Monday, April 30, 2012

A Disturbance in the Force

I have dreaded writing this post! Last week I fell completely apart with regard to all the things I need to be doing. It is all Dean's fault!! He was out of town for three days, he threw his back out and he had lots of work to do and somehow all of that interfered with my running and my read-the-bible in a year plan. I have no idea why all those things that were happening to Dean caused me to NOT RUN and NOT READ but they did. I don't make the rules (well maybe I do) I just live with the results!!

Actually it was just a weird week. Anytime he travels it does throw me off, we are definitely a team and when one of us is gone it causes a disturbance in the Force. I was also trying to get everything done before Friday, when we went to visit OU. So I crammed 5 days of things into 4.

Still, these are all excuses and the truth is I do what I want to do if I make a schedule and stick to it. Last week I did not stick to the schedule. 
What I ran in week 4

Week #

3miles repeats
9:17, 8:56, 8:59

Greenbelt run 6.06

 total: 12.8 miles
What I ran in week #5
Week #

5.03 miles 54:17

7.02 miles

 total: 12.5 miles

 My total ( miles) was about the same so nothing should be lost from a cardiovascular perspective. It is just depressing to have only run 2 days. I think this will be a better week.

Again, it's Monday and therefore a good time for more happy bunny pictures!

A very relaxed Jackson!

The bunny enjoying his bunny castle!
Back of Cleo, front of Jackson!

 In the evening Dean brings Cleo down from upstairs and she and Jackson sit on the pillow in Dean's lap. We all watch television together. Cleo is having a bunny snack in the above picture while Jackson snuggles with her.

 Cleo is the upstairs bunny and Jackson is the downstairs bunny. Cleo is Bailey's rabbit. She roams the upstairs and wreaks havoc in Dean's office by day and sleeps in her cage at night. On the days that Dean works at home she demands that he pet her and talk to her until she is ready for her nap. She, too, has a bunny castle and is very much like a cat because she has many favorite sleeping places.  

Jackson is active in the early morning but "relaxes" and "rests his eyes" most of the day. He can be found in his bunny castle or in my bedroom under his cardboard box cave. He also sleeps in his cage at night.

I plan to have a better week of running...hmmm...I may have said that before. I have already turned over a new leaf in my Bible reading, I read for an hour this morning (before I ever got out of bed). I am on my way to catching up! It is raining here which does not bode well for running today, perhaps the rain is temporary! Happy running in the rain!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

College Visit

The Helmerich Great Reading room in the Library at OU. This picture is from the OU website.

Another great pic from the OU web page.
Each time we visit a college (this visit was to the University of Oklahoma) Dean and I come away with mixed feelings. We were excited and hopeful about the opportunities that awaited Bailey. We are equally excited and hopeful about the opportunities that await Parker. In both cases we know The Leaving of each of our kids marks an irreversible change in our family. Inevitably the visits stir in us that old excitement of starting over. On the long drive home we both felt a little sad because the last one is leaving the nest. We also feel a little dissatisfied. 

College visits are filled with optimistic wonder and challenge. I have been a stay-at-home mom all these years and Dean has worked in the same field (for two different companies) for what seems like an eternity. We try to remind ourselves that "hope and change" are not always what they are cracked up to be - especially at our age. While all those dreams and opportunities really are very wonderful and exciting, I'm not sure I would have the energy to pursue them even if time and location offered me the chance.

It is far better to keep the focus on the dreams and possibilities of those with enough energy to live well and work well on 5 hours of sleep.

Just after sunrise!
 We were up at 5:30 for the drive to Oklahoma.

 Parker is not really awake yet!

Dean and Parker with one of the many phone boxes on campus.
The director of Undergraduate Professional Development gave us an incredible tour of the business college. We were able to talk to several professors and quite a few students all with different areas of interest. Parker was able to ask questions (he asked really good questions) and hear about the different areas of study from both the professor's and the student's perspective. In the afternoon we took a student led tour of the school of Journalism. The young woman who led our tour was enthusiastic and informative. It was a busy day, the weather was beautiful with the exception of a strong wind! I did not take as many pictures as intended for this reason. Below are pictures from our first visit to OU during Spring Break last year.

