Monday, April 13, 2009

Serenity Now's New Real Estate

I felt like such a grownup the day this picture was taken, and we had just bought our first house.  

A while back I decided that owning my own dot-com was the cyber equivalent, and I determined to do it.  

What this means for you:  Today's the day.  I'm hoping to take all of my wonderful readers to the new site.  It doesn't even look all that different - you just get to remove the "blogspot" from the address.  You can now find Serenity Now by clicking that link or by putting in your address bar.  

(Poor Grandma.  Mom just put the shortcuts to our blogs on her desktop at Easter.  I'll be there soon to set you up again, Grandma!)

Hope to see you all there! 
- Serenity

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

I love this day.  It was horrible and gray and cloudy when I woke up.  Then while I was in a meeting at work, the sun came out.  I picked up my boys, and we spent real live time together over lunch where I actually listened to what they had to say and learned new things about them and as they spoke I got distracted by their sheer good looks.  Having them home and going to work instead of only working from home have made the day feel different like anything could happen.

Then I came home and read Mom's and Felicity's posts about Good Friday.  What a beautiful holiday for Christians.  This is the weekend that defines us.  More than Christmas, more than any of the causes and protests we devote ourselves to throughout the year, more than what kind of church we go to and what it believes, more than anything.  It's why I love communion, and why every single time I hold that cup, I cry.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

And I will always have gum (at least I could if I wanted to)

How pretty is this cake?  I bought it about a week ago when frugal, responsible Michael (somewhere his high school friends are laughing at that) sent me to the grocery store with meal plans for 14 days and the grocery list to match.  Fourteen Days.  That's two carts once everything is bagged.  I've mentioned how little I enjoy the weekly grocery trip, right?  And fourteen days - well, not only did that mean longer in the grocery store, but also that many days that I wouldn't have a single excuse to say, "Oh darn, let's just order out tonight - it would be so much easier.  Sigh.  

So, realizing how much money we were saving over that time period and how self-sacrificing it was of me to actually do the trip, I bought a CAKE.  A white cake with the whipped frosting, which puts all buttercreams to shame, and glorious life-is-actually-a-pastry red roses.  Not a single birthday or holiday in sight.  Jake and I poured over the choices - balloons, cupcakes with plastic animal heads on toothpicks . . . we settled on the roses, and I told him right then and there.  This is the reason you should want to be a grown up.

Admittedly, it didn't quite live up to my expectations.  The roses (the little tricksters!) were buttercream.  A store-bought kind of flavor that bled into the entire culinary experience, decreasing the allure.  But I was still so proud that I took this picture of what it means to get to make silly, inconsequential decisions all the time all on your own that could very well make life richer - at least for the evening.

The new book I'm reading (by the author we met) is set in Chicago.  How much do I love Chicago now?  I've had to research it for work, and I am so embarrassed that I didn't realize my pretty little midwest had such a treasure.  Because, you know, I'm claiming it now.  Navy Pier, Grant Park, Cloud Gate - the book talks about them all, and because I've researched them, I almost feel that I've seen and touched them - or at least that I have some sort of ownership in their greatness.  I still dream of New York, but People, Chicago is a train ride from here, and it is so on my list.  Someday I'll buy that train ticket just like I purchased that cake.  I wrote about the Art Institute of Chicago on the Student Travel blog today, and posted pictures of its miniature rooms display, which looks dee-lightful. Linking to that blog post justifies the fact that the writing of this one bled a teensy bit into the work day.  Which brings me full circle, because that's just what those buttercream roses did.  

Monday, April 6, 2009

Road Trip, Baby

You can read on Felicity's blog today that we took a road trip together this weekend.  I got to see the college she attends online and bask in that whole academia glow (mostly coming from Felic).  We heard an author read a portion of his memoir-like novel, and I'm currently devouring the copy we purchased and had him sign.  (Mental note:  If you're remotely interesting, people will be more likely to buy your book if they've met you).  He was superbly validating to us aspiring writers, on the nonexistence of writer's block (if you don't feel like writing, then read - it's fine), and on the need to think a lot, which only looks like doing nothing if you're not the one who's thinking.

I sent a thank you card to Holly recently to forward to a person in the business who said some wonderful things about my memoir and its potential once it finds a publisher.  That kind of stuff is gold at this stage of my climb, and I wanted him to know what it meant.  Dropping that card in the mail, knowing it was about to travel directly from my hands in Small Town, Missouri, to hers in New York City - sort of made me do the happy dance.  I missed my chance to move far away after graduation and try to take the world by storm from some perch in the Big City or other world-conquering places.  I missed the chance by not really wanting it at the time.  So now while I settle in to this lovely little midwest life, I cherish every opportunity that helps me also reach outside of it.  It's wonderful to meet new people, thrilling to have connections outside of my own quiet yard and pretty street.  

This morning when Jake and I got in the car, I wanted to keep driving forever.  Monday seemed so monotonous without the open road in it, and a new destination.  I started fantasizing about just how wonderful the inside of an airport can feel.

Thankfully, the thrill of our road trip still lingered.  It's not that I never go anywhere.  I just wasn't going anywhere today.  Fortunately, those are very different things.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Missed Opportunity: George Clooney

Hey, remember when I was in a movie?  I just like to refer to it now and then.  I found an article the other day about the film student who directed the short I was in (Brantley Ping, in the hat in this photo), and there is a photo referring to me as "actor Serenity Bohon."  You know I bookmarked that baby.  After all, according to my 9-year-old (a couple posts earlier), it is one of the things for which I might eventually be famous. (You can see the article HERE, because I know you care.)

All of this brings me to today's small regret.  I could have been in a film with George Clooney, but I turned it down.  (Keep reading for the realistic version of that statement that was SO FUN to write).

Mom has this awesome knack for passing along information for opportunities that probably sound like torture to her but which she knows one or the other of us would love.  Enter a little ad she saw for extras in a George Clooney flick which would be filming at the St. Louis airport less than 4 hours from me.  

I read all about it - you get paid, I don't remember, eleven dollars a day or something.  And the days are hours and hours and hours beyond a normal work day (Okay, like 11 or 12).  But you're in a film with George Clooney.  (You see?  That logic alone would have gotten me in this film.  I AM their target audience.)  And, listen, I had a whole other reason that was pretty good too.  Research.

I'm writing a novel, and let's just say knowing what it actually feels like on the set of a major film, or at least what it feels like to be within several yards of an actor you've previously only seen up close in your movie cabinet at home, would be priceless firsthand information.  Unfortunately, I could have driven all the way to the audition only to find out I didn't get to take part.  OR, I could have driven all the way to the audition only to have to come back a second day.  This is hotel and gas money I didn't really have, what with the economy crashing around our heads, on the off-chance that I would actually be chosen.  I was practical, People.  And nobody ever got into a George Clooney movie BY BEING PRACTICAL.

So, I don't know if regret is the right word.  Those were some precious hours with my actual life that I don't really wish I'd given up.  Still, in a couple of years, George Clooney should appear in a film called Up in the Air (with Jason Bateman too - I've loved you in everything you've done, Mr. Bateman) in which he is a "corporate downsizer obsessed with collecting frequent flyer miles at the expense of having a life".  I'm thinking comedy more than dark drama.  But I'm pretty sure, I'll be the girl in the second to last row, crying.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I hope you dance

Another song title - I can't help it; they move me.  

