Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Ten Things I've Learned This Year

1. When you need to be brave, you will be.  So don't waste time with worry when you don't have to.

2. Your worst fears can come hand in hand with your greatest blessings.  You'll be okay. God has a wonderful, mysterious plan.

3. Loving someone you've lost is time well spent.

4. There's more to life than what we see.

5. Love bridges the distance between earth and heaven, and connects the two with a strong and unbreakable bond. Maybe that sounds hokey...  I don't care.

6. You can't lose what you love.  Love will keep you close to the beloved through separation, distance, time, distraction, and the business of life lived apart. Love, indeed, never fails.

7. Pain is, at most, meant to be temporary. When pain comes, remember: Better things are always in store.

8. Even when you feel you're going to fall apart, you won't.

9. Happiness is not "owed" to us.  Neither is safety, comfort, or a long life. So rather than being angry in their absence, we owe gratitude in their presence.

10. Life involves some suffering and hard times. And that's okay. True joy is not diminished by hardship any more than the sun is diminished by clouds it will presently melt away.  Life is worth living.

And oh yes: there are better things to do than dishes. ;)

Happy fresh start, everyone.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Tale of Two Husbands

"Mommy! Annemarie says you pay people to watch me when you practice for the show. That's SO silly! You can watch me for free! I can watch you for free too. See? You are watching me right now mom..." 

Here was her exact expression, captured a couple months back...
Actually I wasn't. I was staring at the world of Minecraft, trying to help my 11 year-old find out how to change armor in a make-believe medieval world. Someone has stolen her wild wolf turned tame dog... I have to fix that too. 

"Mom, let me just kill this guy, see?  Oh don't worry he'll regenerate..."


I don't have the wherewithal to explain the finer points of babysitting to my four year old right now. 

Having gotten a new virtual horse from an egg that my 11 year-old has to hatch by cracking it on black wool and then train to follow her commands (my 1980's brain just exploded), I went for a good old, paperboard book for my disgruntled Cecilia. Felicity clambers onto my lap too. They both fight over my right knee (who knows why?) kicking and screaming. I settle them, and then read to them about what Elmo is thinking about today.  

I read the words from memory while parodying them in my head: "What's Elmo thinking about today? Ya da da daaa!! Drowning! Yeah, drowning! Dorothy's thinking about drowning too! Isn't that right Dorothy! Ha ha ha! Whoops, where's Dorothy? Lets ask Mr. Noodle! Mr. Noodle, that's a puddle; that's not how you drown! Silly Mr. Noodle..." 

I look at my watch. Darn it. Should have left 12 minutes ago, to the Christmas germ swap... I mean craft and cocoa homeschool event.  

I slide two unhappy preschoolers on my lap, who would have preferred to hear Elmo 12 more times. I call on my 11 year old to leave Minecraft world. "Just one more minute mom! I'm opening an inn!"  

"Err... Okay just open the inn, and hurry!!" 

Turning to the sock laundry basket known as Luck o' the Drawer (no two are alike... not sure how we did that) I find a pair of socks that just really almost matches... One white ankle and one really faded pink crew. She can deal. I pop them on the four year old, and then go on the oft-recurring "Search For the Other Shoe".  

Meanwhile, Cecilia peels a banana completely, breaks off half to eat, and leaves the other on the rug. This is stepped on. By the white ankle sock. 

We leave 12 minutes later. We scramble up the stairs and start unwinding the kids from hats and scarfs and coats and boots.  The things I do for socialization with other homeschoolers...

"Oh, how ARE you! So good to see you again!" 

I adjust my falling ponytail, grab someone else's doll from my daughter who is about to feed it cocoa, and glance up mid-scream at the woman.  

Why does everyone else look so put together? I wonder sometimes. I mean, we moms probably all feel disheveled and distracted to some extent at some point, but man... Sometimes it's worse than others. And today was pretty bad. 