This is a dinosaur at a gas station near campus!

Everyone at OU, on each of our visits, has been very friendly and informative. As we walked around and spoke to professors and students it was easy to picture Parker there. It was also easy to picture a younger version of myself and Dean there!! As I said before, I must focus on the enthusiasm and energy of youth and perhaps I should sign up for a course online ...or maybe Dean and I could take dance lessons...or maybe we could just sit on the porch and sip ice tea...after my nap!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

thoughts on Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I am always unsure if I should recommend one of Anne Lamott's books. There is enough really good insight and abrupt humor to make her books worthwhile to me. On the other hand some of her humor is a little raw, her take on Christianity is very off-beat, and she's sometimes a little "out there".

In the past I have read her books on faith: Traveling Mercies and Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. I would describe them as insightful but different, not your typical Christian books. She has also written several novels.

Bird by Bird is about writing but is also about life in general. Often, in the book, I would read a sentence  about the struggle to write and I would think you could take it out of context and it would be good advice for life in general or any other struggle.

The first piece of advice that could apply to anyone is "never start a large writing project on any Monday in December". This is good advice for any project. In addition to all the holiday obligations and expectations December is a "month of Mondays, Monday's are not good writing days".

The first thing Lamott tells her writing students on the first day of class is that "good writing is about telling the truth". With the exception of being a law enforcement officer or FBI agent this is also good advice for anyone. There are a few other exceptions like politician and car salesperson but really if you think about it - things would be better if they told the truth as well.

More advice to writers: "You are desperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined events come alive. But you cannot will this to happen. It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work. So you might as well just go ahead and get started."   Isn't this also true of most things? Most people in business and services are trying to get events to come alive, trying to produce something, fix something, sell something. Most of us need in our life and work to communicate effectively. And for most of us "persistence and faith and hard work" will see us through to our goals.

The title of the book comes from a time when Lamott's brother had put off for three months writing a report on birds. The report was due the next day.  The ten year old was feeling the pressure and close to tears for the large and looming task ahead. His father advised him: " Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." Good advice for writing and good advice for life. Give us THIS DAY our daily bread.. One day at a time.

If an author can be articulate, insightful AND funny it delights me! I think this is funny:

"I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. (Although when I mentioned this to my priest friend Tom, he said you can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.)."

It both comforts and disturbs me that I relate so well to what goes on inside her head:

"Left to its own devices, my mind spends much of its time having conversations with people who aren't there. I walk along defending myself to people, or exchanging repartee with them or rationalizing my behavior...I speed or run an aging yellow light or don't come to a full stop and one nanosecond later am explaining to imaginary cops exactly why I had to do what I did, or insisting that I did not in fact do it."

 I'm not saying Lamott is mentally healthy and stable...I'm just saying I can relate!

On why we read and why we write Lamott says:

"So the acknowledgment that in the midst of ourselves there is still a good part that hasn't been corrupted and destroyed, that we can tap into and reclaim, is most reassuring. When a more or less ordinary character, someone who is both kind and self-serving, somehow finds that place within where he or she is still capable of courage and goodness, we get to see something true that we long for." 

I must include two of her very funny musings on memory or the lack thereof :

First, "I think that if you have the kind of mind that retains important and creative thoughts --that is, if your mind still works--you're very lucky and you should not be surprised if the rest of us do not want to be around you."

Second, " If your mind is perhaps the merest bit disorganized,...It may be that you've had children. When a child comes out of your body, it arrives with about a fifth of your brain clutched in its little hand..." I do not know why this is true but it is!!

