Saturday, April 28, 2007

Born Free

Let it be known that the Open Door Policy in our household is now defunct.
Let me explain. In November 2006, the animal population in our home was four -- a dog, a cat and two birds. For me, that was two birds too many. By March 2007 the population had grown to nine. Three toads and two mice joined the brood.
I never intended this to happen. The toads were a result of a carefully orchestrated plan by girl-child and DH. She wanted toads. Swore she would take full responsibility. So, as a part of proving that responsiblity, the plan was that she would save her money until she had enough to buy the aquarium, lamps, assundry supplies, and, of course, the toads. 10 years old. Mere pittance of an allowance. Great affinity for spending as fast as it comes in. Toads? Never gonna happen. Never underestimate the determination of a 10-year-old girl. By the end of the year, adding in birthday and Christmas money, she had her toads.

Next scene: Trip to Petco to buy crickets for said toads. I'm chatting up the store manager, inquiring about their adoption program and the possiblity of unloading two birds. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I get side swiped while 13-year-old son visits the 'adoption corner.' We walked out the door with crickets, 10-lbs of bird seed and TWO FREE MICE FROM SAID ADOPTION PROGRAM.
At this point, I'm nominating myself for the Idiot of the Year Award, and my friends don't even feel sorry for me.
A couple weeks ago I came to my senses. I was attempting to do something around the house, but by the time I had cleaned the cat box, cleaned the bird cage, cleaned the fish bowl (oh, yeah, somewhere along the way we acquired a Beta Fish), I . had. HAD. it. DH was working in the garage. "I need intervention. Now. Come with me to Petco, we're unloading the birds." He dropped everything and ran for the car keys.
So, the birds were gone, but I still had a problem. 13-year-old son's room was now an aromatic mixture of dirty socks and mice. I attempted to remedy the problem one day by dousing the place in Febreze carpet powder, Febreze spray and Febreze plug-in deodorizers. To which his response was (wrinkled nose and look of disdain), "What's that smell?" "It's called CLEAN!!!" I retorted.

Scene change: I stoop to a new low. Son is not attached to the mice, but can't bring himself to give them up. Well. . .everybody has his price. "Son," I say, "I'll give you $20 for the mice." His jaw drops and eyes light up. "Think about it," I say. It didn't take him long.

The next day, I leave a $20 bill on his dresser, load up the mice and head for the open space. I'm thinking, a day in the open space is worth a year in a cage. They'll thank me for this. As I opened the box and shooed them away, they both looked stunned. "Go on," I coaxed. "You're free now!" (Was it my imagination or did I hear the theme song from "Born Free" swelling in the background?) One mouse ran and hid and the other -- we always did wonder if he could see -- did his best Ray Charles imitation and just stayed put. I quickly pushed him under a bush and headed for the car.
So, now we're down to dog, cat, fish and 3 toads. I can live with this. Daughter has lived up to her word and has taken complete responsibility for the toads. As weird as it sounds, I'm actually kind of fond of the Beta, as if you can grow fond of a fish. He requires very little care and interaction. I'm told that goldfish have a 3-second memory. I assume Betas aren't far behind -- everytime he swims around the bowl, he thinks he's somewhere new, so maybe that's why he appears to be so content.

P.S. Did I mention dear Sis-in-law bought Daughter an ant farm for her birthday? The ants arrived yesterday. Our pet population just increased by 50. Sometimes I just Can. Not. Win.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Day #4

So, today is Day #4, and I'm really in the thick of things. Yesterday, I finished the kitchen. Now, for those of you who don't know me well, and have not been to my house, I hope I'm not painting an uglier picture than it is. While I'm not the Martha Stewart of my neighborhood, I do have a fairly orderly home, and nothing is so dirty as to be declared uninhabitable by the health department (well, maybe son #2's room, but he's 13 and it's mostly the sock odor that's hazardous.) It's just that I can't remember the last time I did a good spring cleaning and had the whole, well most of, the house clean at one time. Really dug into the corners, cleaned the blinds, that kind of thing. So this week has been therapeutic in a way. Even though I'm only half way there.

Today, I slowed down a bit and have been working in my office. My goal has been to remove stuff, clean and then put back less than what I had, getting rid of the rest. It's a bit daunting. Sometimes I wished I lived next door to Jungle Mom, because I'm sure there's no way on earth she has the room and had the luggage to take as much stuff as I have, all the way to Venezuela. I'm reminded of Anne Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea, a book that every woman should read and have a copy in her possession. I long for a home with bare floors, little furniture and no curtains on the windows. So few posessions that, by merely shaking the rugs and taking the broom to it, it would be clean. I wouldn't mind living by the ocean, either. Anne's book, which in a nutshell talks about trying to live simply in a world full of distractions and material things, and finding one's center, is one that I've read several times through various stages in my life. Each time, mysteriously, there's a message there that wasn't the time before. She talks about her Martha-like anxiety of keeping house. ( I would probably do well to have a bit more anxiety about it, and then I wouldn't find myself in this predicament.)

