Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Life According to TMBG

Here's a fun challenge posted by a FB friend: Using song names from only one artist, answer the following questions. I couldn't resist, since I define my life by this band's lyrics already.

Note: You may correctly notice a lack of thoughtful entries the last few weeks. For one thing, I came home from my vacation with a nasty cough that is still pestering me. For another, I've been lost in the throes of end-of-summer-vacation chaos. Thankfully, school resumed yesterday.

I've also had a lot on my mind that I haven't been ready to process in front of my loyal audience. Sometimes you just have to think things through before you spew them all over the internet. Remember that Circle of Quiet I've been looking for? Yep, still looking. I'll be back soon, but I've gotta get some other structure built back into my routine so I can EARN the freedom to blog.

Now for my answers to this silly quiz. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, They Might Be Giants is a fun, quirky band that has recently released several kid-targeted albums in addition to their already inner-child-centric repertoire.

They Might Be Giants

Am I a male or female? She's Actual Size

A Self-Description: (She Was A) Hotel Detective

How do I feel? Don't Let's Start

Where I currently live: In the Middle In the Middle In the Middle of the Block

If I could go anywhere, I would go to: Cowtown

My favorite form of transportation: They'll Need a Crane

My best friend is: Particle Man

My best friends and I are: Lazy Head and Sleepy Bones

Let's talk about the weather right now: Pencil Rain

My Favorite time of day: Sleeping in the Flowers

If my life was a T.V. show, it would be called: Whistling in the Dark

What is life to me? A Road Movie to Berlin

My Relationship: Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love

My Fear: Someone Keeps Moving My Chair

My best piece of Advice: Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head

Thought for the day: Who Put the Alphabet in Alphabetical Order?

How I would like to die: I Hope that I get Old Before I Die

My Soul's Present Condition: Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes

My Motto: Make a Little Birdhouse in Your Soul

Thursday, August 13, 2009

You know you're Texan when...

To follow up on yesterday's "Advice for People Moving to Texas," here is a list (recently forwarded to me) of some of the local culture my kids get to grow up with.


Armadillos sleep in the middle of the road with their feet in the air.

There are 5,000 types of snakes on earth and 4,998 live in Texas .

There are 10,000 types of spiders. All 10,000 live in Texas, plus a couple no one's seen before.

If it grows, it sticks; if it crawls, it bites.

"Twiced" is a word.

People actually grow and eat okra.

"Fixinto" is one word.

There is no such thing as "lunch". There is only dinner and then supper.

Iced tea is appropriate for all meals and you start drinking it when you're two (months, not years).

"Backwards and forwards" means I know everything about you!

"Djeet?" is actually a phrase meaning "Did you eat?"

You don't have to wear a watch because it doesn't matter what time it is. You work until you're done or it's too dark to see.

You don't PUSH buttons, you MASH them.

You measure distance in hours. Like its 5 hours from Houston to Dallas (if you observe the speed limits).

You'll probably have to switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.

"Fix" is a verb. Example: "I'm fixing to go to the store."

You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.

Yes, Friday high school football is serious football!

You carry jumper cables in your car . . . for your OWN car.

There are only four spices: salt, pepper, Tabasco and ketchup. (A suitable salsa can substituted for Tabasco or ketchup.)

The local papers cover national and international news on one page, but require 6 pages for local gossip and sports.

100 degrees Fahrenheit is "a little warm."

We have four seasons: Almost Summer, Summer, still Summer and Christmas.

Going to Wal-mart is a favorite past time known as "goin' to Wally-World."

A cool snap (below 70 degrees) is good pinto-bean weather.

A carbonated soft drink isn't a soda, cola, or pop.... it's a Coke, regardless of brand or flavor. Example: "What kind a coke you want?"

Fried catfish is the other white meat.

We don't need no stinking driver's ed ... if our mama says we can drive, we can drive.

EVERYONE can't be from Texas. You might say it's a gift from God!

And the most important thing we learn growing up in TEXAS is...


