Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back to munching on elephants

With my return to the work force, there have been some changes in our household. I can’t stay up all night, playing on the computer, because I can’t sleep in the next day. I can’t put things off like I did when I was home all of the time, because tomorrow might be even more stressed. I can’t do all of the housework anymore, because I just don’t have the time.

Funny thing is, I still get a lot done. Even though I am working 40+ hours a week, and then some. (My day job is 40+, and I still have a couple of clients that I’m working for on freelance projects) Even though I have to commute.

Now that’s funny. Because I have worked from home for so long even before I was unemployed, I got used to a short commute. Across the house, to be exact! I didn’t even have to get dressed or brush my teeth, just roll out of bed and down the hall to the office. Now, I have to drive some 12-15 minutes to work, across our small town. There’s even traffic – although nothing like a big city. Here, it counts as traffic if you cannot go at exactly the moment that you want to, or if you have to wait for another car to pass before you pull out. And we’ve had road construction, as our four way stop is soon to become a free for all. (DOT calls it a roundabout, but I disagree) It’s been arduous travelling so far! I’ve found that I have to keep myself amused on the drive. Good music, talk radio, saying my morning prayers, or talking on the phone. (always hands free, of course! Since I don’t have Bluetooth, I put my phone on speaker phone and tuck it into my seatbelt. A white trash hands free, if you will, but it works!)

So anyway. Back to the original point, which is this: we will never have time to accomplish all that we want to, but we have to do the best that we can. How, you ask? When there not enough minutes in the day? No great blocks of time to do anything but try to keep your head above water? Well, how do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

I’ve always lived by this adage, as I have never had time to do everything that I want to. Except for my one period of unemployment, I’ve always worked full time, gone to school full time, or BOTH. Except for my period of unemployment, I’ve always had to budget my time. Except for my period of unemployment, I’ve never had a clean refrigerator all at one time.

I may notice that a shelf is gucky. It would be easy to say that I didn’t have time to clean the refrigerator and just let it get so gross that I finally have to clean it. Being slightly OCD, however, that won’t work. So instead, I settle for taking out the worst shelf and cleaning it up. I may or may not have time to do more, but at least that shelf is clean. The next day or so, I try to hit another shelf. Usually, the one that I cleaned first is getting dirty by the time I get to the last, but at least it never gets overwhelming.

It’s amazing what you can do in five minutes! Time yourself the next time you do a task, and I think that you will be surprised at how little time you actually spend doing it. We all tend to waste a lot of time ‘gearing up’ and whining to ourselves that we have to do it, and the task itself is not so daunting.

The other thing that changes is that I become much more schedule driven. Sheets are changed on Saturdays. A load of laundry is done every morning. I can’t just wing it, because things will get lost in the shuffle.

And it is imperative that I am ahead of the ball. Clothes have to be laid out before the week begins. We need a calendar to keep track of everyone’s commitments. Dinners are planned and posted, so that I can piggy back cooking, make sure that things are out of the freezer, and still have reasonable meals and not just canned chili every night. (apparently, that’s my go-to dinner, the one that I make when I have nothing planned or laid out) Planning ahead means that when the inevitable surprise comes up, I’m still organized enough to get by.

It also means that some things have to be pared out of the schedule. I had to put my Farm Town in hibernation, for instance. Not that I didn’t have time (I had it laid out so that my crops matured at different times!), but because my family kept giving me a bad time about being on the computer harvesting. (odd, since they are usually behind a computer themselves!) I avoid Facebook, which can waste HOURS of time. I can’t blog as often as I’d like to.

It doesn’t mean that things like scrapbooking, blogging, family history, or other good activities have to be shelved. It just means that I have less time to do them, and I have to be efficient. I have to use every minute for some good use, so that I don’t waste the time that I have.

Things change, situations necessitate adjustments. I just keep nibbling at that elephant, and one day..he’ll be gone. I’m sure that by then, they’ll be another elephant to tackle, but no worries. It gives me more to blog about!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I haven't given up on blogging...

I miss writing so frequently, but due to an overwhelming amount of success in my life professionally, I am not able to sit down every night and ruminate! I've always said, be careful what you wish for...but rest assured that I have a gazillion things left to say, and will find the time soon to share it all with you!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just a thought about tweeting...

So, ya'll know that I don't tweet...this post will probably be the closest thing to it, since I've had a LOOOOOOOONNNG day today and I'm too pooped to write! But I'm always thinking about tweeting, because I can't, I guess.

Anyway, I see others' tweets, and I think that they are fascinating. So if I really enjoy a tweet and want to share it with others, and I copy it...does it become a "twote"?? (get it? Like quote, only from a tweet...I guess it's not as funny in print as it was in my head.)