Another piece of Lamott's advice taken from the movie Cool Runnings and referring to being published as opposed to not being published also applies to almost anything strived for in an attempt to be validated and approved. In Cool Runnings, the coach of a Jamaican bobsled team tells his desperate athletes that "If you're not enough before the gold medal, you won't be enough with it". I want to write this on my hand and look at it every day. It isn't that I have aspirations of winning a gold medal or even of having something published but I do let my mind covet some sort of stamp of approval. It may be some insecurity left over from childhood or it could be the remnants of the mommie wars (working moms vs. stay-at-home moms) but I need to remind myself that I am enough without the rubber stamp of approval!

When asked why writing matters Lamott confirms my point, "When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot  at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again.

The final line in the book" "It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. you can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship." True for writing, true for life.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dean & The Herb Garden

I have ideas and plans but sometimes they involve things I don't like to do (planting things) or things I physically or talentlessly cannot do (open jars, write computer programs). In those moments when I realize my latest project involves something I don't want to do or can't do I never give up, I immediately think I will get my minions (oops), I meant family members, to help me!!

Thus, Bailey helps me redesign the blog, upgrades all my software on the computer, my phone and my Kindle. Parker drives to the store when I don't have on makeup, opens jars, and advises me on everything from You Tube, Facebook, ITunes to phone apps. Dean plants things, builds things and kills spiders!

Here is my latest project:

If it looks impressive, it's important to remember that I had almost nothing to do with it! I saw (on Pinterest) three round pots stacked on top of each other filled with herbs. I accompanied Dean to Home Depot to pick out my herbs. We also picked out the pots together. But then the real work began:

None of us ever does anything alone, there is always a helper. This is Max, the ancient black lab mix.
I am blessed to have a skilled and enthusiastic husband! I did do one other thing. I purchased a book on herb gardening!

It's good that I purchased the book as I discovered I have already made some mistakes. I may perhaps be over watering and I was not careful to avoid getting the leaves wet. The watering is a little confusing because the author of "herb gardening from the ground up" lives in Connecticut. He advises that: "you might have to water your vegetable garden five or six times in the course of it (summer), and your herb garden only twice." My grandfather had a vegetable garden on our property when I was growing up. We watered almost every day especially in July and August due to the hot Texas summers, I have no concept of watering 5 or 6 times in three months.  He does recommend allowing the soil to become "bone dry" to a depth of 6" before watering. We will see what happens! Happy Gardening!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lost Sheep

Running did not go as expected again. It seems to be a continuing theme. Life required some extra things last week. We, the third-graders and I, finished the Armor of God study and so a new study of the Parables has begun. This meant that we needed a new bulletin board and new folders. For our final week on the Armor of God we listened to a musical for kids based on the Armor of God. One of the students and his family recommended the CD. We had Heads and Tails Oreos (Chocolate cookie on one side, vanilla on the other, double stuff cream on the inside!!), listened to the CD and colored some velvet pictures.  I used the kids velvet pictures to decorate their folders. This was not difficult, just a lot gluing. Since we are learning about the Parables of Jesus I made a sheep from the parable of the lost sheep to put on the bulletin board at the front of the class along with an explanation of what a parable is and the verses for the parable.

 There is no parable about an octopus (or any of the other pictures), we are considering these pictures to be decorative only!

In addition to ending the Armor of God study, I completed recently the Beth Moore James study. In the study Beth suggested that we might consider cleaning out some closets and giving away the things we do not use to those who might use or need them. This week I tackled a cabinet full of picture frames. Over the years when I have taken a new picture that I want to display I often buy a new frame to put it in. Since I do not have unlimited space, I usually need to take down a picture to make room for the new one. I then take the old picture, still in the frame and stuff it in the cabinet. Last week I took all the pictures out of those frames, stored the pictures in a photo box and then sorted the frames. Some went to Parker, some went to Dean for his office. The rest will go to Good Will. This was not a big deal either but it was very time consuming. It involved fighting with those little knobs and metal things on the back of frames which hold the back on the frame. Some of those were almost impossible to open, others were easy. I also cleaned all the glass for the frames that Dean and Parker wanted, sorted through pictures they might want and of course experienced a few time warps.

