Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sales Assistant-NOT!

Bon Soir, gentle readers-

Today is the first day of my biannual garage sale...and we are appropriately tired, but our cashbox is noticeably heavier.

I have several "unique" observations about this whole endeavor, but those will have to wait until the energy meter needle is not in the 'red zone.'

Tonight, I will limit myself to Today's Hard-Won Life Lesson:

* Think a few hundred times before allowing any strong-willed offspring to "assist" [and I use the term VERY loosely] at any effort aimed at earning the CHC* (cold hard cash).

Whatever could I mean?

Well, despite "pre-activity encouragement" about proper "sales floor" behavior, the following are a few slice-of-life snippets...freshly baked today-a.k.a. Little Miss Caesar, raw and uncut, all in an embarrassingly too-loud voice:

* "Mommy, look, I think that lady must be a grandma--at LEAST a grandma!"

* "Well, why aren't they even buying anything?!?!" [my restraining hand was extended in the nick of time to halt her pursuit...]

* "Look! Here comes that one lady again-I hope she has her money."

* "Hey! That lady is buying everything--she's selling us out!!! Why is she doing that? That Littlest Pet Shop was supposed to be MINE!"

Well, you get the is never dull. And, even in the moment, I realize these little quotable quotes will be humorous as soon as the real-time embarrassment has dimmed. Thankfully, some of the older patrons today seemed a bit hard of hearing.

However, that was of no comfort when I turned to see Miss Cee merrily zipping around the garage, piling sale items into a toy shopping cart...and strolling away.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What the Numbers Tell...

Although it's questionable to assert that I have much of a "left brain," [or at least that it is fully developed], I do understand the usefulness, precision, and economy of numerical data.

"It is what it is," is nowhere more applicable than in the world of measurement and calculation. As with any other data, numbers provide information; they efficiently express quantity, results, implications, and the like. When they refer to some part of human experience, they tell a tale...good, bad, indifferent...

But my number story today has to do with our son, Ben. Those of you who followed our family's odyssey this past winter on Ben's [BenHollidayRunner] know that for several weeks, the numbers that resulted from all manner of medical tests on Ben told a scary and (thankfully) unanticipated tale. There were numbers that revealed his body was being assaulted by a powerful bacterial infection (MSSA); numbers that told us his blood chemistry was dangerously abnormal; numbers that revealed his kidneys had shut down, and that his lungs could not properly oxygenate his blood due to bilateral pneumonia. Numbers that specified medication dosing; how much longer What needed to be infused When....and how many staples closed up the third knee surgery. There's more, but I am repressing most of that...(a tried-and-true, if not exactly optimal coping mechanism).

Last, and perhaps least welcome, because of it's long-range implications, was the number that told us Ben's blood glucose was far, far above normal...necessitating a second hospital admission this past January and the introduction to the "Uninvited Guest," diabetes mellitus 1 [DM1].

All of the foregoing did little (well, nothing!) to endear the realm of numbers to Your Faithful Correspondent. But, as with many stories, numbers can detail not only the onset of a crisis, but also its prayed-for resolution. The number of chapters in the story, and whether there is an epilogue or a Volume II, etc., are determined only by living through it all, day by day, and sometimes, hour by hour. [No "Cliff Notes," no turning to the back of the book.]

This status report focuses on some happier--in fact--conventionally inexplicable Ben Numbers.

When Ben was diagnosed with DM1 during the first week of January, it was the result of a home health visit that included some routine blood work; one of the blood levels numbers was not routine...a glucose reading of 590, almost 6x what was anticipated. When Ben was discharged from the hospital the second time, as a newly diagnosed diabetic freshly introduced to glucometers, lancets, and insulin pens, he was injecting somewhere between 30 and 40 units of Lantus insulin nightly, as well as day-time Humalog insulin to "cover" the carbs he ate for meals and snacks.

Since diagnosing Ben, his doctor has managed the diabetes by means of a 'sliding scale' to calculate the number of insulin units needed, based on his gluco-check numbers (rather than counting carbohydrates, etc.). To our surprise and delight, Ben has not required any Humalog injections since Feb. 1st. His daytime gluco-checks have stayed consistently within the normal range.

