipping sauce you want!) the ranch dressing is right out there where i can get my own. as much as i want! no more asking for three ranch dressings and having the employee look at me like, "seriously?!?! three??? you are only getting four chicken nuggets, and you are asking for three ranch dressings?? are you stockpiling this stuff or what . . . "
4. their drinks come in styrofoam cups. i know it is bad for the environment, but styrofoam doesn't sweat like paper or plastic cups. and when i take my refilled soda back to my classroom, i find it helpful if it doesn't make a big puddle of water on my desk . . . and i recycle my cans and use reusable shopping bags most of the time, so i figure it all evens out.
3. they have huge windows and good lighting. this is important, because one of the things that makes my monday and wednesday lunch hours so great is the uninterrupted time to read. the only place that has better lighting is del taco on a really nice day, if i eat outside. but del taco does not have nine other great things about it--it only has maybe four.
2. the employees are helpful and cheerful. usually there is one employee roaming around the room cleaning tables or asking if they can go get a soda refill for you or if you want them to bring you anything (like another ranch dressing.) yeah, they do all this stuff and don't even expect a tip!

and the #1 reason i like to eat at chick-fil-a . . .

1. when i say thank you to an employee, any employee, they always respond with the words "my pleasure!" i like that. it is so much nicer than saying "you're welcome." "you're welcome" satisfies the conventions of politeness, but it sort of implies that they have done you a favor. when they respond with "my pleasure," it makes me feel like they were glad to help me--like they aren't just responding to my thank you, but that they loved being able to help me. and even though i know it is company policy, it always makes me feel good. and i think it makes a difference in everybody's attitude.

the other day when i was there, a new guy was working behind the cash register. when i thanked him and he responded with "my pleasure," i smiled and said, "that is my favorite thing about eating here. when i hear you guys say that, it always makes me smile." and so, he smiled and said it again. a little while later, he was the room-roaming employee checking up on people's drink refills and napkin needs. when he came to my table and asked if i needed anything, i said no, but thank you. he smiled and moved on. then he backed up, looked right at me, and said, "my pleasure." it made me laugh, because sometimes it does get a little ridiculous. i could have made him say that 47 times if i had wanted to.

but i do think the words we use can make a difference--not only in how others feel and respond to us, but also in how we feel and respond to others.

as a pre-school and kindergarten teacher, i have been asked to tie a tiny tot's shoelaces probably hundreds of times. or sharpen a pencil. or zip a jacket. and i used to just kind of do it on auto pilot--i didn't really mind helping them, but i also didn't give it much thought or attention. but now, after going to chick-fil-a and seeing how the words "my pleasure" can affect how i feel, i've decided to use different words when helping my students. now, when a child asks me for help, i try to respond with the words "i'd be delighted to . . . !" and i find that many times i am. it changes the attitude of the situation from "ok, let's get this done and move on to other things," to "here, let's spend a few minutes together doing this."

it seems like a small thing, but as i have said before, words are important and they make a difference. so feel free to use the words "my pleasure" or "i'd be delighted to" as often as you can, and see how it affects your world. i know it is making a difference in mine!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

new beginnings

so today . . . i've spent most of the afternoon beating myself up. i mean really, i am just so annoyed! i still cannot believe i have to pay all those overdraft charges . . .

one of the first things people have to figure out when they get married is how they are going to deal with their finances--who will pay the bills? who will decide what to buy? how will they make the whole thing work? for us these responsibilities have shifted more than a few times, but we have finally come up with a system that works pretty well. the reason it works pretty well is that rollie (the responsible saver) handles most of it, while i (the impulsive spender) get a set amount of money each month to spend. so coming up with an extra $140 at the end of the month presented me with a problem--it was not in my "budget." (and yes, i use the term loosely.)

then rollie said, "how much do you need? don't worry, i'll take care of it for you." which he didn't have to do. that is not how our system works! our system works because he takes good care of our money, while i spend mine! and yet, he was volunteering to cover my debt.

most of you will have no idea of how those words impacted me. you will think it isn't that big of a deal, but that's because you don't know our history . . . i haven't always made the smartest financial decisions. i am sometimes impulsive and short-sighted and lack self-control. and yet, every single time i find myself at the bottom of another hole i have dug for myself, rollie rescues me--without anger or guilt or frustration.

i don't know how he does it. i am selfish. he is not. i torment myself with the mistakes i have made. he does not. i say, "how can you not be angry with me about this?" and he says, "i don't know. i'm just not. everybody deserves a second chance." and i say, "but i've had more than two chances here." and he says, "not today! every day is a new beginning."

i know, he sounds like a saint.

but he isn't perfect--he gets irritated at other drivers, and at being asked "do you want the combo?" every time he orders a burger, and at people who can't make change, and if the tivo doesn't record a laker game. and yet for some unexplainable reason, he has this amazing capacity to forgive and forget and move on when it comes to me--even when i totalled the back end of his new car, or "organize" his stuff in such a way that he doesn't know where anything is, or find myself in need of cash. again.

and it is a good thing. because while i like to think that i am learning from my mistakes, i keep making new ones! and if he was keeping track . . .

let's just say that i am very glad every day is a new beginning :)

in the red!

so today . . . i am sad.

i was mad, but now i am sad.

my bank account is overdrawn. i made a mistake and it is costing me. i knew my funds were getting low--we are approaching the end of the month, after all--so on thursday afternoon i checked my balance before i went to do some errands. i was pleasantly surprised! it seemed that i had a bit more in the account than i thought. so after picking up a few things from the grocery store, i came home and downloaded a song from amazon, and got dinner from chick-fil-a. earlier in the day i had gone to 7-11 for brownies. i didn't spend that much, but i did complete four different transactions. the bank graciously deducted the largest one first, which resulted in four overdraft fees.

