Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Wanna Be Greek


You know how one of the "themes" of my blog is that "Everyday is an adventure"? Well, B and I sure had one super-duper adventure on Sunday. We attended our very first big, fat, Greek wedding.

I sure hope it wasn't our last, 'cause boy, was that fun! I now officially want to be Greek.

It's hard to know where to begin with describing this event, so I guess I'll just start at the beginning.

The ceremony.

We were invited to this wedding by the groom who works with B. He was actually quite surprised when he learned that we were planning to attend the ceremony. I guess he thought we'd just show up for the party afterward.

But this was going to be the real-deal, and we wanted to experience it all. I'm so glad we did. We entered this beautiful Greek Orthodox church shortly before the ceremony and took in a deep breath at the elaborate mosaics (or were they painted?) all around the church from the front of the church to the ceiling. All of the apostles were represented--twice!--and a huge painting of Jesus adorned the top of the domed ceiling, like He was looking down on us.

The ceremony was performed mostly in Greek. Yep, that's right. We didn't understand a word of this ceremony (except for the couple of parts that were actually spoken in English, but even then the priest had such a thick Greek accent that I could barely tell he was speaking English). Thankfully there was a program with a description of each section of the ceremony.

Most people might think the ceremony was long--it was about an hour long--and especially grueling because we stood for most of it. (They did let us sit down three times for about five minutes each time, but otherwise we were standing.) I was so intrigued by the symbolism of each part of the ceremony, however, that I found the time went very quickly.

All I can say is that the Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony is beautiful. The symbolism is rich and meaningful. The sung/spoken liturgy was mesmerising. And even though I didn't understand much of it, I found I stayed with it the entire time.

Here are a couple of quotes from the program that I found especially interesting:

"Since this union of J and A is a special measure of grace granted by the Holy Spirit, they will not bestow spoken vows to each other." At first I thought this was kind of strange--I've never been to a wedding that didn't include vows. But as I sat through this ceremony, I got a real sense that this was a sacred event. That it was God who brought this couple together and only God who could separate them. And for some reason, it seemed like vows, human vows, didn't seem necessary.

One section of the service is called "The Joining of the Right Hands." During this rite, the right hands of the couple are joined together while the priest reads a prayer. Their hands are linked throughout the rest of the service "to symbolize the oneness of the couple." They took communion while still holding hands. And they walked around the main table three times, still holding hands. Their hands were only divided at the very end of the ceremony when the priest brought the Bible down between them, symbolizing that only God could break their bond.

I loved what the program said about the rite of the common cup. "The drinking of wine from the common cup serves to impress upon the couple that from that moment on they will share everything in life, joys as well as sorrows, and that they are to 'bear one another's burdens.' Their joys will be doubled and their sorrows halved because they will be shared." Isn't that beautiful? All that just from sharing a communion cup.

After the ceremony, we greeted the bride and groom and were handed a fistful of rose petals. B and I, being ignorant Xenos, just thought that was what they had chosen to throw, rather than rice or bird seed, but as we were waiting for the couple to come outside a woman came up to me, handed me her rose petals, and asked me if I would throw her blessings on the couple for her since she had to leave. I'm so glad she did that or otherwise we wouldn't have known the significance of the rose petals.

Everything about the ceremony had meaning, and I thought that was pretty special.

Since this post is getting about as long as the wedding ceremony I've just described, I think I'll hold off on describing the reception until tomorrow. You'll definitely want to come back because you just might get to see a picture of yours truly dancing Greek-like.

You wouldn't want to miss that now, would you?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Molly Grace Photography Session--Toto, I Don't Think We're in Sears Anymore!

I lied. I know I told you that I wouldn't report in until Monday, but I couldn't resist sharing this with you.

Last Wednesday, Kate had her senior pictures taken. How, I ask you, did I actually come to have a child who is a senior? I KNOW, right?!

It seems like just yesterday that we were heading to the Sears Photo Studio at the Oak Brook Mall to have her photographed. She'd wiggle and squirm and usually cry and after about 45 minutes of struggle we'd give up, figuring we'd gotten the best pictures we possibly could, and then we'd head to the Nordstrom Cafe for lunch.

Gee, I wonder what ever happened to those pictures?

Anyway, did I mention that Kate had her SENIOR PICTURE taken last week? And do you know what that means to me? It means college applications are just around the corner. And then lots of waiting. And hand wringing. And waiting some more. And then decisions. And stress.

But last week was stress-free as Kate went into her photo shoot. Molly Grace is a photographer extraordinaire. She's as nice as she is talented.

We had arranged to meet her make-up artist, Anna, at Molly's studio in Naperville. Kate had a great time getting all gussied up, and I enjoyed visiting with Anna who is a treasure. And a really good mom, too.

Anna finished up her artistry and sent us off to meet Molly Grace at Danada House in Wheaton. Danada House is a Forest Preserve property which is basically a huge horse farm and a beautiful old house which is often used for weddings and special events. It's a lovely setting.

We had such a great time with Molly. The poor girl had been shooting photos all afternoon in nearly-100 degree weather, but she was still smiling, cheerful, and encouraging. We were her third shoot of the day, and it was quickly becoming twilight--absolutely gorgeous light that day.

The only thing I could possibly "complain" about would have to be the bugs. Oh my, were they swarming that evening! Kate and I laughed that Molly was going to have to Photoshop out all the bugs that were in Kate's mouth, nose, and eyes.

I think we spent about an hour and a half with Molly, and the time just flew. We had fun getting to know her, and were surprised to find out that she attended the same high school that Kate does AND that she also worked on the yearbook--just like Kate does.

And I know--I KNOW!--the photos are going to be wonderful. You know how I know? Molly gave us a preview on her blog. You can check out Kate's photos here. We have a viewing session next week, and I can't wait to see everything.