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Advice to People Moving to Texas

Today marks the second anniversary of our arrival in Texas. So much has happened in that time that it feels more like five years. Much of it has been documented on these pages.

To commemorate this day, I would like to re-publish a fun email someone forwarded to me when we first moved. The longer I live here, the truer (and funnier) it proves to be. My personal favorite is #7.


Useful Things we could have been told when moving to Texas!

1. Save all manner of bacon grease. You will be instructed later how to use it.

2. Just because you can drive on snow and ice does not mean we can. Just stay home the two days of the year it snows.

3. If you do run your car into a ditch, don't panic. Four men in the cab of a four wheel drive with a 12-pack of beer and a tow chain will be along shortly. Don't try to help them, just stay out of their way. This is what they live for.

4. Don't be surprised to find movie rentals & bait in the same store.

5. Remember: "Y'all" is singular. "All y'all" is plural. "All y'all's" is plural possessive.

6. Get used to hearing, "You ain't from around here, are you?"

7. If you are yelling at the person driving 15 mph in a 55 mph zone, directly in the middle of the road, remember, many folks learned to drive on a model of vehicle known as John Deere, and this is the proper speed and lane position for that vehicle.

8. If you hear a redneck exclaim, "Hey, y'all, watch this!" Stay out of his way. These are likely the last words he will ever say.

9. Get used to the phrase "It's not the heat, it's the humidity". And the collateral phrase "You call this hot? Wait'll August."

10. There are no delis. Don't ask.

11. In conversation, never put your hand on a man's shoulder when making a point, especially in a bar.

12. Chili does NOT have beans in it.

13. Brisket is not 'cooked' in an oven.

14. Don't tell us how you did it up there. Nobody cares.

15. If you think it's too hot, don't worry. It'll cool down-in December.

16. We do TOO have 4 Seasons: December, January, February, and Summer!

17. A Mercedes-Benz is not a status symbol. A Ford F-150 is.

18. If someone tells you "Don't worry, those peppers aren't hot" you can be certain they are.

19. If you fail to heed my warning in #18 above, be sure to have a bowl of guacamole handy. Water won't do it.

20. Rocky Mountain oysters are NOT oysters. Don't ask.

21. If someone says they're "fixin" to do something, that doesn't mean anything's broken.

22. Don't even think of ordering a strawberry daiquiri. What you really mean to say is 'Margarita.'

23. If you don't understand our passion for college and high school football just keep your mouth shut.

24. The value of a parking space is not determined by the distance to the door, but the availability of shade.

25. If you see a slower moving vehicle on a two lane road pull onto the shoulder; that is called "courtesy".

26. BBQ is a food group. It does NOT mean grilling burgers and hot dogs outdoors.

27. No matter what you've seen on TV, line dancing is not a popular weekend pastime.

28. "Tea" = Iced Tea. There is no other kind.

29. Everything goes better with Ranch dressing.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Circle of Quiet

Sweet goodness I have been full of nothing but spit and vinegar this week. I picked up a cough along the way home from our Erie vacation, and am sick to death of coughing. I have felt achy and cranky and lethargic ever since arriving home. My spunk, if you will, hath left me.

How do I recognize this? My house, so orderly when we walked in the door four days ago, is a shambles. The greatest accomplishments I can list for the last several days are that I have taken out the trash, run the dishwasher, and taken at least one shower. My kids ran on autopilot all day today, resulting in Boo melting down (oh the drama!) at bedtime because no one wanted to cuddle with her. And the following two topics are the only things I have considered writing about in three days:

Anatomy of a Moment
Why do kids always have to repeat an annoying behavior forever until you go batty? They never just naturally stop it on their own. For example, kissing the baby.

Kiss her once: I don't mind, I may not even notice
Kiss her twice: Cute
Kiss her 3-5 times: Okay that's a little more than I would, but, they are expressing themselves in their own way
Kiss her 10 times: Now I'm starting to think, Maybe they'll stop soon on their own
15 times: I am now going to calmly suggest they not love the baby quite so--

And that is when crazy comes out to play. The moment just spirals out of control so fast. Every time, I promise myself to be more reasonable. And every time I find myself driven to crazy person status.