each one of those transactions has cost me an additional $35. each one! even the music download--yeah, i am now the owner of a $36 song. and it isn't even a song i love--it is a song i needed for band rehearsal!

i called the bank to try to convince them that it was ridiculous for me to have to pay all those fees. they agreed to cancel one of them, but i am still on the line for the other three. my only recourse is apparently to write to the home office, plead my case, and see what happens. which i'm sure will be nothing, but it guess i will do it anyway. in the mean time, i have to cover those charges by wednesday, or they will charge me another $35 for being overdrawn for more than five days. really. they can do that.

so i guess i will have to come up with $100 anyway, but now it won't be going to buy that beautiful, soft, leather handbag that i blogged about on thursday. instead it will be going to my greedy, sneaky bank.

i wonder if they will take a gift card . . .

Thursday, April 22, 2010

and so, the quest begins . . .

so today . . . the quest began for the perfect, yet not ridiculously expensive, handbag.

actually it started on wednesday, but i didn't realize it until today.

wednesday afternoon i was soooo tired! so i texted rollie--"i am sooooo tired. i think instead of coming home for such a short time, i will just go to the church and take a nap in your recliner until band rehearsal." (this was really just a courtesy text. rollie is never in his office at that time of day. and that chair has been calling to me . . . ) but he responded--"i'm sorry, but you can't nap there today. i am in my office in a meeting."

bummer. plan "a" was thwarted.

i didn't want to go home, because i only had an hour which wasn't enough time to accomplish much--it would just make me feel restless. i thought about getting ice cream, but i had eaten a big lunch and ice cream didn't sound all that good to me.

so i went shopping.

since i didn't have a lot of time, i thought it would be fun to go to marshall's and t.j.maxx to look at shoes and handbags. because i have been feeling like it might be time for a new handbag--it must be spring!

but i don't just want any handbag--i have requirements. it must have . . .
--only one handle, long enough to go over my shoulder. flat is preferable to rolled, but braided might be acceptable.
--outside pocket for my phone and keys. i find that i rarely open my bag. i guess i mostly carry stuff around that i never need. except for my phone and keys.
--soft, real-looking faux leather. unless i am lucky enough to find soft, real-looking real leather. but that is probably not going to happen, because . . .
--it must cost less than $50. less than $30 would be even better, but i am afraid that might be the impossible dream. and . . .
--i think i want a fun color rather than a safe color like black or brown. i am leaning toward turquoise or purple or maybe even yellow, but it has to be just the right shade of turquoise or purple or yellow.

to be clear, i don't really need a new handbag. but i have this gift card that i have been hoarding, and i think i might just part with it if i find the right bag. (and maybe i do need a new one, because there is this lady in my cell group who has this turquoise handbag. which i love. and while i am pretty sure i could out run her if i decided to snatch it, she might recognize it when she saw me carrying it on sundays. so i probably need a better plan . . . )

marshall's had several nice bags, but other than the michael kors bag (which was $250 ON SALE!!!) nothing really tempted me. i moved on to t.j. maxx. i was initially encouraged to see how many bags they had in the colors i was looking at, but either the shade was cheesy or the materials were cheap looking or it was too expensive--(they had a lot of michael kors bags, and i find that i am drawn to them. this is new information for my brain to ponder.)

and then i saw it--a beautiful lucky brand bag in the softest, butteriest leather. the moment i touched it, i was in love. i wanted it! but . . .
--it has two handles (although they are flat.)
--it is brown (although it isn't just any brown--it is a beautiful mahogany color) and . . .
--it is $99--yes, just a bit over my budget. (although, if you knew it's original price, you would recognize what a great deal it is!)

i immediately began trying to figure out how i could afford this beautiful bag. but i was out of time, so i reluctantly put the bag back and went to rehearsal.

today i have been thinking about that bag. and how soft it was. and how unusual and pretty the color was. and did i mention it's softness? but i was also thinking about spending that much money on a handbag. do i really want to be that person? a part of me says, YES OF COURSE! GO GET THE BAG BEFORE SOMEONE ELSE BUYS IT!! but another part of me says it is ridiculous to spend that much on a bag! but then the impulsive part of me says, IT WAS REAL LEATHER! YOU COULD CARRY IT UNTIL YOU DIE!! but then the more rational part of me says, yes, but do you really want to carry the same bag until you die? and then the instant gratification part of me says, YES! IF IT IS THAT SOFT AND BEAUTIFUL, YES YOU DO!!!

(have you noticed that only one part of my brain speaks in capital letters? and that the part i should probably listen to speaks in lower case letters? i'm sure this is significant . . . )

i can rationalize anything. if rationalization was an olympic sport (and it is just as much a sport as some of the things being considered, if you know what i mean . . . ) i would be the gold medalist. in fact, i might be the gold and silver and bronze medalist. i am good at it! but that isn't always a good thing. if i'm not careful, my wicked rationalization skills can get in the way of good decision making.

i went back to look at the nearly perfect handbag again tonight, because shopping at t.j. maxx isn't like going to the mall--there is only one of these bags. i can't just wait several days to decide if i want it. if i want it, i need to make a decision soon, or it will be gone. and while i love, love, love it, it isn't completely perfect.

so now i am on a quest for the perfect handbag. because the truth is, the lucky brand bag isn't it.

but that doesn't mean i don't want it--it just means that if i do get it, it won't be the last handbag i ever buy. it will however, be the last thing i buy for quite a while . . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

what's in a name?

so today . . . i was talking to kenneth. he is five. and he was telling me about his fish.