This is just a little lesson from my journal sometime late fall/early winter of 1999, which some of you might remember as the best months of my LIFE, because they were the first few months of my motherhood.  I had started working from home that year too, and I was very happy in most things although as dramatic as ever in others.  One day I wrote in my journal while John Michael lay nestled on my bent legs - our favorite way to sit together.  And I wrote about how I was always penning the big emotions and giant dreams and plans but that someday, when I read my journal again, it might be interesting to me that John Michael was starting to grab at things and what movie we had watched the night before and that we'd decided to teach our kids to say "Papa" instead of "Daddy" because of cute little Emma Pihlstrom running through the Christmas tree farm calling her Swedish father that.

Last night I read the profiles for the American Idol contestants and loved the one who said that his goals in life were to be a good husband and father and to not have any regrets.  Eh?  You know we can see you on a reality television show designed to catapult you to vocal fame, right?  Of course he does.  But that's just the no regrets part.  He'll be okay if he's not catapulted to fame.  He just wouldn't be okay if he hadn't tried.

Then I downloaded I Hope You Dance to my iTunes today, a song I adore because of all the things it hopes you do every single day.  ("I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean" - LOVE THAT).  I have a lot of plans and dreams, but the goal is every day.  Because when you come to die, it's the way you lived those that you're going to care about - much more than how much can be written as your accomplishments.

Today, we hung out with our friend Zoe.  Jake is very into trains, and she happily played along.  She lives just down the street, and her mom is one of my best friends.  We probably won't always live just down the street from each other.  It's very cool, and I want to remember it.  

I also want to remember Michael and John right now.  They're watching the Mizzou game together.  I kind of care, but I just don't like to watch Michael yelling at those poor 19-year-old boys about their defense.  It makes me flinch for them.
And here's another thing Jake's into:  Apples.  He says it with Z's instead of P's, but he eats them clear down to the core - like scary close to eating the seeds, which I hear are poisonous.  It's especially cute because that dude rarely eats all of anything.

I won't normally tell you all my little details.  I just wanted to inspire you to take happy note of yours.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

Do you know that song?  Here Comes the Sun?  In googling it, I just discovered it's a Beatles song, which reminds me of all those times as a kid when we would hear a song on the radio and say, "Hey that's from the McDonalds commercial!" - an aren't-they-cute-and-young moment that we share with our own kids now, only the songs are usually from Shrek.  It reminds me of that, because until just now I would have said "Here Comes the Sun" was from Parent Trap.  The remake.   

I heard it today and thought of Natasha Richardson in that movie when she and Lindsey Lohan share a mother-daughter moment in London.  It's very sunshiny, very happy, very alive.  And suddenly I was crying.  I felt so sad for Natasha's family.  When the announcement was made of her death, it came with that typical publicist-worded phrase about respecting the family's privacy.  I figure that mostly means photographers, but I still felt rude blogging about it or tweeting it on twitter when I am anything but family and that would hardly be privacy.  Today I can't help it though.  

I've recently reread a lovely book called Stepping Heavenward.  It's very old, but it has one of the more relatable Christian characters I've ever read.  Relatable to me at least.  Her name is Katy.  The book takes her from adolescence to motherhood and shows her Christian growth - as she herself would say.  She's desperate for Christian growth throughout the book.  She is always trying to know God better, or rather, to reflect Him more.  She has fits of almost unreal faith because of this - little euphoric moments of grace where she feels basically perfected.  I hate to admit those moments of hers are as relatable to me as her fits of unrest, of gloom, and of the conviction that she will never understand God's ways nor how to be a proper Christian. 

Katy has several seasoned Christians in her life, so the book is full of their helpful (if pious) monologues about the Christian walk.  I like them both - I like the religious statements because there are nuggets of true and attainable poetry in them, and I like the temper tantrums and the sorrow and the imperfection, because it's true.  I find life somewhere in the middle most of the time.  There is an odd celebration for suffering in the book that I don't quite understand.  I know it's straight bible to "rejoice that we are counted worthy" to suffer as Jesus did.  Still, when the seasoned woman said as much - how blessed she was by the death of every person she'd ever held dear because it drew her closer to God and shouldn't the younger woman in the same way cheerfully accept the sudden death of her fiance, I kind of wanted to crawl through the book and shush her.

That's not a kind of faith that I actually understand.  For one thing, if we suffer because we are counted worthy it seems to follow that those who glide on peacefully must not be held in high esteem by Him.  And don't think I'm reading too greatly into this - I can't think of any character in the book who doesn't suffer but is considered a seasoned Christian.  The rich and healthy people in the book are generally grumpy and ingenuous and shallow while the ones who pursue Him are continually losing health and family members!  The faith I have managed thus far is somewhere in between.  I don't think I could ever actually thank God if he took something from me so precious as a fiance or a child.  I don't really think I believe that God does such a thing.  I think death takes our loved ones from us, and God - thankfully - receives them on the other side.  

However, I've been through some things.  And I've watched wonderful people go through some things.  And I do believe that you can embrace the pain without losing your faith.  And if you do that, eventually, the sun comes back.  It eventually always does.  There will be better, happier times, and you will actually feel the happy.  That's the sun to me.  It's so hard to believe when it's cloudy, like it was at our house today when the song came on that made me think of Natasha Richardson's family.  I know they feel so dark today.  And I have a hard time believing that taking a mother from two teenage sons and a husband is just the best thing for all involved.  I think it's awful, and if it were me I'd have a little talk with God when I joined Him - it's great here and all, but WHY?  Still, even for the Richardson family, and although it might be a while - here comes the sun.  I've seen it happen, so I know it can.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

in which I totally break the rules

Remember chain letters?  Facebook does something kind of like that, only with question and answer games.  And instead of being promised thirty-six pages of stickers when it's over (or any hint of being doomed if you don't participate), it just promises that you'll learn new things about your facebook friends.  They're usually pretty entertaining, although I've never done one myself.  I figure blogging is enough talking about myself for one cyberworld - and twitter and all the sites I use for work.  Anyway, I also get hung up on the part where you have to tag people.  But there have been two I couldn't resist.  I played them but never posted them, and now I'm going to use my blog to exercise all kinds of "self-indulgent drivel" as Simon would say, and post the answers I want to.  

The first asked questions that you answered by the title of whichever iTunes song came up next when set on random.  That was a fun one, but most of the answers I think are only fun to me - after all, these are songs I've chosen because they mean something to me.  The answer to, "What is your life's purpose?", for instance, was The Way I Am and to "What is your life story?" - Made to Worship.  I did NOT like the answer to "What do your parents think of you?" (When Did You Fall) nor the song that will be played at my funeral, Happy Day.  :)  Feel free to refute the former, Mom.

I also couldn't resist the questions that your children were supposed to answer for you.  Some of these were awesome.  John's answers are first in black, Drew's in blue - the same order as their picture above.  (They're 9 and 7):

What was your mom like as a little girl?
A little girl.  Kind, nice.

If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
An actor or selling books.  Writing thousands and billions of books.

I couldn't believe they know exactly what I do for a job:
Works on a computer, works for this thing to persuade college students to go to these different places.  Works on the computer and entertains people by making them want to go different places like New York, and writing books.

What is your mom's favorite food?
Chicken chimichanga (correct).  Chicken fajita. (close)

What makes you proud of your mom?
She chases her dreams.  That she loves me.