And as time goes by, his nighttime Lantus requirements have also diminished consistently. Now, six months on, Ben has been administering 3 to 4 units of insulin at bedtime. This does not count the occasional times when the insulin pen didn't make it out of the case at all. [A troublesome tangent intersects our story line here, having to do with 'memory failure' and some snippets of deliberate patient non-compliance, but that is a tale for another time.]

Selected data from the past several days' Number Storyline has continued to show a downward trend:

20 July Blood Glucose (BG): 79 Units Insulin: 5

21 July BG: 122 Units: 4

23 July BG: 92 Units: 3

25 July BG: 118 Units: 0

26 July BG: 103 Units: 2

For us, this number story is beguilingly happy. We don't understand it, but we're grateful for it. Perhaps the most-asked, and often frustratingly unanswerable question in life, as well as in medicine, is "Why?

I learn repeatedly that this is often not a question to "camp on." Acknowledgement, Acceptance, and Moving On will keep one busy enough.

And, I've noticed, that I don't mind not knowing Why nearly so much when the context is positive rather than negative...the old chestnut about 'not looking a gift horse in the mouth' comes to mind.

On the frosty January afternoon when the endocrinologist patiently and compassionately explained this new dimension of life to the three of us, we asked if this would be a lifelong condition. Asking anyone to project into the future steps past literal human ability, and the doctor freely acknowledged this; we were trying to regain our emotional bearings. But the real answers are the province of God.

"I can dream," the doctor smiled. "But for now, I must look at the numbers we have before us."

At Ben's regularly scheduled check-ups, the glucometer readings have been a source of interest and information, but not blatant consternation. What will tomorrow's gluco-checks tell? We'll know when we get there.

In the meantime, a dear friend mentioned some weeks ago that her husband, a logical, objective, and kind-hearted soul, saw no reason not to pray for Ben's diabetes to be completely healed, and so has been praying to that end for some time now. Whether you connect any dots between this work of prayer and the digital data Ben obtains depends on whether you choose to look through the lens of faith.

I choose to...and I also do my best to remember Who I'm talking to when I pray. Maintaining that focus helps keep me from assuming or demanding or whining. The 'story of the numbers' seems to reveal what He thinks about it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Junior Mints: A Cautionary Tale

We live in a dangerous world.

Sticky dilemmas lurk where one would least expect. Never mind the ceaseless tidings of ill that issue from every broadcast outlet, internet link, or newstand. We have now reached an unprecedented state of affairs in which the previously innocuous cannot be presumed to be safe.

Not that I am seeking to incite mass paranoia...but ratcheting up the personal radar may not be a bad thing. Especially if personal dignity is of any value to you...

To wit:

Yesterday afternoon, we were invited to join some friends to take in a matinee at the local multiplex. [Sandra Bullock's new film, "The Proposal"--now on my Recommended List for light comedy]

Now, I am of the persuasion that it is advisable not to take life's treasures for granted...and I endeavor, from time to time, to assist my husband in this noble pursuit, as well. Presuming and assuming can quickly degrade into an ugly habit, and I try to head this off at the pass, so to speak, when it comes to mind.

Thus, after the occasional Certifiable Dinner Date (requirements: adults only, off-site venue, no fast food, no remote controls or media screens, wait staff, ...well, you get the idea), I do my best to offer verbal cues as the old minivan-chariot groans into the garage.

"Thank you for a lovely dinner. I think it might be alright for you to call me again," I intone.

Or, alternatively, should he be a step ahead, the exchange might go like this:

He: "May I call you again?"

Me: [Any of various appropriate responses, according to my lunar whim]: "That would be lovely;" "I'll think about it and let you know;" "I'm afraid my social calendar is chock-full for the foreseeable future, but don't lose heart;" "Shall we set it up now?", etc.

