I’ve made a few…

Mistakes, that is. Some bad ones… some not so bad. Either way, my first reaction is to beat myself up, horribly.

This drives me crazy about myself, and it just plain drives me crazy. I know what I should do: I should treat mistakes as learning experiences, as training, as steps on the path of life. I know that babies fall over and over when they are learning to walk, but they don’t beat themselves up about it – no! They just get up again and keep on walking, until soon they are running and dancing for joy.

I know all those things. Yet, when I try to be funny in an email to people I don’t know very well and it seems as though I may have been carelessly thoughtless and hurt someone’s feelings, I feel terrible. And though I apologize immediately, and resolve never to do such a dumb thing again, I am sure that I will… and I may beat myself up yet again.

Perhaps each of these times of beating myself up is a little falling-down of its own, and each time it happens, I’ll get incrementally more adept at life.

Perhaps not.

I’ll keep making mistakes, though. Just watch me.

40 days, 40 spaces

A very happy Ash Wednesday to you all!

That might seem a bit contradictory. Ash Wednesday, after all, is a day of repentance, a day to remember that “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The general vibe is not one of good cheer.

But I am hopeful. I am going into Lent with a feeling of anticipation, not deprivation. I am excited about getting a chance to reboot myself, to look deeply into my life and see where I stand with God, with myself, and with my neighbor.

Father Michael at our parish mentioned tonight that Lent is “an inside job,” a chance to do some of the interior work that we usually try to distract ourselves from doing. (I am certainly a master at distracting myself!)

I want to be less distracted from what is really important to me. It’s time to break out the three tools of Lent:

  • Prayer – to really listen to what God is trying to tell me about life and how to live it;
  • Fasting – to break free from those distractions by giving them a rest for a while and trying out some new, healthier habits; and
  • Almsgiving – to look at the ways that I treat myself to luxuries while those around me are going without necessities, and to try to share some of my abundance with others.

The 40 spaces I mention in the title? I am going to follow along with the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge, in my own little way. I’m going to try to completely clear a space in my home each day and keep it clear for all of Lent. We shall see how I do! For today, I have cleared off the bench in my entry hall. It looks beautiful in its emptiness.

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Hudson Taylor tonight – live!

I am pleased to announce that I get to see Hudson Taylor tonight! Live. In person. And I didn’t even have to go to Dublin to do it.

Yes, Hudson Taylor, the Irish band whose praises I have been singing ever since Quinland introduced me to them.

No, I’m not some creepy middle-aged woman with a crush on young boys; I know very well that I am probably their mother’s age! I simply admire them for their lovely music, their charming personalities, and their dedication to communicating with their fans. As everyone knows, I have been a music-obsessed fangirl since my days in college radio (or possibly before, as anyone who remembers my Duran Duran phase will attest). When I fall for a band, I fall hard, and these boys deserve any admiration they get. They are talented and hard-working and have written some excellent songs… and they are only 19 and 21. (Alfie may be 20 by now, I suppose – I don’t know them that well.)

They are here in Los Angeles working on their first album, and I snatched up tickets as soon as I heard they were coming. I’d been planning to go see my sister this month anyway, so it was perfect timing. My friend Robin and I will be driving up to LA tonight to see the show, and I’m almost as excited about that! We were partners in crime back in high school, and a trip to Hollywood and a concert with her will be just like reliving our youth.

So – listen to Hudson Taylor! Go to YouTube and watch all their fantastic videos, and see why they are referred to as a young Simon and Garfunkel.

Until then, check out their new video for their single “Weapons.”

dogs and drums and drugs

Back in the fall of 2012, we got two cats. That same week, Quinland broke her leg. It was a pretty hectic transition into pet ownership.

Two weekends ago, we got a dog. The same day, I had to take my pulse steroids (a massive monthly dose of prednisone); the next day, Quinland got a drum kit. Yep, it was another hectic transition.

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  • The dog – His full name is Sherlock Bones. We are calling him Bones; well, I am actually calling him Bonesy most of the time. We got him at a wonderful place called Family Dogs New Life Shelter here in Portland. He is a ball of energy, just out of puppyhood. We have had to learn, quickly, to be assertive and teach him his place in the family.
  • The drums – Quinland asked for a drum kit for her birthday; David told her no. He really didn’t think he could handle the noise. But when our friend Eric offered us the drum kit he’d been storing in his attic, we decided to rethink it… and one of Q’s Christmas “presents” was our telling her that she could have drums and would be getting them soon. Needless to say, she was (and is!) absolutely thrilled.
  • The drugs – I don’t know what is up with that prednisone. I have always maintained that each monthly dose is a crapshoot – I never know if I will be wired or exhausted, jittery or disoriented. This month, I was unbelievably dizzy. It was similar to feeling drunk, where you move your head and – even after you stop – it feels like it is still moving. Ugh. It kept it up for days, too. I was still getting these dizzy spells a week later.