THIS is why I stick to full essays.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Come what may and LOVE it.

In October of 2008, I heard a talk at the General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that made me laugh and touched my soul at the same time. At the time, we had no idea that it would be the last Conference address given by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin. He was a frail old man, hardly even able to speak, and he gave his talk from a sitting position. His body was frail, but his words were powerful.

His theme was “Come what may, and love it”. The concept is easy enough to understand…when life hands us lemons, we must make lemonade. We must learn to love the things that are thrown at us, and not let adversity destroy us. It’s an excellent talk, and one that I recommend that everyone read, regardless of your faith or denomination.

At the time, it was easy to see the message implied. I had recently been unemployed, and life was looking pretty bleak. We had lost half of our income, my self-esteem, and many of my friends in the process. I understood and tried to apply his advice, I really did. That path was longer and more winding than I had hoped, but I finally got to the point where I loved the situation that I was in.

Now we are on the other side. But you know what? His advice still applies! He said come what may…and that means in adversity, but also in our successes. Change in our lives is inevitable, and even if it is a good change, it’s a change that causes stress for us.

I have been so busy lately that I can hardly keep up. I have two clients that I work with that are requiring a great deal of time right now. They were freelance projects that I was working on during the time that I was looking for work, and for businesses and business owners that I respect very much.

I also had the chance to take engagement pictures for a friend’s son. Not only was it something that I wanted to do for my friend, but it was a fantastic opportunity to build my photography portfolio and I couldn’t pass it up. They were both photogenic and easy to work with, and I had a great time getting to know them. This meant an hour or so taking the pictures, and then a few hours editing and perfecting the photos. I suppose if I were a better photographer, I could have sped that process up, but I wanted them to be nice and so I spent a bit of time on them.

As all of these incredible opportunities presented themselves just as I received a job offer. Again, it was something that I just couldn’t pass up, a job that I had been waiting for. I started last Thursday, and hit the ground running. I am working 40+ hours a week and running all of those. It requires a bit of brain power, as well as some physical running (it’s a large office), both of which I’ve not had to do for months. I have worked from home for years, and was always able to adjust my schedule to fit my life. Not so with this new job, which requires regular office hours onsite. That’s not a bad thing at all, merely a big change for me.

And I still have the side jobs that need my attention and deserve it. I will not let them down just because ‘something better came along.’

Crazy times.

I’m also feeling sad that I am leaving Todd. We have been together now for over three years. He’s been my buddy, my sidekick, my every minute. He is my last child, and we have had an amazing three years together as homebodies. It would be easy to be bummed over the whole thing.

I’m not bummed. I am grateful for these blessings, even if the Lord has chosen to pour them all upon me at once. He waited until I had healed, until I was ready to handle the stress. I thank Him for that great mercy.

I will follow Elder Wirthlin’s advice. When I am stressed and have no time to myself for a few weeks, I’ll be glad that I have good work and an income to help my family. When I am away from my children and missing them, I will make the most of my time away. I won’t bemoan our separation; I will rejoice in the adult time that it gives me, and the self-esteem that it is restoring. I will learn everything that I can, I will accomplish all that I can, I will make my employer as successful as I can.

At the end of the day, I will go home and love my babies.

We don’t know what the next day might bring. It may bring unemployment again…with the economy as it is, there are no guarantees. Now I know that is not the worst thing that can happen, though, and I know that I can not only survive, I can THRIVE.

In my current work state, I am busy and sometimes need five minutes just to do what I want to do. (Which is usually working my farm in Farm Town) But I can not only survive this wild time, I can THRIVE.

That’s what Elder Wirthlin was referring to. Not just “endure to the end”, which is good advice…but come what may and LOVE it. Embrace it. Don’t just survive. And never, ever wish away the time that is now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Sister's Keeper Review

I’ve been meaning to write about this book since the moment that I saw the movie trailer…but I’m glad that I didn’t . After seeing the movie, I am filled with thoughts and emotions that I didn’t have with the book, or were renewed. It was a very well done movie and although it deviates from the book in one key point, I felt that point was actually an improvement on the story. I’ll discuss that at the end so that you can avoid it if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book!

The book, by Jodi Picoult, is what I consider her second best work, Nineteen Minutes being the absolute most amazing thing that she has ever written. My mother urged me to read Nineteen Minutes so that she could talk about it, and I was a Jodi Picoult fan from the very start. She is an intelligent, intuitive, and well educated woman, and this shows in her books. They are insightful and always based on a storyline that makes you question your beliefs and values.

