Friday, February 27, 2015

Outside The Box Thinkers And More Thankfuls

It's only the end of February, and my daughter has enrolled for her junior year in high school (gulp!) and my son has signed up for next year's housing (upgrading from the honors dorm to a university owned apartment-type building for upper classmen). Spring Break is a mere two weeks away, yet it is snowing and bitterly cold outside. Gahhhhh!!! Find the thankfuls, find the thankfuls, find the thankfuls....

1. My dad passed his eye test and got his driver's license renewed. He had been sidelined after the poor timing of his cataract surgeries and the date his license expired in December collided head on. He not only passed the test, he did it without wearing glasses at all. Yay, Daddy!

2. I borrowed my dad's Sequoia to drive to Nashville in December, and since he couldn't drive it anyway, I just kind of kept it until last weekend. (I was doing a service for my mom, who gets irritated because it takes up so much room in the garage that she can't get to HER car.) Giving it back kind of sucked, because it was really fun to drive, but I told him we would bring it to him last weekend when we went to a show choir competition in my parents' home town. "We" meant me and my 16 year old, newly licensed daughter. Whom I let drive our car and follow me on the hour drive to my parents' house. When she had never driven by herself on a highway. I may have spent more time looking in the rear view mirror at her than I did looking forward at where I was going, but she did a great job, kept the car between the ditches, and didn't do anything that scared me (that I noticed).

3. Not to be a big sissy or anything, but this is the first 5 day week I've worked in several weeks, and I made it to the end, reasonably unscathed.

4. Our snack helper in Pre-K this week brought Dude's Doughnuts on Friday for snack. It doesn't get much better than that.

5. Even on days when my preschoolers are wound up and completely crazy and I think I might run screaming out of the room, they say and do things that are so completely amazing that I can't believe I get to work with these little people every day.

Playdough snails. From 1/2" high on up.

They built a kitchen. With a grill to
cook the fish they catch.

Example: I took construction paper hearts, about 4 inches across, wrote each child's name on one, then cut them apart into puzzle pieces. The plan was to have each child put the pieces back together and end up with their name on a heart (the other pre-k teacher did this project with her class, so shout out to Miss Debbie for the great idea). My directions to the class, in fact, were to put the pieces together to make a heart by putting the letters in their name in order. (I kind of didn't realize that Miss Debbie made one of the hearts as an example for her class; I just gave each kid their own cut up heart and told them to put it back together without any further direction in how to do it, bless their little hearts.) 

Here is one finished product:

Most of them did very well. Some of the younger ones in the class struggled a little, but they finally got the pieces together so that their name was there, even though some of the pieces were upside down and didn't get back into the heart shape. But one boy kept working and working on his heart name, but wasn't getting it put together right at all. I finally told him to go ahead and glue what he had down on a piece of paper, which he did. When I hung them up in the hallway later and got a good look at his, this is what I found:

It's a heart shape, with the letters in his name in order, just like I asked. He did exactly what I told him to do. You could say he did it the hard way, and he did labor over it, but if this isn't the ultimate example of problem solving, I don't know what is. He's going to do great in this big world!

Another example: After snack, we have mandatory bathroom time. I walk between the boys and girls bathrooms to keep an eye on them (i.e., tell them to quit playing, help when it's hard to get the faucet turned on, snap jeans back together). Remember how I said we had doughnuts for snack? Glazed doughnuts. While I was standing between the two bathrooms, another teacher was walking down the hall. She glanced in the open doorway of the boys bathroom, stopped, then, grinning, told me to look in.

There stood one of my boys, his back to the door, washing his hands, with his pants pulled down, his bare bottom shining. Thinking he might have forgotten to pull his pants all the way up (hey, it happens when you're 5), I asked him if he was doing okay.

"Yes, I'm just washing the doughnut off my fingers before I pull my pants up."

See? I have outside the box thinkers!

6. The last one counts as two.

7. It's unbelievably cold this week. Stupid cold. That means I got the minkrat out! I still don't have a full length picture of myself in it, but I got enough of one that you can see the luxurious fur synthetic fuzzy fabric. The cold doesn't penetrate this coat, but when you wear it, you draw a lot of attention to yourself, especially when parading through Walmart.

