Tuesday, March 29, 2011

happy birthday, bird

Eight years ago today in the wee hours of the morning, I was waiting for a phone call telling me that niece #2 had arrived.  I was keeping three-year-old Pointer and had put her to bed hours earlier, but Bird was being contrary and slow in making her appearance.  She finally arrived in the pre-dawn hours, and I got to meet this gorgeous girl a few hours later.  I've been in love with her ever since.

This year the Virginia-residing Bird celebrated turning eight in Kentucky at Nana's with an Arkansas Razorback-themed party.  All the moving in her little life has left her with a geographic-identity crisis, obviously.  But other than that little oddity, my girl is just about perfect.  Let me tell you my five favorite things about Bird.

5.  I'm not sure she'll approve of this or think it's a good option for a five-favorite list, but I love her voice.  Mispronunciations and substituting wrong sounds is a part of normal language development for all kids, and I can name any number of children who do so memorably and charmingly, but something about the way that Bird talks has always been sweet and special and endearing to me.  She used to pronounce sister as shishter, and it was possibly the most precious thing ever.  We made her repeat it endlessly in a manipulative and exploitative way.  She's long since mastered all of her sounds, but something about her voice and manner of speaking retains that sweetness.  When everything about her is entirely too big and grown-up, her voice connects me to the baby and toddler and little kiddo that she used to be, and I need that.  I am dreading the day when her voice grows up as much as the rest of her and loses that quality.

4. Bird is our little melting pot.  People have always said that she looks like her moma or sometimes her Aunt Ellen, but her personality can be (and has been) attributed to a host of other people.  She has her daddy's sense of humor, and I think he's the source of her adventurous creativity.  But she's also got Michelle's sensitivity and tender feelings when she's hurt.  The way that she reacts to people is a lot like Michelle too.  There are moments when she's exactly like her Nana (especially if she's being roughly affectionate), and I can see definite bits of her uncles in her stubborn determination or her competitive streak.  She's such a mixture of so many people that I love that I can't help but love that in her.  Some people have accused Bird of being like her Aunt Ellen, and I'd be lying if I said that wasn't another layer in loving who she is.

3.  My girl is a creative genius.  She can make just about anything.  From the time that she was three or four she was supplementing her dolls' wardrobes by creating outfits or accessories out of paper.  She's since moved up from paper to other mediums.  The last time that they moved she commandeered cardboard boxes for building projects, and one time recently when she was at Nana's, she started making weapons out of sticks.  She's got a fully functioning bow and arrow and now a gun that she created out of sticks and a few other odds and ends.  She recently decided that she wants to be an engineer when she grows up, but not a boring engineer like Uncle Josh.  When she gets it into her head that she needs something that she doesn't have, she just builds it--no matter how unlikely it should be that she can.  That determination to make anything she decides upon is a driving force in Bird's life.  She's always been the sort of girl who could accomplish anything once she sets her mind to it from learning to whistle to playing every sport available to building a sixty-three inch paper airplane.  The kid gets stuff done, and I dig it.

 2.  It's a close race at the moment, but any day now Bird is going to surpass me as the funniest person in our family.  And it's a fairly big deal that I love her humor enough to not become ridiculously competitive or pouty about that prospect.  If you know me at all, you've heard me brag before at her mad comedy skills.  She had a impressively-developed sense of comedic timing at age two.  I knew we had a prodigy on our hands when she changed song lyrics to make fun of her daddy when she was two or three (Will is famous for doing this).  Although in the past couple of years Bird might have relied more heavily on potty humor than is strictly necessary, she is completely hilarious.  She is a master of little kid goofy, but she also teases like a champ and holds her own in our family of comedians.  I know my imaginary readers are probably tired of reading about how funny my family is, but seriously, Bird is one of the best, and it can't be said or appreciated enough.
1.  I feel like I'm going to do an inadequate job of describing this last, best, most favorite thing about the Bird because it's kind of a complicated thing, but I'll do my best.  Bird doesn't love indiscriminately.  She doesn't suffer fools, and she is a bit more reserved in lavishing love and attention than some of us.  But when you've made her list and earned that love and attention, it's completely worth it.  She loves intensely and sincerely, and being on the receiving end of her heart is a feeling to be treasured.  It's a love strong enough to smother and sweet enough to make smothering seem appealing.  And the slight rarity of it, that comes with knowing that she's discerning in bestowing her affection, makes it that much more dear.

