Thursday, April 30, 2009


We were headed to Sausalito. We didn't know exactly what to expect, but had heard there were cute little shops and great views of the Bay. So we set the Garmin destination to "Sausalito, California" and started driving.

After many twists and turns, we arrived at our destination:

This is when we realized that we had arrived at the dead center of Sausalito, California. Lovely. I was grateful to snap a couple photos of this interesting Linux cart ("LIVE FREE OR DIE!") and laugh at our error. We turned around and thought more carefully about what path we ought to take. Within minutes, we were soaking up the sunshine and ocean(ish) air.

It was a good moment to pause and reflect on what direction my life is headed: do I just try to head in the general direction of where I want my life to go? Or do I pause to think about exactly what lies ahead, what obstacles I will have to overcome on the road and what my goals are?

I think we both know the answer to this already.

When all was said and done, I bought some beautiful new scarves from an adorable little boutique and coveted the chocolate t-shirts at a different store. I walked past a darling little candy store and bought some flavors of taffy to take home to my boys. It looked identical to the stuff I bought in Salt Lake City, but thought I better not mention this to my husband, who would probably frown on the purchase if he realized I was buying it more for the "Look what Mommy brought home from her trip!!" angle than the "I couldn't buy this anywhere else" angle. 

This was when my friend asked, "Where do you get all these flavors of taffy from?" and the owner replied, "It's made in Salt Lake City." I'm fairly sure I winced and tried not to notice my husband's upraised eyebrows.

That evening, when we finally made it home after a day in Sausalito and Muir Woods, I collapsed in exhaustion in our hotel room, sick of being on the road. I looked forward anxiously to meeting up with a friend at Pixar, where we were going to see a movie. Fun! I looked into my purse for my hotel key and realized my wallet was complete AWOL. I searched frantically and we realized it really was gone.

This is the part of the story titled, "Where have you been?"

I thought back over my purchases for the day and started googling the little stores I had shopped at. I felt lost. Helpless. Hopeless. Then I remembered with clarity that I had last used my wallet at a cute little Indian restaurant for lunch. We found the phone number and the owner immediately said with relief, "Yes! I have it for you here! I tried to run after you to give it to you, but you were already gone." In the pandemonium, the Pixar plans got off track and we ended up instead making a 10-minute stop and then driving back to Sausalito in thick fog and gathering darkness. 

Sometimes you know where you want to be, but you have to turn around and go a different direction anyway. It makes you sick. Nauseous. Even a tad angry. What can you do? Only accept. Life is crazy. Sometimes you end up in the wrong place because you didn't plan. Sometimes you end up in the right place because you worked hard to get there. Sometimes you end up in the right place through some crazy piece of cosmic fortune. And sometimes, every once in a while, you end up in a tiny Indian restaurant in Sausalito because your wallet fell out of your purse onto the floor.

And sometimes you end up in the bus lane of the Bay Bridge with your wife crying tears of frustration. But that is another story for another day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Clever, clever

Somebody just sent me an email with the following instructions for how to start everyday with a "positive outlook":

1. Create a new file on your computer
2. Name it "Barack Obama"
3. Delete the file
4. The computer will ask you "Are you sure you want to get rid of Barack Obama?"
5. Firmly reply YES!

I thought this was quite clever. It deserved an appropriate reply:

How funny. I tried this EXACT thing with the name GEORGE W. BUSH for YEARS and it never cheered me up until this January....

I think it's hilarious when people send me jarring anti-Republican or anti-Democrat emails, forgetting that I'm unlikely to appreciate either extreme, given my proudly independent political views. It makes for great comfort, though, as I click "delete" and firmly reply "YES!" to getting rid of extreme political hate talk at either end of the spectrum. ;)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Idol Chatter, part 2

More random thoughts from the 2009 season of American Idol. This week: night at the movies! Here are my first impressions from watching the show.

Allison :: I Don't Want to Miss A Thing
I immediately thought of David Cook's rendition last year. This one didn't pack as much punch for me, but it was another solid performance from Allison. The wardrobe, as usual, was completely atrocious but she was as lively as ever. It was definitely a crowd pleaser, but just didn't do much for me personally.