"i have three fish," he said. "a black one, a gold one, and a blue one."

"oh," i said. "what are their names." because, you know, just like the color of the car is the important thing about any vehicle, your pet's name is all i care about.

"well," he said, "the black one is named blackie, and the gold one is named goldie, and the blue one is named kevin."

blackie, goldie, and kevin?!?!?

names are important, even pet names (at least to me.) when rollie and i got our first dog, i thought she was never going to have a name. we just couldn't decide. and then one day i was driving to work and barry manilow's voice came out of my radio with the perfect name for her . . .

and oh my goodness, you should see what we went through choosing a name for our child! i was seriously afraid she was going to be sent home with a birth certificate that said "baby girl ******." (occasionally when i am blogging i think about security and how much information i put on the world wide web, and then i think maybe i should be more careful--thus asterisks instead of a last name. this time.) but the good thing was that after diandra was born, we were free to use all the other good names for our pets.

i tend to prefer people names for my pets--except for milo. i call him bubba. maybe because we let diandra name him, which meant i didn't have any input. i like to have input. (actually, i just like people to do what i want them to do, but sometimes it doesn't happen that way . . . ) diandra, however, apparently does not prefer people names for her pets--except for milo.

she has had these two turtles for a couple of months. she didn't know what to call them, so she posted them on her blog and let people make suggestions. as a result, i thought there were some very cute ideas for names. but she ended up choosing her own--they are named chicken and pig. yes, turtles named chicken and pig. pig eats all the food and is not above stealing. pig will even take food out of diandra's hand--so far without taking any of her hand with it! chicken is afraid--afraid of pig, afraid of diandra, afraid of anyone who walks into the office, and even a little bit afraid of the food, i think.

when ms. martha bought birds for her classroom, she let her students name them--she wanted the whole classroom pet thing to be a learning experience and choosing names was part of that experience. (ms. martha is young and idealistic--she will learn :-) so what names do those poor birds have to live with for the rest of their lives? flickie and ping. apparently they had just read the story about ping, although in the book ping is a duck. i'm not sure how they came up with the name flickie. martha even asked me, "how do we spell it?!?" yeah, because it isn't a real word! and sometimes they said flickie, but sometimes they said fleecky. this is why i do not let my students name the pets.

although, usually the kids do have input. i always let them suggest names, and then i choose one. the fish didn't get named right away, because he came into our classroom at a busy time. i guess i could have just named him fred or something, but i didn't have time to think about it. then one day megan said, "i'm going to call our fish scott." i was pretty sure his name was not going be scott. "well megan," i said, "i'm not sure that is the best name for him. what if we get a new student and his name is scott--wouldn't that be confusing? if i said it was time to feed scott, you wouldn't know if i was talking about the boy or the fish." she thought for a minute and then said, "ok, i'll just call him scott until he gets another name."

every day the kids would come up with choices, but nothing seemed just right--until the afternoon when they were just coming up with a bunch of goofy ideas. one of them would make a suggestion, and then they would all laugh. they were having a good time. and while i was aware of this going on, i wasn't really listening. until i heard the perfect name. i knew it was perfect, because it made me laugh.

so now he has a name. we call him sushi :-)

megan, however, still calls him scott.

Monday, April 19, 2010

kids are more aware than you might think . . .

so today . . . at dinner i was telling rollie and diandra about a blog i had read that made me laugh. it was written by a young woman who was raised in a household with very involved parents. very involved. and it made me laugh, because i could see a little bit of myself in her parents . . .

when diandra was growing up, we pretty much had to approve anything she was going to see or do or have. she missed more than one birthday party because of the planned activities. i wouldn't let her have barbies, or even play with them, until she was in the first grade. and even then i thought it was too early, but there were circumstances . . . and clothes shopping was no picnic either, because my ten year old was not going to dress like she was 16!

today at school one of my kindergarteners was talking about the movie 2012. she saw it over the weekend. 2012! it is about the end of the world, and california falls into the ocean! and in case you don't know, we live in california!! i'm too scared to go see it, but there i was, listening to a six year old tell me all about it.

i think sometimes parents are not aware of how much their small children are soaking up from the things they are exposed to. i think they think their children are too young to understand, and so what they see or hear doesn't matter. but it does. i see this most often when i hear my kids absentmindedly singing to themselves--some of they lyrics they sing are shocking!

one day i heard a little boy singing, "i wear sneakers, i wear tshirts . . . " over and over and over again. that was the only line he sang, but he sang it all morning. when it finally sank into my brain, i realized that it sounded like the warped lyrics of a taylor swift song. her lyrics are not obscene or objectionable, but after listening to her music (which i admit i like,) i think her target audience is probably young women--which this little boy obviously was not. so i said to him, "where did you learn that song?" and he replied, "in my dad's car." his dad's car?!?! i know his dad, and this does not seem like it would be his music of choice. but clearly this little boy had heard it often enough to get the melody right, and the lyrics were close enough that i recognized it. so now i picture him and his dad boppin' out to taylor swift songs on the way to school. and i admit it--i laugh. it is a pretty funny picture . . .

diandra says that she is glad we were careful about what was allowed into her developing brain. yeah, she says that NOW. i am pretty sure she didn't always appreciate it when she was growing up. but it warms my heart, as her mom, to hear her tell her teens that they need to be careful what movies they watch or what music they listen to, because all the stuff going into their heads has an effect on who they are and how they think about things. and even though her standards are a bit broader than the ones imposed on her when she was 15, she has been known to get up and walk out of a movie or refuse to watch a dvd if she thought the content was not going to be good.

i like that. it makes me proud that i was a somewhat restrictive parent. kids are sponges, and as the adults in their lives, we need to pay attention to what we are allowing them to soak up . . .