Admittedly, some might view such efforts as pathetic attempts to recapture long-gone memories of youthful courtship, or perhaps even psychotic breaks with reality. Afterall, anniversary #27 looms in four short months. However, I espouse (pun intended) a broad array of techniques to fan the flames of Continued Fascination and Humor for old married couples such as ourselves.

Hence, yesterday's stroll into the cinema lobby, redolant with the aroma of popcorn and Totally Synthetic Butter-Flavored Powder of a color Not Found in Nature, evoked memorable images of dates gone by. Times when I had only to ask, and the requested desire was soon in my hand. Hmmmm....

Me: "Do you remember when you used to get me a box of Junior Mints when we went to the know the big movie-size box that you can only get at the movie theater?"

He: "Yes...."

Me: [hopeful half-smile, raised eyebrows, eyes darting between his and the candy counter, only a few steps away...Subtle is my middle name.]

He: [Sigh!]
This stuff is SO overpriced...

The message is successfully transmitted and received; soon the familiar white, green and brown box is safely in my grasp as we settle into our seats. Try as I might to share the minty gems with my seatmates, it seemed everyone else is fully engaged with their popcorn. The entire Junior Mint stash is mine, all mine! [Note to self: Junior Mints at the grocery store or on dusty shelves at video rental outlets are invariably firm; overly firm; perhaps even...Old. While Junior Mints purchased from a harried teenage behind the counter at the multiplex are soft, fresh, delectable.]

However, on this occasion, even my appetite for the adorable minty nuggets was exceeded by the unshared supply.
Result: leftovers.
Quick mental assessment: bring the box in the house and prepare for the inevitable Offspring Assault and Sibling Skirmish. Or, just tuck the box back into the dashboard slot under the CD player.
No brainer!

But, as I'm increasing discovering as the years accumulate, things that once Seemed So Simple can acquire, almost overnight!, a new Dimension of Complication...

Fast forward to this morning: after literally weeks of coaxing, cajoling, threatening, and giving up, I found myself this morning actually driving Miss Cee to Summerama daycamp at church..."...just for one week! You may actually like it! And it will impossible for you to bicker and fight with your brother since he will be, like, three miles away!! What's not to like?!?!"

This, after four pre-dawn pleas for amnesty, the last one replete with quivering lip and an actual tear.

Genius stroke! "Cecily...would you like some Junior Mints for your lunch bag?!?!" [twinkle, twinkle]

In the rearview mirror, one small eyebrow arches. "You have Junior Mints HERE, Mommy?"

The box is displayed and rattled affirmatively. "Can I have more than one?"

SURE! Take as many as you want!! But, you can't eat them until lunchtime, which means you have to stay at camp until lunchtime, which you'll want to do, since you'll be having so much fun...and you won't believe how quickly the time goes....Junior Mints to the rescue!!

A short time later, we are inside, filling out insurance waiver cards, submitting a registration form and scholarship certificate (all those Awana memory sections added up to a nice perq!) and searching for a friendly little friend-face.

"But, Mommy, can you stay here?"
For how long?
"Until I tell you."

I take up my post leaning against the wall behind the huddled masses. A small, familiar face turns to verify my presence several times; a short time later, large blue eyes peer into mine.

"You can go home now, Mom....Mom, GO!"

I think this might be appropriate as an epitaph on my headstone...but, I digress.

Now, gentle readers, comes the Junior Mint Caveat:

In the brief time that I was inside the church, registering, reassuring, and being dismissed, the temperature in my parked car rose precipitously.

High heat + Junior Mints = A Sticky Situation

As I rumbled out of the parking lot, the solution was obvious: shake free the partially melted minty nuggets inside the box and pour them directly into my hot, dry mouth at the next red light.

It SOUNDED so easy....

Alas, any motorists near enough to peer inside my vehicle were treated to the following spectacle. The rectangular opening of the Junior Mints box did not remotely approximate the size or shape of my mouth. With one eye on the road and the other obstructed by a flap on the famous white, green, and brown box, I attempted to tap the semi-molten mass free from the cardboard interior.