8. I had a great visit with Kristi of Thankful Me the other night on Facebook. We chatted back and forth for two hours, talking about one-eyed cats and dead hamsters and puppies and stuff. I am very grateful for blog friendships!

9. Ruby and I had a rousing game of fetch this evening with a twist tie. She hasn't played fetch in months, choosing, rather, to play by herself by dropping toys and trash she fished out of the trashcan into my husband's shoes. She brought me her latest favorite twist tie as I sat in my chair and fetched it about twenty times when I tossed it for her. She only quit playing when she dropped the twist tie somewhere behind the chair and couldn't find it.

10. It's Friday night and NO ONE HAS TO BE ANYWHERE. We are home and warm and cozy. Hope you are, too, and if you ARE somewhere having some kind of heat wave, then just keep it to yourself.

Link up your thankfuls! It's too cold to do anything else, anyway.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lots To Say About Nothing

My brain is full of disjointed thoughts that are now running down my arms, flowing out of my fingers. Follow along, if you can....

Not ONCE has my mind been blown by anything prefaced with the words "mind blowing."

I refuse to give credence to any recipe on Pinterest (or elsewhere) that uses the word "crack" to describe it.

That being said, I do love the game Trivia Crack. I finally found an outlet for all that worthless information I hold in my wee little brain.

My JBL bluetooth speaker is so cool. Everything sounds good on it. EVERYTHING, I tell you!

I can tell how cold it is outside by how many cats are on my bed.

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace has nothing on three cats vying for the same spot on said bed, that space being where my feet are supposed to be.

Approximately 50 pounds of cat takes up a lot of space. 

Ruby eventually bows out of the battle for the coveted spot in the bed and lies right on my bladder.

A very small kitty cat, when lying on a full bladder, eventually feels as though it weighs about a thousand pounds.

Second day hair looks better than first day hair, but it feels worse.

Never underestimate cereal. It can be breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. It can be dessert. You can eat it with milk on it, or you can eat it dry, which makes it a snack. If you eat dry cereal while wearing a scarf, you can have a second snack later, because you will surely find some of the cereal tucked away in the folds of that scarf. Or so I've heard....

I hate that stupid Candy Crush. Please send me lives and tickets so I can continue to hate it, mmkay?

I mooned half an auditorium of people at the show choir competition last weekend when I stood up after forgetting that my jeans had slid down a little as I sat down in my seat.  

Even if I HAD remembered that my jeans slid down an hour earlier when I scooted in my seat, I don't really see how I could have adjusted them without standing up first, so I would have mooned everyone, regardless.

Shoulda worn a belt.

I hate belts.

While full blown panic hasn't set it yet, I am a little concerned about the A to Z Challenge and whether I'm going to have a theme or go with my usual fly by the seat of my pants routine.

That I have already had pants issues this week makes me think I should go with a theme.

Anybody got a theme for me?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snow Thankful

I've worried so all week about getting my post written for 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion that I haven't given this week's Ten Things of Thankful too much thought. Since the week was largely defined by the weather, then a weathery list of thankfuls I shall write:

1. The College Boy was home this past weekend. Always good to have him home; always good to send him back (I mean that in the most loving way possible).

2. I got said College Boy back to school and was headed home before the freezing rain started.

3. Note that I said "heading home." I was peppered with both freezing rain and sleet on the hour's drive home. It was freezing on the windshield faster than the wipers could clean it off, and I drove several miles while bent sideways, trying to peer through an opening the size of a saucer in the bottom middle of the windshield. I was hoping an exit was coming up, because I didn't want to risk pulling over onto the shoulder, when the defroster finally did its job and the icy coating started breaking away. Whew!

4. I might have gotten home before any of the frozen precipitation started if I hadn't stopped at a store I like moderately and tried on jeans. Since I found a pair I liked, and since nothing bad actually happened to me on the way home, then this becomes a thankful.

