Thursday, October 29, 2009

Observing the World Around Me

As I was driving to pick up my children from school, it suddenly occurred to me that I don't pay enough attention to the world around me. I typically keep my eyes glued on the road while I'm driving - I really should look up and notice other important things like traffic lights, pedestrians, etc. But that kind of alertness only comes with about 11 cups of coffee.

What got me thinking was a chopper flying overhead. I don't know why, but we regularly have military choppers buzz our house, even though there isn't a military base anywhere nearby. I usually ignore them, but once in a while, I give in to the very realistic fear that World War III has actually started here in the strategic location of Lansing, Michigan. (Don't laugh - Lansing happens to be very important city. Just drive through it and you will see the Capitol building. Well, I guess that's about all there is, but I'm fairly certain we're due for a terrorist strike sometime soon because no one would ever suspect it would happen here. They've got the element of surprise on their side.)

Back to my story. I happened to notice this particular helicopter was traveling the same route as I was, due East on Michigan Avenue. Then it dawned on me that it was a medical helicopter, headed for Sparrow Hospital, which is the other big thing to see in Lansing. I believe it is bigger than the capitol building and I also believe it houses hundreds more competent employees than the capitol building. This is true, even of the valets at the Sparrow Professional Building, across the street, who are very Johnny-on-the-spot. Especially when you don't want to pay for Sparrow's parking garage, so you have the valets across the street park your car and you just take the skywalk over to the hospital. (Just kidding, I don't do that. . . .but, hey it's a good idea, right?)

I have always been curious about where the landing pad at Sparrow is, so I tried to slow down enough to see where the helicopter went down. Alas, traffic was too fast, and I didn't want to risk becoming the next Sparrow Hospital client, so I missed the final descent. It was kind of cool for about 30 seconds until it dawned on me that there was probably a very critical patient in that helicopter. Still cool because it may have saved someone's life.

Wow, so I spent a lot of time on that one thing that I noticed. I can't really remember the rest since I just used all my alert brain cells retrieving the previous information.

This just in: yes, Sparrow Hospital is indeed far bigger than the State Capitol building -exactly 10 times larger, in fact. Sparrow Hospital is 1.2 million square feet, whereas the Capitol building is 120,000 square feet. I just included those little factoids in case any of you locals want an opportunity to dazzle someone with that piece of trivia. And also, I didn't want you to think I was a total moron, because it's obvious to anyone who has seen both that Sparrow Hospital is indeed much larger than the Capitol building.

Oh, my. I think I have too much time on my hands.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Here it comes again

OK, so any of you who follow this blog because you're interested in knowing more about depression, you are welcome to watch me throughout the next few months. I've probably struggled with chemical depression my whole life (which would explain the manic-depressive mood swings I experienced as a teenager). That is fairly well under control with the help of 2 anti-depressants. Thank God for mind-altering drugs! (Oops, did I say that out loud???) BUT, to compound my symptoms, the stinkin' sun has to play hide & seek for about 6 months out of the year. And it affects me greatly, even while taking my happy pills.

One good thing about all of this is that I finally know what's happening to me. I used to think I was just a failure, a loser, or not trying hard enough. As a Christian, I thought I just wasn't praying enough. These are mild signs, by the way, in case you suspect that you or someone you know might be depressed. I would think it's not necessarily normal for people to think they're losers, but I called myself that on a daily basis, many times out loud, in front of my kids. (And I wonder why they have issues. . . .) I finally have learned that what is happening to me is not my fault. I don't like it, and I can't just muster up enough happiness to get out of it, but it does allow me to change the way I think about myself. Instead of thinking, "I'm a loser because I'm always so tired that I can't get anything done. I must really be a lazy, good-for-nothing. . . .", I now choose to think, "Here's this dumb-ass SAD again! Why can't it just leave me alone???" (FYI, SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder). So, my tone in speaking to myself isn't much more positive, but now I can blame something else instead of myself!