. . . even if it means saying no.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

ambushed at borders!

so today . . .  i bought a book.  i couldn't help myself.

i don't buy a lot of books any more.  i love to read, but i can't see spending money on books that i am only going to read once or twice, so i rarely buy adult fiction.  i do occasionally buy special interest books, and i have spent a lot of money over the years buying children's books.

i loooove children's books--i always have. i started buying children's books when i was student teaching.  then a few years later, i had a delightful little girl and i wanted her to love books too. any teacher will tell you that kids should have books of their own if you want them to love reading, and i wanted her to love reading as much as i do.  plus, i teach preschool, which also gave me a good excuse to buy books.

but my darling little daughter is all grown up now, and i don't know how many years of teaching i have left in me, and i already probably own hundreds of children's books. so i don't buy books too often anymore. instead i go to our awesome library.  and yet bookstores still draw me in . . .

tonight i was at the towne center to meet rollie for dinner.  he was delayed in getting there, so i wandered through borders, which has the good fortune to be right by rubio's!  and i had the good fortune to have a borders gift card in my wallet.  i wasn't really planning on buying anything, but i had some time to kill and i like to check out the sale racks, because you just never know what you will find.

today i walked into borders, looked at the sale rack, and saw this:

i was immediately drawn to this cute little frog, but i was just looking.  i didn't need any more books.  besides, if we have an earthquake, all my books will probably be crushed anyway.  so my brain was saying just walk away.  but my body is getting pretty good at ignoring my brain, so i picked it up.  i stuck my fingers into the eyeball tubes, and that is when the fun began . . .
every page has a variety of bugs in different locations, so as you read the book you get to swivel the eyes around to look at the bugs.

oh yes, this book was coming home with me!

apparently i am easily amused.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

they came to serve . . .

so today . . . we had a dinner/drama at our church. i think this is the third one i have been to, but there was something different this time.

you all know that if you are part of an organization (and especially if you are female, it seems,) eventually there will be some sort of fund-raising event, and you will be expected to participate. i am not a good participant. i don't bake, i don't make centerpieces, i am somewhat wimpy when it comes to setting up tables and chairs. and decorating?!?! i mean, i know it looks nice, but teams of people seem to spend a lot of hours decorating for an event that lasts for only two. and then all those lovely decorations have to be ripped down and disposed of--so yeah, i am not a big fan of decorating. i guess i could sit at the door and collect tickets and entrance fees, but that requires repeated social interaction (possibly with people i don't know,) and for some reason churches tend to not trust the pastor's wife with the money. i don't know why that is--you would think she would be one of the most trustworthy people in the group! i am sure they are just trying to protect her from other people's suspicions, but still . . .

so usually when we have these fund raising events at our church, i manage to squiggle out of any real responsibility. but i know that there are a lot of things that have to be done to create a successful event, and i really admire the people who have the skills to make it work. and yet, i always feel a little bit bad for them too, because they don't get to enjoy the event in the same way as the rest of us. but, if it weren't for the people who set up tables and chairs, and cook the food, and serve the food, and clean everything up, there would be no events.

enter a small church from somewhere north of us . . . (now i am feeling bad, because i did not bring a program home which would have had all the important information on it--like the name of the church or where exactly they are from--that i am now trying to dig out of my brain. and somebody spent time making those programs too!) there are about 40 people in this church, and they want to impact their world in a positive way. as they talked about it, it became clear that they didn't seem to have the resources or skills to be able to make much of a difference.

and then they came up with an idea.

they decided to serve. and not as a way to make money, but just as a way to bless somebody else. today we were the lucky recipients of their service. they arrived at our church and set up the gym with tables and chairs, they cooked a tasty meal, they came dressed in their white shirts and black pants to serve us, and when it was all over, they took care of the clean up. all so we didn't have to.

and while this didn't make a huge difference to me (because as i said, i am not all that much help at these events anyway,) it allowed donna and dorothy and tom and faith and dick and mike and shari and several others to just come and enjoy the entertainment without having to spend time in the kitchen cooking for everyone. and it allowed the teens to be part of the drama or just to come and enjoy the show without having to wear their white shirts and black pants and spend two hours serving the food. and it allowed ernie and his crew not to have to spend a lot of time after it was all over cleaning up.

and they did it for free. just because they want to love and serve others. just like Jesus did.

there were tip jars on the tables, and i noticed that people were pretty generous with the tipping. and i thought, "that's nice--at least they will make a little bit of money." and then diandra said that they use the tip money to take the kids out for ice cream when they are all cleaned up and headed for home.

i think that is nice. i think it is good that they involve everyone in their ministry--even the kids. we have to teach our children to help others, and there is no better way to do that than by involving them as we help others. our world would be a much better place if we all had the attitude of serving and helping other people, like this group did tonight, instead of just looking out for ourselves.

and if you can have a little bit of ice cream every once in a while, even better!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

what? you can mail income tax forms before april 15th?!?

so today . . . is tax day, which means (drum roll please . . . ) it is time for a story . . .

filling out the tax forms has always been my job. it started out simple enough--poor college students, 1040EZ form, 10 minutes to fill it out--so there was never any real hurry. in our early married years, we usually got back some of what we had paid, because we hardly got paid anything! you would think the possibility of money we had already earned being returned to us would be quite an incentive to file those taxes early. but, being the world-class procrastinator that i am, the ease of filling out such a short form negated the result of a check in the mail, resulting in me filling out the form at 4:00 p.m. on april 15th and then dropping it off at the post office. mission accomplished. no laws broken.