Happy birthday to my complicated baby girl.  Even though I saw you yesterday, I miss you already.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

17 reasons why i haven't blogged lately (in random order)

1.  I spent exactly thirty minutes at my desk today.  Granted I came to work an hour late and took a longer-than-normal lunch.  but I also left somewhere between fifteen and forty-five minutes late.  I didn't work the public service desk at all.  I'm not saying I usually blog at work, but I do type out quick ideas as I have them sometimes, and I typically take all my "breaks" and lunch at my desk which gives me time to work on my informative and entertaining posts.  And if I work the public service desk at a slow time, I do sometimes indulge in more personal internet pursuits (a category into which blogging falls) while I'm waiting around on someone to assist.

2.  I ate lunch today with Peeps Monica and Martha and the tweeps.  It was a thousand times better than lunch at my desk with the internet.  I was having way too good a time to blog--plus I spent a decent fraction of the meal baby juggling with Martha, and I can't feed myself, hold babies and blog all at once.  I'm no super woman.  P.S. My storytime wooing of the tweeps has not yet won them over to adoration of me, but I shall not be daunted.

3.  Often lately I've been eating lunch and taking breaks in our staff lounge (despite what I said to the contrary in the previous two excuses).  My library friend Philip gave up going out to lunch for Lent, so he's been bringing his lunch, and I've been bringing my lunch almost daily since the beginning of the year, so we've been eating together upstairs more.  Sometimes Bob comes too.  We bring our handwork (they're both knitting hats at the moment) and work on our various projects.

4.  It's spring break round these parts, and we're doing alliterative programs for school kids every day this week.  On Movie Monday, I passed out popcorn and showed How to Train Your Dragon to fifty-one library friends.  On Tie-Dye Tuesday, I calmly dealt with fifty-three library friends and the rainbow-hued carnage they left on the tables, floor, and my hands.  Today on Wii Wednesday I played and supervised and refereed twenty-two library friends through multiple games for three hours.  These unexpected well-attended pursuits have pushed me much closer to exhaustion than I should be, and while that's embarrassing, the fact remains that sitting down and stringing clever words together just wasn't in me (still isn't, but here you go anyway).

5.  As I previously mentioned I've been working on balance and moderation in my personal interests and pursuits, so at home I've been reading and cooking and keeping all the dishes washed and watching tv as a family with Jess, and I've been trying to spend less time glued to my laptop.  Providing intellectually stimulating blog fodder is the unintended casualty of moderation--though those unfinished home projects as yet remain unfinished.

6.  I mentioned in #3 that I'm bringing my handwork to lounge lunches and breaks with Philip and Bob, but I haven't told you about what I'm doing.  I'm actually working on a post all about it, so I'm not going to tell you until that's ready, but my steady work on this undisclosed craft project has given me something to do with my hands besides typing out blogs for you, and I am really excited about showing you someday.

7.  I had an interesting and busy weekend.  Our church is doing some painting and cleaning at an elementary school while they're out on spring break, and I went to help clean and tape for the paint crews on Saturday.  One of the areas we painted was the cafeteria where they had to work around a mural depicting Carson-Dellosa kiddos following the posted cafeteria rules.  It was a mostly really cute except that it was unfinished.  I thought it a shame that our freshening and sprucing would still be overshadowed by the half-finished people (that weren't on our list of approved fixes).  I asked if I could come back the next day and finish them, so our man in charge called someone from the school, and I got permission to do it.  I went back on Sunday to finish the job and recruited some help, and we almost got it done.  My sidekicks completed the mural on Monday while I was at work slinging popcorn for the movie-goers.  Jess went and took pictures, and it turned out beautifully. 

