Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wayback Wednesday: The Blades and the Monster

While I was digging through boxes last week, I came across my chap book from Mr. Franek's
English class in tenth grade.  Our chap book was a collection of our work from the year, typed up and bound.  Mine had a green cover, and I entitled it "A Bird's Eye View."  Here's a photo of it, very much disheveled now:

Mr. Franek was the best English teacher I ever had.  He wrote in the back of my book, along with my grade (B+/A-, because try as I might I rarely ever received an A in his class) "writing, I suspect, is a release for you," and "I don't worry about you.  You like to read & write. Don't ever stop."  Boy, he had me pegged, and those words were so inspiring for me back then, as they are now.

Here is a rewritten story, pulled from my chap book, about an incident that happened to my sister Allison from my sister Kelsey's point of view:

It was the summer of 1983, and my cousins had come for a short visit.  My mom made me and my cousin Sarah sleep on the floor in Allison and Lauren's room, because Aunt Karen was sleeping in my room.  My mom gave me a sleeping bag from the little closet.  The air conditioner was broken, leaving the house unbearably hot, so my mom put a small electric fan in the room to circulate air.  She placed the fan between Sarah and me and warned us not to sleep to close to it, because the blades were sharp.

In the middle of the night, Allison woke up screaming from a nightmare.  She had dreamt Jesus was sitting on the end of her bed drinking a Pepsicola and told her to be careful. We all laughed about her and went back to sleep.  About an hour later, she awoke frightened again.  She said, in her dream, a man had kidnapped her and killed Lauren.  She was afraid, and she crawled out of bed to sleep on the floor in between Sarah and I, and extremely close to the fan.

Around one in the morning Allison woke up.  She felt something wet on her hand, but couldn't tell what it was.  Allison tried to wake me up, but I groaned.  She walked over to the light and turned it on.  The first thing she saw was blood on the wall.  Allison peered down at the ground and saw a trail of blood leading towards the light switch.  Blood streamed down her arm, and she saw a huge gash on her hand.  She began screaming, as she realized what had happened.  I sat straight up, saw the blood, and I began screaming too but Lauren slept soundly.

My mom ran upstairs when she heard Allison's screams.  She burst into the room yelling for Allison and me to stop fighting, but then she saw the bright, red blood stain on the wall.  Allison was cuddled up in the corner, crying, and there was blood everywhere.

My mom called my dad (he was on call that night and was on a call at the hospital), and she told him to bring Allison directly to the emergency room. 

Mom told us to get in the big, brown van, and she went back upstairs to pick up Lauren and bring her downstairs.  Lauren woke up, bleary-eyed and half asleep, and Mom whispered something about going to the hospital.  Uninterested, Lauren quickly fell back to sleep.

My dad came outside to help my mom carry Allison into the ER.  She was still screaming and bleeding.  They left Lauren and I in the van with Aunt Karen.  The doctor on duty sent Allison to x-ray to make sure she had not injured her bone.  The blade in the fan had cut her hand deeply, but luckily missed the bone.  Her hand wasn't broken, but she did need stitches. 

The doctor made sure that Allison had not cut any tendons.  He, with my dad looking on, then proceeded to sew up her hand, placing twenty stitches into the skin.  Allison left the hospital with a lollipop in her mouth, holding my mom's hand and skipping.  She was happy again.  Allison climbed up into the big, brown van and sat down next to me.  Lauren rubbed her eyes, waking up, not knowing where she was or what happened.

"Where are we?" Lauren asked.

"At the hospital," Allison said.

"Why?" Lauren asked, curiously.

"Well you see, a big monster came in the middle of the night and ate my hand off!  But it's all better now, because Daddy fixed it!"

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Goal Update for February 28, 2012

It's almost the end February. Hard to believe. I only had two goals for last week, and I accomplished them. Let's review:

I achieved my weight goal to lose 1 pound. I've now lost 23 pounds total. Despite the one pound lost, I still feel like I'm at a plateau. I haven't lost many inches in the last few weeks, and the pounds are not coming off quickly anymore. I'm exercising FIVE times a week, sometimes SIX, so I'm not sure what the deal is. My close friend, Miranda Grace, sent me an article to read which I cannot find for the life of me that basically said I'm doing everything right! My main problem seems to be that I do Taekwondo for exercise four days a week, but recently I’ve also added kisado as a Wednesday night class and a Saturday morning pre-TKD workout.  Our TKD instructor YELLS “muscle confusion,” during this class, so I would think my body would try to get unused to whatever it’s used to and start shedding pounds again.  I don’t need to become discouraged, because no matter what I’ve come far.  It has taken me a long time to put this weight on, and it will take me a long time to take it off, I guess.  Plus, as my parents love to say, “It’s a lot harder to lose weight after you hit 30!”  Thanks for the boost of confidence!!!

Writing: I’ve been looking at myself as more of a writer lately.  I have been discussing writing with friends, and I’ve been writing EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  Some days, as I mentioned yesterday, I cannot stand to get up and write.  Procrastination is my life, so I easily will fall into something less productive than writing.  This week, however, I have found a purpose in my writing.  I began a story/novel/novella (not sure what it will be yet), and I have a plot with a beginning, middle and end.  I have tangible characters, and I have been researching on what they should be doing with their respective jobs, etc.  I have them living in a place where I used to live, and when I stop writing about them for the day, I think about how they are stuck at the bar, or in their house, and they have not finished telling their story yet.  I wonder if other writers feel this way, like their characters are almost living, breathing human beings.  I’ve written fifteen pages, but I jotted down on three sticky notes the theme of the story yesterday, plotted it out with the major characters, and I could barely pull myself away from the laptop to drag myself into bed last night.  This is progress, people!

Goals this week:

Lose 1 pound – This goal isn’t going anywhere until I have completely taken off all the extra weight I’m carrying around.

Write – work on my story every day: develop the characters, write, and revise. 