we got older. we made slightly more money, because we both had jobs. we still didn't have enough deductions to itemize, being young and healthy, but we did graduate to form 1040A. since rollie is a pastor, the government considers him self-employed (which is pretty hysterical if you have any idea about his job,) so we have to pay self-employment tax--which gave me four times a year to play beat the clock with the post office when mailing his quarterly taxes.

we got older. our lives got more complicated. we graduated to form 1040. many years, instead of getting money back, our tax forms showed that we owed the government even more of our hard earned dollars. and of course i wasn't going to give it to them a moment earlier than i had to, so i still did the tax forms on april 15th, wrote the check, and raced to the post office, making sure to drop it off before the overtime staff went home at midnight. these were not fun times. i would look at the clock at 11:15 p.m. and think, "there is NO WAY i am going to get this finished and at the post office by midnight. no way." and yet, i always did. and then i would vow to start earlier the next year. which i never did.

and then we moved to california.

the first year we lived here, i didn't have a job, so i had plenty of time to get the tax forms done early. but of course i didn't. by now it was a sort of nightmarish tradition that just wouldn't die. i would think about doing them earlier, but it just never seemed to happen. so there i was, on april 15th, 2002, working on the taxes as i watched the minutes tick by. i finished up about 11:00 p.m. and since the post office is only about two minutes from our house, i was feeling pretty proud of myself! those forms were going to be sitting in that post office, and i would be back home in bed well before midnight. i thought.

i got in the car and drove to the post office. oddly enough, the small parking lot only had a few cars in it. i drove up to the drive through mailbox, but there was no special sign on it proclaiming that there would be a mail pick up at midnight. hmmm. i almost dropped it in anyway, but i decided it wasn't worth the risk. so i parked the car and went inside--only to see about half a dozen people wandering about in a zombie-like state. i soon realized that there were no employees working overtime at this post office. this post office was done dealing with mail for the day. it was closed.


i was toast.

it was now 11:15 p.m. on april 15th, and my tax forms were still in my hand and the post office was officially closed. this couldn't be happening to me! i didn't have time to walk around like a zombie, so i dashed back outside and started looking for notices. i finally found a piece of paper with a very short list of post offices that would be open until midnight.

there were three. and i only knew where one of them was. and i had to drive all the way to long beach to get there.

fortunately i had been at that post office once before and kind of knew where to go, because this was before everyone had a gps in their cellphone. i jumped into my car, slammed the door shut, and sped (yes i said sped) to the freeway. i checked the time, and noticed that my gas light was on. but i didn't have time to stop for gas. i started doing the math in my head, "let's see, the light just came on, so i can still drive about 60 miles, i think--i'll get gas on the way home AFTER my tax forms are safely delivered." because the clock was ticking.

11:40 p.m.--i could see the long beach post office. it, of course, was on the opposite side of the street from me and there were an awful lot of cars on that long stretch of road. there were traffic cones and uniformed officers directing traffic--apparently i was not the only one on the southeast side of los angeles trying to mail my tax forms before midnight. i approached the cross street, drove between two rows of orange traffic cones, and waited for someone to let me cross traffic so i could get turned around the right way to enter the post office parking lot. i saw a traffic officer running my way yelling and waving his arms. yes, i thought, come over here and make these people stop so i can get across. otherwise we are going to have a traffic jam!

to my surprise, he came to my window. "ma'am," he said, "what are you doing?!?!?!" so i explained that it was almost midnight and i had to get my income tax forms in the mail, but there were all these cars out tonight and no one would let me go across so i could turn around . . . and then he said, "why do you think all these cars are out here? they are ALL here to mail their tax forms!!"

you have got to be kidding me! i was stunned. i had never seen such a line of traffic in my life! (of course, i hadn't been on the 405 during rush hour yet!) "and didn't you see the orange cones?" he continued. "you can't turn here. it will create a traffic jam." oh. i thought the orange cones were there to mark where to turn, not to keep me from turning. as i was saying this to the officer, he looked at me like "what planet are you from?" so i did the only thing i could think of to do. i played the out-of-state helpless female card.

"i'm so sorry!" i said, because when a police officer is leaning in your open car window, that is probably a good way to start. "we just moved here from oregon," (ten months ago, but i think anything less than a year counts as 'just'.) "and in oregon the post offices stay open until midnight on april 15th and i live in cerritos but the post office there is closed and this is the only post office i knew how to get to and my husband is already in bed alseep and i had to drive on the freeway to get here in the dark and i thought the traffic cones were marking where i was supposed to turn and if i have to get in that long line not only will i probably hit something when i back up, but i will also probably run out of gas before i get to the post office because my gas light came on 20 minutes ago and then people will get mad and honk their horns at me . . . " and then i looked like i might cry. actually, i felt like i might cry--and it probably didn't hurt to have tears threatening at just that moment . . .

he should have made me get back on the road and drive clear to the end of the seemingly endless line and wait my turn. but he didn't. he let me cut the line. i think he just wanted to to be done with me--and preferably before those threatening tears erupted or a traffic accident occurred. i thanked him profusely and promised that this would be my last midnight run to the post office on april 15th.

and i've kept that promise. the following year we hired carol at h&r block to do our taxes, and she always calls us well before april 15th to get us started. rollie meets with her, they fill out the forms, and all i have to do is sign my name.

carol mails them. early.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

if it doesn't kill you . . .

so today . . . i learned more about pink eye than i ever wanted to know, took a three hour nap, and watched some tv. riveting, i know.

