Friday as Monday

I’m completely discombobulated today. It’s Friday, but it feels like a Monday. I can’t get my head around the fact that it’s already the weekend. I took the whole week off from work, except I had to go to a meeting this morning. It seemed pointless to just take half a day off, so I came into the office for the afternoon to catch up on things that I knew were piling up. I’m only half-heartedly here, though. I keep thinking about my family having fun without me. Fridays are no fun at all when they are also your Monday! It’s been a pretty unproductive afternoon of addressing a backlog of e-mail. I HATE days at work where I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything useful. Argh, I am so restless today! I have absolutely nothing important to say at the moment, so why am I even blogging?

This is the Writer’s Digest writing prompt from last week. I couldn’t make time to get around to it until now.

Writing Prompt for 6/14/05:

Write about the most interesting person you’ve talked with today.

My Response:

Since I took the week off for some much needed family time, I would have to say that the most interesting people I have talked to recently are two ankle-biters named Maia and Noah. It’s fascinating what you can learn from your kids when you really stop to listen. 10 random things I have learned from them this week:

  1. 161 tickets at Chuck E. Cheese is a LOT.
  2. It is really stylish for mother and daughter to have matching pink flip flops.
  3. The whitecaps on the waves at the beach look just like bubble bath.
  4. People in South America are just like those in East America. (Clearly we need to work on the geography a little.)
  5. In the cafeteria at Maia’s school, they have “tight-lipped Tuesdays” (no talking) and “whispering Wednesdays” (whispering only allowed). How did a whole year of school go by with me not knowing that?
  6. Rufus, the naked mole rat on Kim Possible, isn’t real because he can’t be both a mole and a rat. (But through omission, apparently he can be naked??)
  7. Hilary Duff is better than Kelly Clarkson.
  8. It is really fun to say “boo-yah!” over and over and over for no apparent reason.
  9. It would be way bad to lose a tooth in the “cheese pit” at gymnastics camp. (The cheese pit gets mentioned a lot—I don’t get it, but it’s probably better that way. I’m not sure I want to know).
  10. I am pretty. (Okay, so I hear this one from Maia a lot—what mom wouldn’t melt?)

I read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult on a recommendation, now that I have finally been able to (a) get my hands on it at the library, and (b) make time for some dedicated reading. What a great recommendation it was! I couldn’t put it down.

It is the story of Anna Fitzgerald, a girl who was “genetically engineered” to be a bone marrow match for her sister, who has been diagnosed with leukemia. Anna has essentially spent her life being subjected to numerous medical procedures, some painful, aimed at keeping her sister alive. Now, it is her kidney that is needed. Anna, tired of being a medical guinea pig and wanting an identity apart from her sister, finally proclaims that she wants her body back and sues her parents for medical emancipation. It poses a thorny medical and ethical dilemma. Can a 13-year-old be forced to donate a kidney against her will? Is what is right for one sister in the best interest of the other? Are the parents so focused on the medical needs of one daughter that they have lost sight of their other children along the way? Is this even what Anna really wants? These are complicated questions that have no clear right answer. I was riveted, and kept changing my opinion as I read. The story alternates between the varying points of view of all characters, and through this narrative treatment Picoult sensitively conveys all sides of a complex issue. No one is exactly right, and no one is exactly wrong.

I have read in other reviews that some people feel it challenged credibility that the mother would choose to represent herself in the case after not having practiced law for years. This didn’t bother me, since I happen to subscribe to the “if you want something done right do it yourself” school of thought. A couple of things did strike me as peculiar, though. First, Anna seemed too precocious for a 13-year-old. Her “voice” as written by Picoult often seemed indistinguishable from the adults. Then again, it’s been a long time since I was 13, so what do I know? And I suppose she wouldn’t have filed her lawsuit in the first place had she not been precocious. Second, there was a romance between the lawyer and guardian ad litem that felt a little out of place. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good romance. In this case however, I couldn’t see the reason for it. It added nothing to the resolution of the story.