But it also presents before me the task of doing everything I can possibly do to keep the blues at bay:

1. PRAY! Worship, rejoice, and give thanks because gratitude increases my joy

2. Take my meds (duh!)

3. Get enough sleep, which I can finally do, hallelujah! This is because of the wonderfully wise decision my husband initiated to send our kids out to school. They are tired enough at the end of the day to sleep all night AND I can catch up on lost sleep while they're at school, if need be.

4. Eat right and exercise. (Yeah, this makes me laugh, too, but I'm working on it.)

5. Take supplements: Optivite, a power-packed women's vitamin, Vitamin D, and Flax Seed or Fish Oil capsules.

So, there you have it. Too bad you didn't catch me at my worst, a few years back. Then you would have really had a case study in depression. I'm expecting to fare better these days, but I can definitely sense the change in my mood and energy now that the sunny days are fewer and farther between. But, to be honest, when I am in the deepest throes of depression, I probably wouldn't post anyway. So, if you notice that I go missing for a few weeks, feel free to give me a nudge.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Guess Mommies ALWAYS Spoil Their Babies

My mom has been here for the past week, visiting from the wilds of Northern Michigan. And while she was here, she spoiled me rotten. (It could be that she was in such a good mood from staying in a house with central heating and indoor plumbing.)

We went shopping almost every day. Teensy weensy little problem: We ain't got no money! Never fear - super mommy was here! Actually, I did manage to squeeze a little bit out of our tighter-than-a-fat-guy-wearing-spandex-shorts budget to find some really good bargains at 2nd hand stores (like a winter coat for $1.25 for one daughter who seems to outgrow her clothing weekly). Other than that, my mommy treated me to breakfasts, lunches, and bras. Yup, you read that right - BRAS!

Mom knows money is pretty tight because my hubby is employed in the auto industry ('nuff said). So, I guess she felt the urge to spoil me. It's hard not to feel like a mooch, but I really am very grateful, especially for the new bras. I think she got the idea to treat me to some new undergarments when she was helping me fold laundry and came across my old bras, which had no remaining elasticity whatsoever, and strangely made me think of The Saggy Baggy Elephant every time I put them onh.

Mommy also spoiled my kids with treats and cold hard cash, the way all grandmas do.

I love being the spoiled kid once in a while.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Language Barrier

I stopped to fill up my van with gas the other day. I pulled up to see this annoying sign: "Please pay first." That really irks me because, really - how many people know how much gas they are going to pump before they pump it? Unless you happen to be seriously obsessive compulsive and fill your car with gas when it gets to the exact same level on the gauge every single time, and you pay attention to the gas prices with perfect accuracy, then it's really impossible to predict how much you're going to spend, right? So, my choices would be A) walk in with a $100 bill, hand it to the cashier and tell him I'll be back for the change after I pump, because it always takes more than $50 to fill that sucker up or B) give him my credit card and trust that he will keep it in a good, safe place and not overcharge me, etc. etc. etc. Sorry, neither one of these options sits well with me.

I walked inside, brow furrowed and muttering under my breath - did I mention I hadn't had my coffee yet? I told the attendant that I didn't know how much I was going to spend on gas. His reply sounded something like, "Wot bum?"

Huh? Is this guy calling me a bum because I don't want to pay first???

Growing a little defensive, I said, "Excuse me?"

Again, he said, "Wot bum?"

Ohhh, "What pump!" I motioned to the pump where my van was sitting since I had forgotten to look at the pump number. He kindly turned it on for me.

Before walking out to pump my gas, I asked, "Do you have batteries?" (I thought it might help him to know that I was planning to come back in. . . .) He responded, "Wot sis?"

Again, I was stumped. Was he saying, "What's this?" Good heavens, man, you don't know what batteries are?

"BATTERIES", I said, enunciating the word very clearly. "FOR ELECTRONICS . . . ." Meanwhile, I was making bizarre shapes in the air that didn't resemble any kind of battery-operated device I've ever seen.

He looked at me like the moron I was and repeated, "Wot sis?"

Ohhhhh, "What size?"

"Uhh. . . .uhh, 9Volt," I said, sheepishly.