Marriage – Spend quality time with hubby in between.  Last night, I found myself blowing off hubby so I could write.  I need to find a good balance between my outlets (TKD and writing) and my personal life.  Hubby and I have come so FAR in the last few months.  Our marriage is turning the corner, and I need to make sure to put the effort in that he and I deserve. 

Today – beat Hubby at tennis.  We’re going to swing the rackets at lunch.  I haven’t played tennis since Hubby and I were on a doubles’ team before Son #1 was born.  Hubby and I hit the ball around once last year.  I love the sport, and I used to play competitively, but Hubby is better at it than me.  Still, reach high with your goals, right? 

Oh and just for shits and giggles, here are before and after pictures of my weight loss so far.  I need a full length photo of me, but I don't have one.  Left in the red is Before and Right in the Turquoise is After:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Some Thoughts on Writing

Lately, I’ve been getting up in the morning and writing.  I check the usual “stuff” on the internet: Facebook, the blogs I like to read, my email, and then I get to work—typing away.  I sit in the blue recliner that used to be my Gipop’s.  Hubby says it is his chair, but I have completely taken it over.  I turn on the gas fireplace, I put earphones in my head to drown out any morning noises, and I write. 

I have this hour of solitude in the morning, and now for me it has a purpose, to become a better writer.  I’ve started a story this week and it seems to be going somewhere.  I will have to rewrite it about twenty times before I’m content with it, I’m sure, but the writing flows off my fingertips into my laptop with hardly a thought. 

This weekend, I was talking to my sister about writing.  She told me how much she loved my blog about Mary Ward Brown’s book.  I commented on how it was funny, because I sat down and wrote that without even thinking.  My best posts come from my heart, and they seem so easy to pen.  It is a strange feeling of something coming from my heart, almost, not my head.  I told her, when I wrote that post, it was like I wasn’t even there—lost in my own subconscious and just transcribing it to the computer screen, to Word 2010. 

We spoke about happiness and depression.  It’s no secret I’ve been depressed this year.  I am and have been looking for an outlet, looking for a way to make myself happy (or to feel happiness again, as it is always there, just harder to notice).  Writing is one of those ways.  As I put words on paper, filling up a white, blank page with thoughts and ideas, I’m creating something.  I have the ability to sort out thoughts and to generate whole worlds out of nothing.  I’ve been blessed with this capability, and I NEED to use it every day.  When I’m writing, I feel more whole.  It is the hardest thing to describe.  Sometimes, I wake up and I think, “Oh no, I have to write another blog today!” but then some thought comes to me and the words spill out onto the paper.  Sometimes it comes so easily and other times it doesn’t.  Immediately after writing, I can tell if it’s good or not. I have a deeper sense of satisfaction when it comes from deep down, sort of like a sense of relief from telling a secret you’ve kept for years. 

I’d love to live in those moments of satisfaction for the rest of my life.  I want the feeling that I’ve created something wonderful, a book that touches the soul and gives other people a glimpse of my “world.”  I read once, writers write to sort out problems or issues they see in their own lives.  Writing allows them to sort through ideas, emotions, thoughts they don’t fully understand (or can’t come to terms with), and I do think this is true.  I believe this is why I was called back to writing while I was/have been so depressed: to sort through my thoughts and emotions and find my way again.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

To My Nephew

We are having a going away party for my nephew today.  He is starting his life, leaving the nest, going out on his own and making something of his life.  To be young and have your whole future in front of you is such a wonderful feeling.

I remember when he was little.  We all went to see the Lion King with him, and he loved it.  He would sing Hakuna Matata for hours, and he could recite half the movie! For Halloween he dressed up as Simba, and he looked adorable.  I used to babysit him, and he would play for hours with his cars and trains.  He has grown up, turning from a baby into a man.
My nephew hates this photo with his little bowl haircut!  It's funny though, when I think of him this is how I always picture him, despite the fact that he is now a grown man.  Kids grow up so fast.  You blink, and where they were once a baby or toddler, now they're a child.  I was only a teenager when he was born, and now I'm in my 30s.  It's hard to believe that so many years have passed.  Time has flown by, leaving me to wonder where the years went and how this little child turned into a man in the blink of an eye.

To J--I hope you follow your dreams and your heart.  Make the most of yourself.  Take every opportunity you are given.  Love, Your Aunt Lauren.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Letter Writing Lost

This week, I was looking frantically for photos of my cross country trip to post.  Some of my friends had photos, but they couldn't send them in time.  I also had a few photos that I didn't have permission to post, so I couldn't post those.

I went searching through our guest bedroom storage room, and I went searching through the garage.  I found boxes of "stuff" from my younger days.  Pages of writing, printed out with half-finished stories, photos of friends from Argentina and college.  Photos of my nieces and nephews when they were babes, and now they are almost grown.  Then I found a box of letters, handwritten letters. 

I had letters sent to me while I was at Camp Seafarer, Cabin #11, where I attended when I was eleven. Letters in my box written to me from my sisters, my parents, my friends back home, and even my sister's boyfriend at the time! There were also letters from my grandparents, who are no longer here. Letters telling me the going ons at home, and discussing the New Kids on the Block and which one I liked the most!

And I had letters all the way through my second year of college, then they seemed to abruptly stop with the advent of the Internet and digital photos, there seemed no reason to write letters.  Email replaced the written word, becoming so convenient.  It's funny though, I didn't keep any of my emails.  My emails start from 2007, maybe, only because I never clean out my inbox.  I don't have any reminders of who I was in college, besides my memory. The letters received in Cabin #11, then #23, and finally #31 allow me to look back and see a glimpse of my childhood from those letters.

It seems something has been lost in the decline of letter writing.  We no longer have the ability to look back on a string of letters and see a part of someone who may or may not be with us anymore, a sort of glimpse into their soul.  Sometimes, I wish I had printed off all of the important emails, but then it would be just typing on a paper not truly a letter.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I’m reading a memoir by Mary Ward Brown called “Fanning the Spark.”  It is a concise account of her life, up to 2009.  She is 95 years old now, and my parents went to visit her a few weekends ago.  She struggled with anxiety and panic attacks when she was young.  She seems to be a searcher, like me.  Perhaps all writers are searchers.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this comment in her book:

Within the family, I’d been thinking, “Why don’t you understand me and make me happy?”When I tried to think, “Why don’t I understand you and make you happy?” the dynamics changed.  An about-face was required of me, toward anyone, everyone, anywhere.