Success eluded me. Undaunted, I fastened the top of the box shut, inverted it, and tried approaching the problem from the other end. Ah, that's the ticket! The ticket to a veritable avalanche of giddy, semi-melted Junior Mints cascading down the steering column and bouncing under the accelerator, while a few rogues wedged themselves in my lap.

Not only do Junior Mints have an inconveniently low melting point, but experience has shown me that they do not hesitate to stain clothing.

When next we see our hapless driver, she appears to be averting her glance and digging down between her legs to snatch up small chocolate disks and discard them into her mouth. But the more frantically she proceeds, the more quickly the pesky mints roll beneath her and into the upholstery! The car lurches forward as she simltaneously applies the brake and lifts herself from the seat in a vain attempt to avoid smushing another Junior Mint into the driver's seat! Sure hope no one recognizes me!! Gack!!

Not soon enough, I pull up into the driveway, turn off the ignition, and ring down the garage door-curtain on this sorry spectacle. No family members are in evidence as I slink into the house. This all COULD have been worse...

But, something seems to be stuck to my backside as I step up into the kitchen...something round, sticky, and minty...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Art of the Non-Answer

Anyone wishing for examples of how to avoid answering a direct question need look no further than today's chapter of the confirmation hearings for prospective Supreme Court Justice, Judge Sonia Sotomayer.

To patient, repeated, rephrased and varying questions posed by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Ms. Sotomayer patiently, deliberately and repeatedly explained that she was somehow unable to provide answers. The reasons stated seemed to show an unusual lack of imagination, in my humble opinion: "I cannot answer that question in the context you are asking it;" "Again, this is something I cannot answer in the abstract;" "I cannot answer that the way you are asking it because I would need to take into consideration the way individual state law interprets this...;"

Fortunately, the tone of the speakers did not degenerate, at least during the parts I watched.

Sen. Coburn: "I'm asking for your personal opinion."

Judge Sotomayor: " something...I cannot answer in the abstract...

Coburn: "Doctors think like doctors, judges think like judges, lawyers think like lawyers...but what American people want to see, is kind of what's inside, what your gut tells you..."

Sotomayor: "Let me address what you're saying in the context that I can."

And so on. The above exchanges pertained to the so-called "hot button issues" of abortion and gun ownership.

One question posed was whether the continual advances in biomedical technology should have any bearing on decisions involving --depending on how you choose to look at it--a woman's right to privacy or an unborn child's right to life. Ongoing advances in biomedical technology are providing increasingly refined data about life in the womb: for example, the detection of fetal heartbeats at 19 days post-conception. Should data provided by such verified technological advances be taken into consideration? Again, this question could "not be answered in the abstract."

Admittedly, there appears to be little attempt at neutrality or objectivity during hearings of this type. And I concede that I only managed to sit through about 40 minutes of the C-SPAN replay tonight. Still, there is much justification for the assertion that bald partisanship frequently comes to the fore.

[A notable example could be found in the opening remarks of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. He began by noting that Ms. Sotomayor's very presence at the hearing gave him "goose bumps," presumably by virtue of her gender and ethnicity. This apparently demonstrates just how far the US has come. To embellish the point, he repeated "goose bumps" in Spanish. His subsequent brief and general questions were "softballs"--providing opportunity for her to refer to her prior experience at the district and circuit court levels, while avoiding any pointed queries on her positions. Well, at least it provided some variety.]

Back and forth, red and blue, liberal and conservative, right down the line. Is this surprising? No. Is it predictable? Clearly. Should we be grateful to live in a place where such deliberations even take place? Undeniably. But is it any cause for discouragement? A bit, I think.

At least some of the time, these hearings seem much more about a certain slice of the political spectrum "winning," rather than a sober, balanced, painstaking endeavor to appoint qualified guardians of the Constitution. I realize this statement exposes my naivete.

Opinions, freedoms, prohibitions, laws, court cases, media treatment-all of these contribute to contemporary public discourse. Or, to use the German term, zeitgeist: "the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era, " according to Webster's 10th edition.