My Sister’s Keeper is centered on an 11 year old girl that has been a virtual spare parts replacement for her sister, who suffers from a rare form of Leukemia. She was genetically engineered to be the perfect match for Kate, and conceived solely to save her. Despite their best efforts, the cord blood is not enough to spare Kate, and so, a lifetime of donations begins. Blood, bone marrow, and finally, they are asking for a kidney. At this point, Anna seeks medical emancipation from her parents, suing for the right to determine what will be done to her own body.

Although they were unable to fully represent all of the complexities offered in the book, the movie did a good job of showing the strain that this places on the entire family. Kate has suffered the agony and indignity of cancer, but the rest of the family has suffered equally as much.

Anna, of course, has been the child who was born to save her sister, something that is proving to be more difficult than they originally thought. She is never asked if she would like to do this, and in fact, they hold her down when she is a small child. Does she have the right to decide for herself whether or not she will help her sister? Is she beholden to do so? Or are her parents in a position to decide this?

Sara, the mother, has devoted her entire life to keeping Kate alive at any cost. Any. I guess that you can see what I think of her.

Brian, the father, has tried to keep his family on an even keel all of these years, watching Sara fight the dragons that beset their daughter. It is intimated that he has lost his ‘first love’, as the marriage is strained. Understandably so.

There is an older brother, also. He is troubled and rebellious, testing the limits at all times. Jesse has always been the sibling that couldn’t help his sister. He gets lost in the shuffle, and even when he is ‘bad’, he is ignored. Deep down, he’s a good kid, though, and loves his family.

I think that the only thing that this family has going for it is love, which is almost unbelieveable in the circumstances presented. It speaks to the deep relationships that they must have had before the chaos began.

The things that I questioned as I read the book and watched the movie were what I would do in this situation. God forbid I ever have to find out! No one should have to see their child struggle as Kate does. I would like to think, however, that I would have asked Anna for her help, and that I would not have forgotten my son.

When I was on bedrest three hours from home when Todd was born, that was the most difficult part. I had two other children who needed me, who needed attention. I was stuck in a hospital bed, so far away, and seldom got to see them. I tried to keep in contact via phone and IM, and stayed interested and involved in what they were doing. It became more difficult after Todd’s birth and subsequent NICU stay, as I spent 12 hours a day at the hospital with him. I reminded myself that it was only for a short time. But I still made time for the other boys, or at least I tried. It may have been short bursts of time, such as when we went to dinner when they were visiting, but I tried to make it focused attention. It’s not easy, I can assure you. But I’d like to believe that I would be able to do this even with the long term illness of a child.

The second question that I had to ask myself is how far I would go to save a child. Again, my children are everything to me, and I feel that I would move heaven and earth to do so. But could I sacrifice one for the other? Could I expect one to give up their own life to potentially save the life of another…when that is not even guaranteed? What is the big picture?

The character that I felt the most sorrow for was Jesse. Although Anna endured medical procedures and physical pain to help her sister, she received attention because she was the one who could help Kate. (not a good reason to be valued, but at least she was valued) Jesse had nothing. He could not do a thing to help Kate. He was simply forgotten.

I was impressed with the actors. Cameron Diaz as Sarah was a stretch in my mind, prior to seeing the movie. She carried it off well, however, and I finally felt like I could take her seriously as an actress. (personal political statements aside) The same could be said of Joan Cusack, who was beautiful as the judge who hears the case. It was the first time that I’d seen her in any serious and substantial role, and she was fantastic. It was hard to see both of these women, who are approximately my age, in roles as mothers and middle aged women. (when did that sneak up on me??) The final blow as Jason Patric (of the sexy vampire movie of the 80’s, The Lost Boys) as Brian. He was very good, and we are old. Let’s just face it.

Abigail Breslin was fine as Anna, although the movie did not showcase her. Jesse was played by Evan Ellingson, a new face to me. He did a good job of showing the love that he had the for the family, as well as his troubled thought process.

The real star of the show was unequivocably Sofia Vassilieva as Kate. She was appropriately in pain, in anguish, and yet hopeful all at once. She shaved her head for the role, and was seen looking devastatingly unpretty. (kudos to the makeup folks, as well, who transformed her into a pathetic, scarred creature!) At an age when beauty is tantamount to personal image, she allowed herself to be seen in the most hideous of circumstances. I cannot say enough about her performance! She was brilliant, and reminded me much of Molly RIngwald. I’d have thought her to be a relative, as she had facial expressions and mannerisms that reinforced the physical similarities.

My vote is for Sofia to win something major for her role. Anybody listening??

Now I’m going to mention the plot point that changed from written word to screen. So if you do not want to know…stop reading now!


The ending of the book gave Anna her emancipation, placing her medical decisions in the hands of her attorney. Traveling home after the trial, they are in a car accident that kills Anna. The attorney then donates her kidney to Kate, who is miraculously healed by this kidney.