5. Sleet pelted our house the entire evening Sunday, changing over to snow some time around 11 p.m. Given the layer of freezing rain, topped by an inch or so of sleet, the superintendent of our school district canceled classes for the next day long before the first snowflakes fell. No 5:30 a.m. phone call saying school was canceled! We could all sleep in! 

What she does when she's supposed to be cleaning her room.

6. If you take note of the date last Monday, you will realize it was President's Day. Our school district did not observe this as a holiday, and I personally think the dead presidents were angry. I'm thankful they showed our district leaders what for by collaborating with Mother Nature on that winter storm system.

Looking out my living room window. It may not be
that impressive to those of you in the northeast, but
this is a lot of snow for us!

7. We ended up with about 5 inches of snow by the time it ended on Monday afternoon. Our street was a solid sheet of ice, though, and thankfully, so were most of the other side streets in town, leading us to ANOTHER SNOW DAY!

Looking up the hill from our house. Solid. Ice.

8. Back to school Wednesday and Thursday, but that was okay, because we had Friday off as a professional development day for the public school teachers (our preschool is private and not part of the school district, but we follow the district's academic calendar). TWO DAY WORK WEEK, BABY!

9. Snowfall was heavier where the College Boy is going to school. He had Monday off already for President's Day (no pissed off presidents there), and classes were canceled Tuesday and Wednesday for him due to the snow. The dining hall is almost a block away from my son's dorm, and he really didn't want to mush out in the cold and snow to eat, so he stayed in his room and ate from the provisions I sent back to school with him. On Wednesday, I received the following text from him:

Oh, how this kid can make me laugh!

10. Freezing rain expected tonight and tomorrow looks as if it won't hit our area with more than some trace amounts. Which is VERY good, because my daughter has a show choir competition on Saturday and would be devastated if it were canceled. 

There's talk of another storm system moving through at the end of next week, so with potential for another snow day or two, this system will be eagerly anticipated. After that? I'm done with winter. It can go away and make room for spring.

Snowed in? Freezing cold? Find some thankfuls and link up with us, below.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Compassion: More Than A Feeling

Feeling compassion is easy. We all feel sympathy or concern for the misfortunes of others at one time or another. We see these stories every day on the news, and as humans, it's impossible NOT to feel badly for these victims. We can do it while we're sitting comfortably in our homes. But being compassionate? That takes a lot more effort. 

Compassion exemplified would be Kayla Mueller, the 26 year old from Arizona who had devoted her young life to helping others. She cared deeply about helping relieve suffering of people who could not help themselves. She volunteered for an organization working to save Darfur while in college, worked with the homeless in Arizona, then on to give humanitarian aid in India, Israel and, finally, in Syria, where she helped families displaced by civil war, then was kidnapped, held hostage and then, sadly, died at the hands of terrorists.

Kayla Mueller practiced a level of compassion that few ever will. Does that make the rest of us less compassionate?

I say no.

The world needs Kayla Muellers, but not everyone is meant to BE a Kayla Mueller. I say we have to seek our own level of compassion. 

My friend Deena is compassionate about animals, particularly cats. She lives in Fresno and works in an area with a large feral cat population. She sets traps for the ferals, gets them neutered, takes them home to recuperate, then works to socialize them and find them homes, funding all of it herself. Yes, there is still a large population of ferals, but there are less than there were, because Deena has made a difference. Little by little, she is slowing the population growth of the colony. She takes in mama cats and their litters, rejoices for them when she finds them a forever home, weeps over them when they are ill and pass away. 

That's compassion.

We can't all be Deenas, either. But some of us can be like Thomas. He is a volunteer for the American Red Cross and has been for years. The mission of the Red Cross itself is that it exists to provide compassionate care to those in need. Thomas does that. As a trained volunteer, he responds to disasters, from tornadoes to ice storms to house fires. (By the way, did you know the Red Cross responds to every house fire and provides emergency assistance for food, clothing and shelter?) He helps at the office and with special events. He shares his time and talents tirelessly.

That's compassion.

