Sunday, August 24, 2008

lessons from mom

The only time I saw glee on my mother's face was in a department store, and it only happened once. My sister and I sat witness at Bloomingdales, or Saks, or Macys, who knows, on a little fake suede couch and watched with disbelief our repressed and infinitely dissatisfied mother do a little happy dance.

She was buying a new wardrobe to attend a class reunion. Why she couldn't just wear any of the hundred and fifty articles of fine linens, wools and silks in her closet was beyond my limited scope of understanding. New. It had to be new.

So, sis and I sat on a fru-fru couch in a chi-chi section of some overpriced, overly self-impressed fine clothing section observing our mother's spending spree. For some reason I can remember the cream pants and red blazer pantsuit, and if I were British, I would call the outfit "smart." But those weren't the clothes that brought on the shuffle of delight.

It was a little black number. Shiny, frilly, and showing some leg, but in a maturely demure manner. Something maybe Diane Keaton would wear to a benefit dinner. Mom modeled for us. Yup, that was the one. She looked at the tag and giggled (my mom does not giggle) and went into the Ginger Rogers routine. Sis and I were glad to be sitting on the little poufy couch, otherwise we would've been hurtling to the floor.

Why was she looking at the tag? I thought maybe the dress was on sale. Or, maybe it was overpriced. Who knows what would send her into such an unnaturally joyful state?

Turns out the dress was a size 4. A size 4.

Size matters is the lesson I learned from my mother who sent me to Weight Watchers when I was in the sixth grade. I have never been a size 4. I will never be a size 4. But, even with all my little grey cells in motion and the calm of my loving family, the Lord, and the fact I might actually and astonishly like myself, I have this nagging little voice in my head that tells me size matters.

Now, how to get rid of it?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

training by the numbers

Just got back from a week away in Charlotte. Glad to be home. Glad to hug my fam three.

If I had to assign numbers to the week for the class:

38 hotel breakfasts, 38 hotel appetizer "dinners" consumed

Approx. 140 beers and 20 glasses of wine slurped

3 stories told that ended with the class in tears (everyone!)

12 tanks of gas burned

and $36.00 worth of mini-Hersheys devoured.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I'm training with the American Red Cross in Charlotte this week. Observations...

People with positive attitudes can change the world.

A sad story can send you to your room to sob.

Sitting by the pool in the sun while talking with altruistic peeps is an awesome way to spend lunch or dinner.

Listening to your hubby and kids on the phone is like having the world's best chocolate poured into your ear canal.

Hubby is doing an awesome job at home and is handling some tough situations with fortitude and flair.

My job is not a job, it's a privilege.

Single mothers are saints.

After pooh-poohing them during the opening ceremonies, I've become addicted to watching the Olympics.

Hotel soap always smells better than mine at home. We're talking "white ginger"--don't know, don't care, I just want to hit the tub again.

I promised myself I wouldn't eat any of the mini chocolates from the dish at our table in the training room, but I think, "yeah, riiight," as I pop another Hershey's.

I did work out, but only because a TV is hooked up to the eliptical and I can watch Fox News, but only while I rant and sweat.

Free beer is good. Free beer that comes in pints is good. Free beer that comes in carafes is dangerous. Free beer that doesn't end is deadly.

The young ones head to the hot tub. The old ones head upstairs.

(No need to guess where I am.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

more about shoes

Walking in another's shoes seems to be the theme of the last coupla weeks.

So, I thought, why don't I begin a period of time (a day, a week perhaps) where I keep that thought at the forefront of my mind and vow to live each human encounter from another's perspective?

A friend and I had talked about this.  We both had read an article about a book that teaches how to do this very thing.  A major issue for her, as she always leaps to the conclusion that someone's bad day is targeted directly at her.  To her defense, people can treat her differently, as she comes on way stronger than she realizes--which can work to her benefit, too, when she wants to be the savior or center of attention.  The coming on strong issue is parallel for me: sometimes I just don't know how powerfully I present myself in verbiage, intonation, and volume--and I also, can use it to my advantage when I want the group to go a certain way.

But back to shoes: understanding that someone's bad day is not a personal attack, or that someone's lack of diplomatic skills doesn't mean they're siding with the enemy is critical to human interaction.  A squinting glare may be a sign she holds you in contempt, or a projection of that morning's fight with her spouse, or maybe she just forgot her glasses at home.  We, as humans, tend to take things, well, rather personally.  We make all sorts of assumptions when we walk blindly into contact.  We project all kinds of past experiences, hurts and triumphs onto others.  

Which means we can wrongly downgrade or even elevate someone's behavior beyond their intent.  A touch on the shoulders while staring into one's eyes and asking "how're you?" can feel more intimate than intended to a person who's needful or lacking self-esteem.  And this a major reason why people in positions of counseling, teaching or ministering to others need to be careful.  Oftentimes their subjects will be emotionally immature or broken and can mistake actions or words differently than planned.  Human interaction is delicate.

Until about 3 pm yesterday, I'm thinking this a good thing to do, see the world from another's perspective.  Then I'm faced with a "traffic gesture" in response to my accidentally turning up a one way street in Raleigh.  Okay, not the most shining moment of my driving career, but I managed to keep a cool head with four lanes of cars speeding toward me, and I actually calmly accelerated toward them because I knew I had to proceed another 500 feet forward to duck into a parking lot.  (God's work.)  