I hated this ending for many reasons. First of all, it was unexpected and I was devastated. Secondly, it seemed unbelieveable that after all that had been done to save Kate…and the knowledge that she was both too weak for the kidney surgery and not likely to be healed by it, anyway…that she is saved by this donation. I was upset that after all that she had done to save her sister, all that she had gone through to give her sister what she wanted…Anna still sacrificed everything.

Mostly, though, I was angry because in the end, Sarah got what she wanted. Kate lived, and Anna was merely spare parts. I felt that Sarah had never truly connected with Anna, and that if she had to choose one child to live over another, it was a done deal.

The movie ends differently, but no less sadly. In the movie, Kate is allowed to express her desire to be DONE, and then she dies peacefully. Anna is granted emancipation…not that it matters now, anyway…but it has accomplished what Kate had asked for. Life goes on. They are sad. They miss Kate. They look for answers, and there aren’t any.

It was REAL. (Sorry, Jodi)

Tears flowed freely throughout the movie, which had an excellent score. I left feeling sorrowful, and yet, uplifted. Odd. Definitely a ‘thinker’ movie…the best kind.

Well, what would YOU do?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Slipping Away

My grandmother is not the woman that she used to be. In fact, it could be said that she is someone entirely new and different. The new grandma is but a wisp of the old; for the old one has been slipping away from us, one memory at a time. At first, she was just forgetful. Then she was confused. We’ve moved beyond that to {most of the time} almost blank.

I think that she has bamboozled us for years. I think that this has been going on, and she has just been playing along, pretending to remember things. I can see it in the way that she says, ‘Oh, that’s right. I had forgotten.” When you remind her of things. Little things, like how many children she has.

She seems to think that losing one’s memory is akin to losing one’s mind…and therefore, the result of some character flaw or cardinal sin. She adamantly defends herself, trying to prove that she is still of very sound mind.

She has always cooked on a gas stove, as long as I can remember. She used to feed us well…three square meals and then some. She was a good cook. Now, she can’t remember how to turn on the stove…and more importantly, she has forgotten that she has to turn it OFF. She was bemoaning the fact that she had been banned from using the stove, insisting that she could handle it.

“If they would just teach me how to use it,” She told me vehemently, “Then I would be fine.”

“You would forget how to use it and then you might put yourself in danger.” I pointed out.

“Pish posh! I am perfectly capable of using the stove!”

I winked at her and asked, “Gram, what’s MY name?”

She was perplexed. She thought really hard, her little brows knit in thought. Then she guessed, “Jack.”

I patted her hand. “No, Gram, and that is why you cannot use the stove.”

The decision was agonizingly made to put her in an assisted living facility where she would be looked after and less prone to dangers of any kind. She didn’t like the idea, but agreed so that her eldest daughter could be free to go on a mission for our church with her husband.

I think that she thought that it would be a very short term solution. She kept telling folks that she had another home, and that she was going back there soon. She didn’t see any reason to remain in this apartment when she had a perfectly good home somewhere else.

She’s funny, because she kept trying to convince us that someone needed to move in with her and take care of her. We actually had tried that, as my cousin and his wife had lived with her briefly last summer. It was very difficult for them, as she wanted them to be there…but not be in her way. To live there, but not disrupt her house or move in their own things. Moving in with someone else was not an option, either, because she didn’t want to leave her home. (but it was okay for someone else to give up their home and live but not live with her)

The facility that she is in is BEAUTIFUL. It’s a southern inspired brand new building that has the most amazing program. They have activities every day, from piano players to book readings, walks, scenic drives, trips to Wal-Mart to church services and an onsite hairdresser. The food is good, the d├ęcor is gorgeous, and they have the kindest staff. It makes me feel so much better to know that she is being well taken care of, and that she is not alone all of the time.

Just after she moved in, I asked her if she had met anyone yet.

“Oh, sure…I’ve met lots of people,” she said absently. “But they are all OLD.”

I hate to break it to ya, Gram…but so are you! She thinks that it’s terrible that they sit around and sleep all day. But if you ask what she does…she gets up to eat, then takes a nap. Eats lunch, then takes a nap. Let’s face it…that’s what happens when our bodies are winding down!

I’ve tried to explain to her that this is the time for her to relax, to enjoy herself, and to endure the indignity of old age. We all have to do it; it’s a fact of life. You can choose to do it gracefully, or you can go down kicking and screaming…but either way…you are going to get old.