I’ve had an about-face lately.  I had been thinking like Mary Ward Brown had before she transformed her life.  I had been wondering why everyone didn’t make me happy: my husband, my children, my Mom and Dad, my friends.  I realized that I had been transferring my pain onto them.  I stopped, and I really looked at myself and my life and I did not like who I had become: bitter, sarcastic, unaffectionate, demanding, and caustic.

I realized, similar to Mary Ward Brown’s thought process, but also a little bit different: I need to make myself happy in order to make other people in my life feel happy with me.  I can make myself feel happier by being a better parent, by making my kids laugh and smile, feeling rewarded by simply leading them in their lives. My marriage can be a better one if I act out of love and kindness, instead of hate and malevolence.  I get so caught up in my selfish wants sometimes, and I forget about other peoples’ feelings.  I want to be a better wife, mother and friend to those who know me. 

I’ve realized the importance of every single person in my life: past or present.  I’ve been striving to try to make other people happy/proud/content in order to make myself more fulfilled.  This act is hard for me, as I tend to look out for my own interests as most people do.  I tend to cling to people and memories that keep me locked in the past, unhappily ever after.  I’m learning how to let go.  I’m learning in order to feel whole I need to stop blaming others, and I need to start trusting and loving again.  There is a power to forgiveness: the ability to move on and not be trapped in a world of hatred.      

When my parents went to visit Mary Ward Brown, she inscribed a book to me and wrote, “Follow your bliss” (as previously written by Joseph Campbell).  Last year, I was caught up in being so unhappy with my life that I simply couldn’t see my bliss.  Now I’ve found it in writing, in taking care of myself, in enjoying my husband and my children.  I know how to make myself happy and from here I have to strive to achieve my “bliss” each and every day.  I’ve realized the importance of following my dreams, doing what makes me happy.  When you do what makes you happy, you are able to give that happiness to others, and transform your life into something better, something higher, giving it a purpose.  Purpose is so important, and without purpose we are lost.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wayback Wednesday: Cross Country Trip

Disclaimer: I have a total of TWO photos for this post.  I have somehow managed to lose the album that these were in, and unfortunately my friends weren’t able to send me photos of the trip in time.  Oh well, enjoy this extravagantly long post!

The summer after my junior year in college, my friend Jon came up to D.C. to work for one of the Alabama Senators.  I was working for an environmental organization at the time.  We decided to take a cross country trip from Washington D.C. to San Diego, California for Jon’s Circle K convention.

The day we left we drove eight hours through the mountains.  Jon and I stopped at a little state park to eat our peanut butter and jelly lunch (the first of many).  We walked around on the hiking trails a little bit to stretch our legs, but the mosquitoes were bad, and we wanted to make some good time that day so we kept driving.  I’m not sure what part of the country we stopped in that night, but we stayed at a KO in a little cabin.  We were the only people there without an RV.  We were super excited about our adventure!

We got up the next morning and drove to pick Cassidy up in Kansas City, Missouri.  We were meeting her at the airport, and that night we would stay with her cousin.  We saw the arch, which looked the same as it did when I saw it as a child!  The next day our adventure continued.  We drove to Russell, Kansas and stopped to have lunch there so Jon could see Bob Dole’s birth place.  We joked about the bugs on the windows in Kansas, because the highway was so boring.  We didn’t stop to see the largest ball of twine, but I wish we had!  We had a long drive ahead to Colorado Springs where we would stay the night with “Wish He Was My Boyfriend.” (Remember him?)

We had a fun night.  We all went to a Mexican restaurant and enjoyed a few margaritas.  The DD driver, whoever it was, drove us to a bowling alley next where we encountered a friendly brown bear of the blow-up variety!  We were living it up.  We went back to Wish He Was My Boyfriend’s apartment to sleep.  The next day we went to Garden of the Gods.  We were all a little bit tired, but the scenery was beautiful. 

Our drives from here on out became smaller, and we began to make more use of campgrounds.  On the way, we stopped at McDonald’s quite a few times, and I partook of the fish sandwich quite often because at that time I was vegetarian at the time. I know—fish is not a vegetable, but I would allow myself to eat seafood!  We also made much use of a certain Texaco card, much to my friends’ parents’ chagrin!  Do you know how much you can actually buy with a Texaco card?

The next day we drove to Steamboat Springs.  I remember on the road passing the exit for Littleton and talking about the Columbine shootings.  The incident had happened only a year before.  Steamboat Springs was a little town.  We stayed in a campground there, and we went to the rodeo.  Jon, Cass, and I were chatting as the rodeo was beginning and I looked down the bleachers and Blue Eyed Guy was  sitting right next to me.  Blue Eyed Guy was an acquaintance of my ex-boyfriend who lived on the 6th Floor of Leonard Hall.  I often saw him at American, and we always talked casually, but I never knew much about him.  Turns out he lived in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and just happened to be at the rodeo when we showed up there: strange indeed.  Reminiscent of running into Robin in Spain.

When we left Steamboat Springs we headed up through Wyoming and we drove through the Flaming Gorge National Park.  This was breathtaking, and was not even on the map we had.  The bright orange rocks were beautiful, and the gorge circling down to a crystal clear lake at the bottom was breathtaking.  I highly recommend exploring this area if you have some time.  I wish we had been able to spend more time there.

We drove through Jackson, and then we went through the mountains that separate Wyoming from Idaho.  I remember being terrified driving down the mountain with a huge Mack truck on my tail.  I kept imagining it running us off the road.  We arrived in Idaho Falls late.  It was a strange place.  We ate at a steakhouse, and the people all struck me as odd and quirky.  I think Cass and Jon felt the same way.  We went to our hotel late, around midnight, and we pull in on a fairly cold night and some girl is riding her bike around the parking lot in a bikini.  We all laughed at this, but it sort of creeped us out and made us feel glad that we weren’t going to spend anymore of our time in Idaho.