If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Bugs Bunny - you're funny and you're smart.  Mrs. Bohon. (I will in the future consider this the identity of a super - like Mrs. Incredible.)

What do you and your mom do together?
We talk with each other a lot.  Talk by writing.

How are you and your mom the same?
Our eye color is the same.  We both love each other.

How are you and your mom different?
She has a job, and I don't.  I'm a boy, and she's a girl - I mean, WO-man.

How do you know your mom loves you?
She tells me that every day.  Because every night she kisses me and says, "I love you."

What does your mom like most about your dad?
He's funny and handsome.  They've known each other for a long time.

What is your mom's favorite place to go?
They BOTH answered, "Mexican restaurants."  Which reminds me that I'm hungry.

I am especially proud at how often I tell them I love them and John's completely awesome answer to what makes him proud of me.  The itunes answer to the question, "What do you want right now?" was, Better Life.  There could not be a more inaccurate answer than that.

(Although I do love that song because of how much I relate to it!  Ah, the complexities of any one person.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This might be the most fun I've had on blogger yet

A few things you should know about my mom:

First, this is a picture of her with my younger sister Charity, who really doesn't get pictured enough on my blog - so there you have it.  And here are some more things:

I get my love for writing from her.  I started writing books in the preteen years.  I always had the main character's home intricately mapped out, all of the family members named - first, middle, and poetic meaning - the back story outlined, then one quarter of the first chapter - usually with a cute teenage girl, a twerpy little brother (sorry, Joe, but that really reflects more on me than on you), and a mom in the home office clacking away on her typewriter.

She is the oldest - I mean - most mature woman I know with an actual crush on the man she's been married to longer than she was single.  Actual crush.  As in, "Isn't he cute?" and "I thought you should know this wonderful thing your father did today."

She is genuinely baffled that none of her children are famous yet - if not for a specific talent, than for sheer awesomeness.

She likes Diet Coke, chocolate, the Little Women soundtrack, sentimental gifts (this woman likes to cry, People), curling up with a magazine or a happy movie, her grandchildren, Christmas, and Dad (did I already mention him?).

She has a serious gift for the silver lining.  If she can't find one, she will MAKE ONE UP.  She believes in God's perfect timing, God's unfathomable mercy, and his perfect timing.  (It's one of the silver linings - it comes in handy a lot, believing in that one).

And, finally, SHE. HAS. A. BLOG.  This is her premier right here on my own blog!  Consider it graced with a red carpet and flashing with camera lights, and me wearing Oscar de la Renta.  She's actually quite the magazine writer aficionado, but she took a slight reprieve back in the day to rear us soon-t0-be famous people.  (That's right before she taught us that, yes, children are reared, not raised.  And that's because of her odd enjoyment for appropriate grammar.)  But you'll soon see more of her articles as she's re-dipping her toes into the world of freelance and, of course, taking it by storm.  

You can find her right here on blogger by clicking these pretty words: Kathy Nickerson.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

writerly advice . . . that I should take

I want to thank Lindsey Leavitt for this week's advice I've heard a million times but this time I think it actually sank in.  Since I started blogging, I've discovered the bottomless pit that is the writing community online.  It's seriously huge.  Although, it's also seriously small.  (Just like the world).  I'm always finding connections between people that I previously only knew un-connected.  And, anyway, while reading about writing and attending a couple of writing conferences, I've heard a few things more than once.  The reason they get said more than once is because they are true, and because we don't listen.  For instance, at the first conference I ever attended, a lovely children's book author said, "You have to write because you love it."  Not for any other reason - like, say, getting rich.  An agent the next year said, "Write what you love."  Or in another agent's words (heck, a million other agents' words), "Don't follow trends."  

This is all super helpful, right?  I'm sitting there all stressed out about whether or not the publishing industry is ever going to notice me, and all these people are putting the stars back in my eyes by reminding me that the joy has to come from the writing itself.  Or you'll always be very, very dissatisfied.  It worked every time, but still somehow my husband and I end up in conversations in which I'm trying to decide how to write about vampires since it appears that they sell well.  (I just hope my agent isn't reading this and thinking,  Dude, I wish you would give me something with vampires.  Because that would kind of step all over this highly insightful post.)  

So we have the conversation about vampires or witchcraft or sad, literary endings and then, inevitably, I'm re-focused by some great author or agent or editor who knows how to chill and enjoy the ride.  Now, usually their journey has sort of landed on a shelf somewhere at some point, but still - I have to assume they know, I'm convinced they're right, and it works every time.  This week's benefactress, as I said:  Lindsey Leavitt.

You can click on her name to visit an interview with her.  She's - well - simply delightful, and she has a book coming out about a substitute princess (a girl who steps in for princesses around the world), and she had this advice for writers.  "Write your heart out."  She said we get so caught up in the pursuit of publication that we forget to just write, write, write.  And unless you do that, there won't be anything to publish.  

NOW, if people would just stop telling me that we're not supposed to quit the day job, I would find it so much easier to put Lindsey's awesome advice into practice.  

Monday, March 16, 2009

life on the highway

When we visit my surgeon in Kansas City, we're actually in the Kansas side of the city.  And when we go, Michael likes to wear as many Mizzou clothes as possible.  This time it really paid off.  He got to talk sports with everyone from the waiter and waitress at Chili's to a stranger in the hospital hallway to my surgeon's residents.  (Not so much with my surgeon who apparently only appreciates sporting events for the beer and the ribs.  They serve ribs at KU games?)  Anyway.  I was really glad for all those takers, because I can't really carry on an actual conversation about basketball with Michael.  However, today I am really loving Missouri, and that's due in part to the Big Twelve conference champs - the Missouri Tigers.  Yes, I'm that kind of sports fan.  Give me a championship, and suddenly I'm really proud that you're more my team than anyone else and that I even attended a game in seats so close to the floor I was embarrassed by the length of the cheerleader's skirts.  So that's one reason I'm loving my state today.  Mizzou.  Rah.

Second - and this is far more in keeping with the normal tone of the blog - I am loving a good country highway, and Missouri is full of 'em.  I had some things to mull over today, and the mulling was so stifled in the monotony of the house where the cycle of trying to work while trying to parent Jake can eventually drive a person insane with its sameness.  Then Felic emailed with the very cool news that an old college friend would be eating with her in the town where she lives and works about an hour away.  I finished up the work I was doing, clocked out, and hit the road.  

There is nothing like a drive on country highway to clear the fog, except maybe time with my sister and parents, which is what I would find on the other end of the drive.  And I needed to clear the fog.  Technically, it didn't work.  I'm still a bit unclear on the job thoughts I was trying to settle.  But, oi vey, the change in perspective.  A long stretch of country highway makes me feel suspended between obligations.  Jake relaxed the whole way to a movie in the back seat, so I knew he wouldn't need anything the entire trip.  And somehow even in the age of cell phones, I feel unreachable on a drive.  At least, I feel like I let go of that feeling that I need to be available, constantly in contact with someone.  It's like an escape seeing nothing but trees, pasture, and highway behind you and nothing but more of the same ahead.  

