Thursday, June 26, 2008

If You Can't Join 'Em, Laugh at 'Em

So the other day, I was perusing the blogosphere (what else do you do when you're aimless?) Anywhoo, I came across a blog of someone who in all likelihood is a gorgeous woman. Probably the kind of woman I dream of being, but never will be unless God on the other side is interested in performing limb-lengthening miracles. She's probably all tall and willowy. (I love that word. In the short world we have no word to equal willowy.) She's probably a girl with long, sinewy, arms and legs, and I won't even mention her flat stomache and perky tea-cup sized breasts. It's too depressing.

This is all conjecture of course, but I assume as much because in one post she listed her favorite snacks. Ready? This is copied verbatim. Here it goes:

"A cup of tea with milk, frozen grapes, honey ice cream, olives, raw almonds, carrots, salt and pepper potato chips, half an avocado with balsamic vinegar, dark chocolate, cheeze-its, radishes with salt, blue cheese"

See what I mean? I am telling you, only a super skinny person would list these foods as snacks! Snacks are supposed to be the things we shouldn't eat so we sneak them between meals. C'mon! A radish?! A radish is no snack!

Or how about this: "Man, I am so depressed over that break-up. I know. I'll rent a bunch of chick flicks and eat a giant bowl of frozen grapes." Where is the comfort food, people?

Look, I don't mean to make fun of super health-conscious, skinny people--well, maybe just a little. It's just that I'll never understand them. In theory I'd like to be like them, but in real life I say, "Pass the chips and salsa, hand me some chocolate chip cookies, and let's have some fun!"


I don't do well when I can't foresee the immediate future. There was that period of time after graduating from college and none of our post-college plans had worked. Suddenly we were bereft of a plan, just floating on "now what?" I had my degree, but had not applied for a teaching job because we hadn't known where or when we would be moving. Our expectations for grad school hadn't panned out, however, and I had taken my old waitressing job while Thomas worked for my dad. Other than that, I spent a lot of time on the couch. It was a humbling time.

I remember my mom saying one day, "What is wrong with you?" and rightly so. I was not myself.

Now, I may not have had enough energy to get my hiney off the couch, but I mustered enough for sarcasm. "Gee? I don't know...You think I might be just a titch depressed? Maybe? I mean what could possibly be wrong when we are living with my parents, and I'm working the same job I had in HIGH SCHOOL? Wow. I really don't know what could be the trouble."

Ever heard of kicking the dog? Anyway, that period of our lives was short-lived. In a couple of months we had found our way again, but I've never forgotten how I felt. I think it was the first time in my life when I didn't have a plan. I'm a fairly driven person, and I like to know where I'm headed; I like having a vision for my life. No. I need a vision for my life.

Right now I don't have one, and to tell you the truth, I'm having a hard time getting off the couch this week. Any minute now, Mr. Wicke is going to look at me and say, "What is wrong with you?" I just know it. But I need a plan. I need to know which way the wind is blowing and then I can man the rudder and set the sails. Until then I'm pretty aimless.

And for the record, I still don't like how that feels.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Book Review

A few months ago I began reading Little House in the Big Woods to Logan and rediscovered the joy of the Little House series all over again. Probably the best gift this little book has to offer is that of perspective. How blessed but complicated our lives seem now. How very different and yet the same. I loved sharing a slice of history with my child who has no concept of life before dvr's, minivans, and microwaves. That a child could be happy with a corncob doll was a unique thought, and one I remind her of often when ingratitude creeps in around here.

We just finished Little House on the Prarie, and it moved a bit more slowly than Little House in the Big Woods, but I was still fascinated, and so was Logan. I can hardly imagine a life so primitive. Some say Pa was crazy for moving his family away from the Big Woods where they had a solid footing, but the settler's spirit is responsible for the growth and development of our country and is still the heart of the American way. Who doesn't look to better the situation of their family even when it means stepping into the unknown? Mrs. Wilder's detailed descriptions of the hard work and difficulties fill me with awe and respect. It was such a different world in so many ways, but still I can relate to the deep family love and commitment that shines through on every page.

On I read some reviews of this book that rubbed me the wrong way. Parts of the book deal with some run-ins with the Native American Tribes in the area. As one can imagine, as white settlers, the Ingall's family's point of view was not up to par with today's politically correct atmosphere, for which some people knocked the book.

I will admit that it was a bit of a challenge to explain the nuances of the conflict to a six year old. Sometimes it was disturbing, but we can and should be disturbed by history. It can at times seem unfair, ugly, and even wrong; however, ignoring it or rewriting it to suit our current cultural standard is ignorant. The truth is, during this period of history there are no easy answers regarding settlers and Indians. (Yes, that is what they were called back then.) There was fear, distrust, and wrong-doings on both sides. Her description is historically accurate, however uncomfortable that may be. It is how she really saw it.

I do not think we would do our children any service by sugar-coating history as some reviewers seemed to argue. It is by struggling with the injustices of the past that we invaluably inform our judgements and actions regarding the complex questions of today. Please let us not rob our children of the hard truth. Let us give them knowledge and experience and arm them to do better and be better today.