I have to keep reminding myself that if we had waited for the perfect time to get a dog, we’d still be waiting. There is no perfect time to do anything. No matter how you try to time it, any change is going to disrupt your life, and life itself will probably throw an additional monkey wrench or two into the works. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” We’ve made the changes, and now we can move forward and enjoy the excitement they will bring to our lives.

99 things – #36 through #40

I found a list of 99 things, and I will be bolding the ones I’ve done and explaining a bit about each. Because I have a tendency to yammer on, I am doing 5 of the 99 at a time. (Again, if anyone reading was involved in any of these, feel free to add facts or correct my memory… and I’ll keep looking for photos.)

  • #1 through #5 are here.
  • #6 through #10 are here.
  • #11 through #15 are here.
  • #16 through #20 are here.
  • #21 through #25 are here.
  • #26 through #30 are here.
  • #31 through #35 are here.

36. Taught yourself a new language – Hmmm. Pig Latin, maybe? Otherwise, my modest language skills have been taught to me in various ways: classes (Spanish, Latin, German), people I know (David: German), strangers in the corner shop or on the street (a few words of Irish, a few words of Croatian). (I’m not going to count “looking things up in travel dictionaries as needed” to be the same as “teaching myself a new language.”)

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied – I am truly satisfied right now. I know there are loads of people who have more than we have, but there are far more people who have less. Of course, there’s always the odd thing I want and don’t have, but I’d be a fool not to be satisfied with how well we live.

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person – No! It’s crazy that we have been to Europe so many times and have barely put a dent into my Italian travel desires.

39. Gone rock climbing – Well, once when Portland Parks and Recreation had a temporary climbing tower at Fulton Park, Quinland and I climbed it. Thanks to my lack of muscle strength, I didn’t get very far.  I’m going to call this a “no.”

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David – Yes, when I went to Florence in 1991 with David and our friends Linda and Jim. (We also went to Venice, but that was the extent of our Italian travel on that trip.)

Score: 18 out of 40.

happy new year! a resolution revolution


Happy New Year

It’s the start of a new year, the perfect time for making changes.

I hereby resolve that this is the year I don’t make resolutions, the year I don’t try to improve, the year I don’t change myself.

Does this mean I am declaring 2014 “The Year of Stagnation”? Not at all. I am going to let 2014 be “The Year We See How Everything Turns Out,” and then… well, we will see how everything turns out.

You see, I have already failed at making 2014 a year of improvement, a year of change, a year of resolutions.  In no particular order, here are a few of my failures thus far:

  • A better work-life balance? I went in to the office on New Year’s Day and did six hours of work on a holiday… and then had to go back in today to cut some checks I forgot to write yesterday.
  • Never being late again? Overslept for an appointment just this morning… which was a make-up for the appointment I forgot I had last Friday.
  • Exercising every day? Not unless you count walking to the bus stop after work last night or running up a hill to try to make that appointment today.
  • The whole paleo eating plan? That went out with the baguette I shared yesterday, the peanut butter cup I had today, and the complete lack of veggies I’ve eaten.
  • Daily blogging? I got on the computer at 11:30 last night, determined to write a post before midnight, and got distracted by Hudson Taylor videos until 12:03 am. Who knows when I will get this post done!
  • Being a better friend? Well, I’ve neglected to check my voicemail though I have 4 new messages, and I have been confronted with a mountain of still-not-wrapped, still-not-delivered Christmas presents to deal with. (I haven’t finished writing my Christmas letter, either.)

As far as my resolution of improving my attitude… sigh. After my auspicious start, I was stomping around the house this afternoon, cursing myself for being a complete idiot (and worse).

David finally got fed up with me being so negative, and said, “Knock it off. You are better than this.” (I did not reply. He said, “Are you mad?” I said no. “Do you wish I would shut up?” I said no. “Are you sure?” I said no.)

I am better than this. In fact, I am pretty darn good. What is not good is setting myself up for failure with these all-or-nothing pronouncements and then beating myself up for not meeting them.

So I’m not going to have resolutions this year. Instead, I am going to focus on doing the next thing, the next task on my plate, and giving that task my full attention.

Let’s see how everything turns out.

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plugging away

I’ve had a hard-working week, so sleep has been more of a priority than blogging around here. I’m working hard to pull myself out of a slump; I’d been feeling down and getting down on myself for not picking up all the pieces of my life. The last couple of days have been better. Some things that have perked me up a little bit:

  • My lovely family – I woke up Saturday morning upset from a dream where people were parading through my home with phone messages of all the things I had done wrong or neglected to do. Q came to invite me down for french toast breakfast and ended up comforting me. She’s such a good girl. Besides being his usual affectionate self, David has been patient with my dumping out bags of papers all over the house to get things onto…
  • A master list – I’ve been trying to jot down everything I need to do as I think of it (or as I come across a pertinent piece of paper). It’s an old Getting Things Done trick that works well (when I use it).
  • A Darcy story – I read a story where Colonel Fitzwilliam had been wounded in the Napoleonic wars and was drowning himself in drink. His doctor gave him the following advice: “Sometimes I pray.” This has sparked all kinds of reflection, and, of course…
  • Prayer – I read something this week along the lines of, “Don’t just take your troubles to the Lord. Leave them with Him.” Ah, yes. I have been toting my troubles around with me everywhere, taking them out and examining them and mourning over my uselessness. It goes right along with thinking too much about myself; I need to let it go and let it STAY gone.