Neat as a pin, and flanked by two equally neat kids, the woman carried an older toddler with suspiciously flushed cheeks. Maybe it wasn't a fever... right? 

I was just soooo not in the mood for this. 

I recognize this lady, a friend of a friend, but I misremember her name. And I'd love to chat. I truly would. If one child wasn't screaming and the other wasn't touching every cookie left out on that handy table.  

"Yes. Good to see you. Yes. Well...." I half grinned and looked pointedly at the screaming toddler, who had apparently gone unnoticed. (You'd be amazed what we moms can tune out, you really would.)  

"Oh! Oh I won't keep you, I just wanted to say hi." And Mrs. Calm Cool and Collected--somewhere in the time it took to calm the screaming toddler and collect a flung hat--was gone.  

Defeated and fearing I'd come off as plainly rude, I started hot-gluing popsicle sticks and pom poms as my toddler "made" ornaments.  And I thought about you guys.  How I haven't been able to write in days, between Minecraft, homeschooling, Christmas shopping and preparations (mostly the Christmas stuff), and oh yes: being the wife of two men, one by day, one by night. Okay that's called hyperbole: Bob Crachitt is nearly twice my age.  :)

My this acting stuff... it's time-consuming.  It's tiring and fun. And flattering and bizarre to have--like I did a couple hours ago--over 800 people applauding our show.  

But just to keep myself from getting a big head, I have a frumpy bonnet and the biggest, most unflattering dress you can imagine to wear on stage.  I'm supposed to be poor and maternal.  Two very fluffy, sumptuous light-colored skirts that layer and flare out from the widest point of my child-bearing hips... yep, that fits the bill nicely.  As one kindly woman told me, "You're good!  But oh, that costume is the most unattractive dress I've ever seen, bar none."  Yes, she said "bar none."
Photo by Rob McKirdie
Sigh.  Looking at the pictures, I'm cringing at my far less-than-perfectness amidst the so much more put-together magical "Ghosts" of Christmas... but smiling at the same time.  I'm grateful to be part of something so absorbing during an emotional season of the year for me. 

Darn all those "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments... just, humbug.

I love that the Christmas Carol is a story of redemption.  A story revealing that happiness comes from selflessness.  A story about the value of the whole human family.  A story that shows that, whatever bad things have happened, love can overcome.  

A story where, in the end, Tiny Tim does not die.  I'm so grateful.

“He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, 
because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them 
to remember upon Christmas Day, 
Who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.” 
Mr. Crachitt Charles DickensA Christmas Carol

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Put 'em up: Seven Quick Takes

1.  I survived Black Friday.  In Walmart.  On a bike.  Just barely.

You see... my sister-in-law (who visited over Thanksgiving) and I were eager to obtain I-Pad's. My desire for an I-Pad is fueled primarily by this last, shaky week of blog withdrawal symptoms.

My eldest daughter has a lot of homeschool computer work during the day.  And I'm Mrs. Crachitt by night.  Thus, I haven't touched a keypad since my last post.

This shall never, ever do.

Curiosity having grown into want and then slowly blossomed into "need," I finally justified the expense of an I-Pad, at least by the price you can get around here at 1 in the morning the day after Thanksgiving.

2.  Oh yes, and the bike.  The beautiful yellow bike with roses and the super comfy seat.  For my birthday girl, who turned 10 the day before Thanksgiving, in true "if it snows, it blizzards" fashion.

I know you've seen the pics of the hordes waiting outside for hours to enter the hallowed halls of sales, but once inside the frenetic place you realize: there are an awful lot of employees who have no idea where things are, or what they should be doing.  I had an intense discussion with a party of five blue-vested folk who all told me I should look for "Steve, the one with glasses" who was roaming with the pieces of paper that equaled a bike, which I was then supposed to take to "Pet/Garden" to redeem.  All before actually purchasing said bike.  I guess it's a traffic control thing to confuse and disburse massive crowds by putting bikes in the pet/garden center, and I-Pad's in the fishing aisle.  (I only wish I was joking here).