i really thought this pink eye thing would be over in a day or two, especially since i went to the doctor and got magic eye drops. but apparently the magic drops are ineffective for the type of pink eye that i am experiencing. and i am really experiencing it!

i can't go back to school yet, even though the doctor said i wasn't contagious, because our director wants to be SURE i am not contagious. and it is probably a good thing, because i am not sure i can see well enough to drive safely to work. i'll spare you the gory details, but i can't really see well enough to do much of anything . . .

i am thinking someone should be doing some research about how to deal with all of this non-bacterial stuff, because when i am sick, the words i dread hearing the most are, "i think it's viral . . . " that's doctor code for "i know you are sick, but there is pretty much nothing i can do to help you." this is not what i want to hear from my doctor. i want my doctor to say, "yes! i have the perfect treatment for you. you will feel much better in 10 minutes." but that never happens.

i've heard it said that anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger. that is a nice thought, but i am not convinced it is universally true. the sinus infections haven't killed me. the pneumonia didn't kill me. this pink eye isn't going to kill me. but i'm sure not feeling any stronger . . .

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

who knows . . .

so today . . . i have been thinking earthquakey thoughts.

a couple of weeks ago we had an earthquake, and our plan was to sort of earthquake-proof the house over the weekend. but we didn't. because, you know, stuff happens and we got sidetracked (and went to the movies.)

but we live in earthquake territory, so it is probably a good idea to be prepared. and yet it isn't realistic to just pack up everything because, you know, we LIVE here. but there seems to be some growing support for the idea that "the big one" is probably on it's way. and so it seems reasonable to me to do what i can to protect the things that are important to me. just in case.

i was home today, because i have pink eye. my morning did not get off to a good start--i couldn't open my eyes! i had to grope my way to the bathroom sink to unstick them. and on the way, it became very clear to me that i also had a killer headache. so i took some tylenol, put antibiotic drops in my eyes, and went back to bed. and started thinking about, "what if there was an earthquake today?"

really. what if there was an earthquake today? what would i want to save? my initial answer was easy--i thought of three things. the more i thought about it, the more i thought that maybe i should do what i could to make those items safe. so i did. but then as i looked around, i thought, "but what about the big round mirror? and the signed print? and the stained glass we got in mexico for our 25th anniversary?" it was pretty easy to take care of those things, so i did. then i thought, "would i need clothes? skin care products? and what about that kind of expensive hand lotion i just got--i would hate to lose that in the rubble. and maybe i should pack a toothbrush--just in case." so i put a few things in a small bag and put it by my bed. just in case.

and then i made a small stack of books to put into a drawer. and i moved the dolls my mom made for diandra into my dad's old sea chest, hoping that would be enough protection for them. i put some water bottles and the dog's leashes into the car, along with my external hard drive. then i went into the kitchen . . .

. . . and i just stood there. i have a lot of dishes and glassware. and many times dishes and glassware are the first casualties of an earthquake. but as i stood there in the kitchen at 10:30 p.m. tonight, i realized that i couldn't save it all. i walked around the house and realized that if there is an earthquake tonight, our tvs will be smashed on the floor. our framed photographs will lie in puddles of broken glass. my wedding china and christmas dishes will be history. my coke bottles from other countries will be intermingled with glass from broken windows. all those clothes that i have so carefully been organizing will probably be ripped and ruined. and even the few things that i boxed up and put into relative safety might not survive in one piece.

i have found that my thinking has shifted several times today. it has been kind of unsettling. i need to go to bed, but it seems like i'm not ready yet. because really, what if there is an earthquake? tonight?

maybe i should vacuum . . .

Monday, April 12, 2010

killer germs strike again!

so today . . . you are not going to believe this . . .

i have conjunctivitis--more commonly known as pink eye. yep. i told you my school kids are trying to kill me with germs. and they are proving to be quite successful at it.

this is the first time i have experienced pink eye for myself--and i hope it is the last time! i am miserable.

it started last night. my left eye was a little scratchy and pinkish, but i thought maybe it had just been irritated by something and would be fine by morning. and yet, the specter of pink eye was in the back of my mind, because we have been battling it at school--although not in my classroom. so i called ms. martha--she is the pink eye expert. (i'm not really sure why she is the expert, but maybe it is because most of the affected kids are in her class.)

ms. martha told me what to look for, and in return i told her that she might have to get through today at school without me because i might have pink eye. and then went to bed, hoping against hope that my eyes would be fine when i woke up.

they weren't. and yet, i still wasn't sure--maybe i was just in denial. so i took a picture of my eye--a really close-up picture--and sent it to martha. "does this look like pink eye to you?" i texted. she didn't immediately respond, so i called. because i had to decide what to do, and the clock was ticking . . . she said that yes, it did look like pink eye to her.

(i could post the picture here, because we took it with my phone so it would be easy to post. but it looked kind of scary. and i don't want you to have nightmares about the "monster eye" . . . )

i hung up and called in sick. then i called to make a doctor appointment. then i went back to bed.

i tried to sleep, but my eyes were so uncomfortable. and yes, i said eyes, because now my other eye was starting to itch too. i finally gave up and got up. and waited to go to the doctor. but i couldn't read, which meant no books, no texting, no computer. the time moved very slowly . . .

my doctor confirmed that i did have conjunctivitis, wrote me a prescription for eye drops and sent my on my way. the eye drops are supposed to clear the pink eye up, but they are not making my eyes feel any better yet--i am still miserable and will have to stay home from school for at least one more day.

i am just a little bit afraid to see what germs attack me next . . .