8.  I would have liked to be able to blog about the successful selection of a winning NCAA tournament bracket, but alas, my hopes have been dashed for another year.  I'm currently tied for last place in a pool of ten friends and family members.  It shouldn't surprise me any longer that I'm terrible at these picks, but it's always disheartening.  All of my Final Four teams are still in the running, so although I still have a higher-than-some points potential, I've missed many, many significant picks.  I suspect that this week's games will drive the final nail in my bracket's coffin.  It doesn't help that cousin, scholar, theologian and #1 blog fan, who admitted to making mostly arbitrary picks is in first place.

9.  Laziness.

10.  A lack of task commitment.

11.  A stronger than normal tendency to ramble senselessly.  Seriously, every time I try to post something lately, it turns into a torrent of messy words, and I abandon the effort.

12.  A short attention span.

13.  An almost unreasonable desire to do nothing but eat Dove truffle eggs.  Until Saturday I hadn't found them at a store this Easter candy season, but now I know that Walgreens has them, and the desire to purchase and consume them is a constant presence in my life.  In the spirit of balance and moderation (not to mention my healthy-eating choices), I'm trying to keep this from becoming an obsession, but it's a near thing.

14.  Time seems to be passing at a fairly high rate these days.  I don't mean to let days (or weeks) go by between posts, but somehow even when I have ideas at the ready for my next posts, days pass in a blur with no writing to show for it.  I'm sure this is just one more sign of my increasing age.  It goes nicely with my flights of nostalgia, the giant gray streak in my hair, and my geriatric tendency to be set in my ways.

15.  I've been spending more time talking to Jess.  She's nice, but sometimes I get too busy or cranky or in my head to talk to her.  That's being a loser-y sort of friend, and I'm working on that.  I like talking to her when I'm not being too much of a jerk to do so.

16.  A sense of guilt that because of the increasingly significant time elapsing between posts, I need to bring my A-game for the imaginary readers lurking here, desperately hoping for some new communication from me.  When all I can produce is pointless drivel (for instance:  more than a dozen lame and needy excuses for my lack of posts), I have a difficult time allowing myself to post such substandard fare . . . usually (though obviously not tonight).

17.  I have become overwhelmed with my clear  and unhealthy dependence on the adverb.  What if I use more than my allotment of adverbs while blogging, and I'm forced to go on without them?  It boggles the mind and cripples my productivity.  Please reassure me that this is not my fate, faithful readers.  For my sake, for the sake of the blog, for all of us. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

perfection, bliss, or why every good thing begins and ends with my moma

Have I ever told you, imaginary readers, about my moma?  Probably not.  So let me fix that now . . . you see, I'm sort of a fan.  In fact, folks reading about her here might think I was embellishing or exaggerating her awesomeness, but truly I'm not.  She's just as great as she seems here.  And the Popster?  Well, he's not too shabby himself.  So please indulge me as I sing their praises.  After all, it's not like I do it all the time.

As the youngest kid in my family, I'm the only one of us who ever lived at home with my moma and the Popster without siblings.  My senior year of high school when Joshua was at UK and after Michelle had moved away (Shane had been long gone for years), I was a mostly only child in our old Kentucky home out in the country.  That was kind of a lonely year as I adjusted to life without Michelle (don't tell her, but I hated having our room to myself) and because my moma and the Popster were heavily involved in renovating our new Kentucky home in town where we would move just a month after I graduated.  I was pretty useless to the remodeling process, and probably too selfish and lazy to help much anyway.

After we moved, Joshua was home for the summer, so that one doesn't count, but for the next four summers, I would come home from school and be an only child for three glorious months.  I quickly learned to love it.  We were a happy little trio.  I never really went through one of those rebellious teenage phases where my parents were lame morons who wouldn't let me have any fun.  I don't mean to imply that life was always perfect or that we lived like some sort of idyllic scene from a 50s sitcom.  We argued, I'm sure because I like to argue.  I'll assume I was stubborn and loud and lazy and messy (as I'm still those things now), but when I remember that time, I mostly just remember us being happy, having fun, and laughing. 