So, if you're in the Chicago area and need a great photographer, check out Molly Grace's website. She's a pro with a really, really good eye.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Seven Quick Takes Friday

Friday? Already? The summer weeks fly, which is why I’m wimping out today and joining Jen’s Seven Quick Takes.

Actually, that’s not wimping out at all because I have to come up with seven interesting things about my week. This is going to be a challenge.


I finally went to the pool yesterday. June 25, and it was my first day at the pool. When my girls were younger I’d be at the pool every day, but now I imagine I’ll get there maybe once a week. If that.

There are a couple of reasons for my pool absence. First, the weather around here has been terrible. First it was cold—really cold—for a long time. Then, this week, it popped into the upper 90s. Ridiculous. B told me that I’m getting what I wished for, but I argued that I wasn’t wishing for it to be 100. Somehow God forgot about the 80’s.

Anyway, the second reason I haven’t been at the pool much is because I just don’t need to be there anymore. The older two don’t go to the pool, and Maggie is eleven and doesn’t need me to be there with her. Yesterday I went because I promised her I’d go, and, believe me, that girl will hold you to a promise like Crazy Glue sticks to your fingers. So I ended up at the pool.

And you know what I noticed? The moms have gotten younger. And skinnier. It’s gross. I’m not sure I’ll go back.

(Just kidding about that last part. I’ll go back . . . because I like a little tan in the summer and right now I look like I’ve jumped into a flour barrel.)


I checked my Sitemeter yesterday and noticed that several of you checked back a few times to see if I’d written anything. How sweet of you. I do love my readers.

Do you know there’s a super-easy way for you to know if I’ve written anything or not? It’s called Google Reader and it’s easy to use. You can set it up with all your favorite blogs, it will automatically bring up my blog for you every time there’s an update. Check it out and put me in there! Please? Or, if you already have a blog, follow me. I love stalkers. Of the bloggy kind anyway.


So did you hear the news yesterday? Farah Fawcett died. I’ll be honest, I was never a huge fan of hers, but I felt kind of sad that she suffered so long and that Ryan O’Neil never had a chance to make good on his promise earlier this week to marry her.

I wonder if her hair style will make a comeback now. It’s already pretty popular with the blond chicks on Fox News.

Oh yeah, and Michael Jackson died too.


Have I mentioned my workout group? Have I mentioned that I’m sore? It’s the good sore, but still, every day I’m sore. I think underneath that sweet exterior, our trainer has an inner beast who wants to torment middle-aged women into getting into shape. But it’s fun, and it’s wonderful to have some accountability on those mornings that you just don’t want to get out of bed. Like this morning.

How about you? Do you have a group that holds you accountable? Do you like that or does it seem like an unnecessary burden?


O.K. Jon and Kate. I just have to say something. Because their show used to be a favorite around here and there are more than a couple of hearts that are sad because of what they are going through. But I won’t take an entire blog post to talk about them–that’s been done ad nauseum. All I will say is that their situation has given us many teachable moments with our kids lately, and one such moment came on Monday night as we, along with about 10.6 million other people, watched the sorry state of affairs come to a devastating conclusion.

We listened throughout the show as time after time both parents said things like, “I’m there for my kids” or “We love our kids and want what’s best for them.” Sure, they love their kids, and sure they want what's best for them--we all do--but as they were going on and on about the kids, it became obvious that something had gotten very topsy-turvy in their world. B looked at our own girls and said, “They put their kids ahead of their marriage. Girls, I want you to know that my relationship with your mom is more important to me than you are.”

Wow. If that isn’t enough to make your head turn.

But he’s right. I know he is. And I want my children to know that they don’t own the relationship hierarchy around here. If you’ll grant me a soapbox for a moment . . . Kids feel secure when Mom and Dad love each other. Period. And Mom and Dad can’t love each other best when they put the kids first.



There’s a blog I read sometimes that I enjoy immensely every time I go there. It’s called Stuff Christians Like and it’s kind of a tongue in cheek look at the evangelical world. The writer, Prodigal Jon, makes some very funny, but also very poignant insights into Christianity.

Last week he wrote a post that just made me laugh out loud. Since I have high schoolers, and since I was once a high schooler myself, I could totally relate to his list of The 11 People Every Youth Group Needs. Check it out. It’s funny.


I just feel like I have bloggy issues. It’s probably the weather, but for some reason I’ve had a headache for a couple of days that just will not go away. And writer’s block. Ugh.

Can you help a girl out? What would you like to read about?

Happy Weekend, everyone! We'll be busy this weekend, so you won't hear from me until Monday. But be sure to check back then because B and I are going to a real, live Big Fat Greek Wedding this weekend, and I'm sure I'll have a lot to report.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fancy That

Hey, this is cool. Remember that essay contest I entered a few days ago? Well, this morning, Michelle a.k.a. Scribbit announced the winners. While I didn't win, I did receive an honorable mention.

Thanks very much to Michelle Fabio at Bleeding Espresso who served as judge for this month's contest.

I am flabergasted. And honored.

Do I look like I have "Sucker" written across my forehead?

. . . I must, because yesterday was "a day." Yes, it was one of "those days." (Do you feel a story coming on? I do!)

I confess, I'm terrible about making phone calls. Really terrible. I mean, they could take my phone away, and I would be one very happy camper. I have a laptop, and that's all I need.

But those pesky phone calls had been piling up for a while, so last Friday I took the dreaded phone in my hand and started dialing. I called the glass shop in town because I have a couple of windows with cracks in them. I called the vet to make an appointment for the Wonder Dog because she's two months--yes, TWO MONTHS--overdue for her check-up. That's how much I hate making phone calls.

And I made a call to an appliance repairman because I have three appliances that have "issues." I have phone issues. My appliances have other issues.

Like being loud and obnoxious. That issue belongs to my dishwasher.

And not heating up properly. That one goes to my upper oven.