I usually glamorize city life.  It sounds so cool to me to walk city blocks to work, have a favorite coffee shop two doors down, a hot dog stand nearby, and Chinese delivery every night.  But today I've got nothing but love for country highways, small towns, and Mizzou-Rah.  That's what a good long drive can do for a girl.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I've missed you, Kansas City

Tomorrow is check-up day.  There's nothing like a check-up at a "Sarcoma Institute" to help you relive that terrible day when you were told you had cancer.  That comes with all kinds of scary thoughts. But truthfully, I kind of like to be reminded.  That year was as poignant in its revelations as it was in terror, and the revelations are something I never want to forget.  I'm not terribly fond of the deep scar on my right shoulder either, but I don't notice it without reliving the good moments as well as the bad.

There's a wall of survivors at Dr. R's office with pictures of his patients - all smiley and grateful for him.  I've never remembered to send him one of me, but I'm thinking something like this one - since Jake was such a part of our miracle.  The first time we took Jake to one of my checkups, other patients noticed him so sadly because they were afraid he was the one with the disease.  We were happy to tell them otherwise.  

Other patients there make me sad too.  I always say to Michael, "This is one waiting room in which you really don't want to see even one other person."  Instead, it's usually crowded.  I especially hate it if the patient seems new.  We regulars have a certain confidence and happiness because we've been through the gauntlet and come out all brightened and re-prioritized about our lives.  The new ones are so sad though, because they don't know how it will go for them.  This disease is very unpredictable, so I don't know how it will go for them either.  And I hate it. 

But I didn't start this post to be sad.  Like I said, it doesn't make me sad to be reminded of my cancer.  It makes me something else - it's kind of proud, kind of grateful - but with a painful little edge that hopes I never have to be this proud or grateful again.  Mostly, I'm looking forward to tomorrow.  We don't have the kind of budget that would create bi-yearly trips to Kansas City just for the heck of it.  And I love that drive so much.  I love the uninterrupted time with Michael and the long stretch of Missouri highway that's really only good for two things - conversation and happy thoughts.  So I'm going to revel in it.  On the way down we'll talk about our jobs and our plans and our kids.  I'll be nervous for the last thirty minutes or so before I see Dr. R. and breathe a sigh of relief (he doesn't have to say anything - I swear his presence just emits some sort of emotional Valium), and then we'll eat somewhere cool and on the way home we'll call the moms and the grandmas and then talk about how great life's going to be from here on out.  The whole thing is really much more treat than torture.  It's a wonderful feeling to be followed that closely for signs of recurrence, and an even better feeling when they Don't. Find. ANY.

(P.S.  Thank you, Grandma Jane, for giving the kids something much more fun to do than a drive and a waiting room.  It's really hard to keep Jake out of the rippling fountain next to the sign-in desk.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I learned to dance from a cowboy

Last night's Dancing with the Stars theme was for me, "What a trouper."  (Is it trouper or trooper?)  Because with almost every contestant, I would make this little nurturing sound and say that phrase.  With some it was just because this was their first time, and you could see their nerves begging them to stay in that stupid low-ceilinged room rather than subject themselves to that pressure.  But they went out on that stage anyway, knowing the judges would criticize everything from their wayward bums to their gymnastic arms to their toe leads AND knowing that there was no possible way the majority of the American viewing audience could have any idea just how difficult it is to master the steps, the form, the choreography, and the emotion of the dance and manage to capture all of it at once.  Seriously, we have no idea.

But besides simply the first time jitters, there were two contestants who had exactly two days to learn the dance, because they were replacements for those who were injured.  ONE of these last minute replacements was dumped by her fiance on The Bachelor on national television only one week ago.  I was just as impressed with her pretty dancing and subsequent comeback to life as ABC's marketing department intended for me to be.  (Even though the poor thing tried to tell us she is fine.)  And then there was the cowboy.  

The cowboy is Jewel's husband, and the plan was that they would be the first married couple competing against each other.  Then Jewel got hurt, and this poor shy cowboy is left all by himself on this national television program known foremost for its fake tans and sequined costumes.  I really felt for this guy.  He was so gentlemanly and unassuming, taking the criticism so bravely and stating without any sense of self-preservation, "I was very nervous out there.  And I'll try to do better next time."  Michael groaned when I suggested that we watch the show at all, but by the time the cowboy had danced Michael was watching with at least one eyeball and demanded someone get that poor man a horse so he could feel more comfortable.

So, obviously, they've sucked me in again with their colorful costumes and pretty music, and as always - though more noticeable this season - their bravery.  Maybe it's not the kind of bravery you care to have in life.  I definitely get that.  Learning to move your hips is probably a long way from your bucket list.  But I still say there's something to learn from all that dancing.  And for me, last night, it was all about being brave.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I meant to give you a happy post for Monday, but then we went to the dentist

For the first day of Spring Break, I took my children to the dentist.  Worst vacation plan EVER.  

For Jake it was a nice change since he just got to play in the kids room the whole time.  It wasn't too bad for me either; I got to catch up on People after all.  And neither of the boys had cavities, which is very cool.  But then she told me they need sealants - which is just another appointment really, nothing major.  And she talked about the potential orthodontia in our future.  About five minutes before that I had looked up from my magazine and told Jake, "I don't want to be here anymore."  It must have been my subconscious warning me of what was to come.  I made the appointments for the sealants and was then bombarded with questions from the boys in the car about how much braces hurt. 

I was silent for a very long 20 seconds or so.  I had flashbacks to seventh grade when they put my top braces on in two steps and I actually had to go to school with just the brackets glued to my teeth one day - no wire connecting them.  It looked ridiculous and people told me so.  Then I had flashbacks to the pain - oh the pain.  I almost cried thinking of the way it feels when they first put them on you and you feel your head is being squeezed from the inside out by sharp metal.  "It only hurts for a day or so after they first put them on," I told the boys reassuringly, and then the flashbacks to the monthly checkups.  And I was almost crying again.  Dear God the checkups.  The memory of the twisting and tightening of the wires made me squirm in the driver's seat while I tried to figure out how to answer them.  And then the maddening disappointment of getting out of school to ride 30 minutes to the orthodontist and then to get to eat out at a restaurant only to discover you can't eat the food because it hurts too horribly to bite down.  And then the day that I actually had to return to school with rubber bands from the front top teeth to the bottom.  No teenager should have to endure this.  That's what I was thinking in the car while these scenes were bombarding my mind like the memory of some distant torture and my children were hanging on my every word trying to prepare themselves for the inevitable.  

What was I thinking having children?  We barely survive our own little traumas, and then we bring children into the world and have to go through it all over again with them.  The braces, the embarrassments, the unrequited love.

Yes, this is what going to the dentist got me today.  Not one single pleasant update about Brad or Jen.  Not even the Disney World picture of Tom, Katie, and Suri made up for the trauma of those flashbacks to braces.  If there were ANY way to keep my children from that barbaric practice, I'd do it.  Since I can't, look for two crying people to emerge from the orthodontist's office in a few years - a good looking boy and his poor, sad mother literally feeling his pain.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

live every day on purpose

So you know I recently discovered yoga.  Our family doctor recently re-
commended it to my parents, and I considered that the final confirmation I needed that it's definitely enriching my life.  I love to see new faces in the class I take.  I feel so happy for them that they're about to discover the magic.  

And then, the other day I wrote about hot tea, which I don't do every day - but I was so not kidding about how sold I've become on its healing powers.  And I can't wait to try all the flavors you recommended! (Are they flavors or brands? I think I'll figure it out . . .)

I noticed at some point around the start of this blog that writing at least one little piece of something before I go to sleep at night can make that whole day seem fully lived.  A director from one of my favorite DVD commentaries (I love those things) said that his parents taught him to "do something creative every day."  I love that guy's parents.  And I totally agree with them.