I guess what I'm really working toward this week is the goal of simplifying what I have. I realize that my house isn't going to be immaculate all the time, and I would be a crazy woman if I tried to keep it that way. Besides, materialism isn't just the accumulation of "things", but the importance that you place on those things. You can have a minimal amount of "stuff", but if it occupies your every thought and moment, it's worse than having a ton of stuff and not attaching much importance to it.

So, in simplifying my home, my hope is that I will have more time to nurture the people in it (including me), rather than trying to nurture all these "things." One way to simplify is to get into a routine for housekeeping -- I was so far behind, I didn't know where to begin. Marcia Cilley (aka the "FlyLady" at, has a wonderful plan for this. Her program in FLYing stands for Finally Loving Yourself -- that is, enough to take care of yourself and bless your home by caring for what's inside it. She teaches "babysteps", so it's not so overwhelming as it sounds.

So, unlike Anne who took off to a cabin at the beach for two weeks to find her center, I've been digging around for it right here at home. I know it's here somewhere, I just need to clear out a couple more boxes of junk!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Day 3

WARNING: Today's post deals with boring, boring material such as vacuuming, dusting, washing windows and purging unnecessary objects. Is not thought provoking material. In fact, I won't be offended if no one reads it, it just feels good to look back on my progress of the past two days.

Regarding #7 of previous post: I'm on Day #3 of spring cleaning. Wow, it's amazing what I can get done when I put my mind to it. I took this week off from my 'work-from-home' job, cleared my calendar and am attacking one or two rooms a day. I did have to fight to keep a clear calendar, but I was determined! This house needed to be fumigated, it is so grungy. It helps that hubs is out of town. Last night I took the kids to Chick-filet(Sp?) and the night before we had a take home pizza and salad. So far, I've done the dining room, living room, family room and half the kitchen. The kitchen gets finished today. The kids are a bit nervous -- "when are you doing the bedrooms?" Ha! "Only the shadow knows! it will be a surprise."

The hidden cache of Pepsi is a welcome refreshment. Yesterday, #1 son stayed home from class and I made him go to the library to work. I'm a woman on a mission! Out of my way!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

God winks

Some people call them God-incidences (rather than coincidences), but I like to imagine Him giving me a wink and a smile.

About a month ago my friend and spiritual director suggested I come up with a personal "let go, let God" mantra to help me turn over some things that have been weighing heavily on my mind. It's one of those things where I feel like I'm in a taffy pull with Him -- "Lord, I turn this over to you,". . . "no, give it back to me, I think I've got it now."

So, in the course of the next few days, the words from a song came to me -- Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel." It's been a favorite song of mine since it hit the Country charts months ago, and I thought, that's it! Let Him drive for a while. The words have been coming to mind since then, whenever I feel I'm drifting off course.

Then a few days ago, a package comes in the mail from one of those music clubs, where you become a member, get free CDs and end up buying three times more to fulfill your obligation? This was a "free CD" for a new membership, that no one in our household had signed up for. It was Carrie Underwood's, "Jesus Take the Wheel." Yeah. That was a wink. And a big grin. God has a sense of humor, doesn't He?

By the way, I contacted the company, and they've removed our names from their list. The CD is ours to keep:)

Monday, April 9, 2007


The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. ~~Erma Bombeck

Tonight was the first time in what seems like weeks that all five of us sat down for supper together. Between my husband's travels and my kids' jobs, classes and activities, there's always someone missing at meal time. As we joined hands to say the blessing, I was reminded of an article I wrote a few years ago for a woman's group. I dug it out tonight and I realized that even though the details have changed, the pace our family is going is still high speed!

Somedays it seems that I never finish anything. The laundry, house cleaning, book reading, a knitting project, writing an article that swims about in my mind -- never reach completion. The beds are unmade and the ingredients for a new recipe are piled in the pantry.

So many things are interrupted -- a sentence, a phone call where I'm left on hold, changing a roll of toilet paper. The bedding plants are purchased, but the beds need to be turned over. The gallon of paint for the staircase waits for the wood to be sanded and stripped.

My mind fails to complete a thought. My son fails to complete his homework. The trash man fails to complete his pick-up so our recyclables remain with us for another week.

The box of cake mix sits on the counter, the party plan is still in my head and my 5-year-old reminds me daily that his birthday is just days away. A list of "things to return" sits on my desk, along with a list of "things to pickup." If only I could exchange a little girls' size 9 sneakers at the same place I need to pick up eyeglasses for a boy, aged 10. It would save me an extra trip.