After several minutes of fruitless chit-chat, I went to the correct department, straight to where I could plainly see the bike I wanted hanging two feet above my head.  I yanked the metal bar out, jumped up, unhooked the bike, and eased it down to the floor.  After three visits to the chiropractor, I can tentatively say no lasting harm was done.

So now, I have this gorgeous bike, in a store packed with exhausted and exasperated people.  I pedaled down a couple aisles till I met gridlocked humanity (the checkout line wrapped around the store).  I then painstakingly guided the bicycle past packed carts garnished with huge TV's.  I was alternately complimented on my selection and sworn at for my existence, depending on the stages of consciousness and conscience of the people I came across.

3.  Finally, my sis and I landed at the check out line.  3:30 in the morning.  Only to find the VA card she was using had been put on hold for "suspicious activity" (as in, purchases made in RI when she had--gasp--previously been in VA).

In our caffeinated glee, we had failed to bring a back-up method of payment.  Like oh, say, cash.

Ransacking our purses, we were able to leave with my bike.  But without the doorbuster I-Pad.  I saved $30 in three hours.  Woo...hoo.

It's harder to buy an I-Pad at full price when you had a tremendous deal in your hands.  Give me some time folks, give me some time.

4.  Anyway.  Other than that, I'm currently a rather full-time actress, with an eclectic stage family, who bizarrely hangs out for hours in a black theatre blocking, staging, spiking props, and practicing embracing my new husband in the "vom."  I watch my oldest daughter dancing around as my son, and my younger daughter first pulling an old man around on a chain, and later all in black, gliding around with a lantern as the Ghost of Christmas Future.  Tempers are wearing thin, diva personalities are emerging, colds are spreading.  And overall, I'm having a ball in this crazy life within a life.

What's also fascinating is how the theater works brilliantly with actors of special needs.  One excellent actor has Down's, one is blind, and a few have other handicaps... this also requires extra attention, prompting, and guidance in rehearsal.  But overall... Pepper, thanks for getting mom this fun, fun role.  And y'all come see us, if you can!  :)

5.  But I'm pretty tired, I have to admit.  It does qualify as "work."  Having memorized my lines in a cockney accent, I had to re-memorize them in "my own voice" for a "modern approach."  I managed to elicit tears during my Tiny Tim mourning scene, but just last night it was decided that Mrs. Crachitt would have been "tougher."  (growl)

Speaking of sleep... I'd better seek some now.

6.  While I likely won't be able to blog quite as much this month, I'll try to post some pictures here and there, and will check in more.  Hope you all are handling this beautiful season with aplomb.  As a friend of mine put on her status: "I thought the whole reason for advent was to 'slow down and prepare.'  I'm feeling a lot of 'hurry up and freak out' instead."

So, so true.  In response, I'm sharing a poem (you weren't expecting free printables today, right?)  I actually found on the wall of my husband's ex-girlfriend.  No, not the one I wrote about.  :D  The wonders of Facebook...anyway, it's perfect.  And I don't even know the song that goes with it; I'm just going by the words:
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;

Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
-- John Greenleaf Whittier

7.  Okay, one more while I'm on my poetry kick.  This one was actually written by a friend of mine, who happens to be Rosie's older sister:

Early Christmas Lights

True, they smack a bit 

Of ignorance...and in sardonic mood
Remind me of how hastily the poor denuded Christmas trees
Will be cast into the gutter on December 26th...

But tonight,

There is a small glow in my heart
Because those lights all seem like little candles
Set out impatiently
To light the way for Christ...
Even the stones cry out for Him,
And even our poor shopping-crazy culture
Longs (without knowing) so much for His coming
That, like small children waiting for a Guest,
They put out all the welcome signs
A month before He comes.

Like I said in the title: if you're so inclined, just put 'em up.  In joy we await our Redeemer.  Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!
"Let clouds rain down the Just One, 
let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour;
let justice spring forth." Isaiah 45:8