And you know what else is compassion? It's buying some extra canned goods at the grocery store (the good brands, not the generic stuff)  and donating them to the local food bank. It's volunteering at your child's school. It's taking in foster puppies for the local humane society, even if you wondered what you'd gotten yourself into at the time. It's baking hundreds of cookies for a show choir camp snack rather than picking up store-bought cookies from Walmart. It's holding a door open for the next person, even if you have to stand there awkwardly because your timing was off. It's making eye contact and smiling as you're walking through the mall, just to make people smile back.

It's seeing a need and fulfilling it. 

That's a level of compassion we can all be.  

A little seed of an idea was planted earlier this year by Yvonne Spence. She and Lizzi Rogers watered it, and it grew into 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. Look for #1000Speak on Twitter.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I Can Kill Two Birds, Too!

The Sisterhood of the World Blogger's Award is making a circuitous route among my blog friends. Kristi at Thankful Me also received it from our Ten Things of Thankful co-host Lisa, but she actually followed the directions (part of them, anyway) and wrote ten questions of her own for others to answer. And I do love a good questionnaire, so here I am, answering Kristi's questions and stealing borrowing her format of incorporating them into the Ten Things of Thankful for this week.

1. What small act of service have you received that has meant a lot to you?

These were actually HUGE acts of service, but so many did so much for me when I had my bilateral mastectomy nearly three years ago, and I am still overwhelmed by everyone's kindness.  My kids were ferried around, I was given all kinds of gifts, my sister in law and my friend took time out of their schedules and away from their own families to stay with me for a couple of days when my husband had to be away from me after my surgery. I had lovely visitors and received all kinds of flowers and balloons and Diet Coke. I was given a gorgeous Tata to the Tata's party, complete with boobie cake. The list goes on and on. 

I am thankful for good friends who are there for me in times of great need.

2. What was your favorite meal when you were a child?

My favorite meal as a child was my mom's smothered steak. She would cook pieces of round steak with potatoes and carrots in her electric skillet until they were fork tender, then thicken the juices into a gravy. I can make a similar version, but it doesn't taste the same.

I am thankful we always had plenty to eat.

3. Do you enjoy camping?

God, no! 

To paraphrase Jim Gaffigan, I'm thankful my parents loved me enough not to take me camping.

4. Have you moved (changed houses) more as an adult or as a child?

We only moved once when I was a child; the summer after I finished 6th grade, we moved from a little ranch style house to a neighborhood with a little bit bigger, nicer homes. We were still in the same school district, and even though the kids in the new neighborhood went to a different elementary school than I had, we all went to the same junior high.

I moved to college when I was 17. If I'm counting correctly, I moved 17 times in the next 20 years. The last move was into the house we're in now, 16 years ago.

I'm thankful not to have had to pack and unpack boxes for 16 years now!

5. Where would you like to retire and why?

I imagine when I am retired and have grandchildren, this answer might change, because I suspect I will want to be near them. Putting that aside, I'd like to summer either in upstate New York or near Rocky Mountain National Park, because both places are beautiful, and winter somewhere warm and beachy. Florida, maybe.

I'm thankful I have had the chance to visit a variety of places.

Taughannock Falls, Ithaca, NY

6. If you had a free day next week, how would you spend it?

I am always well meaning when I have a day off. I think I'm going to use it to get Great Things Done, but that rarely happens. Now, if it were a snow day, then I would spend the day in the kitchen, baking bread, making homemade noodles, making some kind of cookies. Snow days inspire me to use a lot of flour!

I'm thankful for occasional days off from work and (most) responsibilities that allow me to do whatever I choose, even if it's just sitting in a chair and reading.

7. If you could suddenly develop a new talent or skill, what would it be?

I've always wanted to be able to sing Broadway style. I can sing, but I'm only okay. 

I'm thankful that lack of talent doesn't keep me from singing like a rock star when I'm by myself in the car.

8. Do you know where your grandparents and/or great grandparents were born?

I do! My mother's parents were born near Urich, Missouri. My dad's parents were born near Marshfield, Missouri. I also know where my great-grandparents on both sides were born.

I am thankful to my brother for all the work he has done and shared with me on our family genealogy, and I am thankful to Kristi from Thankful Me for showing me how to make a family tree of my very own!