In the cabinet was an old album that belonged to my mother. There were lots of pictures in it of my Dad and his friends posing with dead animals. There were lots of pictures of men with inanimate deer and large dead fish. There were also some pictures of my Mom and Dad in Colorado and Utah with friends. These kinds of pictures are a mystery to me...they were taken before I was born. My parents look happy. Since they were divorced when I was three, I have never seen them together when they were happy. Both my parents are gone now. Looking at pictures like those always leaves a shadow for a while. There are so many unanswered questions. I feel a little like the lost sheep in the parable before he is found.

There was also a scrapbook from college in the cabinet. It was filled with cards and letters from people I met my first year at Baylor. It reminded me of how much fun it was to meet all those people from all those different places after growing up in small town Alvarado.

It seems like it might be a good time for some happy bunny pictures:

This is Jackson atop his bunny castle built for him by Dean! It's possible that every animal we have ever had has been spoiled beyond measure!

Eye to eye with Jackson. 

  These pictures may have been taken on what Dean called, "Special bunny Wednesday". Every day is special bunny something to Jackson. He rushes out of his cage every morning absolutely certain that today is the day that he will be allowed to eat as many dehydrated carrots, veggie treats, papaya treats, and Basic 4 cereal pieces as he wants!

 With the priority on Sunday School, cleaning out cabinets and Jackson, running becomes something I am trying to be disciplined about rather than something I am focused on. I will get there.

Here is what I did last week:

Week #

3miles repeats
9:31, 9:09, 9:20

3.95 miles
scenic run
5.04 miles 52:13

 Here is what I ran in week #4

Week #

3miles repeats
9:17, 8:56, 8:59

Greenbelt run 6.06


 Even though I am not working as hard as I had hoped at this point I am nevertheless improving. The mile repeats were faster and the longish run was longer. I just need to keep going, my determination and devotion will return. Happy running!

Friday, April 20, 2012

I'm Sad Because You're Not a Dragon

Since Bailey is not here with us she misses being dragged into my many projects as Dean and Parker are. Bailey and I communicate by phone conversation, emailing, Facebooking and texting. Here are some Bailey updates:

 Above are screen captures of the weather app on my phone, I often check both the weather here and the weather in Columbia. Our temperatures are usually not the same!

The above pictures are of Bailey's new hair cut and color! So pretty!
 This is how I received those pictures, through texting!

 Another pic of Bailey via text.

This is the cute little felt owl Bailey made for her friend, Layne, for her birthday. Instructions via Pinterest.

 I think Bailey originally posted this on Facebook and on her blog, Stopwatch. This really does say it all about Bailey's personality. All four of us can relate to this. We would like to live at Hogwarts, we would like to travel with Dr. Who, we would like to be a crew member aboard Serenity (Firefly spaceship). Why can't there be a little more fantasy in real life?

Below are Facebook updates posted by Bailey. Both are running related. The runners on Bailey's team call non-running folk "Muggles". It's a Harry Potter reference. And it is impolite to draft pedestrians, they don't understand what you are doing, but having run in the wind and drafted behind Dean many times, I knew exactly what was happening.

Bailey Belvis on Facebook
Walking up some stairs to class.
Me: oh my legs hurt!
Muggle: what? You sore or something?

I forget that everyone isn't just in a perpetual state of pain
· · 32 minutes ago via mobile ·


That awkward moment when you're walking to class and you look up and realize you are way too close to the person in front of you because not only have they been perfectly blocking the wind for you, but at the right angle, the rain too
I am so glad my kids are friends with me on Facebook. It allows me a glimpse into their lives when they are not here with me. The constantly evolving Technology is a weird monster that I desperately try to keep up with. I have many complaints about it as I have mentioned here and here. I do love the way I can be connected to my kids through my phone and on the internet.