Sunday, April 11, 2010

out with the old? not just yet . . .

so today . . .  you may notice that my blog still looks the same--or nearly the same.

i didn't blog this weekend so that i could spend some time freshening up the look of my blog.  i played around with different colors and patterns, but i found that i felt some attachment to the original look.  and as i started making changes, i realized that every change was being applied to all 400 previously written blogs!  so i had a problem.  my solution (according to one website) was to save the "code" of the original blog.  then i could always recreate that vintage look.  (yes, i said vintage.  because if i blog for the next 20 years, these early blogs will be "vintage.")  great! i thought.  so i saved the code, and then spent a couple of hours playing around with colors and backgrounds and layouts.  i found a look i kind of liked and hit the button that said "apply to blog."  and then i remembered . . .

before i hit that button, i was going to print out one of the old blogs, just so i would have a hard copy to remind me of where i started.  but i hadn't done it.  and now the blog looked very, very different.  ok, don't panic, i thought.  i will just use that "code" i so carefully downloaded, restore the original look, print a page, and then continue with my blog renovation.  which sounded like a really good idea.  except i couldn't find the code.  anywhere.

at this point, a normal person would probably just say, "oh well," and finish up the renovation.  but not me.  oh no, not me.  my brain needs everything to be perfectly ordered, and if i couldn't document the way my blog has looked for the last year, i was probably going to develop some sort of facial tic.  so i raced back to my blog and tried to remember how i had achieved that classic dark blue look.

the dark blue background turned out to be the easy part.  i couldn't remember what color anything else had been--i only knew i used bright colors.  so i started playing around, but nothing looked just right.  i did this for a couple of hours (don't worry--i was also doing laundry.)  i finally stopped and thought, "julie!  get a grip!!  it doesn't matter if the letters are light pink or light blue or medium green!"  but it did matter.  i thought about calling my mom.  she reads my blog every day and has a sort of photographic memory, but it was getting late . . .

i finally achieved a look that was pretty close, i think, to what it had been, and hit "print."  eleven pages later, i looked at what had printed, only to see black print on white paper.  yeah, apparently it only prints the text, not all the creative background and layout.  and it took eleven pages, because it didn't just print the blog--it also printed everything in the right-side column.  and have you seen how many labels i have used?!?!?

so now i am stuck.  i want to give my blog a face lift, but i also want to document the blog's current look before i move on.  if any of you computer people out there have an idea of how this could be done, i would really like to know.  because i found some cool backgrounds i could use . . .

Friday, April 9, 2010

under construction

so today . . . i am revamping the look of my blog.

i started my blog on an impulse. i was on vacation. i was obsessing about getting business cards but having nothing to write on them, so my solution was to write a blog. technically it was diandra's idea, and she helped me get it set up. i spent a long time playing with combinations of colors until i liked the way it looked. then diandra made the banner for me in about five minutes--with a picture! i was stunned! but i was so glad for her help or i might still be sitting there trying to figure out how to put a picture on it and which picture to use. when we were finished, i really liked how it turned out. and every day when i went to my blog, it made me feel happy.

then several months later, diandra had her blog updated. she added a new background and banner, and the design of all the elements were coordinated. she had new pictures taken, and it even showed her name at the end of each post, like she had signed it. i thought it looked so cool! i decided my blog needed a change too, so i planned to do it for my blog's one year anniversary--which, as luck would have it, happened to come right in the middle of my battle with pneumonia. i just didn't have the energy to play with my blog, so christmas came and went and nothing changed.

then it was my birthday, and diandra said that for my gift, she was going to pay a designer to redo my blog! all i had to do was decide how i wanted it to look . . .

yay, i thought! finally my blog would get a new look. because as much as i liked the original design, i was starting to long for something a little snazzier. i started looking at blog designs online and there were so many choices! i kind of had an idea of the colors i wanted to use, but i couldn't find just the right combination. i looked and looked, but i just couldn't make a decision. as you know, decision-making isn't my strong suit . . .

and then this week i got an email from blogger explaining some updates that would make it easy to update and change the blog design. i started playing with it, and was again faced with so many choices! but i am figuring it out, and i'm going to spend some time this weekend playing with it. which means i will probably not be writing any new blogs for the next couple of days. however, the look of the blog may change several times.

because i think it is time for a change. i have, after all, written 400 blogs :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

400 and counting . . .

so today . . . here i am, writing my 400th blog.

i've kind of put off writing this blog--you may have noticed it has been a few days since i last posted--because it is a milestone, and i wanted it to be extra great. so i kept waiting and watching for something awesome to happen that could be featured as "my 400th blog!"

but nothing awesome happened.

why is it that anytime a number ends in a zero or a five, it suddenly takes on an added significance. and if it is double zeros? major added significance! i didn't toil over blog #389 or blog #214--well, anymore than i usually do--but for some reason i feel that blog #400 should be extra wonderful. so all week i have been on alert for an extra wonderful story to tell.

but nothing extra wonderful has happened.

i slogged through my days at work, blowing my nose every 15 minutes, and asking my kids, "are you making good choices?"every two minutes--at least, it seemed like it was every two minutes. i came home and took naps, woke up to eat dinner and maintain my fb games (because even in sickness, crops and pets must be tended to,) and then went to bed--only to do it all again the next day. and the next day. and the day after that.

i didn't see diandra, so there were no contributions there. my school kids probably said some funny stuff, but i can't remember any of it. rollie fed me and listened to me whine, but was smart enough not to add anything to the mix.

so here i am, ready to write blog #400, and my brain is empty of awesomeness . . .