The clock creeps toward 5:30 and the mad dash begins to put something together for dinner. Out comes the strange array of ingredients from the pantry, quickly a menu plan formulates in this tired mind, one hand stirs the pot on the stove while the other pats a little head, one ear on the piano lesson in the front room, the other straining to hear the sound of footsteps coming through the front door, which means it is time to pour that much-wanted glass of wine and contine this morning's unfinished conversation

A half hour later we are all seated at the kitchen table, hands joined to say the blessing. Our party of five, with five heads bowed and five pairs of hands clasped to form a circle. Eventually finding unison, we begin our prayer. "Bless us O Lord. . ." And now, in this moment, I know that my life is complete.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Good Friday

The Mary in me wants to reflect on the holiness of this day. I want to spend it in meditation, solitude, in comtemplative prayer. I want to give him my full attention. Re-watch The Passion, as uncomfortable and terribly sad as that movie makes me feel. I want the focus to be on him, so that he knows I feel the sacrifice he made for me. If I had been there, I pray that I could have been the Veronica who wiped his brow.

The Martha in me is already making a list of what I must do today, to get ready for Easter brunch and a houseful of family. Sorting out Easter basket stuffings, checking grocery lists against recipes, cleaning bathrooms, checking everyone's closets for Easter outfits. Paying bills.

Tonight I will have an opportunity for my quiet time. My 17-year-old son has a role in the Stations of the Cross at church. He plays Peter. Yesterday afternoon he asked us if he could rehearse his lines. With heartfelt emotion, he put into words what must have been in Peter's heart as he denied Christ that night. The younger two kids and I sat, speechless, eyes riveted. We were all very quiet when he finished and the room was still. For a few moments the TV was off, the lists in my head were absent, and we were all sharing the moment.

For an awesome post on the glory of Easter, read Becky's at The Butler's Wife. Be sure to listen to the music video! Easter blessings to everyone!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Sunday musings

San Miguel Mission, Santa Fe NM

Late this afternoon, we returned home from a road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It's the end of the kids' spring break weeks, and we thought it would do us all some good to get the heck outta Dodge for a few days. We left early Friday morning, for a seven hour drive. The van was equipped with a borrowed DVD player, with two screens and three sets of headphones. We loaded up our music CDs and a book on CD for Dan and I, a case of bottled water and a cooler full of snacks, and away we went. Once we were south of Colorado Springs and the traffic thinned, it was a beautiful drive. The open ranges of New Mexico were golden with winter grasses, dotted with cattle and antelope and occasionally sheep or llamas. The red adobe buildings blend in with the dirt landscape, and at this time of year, the sky is deep blue and clear as can be.

We spent most of Saturday in the historic district of Santa Fe, seeing the Palace of the Governors, the shops, the old churches and missions. It was a cool enough day, and it felt good to find a cozy restaurant for lunch and to warm up a bit. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assissi and the Loretto Chapel were my favorite places. The cathedral is so beautiful, with stained glass windows and a large baptismal font in the center of the church. In the Loretto Chapel, the plain adobe walls and rough beams were in sharp contrast to the faux marble altar, the infamous, circular staircase and the delicate statues in the Stations of the Cross. The controversial Archbishop Lamy was largely responsible for bringing a Catholic influence to the area, and an interpretation of his story is written by Willa Cather in Death Comes for the Archbishop. I've added it to my TBR list (again!)

I was reminded of the recent movie Little Miss Sunshine, as we traveled along, peacefully for the most part, but still with our share of snarling and growling at one another. Five different personalities in a Chevy mini-van, traveling 1,000 miles in three days. I think back to my family's travels when I was growing up, from the East coast to Arizona, to Colorado -- but that's another story. It seems that no matter where we go, the biggest highlight for the youngest two kids is the pool and the vending machine at the end of the day. My oldest son doesn't get it. "How can they be so excited about a pool that's the size of my (10x 11 sq ft.) bedroom?" With three drivers in the car, it does help with the traveling. When my son is driving, I sit waaay in the back of the van, because my white-knuckling makes him crazy, so my husband sits in the passenger seat. When my husband is driving, I sit in the passenger seat so we can listen to our book (a lousy choice this time, I can't even say the name, but he was a good sport to put up with this "chick" book for 5 hours). When I'm driving, Hubby sits in the waaaay back so he can watch DVDs with the younger two, and then #1 son sits up front with me where I play my "Golden 70s" CD and sing along. He buries his head in his pillow and pretends to sleep.

I love to travel and half the fun is coming home again, because home is my favorite place. On this trip I was so struck by the view as I drove over Raton Pass, into southern Colorado. The snow covered peaks stretched along the western horizon for as far as I could see. "Look, look!" I exclaimed, smacking the knee caps of the kids behind me, and they each lifted one side of their head sets, "wwhaa-aat?", annoyed at being distracted from their movie. I love this state, it's beauty never ceases to amaze me. The mountains are gorgeous and have so much to offer, but the plains have a special beauty in their own right. The soft rolling hills that change color with the seasons, with a backdrop as spectacular as the Rocky Mountains. Sometimes, when I'm driving around town and I come over a hill and see the view lying before me, I try to imagine what it was like before all the urban sprawl took over. The buffalo, the antelope, the Native people who lived here. It's so different now, but the view is non-the-less spectacular. I feel so humbled by it all, and once again I'm in awe of His gift.