I have a postcard with this quote on it: “Courage is simply the willingness to be afraid and act anyway.” I’ve gotten the first part of that – the fear – down pat; now I’m trying to live up to the second part. Wish me luck!

runners? hi!

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Such a fun night tonight! I got to go to Deb’s house for a craft night and meet the women from her running group. I was impressed by two things:

One, those girls were so warm and friendly to me, though only one had met me before (and hadn’t seen me in eight years or so) and though I am a complete and utter non-runner. Just a lovely group of women!

Two – and this will surprise no one – Deb is a crafting wizard. We made so many cute things! There were crafts stations for sewing a Christmas bunting and for making holiday signs, magnets, candles, and three kinds of Christmas trees. My favorites were the distressed-wood signs (mine says “Joy to the world”) and these adorable curled-paper Christmas trees. I spent ages getting mine just how I wanted it… and actually achieved that outlandish goal! Martha Stewart Deb had gone above and beyond the call of duty, planning the crafts, getting all the supplies prepped, and teaching all of us how to do each one.

All around, it was an excellent night out. Once again, I am promising you photos, but I swear I will get some and put them up. These things were just too cute to miss. (Edited to add: Here’s a photo from Deb! The little trees and the “Joy to the World” sign are mine. Love them!)

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Thanks a million, Deb! (As my Hudson Taylor boys said on Facebook tonight, Go raibh míle maith agaibh!) xo

it’s not me, it’s you

C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” How good are you at placing others before yourself?

Oh, humility…. I have had you backwards all these years.

I have spent my lifetime thinking about all the ways in which I don’t measure up. I’m also aware of the ways I measure up just fine, but I dwell on and obsess about the ways in which I don’t. Not only does this negatively impact my regard for myself, it negatively impacts my relationships with others. A few examples: not having people over because my house is not clean enough; not going out with people because I have too many things I’m behind on; spending my time on “I’m-not-good-enough” instead of “you-and-I-are-awesome-and-we-should-hang-out.”

It’s a good wake-up call for me. I need to take time for others and not think so much about myself, even if that self-centeredness is focused on how I can be a better person, as opposed to how great a person I already am. If I just forgot about myself and spent the same amount of time thinking of others, I’d have a chance to make a much more positive impact on the world.

Fred and ginger

I just finished dyeing Quinland’s hair red.

You see, it’s Spirit Week at the high school, and they are doing a Hogwarts theme:

  • Monday – Wizard Attire
  • Tuesday – Dress like a Death Eater (wear all black)
  • Wednesday – Weasley Twin Day
  • Thursday – Mrs. Weasley Sweater Day (aka ugly holiday sweaters)
  • Friday – House Colors (each grade is one of the Hogwarts Houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff)

Q decided she was going to be Fred Weasley for the week, and we discussed how she could look the most Weasley-like. One obvious quality was missing: all Weasley’s are redheads, so pulling off the ginger look was going to be paramount. After quickly polling her cohorts on Facetime or Snapchat or whatever the heck they use now, it was decided by all that she should definitely dye her hair.

I have never dyed hair; I once helped someone touch up their roots, but it was nothing like this. The directions were scary! Apparently the hair dye a) can cause horrible skin reaction and anaphylactic shock; and b) can explode if left in the container. (Let’s add “smells really bad,” though that wasn’t in the literature.)

As we finished up and we were rinsing out the dye, Quinland was asking me over and over, “How does it look? How red is it? What does it look like?” but honestly, it looked exactly the same to me. Dark blond hair and “Reddish Blonde” hair look exactly alike when they are wet, so we traipsed upstairs to blow dry it. Let me assure you, it is red. Not the flaming orange color of Fred and George Weasley’s hair, but a very definite red. Strangely, it is darker around the edges. Perhaps Q’s hair is darker there, too, but I just don’t notice it. I must say, I was very impressed with how it looks. It doesn’t have that flat, obviously-dyed look, which one might have expected from a six-dollar box of Miss Clairol.

Oh, speaking of Miss Clairol – did I mention that the dye is permanent? Yep. Quinland was actually more worried about that than I was; I figure her hair is so short that she’ll be cutting all the red off in no time. It’s so cute, though, and looks so natural, that I wouldn’t be surprised if she keeps it for a while.

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