My maternal grandfather (1890-1960)

My maternal great grandfather

9. What is one trait that describes you?

 I'm very positive and optimistic.

I am thankful for the ability to see the cup is always half full.

10. What is one of your family traditions?

On Christmas Eve, after we attend the candlelight service at church, we come home and have a late supper of appetizers. We started this about 12 years ago, when my husband's sister and her family would come for Christmas from their home in Pennsylvania, and we continued it even after we started celebrating Christmas with my husband's family on a day other than Christmas Eve. 

I'm thankful my oven has a timer, so we can come home from Christmas Eve service to an oven hot and ready to bake up some appetizers from your grocer's freezer.

There you have it. Ten answers, ten thankfuls. Pick one and answer it below. Consider yourself nominated and pick all ten and post them yourself. And don't forget to link up with us, below.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

It's not that I had a BAD week, but there were some lemons in there. Never fear, I squeezed the juice out of them, added a lot of sugar, and ended up with lemonade. Here are ten of them:

My poor mama had some malignant skin cancers removed from her scalp a few weeks ago, and they had to cut her hair from the top of her head to do so. I'm not thankful for that, but when we were on the way to her follow up appointment, she was wearing a hat I got her, plus a goofy pair of sunglasses that were in the glove box, and when I looked at her in the mirror, I realized I was driving with Maxine in the car. Thankful for the big laughs we all got out of that!

My dad currently does not have a driver's license. He had cataract surgery right before his license expired on his 80th birthday in December, meaning he couldn't see well enough to take the vision test and renew the license. That is not a thankful. But until he is able to renew the license, I am now the designated driver when they go to Kansas City for these dermatologist appointments for my mom, and it has been a lot of fun with just the three of us hanging out together (my dad, me and Maxine...). I'm thankful to have this time with them.

While we were in Kansas City, I drove us all around the area where we used to live. It is not the same place I grew up; the neighborhoods have become very run down and have a high crime rate. Not thankful about that, because it makes me sad, but parts of it have perked up a bit, and it didn't look as bad as the last time I saw it several years ago. And it's not a place where I feel threatened, although I wouldn't hang out in parts of it on a warm, summer night, because you might as well not ask for it....

I have a cold. I'm not thankful for that, but I AM thankful that it's the first one I've had all school year. When you consider that I work among a group of little petri dishes, then it makes this much more impressive.

There is a big ol' pile of dog poop in my front yard (I don't own a dog), right by the driveway. I'm not thankful for that, but I didn't step in it, narrowly missing it instead. That makes me thankful.

I did a huge pile of laundry, including a bunch of sheets, which I hate to do, because I hate to fold them afterwards. (If you can fold fitted sheets into a neat little bundle, then you are some kind of sorceress, and I'm a little bit afraid of you.) I AM thankful that I didn't forget any of the laundry while it was still in the washer, leaving it to sour and having to rewash it all.

I'm still suffering from a bit of a writer's slump, and I'm not thankful about that, but my sweet friend Lisa at The Meaning of Me nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award, which made me write a post that wasn't a TToT and just may have given my slump a kick in the pants. Thankful for that!

My baby girl turned 16 this week, and I realize I only have her at home for a little more than two years. I'm not thankful about that, but I am thankful that she is on her way to great things when she graduates from high school and leaves home. And that she has said she will pay for my nursing home some day....

Hand on her phone, even
when she's blowing out her candles.

I took two days off work this week, one to drive my mom to her doctor's appointment and one so I could take Emma to take her driver's license test. It made my three days at preschool insanely busy, because I had to get progress reports completed and sent home and Valentine's Day gifts for the moms completed this week, and I'm not thankful for that. But I AM thankful that I have a director who lets us take off when we need to, and assistant teachers who can get a lot done when I'm away.

She passed!

Ruby got very interested in Emma's ice cream cake and tried to get up on the table. I'm not thankful that she has complete disregard for all cat rules in the house, but I AM thankful that she doesn't have opposable thumbs (see picture, below).