And not dispensing. You can probably guess this one. My refrigerator has the I'm-not-going-to-dispense-water-or-ice-until-you're-nice-to-me issue.

So, being as cheap as I am, I figure I'd wait until just one more thing in my kitchen broke because then I could have the repairman out once and cover all my issues at the same time. But, alas, it's been about six months since the refrigerator decided not to dispense, and nothing else has broken, so I figured it was time.

Besides, I had the phone in my hand.

So I took the leap and called the guy. He came out yesterday.

Funny thing is, he doesn't think my appliances have issues. He thinks I have issues. Seriously? Me? He doesn't even know me.

Take the dishwasher for instance. We started it up as soon as he got here and it worked like a charm. No loud noises. No grinding sound. Of course. Late in its cycle it started making the noise and my friend, Phil . . . that was his name, Phil . . . said, "Is that the sound you mean?"

Yeah, Phil. That's the one.

"Oh, that's just a vibration. You could try pushing up against the dishwasher, but chances are it will just go back to making the same noise a couple days later."


So how about my upper oven? This one's even more broken. It won't heat up properly. See, the oven has a sensor that tells me when the oven is pre-heated, but it seems like when that sensor goes off the oven isn't hot.

So Phil points to his head and says, "Sometimes when we think there's a problem here, there's no way anybody can tell us there's not really a problem there." He points to the oven.

Huh? Are you saying it's all in my head? What about those cookies that wouldn't bake?

So Phil gets out an electric thermometer, after giving me a long lecture about the terrible inaccuracies of the oven thermometer I had bought at the grocery store. First he calls me crazy, then he calls me stupid. What next?!

We started the oven, and after a few minutes it beeped to tell us it was pre-heated, but the thermometer said it was only about 300 degrees in there. See, Phil? I'm not crazy!

But Phil proceeds to tell me that those pre-heat sensors aren't always reliable and you just have to wait a little longer for the oven to heat up. After about 10-15 minutes, he said, the oven should be just fine.

Again, he does the head-pointing thing. Like I'm making this stuff up!

So we move on to the refrigerator which is the biggest issue for my family, let me tell you. No crushed ice for their drinks! Horrors!

First Phil messes with the filter, thinking it's just clogged. Nope, all is well. Then he pulls out the fridge from its space. I think he just did that to humiliate me. I quickly grabbed a broom while he fiddled around in the back.

Finally, Phil assesses the problem. A sensor in the control panel has gone bad.

See? I'm not crazy! There really IS a problem in this kitchen. But, turns out, the real problem was Phil. Because he couldn't fix the problem. He said I have to call GE.

Great, Phil. Just great.

After 30 minutes in my kitchen, telling me I'm nuts and that my appliances really don't have issues, he handed me a bill.


Are you kidding me?! Ninety-nine dollars to insult me and to not fix a doggone thing?

But I'm a sucker, so I paid the man and sent him on his merry way.

But I did get something out of the deal. A real nifty letter opener with his business card in it.

So I guess it was worth it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hey y'all! I hope you'll scroll down to read the next post--a reflection from my childhood. It's an entry for a writing contest that's hosted by Scribbit each month. Check it out here. And be sure to check her blog on Tuesday when she announces the winner.

My Favorite Day of the Year

The day dawned hot and humid, as most July days on the Illinois prairie do. It seemed like the cornfields just trapped the heated air, making the plains a natural oven and each day hotter than the next. But as a kid, the heat didn’t bother me; I simply got up, threw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and headed outside.

This particular day was the day I looked forward to all summer—the day that was the most work, and yet the most fun day of the year. It was the day every kid in my family anticipated because we all knew the reward.

It was corn day.

Now, my dad’s normal crop was field corn—the stuff used for cattle feed and oil and other products—and he and my uncle grew acres and acres of that. But my friends from town just thought of corn as corn on the cob—the stuff they'd eat at picnics. I used to laugh at their ignorance behind their backs, not even bothering to try to set them straight on the differences.

Anyway, every year, my dad and uncle would set aside a few rows around the edge of one field to plant sweet corn—my favorite food in my whole childhood world. I’d watch the stalks begin to grow, and then the tassels start to form, and then the ears begin to take shape. Day after day I’d think about the day we’d finally be able to pick that sweet, delicious goodness.

Finally, on what seemed like the hottest day of the year, we’d get up early, throw on our oldest, cruddiest clothes, and head to the fields. The dads and the boys would take a pickup truck out to the patch of sweet corn and pick the corn, loading it into the back until it was nearly overflowing.

Meanwhile, the moms and the girls were setting huge pots of water on the stove to boil and preparing everything we’d need for freezing our bounty. We’d set out knives and cutting boards and special tools that only came out on corn day, including an old board with a blade attached to it which allowed you to quickly scrape the kernels of corn from the cob. When I was very young, we’d use old fashioned Tupperware to freeze the corn once it was cooked and cut off the cob, but once Ziploc bags were invented, we used those because they took up less room in the freezer.

Once the corn was picked, every child in our family was set to the task of peeling the corn. There was no way to count how many ears you’d peel on that day—it was surely in the hundreds. But heaven forbid you’d leave any silks on the ear! Silks were not allowed; the corn had to be clean.

So the day was hot and the work was hard, but I hardly noticed because (and here’s the reward) on corn day I could eat as much sweet corn as my stomach could hold. Mom would set out some butter and salt and we could eat to our heart’s content. No plates necessary—we’d just hold onto the cob and slurp away. I was literally in hog heaven!

It took the whole day to finish our job, and by bedtime I was tired. But I was filled with sweet, sticky goodness and happy memories of family times. As a child, there was nothing better.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Opinions? Please?

Well now. I learned something today. I learned that my readers are not a very opinionated group of people.

Either that or they don't think I even have a one best blog post.

Anyway, I promised I'd tell you which post I picked, and I am a woman who keeps her promises, so here you go. My favorite blog post, the one I chose to share at Robin's, was this one.