The next day, we drove down into Utah.  Jon had left his pillow at the Idaho Falls hotel, and we weren’t going back there, so we stopped at a rest area.  We asked the information guy where we could find a Wal-Mart.  His response, “That’s a woman’s store.  Perhaps I should call my wife.” This was my first encounter with a Mormon in Utah.  We found one on our own, and Jon was able to buy a new pillow. 

We drove through Salt Lake City.  We didn’t have time to stop at the Mormon Temple.  I regret this decision, as my parents went there this past year and said it was beautiful.  We were on a timetable though, and our stops were pre-planned with a certain number of days in between.  I loved the rocky landscape in Utah, but we all commented how we’d miss large Oak trees and grass if we lived in Utah.  I couldn’t even do a description of the red rocks of Utah justice.  They are beautiful, and majestic.  Driving into Zion National Park seemed to me like driving into another world.

The day we arrived in Zion, it was hot.  Very hot.  We were not allowed to build a fire to cook any food, so we resorted to our old standby for dinner: peanut butter and jelly.  We walked around and hiked a little bit, but we were rather unprepared for the narrow hiking trails and my fear of heights did me in, so mostly we just admired the scenery around us, talked, and played cards. That night, I insisted to Jon and Cass that since we were in the dessert the temperature would drop significantly.  We went to bed with our tent completely zipped up, and we almost died of heat prostration (literally!).  We woke up sweating, and Jon and I unzipped the tent to let some fresh air in, but we still woke up in a pool of sweat.  I didn’t take into consideration that we were at the bottom of a canyon and the hot air was trapped like a bowl around us.
Hot, and in bad need of a shave, at Zion National Park, Utah 2000

We drove down the back roads, the famous Route 66, and reached the Grand Canyon the next day.  Who would have thought that a giant hole in the ground could be so amazing?  Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon makes one feel infinitely small: a speck of dust in the grand scheme of things.  The power of nature is forceful enough to cut through rock and carve a vast canyon into this earth.  In one word: breathtaking. Our visit to the canyon was the highlight of my trip.  We pitched a tent that night, and Jonathan insisted that we leave the screens, but I told him it would be cold since we were on top of the canyon.  He didn’t believe me, and in the middle of the night he had to rustle in the car for his larger sleeping bag and close up the vents in the tent because we were all freezing!
Cass and me in front of the Grand Canyon, 2000

After the Grand Canyon, we drove to Las Vegas stopping at the Hoover Dam on the way.  I was depressed in Vegas.  I missed the nature we had just left.  Cass and Jon enjoyed themselves there, but what can I say? Gambling is just not my thing.  Was it then that I went up in the mini-Eiffel Tower and almost had an anxiety attack due to my fear of heights?  It may have been my second trip to Vegas.  Heights are not my thing.

After Vegas we made our way to San Diego.  I LOVED San Diego.  It is beautiful.  It cracks me up how everyone calls the interstate, “THE 5.”  Not, take Interstate 5 to ________ road, but take THE 5 to _________road.”  Jon had convention stuff to do in San Diego, and I was interested in doing separate things than Cass, so I sort of had some alone time there.  Also, Cass and some other friends had decided to go to Mexico, and my mother told me (I listened for once) that I was not, under any circumstances, to cross the border and go to Mexico!  I went to the San Diego zoo by myself, which was amazing.  The pandas were incredible, and by far it is one of the best zoos I’ve ever visited.  I also explored the Mission District, and ate delicious fish tacos in a Mexican restaurant there.  We visited a haunted house too, although I didn’t see any ghosts.

After San Diego it was time to go home.  We drove straight through (almost), but we stopped to surprise our family in Montgomery.  They were happy to see that we had made it back safely from our trip.  Then we went back to DC to the real world.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Goal Update: February 21, 2012

I didn't want to step on the scale this morning.  I literally forced myself to place one foot, then another, on top of it and I was pleasantly surprised to see I had not gained any weight this week.  During our mini-vacation to my sister's house, I ate a copious amount of junk food.  Since, we ended up leaving Friday night (due to a monster storm coming to Alabama) instead of Saturday morning, we stopped and ate dinner at McDonald's.  GROSS...and I made bad eating choices there, instead of my usual salad I had chicken nuggets.  They were delicious and guilt-inspiring.

So I did not make my weight goal this week, but I was proud of myself for not gaining weight.  We stayed busy at my sister's house, walking in the woods and going to the playground with the kids.  My sister and I did one session of Just Dance, and she creamed me.  I feel my activity level was good, which helped me not to pack on the pounds, even though I wasn't sticking to my normal eating regime. 

Let's face it: I am not a cleaner.  I never have been.  I'm a procrastinator.  This weekend my aunt said she was a procrastinator for a long time too, until she realized it was getting in her way.  I need to realize this.  Procrastination makes me lazy and inept.  It's time to give that vice up, or at least work on procrastinating less.  I bet you can guess from this paragraph that the vacuuming did not get done.

I was better about being with the kids during the week, because we had gymnastics every day after school.  This forced me to spend time with them, and I enjoyed it.  I enjoy time with them, but after work both Hubby and I have our routine, and I am sometimes absorbed with the computer and telephone.  I am trying HARD to put them down and give my kids more attention.  I loved spending quality time with them this weekend.  I need to cherish them more, because before I know it they will be grown up. 

This week I'm going to work on taking off one pound.  I believeI can accomplish this goal.  I just need to *seriously* jump back onto the eating well wagon.  I want to find my theme in writing: my focus, and I need to write more than just my blog.  I'll explore this later, as I'm finding some direction in which to focus my writing.  For this week, I'll be content to say I'm going to write every day again: blog and one of the stories I'm working on. 

Not a lot of goals for this week.  I'll probably add some as the week drags on (or flies by).