Slow and Steady Doesn't Always Win the Race
I survey the pile of miscellaneous inhabiting my house. By the door sits a pile of road trip rubbish, waiting to be redistributed to its original locations around the house. In the sink sits a pile of dinner dishes backed up since I ran the dishwasher this afternoon. Toys clutter the living room; remnants of the afternoon playtime during which the older kids poured a container of Mosaic Legos over the baby's head (yes, really) and otherwise decorated her with laundry pulled from the open (as-yet-unpacked) suitcase sitting in the middle of the floor, as well as toys from her special basket.

In theory I should be able to keep up with this! Do you remember Aesop's Fables? One of them, about a tortoise and a hare, ends with the moral, Slow and Steady Wins the Race. I labor under the assumption that as long as I'm doing something, I will eventually come to the end of my list of things to do. But apparently I am working too slow, and not steady enough, because it never happens!

A corollary to this moral tale is another philosophy I live by, Work Smart, Not Hard. This week I'm realizing that there is still hard work involved here. And to be honest, not only do I hate hard work (where housework is concerned), but I feel terrible this week and I simply don't have it in me to get it done.

So I survey the messes inhabiting my house, and am sad. I really want a fairy to do my housework. But they're all sitting on a beach in Cancun, sipping pina coladas, or at least that's where I would be if I were a fairy, and thus they are not available to help me. And I am fast losing ground.

Finding My Circle of Quiet
So why am I full of spit and vinegar? Hmm, I wonder. Perhaps because I am maxed out. I wake up maxed out, and the day charges forward without me. I don't take time for a shower; I don't make time for my kids; I sit in a corner and bury myself in (insert escapist method here), wishing I weren't the one responsible for keeping the show going.

Just Be
Do you notice a common thread? I am not insisting on a quiet space within my soul, and so I have no buffer. There is a respite available for the taking; it's just that right now I have to work a little harder than at other times in my life, to orchestrate it. And sometimes, I just don't feel like making the effort.

I was again challenged this week to spend time with my Maker every day. Not simply in petition to solve my problems, but to just BE. To sit in a Circle of Quiet, if you will.

I am so anxious to get on with the business of each mind-numbing day that I rush into it headlong, forgetting to WAIT. Sometimes I dream I am building a wall, painstakingly laying each brick one by one, only to awake and find my entire night's work evaporated.

How much more clearly can my Maker remind me? Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). As dreams are insubstantial next to waking life, so is my reality insubstantial next to God's reality. I tend to forget: If I stop at the beginning of each day and give God the respect and honor I owe him, he will make sure I have time, energy and focus to complete the tasks he wants me to accomplish each day.

Ask Boldly
I also struggle with presenting my Maker with my desires. He's busy, I'm undeserving. I need to solve the problems that are of my own making, don't I? As I search for truth, I see that King David, called a man after God's own heart, had his own share of screw-ups, and he didn't hesitate to ask God for help to get out of his messes.

Once I spend time in my quiet place, listening to my Maker, my own heart begins to come in line with his desires. And my confidence grows that the burdens on my heart are important to him. So I can ask boldly for a few things that seem impossible to me right now.

First on my list, I need a Circle of Quiet.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Who are You?

On the pages of this blog, you have met Boo Bear and Rooster, and more recently, Lulu. I have introduced you to the Team Captain. I love telling stories about this gang, and reflecting on things I learn from living around them.

But occasionally, one of you will ask, Who are you?

Until now I have just been The Narrator, sharing glimpses of the players of my small world. I have found it hard to identify anything characteristic of myself; it is just so much simpler to cast the spotlight on my kids.

I am confident in my personal identity as a child of God, as a wife and mother, and as someone with a lot to say. But yesterday it finally came to me that I also have my own identity here. One I can grow into. Not surprisingly, it fits for a variety of reasons.