But eventually, or so it seems to me, the ebb and flow of public discourse distills down to the prevailing social mores of the day. Thankfully, there exists the right to express opinions on many sides of an issue. Freedom of expression is one of the fundamentals.

Yet, some issues and some notable court cases have undeniable moral dimensions. That word again: "moral." Ah, there's the rub. The inescapability of the concepts of "right" and "wrong". Like it or not, what shakes out in time is the ethos of a society. And that ethos has far-reaching implications, a whole that becomes greater than the individual elements that comprise it.

Much of what the United States has been about is individual freedom, respect for fellow citizens, loyalty to this (still) sovereign nation, a consensus on what is good and what is important, and protection of a Constitution that still seems to be the best shot at stable governance. But that foundation is not immutable. It is malleable; and vulnerable. It's reslilience is not absolute.

In the end, I think the role of publicly held values cannot be elimnated. This is where those who interpret the law come in. And I think it is not unreasonable to ask a candidate for the highest level of American jurisprudence to answer direct questions directly. Unless the candidate is more interested in the politics of getting confirmed than in a clear representation of who she is.

My .02.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"And Now For Something Completely Different..."

...well, different from Queen Cee's Institute of Domestic Instruction. But fear not..."compromising photos" of the Hapless Student featured yesterday are "in the can" (so to speak), and the promised "brownie baking" lesson will appear in due course...

However. With apologies to all the Monty Pythons for shamelessy borrowing their tag-line, above, I turn a sharp corner...

Caveat: Anyone full-up-to-the-teeth with "parenting ennui" [which, as a matter of fact, includes Your Faithful Correspondent here] is quite welcome to skip today's musings...with my total understanding.

"Dragger versus Drag-ee"

"We're the draggers. I think that's what we're supposed to do."

I'm not convinced; or, at least, not appreciative of this Breaking [and I use the word in BOTH senses] News.

" We just have to keep dragging him to places where he'll be confronted with spiritual truth. I know it's not fun, but it's one of the things the Lord would have us do."

These were my husband's words to me this morning in response to my litany of discouragement and confusion regarding one of our sons. [ "The subject's identity has been concealed..."]

In the throes of wrestling to figure out who he is, what's true and what isn't, and whether it's true for everybody or not, he comes quickly to the end of all reserves of patience and tolerance. Growing up is hard on everyone in the household. As is growing old(er). Unfortunately, growing older doesn't necessarily mean the same as 'growing up,' but that's a topic for another day.

"Keep talking, keep talking," someone told me years ago, in reference to some flavor of interpersonal angst. "You're only dead in the water when no one is willing to talk."

Yeah, well, at least that would be peaceful and quiet...

And, anyway, isn't God supposed to be 'on duty,' answering my arrow-prayers for wisdom and discernment here? I recall a particularly comforting thought that I heard on the radio years ago, I think from Andy Stanley (son of Charles). The part I remember is his assertion that, not only is God present and seeing it all, He's also "taking notes." That's how present and interested He is. Well, if you say so. I'll just tuck that away for future reference.

Like so many things in life, the unforeseen impact as we hit another wall in our evolving parent-almost-adult son relationship is one more thing we "didn't sign up for;" as if our preferences have anything much to do with many of our life circumstances. As a dear friend has reminded me over the years, "it is what it is." There ya go.

But this morning includes one of those rather odious episodes in which, not only is there no gleam of light, but there seems to be only exhausting pushback for my efforts at communication. If there's any purpose or value to this, it entirely eludes me. Which makes me tired.

This isn't asking deep questions that reveal a searching heart. This isn't even railing against how hard things are. This seems to be kicking through a few of our recent parenting efforts and punting them back in my face with an attitude. It's enough to make me throw up my hands and threaten to throw in the towel. What difference does it make, anyway? I could be engaged in any number of Much More Fun activities.

And if that weren't enough, next comes the unsuspected announcement that some of his closest friends--at least those he spends the most time with--well, "they don't have any convictions, Mom. I kinda don't even respect them sometimes. But, so what?"