Monday, February 20, 2012


My blog has been quiet for the last few days, but my life has not.  Last week was crazy busy, as life with three little ones, a job, and endless activities seems to be.  The three started gymnastics last week.  Son #1 had been begging me to go back.  Gymnastics is HIS thing.  He is literally a monkey.  Literally.  He swings from everything, climbs everything, and is always doing round-offs.  Well, I decided in the spirit of making my life simpler I'd enroll them all in the same gym.  Simple is just something that my life is not destined to be, however, because each child had a class time on a different date.  So, Tuesday through Thursday I took each one of my children individually to gymnastics, after work. 

Son #2's class was first on Tuesday night.  It was a catastrophe.  I really thought this time he'd be interested (we had tried before in the Fall with no success).  We had visited his new preschool class earlier in the month, and he had walked right in like he owned the place.  Well, at gymnastics he clung to me.  He would not leave my side.  He screamed when the coach talked to him.  His coach was not very engaging, and I think this could have been the problem.  After half an hour of not participating, we left.  I'm taking him back this coming Tuesday to see if he'll join in.  I only had to pay for half the month, so I didn't feel like the money would be so wasted. 

On Wednesday, I took Darling Daughter.  I "warned" her coach that she does not like people.  She doesn't like to be touched or looked at wrong.  Her class is a Baby Gym, so I'm allowed to go in and play too.  Well she participated in the stretching a little bit.  Once the big kids left, it was just us and one other girl with her Mommy.  Dan, the coach, touched Darling Daughter's shoulder and all hell broke lose.  She threw herself down on the mat, screaming, crying, kicking her legs, and sticking her butt in the air.  From then on, whenever he came too close to her personal space, she would begin to tantrum.  She did, however, participate in some of the activities.  She was fond of the balance beam, the tunnel, and she absolutely LOVED the trampoline. 

I knew that I wouldn't have to worry about Son #1's trial on Thursday.  He walked right in and joined the group without looking back.  Afterwards, he said he was happy to have joined gymnastics again and he can't wait to go back.  He did a back bend, swinging on the rings, hand stands, etc.  I do believe this might be his sport for awhile.

After a busy week, we headed up to visit my sister for her daughter's second birthday.  On Saturday, we went to Cheekwood, which was beautiful.  The kids loved it and the weather was so nice.  The kids (and one particular adult) enjoyed rolling down the hill at the end of the visit too.

In the afternoon, my niece had her birthday party.  I think she's the only 2 year old I know who has actually blown out the candle on her cake.  She's a precocious little thing and so with it.  Darling Daughter clung to me a lot of the party, but did enjoy playing with some of the other little girls. 

Yesterday, we had a nice breakfast at my Aunt's house.  We enjoyed seeing the snow fall there too, although none of it stuck.  The boys put on all their warm gear, and then tramped outside to catch snowflakes on their tongue for about sixty-seven seconds before deciding they were too cold to be outside. 

All and all it was a nice but busy weekend.  I'm exhausted now, and the fun keeps on going because I have a PTA meeting to attend tonight. 

I hope to be able to get back to my regular schedule this week in blogging, now that I know Tuesday through Wednesday are going to be so busy, I can plan ahead and write earlier in the week to post on those days.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Goal Update: February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

I had to look all the way back to January 31 to see my list of goals the other day.  I did not reach them.  Every week, I'm not reaching them, but that's okay because I'm accomplishing at least one or two of them each week.  Why beat yourself up, just look at it as a chance to do better, right?

I did not vacuum at all this week.  In fact, I feel like I was sort of lazy after I worked out.  I didn't want to do much.  We finally had a cold front, and boy did it get cold!  I went to the movies and out to eat A LOT (this is a no-no when you're trying to lose weight!). 

I did, however, advance to my next level in Taekwondo. I'm now a 2nd Level Green Belt.  Here's a pic from Ceremony: Me and Mr. Bob:

Son #1 received his too!  They have changed a few things up in Taekwondo this session.  We are now learning a new form, called the Ho-Am Progressive form.  It's fun, and I'm sort of glad to be learning it because as a second level green you normally just test on the same form you tested on in 1st Level!  Also, they have added kisado classes (interval cardio workouts), and those are quite enjoyable and challenging.

I didn't do my walking in between testing and beginning of Taekwondo class, because I was still recovering from strep.  Speaking of strep: Everyone is sick lately.  Everyone is sick and coming to work and to Taekwondo.  Go home people!  I don't want to get sick again!!!

And lastly, I have now lost 22 pounds!  I lost 2 pounds over the last couple of weeks.  I am starting to lose inches too, and my clothes are rather baggy.  I have a great friend who has set aside some of her old clothes for me to look through, because I really cannot afford to go shopping right now.  Plus, I don't want to go shopping until I lose the rest of the weight.  I have 38 pounds to go.  When I think about that number it makes me shudder.  It seems like SO much weight, but I know I can do it.  I just have to take one step at a time, peel off one pound a week, and eventually I will reach my goal weight.

Goals this Week:

1. Actively play with the kids after I come home from work.  So many times I jump on the computer, they sit in front of the TV or play their DS, and I want us to interact more. 
2. Lose 1.5 pounds.  I'm going BIG this week again.  I feel like I'm on a roll...
3. Vacuum -- putting it on here again!!!
4. Practice my Green Belt Form and my Progressive Form every day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Weekend Synopsis

This weekend was so much fun.  I spent a lot of time outside of my little nuclear family.  I went to kisado, followed by taekwondo on Saturday.  Kisdao is a type of interval cardio training used in martial arts.  It kicked my butt, but I was proud of myself, because I only stopped once and I followed through with most of the exercises.  Darn those bicycle exercises!!!  After kisado, I stayed for taekwondo.  I felt energetic afterwards, but also a little sore.  I have done something to my shoulder, but I know it is muscle-related because I could feel myself working it out during class. 