I won’t spoil the ending other than to say that I wished for it to end differently than it did. At the very least, I would have liked more narrative from the other characters about their reactions to the final events. The conclusion seemed so…abrupt.

I had never read anything from Jodi Picoult before, but I really enjoyed her story and found her writing style to be easily digestible. It wasn’t quite a tearjerker for me, but I was engrossed and I’ll absolutely be looking for more from her.

Monsoon season already?

I KNEW it was bad luck to sign a contract for our new roof (thanks to last summer’s hurricanes) on the first day of the new hurricane season. We’ve had nothing but problems since then. Our fashionable blue tarp, which has been quietly doing its protective duty for the last 10 months, began to fail almost immediately—as evidenced by the portion of ceiling in our garage that is about to cave in. The mission of failure concluded today in grand fashion. I arrived home after work to find that the tarp now exists in shreds all over our front yard, thanks to a monsoon of a thunderstorm. Did you know that shredded tarp looks like Easter grass? I am now the possessor of this fascinating bit of firsthand knowledge. Despite this, it could have been worse. I had to take an alternate route home, because my street was blocked by the fire trucks that were tending to a house that caught fire after being struck by lightning. And further blocked by the news crews that were filming it. I actually felt fortunate that all I found was shredded tarp and a slightly flooded garage. The new roof can’t get here soon enough.

So there’s my bit of excitement for the day.

News alert! I am taking a break from my regular blogging to present this vital piece of information. I have scientifically determined that 20 pounds is the amount of weight one must lose before others begin noticing. How did I discover this startling statistic, you ask? Through rigorous observational research. 1-19 pounds, not a soul mentioned it. 20 pounds, and people all over the place started asking if I have been slimming down, including three today alone. That’s all the motivation I need to stick with it to reach my goal. Um, yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about myself right now. I can’t help it, vanity rules!

Since I’m sure you all must be dying to know how I achieved this amazing and dramatic transformation, I’ll share my secret. I have been slowly but surely plodding along with my New Year’s resolution to eat less and move more. It’s simple math—burn more calories than I consume. And hey, I didn’t need a diet and exercise guru for that!

I do miss my beloved (but evil, evil, evil) Quarter Pounders, though. Or ketchup burgers, as they are known to those who have seen me eat one.

Now that I have started inviting people to visit this blog, I should give credit where it’s due because I did not come up with the idea on my own. I won’t mention names without permission, but you know who you are. Thanks to the person whose correspondence inspired me to write more (and who is probably very grateful that I have found an alternate venue for some of that writing), and also to the person whose idea I stole about doing it in a blog.

I have rediscovered a very strong desire to write, frequently, about anything. I think better when I write. I have said before that my brain connects better with my fingers than with my mouth, and it’s true. I love throwing a bunch of words on the screen and then having the luxury of time to shape them in a well-constructed, thoughtful way.

Part of my objective with this blog is to hone my writing style. I’m never satisfied, and as such, welcome any and all constructive feedback and critiques.

Me, tough?

If you know me well, take a minute to have your hearty laugh at the thought of me being ferociously tough. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Unless, of course, you happen to be my husband, who knows very well that I can be quite stubborn when I put my mind to it, often and without warning. I’m a good wife. Really. No, I mean it. Wanting to get my way all the time isn’t necessarily bad wifely behavior, is it? Is it? But I digress.

If you are not my husband, now that you’ve recovered from your laughing fit I will tell you why I am writing this post. I recently sent a stern “get tough” e-mail to a friend, half serious and half in jest, prodding some action on a matter of relatively minor importance in the grand scheme of things. I have to laugh at myself for this tactic—which was a rousing failure and not likely to be repeated—because had I tried to take on this attitude in person rather than via e-mail, I could never have done it with a straight face. However, it reminded me of a funny story about a time when I was successfully tough with a total stranger. It’s true. My sister witnessed it and thought me trying to be “tough” was one of the funniest things she ever saw.