Of course, I also like this one and this one and this one. So I'm probably just as unopinionated as my readers.

I'm Curious . . .

Robin, over at Pensieve, is having a little blog party. She's asked everyone to post their one all-time favorite post and to link up with others who have done the same.

I chose one, but before I tell you which one I chose (of course, you could head over to Robin's to find out), I'm curious . . . which post of mine would YOU choose?

Something funny? Something serious? Something that made you cry or even think a little bit?

Since I've been doing this for a year now, there are quite a lot of blog posts to choose from. Would you be so kind as to leave me a comment telling me which post YOU'D choose to share with Robin? And if you've never left a comment before, shame on you! Now is the time to start.

I'll let you know later on today which one I actually used.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I Changed My Mind

If you were around here about an hour ago, you may have seen a post that's not there anymore. Don't freak out--I removed it.

No, I didn't write anything naughty or earth-shattering or critical. It was just a sweet little story about one of my kids and something cute she had said to me. I just love it when my kids say cute things to me--I have this glaring need to share their insights with the world. Hence, the blog.

But one of my kids doesn't like it AT ALL when I write about her. It's beyond her sense of boundaries, and that is perfectly fine. Some people are private. Some people, like me, feel this need to spill all their "stuff" for all the world to see. I think I'm insecure that way because I need affirmation--someone to say, "I get you" or "I feel that way too."

Anyway, I wrote this little story, but as I thought about it, I realized that my kid would be so mad at me if I shared it. So I took down the post.

I'm learning a lot through this blog, and respecting boundaries is one of the biggest lessons I'm learning. Sure, I have stuff I would never tell you, stuff that regularly gets left out about my personal life. Believe me, I'm not as shallow as this blog would have you believe. But I have felt O.K. about sharing everything I've shared so far.

Until today.

Because my post would have violated someone else's privacy and it probably would have hurt her sense of trust in me. I've messed that up enough over the years with my big mouth. I don't need to dig a deeper hole.

My goal with this blog has been to share everything I share in the most positive light. Some days it would be easy to just complain about some stuff I see around me, to harp at politicians, or to rant about the state of our roads. But then I sit for a minute and think, "How can I make this into a positive thing? How can I show the people in my life in as positive a light as possible?" Plus, it doesn't hurt to try to be entertaining. And then the post morphs into something completely different than what I had set out to do.

I think that's a good thing.

So, when my gut tells me a post was not a good idea, I guess I will have to learn to listen to that gut and take it down. Hurting someone for the sake of my writing is never a good idea.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Those Waskally Wabbits!

I'm no master gardener. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Every year when our little school hosts its annual plant sale, I buy a few flats of flowers. And some herbs (which actually do pretty well, probably because they know how much I need them). And usually one tomato plant which produces exactly one tomato all summer.

You get the idea. My thumb is pretty much brown.

So I buy the flats of annuals, bring them home, and then I let them sit on my patio for a few weeks while it tries to warm up around here. No, they don't go in the ground right away--I really do let them sit for a while. I think they need to get acclimated to the new atmosphere.

Or I need to get my brain around the back aching work it will be to actually put them into the ground.

Anyway, last year I bought some dahlias that I thought looked pretty.

And they were beautiful, but the blooms never seemed to last for more than a day. I couldn't figure it out.

Until one Saturday as B and I were walking through our local French Market (oh, another post idea for another day!) and we saw a woman selling a product called "Bunny Buster."

It was like a light bulb went off in both of our heads at the same time. We looked at each other and said, "Bunnies!" Of course! That's what was eating our lovely dahlias.

So we shelled out $12 for some Bunny Buster and sprayed all our flowers. It worked. It really worked, and we had some beautiful blooms for most of the rest of the summer. But twelve bucks? Seriously?

Fast forward to this summer, and I think I had a brain cramp because once again I bought a flat of dahlias from our little school's plant sale. What was I thinking? Obviously, I wasn't thinking.

Anyway, once again my dahlias are growing, but not producing blooms.

I think those bunnies are getting fat off of our garden again.

So I come before you today, dear loyal readers, and ask for your help. Can anyone tell me how to keep those bunnies off of my flowers?? They don't seem to like any other flower in my yard except the dahlias.

Does anyone know of a homemade remedy like Bunny Buster that could keep them out of my garden?

Otherwise it's back to the French Market to buy some more Bunny Buster. Looks like the kids will be eating mac & cheese for the next couple weeks.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Twenty Questions

See this shirt?

Wanna know why it's hanging over my shower?
Because it's soaking wet.

And why there is a number pinned on it?
Because this morning, for the very first time in my 40-something-year-old life, I ran in a race!

Can you tell I'm proud of myself?

So, why is it wet?
Because it rained this morning. The entire time I was out there. Buckets and buckets of rain.

And how did you do in this very wet race?
Well, now, let's see. I ran a little bit. I walked most of it. But I came in under 40 minutes.

Is that a good time for someone of your age and stature?
I have no idea.

So who else ran?
Everyone in my family ran. Even Maggie--it was her first 5K too.

And how did they all do?
They all beat me.

Even Maggie?
Yes, even Maggie who did an amazing job of sticking with her dad. He said she didn't complain once.

Where was this race held?
This is one of the reasons I wanted to do this race, because it wove through my neighborhood, starting and ending at our church.

How many people ran?
I'm not sure, but over 400 people, since, as you can tell from the picture above, I was "runner" (and I use that term VEEERRYY loosely) 399.

Did you see anything interesting along the race route?
Just a lot of umbrellas. And my daughter's history teacher (which really kind of embarrassed me as I strolled past him since he's the high school cross country coach).

Was this some kind of fundraiser?
Yes, it was.

And what did the funds go to?
I'm so glad I asked! The money that was made off of this race goes to a wonderful ministry within our church called the STARS ministry.