There are countless little memories that we still talk about that are just for the three or us--or sometimes the three of us and Grams, who I'm closer to than most of the other grandkids just because I had those summers at home with her after Gramps died.  That's when I became her favorite (but don't tell her I said that because she doesn't like to admit it).  All that time spent together is why I can still crack her up (or my moma and the Popster) by mentioning the maple syrup in her sandal or the cake that flipped out of the fridge.  I could tell you either of those stories, and you'd barely crack a smile, but being there for them . . . I wouldn't trade them for anything.  All the stories aren't funny, but we still love them.  If I remind my moma of the summer that I officially learned to cook and took on the project of keeping the refrigerator clean and organized, she'll do that squinty smile and say, "didn't we have fun?"

There's one story that was seriously un-funny at the time but sort of illustrates what our life was like (and which has long since become just another funny thing we say).  One summer day, after a weekend where the other kids had been home to visit, my moma told me that I was less funny when the other kids were around.  In her words, it was like I wasn't even trying.  I got my feelings hurt big-time, and it's probably one of the maddest and meanest times I've had with her.  She hadn't meant it as the insult I took it as--she really was wondering why I didn't entertain the troops in the same way that I tickled her and the Popster.  It was practically a compliment to how hilarious and fun she found me on my own, but it still stung (because I'm a giant baby) that she thought I was less hilarious and fun when the siblings were around.  And to be honest with ten years' worth of maturity, I can probably say that I wasn't as funny when the other kids were home because I was jealous and selfish and probably just wanted them to leave me alone with my happy family of three (but of course, I don't feel that way now and everyone adores me and thinks I'm hilarious without even trying).

So now that you know the ridiculously long and unnecessary history of my life as an only child, let me get to the point (or at least nearer the point).  Although it happens rarely these days, I love to go home when no one else is going to be there, so that I can get the olds to myself and soak up all the spoiling attention.  Since Grams moved to Arkansas last year, my moma and the Popster have made the trip to see us all down here so much more frequently that it's been harder to find a weekend when they're actually at home.  Last fall, I was hungry for my old Kentucky home but between their trips here, Pointer's birthday in Virginia and teaching my four-year-olds on Sundays, we just couldn't make it work, but I vowed then that the second I was done teaching after the winter quarter, I was coming home for a weekend for just me.  As it approached, I felt too selfish to actually go through with that, so I invited the sibs and their crews to meet me there, but luckily, no one did.

So nearly two weeks ago now, I spent a lazy, agenda-less weekend with my two favorite people in the world.  Friday night as I was making my way to them, they were coming home from Frankfort where my moma had a work training all day.  I had talked to her during our drives, and because they had to stop by the grocery somewhere along their way, it seemed like I might actually beat them there by a few minutes, but as I've never given back my key to the house, that wasn't going to be a deal.  I don't know if the Popster sped up or I slowed down, but as I was pulling up to the house and preparing to make the left turn in the driveway, I saw I would have to wait for a car to go by first.  Then as the car slowed down, I realized that it was them, and that we basically arrived at the driveway at the exact same time.  We couldn't have planned that or repeated it in a million tries.  And I think it was a sign of great things to come. 

When I went upstairs to bed on Friday night, I wasn't quite ready for sleep, so I thought I needed to read for just a few minutes to make me tired.  I have, over the years, stored tons of books under the bed in my old room.  We've gone through and weeded before, and they're mostly things that both my moma and I have read and reread over the years, so I chose something I hadn't read since high school probably and read at least two pages before I fell asleep.  Saturday morning I told her that I was finally ready to let go of at least part of the books taking up all that space, so we vaguely said we'd go through them sometime.