I also wanted her to understand that everyone experiences a loss of some of their physical attributes during their later years. Some folks can’t walk, others lose the ability to talk, see, or hear. Still others suffer from a debilitating loss of memory. It’s all physical, it’s all related to our mortal bodies, and is not a failure of our spirit. It’s not a sin to forget because your brain is no longer at it’s prime.

She continues to kick and scream.

We have found it to be humorous. What other choice do you have? She’s funny, if you try not to get too worked up about what she says or does. She insisted that no one was coming to visit her, so my aunt started a calendar on which you wrote your name on the day that you had visited. Then Gram scoffed at it and said, “You are just writing their names down to make me think that they have been here!”

Then she started to complain that her husband hadn’t come to visit her. “I just can’t understand it,” she said. “I would think that he would come up here to see me! Why hasn’t he come?”

My aunt handled it with sarcasm and wit. “Because he’s DEAD?” She offered.

Gram was indignant. “Well, why didn’t anyone tell me???”

You have to laugh. Otherwise, you would be heartbroken.

I have to say, I kinda like this new Grandma. She doesn’t remember much, so she can’t berate you for not having called or visited…she doesn’t really know who you are, so she doesn’t lecture you on your past sins…and you can tell her the same story over and over again and each time, she is amused. That is, when she can hear it. Her hearing is not so good either.

I used to call Gram whenever I was homesick for the family homestead, but I’ve not called very often lately. She can’t hear me very well, she certainly doesn’t understand anything that I am talking about, and I’m not ever sure if she even knows who I am. (We’ve established that she can’t remember my name!) Instead, I try to send her things regularly…pictures, short letters, that sort of thing. Just enough so that she knows that I am thinking of her always, but not so much that it overwhelms her to look at them or read them.

She keeps telling me that she is not long for this world, and I know that she wants to believe that. She misses my Grandpa and wants to follow him into the next world, where her mind and body will be whole again. While I don’t wish that for the rest of us, I hope for her sake that it is so. She seems so miserable in her current state, and maybe she’ll be happy in the next.

I can’t wait for the day that we can sit down and tell the stories of the days when Grandma’s mind was not so good, and laugh at the funny things that she has said and done. When she can join us at the table and know who we are, the history that we share with her. When she can appreciate the fact that we still love her even though she is not our grandmother, at least not the way that we have come to know her. I hope that she can enjoy the stories with us, and not be embarrassed that she forgot her children’s names, and thought that she had somehow missed the death of her husband.

The latest story about Gram is that she had complained that ‘they’ had moved a man into her apartment. Come to find out, she was going to the elevator and standing for a few moments…forgetting that she had not gotten on the elevator, much less went upstairs on it…and headed down the hall to her room. Which, of course, was one floor above her, and NOT her apartment. The man was indignant that she just barged in to his room. A few days later, they said, he did the same thing, this time, barging into her room.

They make a good pair! Maybe we’ll just mingle their stuff together, and no matter what floor they are on…they’ll be home. Sounds like a good plan to me!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The only way that I'll ever have a green thumb...

I’ve developed a love of the land. Planting a seed, and watching it grow and produce fruit. I look forward to walking my farm, finding the crops that are ready to harvest. Tending to the flourishing plants so that they will be the most productive. By the sweat of my brow…tilling the earth with my bare hands. Okay, not my bare hands…but my mouse hand, anyway!

I’ve discovered Farm Town on Facebook. You know, it’s one of those silly little apps that you can send gifts to your friends? I kept getting gifts from folks, and I was just ignoring them. I’d had a Lil Green Patch, which was supposed to save the rainforests (although for the life of me, I have no idea how playing a game on FB was going to save the world). I never did get the hang of it. It irritated me because the plants were willy nilly in my Lil Green Patch. I spent an hour reorganizing them one day…only to log on and find out that it didn’t save correctly. I abandoned my Patch. So apparently, Global Warming is all my fault.

So one night at Bro’s, I was up late unable to sleep. I’d turned off my computer, but his was still on, so I jumped on and started surfing aimlessly. I checked my email. I looked at I took a peek to see what was on sale at I moseyed over to Facebook, but no one was up and posting. I decided to see what this Farm Town thing was all about.

That was my first mistake. I was given a block of land with six plots of tilled earth, and soon, I was growing potatoes. They know how to hook me! Potatoes are my favorite! I plowed some more land, won some coins in the Farm Town daily lottery, and planted some more.

I think that I planned to abandon it after that, but the next morning, I looked at my crops. I won some more coins, and planted some grape seeds. They would mature in only 4 hours, and I could see the fruits of my labors!

They didn’t tell me that the darn grapes would rot on the vine if I didn’t get back to them! When I logged on that evening, my grapes had gone to waste. It says that, in bold letters. Gone to waste. I was so frustrated! I had wasted all of that plowing and planting and the coinage to accomplish that. I vowed to never let that happen again. That’s when I knew that I’d made the fatal mistake.