After filling my van, I made sure to be very friendly and cheerful since this guy had put up with my idiocy.

Public service announcement: If I ever encounter you and don't understand what you are saying because you are from any place outside of the Mid-Michigan area and have a non-Ingham-county accent, please be patient with me. I am not trying to insult you, nor am I culturally insensitive. I probably just haven't had my coffee yet.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

VIP week

My 4th grader is the VIP for "VIP Week" in her class. Each week a different student gets to plan a week's worth of activities, which include sharing some information about themselves and planning fun activities for the class. Cool idea, especially for this particular child, who has no qualms whatsoever about getting up in front of a crowd and spouting off songs, poetry, or her musings on life. I guess she takes after her mama. I'm somewhat ashamed (well, not really) to say that I do enjoy attention. I have no problem getting up in front of crowds. (Sure, I get nervous, shaky, nauseous, I perspire, break out in a rash, and my voice quivers, but it's still fun.)

See? I have already commandeered this post to make it about me instead of my daughter. Back to VIP week. The first day, she got to put up a bulletin board about her life. I, of course, got very involved in this and became like the dad who does his kid's science experiment for him instead of offering helpful advice. Or my dad, who built a fully functioning scale model of a paper mill for my sister's elementary school science project. I'm sure it was very believable for a 3rd grader. Her teachers still think she was a child genius. (A comical side note to this story: in the process of "helping" my sister with this project, my father inadvertently drilled a hole through our new dining room table. To put it mildly, my mother was extremely unhappy about this, but it does make for quite a amusing anecdote 20 years later. . . .now that my mother finally has a new dining room table.)

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed looking through the thousands of pictures from my daughter's lifetime (yes, thousands - this is the blessing and the curse of having a digital camera). I. . . .uh, I mean *we* chose several photos and arranged them nicely on posters and gave them cool borders with my card-making program. I was actually having quite a bit of fun when Joy discovered what I was doing and she demanded that she be allowed to position the photos and choose clip art, etc. Whatever. The final result was definitely her own work since she went through and captioned every photo in her own words. Very cute.

Today, I went to Joy's class to watch her give a presentation about homeschooling during her VIP sharing time. I had coached her on just the right things to say so that her classmates would be enthralled by her tales of homeschooling. Homeschoolers do come up with some fairly impressive work. However, that wasn't necessarily the case with our homeschool. I just wanted to make sure it sounded like she actually learned something from me in the first 4 years of her education. What I forgot to coach her on was not making me sound like a bum. So at one point during her presentation, she said something to the effect of "We took A LOT of days off from homeschooling because my mom was always sleeping." Maybe those weren't her exact words, but I'm expecting a call from the social worker, or that her teacher will refer me to Narcoleptics Anonymous.

Those were only the first 2 days of VIP week. Three days to go: Wednesday is "show and tell" with her art work, on Thursday, she will play hangman with her classmates, and on Friday, she will bring a special snack. How much damage could she do with those themes? Only time will tell.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Worst Tantrum I've Ever Witnessed

Tantrum: a violent demonstration of rage or frustration.

You know. . . kicking, screeching, banging fists, growling, writhing, spewing pea soup (oh, wait, that's demonic possession, but some tantrums do leave me wondering whether an exorcism is in order).

Yes, we had a complete meltdown in our family today. I won't mention the name of this child - I will just call her "Daughter X". And when I say meltdown, I mean a tantrum of cataclysmic proportions, which left Daughter X a shuddering, sobbing mess and left her whimpering for a good half-hour after the torrent of tears had subsided.

I will give you some time to guess what caused this horrendous outburst. So just keep guessing while you scroll on down. . . .

(I love doing this. . . .)

(Making you wait. . . . )

(Have you guessed yet?)

OK, here it is: Daughter had a thermonuclear meltdown because:

Yes, you read that right. She pierced my eardrums and gave herself a hoarse voice because, I repeat: WE DIDN'T GET FLU SHOTS TODAY.