What is the STARS ministry?
It's a ministry to disabled people. It's so great because they provide all kinds of programs for mentally and physically handicapped people and their families. They even provide a summer camp experience for many of the STARS participants.

That's cool. Why do you like supporting that particular ministry?
Because every time I see one of our STARS worshipping at church, singing songs, and clapping their hands with a huge smile on their face, I think that I get just a glimpse of Heaven. I just know that Heaven will be filled with all these beautiful people who know God, understand their own need for salvation, and believe in Jesus. It's a beautiful thing.

Really? You think they can know Jesus?
Absolutely. I've seen it. I've heard their testimony with my own ears. They know God's love and forgiveness just as much as I do.

What about church? Don't they ever interrupt the service?
Oh, sometimes it gets a little crazy or loud, but it's something we've all come to expect and to appreciate. You just never know what's going to happen. Wouldn't the world just be boring if everyone were "normal"?

Oops! I guess that was question number 20. A rhetorical one, but a good one, I think.

All I have to say about this morning is that even though it rained, even though I didn't run even half of the race, and even though I froze my sweet patooty off being drenched from head to toe, it was worth every minute to see the smiles on the faces of the STARS participants. They were so excited to hand out medals to the winners and to high five anyone who would high five them back.

The sun didn't shine outside this morning, but it sure shone in the faces of the STARS.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


We got a new car last week. Yes, even in “this economy” people are buying new cars.

Of course, the car I was driving was breaking down on a regular basis and didn’t have air conditioning and the tires were bald and in order for us to take the road trip we’re planning for later this summer we’d have to RENT a car to get there and there’s NO WAY I’d sell it to anybody I knew. But, hey, we could have made it work for another year or so.

Anyway, I just have to say that buying a car is one of those truly distasteful little “chores” that I honestly hate to do. Good thing we don’t do it very often. I mean, it’s stressful, expensive, and just a little bit tawdry what with all the paper-sliding-across-the-desk and “let-me-go-talk-to-my-manager” stuff that goes on. It’s just icky. In my opinion.

But it had to be done, so B and I headed for the car dealer a couple of weeks ago to take a test drive. Now, mind you, the work had already been done and the deal was just about sealed before we even set foot on the lot thanks to the internet and my husband. So when we arrived we met a salesman who handed us a key and off we went.

The car was fine. The salesman wasn’t. All he did was say, “Turn here” or complain about his other customers while texting someone from the back seat. Truthfully, he was kind of annoying. Not engaging. Just basically there for the ride.

B and I talked about our salesman, Joe, on the way home. About how he never showed us any features of the car. How he never really probed to see if we were interested in buying. How he never SOLD us the car.

We were kind of annoyed that he would get the commission for selling the car that we already knew we’d be buying.

So the day came last week for us to take delivery on our new car (that’s car dealer lingo—don’t you like it?). I took Kate with me because I just didn’t want to deal with Joe by myself. Plus, I like taking Kate with me—she’s a great conversationalist.

I had warned her about Joe as we were driving there. I told her that I found him to be kind of abrupt. Basically, I didn’t have very much nice to say about him.

Joe met us at the door and showed us our car with the newly installed roof rack. Then he led us inside to start with the paperwork. He quickly rambled on about the sale, the numbers, and the warranty. I didn’t hear much of what he said because he was talking so fast. He flipped through leaflets and brochures and handed them to me with such speed that I just piled them up and thought, “I’ll just have B look at them later.”

At one point Joe had to leave us to go check on something. I looked at Kate, rolled my eyes, and said, “See what I mean?”

She looked straight at me and said, “He hates his job.”

“What?” I said, kind of startled at her abruptness. “You think?”

“Yeah, Mom. I mean, wouldn’t you hate this job too? It’s obvious . . . he hates his job.”

“Maybe so,” I said, “but that doesn’t mean he has to be a jerk about it.”

“You’re right, but I bet if you got to know him he’s probably not so bad,” Kate said. “Give the guy a chance.”

So we agreed that if we had the chance, we’d try to get to know Joe a little better. When he finally came back he explained that it might be a little while because a customer ahead of us was buying two cars for his business. There must have been only one paperwork person because we had to wait while they processed those two cars first.

Finally, Joe asked if we had any questions about the car.

Um, yeah, like how does it work? What are the features I should know about? Anything cool I should know how to do?

We walked outside and looked at the car. Joe showed us where our I-pod plugged in, that was cool. And how the back windows roll down, also cool because my previous mini-van didn’t have that feature. Other stuff like that.

After that, we went back inside to wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

So, I dove into the deep end and asked, “So, Joe, how long have you worked here?”

And thus began a conversation that humbled me to my core. Because my daughter was sitting beside me proving to me what a jerk I had been.

Over the course of a mere 20 minutes we learned that Joe had worked at this dealership for four years, and that he’d been selling cars for two years. We learned that he grew up downstate and headed straight for the Marines after high school because his cousin, whom he idolized, had gone to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Unfortunately, during the first couple of years in the Marines, Joe was in a car accident that caused a broken leg in three places, had a Titanium rod placed in his leg, and also received a fake knee. Joe’s naval career had ended with that accident.

We then learned that Joe had dreams of becoming a lawyer, but that those dreams were temporarily on hold because the woman to whom he had been married and for whom he had put his education on hold so that she could get her Master’s degree had left him as soon as she finished school. Joe hadn’t even finished his Bachelor’s degree. He’d like to, though, and then go to law school. The selling cars thing was just helping him save some money so he could go back to school.

In that short time we also learned that Joe plays the cello—he’s been playing for 16 years. He’s going to play in the wedding of one of his buddies in September—Pachelbel Canon in D.

Joe also has a dog. A bulldog named Nimitz. We got to see pictures of the dog on his Blackberry.