Spinning under a Big Sky
As a kid, I loved to spin in circles. My favorite dresses were the ones that made the biggest circle around me when I would do so. To me, the logical activity to perform in the middle of a big field was to throw my arms wide, raise my face to the sun, and spin for the sheer joy of it. I also loved rolling downhill. My grandparents had a steep hill behind their house just made for rolling, and I tried to use it every time I went over there. Somersaults also held a strange fascination for me; I suppose I got a bit of a rush from upsetting my internal gyroscopes.

Spinning, rolling, tumbling. These activities all represent childhood to me, in their innocent recklessness. I don't move that way much anymore; mostly I watch my kids do it, and retrieve little wisps of my own childhood as I watch them enjoy the thrill. But my inner little girl still lives, and she has a lot to say about the world around us. And she still loves to spin.

Plate Spinner
We live in a world that expects us to accomplish more in a day than some of our ancestors would have thought to attempt in a month. For survival, we need to grow proficient at multi-tasking. I don't always do well doing everything at once, but if I look at it like the man spinning plates at the circus, then I realize I'm only actually working on one thing at a time. All I have to do is set it in motion so it will stay self-sufficient long enough to allow me to tend to a few other things before coming back to it.

As as mom, sometimes I feel like I have become every occupation, from chief counselor to napkin and everywhere in between. One of my favorite preschool music groups, Go Fish, sings an ode to moms that I have taken as my personal national anthem:

You're the Boss, the Driver
The Ultimate Survivor
A Doctor, A Cooker
Your man thinks you're a looker
If you work all day and you never get paid
You're a Mom!

Ahh yes, while being a mom frequently leaves me feeling like the world's most inadequate person, it also empowers me when I realize that I can do at least five things at once: one recent afternoon I managed to bake bread, prep dinner, wash dishes, feed baby, spend QT with Boo, photograph the entire experience and encourage her to blog about it. That's actually seven things. Of course I was totally put out when she failed to appreciate my awesomeness, and refused to do her one little part of typing the blog entry. But that did not take away (much) from my personal sense of satisfaction with my productivity that afternoon.

Not all days are that successful. But every day involves spinning one plate at a time, hoping it will stay in action long enough for me to spin another plate, and another, before coming back to the first one.

Tale Spinner
You have probably noticed that I love to tell stories. It's more of a need, since I have realized that it's important to me not just what is said, but how it is said.

Journalists know this, and rush to put their spin on a story even as it is still unfolding. By choosing what details to include, what words to use, and when to reveal what they know, they are able to influence the perceptions their audience may have. Spin is a powerful tool. It can be used to manipulate reality, but it is also inevitable because you have to choose what information to pass on. Even a camera has to choose what to focus on. And if the camera uses the kind of exposure that puts the entire frame in focus, the photographer still has to determine where to point the camera, what to set in the frame.

I have come to realize that part of my job as a mom includes spin. When they see a dead deer on the side of the road, I have to decide what to say, what words to use, and how quickly to respond. I can choose to focus on the thought, "Oh the poor deer. Some idiot driver must have been speeding through here last night." I can choose an alternative spin, "Yeah, that happens around here. I hope the driver of the car was okay." I may choose whether or not to point it at all. If they spot it first, I can just choose to say, "Yep." It's all spin.

As someone who appreciates the power of words, I humbly realize the responsibility I have been given to provide spin for my children's reality. I pray for the grace to spin it for good. Not propaganda, not to warp them, but to be a faithful help for my kids as they learn about the world and attempt to reason some sense out of it.

Spinning Wheel
When I think of spinning, the mental picture I have is of a woman spinning thread at her wheel. To me this represents industriousness. The elusive Proverbs 31 woman, if you will. I aspire to be responsible and productive, and this is a good symbol to reach toward.

So who am I? I am The Spinner. I am forever a child at heart, currently buried in the frenzy of being a multi-tasker extraordinaire, and the architect of my children's reality. I want to be the Proverbs 31 woman as much as reasonably possible, as long as the reaching for it does not overshadow the daily operations of motherhood.

So there you have it. I have a blog name for myself, and now you know why.