I hope you have things like that - things that you find when you do them you're not just getting through life but actually living it.  There aren't very many of these things I manage to do every single day without fail, but if I hit on one or two of them, it brings the whole day out of its forgettable state.  And this post is about another good every-day activity: Dancing.

I learned about it from Kris Carr.  She stars in the documentary, Crazy Sexy Cancer, about her determination to find natural ways to prolong her life despite a terminal diagnosis of untreatable cancer.  One thing I remember her saying in the documentary is that she dances every day.  She turns on music in her kitchen, living room - wherever she is - and she just moves to it.  You can imagine, in light of this post, how much immediate sense that made to me.

Of course, I don't do it every day.  But when I do - I feel way better.  It's easy to find music in this house worth moving to.  If it's not on my iTunes, then it's playing behind the credits of the last movie we watched.  Or if I'm really lucky, it's playing IN the movie - and we can "Brazzle Dazzle Day" our way to health with Nora and Pete on Pete's Dragon.  (Jake's love for this movie is easily one of my favorite things about him.  That movie is like a little cup of sunshine.)  And, I gotta say, although I can learn a dance without too much stress, I can't remember them later.  So it's not like I have a repertoire of awesome moves in my internal soul library.  So when I say "dance", I mean move happily to the beat.  Or not even to the beat.  Just move.  It is so liberating.  I like to do it in the kitchen while I'm cooking or unloading the dishwasher, in front of a movie (as mentioned) with Jake, or all alone in front of the bathroom mirror with the chaos of motherhood locked on the other side.  I like swaying to a slow one, kicking it with a happy one - it all works.  And convinces me every time how right that woman was.   

Every day: Do something creative and just move it.  What's on your list?  Which part of the day makes you feel most alive?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

you can't get anything by this guy

This is Jake (with his cousin Jude on the left), and I chose this picture because it's pretty much the look he gave me this morning (or perhaps himself in the mirror) when plotting his behavior for the Parents as Teachers representative.  

I had imagined the best and worst case scenarios of how he would behave that were well within his range of predictability, and he plopped himself squarely in the worst column.  He basically refused to participate in the game she brought.  And it wasn't that he wanted something else.  It was more like he had us totally figured out and so was not going to let us enrich his life today.  He kept looking into my eyes like he was trying to get me to CONFESS that I was worried about him and brought some other woman over to make him roll squishy dice and count blocks.  "Come on, Mom.  What's really going on here?  I never saw you play dice and blocks on the floor with another adult before."  If we had a code word for run, he was looking for me to say it.  And when I wouldn't, he ran anyway.

But none of that really fazed me considering why she was sitting in my living room with blocks in the first place.  It happened - last week I think?  When I looked up from my computer where I work basically all day, and he was watching a movie - which he does, basically all day - and I never felt more sure of anything than that I wanted to add some stimulation into BOTH of our lives.  I love working from home, and I'm probably far more passionate about it than Michael is thrilled with - because I've never really struck it rich here.  But it's got its downfalls just like anything else, and currently that downfall is the feeling that perhaps I HAVE NO LIFE.

So when the Parents as Teachers girl told me today that the expectation for language is that we would understand 90% of what a child says by the time they are 4, I breathed a big fat sigh of relief.  That might seriously be possible with a child who can pretty much communicate all his desires with a word (or its simpler descriptive friend) at this point and even answer the question, "What is your name?" in a semi-complete sentence.  But the greater thrill for me was the spice it added to our day.  Another face!  New toys!  Interaction from the outside world!  I needed that.  And I feel better for having given it to him.  Even if he did keep expecting the code word. (If only we'd had a code word for Dude, I'm pretty sure we're graded on participation here.  Just play with the blocks already.)  Maybe I'll work on that for next time.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thus ended my prejudice against that warm, brownish thing they call tea

This yummy cup of awesome was my salvation last week when I wasn't feeling well.  Chest congestion is the only thing that can ever induce me to drink hot tea.  Until now.  Now I will drink it for soul congestion as well.  For Mondays and Wednesdays and the cold, dark days of January.  Any time the bills outweigh the booty or I hear too much about the economy - bring on the tea.  Now that I've discovered its powers.  

You know I wasn't feeling well last week, and my mother one day recommended hot tea, as any proper mother should.  I remembered a sense of cozy warmth the last time my chest had hurt like this, so I was for it.  I boiled water in a plain old soup pot.  I had a variety of tea bags around - a gift from Mom at Christmas I think? - and chose spicy chai.  Then I dipped the water from the plain old pot using a plain old ladle, but I poured it over the tea bag into this beautiful pink-budded cup on its matching saucer.  And that, I'm pretty sure, created the magic.

My Australian friend sent me this tea set, because we always said we wished we could have tea together.  It came up because of our mutual love for Anne of Green Gables and the fact that in Australia, they actually have tea.  (Jake and I call it snack).  She sent it, I'm pretty sure, during the cancer year so it holds the added intention of, "If there was anything I could do to ease your pain, I'd do it - and here is a wonderfully sweet tea set for starters."  

The combination of that wonderfully spicy-chaied warmth and the feeling that Bec was actually reaching across the ocean to pat my weary soul (plus the added aspect of having obeyed my mother, which rarely fails me) - all worked together to soothe every corner of my being.  I had no idea a cup of tea could pack so much miracle power in it, but I'll never forget it again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

if you've ever had a Monday

Michael's cousin posted this video on her Facebook today, and I think it should be broadcast for the entire country.  THIS is a State of the Union address right here.  It will make you laugh, it will make you cringe, and when you're done watching it you'll probably microwave leftovers without complaining and actually thank someone for bagging your groceries.  Everything is so amazing, and nobody's happy.  Preach it, Funny Guy.

(For more from this guy, his name is Louis C.K., and you can find him on his website).

Monday, February 23, 2009

I hope Dad comments, so I'll know where he's at in the room

If I were in charge, I'd get Hugh Jackman to sign a contract right now for the next few years.  The Oscars are better I think for a little familiarity, and I miss the days of the tried-and-true host who's both a funny man, a classy man, and a music man - and Hugh won on all counts I think.  On the other hand, here's to changing things up - like the prettiest set design ever, the return of the big musical numbers, and the five previous winners honoring personally each nominee in the acting categories.  One of my favorite parts of the Oscars:  Watching them react to each other, and those categories were stuffed full of moving.

Here are some nominees for my favorite moments:  First up, the musical numbers.  I told you I think even life should "periodically burst into song, and dance about the stage," so I was all for the very cool opening number, the heart-stopping "Musical is Back" routine, and the performances of the three nominated songs.  (What happened to five?  For a year in which the musical is back, there was a shocking lack of big movie songs apparently).  I even liked it when Hugh cracked up during the unique song about not yet having seen The Reader.  And, while I'm signing contracts, I think Beyonce should be considered the official Oscar singer.  Remember the year she sang three of the five songs, and they were all in such a unique style?  She's just really, really good.  Plain and simple.

Next I wrote down, "Heath's family."  It was a very gracious acceptance speech from the people who surely knew Heath Ledger the best.  But what moved me most were the tears in the audience.  I wondered which of them had been his dear friends, which of them cried simply because of a young life lost too soon, and which of them - perhaps - were parents too and empathized with the painfully beautiful thought of accepting such a high honor for a child who shouldn't have, but did, go before you.