So, you see, in just 20 short minutes (O.K., it was probably longer because we had to wait a LONG time for the paperwork guy) we got to know Joe. We learned that Joe probably does hate his job. That he’d for sure like to be anywhere but where he is right now, selling cars. We learned that Joe has a painful past and is carrying around a load of hurt but he’s trying his best to get it together.

When I was younger, my dad always told me that in order to win people over, you have to get them talking about themselves. Just by asking a few questions, you’ll get the other person talking about their life and they will think you are just about the best person EVER.

My dad also said that a successful conversation is one in which you never reveal anything about yourself, not because you want to keep things private, but because you got the other person talking about himself so much.

That’s kind of how it was with Joe. Sure, we told him a few things about us and our family. Kate told him about her finals last week and her college search process. But mostly, I think the conversation was a success because we got Joe to talk about himself. I would guess that most of the time his customers talk about themselves, seeing him as important as the paper on the wall.

As we drove away in our new car, Kate and I weren’t looking at the gadgets and gizmos sitting in front of us. Instead we drove away with a bit of heavy-heartedness for our new friend, Joe. We talked about his pain and how a life without Jesus is always messed up in some way.

I admitted to Kate that she was right about Joe. I should have given him a chance. I should have seen that there was a story behind his behavior.

But my selfish self got in the way again. That ugly part of me just wants to think the worst of people and not see them as broken, which most likely they are.

I am so glad that Kate took the time to teach me a different way of seeing people like Joe. My daughter, who is wise beyond her years, reminded me of something I should have already known—that people everywhere, no matter who they are, have a story that’s just waiting to be told.

Yes, I am a teller of stories. This blog proves that. But I hope that I will also be a better listener to other people’s stories. That will make me a better writer and a better person.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

For When You're Bored on a Summer Afternoon

I absolutely love the Pioneer Woman's blog. Her photography is gorgeous and her food is even better. If you haven't been over there, go check her out.

Her post today absolutely made me laugh out loud. Go get your kids, if they are already bored with their summer vacation, and you will all get a kick out of this.

*sniff* They Grow Up So Fast *sniff*

One year ago today, Kate said to me, "Mom, you should start a blog."

See? That's what I love about my kids. They come up with some kind of wacky idea and then make ME do it.

But, being the adventurous soul that I am, I said, "Sure, Kate. You get me set up and I'll do it."

I think Kate may have had an ulterior motive. She knew I had stories to tell and that I would be a much better mom to her and her sisters if I got these stories out of me. Too bad she didn't realize most of the stories would have to do with her and her sisters.

Anyway, here I am, one year later, one year wiser (about blogs anyway), and one year more mentally healthy because of the creative outlet I've found through this silly blog.

I have so many people to thank.

First, my family. Little did they know they would become the fodder for so many posts. And believe me, I've left a lot out! But I thank them for their patience with me, their senses of humor, and their encouragement to just keep writing. Sure, they haven't loved every minute of this, but who would love it when their mom who ignores them while she tries to write for "just five more minutes" or who burns the beans for dinner because she's trying to keep up with other blogs or who sits in her room for hours on end because that's the place she feels most creative?

Second, my other family. My mom had actually suggested I start a blog long before Kate did. And she now reads me faithfully every day. She's done a nice job of spreading the word about my blog in her community and I think I've gained one more reader because of it. And, of course, my sisters and my nieces have been great encouragement, even taking a prominent role in a few of my posts. My sister-in-law, Julie, is always a source of inspiration and encouragement too. I just love that you all believe in me and that you always want to read more.

Which brings me to the third group of people I'd like to thank. My readers. Why anyone would fire me up every day to read what I think about spelling bees or my dog or all the places I've been is truly beyond me. Honestly, I don't think I'd be that interested in you all. But the very fact that you do come around here every once in a while and you do leave me a comment or two just makes me appreciate you so much more. Please keep coming back. Please!

(And if you could possibly add me to your blogroll or your favorites or your google reader, I'd be even more appreciative!)

When I started this blog one year ago today I said I was doing this for me. I still am. Over the past year I've wondered at times why I keep at it when I have barely any readers. Or when I leave comments all over the blogosphere and yet those to whom I comment haven't even looked at my blog. Or when I notice that some people who used to read me aren't coming around anymore.

That's when I have to go back and remember that this is for me. It's been good for me to have an outlet. It's been good for me to practice writing almost every day. It's been good to have fun every once in a while.

So, in the spirit of or because of all that, I want to share with you some of my favorite posts from the past year. I hope you've enjoyed them too.

Because I Just Can't Seem to Stop Myself

25 Random Things

On Time

It's All Kinds of Crazy Out There

Maggie the Brave

Again, thanks so much for a wonderful, life-changing year. Who knows what next year will bring? What would you like to see?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bikini, Tankini, or Twinkini?

Sooooo, summer's here. Are you bikini ready?

Ha! That was SUCH a rhetorical question. I haven't worn a bikini since I was about five. After three kids, I will never be bikini ready no matter how hard I worked out.

But, in a desperate attempt to even be tankini-ready, I've started a new workout program this week. My sweet friend, Corrie, is majoring in Exercise Science in college and she's offered up her services to some of her mom's friends.

Why anyone would want to begin their career on a group of over-40-something moms who have no chance in you-know-where of ever becoming bikini ready is beyond me. I mean, she would have a lot more success with a group of her peers who just basically want to get a little toned and ready for the beach.

I guess Corrie likes a challenge. Whatever.

So we started out by walking around the indoor track a couple of times, just to loosen up a bit, while we told "scar stories." At first I thought, "Oh no, what emotional scar can I even begin to talk about without crying?" I sure didn't sign up for that! But I was glad to hear that she meant physical scars. It was horrifying enough to confess to my new friends that I have a one-and-a-half-inch surgery scar coming out of my belly-button, but I'm sure the group would rather hear about that than my deep-seated attachment to Twinkies.