Back to my left-brained, astutely objective spouse:

"He hangs out with these guys who have no spiritual direction, or maybe even no interest. Even if they're playing the part some of the time. But we still put our son in the way of sources of truth, even if we have to drag him sometimes. We can't make him take it in. We don't know how things will be down the road. But we know, even if he doesn't yet, that he'll never live a life of ultimate purpose and fulfillment, God's plan for him, until he is willing to understand and submit to that.

"And we can't make that happen. It IS frustrating. "

Well, I'm with you on the last part there...

So, perhaps the gossamer-thin 'silver lining' to grasp here is that truth-questing is a worthwhile endeavor of the highest order. Indeed, it's not going too far to assert that it's the Most Worthwhile purusit. It's not reasonable to expect it to be smooth or bruise-free. And experiencing it somewhat vicariously as a parent is very different from the first-person journey of our own earlier years.

We may be the draggers, and he may be the unappreciative "drag-ee", but we're with each other over the bumps.

Although arriving at the ultimate Rock is the goal, the first step is to be willing to strive for it. Put down th cell phone; exit out of Facebook; pull out the earbuds. And, as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard would say, "Engage!"

* * * * * * * * *

Ah, but not everyone is treading the deep water at this level of intensity...number 3 son just strolled in to inform me that the American and National League teams are tied 3-3 at the top of the sixth in tonight's All-Star game.

"Well, I'm not really that much of an American League fan, you know, Mom. Because the Cubs are in the N-L. But if the Cubs, aren't playing, okay, I'll take in the Sox."

John is eleven and still refreshingly uncomplicated!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Queen Cee's Institute of Domestic Instruction...

"Specializing in Hard Cases*"

* read: no-longer-young male parents, (but be discreet!)

Bon Soir, Dear Domestic Divas...

As the adjacent photo illustrates (perhaps TOO clearly), today's instructional installment is intended, not only for Archival Purposes, but also to Encourage those of you who may find yourselves confronted with a particularly Challenging and Maladroit (not to put TOO fine a point on it) Student.

Rest assured that you are not alone in this Potential Predicament, nor are you The First to be so challenged. Always bear in mind that Tenacity, Temerity, and Just the Right Measure of those all-important Feminine Wiles will always win the day.

Firstly, always begin on A Positive Note! Your student need not know that --in His Case-success will most likely be Hard-Won. Your job is to non-verbally communicate your confidence in your superior training and, of course, the hoped-for victory. This is a quest for competence, not virtuosity!! [Note: you will need to exercise Patience, but refrain from using this technical term with your student.]

Make frequent, dazzling eye contact, but --at all costs--avoid anything that could be miscontrued as a staredown. In most cases, the fact that you will, literally, be casting your sparkling gaze UPwards at the student works in your favor.

If the lesson, as illustrated here, falls under the Cleaning Category, be sure to point out ANY power features, as these are known to bode well for success with male prospects. [We are still awaiting published research to explain this repeatedly observed phenomenon.]

Ensure that you have full command of your student's attention and then thoroughly demonstrate each feature of the equipment (in this case, the Newly Engineered SWIFFER-VAC). Tactfully demonstrate the proper technique , and then take a teensy step back and observe your subject replicating (it is hoped) your every move.

Take diplomatic pains to praise each successful attempt and--unless a dire emergency presents itself--respond to any less than optimal try with a friendly, non-chalant comment such as, "Now THAT'S an idea!!" [Remember, dears, that those caveats about the "fragile male ego" might be timeworn, but they are still accurate. ]

If you find your student evidencing Frustration, carefully weigh your options, as well as his relative size to your own. If the monsoon of frustration has not reached critical mass, you MAY be able to venture guiding him with your hand lightly resting on his. Take care, however. If you are in any doubt, it is always the safer course to suggest that "excellent progress" has been made today and that it is time now to adjourn until Next Time.

Speaking of which, don't neglect to return for our next installment: The Ethereal Art of Tandem Brownie Baking.

Until then, may all your cabinets gleam!!

World Domination at the Dining Room Table

Summit??!?!? G-8, Shmee-8.