Since then, I have become very methodical in my planting, and I make sure that I will be available when my crops mature, so that I can get them in before they go to waste. I make sure that I harvest them in a timely manner and then get those fields plowed and replanted.

By the time I had left Bro’s house, I was getting pretty good at Farm Town. The girls would sit by me and help me decide what crops to plant, estimate when they would be ready to harvest, and organize my growing orchard. All of the gifts that had been sent by other Farm Town friends were piling up, and I had to move them into the application.

At first, I planted them in a row along the edges of my farm. When it began to bug me that they were haphazard, I found that you could move them. Woohoo! I lined them up nicely. The next day, I rearranged them, to make them prettier and easier to see. Then it bothered me that they were all mixed up. I put Plum Trees in a row, Orange Trees in another. Still later, I had to organize them by maturity, so that they were easier to harvest. That was an undertaking, I tell you! You had to examine each tree, note it’s maturity percentage, then line them up from least to most mature. Now, all of the trees that need to be harvested at the same time are grouped together. It’s very cool.

Then there is the issue of the animals. I’d received them as gifts, but couldn’t figure out how to contain them. Turns out, you have to BUY fences! Well, I didn’t have the capital to increase my crop production and buy fences, too, so for a long time, my animals ran amok on my farm. It wasn’t until my farm was well established that I felt that I could afford fences, and at first, only a small pen for all of them. Poor things stood side by side, cows, pigs, chickens, and horses alike. Crammed into a tiny pen.

One day, I actually DID THE MATH, and found out which crops are the most lucrative. Really! You have to factor in the length of time that it takes to mature, cost of the seeds, and the cost of plowing the field. I found that of the crops that I could buy at the time, Rice, Corn, and Sunflowers would net the largest gain. I planted sunflowers like they were going out of style.

Soon, I had enough of a cushion to build real pens for my animals. I made one for the pigs, one for the cows, another for the sheep. I’m not sure about the programming, though, because one errant cow kept wandering out into the orchards. After returning him to his pen many times, he has finally stayed put. Then there was the sheep that kept wandering back to the cows. I think that the programmers are writing these things and laughing at us poor farmers, trying to contain our cyber livestock!

I’ve become enamored with the pigs, that sleep on command. You tell them to sleep and they suddenly go stiff, fall on their sides, then close their eyes and snooze sweetly. After a moment, they get up, seemingly refreshed. They are bright eyed and adorable! I have to play with my pigs a bit each day, making each one take a nap. Other than that, the animals serve no purpose in Farm Town. Very strange, indeed!

My farm is truly a visual interpretation of my personality. It is relatively no nonsense, maximized to increase it’s potential for success. I have planted on nearly every square inch, and I keep my fields growing at all times. I’ve purchased more land three times now, and I am finally letting myself buy some decorative items. No buildings yet – oh, no, that would be far to extravagant! But my animals are in pens, and I bought a nice bench to place in the flower garden so that I could enjoy it in the evenings. (As if! I mean, I send my little avatar there, but is she really enjoying it???)

I’ve decided that I will now start to build my home…a farm house, yard, etc. A modest one, so that I can keep producing at the rate that I’ve become accustomed to. You just can’t waste good farmland, you know.

This is supposed to be a social networking game, and so it is less expensive to hire someone to plow and harvest your crops than to do it yourself. It makes no sense, and I’ve become somewhat rebellious about it. I refuse to hire anyone. I don’t care if it costs more to plow and my crops are not as plentiful. It’s just wrong to hire someone to do something that you can do yourself.

I actually ran into someone when I was helping at their farm. You can go to friends’ farms and weed or water or rake and you get coins for doing so. One day, I saw my cousin planting seeds. His little avatar would move around and then little seeds would appear, it was fascinating to watch.

It disturbs me that little digital people come and stand in my fields. These are not my friends working , but it’s odd little avatars that just stand there and stare. I have no idea who they are, and they are just standing there. I feel like marching up to them and demanding to know how they got there, but then they might talk to me. I’m not here to socialize, folks, I have farm work to do!! One day, a cheeky gal stood right in the middle of a field that I was trying to harvest, plow, and plant, and it kept me from plowing that square. The gall!

I know, I have a problem. I need to lay off the farming. Hubby thinks that I’m obsessed, but we’re not really asking his opinion, are we? I figure that one day, my farm will be maximum size and I’ll run out of exciting things to do on it. Until then, keep the seeds coming!

So, check it out. See you in Farm Town! Just don’t stand in my fields. It’s rude and makes your avatar look like a ‘tard.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I will remember you...