But that was too much like work for the Saturday we had planned.  Instead we watched movies and forced the Popster to endure as many girly ones as he could stand.  We worked on putting together the hardest jigsaw puzzle ever--in the shape of a dolphin, no less.  And we talked and talked and talked some more.  I love hearing about the goings-on in our little town.  I love that it's a small enough place that even though I haven't lived there for ten years, I can still remember who she's talking about.  She had been to the funeral home earlier that week, which is always the place to go to see folks you haven't in a while.  Thanks to facebook, I keep tabs on more people from high school than I used to, so I sometimes know the gossip before she does these days, but talking to my moma about the latest Clinton news will always be one of the best things about being home.

The movie/puzzle marathon stretched into the evening, when we finally took a break to eat dinner.  I hadn't wanted my moma to fuss over cooking the whole time I was home, but she still managed to ensure that we had one of my all-time favorites:  pork chops from Nicky's, the oldest and most legendary barbecue establishment in town (and yes, our town of roughly 1600 people supports at least three barbecue restaurants--don't ask me how).  Nicky's pork chops are huge and delicious and perfect, and I had been craving one for months.  Also she made me a pie--one that wouldn't completely derail all my healthy-eating choices.

On Sunday afternoon, we finally got around to that book-purge.  I was overwhelmed to discover that she had started a book annex under Joshua's bed because mine was full.  I couldn't let go of everything, but we got rid of over half of them, so we're back to just storing them just under my bed.  There were a few that I couldn't remember well enough to know if I wanted to send them away or not, so I came home with five or six books that I devoured in about four days, and that little kick of obsessive behavior helped me to figure out Lent, as faithful readers may recall.

In the book-purging process, I was reminded of what else lives under my bed:  the four plastic tubs that contain our baby afghans and baby books and special outfits and mementos of our childhoods.  So we went through my box and oohed and aahed over tiny clothes that I remember only from pictures, the afghan that my moma knitted for me (that's prettier than the other kids' afghans), and the baby book that was more filled-in than my moma feared.  There were cards that had accompanied gifts from my birth and first couple of birthdays.  I especially loved two different letters written by one of my great-aunts, who I generally consider both from stories I've heard and my own memories to be one of the meanest women ever.  The letters were both so sweet and full of little snippets about my beloved great-grandmother that for a moment anyway, I could concede that the lady wasn't pure evil.  My box also contained report cards and school awards and a few saved art projects and stories, which I found both charming and embarrassing.  One of the funniest moments was when I came across a certificate I had gotten for honor roll or perfect attendance or something that entitled me to a free kids' meal at Druther's, which went out of business so long ago I'd all but forgotten it existed. (Special note to Shane:  the Druther's certificate was the story I wanted to tell you last night.)

Eventually I had to tear myself away from my moma and the Popster (and the dolphin puzzle that we didn't have time to finish) to come back to the dreary reality of work, but everyday, ordinary perfection of spending relaxing, uninterrupted time with them has been a balm that makes the days a little easier.  That's just the nature of our relationship.  I'm a better person for how they raised me, but I'm a happier person just because they exist.  Just imagine what a rotten grump I would be without them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

late to lent

Lent crept up under my radar this year.  My particular faith heritage doesn't observe the Lenten season as a group, so no one was reminding me.  I've been thinking about it on and off, and had decided as recently as last week that I wasn't going to observe this year.  I took on a whole lot of giving up and taking up last year (as faithful readers may recall), and I'll admit to not being as successful in that endeavor as I would have liked, and I think that accounts for part of my lack of motivation this year.  I don't like to fail.

The other thing (that I haven't really talked about here yet) is that I've been working on healthier eating habits since the new year, and I sort of feel like I've used up all my self-discipline and self-denial in that process.  Someday soon I might actually tell you more and report some victories in this area, but that's not for today.