Is my daughter mentally ill? (Sometimes I do wonder.) No, I had promised the kids we would get Frosties from Wendy's after we got flu shots. You know, a little bribery to help them put on a brave face. It totally backfired. See if I ever try to bribe my children again.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Adventures in Couponing

I've been trying my hand at "couponing" (notice this is now a verb). I've always used coupons, but now I'm getting more serious about it. I want to experience what it's like to get $150 worth of groceries and only pay $4.23. Yes, some people claim that this is possible. Frankly, I think their brains have been turned to mush by visiting a bazillion coupon websites and reading the fine print. Nevertheless, I am trying to find the best deals using coupons and rebates so that I can save big money AT MENARDS on groceries and household items. I would like to do my part to help my hubby by being a wise steward of the hard-earned money he brings home for our family. That, and I don't want to have to go out and get a job.

So, let me give you a picture of week 1: I went to Kroger. They had an incredible sale on cheese! (Yes, I get really excited about good sales.) Buy 10 Kraft Cheese bricks (which were on sale for $1.99 each) and get $5 off your order. AND if one of those was Kraft 2% cheddar, I had a rebate form for the purchase price! YAHOO!!! (yes, there was feverish excitement going on here!) So, I made the trip to Kroger and made sure I counted 10 bricks of cheese, and made absolute sure one was Kraft 2% cheddar. When I got home, the 2% cheddar was nowhere to be found! Grrr. I checked the receipt - sure enough, the cheddar had somehow not made it onto the conveyor and I had not received my $5 off! So I sent my husband back to get the cheese and to get my $5, and he returned faithfully with both. But I had forgotten to tell him I actually needed the receipt for the cheese as well so I could submit the rebate. Rebate gone. . . .oh well, at least I got the $5.

Then I went to Meijer. I had a few significant savings coupons on Scrubbing Bubbles toilet cleaners (yes, excitement). And once I got home, I realized I had forgotten to submit the coupons. Dang it! (Can you go back and ask them to take the coupons off after you've checked out?)

But I DID get some awesome savings at Rite Aid. Without going into the gory details and boring you much further, I spent a total of $5 at Rite Aid and got 10 bottles of VO5 shampoo & conditioner, a bottle of clean & clear acne treatment and a tube of Nivea lip balm. Yeah for me!

Couponing has also led me to buy things I wouldn't normally buy. But when there's a store coupon, manufacturer coupon AND a sale, I can't resist. Such was the case with Bird's Eye Steamfresh "Lightly Sauced" vegetables. Imagine my dismay when I got them home and found out that they did not actually contain any booze whatsoever. False advertising, I'd say.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blog Thoughts

I don't get to my blog every day. But I should. I really enjoy writing. I consider it a craft that I want to practice and perfect. I also blog as a way to let out some of my thoughts and frustrations. And I like to make people laugh. I don't want to write about boring old everyday life. But sometimes I just don't feel inspired to blog about anything insightful or funny. But I should do it every day so that that I stay in the groove, right? So, this is where it becomes like my diary - just putting my thoughts down on "paper" (or in cyberspace, actually). Boring? Yeah, probably. Just wanted my poor blog to know I hadn't forgotten about it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No Compassion

I no longer have compassion on my children when their beloved stuff gets wrecked or lost because of their negligence.

I DID feel bad when my daughter's bike got stolen out of the front yard.

I DID sympathize when my other daughter's bike got run over in the neighbor's driveway. To be honest, I actually had to stifle laughter at some point because it was actually quite comical the way the bike bent completely in half. But I did comfort her because she was obviously very upset about it.

But now, the compassion is gone. My children's scooters have been lying in the front yard for many days. Many, many days. And they would occasionally (once every 8 days or so, maybe) pick up a scooter, scoot somewhere, and then return the scooter to it's exact location on the grass.

Yesterday, it dawned on them: the scooters were gone.

With no concern whatsoever, I simply said "ha ha". (Imagine Nelson from the Simpsons.) Well, no I didn't say that because it would have been a little too heartless (but I did think it). I told them that it was a natural consequence for leaving their stuff lying around and not putting it away properly.