In a side note, Son #1 decided he wants to take another break from taekwondo and do gymnastics again.  He did gymnastics from 3-4, and he's actually quite good at it.  He can do a round off.  He has that little wiry body that is perfect for gymnastics.  Today, I'll be calling around to find a class for him and Son #2 to attend.  I might as well get Son #2 involved at the same place, so I can take them to the same activity for awhile. 

This weekend Darling Daughter demonstrated her blossoming vocabulary.  When I left to go to the movies, later in the day on Saturday, Darling Daughter said "Bye-bye, Love you Mommy."  Melt my heart. 

She also played "Mommy" a lot.  She covered up her baby doll, fed her baby her juice, and then she picked up a baby doll diaper bag, put it on her shoulder, and strutted around.  Too adorable for words.  Her favorite words/phrases are, "Love you," "Please Up," "More," and "Juice."  If I'm on the computer she'll point to the pictures of her father and say "Daddy."  She also says "Caken" and "Lelam" for her brothers.  She's really starting to talk so much.  I can't believe she will be two this year.

We had our first "real" taste of winter this weekend in a cold front that brought wind and way lower temperatures.  We couldn't get outside much, so the boys took the cushions off the couch and built forts.  I remember doing this with my sisters when I was little.  We had these big blue couches.  We called them the marshmallow furniture.  We would open them up, arrange them in funny ways, and have huge forts all over the play room.  I loved watching the kids use their imagination and do something that I always enjoyed doing as a kid.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dance Moves

Son #1 has the dance moves.  Not sure where he got them from, as both Hubby and I are dance illiterate! In this video he's dancing to Keane's Bedshaped. I realized afterwards that I probably should have been playing a faster song!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Perfect Little Boxes

Perfect Little Boxes

Children don’t fit inside boxes.  No one is perfect.  I have come to this realization after seven years of parenting.  I am a parent to a unique child.  He is special.  He is amazing.  He is difficult. He is loving and caring.  He is angry and aggressive.  At first, when Son #1’s after-school teacher told me there were problems I took it as a complete affront to my parenting skills (or lack thereof).  Son #1 was only four years old—how could he be a problem? As parents, especially working parents, I think as a general public we tend to do this: feel guilty over something we can’t control, something as inherent as personality.

I wanted Son #1 to fit in the box the school had designed for him.  I wanted him to be like his peers and to see his path laid out straight before me, but as parents you have to learn to adapt.  At first, I thought the school was overreacting (and maybe they were), but we reacted to their reaction and we began to try to figure out what was wrong with Son #1. 

At first he was diagnosed with ADHD.  Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  It certainly seemed to fit, at least the hyperactivity part.  He is focused though, although not always.  He has a way of learning when he seems like he’s not.  He has a way of pushing other people’s buttons, and he seems to thrive on eliciting reactions from others.  There were some inconsistencies to the ADHD diagnosis.  He does not exhibit cacography; instead his handwriting (even for a left-handed child) is fairly neat.  He makes good grades in school.  Once we transferred him to a school more appropriate to him, we stopped receiving so many complaints.  He didn’t seem to be much of a problem at school, unless he was overtired or unless he had his feelings hurt.

We went through four different medications.  The first medication, Clonidine, he was on the longest but it just made him so tired all the time.  He couldn’t get through his Kindergarten class without falling asleep after lunch.  He was quiet, obedient, and not like his usual self.   Towards the end of the year, we went to our pediatrician for a second opinion on his ADHD.  The doctor suggested trying stimulants.  So we did.  He went through three different medications, each one of them not particularly right for him.  He had headaches on one.  He talked too much on the other.  He won’t sleep at night on one.  Then, we finally decided on Adderrall, and this created a whole new set of issues.  During the day, he was super compliant.  He would focus, not hop around the room, but in the evening as the medicine started wearing off or first thing in the morning he was an emotional wreck.  He began having RAGES.  These are not simple temper tantrums.  He would RAGE for forty-five minutes or an hour, then when he stopped he’d be so apologetic.  He *couldn’t* control it.  For anyone who has seen a child rage, it is such a scary thing. 

We decided to take him off the meds.  In a matter of weeks, he was back to his quirky self.  Super energy man, but he was still maintaining his grades at school: friendly, sweet, smart Son #1. 

If I had to do it over, I wonder if I would ever have put him on brain-changing medicine.  Children aren’t meant to fit into little boxes, but the world still wants them seen and not heard.   Society expects them to sit still in school, to take test after test, and not to have a mega amount of energy that my child has.  No Child Left Behind has all but taken away PE in school, so it’s no wonder that after being trapped in a desk for hours, Son #1 wants to release a little bit of his pent up energy.  It’s not wonder when he comes home from school he starts jumping off of walls. 

Who wants little boxes anyway?  It’s much more fun to be creative, unique…DIFFERENT.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wayback Wednesday: Vive Espana!

Our FORSPRO Group--Spain 1995

I wonder if it’s possible to have writer’s block on one particular subject.  I have sat down to write this story of Spain so many times, and I have not been able to do it.  I have so many memories, but my memories of Spain are rather fuzzy.  Certain things stick out, but I have no idea of the chronological order of events.  Maybe this is because I went to Spain 16 years ago (SIXTEEN YEARS, can it really be?).  The memories are not so fresh.  Plus, I didn’t actively write in my journal  the way I did when I went to Peru and Argentina years later, but here goes.  Wayback Wednesday: Spain.

The summer after my sophomore year in high school, a school group of mine signed up for a FORSPRO trip to Spain.  There were six of us at first: Senora Baker, Andrea, Whitney, Anne, Ashley, and me.  We would study abroad in Salamanca for a portion of the summer. 

We flew from Montgomery to Atlanta to JFK and then over to Spain.  I remember being excited to be IN New York when we arrived in JFK, even though we never left the airport.  This was the first long trip I had taken without my parents, and I was going overseas.  Sure, I’d spent many a summer at Camp Seafarer, but I had never been abroad without them.  This was probably every sixteen year old girl’s dream: freedom!