Imagine if you will, a mother cheerfully embarking to set up for her daughter’s 2nd birthday party at the local park. Further imagine the threat of rain, and you will understand the natural desire to hold said party under the cover of a pavilion. A large pavilion. Easily home to 10 or 12 long picnic tables. Now suppose for a moment there are two solitary people with lawn chairs and a cooler staked out in this pavilion, attempting to reserve it for a reunion to take place later in the day. They try to turn me away. I am NOT happy. I, former Most Shy, very resolutely point out the error of their ways. I only need two tables. They can have the rest. They don’t even have anyone there yet! Are they really so heartless as to disappoint a two-year-old? They push back, but I steadfastly stand my ground and, surprise of surprises, I win! To make peace (see, I’m nice that way) I offer them birthday cake, which they refuse, but that’s okay. We go on to enjoy a fabulous rain-free party with a special appearance by Blue (a clue! a clue!), the other group never uses more than 3 or 4 of the remaining tables, and I feel good that I have paved the way for another birthday party that sets up as we are leaving.

Moral of the story: Don’t mess with me when it comes to my kids! Unless you are my husband, in which case, don’t mess with me at all. It’s just safer that way!

(For Kent’s eyes only: I’m just kidding about that last part, it’s only for comic effect, I swear!! XOXO)

Here’s another writing prompt that I wanted to tackle from the Writer’s Digest archives. Duh, of course I’m going for the easy ones first.

Writing Prompt:

You’re stranded in a library or bookstore for 24 hours. In what section do you spend the most time? Why?

My Response:

First of all, I could easily spend half a day or more (and way too much money) in a bookstore. It’s my idea of a good date with Kent! We’ve done it before and will certainly do it again. This is why I’m a frequent user of my local library. It’s the only way I can afford to support my habit.

Which section do I spend the most time in? I don’t think it’s possible to limit myself to just one. On a good day I’ll hit almost every section, just to browse. I’m a wanderer who will read anything that captures my attention. I’ll always browse fiction and classic literature, and I may hit some history or biography/memoirs, business, travel, classic children’s books, and audio books. I’ve even been known to check out the cooking and arts/crafts/hobbies sections, though I don’t do much of either. But I’m always looking for that one great book that will inspire me to try something new. And with 24 hours, I may even investigate some science fiction, which normally wouldn’t make my list.

The section that I’m probably least likely to be found in is the self-help section. Not that there isn’t room for improvement, but there’s a lot of unsubstantiated “feel good” garbage on the market. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not against self-help because there are some excellent and necessary titles out there. But without a solid recommendation from a trusted source, I mostly just steer clear. My free time is valuable, and when I spend it reading I want to either be entertained or educated. With this genre in particular, it’s hard to cut through the drivel to find the gems. Besides, I manage to blunder along fairly well without the intervention of the latest diet and exercise, or relationship, or self-esteem guru du jour.

Okay, that wasn’t supposed to be a soapbox stance on self-help, so I’ll stop here before I get off on a tangent about where I think self-help really begins.

Writing about this topic reminds me of my favorite Twilight Zone episode, “Time Enough at Last.” You know, the one with Burgess Meredith as the only survivor of a nuclear holocaust who finally has all the time in the world to read, only to break his glasses. Oh, the cruel and excruciating irony!

I’ll probably do lots of book reviews here, since I’m a huge reader. The Servant Leader by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges happens to be my most recent read. I attended Ken Blanchard’s Faith at Work session earlier this week at the ASTD conference because it was relevant to a custom training program we are currently developing for a client, but ended up picking up this book for my own personal enrichment. It’s a great resource for anyone in a leadership position, about Jesus as a leadership role model. It’s also a very short and easy read.

My overall impression is that I liked the book very much because it made me think, a lot, about things that are important to me and I plan to read it again, this time taking notes. I discovered that I am on the right track with some things, and with others, not so much.