They got the scooters from a neighbor's yard sale. They were very well used scooters. My wonderful neighbor let the kids talk her down to $5 each. They paid for them with their own money.

I might have been more "compassionate" if it had been my money.

Did You Notice?

Did you see the drastic new improvement to my blog??? I'll give you a few minutes and see if you notice it on your own.


That annoying empty box (with the occasional message "internet explorer cannot open this page") is GONE! Yeah! I actually commissioned my friend Maryellen to get rid of the dumb thing for me because she knows HTML and I don't (which is no doubt how it got there in the first place - I experimented with one too many ad designs, most of which are now not appearing on my blog the way they should either. . .but that's a task for another day.) I'm sure for all the months of agony it caused me by simply being there, she was able to get rid of it in 2 minutes.

You might have noticed by now that I don't invest a lot in the appearance of my blog. No cutesy bells and whistles. No fun little gadgets. I like to simply draw people in with my words.

That, and I haven't the foggiest stinkin' idea how to do those things.

Some day, I may actually investigate how to add some fun and eye-popping gizmos to my blog. But for now, you're stuck with my words.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I Will Never Feel Young Again

I was very young-looking for a long time. Come to think of it, that was probably when I was young. But, really, it felt like I was in my 20's for around 20 years.

But, alas, the fantasy had to end. I could no longer remain young-looking. Somewhere along the way, the gray hair started taking over. I used to say it looked like highlights. But I'm not fooling anyone. I am not fooling myself. I'm getting old. Half of my head is gray now, which I guess isn't immediately obvious since my hair is what is affectionately called "dishwater blonde." I used to think my skin was still so youthful. But I'm starting to notice that it's getting more baggy and a few more wrinkles have found their home. My daughter tells me I have a double chin. (I know I did not have that in my 20's!) People were often surprised that I was in my 30's, or that I had 4 kids, or that I had been married over a decade already. But now, I don't even get carded. I once told a cashier at Meijer that she would make my day if she asked to see my i.d. because I was buying alcohol. She took one look at me and said, in a very flat and uninterested voice, "No". (See if I ever get in her checkout lane again.)

Ahhh, Youth, where have you gone?

What prompted this reflection on aging, you may ask?

I stopped by my daughter's classroom today and one of her classmates asked me, "Are you Faith's grandma?"

I feel so violated.

I will never feel young again.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Can I Please Hibernate?

It's that time of year. Squirrels are stuffing their cheeks full of nuts to bring back to their nests. Bear are busy growing fat layers to keep them warm. And people - stupid people - decide to continue being productive, some even more so now that the vacation season is over. Instead of giving in to our natural instinct to hibernate, we ignore it. I'm telling you, if ever a company decides to give their employees time off for hibernation, I will be the first to take the job.

It's happening to me. I'm getting more tired as the sunlight goes away. I want to stay asleep in my nice warm bed, tucked inside my cozy cave of a bedroom. I want to wake up periodically only to eat and then go back to my nice warm nest. And I want to eat. I want to eat all the time. I'm tellin' ya - it's the hibernation instinct that has sabotaged any weight loss effort.

My hearty thanks to the brilliant woman out there who originally wrote this beautiful piece of prose. If I ever find out who you are, I will think of something really cool to do to thank you, but I can't think of anything right now because I'm too tired. I'm sure many of you have read this, but it resonates with everything I'm feeling right now:

In this life, I’m a woman. In my next life, I’d like to come back as a bear. When you’re a bear, you get to hibernate. You do nothing but sleep for six months. I could deal with that. Before you hibernate, you’re supposed to eat yourself stupid. I could deal with that too. When you’re a girl bear, you birth your children (who are the size of walnuts) while you’re sleeping and wake to partially grown, cute, cuddly cubs. I could definitely deal with that. If you’re mama bear, everyone knows you mean business. You swat anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them too. I could deal with that. If you’re a bear, your mate EXPECTS you to wake up growling. He EXPECTS that you will have hairy legs and excess body fat. Yup, gonna be a bear!