So, I'm conflicted with the shoes of my brother living.  The "hand movement" guy was also the guy who alerted me to the fact that I'm headed the wrong way.  I'm thinking, thanks, buddy, for flashing your lights.  You're a big help.  And, in the next instant I'm thinking, hey, I made a mistake, and I got out of it without messing anyone's day, why give me the "signal?"

Humans are complex, and encounters with them are complex to the power of 100.  In the old days I would run away, hide and stay out of intimacy's way.  That's not a way to live for God's creatures.  We all need and crave human interaction, that's why the worst punishment is solitary confinement.  That's why churches have small groups, so no one gets lost in the congregation.  You are known, you are loved, you are safe.  It's not always easy or trial-free, but you can be authentic in your group.  You can have human interaction and regardless of what happens, you know you'll be okay.  God takes care of it.

Which leads me back to the shoes.  And, I think this will be ongoing...       

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fear and Shoes

Thoughts on fear...

Many years ago we were in Switzerland visiting the other half of the fam.  We were in a gondola with my dad's cousins and I was freaking out.  Okay, not so onlookers were concerned, but my party knew I was "not right."  The rush of relief upon stepping once again on terra firma was like stepping into the presence of God.  

I have major panic-attack fear of heights.  Airplanes, cliffs, even ski lifts.  My fear does not stop me often, but sometimes it's just too overwhelming.  I've traversed the world in aircraft, swooshed the best slopes in the Rockies and Quebec, lived, worked and dined in skyscrapers, and even rode a camel down a slippery sand dune to the riverbed of the Nile.  However, I stayed in the lobby while others visited the top of the Empire State Building, canceled a plane trip to visit an old friend for a girl's weekend, and walked down the edge of the Grand Canyon rather than trust a donkey's footing (hoofing?).  I make it through obstacles most of the time, but not all of the time...

So, we're lunching atop a Swiss alp and dad's cousins are poking fun at my fear of heights.  As expert mountain climbers who pick (quite illegally) edelweiss, my gondola reaction is inconceivable to them.  Then, the subject turns to their upcoming trip to the States.  What will they see, do, explore?  Dad recommends rafting down the Colorado River.  

"Nein, nein!" screams Hildegarde. 
"Whaat?" we exclaim, thinking dad's botched his Deutsch.

The meaning was clear, just seems Hildegarde is deathly afraid of water.   

Oh, my dad asks in perfect German, like Cat is afraid of heights?

Aha!  Beyond overcoming a language barrier, we have now navigated adeptly into the realm of walking in another's shoes.

As a new vampire for the Red Cross, I've come to realize that people actually have a problem with needles and blood.  It never enters my mind personally.  I don't even think about it.  Others are not so blase.  To them, needles or blood are HUGE issues.  

A friend emailed me and wished me congratulations on my job, but he said, "you may not have my blood." 

I offered to hold his hand and everything--we at the Red Cross are full service employees.  Yet the answer was still, "nein."

I inquired as to why and he replied that he has an "unexplainable, undesired, uncontrolled psychological response" to needle sticks.  Whoa.  

When I put myself in his shoes, thinking what it would be like to have to hop on a chopper to give a pint of blood, the understanding literally pulsed through my veins.  Putting your fear in place of someone else's fear gives you close perspective to their pain.

I vow never to push anyone to give blood.  But, if you can, we need it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

switching roles

So, you already know that Hubby is stay-at-home dad this summer and I'm bringin' home the bacon.

It's been the greatest gift to our marriage and our children.

While I've spent the last 7 years at home with the kiddoes, he's been uber-business man. Now, over temper tantrums, Kung Fu fighting, and soggy PB&J's, he's getting to know our kids intimately and vice versa. Tremendous opportunity for all three.

Hubby and my switching of the shoes has been eye-opening. Our marriage was super before--best friends, partners, parents, lovers, yadda, yadda--and now it's leapt to a whole new level. We have firsthand experience of each other's roles and a newfound respect for the challenges and benefits to each.

He now fully understands that three hours of day camp is really just one errand or a shower, and you have to choose. I know that coming home from work means coming home. I have to turn off the work switch in the driveway before walking through the door.

We are having a rare chance to live each other's lives and it's been incredibly enriching.

We've learned alot...I know why it's difficult to plan an early exit when you have reports due and your boss is asking for a concall at 4:30. He knows why you never, ever, under penalty of death offer dessert until you've checked first to see if you have it. I understand fully the morning longing for bed when the kids have crawled in, but my alarm has harshly told me it's time for a shower, so I must stumble sadly to the bathroom leaving behind three sleeping, warm lumps. Hubby grasps the blissful concept of kid-free grocery shopping, and has learned that active kids need activities.

Mostly, I learned too quickly to get used to a quiet car. He's learned that maybe he can relax.

We'll need to learn more. But for now, it's fun to wear each other's shoes and see how God is molding us into better partners and parents.

Friday, August 1, 2008

More Living Less Talking

Funny how a full time job gets in the way of my posting.  Soooo, much to report, just no time to write for the present.

"I love you so much that you are like my star up in heaven." Daughter quote.

The little puffball named Bibble in the Barbie movie "Fairytopia" got a ball to the stomach (ooof!), and son says, "Heh, heh, that's awesome."

Swimming again with the fam after work today was divine.  Eating leftover Thai and watching Fairytopia with the kids was a riot.

Life is good.  Sometimes ya gotta live it, not talk about it.