The book itself is divided into four major sections:

  • Heart—developing a servant heart
  • Head—understanding your role as a servant leader
  • Hands—applying servant leadership behaviors
  • Habits—incorporating daily habits practiced by Jesus to stay focused on vision and values

I found the first and last sections to be the most personally meaningful, and I really devoured them. I’m not here to preach, so you’ll have to read the book if you are interested (or ask me questions directly, which I’m happy to answer). However I will say that in these two sections especially, many of the concepts presented transcend leadership and are universally applicable. What this tells me is that I needed this book more as a personal reminder about my connection to God, and Jesus, and how to live my life, and less as a tool for altering my current leadership behaviors—although that will happen, too.

I do have a quibble, however. It’s a small quibble, because the content is excellent and I otherwise found the book so valuable, but I have to mention it. There is a section in the book that, to me, reads just a little like a commercial for Ken Blanchard’s earlier work in Situational Leadership. Blanchard describes Situational Leadership as “a practical framework for describing and applying the servant leadership principles that Jesus modeled.” However, it’s really just a standard leadership model (albeit a very good and well-recognized one) that, if I interpret the chronology correctly, was developed by the author before and independently of any deep recognition of Jesus in his life. It works, but it somehow felt like a retrofit. This was definitely the “business” part of the book supported by some scripture rather than the “inspirational” part.

Despite the quibble, I’d recommend this book. The concepts are timeless, and even if stripped of the Christian message and scriptural support, I believe the book carries sound principles for anyone to live and lead by. Four stars (out of five) for making me think.

Noah is two, and he’s not terrible at all. Playing with him tonight inspired me to write this post. I LOVE this age. At two, children can communicate with you, and they have developed little personalities that I can only marvel at. I suppose I’m fortunate that Noah has such a sunny attitude. He’s always happy, hardly ever cranky. Tantrums are rare, and often faked. I’m easily amused when he throws himself in the floor and squeaks out a fake cry or two until he realizes it’s not getting him any attention. I know not all parents are so lucky. My mother tells me it’s because we’re doing something right, but we are just muddling through parenthood, the same as most people.

I also love seeing the displays of independent thinking at this age. I have a very favorite story about Maia at two, related to the emergence of her analytical thinking. It was the first time I ever had a conversation with her where I felt like I could actually see the wheels spinning in her brain as she tried to figure out how to pull one over on me. Instead of crying when I said no, she was really analyzing the situation and changing her strategy accordingly. It made such an impression on me that I still remember the conversation almost verbatim. She was trying to convince me to let her wear a favorite t-shirt to school, and the conversation went something like this:

Maia: I wear this.

Me: No, you can’t wear that, you slept in it.

(We go back and forth on this a few times before she decides to try a different approach.)

Maia: Daddy said I wear this.

Me: Oh, he did, did he?

Maia: Yeah.

Me: I don’t think Daddy said you could wear that after you slept in it.

(Now she changes her tactic again.)

Maia: I put it in my cubby hole.

(They have cubbies at school for extra clothes, clean underwear, etc. Now it doesn’t matter if she wears it or not as long as she gets it to school. Probably planning to get her teacher to let her wear it as soon as I’m gone. Smart, but no dice.)

Me: No, you’ve slept in it every night for a week, it’s dirty.

Maia: I clean it.

(She then proceeds to wet her finger on her tongue and rub it all over her shirt to “clean” it the same way I do to wipe smudges off her face — the famous Mommy spit bath. By this time I’m laughing hysterically. I can’t help it, I can see she’s trying really hard to convince me to let her take this shirt to school.)

Maia: It’s clean now, Mommy.

Me: No it isn’t, you need to put it in your hamper with your other dirty clothes.

(Then, a last ditch effort.)

Maia: Daddy said I put it in my cubby hole.

(I don’t really like this Daddy thing, it’s the first time she’s tried to pit one against the other, but I let it slide because I’m thankful she’s not crying or having a temper tantrum. I finally convince her to leave the shirt at home and she can sleep in it again that night. All is well.)

So there you have it, a true account of Maia’s creative thinking skills at the age of two. She was one smart cookie but at least in this case, Mommy stayed just a little smarter.

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