I was a huge Amy Grant fan for years. I guess I could say that I’m no longer a rabid fan, although I still appreciate her…I was judgemental about her divorce and remarriage, and I’ve not gotten past that. My bad, I know, and I need to do so. I don’t know what really happened and I have no right to pass judgement, anyway.

So when Hubby put on one of her albums the other day, I realized that it had been quite some time since I listened to her albums. One of my favorites was “Behind the Eyes”, which happened about the time of the divorce, but was timely in my life, as well. The first song that was played on our random-play was “I will be your friend.” It’s interesting how a song can take you back, make you think…it sent me down a path that relived old memories and reevaluated my standing in the world as I washed the dishes and cooked dinner.

Here are some of the lyrics:

When every moment gets too hard
End of the road can feel so far
No matter how much time were apart
I’m always near you

Ill be the shelter in your rain
Help you find your smile again
Ill make you laugh at a broken heart
Wherever you are

cause I’m never gonna walk away
If the wall comes down someday
All alone and you feel afraid
Be there when you call my name
You can always depend on me
I believe until forever ends
I will be your friend

So many people come and go
But nothing can change the you I know
You’ll never be just a face in the crowd
And time will show
Through the seasons and years
I will always hold you dear
Never you fear

It did remind me of friends that I have had…good friends that I thought would never, ever be less than my bestest buddies. That we would stand by one another through thick and thin, side by side.

Life isn’t really like that, you know.

It also made me think of a boyfriend that I had once, who was reluctant to tell me that he loved me. He would infer it, but avoided the words for quite some time. He came from a broken home, and didn’t want to say something that he couldn’t guarantee forever. I assured him that no one expected it to be forever, but you should share your feelings when they emerged.

That was many years ago, and there was a time that we ceased to love each other in that way. We both changed and grew apart. I’m very happily married to someone else, and yet, I don’t hold any grudges against the boy who loved me once. I do remember the time that we had together, and there are good things to take from it, even though we parted at some point.

I realized as I listened to the song that he was probably right. We can’t guarantee that we will love someone forever. (children and spouses excluded, whose love we work to keep alive every day) We meet friends, we learn from them and grow with them…and sometimes away from them. Situations change in our lives, and we may not have the time or the accessibility to them, we may not have the same things in common.

I have friends that I miss because they live too far away…ones that I would continue to seek out, ones that I admire greatly…but the proximity complicates things. Thank heaven for Facebook, email, and such that allow us to remain in contact, even if it is not as close as we would like. I hope that they know how much they continue to mean to me. I’ll have to be more dedicated to expressing that. Everyone needs to know when they are valued!

There are some that I was close to at one time, but circumstances have changed. In some cases, our parting was not pleasant, or we had issues that came between us. It comes back to that email that you have all read, I’m sure, about people coming into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. They were there for a season, and no longer serve a purpose in my life. That sounds somewhat callous, but the truth is that we don’t have time or energy for all of the people that we would like to include in our daily lives.

Even if I had the energy, there are some that I would have parted from anyway. I learn and refine myself every day, and I’ve found that there are some folks that simply are not headed the way that I am going. I don’t have the resources to maintain that kind of friendship when they cannot influence me for the betterment of myself and my family. They may be fine people, but travelling with them would mean deviating from where I want to be, and that is not productive for either one of us.

My therapist talked to me about this, as I was working through my issues with lost friends. She illustrated it by saying that perhaps you have room in your life for 10 friends…so when one or two move out of our lives, we can replace them with one or two more. Adding three more would be too much, and leave us less time for the things that we already have to accomplish. Not adding any new friends would leave a hole. It’s important to know what our “number” is, so that we can adjust our lives accordingly and include the RIGHT people in them.

A more appropriate song would be another Amy Grant, from the album “Heart in Motion”:

I will be walking one day
Down a street far away
And see a face in the crowd and smile
Knowing how you made me laugh
Hearing sweet echoes of you from the past
I will remember you.

Look in my eyes while you’re near
Tell me what’s happening here
See that I don’t want to say good-bye
Our love is frozen in time
Ill be your champion and you’ll be mine
I will remember
I will remember you.

Later on
When this fire is an ember
Later on
When the nights not so tender
Given time
Though its hard to remember darlin’
I will be holding
I’ll still be holding to you
I will remember you.

So many years come and gone
And yet the memory is strong
One word we never could learn
True love is frozen in time
Ill be your champion and you’ll be mine
I will remember you
So please remember
I will remember you
I will remember you
I will remember you
I will remember you

I have some great memories with many different friends that have come and go in my life. I remember the boy who once loved me, the friends who promised that they would be with me forever. Rather than mourning the loss of these relationships, I can choose to REMEMBER that good, and be happy that we once had something very special. I can stop trying to hold on to everything at once, and allow myself to savor the memories while embracing the current situation of my life.