Thank God she didn't make us state our goals for the session. When Corrie called the other night to talk through why I wanted to work out with a trainer I think I told her that I'd like to work off enough calories to be able to eat a Twinkie every day. Or maybe I said something about my flabby arms. I don't know.

Later this week I have to get in a "bod pod" which will measure my percentage of body fat. You stand in a room in a swim suit and air blows all over your body to determine how much flab you have on you. Fun, huh?

All I can say about that is . . . nothing. I'm too appalled to even think about standing in a room in my swim suit with air blowing all over me. To measure how much fat I have on me.

I could just save them a lot of time and effort and just tell them . . . it's a lot.

I think the bod pod thing is happening on Wednesday. I'm definitely going to need a whole box of Twinkies when that's over.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It Was Time

"Mom? How do you know when you're ready to be baptized?" The question was whispered to me during church one week. The question I had been waiting for, half expecting based on the growth I'd seen in my daughter over the past couple of years.

"Why? Do you think you want to be baptized?" I whispered back.

And thus began the most wonderful series of conversations with Maggie who, tonight, was baptized in our church.

When people are baptized in our church, their "testimony" is printed in the worship folder--that's just a fancy way of saying how their lives have changed once they got to know Jesus.

Maggie said it would be O.K. if I shared her testimony with you.

"My name is Maggie, and I just finished fifth grade at Hawthorne School and will be entering sixth grade at Franklin this fall.

I have been learning about Christ my whole life, but when I was four years old I went to a Backyard Bible Club which sparked my interest to let Jesus into my heart. That night, my mom and I prayed and I asked Jesus to be my Savior.

I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and loves and cares about me so much that He died for me and my sins so I can have eternal life with him forever.

The reason I'm being baptized is to show people how God has worked in my life and to start a new life for him, and make that commitment to live for him forever.

A verse that has meant a lot to me is John 14:6. I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."

I am one blessed mom, my friends. Truly blessed.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Little School with the Big Heart

Twelve years ago we made one of the first really big decision about how we would raise our kids. We decided to place Kate in public school.

One year later we made the second really big decision that would affect all of our girls. We moved. Just a few blocks over, but it was within the school boundaries of a different elementary school. We didn't know what we'd be getting into come first grade, but we did know that we wanted our girls to go to a neighborhood school, and since this new school was just two blocks from our new house, a change was in order.

So Kate switched to Hawthorne School for first grade, and every day I am so thankful that we stumbled upon this house, this neighborhood, and that little school.

I mentioned last week that Hawthorne's motto is "The Little School with the Big Heart." Every single day, that place lives up to its reputation. Every single day the children who walk through the doors are accepted, loved, nurtured. They are challenged to be children of character. They are blessed to sit side by side with other kids who live differently, believe differently, and sometimes behave differently, but they know they are always accepted there.

Today is my last day as a "Hawthorne Mom." Tomorrow I'll have a middle schooler, but for today, I'm going to relish all that this little school has meant to me and to my family.

Acceptance. I have definitely appreciated that my kids have attended a racially diverse school; in fact, many of the children who come to Hawthorne are refugees who have come to the United States through World Relief. My children have sat next to students of every color, religious background, and nationality.

I will never forget the girl who came from Bosnia when Kate was in second grade. The sweet girl arrived in the United States on a Friday and on Monday morning was sitting in a classroom where nobody spoke her language. It was November, I remember, and I happened to be working in the classroom on her first day at Hawthorne. Her teacher quickly assigned another girl in the class to be her "buddy" and off she went--learning English on her very first day.

I can't imagine how she must have felt, this beautiful Bosnian girl, but if I had been her I would have been scared out of my wits! Unbelievably, by the end of the year, she was speaking English very well, was reading close to grade level, and was doing an amazing job at math.

Two years ago Maggie's class welcomed a boy from Burma who also spoke not a word of English when he arrived. I don't even want to know what kind of atrocities he might have seen or experienced there, but I do know that today he has friends, he plays sports, and he dances like a star! And he has a smile a mile wide.

Stories like this are common at Hawthorne.

Is life easy for these refugee kids? No. But Hawthorne has a way of making their transition just a little easier than it might have been. I'm so glad I could be a small part of that.

Community. Because most of the kids live in a small neighborhood, the Hawthorne community is strong. I have met some of my best friends through that school, and I will be forever grateful for that.

As my kids ride their bikes down the streets, I know that they are being watched over, cared for, noticed by people who know them from Hawthorne School. In this day and age, it's nice to be a part of a small, tightknit community that really does watch out for its kids.

Teachers. I don't even know where to begin to describe the teachers my children have had. I guess all I can do is thank them.

I thank these teachers for finding the good in my girls, even when that was hard to find. I thank them for understanding when character issues have needed to be addressed. I thank them for seeking out my children when they have been sad or lonely or frustrated and for always making them feel special.

Hawthorne teachers are really good at making kids feel special.

Last year was a rough year for me as I spent twelve long days in the hospital. Maggie's teacher, a dear woman whom each of my girls had the privilege of having for fourth grade, took her aside each day to check in to see how she was doing. Maggie was having a tough time with my being sick and away from home for so long, but this dear teacher took the time to nurture Maggie through my illness, even writing notes to her (and to me) and stopping by the house once I got home to bring a gorgeous fruit basket.

It makes me cry to think of what that precious woman did for each one of my girls.

And she's not an exception--every Hawthorne teacher goes the extra mile to meet the needs of each student in the school, whatever that need may be. How many times have I seen teachers give a pat on the back or take their lunch hour to help someone who might need a little extra time or just take a moment in the hallway to talk to a student. It happens every time I walk in the building.

Prayer. Strangely, our little public school taught me how to pray. Well, O.K., not the school specifically, but because of the school I learned how to pray. I led a Mom's In Touch group for several years, and the discipline of praying for our children and for their teachers each week taught me so much. It taught me a pattern of prayer that I still use today. It taught me that praying for an hour seems like praying for a minute. It taught me that praying for my children is the most important thing I could do for them. It taught me that prayer really does make a difference.