I like it when people seem to notice us out there on our couches with popcorn soaking in every minute.  I like it when they say, "I used to give this speech with a shampoo bottle," (a la Kate Winslet last night), or when they remind us that, "Anything's possible".  Last night my favorite moment like that was when the director for Slumdog Millionaire complimented the beautiful set design, saying, "I don't know what it looks like at home, but here it's bloody wonderful."  I believe you, Mr. Boyle, yes I do.  And it's so nice of you to tell me that like you're the friend of a friend who lucked out enough to know somebody who knows somebody who got you into the show and then took a picture of it on your blackberry and texted it my way.  I now feel even more like I was there.

I mentioned the musical numbers, right? (Here's a You Tube video of The Musical is Back).

But then, after all this, came my favorite part of all.  I know for sure it was my favorite, because I found the clip HERE, and I've watched it over and over today.  It was Kate Winslet's father whistling to her across that huge room of somebodys.  Her reaction was like end-of-the-movie, thank-God-they-found-each-other, dreams-come-true sublime.  

Of course, the soundtrack to this year's Oscars was apparently Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire (some of the cast pictured here by KaushiK on Flickr) - a movie I am SO GLAD I saw before Oscar night.  And what a great movie to win so many Oscars.  It's about rising above, finding your destiny, fighting for love - all the good stuff.  Where I watched the show, we wore bright yellow scarves in honor of the movie and that happy theme.  Jai Ho means, "May the victory be yours."  I am loving that.

Friday, February 20, 2009

most exciting thing that ever exited a furniture truck outside my door

Important update to to the category of what I'm looking forward to most:  He's going to SING AND DANCE.  Hugh Jackman, I mean.  (pictured here by edison0618 on Flickr).  I heard it from his own mouth.  (Although not technically in person of course).  I stand firmly in the camp that believes almost any program - or, you know, moment in LIFE - is improved by a song and dance number.  I'd rather watch a really cheesy Nick-and-Jessica type variety show than song-less, monotonous reality t.v. any day.  So I have officially put this as number one - okay, maybe second to the montages - on my list. The Oscars are going to rock this year; I can feel it.

In other what-I-watched-while-recuperating-from-a-cold news, I saw The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants sequel the other day.  There was a great moment where America Ferrera's character talked about the delicious language used in the play she was rehearsing for.  She complained at how lazy we are now - how much prettier phrases were then and how much richer it felt to speak that way.  "Why don't people talk like that anymore?" she wailed.  I loved that part.  I love the idea that if we would just stop and savor the little things in life a little more, our lives would be so much richer.  We tend to live through life rather than in it sometimes. And I love it when a book or a movie suggests that we stop and take it in a bit. The  National Treasure movies have some great lines like that too, which brings me to my little Hollywood gem for the day.

Do you ever find yourself vaguely remembering a movie line?  You know it moved you, but you can't quite remember what it was.  Let me introduce you to (as if you didn't already know) a little thing called IMDB - the Internet Movie Database.  You know you can find out who was in what film there, but you can also find a wealth of great movie quotes.  The page is called "Memorable Quotes" for each movie, so I usually get there by typing that phrase and the movie title into a search engine.  You'll be spouting poetic in no time.  

In honor of living life richly, allow me to cyber-celebrate a little gift I received yesterday from The Man himself:  This dark wooden rectangle of wonderful, our new table.

We have never in our married life bought ourselves a table.  Hand-me-downs work just as well for eating on.  Only I so don't believe that now.  This glorious piece of furniture has officially become the centerpiece for my lucky life.  I touch it every time I walk by.  We christened it last night with company and everything - company I would have the previous night seated in the living room with a t.v. tray rather than sit at our chipped wooden table with the hard, flat decades-old benches.

I'm working on the song and dance routine as we speak.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Life is richer when you organize it into categories for Academy Awards

I still have Oscar fever around here.  Along with the actual fever, as in, "Leave the bread by the wagon, Pa, I've got the fever and we're quarantined."  But it's just that nasty cold sort of plague that doesn't keep me from pretty much carrying on as normal.  Instead, it just makes me feel zero guilt when I choose the couch and a movie over yoga, or pouring over enjoyable books on my lunch hour and evening stretches instead of more productive things like laundry and novel writing.  I look forward to feeling better, but in the meantime I'm sucking the marrow out of the sniffly, achy, wheezing permission to take more in from life this week than I'm giving out.  

Besides the sickness, there is another reason I'm either reading a book or watching a movie in all my spare time.  It's hard to do anything else when I literally have myself tied down with sheets lest I bug my agent this week with a daily "What's happening now?".  There was a little movement with the manuscript last week, though nothing concrete.  The last I talked to my agent she sounded very positive and hopeful and was off to see what she could make out of the positivity.  So I'm sitting tight.  Michael, as you may remember from previous posts, has a horror of being uncool and has told me to refrain from anxious phone calls or silly emails in which I say things like, "Hey Hol, how's the weather on Fifth Avenue?" when what I really mean is, "What's happening already?!"  And for God's sake, don't actually write anything like the latter.  Just BE cool.  And I'm thoroughly obeying him, meanwhile devouring distracting entertainment like a tonic.

So here's some of the tonic I've been devouring, organized into completely subjective and ridiculously pretend Oscar categories.

Most inspiring DVD for pursuing the writing dream 'til I die:  Miss Potter.  Ooh, this is a good one.  Rene Zellweger plays the slightly eccentric, very proper-yet-independent author who convinces me that I will not rest until I'm able to buy a farm in the English country with my book earnings - or some dream equally true to my own life - and it was the first time I wanted two characters to rebel against 19th century propriety and just say I love you already!  Also, I've never seen animation add such a subtle charm to a film.  No girl should marry a man who isn't willing to talk to her imaginary rabbit.  That scene was too sweet.

Favorite song downloaded to my iTunes so I can remember how it made me feel in the movie:  Currently Love You Til the End from P.S. I Love You.  What do you think comes first:  A great song?  Or the movie that makes the song great?  I'm sure it's a combo, but there is just something about those songs that evoke the emotions you felt in a great film.  Also recently added to my iTunes:  Thinking Over from Raising Helen and When You Say Nothing At All from Notting Hill.  Songs from movies are almost always my favorites.

What I'm looking forward to the most:  The nominees are:  Hugh Jackman. I think he's a classy choice for host.  I'm not expecting humor a la Billy Crystal or even Jon Stewart, but I'd so much rather look at him all night than Whoopie.  The speeches.  I like to see who can avoid all cliches - no comment on how heavy Oscar actually is, and no "I should have prepared a speech".  Because, yes, you should have.  I want poetry, tears and/or laughter, and the appropriate balance between humility and celebration. (Good luck with that).  The people.  That's really the best part I suppose - so many of our favorite entertainers in one place, all dressed up prettily.  I like to watch them react to each other.  I love it when they can make each other laugh and cry and cheer.  But the winner is:  The music montages.  I want to hear dramatic soundtracks with clip after clip after clip of the movies I've loved.  I really like that part.  (But not without the rest).

Monday, February 16, 2009

books on film

It's Oscar week.  Meaning, that on Sunday night you should be able to find me on a couch somewhere with popcorn, Reeses Pieces, and a Diet Coke literally glued to a television screen while Hollywood celebrates itself and produces the most glamorous commercial ever for pretentious movies we might not otherwise have seen - as well as a few nods to those we all saw.  