Sometime yesterday I considered devoting this season to moderation.  By nature, I have an obsessive personality.  Most things that I develop an interest in end up consuming me to the detriment of other areas of my life.  Sometimes that's reading.  It's often tv, and it's constantly been the internet for the past several years.  I am prone to allow my current addiction to come before cleaning my house, meeting work deadlines, sleeping, or helping others.  Most of my obsessions aren't bad or harmful in and of themselves, but I use them harmfully.  Even my aforementioned healthy-eating kick has become a bit of an obsession.  Talking about it, planning for it, and tracking it have eaten up hours of my time in the past couple of months.  So spending some time seeking balance and moderation in my life seems like an excellent focus.  I have countless neglected, undone, and half-done projects desperately seeking completion, and I hope reorganizing time and priorities in my life will free up space to make progress on these.  This will be my measuring stick.

I'll admit that a ridiculously-obsessive flurry of reading that consumed the past four days of my life brought this trait of mine into sharper focus, and it also highlighted what a lot of junk I read.  So I'm committing to reading nonfiction (particularly nonfiction that threatens to inspire or improve me in some way) for the next little while--though I'm not convinced that this will last through all of Lent.  Last night I started rereading Blue Like Jazz (something I've been meaning to do in preparation for the movie later this year anyway) because I wanted to refresh my memory of it before I read Million Miles (finally).  I've got several other books that have been piling up ignored for a while, so I'll work through them for a while--in moderation, of course.

This morning as I was waging my constant war with tardiness, I came up with one other area I'd like to give attention.  I'm going to give up being late.  More importantly, I'm going to subdue that selfish part of me that excuses and encourages my habitual tardiness.  I don't just mean that I'm going to get to work and church and appointments on time--although that would be a big enough order.  I'm also going to meet deadlines and respond promptly to communication.  I'm going to whittle my huge email backlog down.  I'm going to stop wasting other people's time.  I think this is probably the place where I'll fail most often and become most discouraged, but it needs doing.

As usual, my purpose in sharing my Lenten plans is to seek out accountability for myself.  I invite you, imaginary readers, to check up on me, keep me honest, encourage me, and kick my butt as needed as you see me trying and failing and succeeding in these goals over the next thirty-eight days.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

is this our meet cute?

My first post back after a longer absence than I intended was supposed to be all about the perfect weekend I just spent with my moma and the Popster.  I'm sort of pleased to have a new, more immediate blogging need crop up (though I'll get back to my moma, the Popster, and perfection one day soon).

About forty-five minutes from the end of my drive home tonight, I got a text from my blogging brother saying the first thing I had to do upon arriving home was read FHDM's latest blog post.  (Yes, I read the text while driving.  I'm sorry.)  I couldn't imagine anything short of an engagement announcement would create such an immediate need, so I was in a bit of a wondering state for the last leg of my drive, but it very handily kept me more awake and alert than my recent audio-book-love revival could.

I was relieved and excited to discover that the post, rather than dashing my future marital prospects, gave me an opportunity to win a copy of one of FHDM's books.  My first thought was that I already owned that book and that I might be too sleepy to post something just to get a free book.  My second thought was that receiving gifts is not my love language so it wouldn't really matter if FHDM gave me a book for free, but it's FHDM we're talking about here, imaginary readers.  I'm pretty sure any respectable soulmate would never allow fatigue or a mild obsession with love languages to stand in the way of future happiness, so here I am posting a video and providing an amazon link to the freshly released paperback version of the only of FHDM's books that I haven't read.  Never mind that I already own a hardback copy.  Never mind that I've owned said copy for more than a year and still not read it.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story

Maybe I'll give my copy away.  Maybe I'll keep the paperback for sentimental reasons and let someone have my very unused hardback.  I secretly prefer paperbacks anyway.  Maybe I'll take so long getting the video embedded and correcting my spelling mistakes that I won't be among the first thirty anyway.  But in soulmate affairs (no, not that kind of affair), one must always try.  So here goes:

What story are you telling? from Rhetorik Creative on Vimeo.

I'd also like to add that my admiration for FHDM (obviously) goes much deeper than the physical, but I do think he's kind of adorable in this video.  He has crinkly eyes, and I love that about him.  I'd still want to be his FWES without the eye crinkles, but I'm considering them the icing on the cake.