So today I leave this "Little School with a Big Heart" and I find that I am a much better person because of the people I've encountered there. I am a much better mom because of what my kids have experienced there.

My heart is full today. Full of memories. Full of love. Full of thanks.

We will never forget you, Hawthorne School.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

So easy I should have had company

Tonight's dinner was such a treat. Not only was it delish, it was also easy! And easy is key when kids are finishing up school and studying for finals and working and just plain busy.

Easy is also good when you're having company, and this recipe is definitely company-worthy. I hope you'll try it.

I can't take the credit, though. I got this recipe from "Real Simple" magazine a couple of months ago, and I've already made it twice.

See how juicy and yummy and awesome it looks?

So, here we go.

Herb-Crusted Pork Roast with New Potatoes

1/4 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced (1 Tablespoon)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 bone-in pork roast (5-6 pounds), frenched, room temperature**
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds small new potatoes, halved

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees with rack in lowest third. Mix oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and sage in a small bowl. Season pork generously with salt and pepper, then coat with half the herb mixture. Place pork, bones facing up, in a roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, and roast, rotating pan halfway through for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, toss potatoes with remaining herb mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Add potatoes to pan, cut sides down.

Roast until pork is browned and registers 140 degrees on a meat thermometer, about 30minutes more.

3. Transfer pork to a cutting board, and let stand for 15 minutes. Cut between ribs to desired portion size. Serve immediately with potatoes.

**Note: I used a boneless pork roast, and it worked just fine.

This recipe is truly so easy--all I did was throw it in the oven and head off to do other things (like take my girls out for ice cream!). Unfortunately, I had so little to do while I was making dinner that I sat down and read a few blogs while I burned cooked the beans.

We had corn instead.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Because I Just Can't Seem to Stop Myself

Since all two of you decided to vote on which story you'd like me to tell (I can see that my readers are an opinionated lot), here it is. I aim to please.

But first, I have to preface the story by saying that this is just a typical mother-of-teenage-daughters story. It's nothing too out of the ordinary for us because my big mouth regularly gets me in trouble with my kids.

Kind of like the day someone stole my parking place at the mall. Never one to let things go, I rolled down my window and yelled at the young lady in the snazzy sports car who stole the spot. "Hey, I was waiting for that spot!"

She just stared at me like "Yeah lady-in-a-mini-van, whatever."

So I added this great zinger, "I have an old lady in the car!"

Yes, it's true, that day I not only embarrassed my children, but I also embarrassed my mother.

Or another example from just this past weekend. While working in the front yard, I saw that the "kids" two doors down were gearing up for another of their famous parties. So I politely stopped the young man carrying a case of beer under his arm.

"Excuse me."


"Hi. I just wanted to make sure you know about the city ordinance that says that quiet hours start at 11:00."

"Uh, yeah. The owner does."

"Well, good. Just be sure to reminder her that QUIET HOURS START AT 11:00!"

Yeah lady-wearing-gardening-gloves. Whatever.

Then I heard him say to his buddy hiding behind the house next door, "Some lady wants us to know about quiet hours. Whatever."

Seriously, I should have earned a Ph.D. in embarrassment by now.

The girls think there's something I can actually do about my behavior. Just yesterday one of them said, "Mom, maybe if you knew how we felt, you'd try a little harder."

Like I can stop myself.

So those examples make my telling of the secret nickname story kind of tame. But here you go anyway. . . .

Kate has a friend in her class at school. I'll just call him Ernie Tiddlywinks to protect the innocent. Kate says he's a funny guy who makes her laugh all the time in English.

Abby also knows Ernie because he is the section leader for her section of the orchestra. Ernie also makes Abby laugh.

So Kate and Abby talk about Ernie sometimes at home and have given him the nickname "Uncle Tiddlywinks." Funny, huh? Not. But whatever.

I, being the embarrassing mother, just assumed that that's what everyone at school calls Ernie.

So last February, when I chaperoned that orchestra trip to the University of Illinois, I finally got to meet the infamous "Uncle Tiddlywinks." I figured out who he was, walked up to him and said, "Hi! Are you Ernie?"

"Uh, yes," he says, looking at me like the lady with two heads instead of the lady with the mini-van or the lady wearing gardening gloves.

You know, really, the strange look I get from people should be my first clue that something stupid is going to come flying out of my mouth any minute.

But, unaware of the who-are-you? look in his eyes, I press on.

"Uncle Tiddlywinks, right?!" I exclaim, as if I've hit the jackpot on coolness.

"What?" Confusion reigns in his eyes.

Abby, standing right next to me, suddenly has taken on a horrified expression.

"Uncle Tiddlywinks! You know, your nickname?" I desperately try to gain control of a situation that seems to be running in the opposite direction.

Abby grabs me by the arm, gives me the pleading "stop it, Mom" look, and says something like, "Oh, she's just kidding."

Too late, I realize that I have just totally messed up. I've done it again. I've embarrassed my daughter. Once we got away from Ernie, I asked Abby, "What just happened there?"

"Mom, he doesn't know we call him Uncle Tiddlywinks!" Gulp.

"Well, I didn't know that! Why didn't you tell me?!" I suddenly felt like being swallowed up by the cement floor I'm standing on wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Dear Ernie could not have been sweeter or more gracious about my sudden faux pas. He just laughed it off and we went on with our conversation. But the following week in class, he must have said something to Kate because she came home saying the same thing Abby had said. "Mom, why did you DO that?!"

I have no explanation.

Apparently all's well that ends well, though, because just a couple of weeks ago the girls told me that Ernie has asked both of them--just them, mind you, nobody else--if they would please just call him Uncle Tiddlywinks. He thinks it's cool.