Were you able to turn lemons into lemonade? Give it a try, link up below.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

An Award With A Catch

I have one of the loveliest blog friends ever. Her name is Lisa and she writes over at The Meaning of Me, and if you don't follow her, you really should. She and I "met" at Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop blog hop a couple of years ago, and she is, I believe, the ONLY blogger I have been able to convince to join us at the Ten Things of Thankful blog hop. At least I got a good one!

Lisa has nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award, and I can't accept this accolade without first answering some questions that Lisa has posed. There's always a catch, isn't there? 

1. What is one of your favorite habits you have?

My bad habits far outweigh my good ones, but I think my favorite good habit would be that I pray every morning before I get out of bed. I pray for family, for friends, and for my preschool students. I also take my shoes off in my closet and don't leave them all over the house. That's a pretty good habit. 

2. Would you prefer to travel by plane, train or automobile? Why?

No brainer. Automobile. I don't like to fly (although I find it exciting to be in an airport), and I've never been on a train. Besides, both of those modes of travel are so limiting. Take our family vacation to Galveston this past summer. If we hadn't driven there, we would never have been able to see the World's Largest Peanut. Or the Texas State Prison Museum. Or stop for Texas barbecue at a filling station. Or swing by the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. 

3. What's the first thing you notice about people?

Before they speak? Their teeth. After they speak? Their grammar. Yes, I'm a Judgy McJudge on that one.

4. If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like and what would it be for?

As a general rule, I HAAATE parties. I feel awkward going to one, unless I know everyone there, and then I only feel LESS awkward. And I hate giving them, because I'm afraid no one will show up. But if I HAD to throw a party, I'd invite a big group of friends over to play Bunco. Ever play? It's stupidly fun, ridiculously easy to play, and forces you to mix with people, as you have to change tables and partners every round. Everyone would bring an appetizer or dessert to share, those who wish to imbibe could, and we would have an evening filled with laughter and good food. 

5. What was the first thing you bought with your own money?

I don't remember the first thing I bought, but the first MAJOR purchase I ever made was when I was a freshman in college, and I bought a rabbit coat (don't hate me, you PETA people). It cost around $50 (it was the late 70s) was amazingly warm and I loved it.

6. What was your favorite activity in gym class?

Leaving gym class when it was finally over. I was NOT athletic, and this was the time of the Presidential Fitness Test, the brainchild of President Kennedy. The only time I ever liked P.E. was on Fridays, when all of the classes in a particular grade met in the gym together. The first part of the class was devoted to doing calisthenics to a record (and I can still hear the voice of the announcer), and then, for the rest of the class, we square danced. Yes, you heard me correctly: WE SQUARE DANCED. It was definitely more fun than doing sit ups, the shuttle run, climbing the rope, doing the flexed arm hang, or suffering through any of the other components to the Presidential Fitness Test.

Some call it a gym, some call it a torture chamber.
Whatever you call it, there was one in this building,
where I went to elementary school.

7. If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?

If it were something I knew anything about, I'd give it my best shot.

8. What's your favorite part about today so far?

I gave my daughter a bag of candy hearts yesterday, and she left the opened bag on the dining room table. This afternoon, Ruby jumped up on the table (she is getting worse and worse about following household cat rules and doesn't even pretend that she feels guilty about any of it) and pulled a candy heart out with her foot, knocked it onto the hardwood floor, and used it as a hockey puck until she lost it, at which time she jumped back up on the table, hooked another candy heart with her paw, and repeated the activity. Again. And again. And again. I KNOW I should have stopped her, but it was so stinkin' cute that I let it go. And took a picture and sent it to my daughter at school. Who didn't find it funny at all.

Caught red handed footed
and doesn't care.

9. If you were a type of animal, what would you be and why?

Another no brainer. A pampered house cat. Because I am sitting here, typing this post, with a very large, well-fed cat lying next to me, snoring.

This is the life.

10. What story does your family always tell about you?

There are two that come to mind, both future blog posts. In both of them, my parents tried (and failed) to off me. No lie. 

Sneak preview of one of the
places where my parents
tried to get rid of me....

Thank you, Lisa, for thinking of me! As for the rest of you, pick a question (or two) and answer it in the comments.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015