Don't spoil President Obama's fantasy of geopolitical influence, but THIS is where the Real Action happens...just sayin.'

This, gentle readers, is the long-awaited, Holliday-Hosted RISK invitation and not for those who aren't Cool Customers when it comes to Tough Negotiations.

To add to the clammy-palmed verisimilitude, this high-level contest actually included Mr. Patterson, bona fide high school history teacher. Who even brings His Own Rules...[no comment.]

I regret that I cannot name all the Summiteers, but that is partly because two of them were identical twins, which everyone could tell apart but moi.

Now, I'll let you in on a small secret: in one of my former lives, I actually worked as a newspaper reporter, and TYPED on a TYPEWRITER. But I digress. The point is, that I can snag a few quotes when I have to:

[No quotes are attributed, for Obvious Reasons.]

  • "Guys, here are the Additional Rules. If you have a fleet--"

  • "Wait! Wait!! That's not how we did it last time!"

[ominous clatter of shaking dice]

  • "No, you actually have to take over North Africa...well, OK, let's make it South Africa..."

  • "This is kind of like Morrocco..."

  • "Well, not totally.." [Editor's Note: that was Mr. Kimball from 'Green Acres'..]

  • "You get three more for the Middle East, and one more for China..."

  • "MOM!!! Cecily keeps trying to serve us food!!!"

  • "Hey! Everyone has resources except me!"

  • "It's a bad economy..."

  • "Is this before the economy was invented?"

  • "Well, it could be taken over by 6 warlords."

  • "WHAT?!?! Are you insane?! SIX warlords? That's RIDICULOUS!!"

  • "I pretty much lost my hold on Europe."

  • "It's ALWAYS good to take over a country!"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

New Formula

Here's the "yield" of another Living Room Chat between my spouse and myself, elicited in part by a mixed bag of frustration, confusion, and discouragement: none of which were the anticipated results of the youth conference he took Ben to at Moody Church in Chicago today. So "unpredictable" was the younger Holliday's response that they left at the halfway point.

Having long ago realized that there is no Manual, Recipe, or Foolproof Formula of any kind to help navigate the mysterious waters of parenting, I have drawn a few new conclusions of my own.

The first few of these are in the vein of "negative space." As a high school art student, I once spent a number of weeks being instructed about the concept of graphically capturing negative space: rather than drawing the outline of an object, one instead outlined the space around the object--all the space that the object did NOT occupy; akin to the concept of positive and negative images on film.

So, here are my new mental constructs as they pertain to The Products of parenting:

(1) Be slow to take credit.

(2) Be slow to take blame.

(3) Realize quickly that this job is Beyond You, which is both good and bad.

(4) Exercise utmost discernment in choosing sources of wisdom and support. If not reliably rooted in The Book, discard them with dispatch.

(5) Suck it up and realize that this is a non-negotiable, approximately 18-year commitment...longer than the Army, true, and usually with MUCH less time to deliberate before signing up. No, it doesn't matter if you weren't "forewarned."

(6) Refer to this Prescription regularly: "Keep your shoulder to the proverbial wheel; nose to the grindstone; head down; stick to the knitting;" and whatever other idiom(s) of Perseverance speak to you.
  • Take as often as needed. Even when the side effects seem intolerable. No prescription refill requests are the widow of Zarephath's vial of oil, this supply does not run out, even if it gets monotonous.

(7) It's all temporary, in this mortal life. ALL of it.

(8) Don't expect more of yourself than the Shepherd does: unlike you, He sees the end from the beginning, and everything else, stretching in every other dimension. His is the perspective that counts.

BUT, do not shirk: you will know it, your offspring will know it, and He knows it. Do what you can, with the strength, wisdom, and grace He supplies, and keep shamelessly asking for these spiritual staples.

(9) Don't judge the "Product" prematurely. In fact "judging", in one sense, isn't in the parental job description at all. If you stick to what you know you're supposed to do, you'll be plenty busy.

(10) Remind yourself, and the Products-In-Process, that the ultimate goal is not for them to please you or for you to please them. The ultimate goal is to enter the vestibule of eternity with joy, ready to stand before Him Who holds all things together.