In honor of that, my favorite night in television, I'm talking movies this week.  That may mean this is the only post you get, because it's not like I have it all planned out.

You may notice this is not a picture of a movie but of the book that birthed a movie.  I just read it as I loved the movie, and friends told me the book was so much better.  I assumed I would agree with them but also felt a little trepidation having seen the movie first and loved it so much.  Sure enough, in this case, I prefer the movie.  Now, I'm pretty sure there's a club I'm being kicked out of right now.  It's literary and writer-supportive and thoroughly convinced that the book is always better.  And I just totally shamed them.

I love books.  Love, love, love them.  I write them for goodness' sake.  And I read them, and I adore them.  This one is truly lovely.  The premise is absolutely beautiful, the characters are loveable, it's realistic and uplifting.  It's just very good.  Almost the only major plot difference is that the movie is set in America about an American who fell in love with an Irishman.  In the book, they are all, of course, Irish.  I really enjoyed that aspect of the movie - probably because I saw it that way first.  The relationship between Holly and her husband in the book is kind of plain in comparison.  In the movie, it is rich and poetic and unique.  Also, his letters to her in the movie just have more umph.  He is not just giving her a list of things to get done but a journey for finding herself again.  I think this was the point of the book as well, but it wasn't as poignant.  I missed the soundtrack, the gorgeous clothes, and the tighter humor that comes with the collaborative effort and condensed time frame of film.

Also, I missed the creative aspect.  That was the most relatable part of the film for me - the way she used to want to create things.  In the book, she simply finds a job.  In the movie, she finds a beautiful creative outlet you can't help but think she was destined for.  

I think the reason the book is usually better is because it is more.  It develops the characters more thoroughly.  It tells the story at a slower, richer pace.  It requires more imagination and therefore gets inside you in a way movies sometimes can't.  In this case, I felt the film gave me more.  It's possible that I was just swept up by the dreamy Irish guys, the moving music, and the pretty shoes.  Which are all things the film medium loves to give us.  There's another club that celebrates that.  I'm a member of it too, but you just can't always please them both at once.

Friday, February 13, 2009

but just that place in between

Here is some love to start off your weekend.  It's not a great picture because I was sitting above and behind them on a stool and tried to inconspicuously hold the camera in front of them while they listened to the story.  

The story taught us about St. Valentine, the Christian physician/priest attributed with healing a little girl's blindness.  I didn't even know this man existed really.  I kind of thought Valentine's Day was invented by St. Hallmark.

You know where I learned about this Christian man and how he was killed by Roman execution for his faith?  In public school.  I kept waiting for someone to flinch or throw stones or rush their poor defiled child from the room because they were being inundated with Christian teaching in a public school.  But it didn't happen.  So I just soaked it in.  It was a very nice story about how he tried and tried to heal the girl with a little salve he had made.  Then he was taken to jail and from there wrote her a note that said, "From your Valentine."  And apparently the girl regained her sight at some point after that.

But before we Christians get too cocky about how one of our own is the reason for this awesome celebration of love, you have to read the Afterward.  It's there that we learned that although St. Valentine did send that letter and was executed on February 14th, it was on February 15th that the Romans (those crazy pagans) had a celebration each year in which the young maidens wrote notes that were drawn from a jar by the young men who would then court them.  Put the two together, and wah-lah, the founders of Hallmark rake in their glowing, love-filled profits.

There are a lot of Christian holidays and traditions that come straight from those crazy pagans.  We're always trying to take their stuff and make it holy and call it our own.  But I don't really see it that way.  Almost everything in place today is a combination of several ideas.  "There is nothing new under the sun," the bible says.  Personally, I believe Jesus holds the corner on the market of Love.  What I believe about Him - absolutely believe - makes His love the best, the most wonderful, the only one without reproach or hidden agenda.  So I like the story of St. Valentine, a man who believed that too.  But I like the story of the Roman maidens as well.  And I don't mind if they are really the ones who gave us the idea to slap some love on a note and hand it to someone we care about.  I don't mind that at some point the two traditions came together or even that today it seems more like a celebration of capitalism than of love.  None of that can undermine what real love is and that in so many places all over the globe - real Love is happening every day and spreading like wildfire.  

I love this holiday.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

do you suppose Great Wolf Lodge will pay me for this endorsement?

I remember Dad telling me once that kids like repetition.  After being at a water park with Jake for two days, I've decided that is an understatement equal only to, I'm okay with eating chocolate and we sort of have to breathe to stay alive.  I sort of got a clue the first day when the older kids were rarely in the same part of the park for longer than five minutes, most of the adults varied their activity off and on, and I sat watching Jake go up the stairs and down the red slide so many times that I ceased to discern the difference between the slide and the water.  The next day Michael mentioned that he was feeling kind of ashamed that most parents were 

in the pool with their kids while we sat idly by as Jake made a playmate out of his hand.  I am not even kidding.  He talks to his hand sometimes.  He calls it Jakey, asks if Jakey would like to do this or that, answers, yes okay, and then does it.  He also got really tired by the second leg of the second day and wanted to keep playing but could barely hold his head up.  So, I decided to join him.

He held out his hand.  We walked together up the stairs.  He let go, plopped on the blue slide (the second day's riveting variation) and slid down while I descended the stairs on the other side.  Then he held out his hand again, I grabbed it, and we did the whole thing again until I was literally dizzy.  Somehow walking around and around that little routine felt more engaging than just watching him do it.  And I needed some variety by that point.  Plus, he didn't talk to his hand anymore as long as I was holding it.

We were at an indoor water park in Kansas City celebrating my sister-in-law Mary's birthday.  Which is interesting, because I didn't see that girl go down a single slide.  She even told me she's squeamish - the heights, the plummeting from them - all of it.  She has kids the ages of my older two, and one could assume that she chose the location for the uninterrupted rest and reading time that comes with the children being so happily occupied.  Trust me, though, there are much quieter places to read and relax.  Places where hundreds of children don't run around you screaming, shaking water on you with their oblivion and dumping it on you on purpose if you chase your toddler through the jungle gym area underneath the log in which they have been storing it up.  Places where the smell of chlorine hasn't reached toxic levels.  This, I believe, is the power of motherhood.  To find a place thrilling simply because it is that thrilling to your children.  We're going to sleep right upstairs from three giant water slides and the pools and log-climby things and tree house with the giant bucket on top that dumps 1000 gallons of water every 5 minutes?  AND I CAN GO THERE?!  These are not the words of a twenty-five or so (you're welcome, Mary) year-old woman.  They are the words of her children, and therefore music to her ears.  It is so stinking fun to thrill them.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

it's February fifth - this is only the beginning

"Well," John Michael said yesterday, "My career as student of the month ends today."  I've never known January to fly before now, but it seems like he was accepting that bright orange cup and handful of restaurant certificates just yesterday.  I guess I need to update my pictures in the side bar.  You should probably expect lots of mush this month.  Not mush as in nothing-much but mush as in, if you think I talk about Christmas magic a lot until the end of the December, just wait 'til I unleash my V-Day love on you.  

My first date with Michael was on Valentine's Day, so February 14 makes me all giddy inside and February in general makes me pretty nostalgic, and 1996 was the best year EVER.  I have all boys, so we don't make our valentines from red construction paper and white doilies like we used to with my Mom when we were little.  Unfortunately, they usually have light sabers or Spongebob or something.  Of course, there was the year John picked the God ones.  Proud mama moments were gushing all over the place the night he filled those out with commentary about the friend whose dad doesn't like him, "So I think I'll give that friend the one about how God is love."  That's very nice, John, and if you'll excuse me I have to go write in your journal how completely awesome you are.