I think this series should be on every mother's reading list.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Good TV for the Land of the Free

I very well may be one of the last people on the continent to see this amazing series, but I have to give a shout out anyway! If you have not yet seen it, you simply must. This is one that HBO got right. It is so well done! From the script, to the casting, to the direction, and most appealingly, the acting, there just isn't a bad moment. Paul Giamatti is fantastic, and Laura Linney as Abigail Adams absolutely shines.

It's a seven part-er, but I tell you, once you begin you won't be able to stop, so just go ahead and rent all three discs at once. Or better yet, just buy the whole doggone thing because it's a keeper. It has had me talking with anyone who's seen it.

Our founding fathers were complex people. They were genius, inspired, and visionary but at the same time humanly flawed; thanks to David McCullaugh's well researched and amazingly written book, we see it all in this series. We see personality conflicts, personal failures, and yet, most importantly, as Mr. McCullough explains, "how character manifests itself during crisis."

Believe me, I have come away from it bettered in my appreciation and understanding of our nation's birth, and maybe, most hopefully, I'll be a better American because of it.

As Mr. McCullogh said:

"History shows us how to behave. History teaches, reinforces what we believe in, what we stand for, and what we ought to be willing to stand up for. History is-or should be-the bedrock of patriotism, not the chest-pounding kind of patriotism but the real thing, love of country.

At their core, the lessons of history are largely lessons in appreciation. Everything we have, all our great institutions, hospitals, universities, libraries, this city, our laws, our music, art, poetry, our freedoms, everything is because somebody went before us and did the hard work, provided the creative energy, provided the money, provided the belief. Do we disregard that?

Indifference to history isn't just ignorant, it's rude. It's a form of ingratitude.

I'm convinced that history encourages, as nothing else does, a sense of proportion about life, gives us a sense of the relative scale of our own brief time on earth and how valuable that is.

What history teaches it teaches mainly by example. It inspires courage and tolerance. It encourages a sense of humor. It is an aid to navigation in perilous times. We are living now in an era of momentous change, of huge transitions in all aspects of life-here, nationwide, worldwide-and this creates great pressures and tensions. But history shows that times of change are the times when we are most likely to learn. This nation was founded on change. We should embrace the possibilities in these exciting times and hold to a steady course, because we have a sense of navigation, a sense of what we've been through in times past and who we are."

--An excerpt from David McCullough's 1995 acceptance speech for the DISTINGUISHED CONTRIBUTION TO AMERICAN LETTERS AWARD.

For his entire speech go here.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Okay, I know I said Wednesday, and now it is Friday, but have you ever had to just recover? That's what I've been doing. And I don't feel so good, my friends. Better today, but--well I will spare you the details, (See? I can practice self-restraint sometimes.) but suffice it to say that it's taking a while for things to return to normal. So we wait.

By next Friday I should know whether or not I am pregnant. Until then I try not to think about it much. I'm trying to be Switzerland and totally neutral on the topic. Like this: If it happens, great. If it doesn't, fine. We'll try a couple more times, and if it doesn't happen then we know we're done. Move on! Next stage of life, here we come.

That is a really good philosophy.

We will see if reality will play out accordingly. I hope I can be that healthy. It's hard to know how I'll feel.

Infertility is full of a lot of great lessons, the premiere of which is that control is not an option. The next is that we should make plans but then play the cards we're dealt. And finally we've learned that the end may turn out to be different than we expected but can still be just as happy.

So, we wait...and we wonder. The future is a glass through which we see darkly. We wait...and we trust.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Extended Hiatus

Some friends, quite happily, were able to extend their stay by a couple of days, so I won't be back officially until Wednesday. There is much to tell, like how I was artificially inseminated on Friday, right in the middle of all the company. Here's all I'll say about it: God's way of making babies is ever so much more enjoyable! Ouch! Plus I've been bloated and cramping since. Science may be amazing, but it sure isn't a lot of fun!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Off Until Monday

Hey, folks. I have friends coming into town today who will be recieving my full attention, so I will be taking a blogging break until Monday.

When I come back I promise pictures of the green room and other recent projects. Have a great week!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pancakes and Dreams

When we were children the beginning of the Christmas season was not announced by the first snow or the annual slew of greeting cards or even the distribution of the obligatory candy plates between neighbors and friends. No, we knew Christmas was truly on the way only with the arrival of the JC Penny and Montgomery Wards Christmas catalogues. Having rarely been inside an actual toy store where the sole commodity was playthings, the catalogues came to us like manna from the elves. Oh! The possibilities that lay before us on those dog-eared pages each of us perused so carefully. The Christmas wish list was nothing to be taken lightly. After all, the hopes and dreams of an entire year were hanging in the balance.

When Ray was perhaps nine or ten, the pages of the catalogue spoke to him. Maybe he didn’t even know he wanted it before he saw it, but suddenly his Christmas wish was right in front of him: The Burger Chef. Now some might compare it to a Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven, but don’t be misled. This was no sissy cake baker. Good grief, man, this thing could cook meat! I can see the dreams that may have run through his head: The dinners he would whip up for the family, the amazing delights he could make for his friends, standing beside Dad at the family cookout and matching him burger for burger. Yes, the Burger Chef would make for one incredible year!