While I was typing this Bailey sent me a picture she had drawn of an optical illusion. I sent her a link to the optical illusion last night and I also tried drawing it. I texted my picture back to her. From my text message on my phone I saved both pictures to my photo album on my phone. I then emailed the images to myself. This usually allows me to save my pictures to my HP photo software on my computer and then I can upload them to Picassa and then upload them to this blog. I saved the pictures and they are on my computer but I cannot find them and therefore cannot share them. I think as I get older PERSEVERANCE becomes even more important than it was when I was younger. I refuse to give up...there is a shiny carrot of connection with my kids dangling in front of me...eventually I will find my pictures!

Project Life

Many people take a 365 approach to Project Life. They take one picture every day for a year and document their everyday life. I think this is a great idea particularly if you have small children at home with you, so much goes on, they grow so fast, there are so many little moments: breakfast, playing, reading together, sleepy moments, snuggly moments. I would love to have pictures of all those moments; to have captured our little everyday cocoon of a life for a whole year. It's a little different now. I still feel like we have a warm cocoon at home but since Parker is gone all day and Bailey is in Missouri the days kind of look the same. Dean works in his office upstairs. Dean cooks dinner. I work in my office downstairs, I eat dinner!! Parker works at his computer at the kitchen table, Parker eats dinner. Three hundred and sixty-five pictures of three people at work on computers or eating dinner would not be very exciting. So I abandoned the 365 approach and am just using project life as I would any other scrapbook: for any pictures I happen to take.

Most people (that I have stumbled upon) who blog about Project Life do not go back and play catch up with old photos. I decided that since I own all the scrapbooking papers and stickers and some Creative Memories supplies I should go back and use those things in a Project Life scrapbook so that:

1) I can get caught up - I am years behind with my pictures and
2) I can use all those supplies that mock me from the craft closet.

I look at the scrapbooking supplies, I see all the money I spent on those supplies and I am overcome with guilt. My kids childhood memories are sitting there waiting to be made visible but I feel too overwhelmed to tackle the job. Well, no more!! I have begun to go back, gather pictures by category (example: Fall/ Halloween, Thanksgiving) then gather paper, stickers, embellishments by the same category and finally put them in the Project Life album. It makes me happy to get started on this. and the best part is that there is very little gluing involved. The pictures slip into the pockets! Here are the results so far:

This is the opening page to the scrapbook. Normally, you would use the cards provided in the Project Life core kit. Instead I used scrapbook paper and embellishments that I bought years ago.

 In this layout the small vertical squares across the middle are pockets that can be filled with Project Life journaling cards. Because I have forgotten which Halloweens and Thanksgivings these pictures originated I cut up a pretty fall leaf paper and skipped the journaling step. I could have trimmed pictures to fit in there and I will be trying that next when I tackle some Christmas pictures.

 For several years we went to the same Pumpkin Patch. We went with friends and we went two years with Parker's pre-school, the Prosper United Methodist Preschool. Parker's teacher's were Miss Penny and
Miss Cary.

 These are napkin rings the kids and I made for Thanksgiving.
 One of my favorite costumes!

 These are pictures of Thanksgiving with Grandma and Granddad.

 Again, here I used scrapbook paper, cut it to fit the small journal card pockets and just slipped it in.
 The picture on the far right is of my friend, Susan and her daughter Hannah. Parker and Hannah have known each other since they were in preschool, they are now Juniors in High School. I think we should ask them to return to the pumpkin patch next year as Seniors for encore pictures.

 We made these Fall leaf costumes by hot gluing leaves to old sweatshirts and to floral rings.

 Bailey loved this pointy hat - it was from the Wizard's apprentice and had Mickey Mouse ears attached to it.

Pirate Parker!

It is good to get started on those stacks of pictures. I have lots of photo albums that I completed when the kids were little but at some point I fell behind! This is a way for me to catch up and be able to share the memories with our family. I am a big fan of Project Life for this reason. Happy scrapbooking!