Anoop :: Everything I Do
This song fit Anoop's voice perfectly. This is exactly the kind of song that really showcases him and his particular strengths. I thought it was a flawless performance and very well chosen. Much better than the weeks when he has tried to get funky and young. But I'd trim the eyebrows just a little bit, if I had my way.

Adam :: Born to Be Wild
Adam really pumped up the theatricals this week, jumping all around the stage and living up to the name of the song. The beginning was pretty hot for me, but the ending was a huge turnoff as he just went insane with the screechy high notes. Yes, I know you can sing your face off, but a little restraint goes a long way. Surprise me by NOT pulling out all the stops. Give me a soft, gentle ending sometime and let me feel caressed instead of pummeled. Just my own personal preference.

Matt :: Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?
Matt took the piano again this week as he took on the show's second Bryan Adams song. Although the song seemed to fit Matt and his voice perfectly, the beginning was a bit bland and boring for me. It just didn't give Matt a chance to distinguish himself enough to really keep him safe. The ending, however, was a bit more upbeat and memorable for me. The performance was relatively solid, but I don't think it was interesting enough to keep him from worrying all night about whether or not he'll be in the bottom three.

Danny :: Endless Love
What? No glasses? The beginning was really rough for me, but it only took a few moments for me to start thinking, "I've gotta go buy this one on iTunes." The song struck me as a bit outdated, but I happen to like songs that are a bit more old fashioned. I'm still impressed with Danny's quiet confidence and maturity, which is a nice counterpoint to another contestant's loud theatricals.

Kris :: Falling Slowly
Because I adore Kris so much, this song was a huge disappointment. It just never seemed to reach any climax. It really didn't even seem to build much for me. It was just a lot of building to nothing. That being said, I still adore Kris and I'm intrigued to go listen to the song again to see if I'll like it better the second time around. He'll still get my vote, but not because of the song choice this week.

Lil :: The Rose
Quentin Tarantino was right: she needed to commit a bit more soul to the beginning of the song. It's a fabulous song and this either needed a bit more soul, or a bit more gentleness. Either one. This just didn't do much for me personally. Lil has a great voice, but just isn't distinctive enough for me. However harsh Simon's comments were, he had a point.

Juliana's Bottom Three Prediction: Matt, Lil, Kris (I hope I'm wrong about Kris)

Who do you think will make the bottom three?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Most Embarrassing Moment :: UPDATE!

You may remember back in January I decided that enough time has passed for me to confess my most embarrassing moment. It involved me deciding to go to a shrink, seeing her several times and THEN realizing that she and I knew each other. Yes, pretty awesome.

Time for an update.

So my attitude toward shrinks is this: you don't have to be a psychotically warped personality to make good use of psychotherapy. Sometimes it is good to just have a neutral, safe person to talk over life's stresses with. During two very stressful times in the past, I've made good use of our benefits package and signed myself up for getting my head shrunk.

Life has been particuarly stressful the last two months so I thought, "Why not? Here we go again. Number three." I had to find a new head shrinker because of changing benefits and whatnot. So today I approached my first meeting with a total stranger (who would soon know my most embarrassing psychological weaknesses) with a bit of trepidation. The thought flitted through my mind, "I sure hope I don't know THIS person as well." The name was totally unfamiliar so I assumed I was safe.

Funny how our assumptions are so often incorrect.

The first hint that this wasn't going to be a walk in the park: the new therapist's office is directly across an office complex from my neighbor's dental office. I could just imagine him drilling into somebody's tooth, looking up through the large windows and seeing me trying to subtly walk into the office building next door. "I've always known she's a little off," he'd say to himself. After all, who wants to advertise to the world that they're going to a shrink? (I know, I know. But when I have a great story, I forego all logic of social self-preservation. Funny stories come first.)

I filled out the paperwork (name, phone number, address, SSN, blood type, promises of firstborn child if I don't give at least 24 hours notice of cancellation... Okay, I'm joking about those last two) and waited to meet the therapist.

She came around the corner, looked at my face and .... GRINNED IN RECOGNITION! Gosh, what a pleasant surprise! (Online sarcasm is so difficult to master, so I'll tell you now: that last sentence was laced heavily with sarcasm.) Her face looked familiar and my brain immediately went into overdrive trying to match the face to a setting. 

After only a moment or two, she said, "Oh, I've got it! I know you through singing!"

"Oh!" I managed to say with a smile. "NATS?"