I keep journals for all the boys.  John's is full of super emotional mama trauma while I navigate not-getting-a-puppy-for-Christmas and starting him in public school and apologizing profusely when we added another sibling as if perhaps he wasn't enough all by himself.  Drew's is the future script for a stand-up comedian.  Jake's is one giant love letter as well as a new round of trauma as I try to figure out how to raise the baby of the family without making him one and how to celebrate the heck out of the miracle that is his existence while letting him be his own person.

I started John's journal before he was born.  I bought it while out of town with my family.  My brother told me it was awesome, "I mean, he won't appreciate it until he's, like, 35, but still - very cool."  Now that I have three boys, I'm actually wondering if they'll ever appreciate them.  Do they really want to read about the first time they said "I love you"?  The way I felt about their kindergarten teacher? The little hand motion he made as a baby that looked like he was revving a motorcycle?  I'm not sure.  Their journals might just be for me.  A way to freeze time a little.  Which, if I do right by them, isn't something they're going to want to do with their childhood.  

Except maybe Drew.  He's so going to want to remember the time I was stressing in the grocery store about all the things I had yet to do that night, and he waved the spaghetti noodles at me and said with ultimate sensitivity, "And you gotta fix me some supper, because I'm hungry." 

Monday, February 2, 2009

cupcakes in manhattan

If you're one of those people who can't understand why people care when celebrities leave their homes and what they wear and which beaches they frequent, then you probably won't understand this.  But I have a tiny obsession with Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise.  It started because Katie was pregnant with Suri the same time I was pregnant with Jake.  And I kept hearing about the expensive layettes Katie bought and the two thousand dollar bassinet she purchased twice for different parts of the house, etc., etc.  Then not long after our babies were born, Tom and Katie got married, and I read of the designer gowns made just for little Suri and saw pictures of the castle they were married in.  Around that time I was holding Jake in my arms and looking out our big, sunshiny window onto the pretty street outside, and I asked him, "Would you be happier if your home were more like Suri's?"

He was way too young to answer me in words.  But I've never been more sure of anything than I was of his response.  

Now I still enjoy the pictures of Katie and Suri taking on Manhattan with Suri's adorable little dresses and Katie's cute mom-crop.  I loved the one recently where they were sharing cupcakes, because I'd read of Katie's love for them long before Suri was born.  I try not to think of their lives as better than mine - but just kind of parallel, with a lot more cameras around.  It's been over a year since the last paparazzi shot of Jake and I - this one above while watching the homecoming parade in our small town.  And I don't think it really counts as paparazzi when the guy gets you to sign a release afterwards.  It's not exactly cupcakes in Manhattan, but it was our life, and we were totally starring in it.

Have you seen The Holiday?  Because this is the perfect time for yet another life-altering movie quote:

Arthur:  Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend.  You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend.

Iris:  You're so right.  You're supposed to be the leading lady of your own life, for God's sake!

I'm thinking all those great movie lines we quoted last week - if we apply them - can help us play the leading roles in our own lives.  It's taken a while, but at this point I don't watch the celebrities because I wish I were them.  I don't watch them for their clothes or their bags or their shoes or their shoe closets.  I watch them because bits and pieces of their lives are just exactly like ours, and it's fun to see that celebrated and photographed and put in a shiny magazine.  Did you see Brad and Angelina navigating the airport with six kids?  The next time you walk out the mundane - imagine a photographer cares.  It could totally elevate the experience for you - and remind you who's playing the lead. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

graded on participation

Mom sent me an email today that gave me a great idea for today's blog post.  It's a comment-getter, this one.  Because, you know, it actually asks for comments.  You know how I love movies and how I love to be moved by them.  I'm so happy when a movie somehow elevates our own sense of purpose, our right to exist.  You know those movie lines that sink in like "152 insights into my soul," and you wonder to yourself, "How did they know that?  How did that big Hollywood somebody see me and write my feelings that way?  It's surely happened at least once.  Remember my post (I doubt you do) way back when about how movie makers are like the people in a Quaker church standing up because they just know they have something to say?  Well, with all that intent, surely they've gotten to you at least once.  

If you've seen my MySpace page, you know the quote that is probably the most defining for my own life - ironically from the very movie that joked about the insights into my soul.  Meg Ryan's character wrote it in an email in You've Got Mail.  Thus, I have Nora Ephron to thank for one of the most defining movie quotes of my life:

I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small.  And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I want to?  Or because I haven't been brave?

From this quote on, I looked at life differently.  I have a whole theory about how important the "small life" is - because it is important.  But before this quote I lived life much more passively.  After it, I realized that living the life you're supposed to requires more than just patience.  Sometimes it takes bravery.

Recently P.S. I Love You spoke to me.  The defining moment in it is probably the scene where her husband writes in a letter that he is not trying to help her remember him but to remember herself the way she used to be when she knew what she wanted and didn't worry so much how perfectly she found her way to it.  "Just create."  That's what she knew she wanted to do then and what he wanted to remind her of now.  That movie speaks to me because of that belief in the importance of creativity and also for probably the most perfect love any human ever gave another.  The guy in this movie was so content just to love her, and he did it so well.  I definitely want creating things to come second to that part of my life.

Okay.  Now it's your turn.  A movie, a movie scene, a movie line - Pick one.  It doesn't have to have changed your life - it just has to have moved you.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

more things I love about movies

Question: How sad is it that most Americans are NOT smarter than a fifth grader? We have the board game at home, and I just failed half way through fourth grade. The question was something I really, really should have known. I'm embarassed to even tell you how much I should have known it. It had to do with the Alamo, and - well, I guess I just haven't seen enough movies on that one. The way Drew and I play, though, is that you get lots of chances to keep moving forward. And I totally nailed my million dollar Q. You want to know why? The question was, "In what year did the Great Depression start." So I replayed in my head something I'd read on my agent's blog recently - that their Christmas party theme at the end of the year was "Party like it's 1929." I also know the year of the Newsies strike (from the movie) and a few important tid bits on World War I (from the eighth book in the Anne of Green Gables series). And, YET, don't even think I could ace the pop culture section on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, because I only pay attention here and there even in that field that I love so much.

So, yea, I'm feeling kind of - well, not concerned - but interested - in the state of our intelligence. Because I know I'm not alone. I also know that at least I'm smarter than Kelly Pickler, who didn't know if France was a country or not, and the teen Miss America contestant who stumbled over basic geography in a question about why American kids don't know enough about geography and, seriously, most of the people interviewed by Jay Leno on the street outside of Universal Studios. I mean, that segment is just really, really sad.

Michael and I were talking about the economy today and various executive orders signed last week and the Climate Change formerly known as global warming. And of course, I eventually ran out of things I knew for sure and things of which I even had an educated opinion. That doesn't take long for me when it comes to current events. I've paid more attention to the current presidency in two days than I ever paid attention before. I think it was the fingers-in-the-ears philosophy. If I don't know it, it can't scare me, la la la. I think I got that from a movie too. And I quote:

There's always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser or a Corillian Death Ray or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they. . . Do . . . Not. . . . Know about it.

Isn't that the truth.