To his delight, Santa concluded that he had indeed been good enough that year, and the Burger Chef was his. To make the dream complete he announced that he was going to make Christmas breakfast for the family. After he and Mom set up the stove, which consisted mainly of screwing in a low-wattage light bulb, he pulled out the packet of pancake mix included with the set and readied himself for glory. It wasn’t long, however, before there was a pinprick in the bubble of his delight. Quite quickly he realized that the breadth of his pancakes was going to closely resemble that of a quarter. Nonetheless he concluded that the difficulty of size could easily be overcome by quantity. Many little pancakes could just as easily fill a stomach as one large one. Thus saving his hopes from the jagged rocks of despair, he pushed the pan inside, and with his nose nudged against the plastic window, he eagerly watched the cooking process.

Behind him, he began to hear complaints from the other children, “Geez, Ray! I’m hungry! When are we going to eat?”

With every minute that passed, he became more deflated. They didn’t seem to be cooking at all! It was becoming clear that he was not going to be able to provide an entire breakfast, but even more disconcerting was the idea that if the thing couldn’t even cook pancakes, how was it ever going to cook meat?!

Many hungry complaints later, some very smallish, scary looking pancakes were served. While his siblings grumbled, and Mom began making pancakes on the larger and more reliable cook top, Dad stacked three on his vast plate, topped them with a dab of syrup, and cut into them with knife and fork. Two bites finished the meal, and turning to Ray he said, “Mmm! That was delicious, son!”

And just like that Ray’s pride was restored. It didn’t matter that he had taken his first stony bite of reality. It didn’t matter that he had begun to see that not all dreams are delivered as they appear in the catalogues. It didn’t even matter that his family would not eat the pancakes made by his own hand. No, the day had been a success: His father had declared it so, and he couldn’t wait to see what other “delicious” delicacies could be created with The Burger Chef.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Cat's Away Again...Call Me Mouse

Here's one thing I know: When Mr. Wicke is away, it is the perfect time to project, as you may remember. The reason why? Because I neither cook nor clean while he is gone, so that leaves plenty of time for getting some stuff done!

Yesterday I hung a shelf above our computer desk for our printer. I've been waiting for Mr. Wicke to get it done which hasn't happened, so I shall wait no longer! Drywall anchors, studfinders, levels, and electric drills got nothing on me, baby! (And so far the thing hasn't fallen down, so there!)

Today I will hang a curtain rod (another Mr. Wicke job) and I am toying around with starting a sewing project. Maybe you've heard how that goes...Please, somebody stop me!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fire Hazard Ahead

You know what happens when you put flammable materials near a match? How about this: I have been super, super irritable the last couple of days (I'm blaming the chlomed) and Mr. Wicke is going on a 4 day camp out with the 14-15 year old scouts. This situation should have warning signs plastered all over it!

Take out pizza and movies are SO in order!

Also, if you are interested in seeing my house in chaos mode, please feel free to stop by. And bring chocolate.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Who's Teaching Who Around Here?

It has been said that teachers always learn more than the students. That is true. And since that is true, we can say that I have had many opportunities to learn lately.

Having the children in close proximity to one another all day during this first week of summer has suddenly revealed Logan's tendency to scratch, pinch, kick, or otherwise bully her brother. She has never been physical with anyone else, but Griff seems to bring out the beast in her, and she is becoming overly familiar with the time out bench. This is how it went down:

Logan: (through blubbering tears) I hate this place! I just want to, break it!

Me: Well, if you broke it you'd just have to sit on the floor. Besides, it's not the time out stool that is the problem. The problem is that you are pinching and scratching your brother. That is the reason you are in time out.

Logan: But, but, but he--

Me: No, Logan. There is no reason for you to ever hit or pinch or scratch anyone else. Ever.

Logan: But he, he just makes me so mad, and I can't help myself!

Me: No. You CAN help yourself. You need to learn to control that temper.

Logan: But he seems to want to get hurt because he keeps teasing me!

Me: Here's the deal. Any time you put your hands on your brother you will be in time out. Every time. No warning. We are past that now. You know it's wrong, and you know what we expect.

Later that night, as they were getting ready for bed, there was another altercation, and Logan spent more time on the naughty stool. Again she argued to her father that she just "couldn't help herself," so when she came upstairs to say her prayers and get into bed I said, "You know, Logan, maybe in your prayers you should ask Heavenly Father to help you control your temper."

She still hadn't fully recovered from the drama that always accompanies a trip to the naughty stool, so as she started her prayer it came out in a sniffling whimper.

"Heavenly Father, thank you (sniff, sniff) for this wonderful day." As she paused for a stuttering breath, I could not help but take a moment to recognize the grand irony!

"Please help me to..." This is where she fell completely apart. The sniffling turned to utter blubbering. All she could manage between sobs was one ragged "Help!"

"And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:2-4)

Help. A most simple and sincere prayer. One that I find myself reflecting on again and again. One that I could often repeat. Lesson learned.