. . . and yet, i have written 400 blogs. i think that is quite an accomplishment! i've written on good days and bad days. i've written from home and from out of town. i've written during the heat of summer and the cold of winter (ok, i know it is california so we are only talking about a difference of 10 or 15 degrees, but still . . . ) i've thrown everyone in my family under the bus for the sake of a laugh--even the dogs. i've stayed up later than i should on school nights and occasionally ignored the vacuuming (yes, sometimes sacrifices had to be made.) some days i have looked at my blank computer screen eagerly, and some days i have looked at it blankly, but the result has been 399 blogs. most of them have been funny, a few have been a little more contemplative, but i think some of them have been awesome!

unfortunately, the awesome ones just didn't happen to be blog #400 . . . :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

a day of discussions . . .

so today . . . was an exciting day at school. we talked about earthquakes, rain, and new glasses.

yesterday we had an earthquake. well, technically WE didn't have an earthquake. the earthquake was in mexicali, mexico, but we felt it here. it was a very strange feeling. i have been so excited to actually feel an earthquake, and yesterday i did. and then i promptly forgot about it.

this morning i had other issues on my mind, until the first little dumpling came into my room. he was so excited to tell me all about the "earfquake." this pattern repeated itself all morning, which led to a discussion about what to do if we have an earthquake at school.

midway through the morning, we were interrupted by the sound of rain on our windows. this is not small feat, since we are in a basement and our windows are at ground level. it was raining hard! and since we rarely have rain like that during the day, it was distracting. but i knew that it was supposed to clear up by late morning, so that led to a discussion about rainbows. we watched for a rainbow all morning, but with our small, ground level windows we didn't get to see one . . .

and then . . . new glasses came to school today on the face of one of my little boys. he came in so non-challantly, like "yeah, i'm wearing glasses, and now i am even more cool than i was before!" and yet, i could see a little bit of hesitation too, like "are they going to buy it? will they think i am cool? or just dorky?" so to diffuse the situation, we talked about it. i told him how cool i thought they looked and asked if he could see better when wearing them. he tilted his head to the side, thought for a moment, and then said, "no, everything looks smaller!" it was funny to watch him adjusting to them. he was having some problems, because he is korean and the bridge of his nose hasn't developed much yet, so trying to keep his glasses up on his nose was a challenge! they kept sliding down to the end of his nose, but he didn't really know what to do about it, so he would look out over the top of them. until he remembered that he was supposed to be looking through them, and then he would tip his head way back so he could see through the lenses. it was hilarious!

and that about sums up my day--pretty low key and uneventful. but you know, sometimes low key and uneventful is preferable to stressful and full of drama.

goodness knows i've had plenty of those days lately . . .

Sunday, April 4, 2010

random thoughts from a sudafed-addled mind

so today . . . i realized i hadn't blogged in a few days and decided i had better write something!

i've had the whole sinus thing going on again, as you may have figured out after reading about my adventure at the pharmacy on wednesday. and when i am sick, i don't really go anywhere or do anything, so blogging is a challenge. i could write about the stuff going on in my head, but i don't want to alarm you . . .

but i also don't want you to stop reading my blog, so the pressure is on to write something! i don't have a hilarious escapade to tell you about--escapades only happen when i am out of the house--so i am just going to share some random thoughts about the last couple of days.

*why do i feel the need for a new dress on easter? easter is not about what i am wearing, and yet, it doesn't feel like easter unless i am wearing a new dress. i don't remember if i always had a new dress for easter when i was growing up, but i remember that brand new bright, white patent leather shoes showed up in my easter basket more than once.

*what possesses people to wait until sunday night to go to target to do their easter basket shopping? i mean really, if you are going to wait until easter eve, don't expect to be able to get any cadbury eggs . . . (i know, because i tried!)

*if you find an expensive piece of electronic equipment made by apple on a movie theater bathroom floor, wouldn't you be honest and return it? because if you keep it, it is stealing--especially when it displays an "if found" message when you turn it on . . .

*nasal irrigation does help--sometimes just not enough.

*we had an earthquake today, and i was awake and able to experience it. it sort of felt like vertigo, only it lasted a couple of minutes. it felt like the earth was just sort of shimmying, not quaking. i guess i am not the earthquake repellent that i thought i was. sigh.

*when diandra got up this morning, she came into my room and said, "well, i guess pigs are flying somewhere." what? then she continued, "you bought me navy nail polish." yes, i have not been a fan of those really dark colors, but they are starting to grow on me . . . and target was out of cadbury eggs, so i had to get something for her easter basket.

*i got to hear rollie play the bass guitar in church this morning. since he is the pastor, he is in "big boy church" every sunday, but i am always in the alternative service. so i don't get to hear him very often, but today i did. and he sounded awesome!

it is now past 9:30 and i need to go to bed. i know this is early, but remember, my sinuses are trying to kill me and i need to go to work in the morning. in order to overcome my evil sinuses, i must battle them with nasal rinses, contraband sudafed, and sleep. and in order to complete this trifecta of mucous annihilation, i must go to bed. right now.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

just a joke? really? then why am i not laughing??

so today . . . is the worst holiday ever. i don't know whose bright idea it was to make up a holiday where the way you celebrated was by lying to other people . . .

i've been trolling facebook today, and i haven't found anyone yet who was the victim of an april fool's joke and enjoyed it. the tricksters sometimes find themselves hilarious, but the victims report feeling anger, sadness, fear, and worst of all . . . momentary joy (until their unexpected happiness is squashed when they learn "it was all just a joke.")

i have played more than one prank in my life--i know this is shocking to all of you except wendy, who has been my victim on occasion--so i'm not against playing jokes. i'm just against playing MEAN jokes. and that seems to be what april fool's jokes have become . . .

it makes me sad.