I can realize that moving forward sometimes means leaving someone behind, and that is not necessarily a tragedy. I can remember. Some folks come for a reason, some come for a season, others will be there for a lifetime…or an eternity. But it’s all good.

I'd like to think that they will remember me, too. That I won't be tossed in the pile of discarded memories that get swept out with the trash. I can think of no greater compliment than to be remembered.

Even Amy. I may not be a rabid fan, but I still cherish her music and remember the comfort and joy that it has brought to me through the years. So, Amy, I will remember you, too!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

That's why we have MOUTHS!

Todd talks constantly. I mean…constantly. Take that literally, folks, because this child can talk the ear off of the best of them. I feel sorry for him, he must have my brain. It never shuts up, and if you didn’t talk (or write), your head would explode. So I let him babble, all day long, all of the time. One day, Hubby was hanging with us, and asked, “Does he ever shut up?” Nope. Never.

Tux tried to get him to be quiet the other day when they were playing a video game. “NO!” Toddy resisted. “That’s why we have mouf-es, Tux! So we can talk!” He’s got a point.

Before you get all up in arms about my not teaching the child to control himself, I do teach him that there are times and places that we must be quiet. He’s still working on it. But in general, what’s the trouble? He can talk to me all day if he wants. For one thing, it’s a natural thing to talk. It encourages him to express, explore, and ask questions. And for another thing…he’s interesting! I’m always amazed by what he talks about, and frankly, he’s pretty darn intelligent. I mean, how many three year olds do you know that extol the virtues of having a mouth???

He and his cousin, JJ, kept me in stitches during the week that we were visiting them. To hear them discuss life in their own language was a real treat. JJ was amazed that Todd still wore diapers, and Todd thought it was funny that JJ pooped in the toilet. They had many talks about that, explaining why to each other.

We went to see “Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”, and JJ had a hard time sitting still. It was making Todd crazy, and he began to micromanage him. When JJ repeated the line, “Pop goes the weasel!” and laughed, Todd was indignant.

“That’s NOT funny! Stop laughing!” He insisted.

JJ’s eyes sparkled with the idea that he could irritate Todd. He repeated the phrase again and then laughed and laughed.

“It’s not a funny movie!” Todd yelled. (At this point, I reminded him that this was one of those places that we needed to be a bit quieter)

So they whispered, JJ taunted Todd with his laughter and “pop” comments, Todd getting more and more agitated that JJ thought that this was funny. They finally turned to me to end the argument: was this movie funny, or not?


We went to lunch at Taco Bell, and Todd and I were sharing a soda, while Sis and her three children shared another. Somehow, Todd got their cup and began to suck down as much soda as he could. (He is a soda freak…except that he calls it “Swee”)

JJ, who doesn’t get to drink as much soda as Todd does, was heartbroken when he finally got the cup back. He let out a wail that I’m sure struck two tables and shattered them asunder. “WE NEED A REFILL!” He howled. “HE did it!” He pointed at the offensive cousin.

While Sis was getting the cup refilled, JJ continued to berate Todd for his behavior, reminding him that this was a Parker cup, and Todd was clearly not a Parker. Sis gently reminded him that Todd was indeed a Parker, even if his last name was Cowell…because he had Parker blood in him.

Todd had a retort of his own. “It’s in my belly and YOU can’t get it!”

We’re not sure if he meant the Parker blood or the Swee, but either way, it was gone to JJ forever.

He comes by it naturally. I was –and continue to be – a talker. I can’t help myself. I guess that’s why it doesn’t bother me that he talks so much. I know the feeling.

When I was his age, my dad would offer to give me a quarter if I would be quiet for 5 minutes. It was quite a struggle, I must say. Especially when 4.5 minutes in, he would ask me a question. That’s just cheating, no matter how you look at it.

When I was just a little older than he is now, Mom took me on a bus ride to visit her parents during the summer. There was a young man who boarded the bus and sat next to a pretty young girl who was going off to college. She was politely listening to the arrogant young man, despite the fact that she obviously wished that she were anywhere else besides next to him. As the night wore on, Mom said that he continued to flirt and try to impress this poor girl, talking loudly even though everyone was now trying to sleep.

I took matters into my own hands.

“Hey, mister…” I offered. “I’ll give ya a quarter if you’ll be quiet for five minutes!”

My mother nearly died. She was sinking into her chair as the bus broke out into applause.

The young man was much quieter for the rest of the trip. Poor guy. All that mouth and no way to use it.