"You used to take lessons from Martha right after me," she replied. Oh yeah. Same voice teacher, same night.

So I appear to be either blessed or cursed when it comes to finding therapists. The world in general is too small, or my own world is too large. Either way, life goes on. And some day, this will be yet another hilarious story for me to tell my grandkids repeatedly without noticing the polite smiles that ought to be a hint that I've told this story before.

Dream Big

About a year ago, I was in this crazy, screaming audience:

Being there live was an incredibly invigorating, crazy experience. A little piece of me fell in love with David Cook that day as my emotions ran from boredom in line to anxiety that we wouldn't get in to claustrophobia as the crowd got really intense to elation as we scored better seats than were assigned to us. I've felt connected to "Big David" and "Little David" (as my kids call them) since I got to share that day with them.

The words of that song began swimming around in my head immediately. If you don't dream big, what's the use of dreaming? Reach out for something more. I started thinking about my own dreams in life. What were they? Did I have any? I started to feel aimless, floating around wherever the waves of life carried me. That wasn't a good feeling. What happened to the girl who used to really dream big and make things happen? Where was that crazy lady who was always in the middle of everything?

A piece of me had fallen away. I had lost my way. So I set my New Year's Resolution to live life more purposefully and SEEK OUT happiness, rather than hoping it would fall in my lap. This has been my hardest New Year's Resolution yet, because it requires a lot of painful introspection. It also requires me to deliberately step outside my comfort zone. Who wants to step outside their comfort zone? That sounds so, I don't know... UNCOMFORTABLE.

I'm still working on it, though, and feeling happier than ever. I'm remembering that I have the strength to mold my life into anything I want it to be. I'm not living by fear; I'm living by faith. If you don't have faith, nothing's worth believing.

I was reminded of my resolution today as I read my friend's awesome thoughts on allowing yourself to want things. After all, if you don't know what you want, how do you know which direction to go in life? So I decided I wanted to make a list of my own. And I did it. Here are the first few items that came to mind:

* I want to be the kind of Mom that my kids WANT to talk to when something's on their mind
* I want to be the kind of Mother-in-Law that my kids-in-law really enjoy being around without feeling like they have to hide who they really are
* I want to get a graduate degree someday. MBA? Creative writing? Social work? Who knows. Maybe one of each.
* I want to learn how to do quilling. Maybe I'll learn this week. Why not?
* I want to learn calligraphy. I spent a few hours once trying it out and loved it. It's been about 15 years and I've never gotten back to it.
* I want to learn to be a not-rotten cake decorator. I don't have to do anything fancy, but I still can't handle crumb control, so I'd like to at least figure that much out.
* I love making homemade cards, but they are SO SO homemade. I want to learn some cool paper crafting stuff so I can enjoy making cards, invitations, and other little doo dads when the mood hits me.
* I want to cruise the Mediterranean for a few weeks and see Greece, Italy, the French Riviera, and Egypt.
* I want to have a family cabin someday up in the mountains--a place where my family can go to just get away together and relax. It may not happen, but I can still want it, right?
* I want to build another new house someday with better use of space, cool architectural features and lots of classic style. And lots of awesome finish carpentry work. And a lot more acreage so I have a little privacy.
* I want to have a really cozy, comfortable guest bedroom where people love to come and stay: a place where people feel loved and welcome because they see all the little details that say "I Love You and I'm glad you're here." 
* I want to spend time doing ballroom dancing, just because I love it, and not in any competitive way.
* I want to spend lots of time singing and feel like I'm good at it.
* I want to get a novel published. Why not?

So what do you want from your life? What do you dream of doing someday? Go ahead and let yourself dream. It may not be feasible to make the dreams come true, but if you don't let yourself decide what you want, they won't come true anyway, will they?


Thursday, April 09, 2009

No Soliciting. No... Really.

I'm a wimp. This is apparent every time a solicitor comes to the door and I sit there listening politely, knowing we're both wasting time because I won't purchase whatever they're selling. I should just point at the "No Soliciting" sign on the door, look annoyed and slam the door.

Like I said, I'm a wimp. If I weren't a wimp, I'd change that "No Soliciting" sign on the front door. It would instead read:

No Soliciting.

No, really. I mean it.