We flew Iberia airlines to Spain, and we arrived in Madrid.  We met up with another group of students who were also members of our FORSPRO program.  This is when we met Andrew, his brother Chris, their dad, Karyn, Shelby, Adam, and several other people we would become friends with over the next weeks.  They were from Virginia (Andrew and his family was, at least). 

We went sight-seeing first in our air-conditioned motor- coach.  We traversed the countryside of Spain staring out at burnt sunflowers lining the landscape.  That summer was HOT.  It was the same summer that all of those people died in Chicago.  For almost the entire time we were in Spain, the thermometers read between 40-45 degrees Celsius.  Hot, hot, hot. 

We went to Toledo, Granada, Sevilla, and Burgos.  We walked through a walled city, and I remember feeling like we were walking back into time.  We watched a man make and sharpen a sword.  We went to the Alhambra, and I remember the beauty of the gardens and the architecture.  We laughed and had fun, getting to know our new friends and adjusting to the new culture, amazed at how different our culture was from theirs.  We were asked several times if we were from Los Angeles and if we knew Melanie Griffith.  This was about the time that she had become engaged to Antonio Banderas.  The Spaniards looked at us funny when we answered we were from Alabama.  Most of them had no idea where it was.
Regarding Columbus in Burgos
Whitney, Anne, Ashley, me, Andrew (top row), Dina and Andrea (bottom row)

The Alahambra -- Moorish influence in Spain
The Court of the Lions -- beautiful Muslim artwork.
Chains on the Cathedral in Toledo
The Town Hall in Toledo, Spain

After this initial period of travel, we arrived in Salamanca to begin taking our classes.  My group stayed in a building that was used as an all boys’ Catholic school during the school year.  There was a monastery behind it, and we (or at least I) thought it was so funny to see the monks walk around in their brown robes.  We were each assigned a room with a bed.  The rooms were small and simple: one bed, a tile floor, a sink (where we washed our laundry!), and a large window that looked out onto a back courtyard.  Andrea’s room was next to mine.  We quickly realized that in order to not wake up in a pool of sweat we needed to put our mattresses on the floor.  This way, at night, we could sleep with our arms stretched out onto the tile floor, thus cooling our bodies.  Having no air conditioning was a major adjustment at first, but we all became used to it by the end of the summer.  An odd smell emanated from behind the school, and there was a park that we started calling "Shit Park," because a manure plant emited nasty smells throughout the day. Senora Baker did not like us to go to Shit Park, because she thought it was dangerous.
Our Dorm: Colegio Calasanz
Anne became homesick, and she actually ended up going home.  Andrea, Whitney, and I were all placed into the same class with a professor named Julio. Whitney reminded me that we also had a large lecture-style class on Civilization, but we rarely attended this—somehow figuring out how to rig the attendance records.  The class was early, and we were usually too tired to attend after tromping around Salamanca at all hours of the night.  One of the few things I remember about actually attending school that summer was that we read a book about Francisco Franco in Spanish.  I remember thinking it was the most boring thing I’d ever read.  Julio, our professor, had good sense of humor though and he took well to his completely female class!!! 
Our Class with Julio.

We also made several other friends, Colleen and Jennifer, as well as a few French kids, Little Goman, Alice and Florence, who loved our Southern accents.  The first week we were trying to cool down and adjust our body to no air conditioning.  I remember sitting on the lip of the second floor window looking out at the courtyard and talking to Andrea who was sitting in her window.  Senora Baker came into the courtyard and had a horrified look on her face.  She told us that we could do anything in Spain, except sit in those windows.  We took her literally, and we did everything in Spain!

The food in the dorm cafeteria was horrible.  The only thing edible was the salad if you somehow managed to scrape off all the globs of some gross mayonnaise-based dressing it was drenched in.  We fairly soon came to depend on the bakery immediately across the street from our dorm and school for our meals.  We would arrive in the morning to have French baguettes.  In the afternoon, we’d usually walk down to the Plaza Mayor and I often would buy a tortilla espanol.  This became my staple diet while in Spain, and I actually lost so much weight there that at one point my underwear started sliding off!
Friends: Colleen, Jennifer, Andrea, me and Whitney

Many of our nights were spent roaming the city with Andrew and our other American friends.  We were “so” American.  We were young, and we wanted to drink.  We had two regular spots: the Chupeteria and the Liter Bar.  At the Liter Bar, we would usually buy a drink called an Orgasmo.  The bartender at the Chupeteria came to know me that summer too, and he would often cut me off. We also like to frequent Burger King, where you could buy a cheap burger and beer.  My parents wondered why I ran out of money while I was there!
Lauren, Whitney, Jennifer, Andrew, and Andrea

We listened to the Tunas play in the Plaza Mayor at night.  We enjoyed churros and chocolate, and we enjoyed each others' company. 
The Plaza Mayor -- Salamanca, Spain
La Tunas (musicians) in the Plaza Mayor performing at night.
One evening we were watching TV in the Rec Room of the dorm, and a bat flew in the window.  After initially panicking, and trying to shoo him out of the door we came to enjoy his company, and we even named him Roger. 
Roger -- the *other* dorm resident!

One night, our group was going out to drink as usual.  We stopped at Burger King for a bathroom break.  We had been there earlier for dinner and a few cervezas (yes, they served beer at Burger King in Spain!).  I went into the bathroom, and looked at myself in the mirror.  I glanced at the girl next to me and she looked familiar, but I didn’t say anything at first.  I went into the bathroom stall, wracking my brain trying to figure out where I’d knew her, and it came to me.

“Robin?” I questioned.

“Oh my God, Lauren.  I thought that was you, but what are the chances?  What are you doing here?”

In the bathroom of Burger King in Salamanca, Spain I ran into Robin Freeman, a girl I had known from Camp Seafarer in fifth grade.  She was on a study abroad too.  She normally lived in North Carolina (I think).  It certainly is a small world, and I wondered what the chances of actually running into someone you know in a foreign country are?  Strange occurrences like this have happened to me since, including the fact that Jennifer Hinckley (who we met in Spain but who lived in California) ended up being roommates with one of my childhood friends during their freshman year in college at Vanderbilt completely randomly.  I digress—back to the story…

Towards the end of the summer, we (Andrew, Andrea, Shelby, Karyn, and me) decided to go to a REM concert in Madrid.  We bought tickets, and we arranged for a ride on a bus that would take us from Salamanca to Madrid.  We were super excited, until we learned that Michael Stipe was sick and had canceled.  Instead of refunding our tickets, the Cure stepped in and took over as the main group for the concert.  We took the bus to Madrid.  The day was so HOT.  I remember seeing the HUGE digitalized thermometer in front of the Plaza de Toros as we shuffled in for the concert and it read 45 degrees Celsius.  This translates to roughly 113 degrees Fahrenheit, and honestly people will tell you Spain has dry heat so doesn’t feel as hot but when it is 113 degrees it is HOT, especially when you’re in an outside mosh pit with a bunch of sweaty people.

The concert started, and we were in a mosh pit.  I didn’t drink that day.  It was too hot.  I was worried about dehydration.  One of the girls with us drank though, and she drank a lot.  About halfway through the Cure concert she seemed to have a nervous breakdown and wanted to leave.  We told her we had no way of leaving, but we all managed to get her onto the motor coach and we waited for the concert to end, giving her water to alleviate her dehydration.  I learned two things at this concert: 1) I don’t like mosh pits—they are scary and dangerous and 2) don’t ever drink alcohol when it is 113 degrees outside and you’re surrounded by a ton of people.

Senora Baker also took us on some separate excursions, away from the main group.  Our small group went to el Escorial.  I’ll never forget the “wedding cake” tomb where the Kings and Queens of old had buried their small children who died from various diseases.  She also took us to el Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen).  We went up on top of the giant cross, and on each corner, North, South, East, and West was a HUGE statue of each of the four Saints. 
Valle de los Caidos

As the summer came to an end, I was dreading going back home.  I missed my family, but I loved being on my own in a foreign country.  I loved the Spaniards, Salamanca, and my friends.  We had a little mishap in the airport with our plane being overbooked (never good), but luckily one of the adults on our trip had some clout with the president of Iberia airlines and soon we were on our way home.  For the next few months I HATED the air conditioner.  When it would blow on me I felt like I was freezing, but I loved Dr. Pepper, which I had dearly missed while I was gone.  Oh the life of a sixteen year old.  I also had to repay the debt that I owed Andrea (from running out of money) by working in my Dad’s office for the rest of the summer.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Before my Dreams

As I lay in bed at night, I often pen blogs in my head, whole blogs.  I usually want to pull myself out of bed and jot down some words but I often don't.  For as long as I can remember, I have invented stories as a way to put myself to sleep.  Sometimes these are epic stories.  Just the other night, my mind created half of a novel, and I began typing away at it on Sunday. Sometimes my imagination is out of control.

Before I waited for the sweet veil of sleep to fall upon me last night I thought:

So much has happened over the last few months.  I feel more alive than I did before November.  In November, I woke up one day feeling so lost. I looked at my life, and I didn't know who I was anymore.  I didn't know what I wanted to be.  I began searching, deep within myself, to figure out what it was/is that I need/ed. I STOPPED trying to pretend I was someone I'm not.  I STOPPED worrying so much about other people's expectations.  I put one foot forward, and I took a gigantic leap by starting this blog.  I love having this outlet.

I realized so much about myself over the past few months.

1) I have to write.  I don't care if no one reads my blog, but I absolutely positively have to do this for my mental health.

2) I have to exercise.  Again, for my mental health.  Exercising makes me feel so refreshed.  I feel like a new person, and I know I am a much happier Mom and wife when I exercise.

3) I have to stop pushing away pain. I wear my emotions on my shoulders most of the time.  I, after all am an ENFP (Extrovertl, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving), but I tend to push painful experiences to the bottom of the pile.  I repress those emotions and memories that are too hard for me to deal with.  If you do this, you'll wake up one November morning and all that pain will be right there, centrally located in your heart.  You'll feel anguish at never having dealt with the past and you'll feel, unjustly, that you wish you could make it all go away.  The pain will go away once you have faced it and released it.  LET.IT.GO.  Three simple words yet so hard to do.

4) The meaning of life is within all of us.  I had a few days where I was in a deep funk (oh, ok, more like six months).  Looking back it was probably/still is depression.  But I pondered a deeper meaning of life.  I pondered the existence of God in a seemingly God-less world.  I pondered what more there could be to this existence.  I asked myself what my life meant and at first I didn't know.  But, I realized the meaning of life is within all of us.  Life is what you make of it: the happiness you bring to yourself, the laughter on your child's face, the community you surround yourself with, and the memories you leave behind.  I feel like I'm actively trying to make my life have meaning now, and I'll tell you--it's a wonderful feeling.

6) I just pulled a Mr. Jones and skipped 5!  Speaking of Mr. Jones--friends are amazing.  I am an extrovert (see # 3), and I really have to be with a solid community of friends.  I always have.  My husband and my family simply aren't enough to appease my social desires.  This year I decided that I was really going to reach out and establish a more solid network of friends.  I've succeeded in this so far.  I have made awesome, amazing, vibrant friendships this year.  I have a huge support system in my life now, and that is so important to me.  I need pretty much constant friend interaction to sustain my social life, and I have it.  It feels amazing to have people in my life who are there to back me up and who I know would do anything for me.

I also pondered these more mundane things right before I feel asleep last night:

1) What in the world did I do with the Valentine's Day list for Son #1's class and when is the $4 due?

2) Why can't I EVER win at Words with Friends.  Seriously, I hate that game so much that I love it.

3) My clothes are starting to hang off of me. YAY!!!  I'm not sure if I have money to buy new ones.

4) I hope the kids all stay in their bed tonight (they didn't!)

(You may be wondering where the normal Tuesday update is.  I'm holding it over until next week.  I was too sick to accomplish much of it last week, so the goals will just be held over to next.  Good news is: I actually did clean the other two bathrooms!  Yay!)
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