Birthday Surprise


I marked another birthday this week; it's been quite some time since my birthdays were sources of youthful cheer for me, although I'm thankful for each day the Lord ordains for me.

Previously, I blogged briefly about 'what the doorknob held' this past Father's Day. My birthday this Thursday shared something in common...namely, a thoughtful and entirely unexpected gift from our oldest son. I felt badly that he had spent already limited funds on anything for me, but can only value the thought and intentionality. The gift bag contained hazelnut coffee, an eco-friendly commuter mug, and chocolate. And a card.

After thanks and a hug, I was able to wait until he left before the tears came. The steps on this parenting road are usually unpredictable at this stage, virtually never easy (too boring!!), and--it should go without saying--NOT for the faint of heart.

I've also noticed that, though there is no recollection of ever having "signed up" for all that is entailed, there seems to be no "parachute clause," either...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Queen of Clean

So, you think things are pretty ship-shape in your neck of the woods, do you?

Well, think again, gentle readers.

Here at the old Circle H Ranch, we have really clean pasta; we're talkin' strands of spaghetti so clean you could almost EAT off of them! That is, if Miss Cee hadn't gotten too near them...

It just so happened to be Spaghetti Night here, and all seven of us had tucked in, with some zeal, to heaping plates of spaghetti with sausage-marinara sauce. Well, not Alina...she dined on gluten-free rice fusilli. That's a small detail, however, this dietary variation protected the condition of her leftovers, as you shall soon see...

Unexpectedly, the full complement of Sevenhollidays [our former e-mail address] surrounded the table tonight. David (with newly pierced ears) happened to stop by to pick up his mail and was enticed [well, it wasn't really all that hard] to stay for supper.

I am the first to admit that, often, I mis-guess the proper quantity of food to prepare, especially when it comes to pasta; have you noticed the kinship of dry pasta to dried out sponges? Both swell unpredictably when immersed in water. However, Ben had come home from his job at the frame shop and pronounced that he was "famished." I had already batted away the Busy Pink Hand as it hovered mischievously over the bowl of pineapple tidbits: "But, Mommy, I'm so very, very hungry!!!"

Even John, the official Secretary of Snacks, broke out in a grin of antcipation when he learned what the entree du jour was. It's very hard to miss with Newman's Own tomato, basil, and garlic pasta sauce...on sale, even!

Well, better too much than too little with hungry menfolk about. Or so I thought.

Mere minutes later, Queen Cee realized her plate was empty, and that she'd already eaten the last cheese-stuffed breadstick; therefore, it was time to change gears.

Note to Self: Keep a sharp eye--at all times--on this particular Hollidayette, as she can be a "slippery" one; pun intended!

Now, at the advanced age of eight years, she still harbors an extreme enthusiasm for soap suds...especially when they're "really squishy!!" And, if none are in evidence, don't kid yourself: SHE knows what that bottle of liquid Dawn is for!

It would be an understatement to report that Cecily has excellent reflexes when anywhere in the vicinity of any form of soap or detergent; the bubblier, the better.

Too late, we were shaken from our gastronomic pursuits...

Miss Cee: "Whooops!"

Dad: "Cecily, what are you doing?!"

John: "Uh-oh..."

*David and Ben exchange knowing smirks*

Miss Cee: "It's OK, Daddy. I just was washing my hands!"

Dad: [not thrown off the scent so easily] "Then, what was the 'whoops!' for?

* a moment of desperate hesitation as various possible answers are mulled...*

Miss Cee, the Culprit: "Well, you see, I forgot that the drainer thing was still underneath here in the sink."

Dad: "You mean the colander with all the leftover spaghetti in it?"

Miss Cee: "Um.....But! It's still good! It's just REALLY clean now! This soap smells so good!"

*Six sets of eyes begin orbiting in their respective heads.*

Thankfully, her favorite accoutrement-the trusty Swiffer sweeper-was out of sight and out of mind. Otherwise, things might have gotten even MORE inappropriately hygienic around here...