I don't need my lawn aerated. I don't need my windows washed. No, I don't think I can handle buying that much beef right now, even though the quality must be superb. It's wonderful that you're giving away "free" security systems, but our definitions of "free" don't line up too well. Your produce samples are delicious, but I'm really not in the market to buy at those prices. My cleaning supplies work just fine, but yes, the pictures of your poor, starving children that you're our here working door-to-door in sweltering heat for really are adorable. I'm not in the market to upgrade my television package. I'm happy with my internet provider. Don't even talk to me about phone service. I'm covered.

If you're still considering ringing my doorbell and disturbing my children (who are likely asleep simply because you're ringing the doorbell and knocking very loudly), please understand I will treat you with the utmost respect... outwardly. I will look at all of your brochures, I will ask you many questions, and I will smile when you mention the names of people across the street who are "delighted" about the services you're selling. I will ooh and ahh over the pictures of your children when you become desperate enough to pull those out. Then I will ask the details of the contract or ingredients or assembly process. I will be so enthusiastic that your heart will start to race and you'll be thinking, "I've definitely got this one in the bag." You'll be counting off your commissions with glee.

Then... and ONLY then... will I point at this sign in disgust and tell you to take a hike. Because if you really are arrogant enough to think you're the one salesman in the world whom I will listen to when I have rejected all the others, you deserve to know exactly what it feels like to have somebody wasting your precious time, disturbing the flow of your work and simply annoying you.

Yes, I mean YOU. Do not ring that doorbell. Do not knock loudly on my door.

Turn around. Slouch away.

You can do it.


Monday, April 06, 2009

Easter Symbolism

I was just talking to my sister about the symbolism behind some of the Easter traditions. She was saying that you need to figure out which things are religious symbols and which things are pre-Christian pagan symbols. For example, some of the cute little websites I looked at said the egg symbolizes Christ's tomb.

Huh? How does an EGG represent a TOMB?

I'm sorry, but that is a stretch. My sister's explanation makes a lot more sense: "It's all about fertility, baby!" The Easter holiday is, in many ways, a SPRINGTIME holiday, which makes symbols of fertility highly appropriate. Since I prefer not to teach my tender, young children about the symbolism of fertility, we'll turn in just slightly and teach about the joy of NEW LIFE.

Easter is, whether you look at it through a religious or secular lens, a celebration of new life. Whether it be the celebration of the cycle of life and all its mysteries, or a celebration of Christ's triumph over death (and the promise of a new life after our time on earth) ... it is a time to celebrate LIFE.

So color your symbols of fertility ... err, eggs. And buy your kids new Sunday clothes (unless you're a tightwad like me). Cook yourself a ham or turkey or tofu burger. Surround yourself with the people you love. Then sit down. Find a quiet moment to look at the beauty of life--your life, the lives of those you love, the flowers that are starting to pop out of the ground, and the landscape that is slowly turning green again. 

If you're like me, you'll probably close your eyes and whisper a brief prayer of thanks. Whether you voice your gratitude or not... feel it. Troubles can wait until Monday. Easter Sunday is about gratitude for the good things of life, and promise of renewal and rejoicing in the future.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Rain, Rain

Storm clouds gather and hover near the earth. The sky darkens and shade deepens. I do not sense the dim. I feel the refreshing wind brush against my cheek and I smile.

As I get in my car and start to drive, blue sky appears and a rainbow cheers my heart. I wonder if the end of the rainbow rests right on my three beautiful children. I can't see where the end of the rainbow is, but I know that literally and symbolically, there is no end to the rainbow. The rainbow is a piece of beauty to be enjoyed from every angle. It doesn't belong to one person or one place. It is relative to who and where you are. I smile again.

I talk for two hours with a friend. As I unburden myself, the skies open and drop their burden downward. I am cleansed with renewed hope, and the earth is cleansed, too.

The storms will pass and I will mourn. They do not bring darkness or discomfort to me. They bring a reminder of the cycles of life. We are lifted. We fall. Life is dark. There are rainbows. And through it all, we can be cleansed and start again, fresh and full of hope.

I look to the heavens and whisper, "Thank you" ... with a smile.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Celebration of Failure

The proprietors of this blog regret the recent loss of intellectually stimulating content. To compensate for this sad loss, we bring you the following eduational clips from YouTube: