Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Turns out this New Year has a lot going on-- it's a blue moon in more than one sense. First, it's the second full moon in the month. Second, it's the thirteenth full moon in the year. And third, it's rare-- a blue moon on New Year's eve hasn't happened in 20 years. If it had actually been BLUE, due to dust particles in the air, it'd been a blue moon by all four definitions.

But as my friend Wendy noted, it's ALSO the dawn of a new decade. Which led a friend of her's to quote the song "Aquarius". A quick internet search indicates he might not just be joking (lol).

According to Rex E Bills, The Rulership Book, 1976, Pgs 362-365, "Ages are believed by some astrologers to affect mankind while other astrologers believe the ages correlate to the rise and fall of mighty civilizations and cultural tendencies. Aquarius traditionally "rules" electricity, computers, flight, democracy, freedom, humanitarianism, idealists, modernization, rebels and rebellion, mental diseases, nervous disorders, and astrology." Ages last 2150 years each. Though there's a wide range of possible start dates for the Age of Aquarius, if you go with the song's opening line, "When the Moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars. Then peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars." Then this alignment happened on Valentine's day, this year: February 14, 2009.

All of this as an introduction to a recap of 2009 in the Wise household (;

This year, Mark finished his classes and received his Associate’s Degree in Airframe and Powerplant. This year, Grandmother moved in with her son, Mark’s Dad, and I finally returned to school to begin finishing my Bachelor’s Degree and making art again for the first time in almost a decade. My oldest son is in second grade, almost as tall as I, and advanced to a camo belt in Karate. My youngest son started Pre-4K, talking more and making his own friends. This year, we went on local adventures—trips to Chuck E. Cheese and Fun Zone; Trips to a variety of wonderful local playgrounds. And playing tourist close to home: Dothan Botanical Garden, Dothan Museum of Art, Troy’s Pioneer Village and Pioneer Museum, and to Atlanta to the Museum of Art to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. And Mark and I celebrated our 10th anniversary. All in all 2009 lived up to what I hoped for it!


A new year, a new decade: Borrowing a quote from my friend Traci Moss, "May you all ring out the year with love and memories of wonder and salute 2010 with the hopes of continued love, laughter and new adventures!"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thoughts on Avatar

WARNING: This blog contains spoilers-- so if you haven't already seen the movie, stop here, get yourself a ticket for the movie and go see it.





Mark and I went to see Avatar in 3D this afternoon. Before I get into what I thought about the movie, I will say that I enjoyed it. It's a good movie. Do I think it's worth seeing 3+ time in the theatre? Not so much. But it's a good movie, and I'll be buying a copy when it becomes available on DVD. If you absolutely LOVED this movie-- go ahead and stop reading now. You're probably NOT going to be interested in what I have to say.

Okay, now that that is out of the way.

It amazes me the advances they've made in 3D technology! Even still, almost 3 hours of it, and when we walked out, I was more than happy to take those glasses off. Mark and I were discussing it, and with HD quality 2D out there, we suspect the 2D version is just as good as the 3-- without the headache.

The movie has been out for 10 days tomorrow. And we went to a 3:30 matinee-- and the theatre was PACKED. It's been a while since Mark and I had to sit side by side with strangers. And it's a completely different movie experience when everyone is in there like comfortable sardines. It's more of a bonding experience-- if that makes any sense. You're all sitting -together-. So even though you didn't choose the majority of the people you're watching the film with, you're all there with each other. An audience that large feeds on each other's responses. At one point, I HAD to head to the restroom-- and when I came back in-- not a single person was moving-- all eyes were on the screen, and collectively, they held their breath, watching.

The first thing that struck me, as the movie began and the voice over by Jake Sully begins, I found myself sitting up straighter in my seat, tilting my head to really LISTEN. What struck me is that Sam Worthington (the actor playing Jake Sully) has the voice of Patrick Swayze. The same accent and way of pronouncing words. After the movie, I mentioned this to Mark and he said, "It's funny because I thought I recognized his voice-- I just couldn't place it."

As we watched the movie, I couldn't help thinking that this is what would happen if Mechs (from Battle Tech), were introduced to Pocahontas and Dancing With Wolves. Don't get me wrong, I like all three. I even liked all three together.

I couldn't help thinking, as Sigourney Weaver's character yelled at the boss for sending out the troops to destroy the tree, and as I saw the pictures of her avatar with the natives, of her role as Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist. When Mark and I were talking about it, he told me that she and James Cameron had worked together on Aliens. And he had flashed back to that movie when he saw her and the mech like machines. It sparked a discussion on Directors and preferred actors, like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, because one of the previews was for Robin Hood-- by the director who did Gladiator (Ridley Scott), starring-- you guessed it, Russell Crowe.

This led to a discussion about James Cameron. With his use of mech like armor in both Avatar and Aliens-- it's a wonder he doesn't look to getting the licensing for BattleTech. But we also discussed that he's done some truly amazing movies/ television shows. His Titanic had the same kind of movie goer response that Avatar is getting-- with people willing to pay theatre prices repeatedly to see it again. Now THAT was a movie I DID pay to see three times in the theatre. But he also did an amazing television series called Dark Angel. It's one of my all time favorites. And as the second season of that show progressed, so too did his fascination with the combination of human and animal. The character Joshua was very tall, and though he was supposed to be dog related-- he looked more like a cat-- especially if you grew up adoring Beauty and the Beast staring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman like I did. So it was no surprise to either of us that his Na'vi would be very feline.

Previous to seeing the movie, I'd read plenty of articles that ranted that the Na'vi were a bunch of blue, tree hugging, Native Americans with dreadlocks. That it's blatantly anti-war. That it's a statement about American consumerism and how we're the bad guys in the current war. If you want to read those, you can search for them, because this isn't that.

I mention them because I can see the similarity to pre-existing Native American movies. Anyone who's watched television in the last 50 years is going to, when they see very little clothing, feathers in the hair, bows and arrow and horse back riding. Okay, so it's a people who are deeply connected to the world they live in. I don't see anything wrong with that. And I don't know of a single person who looks back on the Trail of Tears and doesn't think it was wrong.

I actually liked the analogue that Dr. Grace Augustine made for their connection to their world being much like a living computer-- uploading memories and able to share them. It makes me think of the astonishing advances the internet has made possible in our world.

Then we almost get to the fight scenes. Yes, his riding Toruk is predictable from the moment Neytiri tells the story of her Grandfather. Yes, from the same story, it's also predictable that he's going to unite all the tribes. But just before the fighting starts, two very interesting things happen.

First, the Na'vi attempt to save Grace by transferring her into her Avatar at the Tree of Souls. I was immediately reminded of the Zar and Guedra bellydances, which are both healing trance dances.

http://www.shira.net/spiritual.htm

has excellent information on both-- and you may notice that the Guedra is performed by the Moroccan Tuareg, who are known as the blue people. Just sayin' (;

Secondly, JakeSully links to the Tree of Souls to request help from Eywa, the goddess of the Na'vi. But his mate, Neytiri tells him that Eywa doesn't choose sides-- that she only maintains the balance of life.

Then the final battle begins-- and there are a LOT of casualties on the Na'vi side. Then Eywa rallies and all the creatures of Pandora rush into the fight. My -first- thought was, that if Eywa had responded sooner, there would have been way fewer deaths. The whole calvary with bows and arrows charging the guns and artillery was disheartening to watch, even before it began, because, let's face it, it's the whole, "brought a knife to a gun fight" scenario. And without Eywa's addition, the battle would surely have been lost. But then I thought back to what Neytiri had told Jake at the Tree of Souls-- Eywa didn't choose their side. But she DID step in to maintain the balance of life on Pandora.

And in the final scene, as JakeSully lay beneath the Tree of Souls in both his dying human body and his Na'vi form, I remembered a conversation Mark and I had with his 9 year old second cousin on Christmas eve. He was talking about why he couldn't understand why Avatar the movie had the same name, when it had absolutely nothing to do with the last air bender. We explained to him that Avatar the last air bender is called that because Ang is the embodiment of all four elements on earth. And that when you're on the computer, you have avatars-- images that represent you, without actually being YOU....and that was when I returned to the movie and thought, "Unless of course, you have a way to transfer you into your avatar like JakeSully does."

René Magritte would either be rolling in his grave thinking about the modern use of avatars.... or applauding.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Last night, Mark and I were talking, and I realize that my children are probably some of the few (if not the only) children who are woken up by their mother on Christmas morning. I can't sleep on Christmas eve (it was 3 am before I finally fell asleep last night). And I wake up ready and excited for Christmas morning at 5:30... I make myself stay in bed until at least 6-- and have since I was a child (lol). So every year, my boys have been woken up by me-- until this year. Mark said to me last night, "Wasn't part of the fun of Christmas morning waking up your parents? It's supposed to be your boys who wake you up."

So this morning, when I woke up at 5:30, I rolled back over. And when I woke up at 6, I thought, "The kids aren't up yet." And rolled back over. At 7, I couldn't believe neither of my kids were awake-- as they're normally up at that time on a -regular- day! And my oldest woke me up at 8:45, wanting to know if he could go watch his shows (lol) (; I asked him to go get dressed, while I got up, woke Mark up, got dressed-- and then woke up his little brother.

Turns out, after always being woken up by Momma on Christmas morning-- my boys -expect- to be woken up (lol) (;

Santa brought my oldest the video game he asked for, and for my youngest, the transformer. And both of them had legos on their wish list, so they got more to share.

Last year, I'd come across a poem that I really liked, that I've since tried to incorporate into our Christmas. It goes like this: Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. It keeps the total number of presents to a small number, and in this economy, that's definitely a good thing!

So for my oldest, he got a bakugan and the presents from Santa, his own room (the boys have had to share a room for the last 3 1/2 years), new pajama pants, and several books that he's been asking about for the last couple of months. He also got three special presents. From his Daddy, his first swiss army knife-- that he's only allowed to use with supervision. And from me-- his own drawing pad and first set of artist pencils and charcoal (as he's shown talent and interest in art (Woo-hoo!!)), and a nice leather bound journal.

For my youngest, he got playdough and the presents from Santa, his own room; he asked, very specifically for footy pajamas, that I was fortunate enough to find at Sears in his size, thanks to my Facebook friends, and several books of his own that I'll be reading at least one of tonight before he goes to sleep ((: His special presents were from his Grandma Judy-- his own toy guns (as all the guns he'd previously gotten to play with belong to his brother, and therefore went to his brother's room when they separated)-- both a cap gun and a nerf gun.

For Mark, I gave him a new computer chair-- that we've ALL decided is comfortable enough to go to sleep in (lol), a couple of books I think he'll enjoy, and come New Year's we're signing him up for a gym membership at the local gym (This is something he actually -wants-). We're considering whether or not we're going to get him a Play Station. And his mom got him new clothes (:

For the critters, Peeve (the cat) got a new brush-- he doesn't play with toys, doesn't use a scratching post, can't have catnip, and doesn't like wet cat food. (lol) He's the hardest member of our family to shop for, but the cat LOVES to be brushed (: For the puppy dogs-- All three got new beds and dog chewies/ treats. Maggie got soft dog toys (which is what she prefers). Isabeau got 1 soft dog toy, and 4 tennis balls. Ruby got the same as Isabeau-- with the addition of a name/ address tag (: I call it their 'jewelry' (:

And I'm greatly enjoying the gifts my guys gave me: A new CD player-- with plenty of new CDs to play in it! And my very own 6 qt. crock pot!! Woo-hoo!!! I've wanted a crock pot since I was 18! I also got a couple of books on slow cooking (:

While listening to some of my new Christmas music, on my new music player, I perused my new books, learned a lot about slow cookers, and realized I could make my first meal TODAY!

So for dinner, we had Mediterranean pork loin with milk sauce, with side dishes made seperately, including rice, corn, and broccoli with cheese. The meat was so tender, it practically fell apart. And it tasted good! (: My crock pot passed on it's maiden voyage!

And in an hour, I'm going to use it again.

One of the first things I came across in my new cookbook was an entire section on Porridge and cereals!

So tonight, breakfast is going to cook--for 9 hours. As long as it goes as it should, we'll be having Apple Barley Molasses Porridge in the morning!

I'm excited (: And should probably mention that, in both instances, I'm not actually following recipes (lol) Just using them as guidelines (; I think, if it works, breakfast is going to be delicious!

And tomorrow morning, bright and early, we're headed out for the day after Christmas shopping specials. Hoping to get LED Christmas lights at half price (:

Outside of the food and the presents, we've had a wonderful time-- dancing to the music, sitting together to watch shows, all sitting on the floor playing with legos, and visiting with my in-laws for the holidays, and two of my sister-in-law's children.

All in all, this has been a relaxed, wonderful Christmas. And I wish the same for you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Overconnecting

This morning, my friend Melissa shared a link on Facebook to a CNN article that discussed whether or not 2009 was really as fatal to the famous people as it seemed.

Though I know that over time that the link is likely to go dead, so here's the general gist: Britney Murphy died this year, among, what seems like, a slew of stars. But there are a lot of people who don't even know who she is. The general conclusion of the article is that no more famous people died this year than any other year-- but thanks to social networking sites, everyone talks about them and the news media follows the public's trend so it ends up seeming bigger than it is.

This evening, my friend Mike updated his status to read: Quote of the week "Wow, you proliferate through the web like a fast acting Fungal ointment."

Between the two of them, I got the crazy idea to Google myself.

Before I go further, I will say it certainly helps to have an unusual name.

Having said that, I learned that every friend I have on Facebook and MySpace is a link to me. Every comment I have left on any public domain-- be it emails, social networks, book reviews, online purchases-- a variety from all of them pulled up with this simple search.

I learned that I can be google image searched... and -found-.

Pretty much anything I've done online in the last 10 years can be traced with a few key clicks.

You can find me on e-Bay. Amazon. Classmates. MySpace. Facebook. The SCA. And at the colleges and schools I have attended. The honors I've received. The events and shows I've attended or participated in.

To be honest, it's a little frightening how much can be pulled up about me in the public domain. Even -with- privacy settings.

Knowing my address, via Google 'street view'-- you can even see my house, my car-- my CHRISTMAS LIGHTS from 2 year ago!

Four years ago, when I joined MySpace, I searched my first name, just because I was curious if there were other people who had the same-- and I -might- have pulled up a single page worth of information. NONE of it was actually me. A quick search for me pulled up no results at all.

But tonight, I pulled up over 26 pages that were all, very specifically, related to me.

And I'm no star by any stretch of the imagination.

So I'm left wondering, with the amazing advances in technology and social networking-- are we, perhaps, becoming over connected?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Artistic Fingerprint

This fall I returned to school, after a 7 year break, to finish my Bachelor's degree. When I started college back in 1995, I was double majoring in Art and History. After my first semester at school, I switched to double majoring in Art and Theatre, with a minor in Dance.

Not only had it been 7 years since I'd done college classes-- it had been 7 years since I'd really done any art as well.

I have to admit, I started both with a little bit of fear-- I didn't know if art was going to be more like riding a bike or more like playing a piano. The former, you can pretty much just pick back up any time, the latter...not so much. This time, I knew that I wanted to teach art, so I thought it best to add Education to my double majors.

So I'm extremely thankful to Mr. Percy for insisting that I take his Integrating Art into Education class-- even though it's a course usually reserved for people further along in the Teacher Education Program. His reasoning is that it is better to take this class NOW, then discover three years down the road that you don't really want to be a teacher.

I appreciate that I was allowed into this class for a completely different reason though: There was only one other art student in my class. The remainder of the class is composed of Education majors-- who, for the most part, don't believe they have any artistic ability at all. Mr. Percy knows this, and sets this class up specifically with that mind set in mind.

So our very first project was creating name plaques for ourselves, with large markers.



When he saw mine, he got a slight frown on his face, then smiled quizzically and said, "Usually, it's my general education students that make stick people..." It wasn't until we got further into the class that I learned that the use of stick figures is representative of being stuck in a middle school level of artistic ability. But for me, at the time, there were three things going through my mind: 1) I hate using markers. 2) We had 15 minutes to create these name plaques. And 3) The only instructions given were that we could write our name however we wanted to-- but it had to tell the class something about ourselves.

I like stick people. I don't like markers. I like colors, and am a pretty happy person. And subconsciously, I was worried that I had lost my artistic abilities.

Through the next couple of weeks, the assignments became increasingly more advanced. And as they did so, I became increasingly more comfortable in my abilities.

At the same time that I was taking this class that allowed me to become more comfortable with myself, I was also signed up for Time & Space with Mr. Skaggs. I have to admit that if you had asked me before this semester if I was a 2 or 3 dimensional artist, I would have told you, hands down, that I didn't know -anything- about making things in 3-D.

Mr. Skaggs and our final in Time & Space have been on my mind today. As we were getting ready for our final, he posted 27 images from a variety of artists-- and we needed to know the artists, the images and how the elements of art and principles of design would apply to them. Now, I have to admit that I was a little worried--because this wasn't an art history class, and we hadn't spent any time going over these artists.

So when we were discussing the final and what we needed to know, he told us that it wasn't about memorizing the artist and art work-- it was about being able to identify the artist's fingerprint. What he explained to us is that every artist, except perhaps graphic artists (who have to adhere to what their clients want) has a particular way of doing their art. If you look at a single piece by an artist, you should be able to see another piece, without further information, and be able to tell that it was created by the same person.

Today, my friend Teresa posted a link to a facebook application called, "My year in Photos-2009". Now, I don't actually have it loaded on my page-- because I've got over 1000 images uploaded to FB, so it's actually kind of frustrating to get the pictures I want. I've tried twice. But in the process, I've seen several of my art pieces side by side.

And I began to think about something else that Mr. Skaggs said, throughout the course of this semester. Whenever he assigned us a piece, he told us that he wanted us to interpret it through our personal lens. To put our thumbprint on the assignment.

And I realized today, that he was asking us to develop as artists; not just as art students doing assignments.

And because of the FB image application, for the first time ever, I truly looked at my art work.

This is a piece I created back in 1995.


And this is a piece I created this semester.


This is a doodle I worked on every day in math class when I was 15.


And this is a piece I made my senior year in High School.


As is this.


While this is one of the first assigments for Mr. Percy this semester.


As was this.


Here is a drawing of a friend of mine's earrings that I did my freshman year in college.

And this is another view of the sculpture used in my Wise Ramblings image up top. The next couple are all from my senior year in high school or my freshman year in college.


The next is one of the last pieces I made before I stopped making art 7 years ago.


And the last images are things I made this semester.



(The above two are to show the 6 sides of the box that the image of above created when it was put together.)


And as I looked through the variety of media and pieces I've created in the last 17 years...

I began to see my own artistic thumbprint.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"Love is Life and Life is Love"

My friend Kayla LeMaire shared a poem today that she wrote back when she was 9 or 10 years old. My absolute favorite lines title today's blog.

Last night, as I checked on my boys before heading to bed, my husband looked in at my oldest and noticed he'd -insisted- on sleeping on top of the covers, with just a thin blanket over himself. As he closed the door, he looked at me and said, "He gets it from YOU, you know." To which I replied, "He gets WHAT from me?" And Mark looked at me with mock accusation in his eyes as he responded, "Stubbornness!" As I've told my husband before, our boys have a double dose of that-- from each of us. And he told me, "Well, he's got more of YOUR brand of stubbornness!"

I thought about it as I fell asleep. And I realized that that right there might be the reason my oldest and I so frequently feel like we're locking horns. He is -definitely- MY child-- and very much like me. So we're both very sure we know the answers, want to be helpful, think we know what needs to be done-- and are more inclined to do things OUR way, than how we're told. The difference is, (I hope anyway!) that I have a bit more tact and social decorum. I've had 30+ years to try to cultivate it. But at 7-- well...at 7, it makes you bossy and pushy-- and gets you in a LOT of trouble for 1) not listening, and 2) arguing.

So this morning, as he was getting up for the day, I came in and we had a talk about how we're going to try to get along a bit better. I love my boy. I -like- my boy... But I'm pretty sure there are days he doesn't believe either to be true. And that's just wrong.

It doesn't help that one of the biggest differences between us is that I'm an optimist, and he's a pessimist. I tell him frequently that I love him, and I hope I show him-- but he sure does get hollered at a lot. (Did I mention the inclination to argue and disobey?-- Yeah, direct result of raising free thinking children!) Now, don't get me wrong-- he's a good boy. Both of my children are. And I KNOW that I've been blessed with good children. But there are days when my oldest comes home, I'm smiling and happy to greet him-- and he squashes those good feelings with an icky attitude of his own...

And I've learned over the last 3 years that icky attitudes are contagious. You can only be cheerful against a pessimistic onslaught for so long before it gets you. Well, we talked about it, and decided between us that we're going to try to work on that. And today was the first day.

The first thing we did was continue working on their rooms. They've had their own rooms for almost a week now-- and two days ago, my boys started their morning by telling me, "Momma! We've gotten SO much for Christmas already this year! We even got our own -ROOMS-!" (I did mention I have wonderful little boys, right?)

Well, today, we removed my youngest's old bed from his room, and divied up the books and bookshelves. Unless a book was specifically given to one or the other, I divided them based on reading level and age appropriateness. I also took out my oldest's decorations and set them up in his room. Now, he has books he can read whenever he wants to, and not only helped me do all this, but thanked me for it when we were done. I love to read. And I have to admit, I love that my children love to read!

Well, after we did that, my boys headed out for the backyard and played in the lovely sunny weather for about 2 hours before it was time to come in and have lunch. After that, we hopped in the car and were going to go rent movies. As we pulled into the movie rental parking lot, my boys asked me if we could go to the playground to play. I hadn't even turned the car off, so I asked them, "Would you rather go to the park or rent movies?" And both of them said, "Go to the park!!" So I turned the vehicle around and headed for the local playground.

We played at the playground for almost an hour before I got too cold to remain. I stayed with my youngest and kept an eye out on my oldest-- and even ended up playing myself when my youngest invited me to follow the leader (lol). I brought our festivities to a close as the sun was starting to set, because I hadn't brought a jacket for myself, not expecting to be out very long when we left the house... though I made sure both boys were properly dressed before they were allowed to leave the house (:

As we slid down the 'dragon slide' as our last activity, and climbed into the car, I asked the boys if they had any particular movies in mind to rent. To which both of them responded, "But Mom... we chose the playground. We can't rent any movies..." And I said, "No honeys. I merely asked if you'd be -willing- to give up the movies for the playground. Not that you actually had to." (:

So after my boys cheered, we headed back to the movie rental, and I let them each choose 2 movies. The selection that came home with us?: G Force, the latest Tinkerbell Adventure, Santa Buddies, and Terminator Salvation.

I served up popcorn as we watched G Force. My oldest and I opting for the cheese popcorn, while my youngest went for the traditional buttered. None of us are real fans of the caramel. Then I made dinner: alphabet vegetable soup, with grilled cheese and bologna sandwiches, and they helped me make chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

While we ate, we watched the Tinkerbell movie. And finished up our evening with Santa Buddies. It was nice having a movie marathon with my boys.

There's a large recliner in our living room that I usually sit in. For a good portion of our viewing, my oldest was sharing the seat with me to my left, while my youngest laid on me. (: It's crowded, but I love getting to snuggle with my boys.

Then it was time for bed. While I read my youngest "The Fox and the Hound" (His current favorite book), my oldest read himself a story. Then, I sang, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" to each of them. My youngest getting the traditional version, my oldest getting the version with all the kid add-ins (; Then it was time for hugs and kisses.

My oldest was needing a little extra attention tonight, so I laid down beside him and asked him about his day. He told me that he loved getting the books, and getting to play outside with his brother and the dogs, and getting to play at the play ground, and watching the movies, and getting to play video games (which is what the boys did for the first hour while I was still trying to wake up completely). He hugged me and told me that he'd had a wonderful day. And I thanked him for helping to make it happen.

And I have to agree with him. Today was a wonderful day with my family.

I love my guys. And they love me.

And that love is what -this- life is all about.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Misunderestimated

There are a lot of things I didn't care for about President Bush, but one he was frequently riled for, that I actually appreciated, was making up words.

I'm a great fan of making up words. Two of my mother's favorites from when I was a child are 'earballs' and "being haved."

The first came about because I had some pretty nasty allergies as a child, so my eyes were frequently itchy. One day, I said that I hated it that my eye balls were running (they were so itchy, I'd been tearing up). It also happened that my ears were draining, so in frustration, I said, "It's bad enough that my eyeballs are running, but now my earballs are running too!"

And whenever we were out in public, my mother frequently told us to, "Behave!"... One day, when I was about 5, after a long day of following her around, in frustration, I responded, "I'm BEING haved!" To which my mother laughed, and the term stuck. My kids use it (lol).

Words have frequently been a source of blogs for me. Here's one of my old ones:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008







Or "I have an addiction".

I've always loved words and word games. Scrabble is one of my all time favorite board games. I love putting words right next to other words so it makes a series of two letter words as well. Even better if I can do it while pluralizing another word (;

But in the last couple of months, after I found Facebook, I quickly came across Facebook's game applications....

Now, let me say I've been patiently waiting for my boys to get older, learn how to read and learn how to spell, so we can play Scrabble. (lol)

But in the meantime-- I can now play with my friends on-line, and even complete strangers! Or play solo games if I just want to practice.

...and I do. Daily. Seriously. Pathwords. Scramble. Twirl. Love, love, LOVE them!
And I was on fire with words last night!!!

But I was quickly reminded, as I headed to bed, of one of the problems I have with really getting into the words games... My mind doesn't stop when I step away from the game. I start picking up random words in my mind and rearranging them, playing with them, thinking.... I even dreamed about words last night. As I drifted off to sleep, the word crossing my mind was Relay...which led to the title of this blog...

I wonder if there's a 12 step program for verbomania? Did you even know there's a word for an obsession with words? (lol) It probably goes hand in hand with being a bibliophile, after all, books are absolutely filled with words. (;

I've even come across other verbomanics confessions! I like this one best:

"It's true: I am a full-blown Verbomaniac. Unfortunately, there is no medication for this addiction. The only thing that satisfies the mania is full on submersion: diving into a pool full of four and five syllable words, splashing nouns and verbs against me, as I blow bubbles of alliteration and palindromes."

...Works for me Doctor Angry Office Manager!

Pathwords!, Twirl!, Scramble! Here I come baby!!! (;
Here's another one from my youngest son, a year ago, shortly after he turned three:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008





So what do these two have in common, other than being creations of books put to screen?
And starting with the letter "M". And being three syllables long. (lol)
They're two words my youngest son has started saying! I'm not even sure where he picked them up and we pretty much spend our time together. But we've neither watched Spiderwick Chronicles nor Dune lately. To be honest, we've only watched Spiderwick once, and that was over a month ago. And, as far as I know, he's NEVER seen Dune!



Muadib is something he says when he's imagining to himself. I can't tell if it's the name of someone he's imagining, the name of some-thing- he's imagining, or an act that someone or something he's imagining is doing. And Mulgarath is what he calls sneezes. (lol)

One that my oldest created when he was 5 is "misunderstaken"-- meaning, not only did he misunderstand, but he was also wrong.

I think my love for creating words was obvious, as far back as 10, when I had a nightmare about it.

I dreamed that I had used up all of my words, and could no longer communicate. No, I don't mean that I'd lost my voice and had gone mute-- though I couldn't speak. I mean that I dreamed that I had used my lifetime allotment of words, and had no more. I couldn't speak. I couldn't write. I couldn't read. I had no more words left to use.

I woke up screaming, and when my mother dashed in to check on me, I was crying, "I've used up all my words! I've used up all my words!" I was so relieved when she pointed out to me that I was speaking and it had just been a dream.

So what brought on this flood of word related memories? This morning, Mississippi and Tennessee Williams were on my mind.

I absolutely loved it the day I learned Mississippi could be spelled, "M-I-double S-I-double S-I- double P-I".

But I realized that similar could be done with Tennessee Williams: "T-E-double N-E-double S-double E, Double you (okay, 'W')-I-double L-I-A-M-S".

It made me smile and I felt the need to share it. (:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dancing with the Dust Motes

So facebook has this new application that creates a pretty picture, and randomly selects 10-15 of your status updates over the last year to create a status collage. And the first one in my collage was from the day I wantched my youngest son dancing with the dust motes in the sunlight in the living room (:

As soon as I saw that status update, I was instantly transported to that moment.

There was no music playing. And the front door was open to allow extra light to come in through the screen door windows. The sun was coming in brightly-- lighting up the dust motes from the couch that my boy had just jumped off. It was almost like watching glitter in a snow globe. And at that moment, my son noticed them-- and started to stir them up with his arms, jumping around, and giggling in complete joy. He started turning and spinning with his arms out to watch them swirl. He entertained himself with the dust motes for almost half an hour, completely in the moment of it-- and enraptured in the unexpected entertainment.

It reminded me that my father always used to say that I was a cheap date. 10 cents and photocopier could keep me entertained. A half filled bottle of water was almost an hour's worth of diversion. A quarter and a flat surface. Fallen leaves. Even the wind. I've always been easily entertained and amused. It still makes my husband smile at me to see me delighted over the simple things.

And it makes me happy to know that my children have inherited that gift.

Friday, December 18, 2009

At What Point is it a Murder?

This morning, as I was taking my youngest in to school, and listening to 99.7 Woof FM's "Dumb Crook News", I happened to pass the aerial antics of over 30 crows, and it made me wonder: At what point is it considered 'a murder of crows'? How many does it take?

Turns out to be harder to internet search than you might think, but the -general- consensus is that it's a murder once there are at least 15.

There are several tales relating to the origin of the term. But as this blog isn't actually about that, I'll just post the web addresses, so you can sate your curiosity:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/crowfaq.htm#roost
http://community.livejournal.com/word_ancestry/58301.html
http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2008/01/murder-of-crows.html

No, outside of the brief question wondering the above, what really happened in my mind while I watched the crows this morning was two things.

First, I went through the lyrics of one of my favorite Counting Crows songs, "A Murder of One"

Well, I dreamt I saw you walking up a hillside in the snow
Casting shadows on the winter sky as you stood there counting crows.
One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for girls and four for boys,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.

Which turns out, after -another- internet search to have a long and varied history itself.
...Again, very interesting, but not what I'm after:

http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/boardarchives/2003/feb2003/doescountingcrows.html

No, this blog is actually about the second thing that passed through my mind in that moment. It was a montage of the crow and raven related moments in my life.

I have always thought of them as good luck. This could be because they clean up the road kill on the side of the road, so I neither have to look at nor smell it. Or it could be that, when I was young, someone mentioned them being 'bad luck', and being the ornery child I was, I decided that wasn't going to be the case... That's -exactly- how 13 got to be one of my favorite numbers, so there's precedence. But more likely, I suspect that it's because nature, almost as a rule, has always fascinated me and filled me with wonder for the things in the world around us. And, lets face it, large numbers of ANY bird flying across the heavens is awe inspiring.

But I also associate the bird with my husband Mark. He too has always been fascinated with the bird, though on a more personal level than I. So when my family moved away from his, seeing a crow would remind me of him, even though he was too far away to actually see, and it would make me smile.

My mother, on the other hand, feels -very- differently about them. To her, they're an evil omen. When I was a teenager, I had the habit of naming the vehicles. She actually sold a brand new car because I named it Raven.

My children each have four names, just like I did when I was born. And their names spell out a word. My youngest was going to spell out 'crow', but when my mother found out, she begged us to at least change the first letter to a 'K' because she was superstitious that we would be cursing him. We changed the first letter, not because we agreed with her, but because it really distressed her so.

And ever since I was a child, as far back as I can remember, stepping out in the morning to begin my day, and hearing the crow's caw-- I always took it as them saying, "Good morning" to the new day and to me. My children have grown up with my responding, "And good morning to yourself as well!", that my boys will also talk to crows.

There are some mornings, when we're getting out of the car in the morning at my youngest's school, that he'll grab my arm, all excited, and say, "Momma! Momma! Look! There are (fill in the number between one and seven, usually) crows this morning!....Good morning crows!!" And when one caws back, he'll say, "Look Momma! It wished me a good morning too!", and starts his day, and mine, in a good mood.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Children see magic because they look for it."

This morning, my friend Ed shared this quote from Christopher Moore (Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal).

I absolutely LOVE this quote! I'd never heard it before today, but it's absolutely true.

As we've been getting ready for Christmas, my four year old and I have been having many discussions about Jesus-- that Christmas is, in part, the celebration of his birth.

About a week ago, my boys wanted to know about him dying on the cross, so we had a conversation that involved several youtube clips for children about his resurrection. I mention this because both of my boys were absolutely fascinated with him rising from the dead and going to heaven.

So my four year old, every time he brings up the baby Jesus, will tell me that Jesus was magic. He had magic hands that could heal the sick. And a magic spirit that went up to heaven and God. And that God is magic because he can go between heaven and earth.

Now, we also have many traditions in my house that center around St. Nicholaus. And my children will talk about the magic of Santa as well. Like God, he knows what you've been doing, and whether or not your being good. But unlike God, he has a list he has to check.

I've tried very hard not to lead my children falsely about St. Nick, so whenever they outright ask me if he's real, my answer has always been, "St. Nicholaus the man was very much real, a long time ago. But I believe the spirit of St. Nicholaus is very much alive today, in the spirit of giving to others." ....If you've been paying attention, you can probably figure out where this is going. . . I didn't. (lol)

But my children made the instant connection between Jesus and Santa-- they were both real men in the past, whose magic spirits are alive today. Both good men, trying to improve the world for the people in it.

My friend Jeanie's daughter, and my oldest son have been really good friends, pretty much since they moved onto our street three years ago. And every now and then, while they've been playing outside, they've had theological discussions of their own. Pretty intense for 6 (my son) and 8 (her daughter) year olds, at the time of this discussion.

One day, they got onto the subject of magic-- it was brought up because my son had just seen the latest Harry Potter movie, and my friend's daughter was talking about how magic is the work of the devil and it's evil. My son adamently denied it and they both rushed into the house to ask me. I listened to her explanation, and then I asked her, "Is the sun breaking through the clouds to shine down on you evil?" To which she answered, "No."

"Is a rainbow shining across the heavens evil?"

"No."

"Well how about the first flowers pushing up through the earth in the spring? Or the leaves changing colors in the fall?"

"Well....No Mrs. Janin. None of that is evil....But...But that's not magic!"

"Isn't it? It's the magic of the world around us. It's in everything that lives and grows. It's the miracle of new life, the wonder of nature, the joy of happy moments. Jesus performed miracles, didn't he?"

"Yes."

"And do you think, perhaps, that might have been a bit of magic?"

"...Yes. I guess maybe it could be."

"So all magic isn't evil?"

"No, I guess not."

To which I smiled and said, "Like everything else in this world, it's all about your intentions and what you do with it, that determines whether something is good or evil."

With as frequently as we discuss God and Jesus at our house, you might think we're Christian... and if you're set hard and fast of what your definition of what a Christian is, then you're probably outrageously offended by these two stories.

My husband is Christian. I suspect that my children will probably be Christian, and I encourage them to believe in God and heaven, and teach them about Jesus because he had some great lessons and the Bible is full of wonderful stories. But we also have conversations about the Hindu gods and beliefs. And the differences between Jewish faith and Christianity. We've had discussions on the Native American shamanism, the Celtic pantheon, and the Greek and Roman beliefs as well. I've taught them that mythology is the religion of past civilizations; Doesn't mean there aren't lessons to be learned from them.

So I'll leave you with one of my favorite lessons from Jesus and the Bible:

Matthew 21: 18-22

Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.

And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.

And when the disciples saw it, they marveled saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Old dogs and new tricks

So the other day, I was taking my youngest to school, and passed by the local movie theatre, where the marquee read: "New Moon" and "Old Dogs".

It made me smile and got me thinking about the saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."

A quick internet search shows that this sentiment has been around a LONG time:

The dogge must lerne it when he is a whelpe, or els it wyl not be; for it is harde to make an olde dogge to stoupe.
[1530 J. Fitzherbert Husbandry (ed. 2) G1V]

Time travel not withstanding, all I have to say is J. Fitzherbert never met Cesar Millan...

Possum on the Half Shell

So over the last two days, I've been reminded that this is the time of year in the south when both the possum, and their armored cousin, come out at night. Sadly, this is most notable in the number of those that just didn't make it when crossing the road.

But for the ones who do... well, they have all sorts of tales.

I saw my first possum when I was 5. My sister and I were living with my Aunt and Uncle while my mother was in training or stationed overseas for the ARMY and couldn't take us with her. I really couldn't tell you-- I was too young to remember that. But what I -do- remember is that my Uncle was a game warden, and we used to get to ride around with him when he was doing daylight patrols. One such day, he stopped the vehicle in the middle of the road, got out...and proceeded to climb ON TOP of the roof! We all filed out because THIS was an adventure! Turned out that there was a family of possum sleeping on a branch over the road. Momma, and at least three babies. And my Uncle didn't want any of them slipping and falling to the road, so he gently nudged them with a blunt stick until they moved along. I remember thinking they were absolutely adorable, fluffy brown critters that looked a lot like a really cool plush toy. But I wasn't allowed to have one. And once they moved on, well, so did we.

The next time I saw a possum, I was married with a baby of my own. It was the middle of winter, fast approaching the middle of the night-- and the possum was snow white, and this sucker HISSED! I was taking the house trash out to our street trash container-- which was just outside the door. Complete with the lid on top, all closed. So I took the lid off like I always did and was about to put the trash bag in there...when my trash can hissed at me. It was -huge-! For a brief second, I thought I might be looking at the mutant offspring of a feral cat and an enormous rat. But once my heart slowed down a little, and I actually looked at it, I realized it was just a possum in his winter coat out for a bite to eat. I set the trash bag down on the road, taking a step back as I laughed, then called to Mark to help me dump our unwanted visitor out. The possum didn't like it, but he went about his way pretty peacably.

I didn't see my first live armadillo until I was 16. Up to that point, if you'd asked me the native habitat of an armadillo, I'd have been inclined to tell you, "Upside down, stiff, on the side of the road." Now, the one I saw, I only saw the back end of... but that's really at the tail end of this story, so let me start from the beginning:

So I was 16, and it's the first time we lived in Alabama. And it was my turn to give my little sister a bath. While she and I were in the bathroom taking care of that, my parents were having an adventure of their own.

My mother had gone into the backyard to put something away, but she couldn't see what she was doing, so she called to my Dad to turn the back porch light on. As soon as he did-- my mother realized she was within touching distance of an armadillo! And that sucker CHARGED! So my mother turned around, yelled (Okay, she was -almost- screaming), and fled-- right past my father and into the carport to go around the house. Well, my Dad, figuring he could help, grabbed a shovel and followed right behind that armadillo. Now, that right there might have been the end of that armadillo...except that my father's belt failed and his pants began slipping off him.

This is the part where I finished dressing my sister, and headed to the front door to see what all the commotion was, as my mother was still yelling -- just in time to see my father, his pants around his ankles, a shovel over his head with both hands, yell to my mother, "Kathy, jump to the right and get out of the way!" Then I watched my mother jump to the right as a speeding armadillo fled past as fast as those little legs could go-- and my father threw the shovel after it-- WAY missing it. Then watching, as my parents laughd, as my dad retrieved his pants, my mother retrieved the shovel...and that armadillo just KEPT on running.

To this day, when I think about 'possum on the half shell', THIS is the first image in my mind.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Love is a flower, friendship, a sheltering tree.

So today, my oldest son has been asking me to take him through my memory box. It's a miniature desk that my parents gave me when I graduated high school. And to be honest, I hadn't a clue what was going to be in it. Well, tonight, when he asked me again, I happened to be in the dining room, so I told him yes. And when we opened it, the first thing that catches the eye led my son to say, "Mom.... why do you have a piece of trash in there?"

As I pulled it out, I said, "I bet it's not trash, but let's see." And it was a Dove's milk chocolate wrapper that has been in there for at least 10 years. And on the inside were these words:

Love is a flower, friendship a sheltering tree.

When I read them aloud, my son proclaimed, "Oh. It's about you and Daddy." And we moved on to the rest of the contents of that small mysterious space. Him, content in finding the answer to his curiosity; and I dwelling on the candy wrapper and my son's interpretation.

I've just put my boys to bed for the night, then looked the saying up, fairly sure it was a quote. And it is. But the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

It's beautiful. It's simple. It's poetic. And, as my son pointed out, it's also fitting.

So tonight, I'm going to tell you a story about a rose, a boy, and a girl.

Now, I've mentioned before that I saw Mark for the first time while waiting for the school bus when I was 14. I really did look up and he caught my eye and stole my breath.

And then I looked down and away because I didn't want him to catch me staring at him. I couldn't figure out what to do. Those who know me probably won't believe it, but back in the day, I was -shy-. And -talking- to a boy I liked was just NOT going to happen! So I didn't say anthing while we stood there waiting. And I didn't say anything while we were on the bus. And I didn't say anything as we got off of it either. And then I was at school...and for the life of me, I couldn't tell you -what- I learned that day, because all I could think about was trying to come up with SOME way to talk to that boy! By the end of the day, I still hadn't come up with any ideas. But when I got on the bus, he was already there-- and no one was sitting beside him, and on the spot, I decided it was now or never! So I walked over and delivered the best pick up line in recorded history: "Hi! My name is Janin."

Then I asked if I could sit with him, and we had very little conversation, but I was sitting there and I had TALKED to the beautiful red headed boy! Now, I didn't know at the time, but he was even more painfully shy than I-- and the thought that a girl would approach him was as awkward for him as it was for me. When we reached our stop, I said, "Good-bye, and I'll see you tomorrow." And we didn't walk home together.

The next school day, he stopped me in the stairwell, handed me a note...and fled. I did mention he was even more shy than I was, right?

Well, the note was an introduction, and I learned that the name of the beautiful red headed boy was Mark. Now, I can't tell you when it happened, but it seemed like, from that moment on, we were best friends.

So you're probably wondering when we became boyfriend and girlfriend. (LOL) The closest to that comes MUCH later in this tale (;

We had our ups and downs, as any friendship will, and not a full year later, my family was restationed to Alabama. And when it came time for Christmas, I learned that his Grandmother lived down here. So when his family came down to visit her, he came over to visit me.

My mother always tells me that I was such an easy, innocent child to take care of.

Quick survey: For those of you with 15-16 year old daughters, how long would you leave them completely alone in the house with the boy they obviously like?

Mark came over to visit, and my parents and sisters left to go sight seeing... for over 4 hours.

Mark and I were talking and playing chess when they left... and we were talking and playing chess when they returned. And we'd been doing the same the entire time they were gone as well.

No. Seriously. Since we've been married, we've periodically joked about missed opportunities because of it (lol).

So were we dating? Nope. Still just best friends.

Then my family moved to Louisiana. And he drove down especially to visit me during Christmas. And his family was still living in Virginia.

Still just best friends. Both of us dating other people.

Why? Why hadn't we dated? Why weren't we boyfriend and girlfriend?

Well, to be quite frank, when we first met, I was a complete prude. Boys were still, 'icky.' Even beautiful boys. So I wasn't interested.

And once boys stopped being icky, well, we were dating other people.

So at 17, I started college at Scholar's College, at NSU, in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Mark's family moved to Texas, but he stayed in Virginia, living with his girlfriend and another housemate. A year later, I was living in my own apartment. And Mark stopped by to visit me as he was moving in with his parents to start going to school in Texas.

The day he was leaving, my friend Richard walked over to visit me and saw us hugging, "Good-bye." Then Mark drove away. Richard walked up to me and said, "Boyfriend?"

"No. Just my best friend."

He paused a moment, waited until I looked at him, then said, "Janin... Friends don't hug like that. People who love each other do."

I sort of shrugged it off, pointed out that he had a girlfriend and moved on with the days activities.

So it's October of 1998. And my Grandpa Ervin died. I went home to my parent's house and we made the drive up to Michigan for the memorial service. On the way up, I was devastated that my Grandpa was gone. There were so many great memories of him-- and now there would never be any new ones. I loved my Grandpa, and there are still some times that I miss him. But this story is about something else. So why mention Grandpa Ervin at all?

Because on the long return drive, I was still thinking about my Grandpa Ervin. And I realized that he was truly a GOOD man. He cared about his family. He was hard working and honest. He could make you smile after you'd skinned your knee, and admonish you for bad behavior with a look. He never raised his voice, he was a quiet man. And quick with a hug. I always remember the sparkle in his eyes when he was up to good natured mischief. And I started thinking about the other men I would consider good men. And the list was astonishingly short. I could list the good men in my life on a single hand: My Grandpa Ervin, my cousin Kevin, my cousin Scott.... and Mark.

At at this point in our relationship, I was on the brink of losing him. And I realized, with growing apprehension and fear that that was the last thing in the world I wanted to happen. I finally -realized- what my friend Richard had plainly seen and told me: I LOVED Mark. The way a woman loves a man.

But Dear God! How on -earth- could I tell him?!? We'd been friends for -7- years. And I was -terrified- that he would walk out of my life... and terrified of telling him that I never wanted him to. I couldn't imagine my life without him. He had always been the first person I called with the important news in my life. Be it good or bad. He had been my pen pal for 6 years.

He was coming to my Halloween party. And I did something I don't advice anyone do. Now, I'm not much of a drinker. To be honest, I've only been drunk a handful of times-- the first because I didn't know any better; but even then I knew that people used being drunk as an excuse to say what they wanted to say. So this night, I drank for courage. Had way too much vodka (which, on a side note, should NEVER be combined with eating nothing other than brownies and chips), asked him into my room, and confessed... then threw up in the trashcan like I've never been so sick before in my life.... I did mention that nerves, and a stomach full of brownies, chips and vodka were a bad combination, right?

After cleaning up and brushing my teeth, Mark and I talked, and we shared my bed for the first time as a man and a woman.

Six months later, we were making preparations for our wedding and as my mother and I were sewing my wedding dress, she turned to me and asked, "Janin, how did Mark propose to you."

I looked up at her, my mind returning to that night, blinked, and in slow motion turned to Mark, who was looking at me with the same semi-blank, semi-astonished look on his face that I knew was mirrored on mine. And I answered my mother, "....He didn't.... We both... kind of... (shrug) presumed." To which Mark nodded.

So it's September of 1999, and the pastor of the church we're going to be married in has told us that we need to set aside an hour and half to come in for the pre-marriage questioning. He sits us down at his desk, pulls out this huge book of questions, opens it, and asks, "So how long have you known each other?"

I look at Mark, Mark looks at me, and I say, "7 years? 8?" And Mark says, "Yeah. About there."

And the pastor proceeds to close the big book of questions and says, "Okay. Well. We're done with that. You're obviously -NOT- rushing into anything. And at this point, you know each other pretty well." And we set the date for Halloween 1999, shook hands, and left.

So it's time for me to choose my flowers for my bouquet. And I know -exactly- what I'm looking for...I just don't know if they make it.

I've always been a nerd. And random tidbits of information are a favorite of mine. So I knew the symbolism of roses:

White is the purity of innocence.
Yellow, friendship.
Pink, happiness.
Orange, romance.
and Red, love.

And I wanted a flower that would speak of Mark and my relationship: You see, I had taken comfort in our friendship for almost a decade, before my love blossomed; and I found the flower I was looking for in the gyspy carnival rose. It's a yellow rose, whose tips progress from orange to red; as our friendship blossomed into romance and love.

So my son, in his moment of clarity, was absolutely correct when he said it was about us:

Love is a flower, friendship, a sheltering tree.

Though I suspect Mr. Coleridge meant that love is beautiful and spectacular and short lived, while friendship takes a long time to grow, isn't as amazing to see, but provides us the comfort of being ourselves.

Personally, I think that well tended trees will bear a lifetime of spectacular flowers and sheltering shade-- and that love that blossoms from friendship will continue to grow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Merry Christmas, Spot

When I was pulling out the Christmas stockings today, and getting ready to put them up, I was thinking about the fact that we're going to need to purchase a new stocking for Ruby, the pitbull terrier that we adopted in June.


So I was completely unprepared for coming across Spot's Christmas stocking. But this is the end of the tale, and I want to start at the beginning:

In 1997, my mother lent me our Siamese cats, Thai and Vishnu, to keep my company while I was living in my first apartment and going to college at NSU, in Natchitoches, LA. While in my care, Vishnu had to be put to sleep for renal failure. And that Christmas, when I brought Thai up with me to visit my parents, my mother told me that she missed her cat, kindly took her back, and gave me $200, with the friendly instructions to get my own.

As soon as I got back to Louisiana, I called the local ASPCA and asked if they had two female cats. I wanted any cat I got to have company during the day while I was away at classes, and knew from a lifetime of growing up with cats that females just don't develop the spraying issues that males have. The woman on the other end of the line told me that they had three cats, and I was welcome to come down and look at them.

My best friend, Mark (who was not my husband, nor even my boyfriend at this point), came with me to the Natchitoches Animal Shelter. Upon arrival, the lady working the counter told me that they had three cats-- an older female, that someone young like me probably wouldn't want. And that they had two kittens-- siblings, male and female, that had been brought in just the day before. They were three months old, litter box trained-- and the person who brought them in had rescued them from the dumpster behind their building. Someone had put these two little kittens inside a closed box...and thrown them away! Then she took me back to see them.

As soon as I saw those adorable little gray tabbies, I knew that I had found my cat. And as I sat there petting them, the woman asked me, "So you want the little girl?" To which I responded, "Give me my cats! I'm not breaking up siblings!" She smiled, and I headed home with my best friend and two kittens who were practically identical.

I knew the moment I had seen her, that I had found the cat I'd wanted since I was 12 years old. When I was 12, I promised myself that when I grew up, I was going to have a striped cat named Spot. And this was her. Her brother, I named Peeve, because I hadn't actually wanted a boy cat, and therefore he was my pet peeve (;

And I enjoyed their company and affection for two years before I married Mark and he too was allowed into our family. Over the years, between them, Spot and Peeve trained 6 dogs on proper cat etiquette. And they took well to the arrival of my furless kittens (read: my two sons).

They were pretty traveled for US bound cats-- Louisiana, Missouri, 4 different towns in Virginia, before we moved down here to Ozark 3 1/2 years ago. They had always been indoor cats. But we live on a quiet street. And one day, as Spot sat me-etting at the window and the birds, I decided to let them out. From that day on, they no longer needed a litter box-- they would sit at the door and ask to go out, or would simply follow the dogs out the door when it was time. And we developed routines-- If the cats were outside when I needed to drive anywhere, I always checked to see them with my eyes, and honked my horn to make them move if they walked into driveway, or hopped out and chased them off.

Except for June 4th of this year. All day long, Spot had layed on the table in the carport. Every time I stepped outside, that was where she was. Didn't want to come inside when the rest of the animals were called. Just lounged there in the carport enjoying the table. So when it came time to take my oldest to Karate, I did an eye check for Peeve-- and assumed Spot was in the same location she'd been all day. And I ran over my Spot cat.

She ran from under the car towards the house. I leapt out and towards her as she fell to her side, telling my boys to stay in the car. It's a blessing that at that exact moment, my father in law pulled up-- and offered to take my boys to karate for me. As they left, I gently picked Spot up and we headed to the vet. As we arrived, I opened the door, picked her up-- and she died in my arms before we ever made it in.

I drove her home, called my mother because I didn't know what to do-- and then buried my first pet ever.

Spot would have been 12 in September.

And this is my first Christmas, in 12 years, without her.

She always liked Christmas. Not only was it a stocking full of cat toys and goodies-- but she loved the tree. Batting ornaments across the floor in the middle of the night. Climbing up into the tree and staring out at us. Eating the gingerbread ornaments (lol).

Spot, you are sorely missed.




Feeling sentimental

Facebook is an interesting and addictive site. One of the most beneficial aspects is that it allows me to keep in touch with my sisters. My youngest sister, Amanda, is 17-- and madly in love with her boyfriend. They're going to get to see each other in three days and have had 'I miss you baby' and the like, status and comments for the last couple of days. Today's led me to comment on the ooey, gooey sweetness of their comments (; Well, my sister said she was sure it had been the same with Mark and I, and it got me thinking.

I've turned how Mark and I met into a bedtime story that my little boys absolutely love, and recently created an altered book to go along with it. I call it:

How I Met Your Father
--by Janin Wise


Once upon a time, in a village not that far away,


Janin, her sister Erin, her friend Abby, and their friend Roy used to ride a bus with bullies on it. The bullies were mean, they said mean things, threw gum in people's hair and made people cry. One day, Roy asked if they would like to ride a different bus--one without any bullies on it. And Janin said, "Yes." So the next school day, Janin, Erin, Abby and Roy walked a couple of blocks further than they normally did,




to ride the bus without any bullies on it.



And as we were standing there, I looked up, and saw the most beautiful red headed boy, standing next to this tall Asian boy.


And do you know who the beautiful red headed boy was? (To which my boys chime in, "Daddy!")
That's right! And do you know who the tall Asian boy is? (To which they reply, "Uncle Roger!" (who is my husband's best friend.))
That's right!


And -that- my loves, is the story of how Mommy and Daddy met.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Grandpa Grandpa's Christmas Tree

This morning, my little boys woke up excited, because I promised them last night that we would be decorating the tree today. Even before they had had breakfast, or any of us had even considered getting dressed, my little loves reminded me of that promise and asked if we could get started. So I slipped into my shoes and brought in the wealth of Christmas decorations I've accumulated over the last 10 years.

Now, typically, my husband helps me string the lights-- because our 8 foot tree is almost 3 feet taller than me and getting the lights -around- the top is nearly impossible for me to do by myself. That wasn't going to stop my sons though! So my oldest volunteered to stand on the arm of the couch and help me, while I moved the foot stool around, and between us, we got it strung up nicely. The first strand we put on were the new LED lights that my husband wanted to test out. Right now, I'm going to say they are -COOL-! Not only are they 1.) More energy efficient and 2.) Way the heck brighter than regular Christmas lights, they ALSO come with a variety of flicker patterns you can set with a push button!

Then I began opening the boxes and tins full of ornaments. This year, as my boys are getting older, I would open a tin, give them each one, taking a tin with heavy or breakable ornaments myself, and we would go around and decorate the tree-- following 2 simple rules: spread them out-- there's a lot of tree to cover; and no arguing about placement. And we had a ball!! There was no arguing-- and LOTS of laughter and smiles-- and when we were done, the only thing remaining was for my husband to come place the star on the top of the tree. Then we turned on the lights and admired our handiwork.

I've always admired the eclectic nature of our Christmas tree. There's never any tinsel. It's always colored lights with a star on top. But ever since the first year Mark and I bought Christmas ornaments for our very first tree together, it's always been an interesting variety of ornaments. There are a large multitude of bells-- glass, metal, and even purely decorative. If you nudge our tree as you pass by, it tinkles merrily at you. Angels, Santas, prisms, stained glass, photographs, Christmas trees, German straw ornaments, pull string toys-- and a wealth of ornaments from my childhood that my mother has passed on to me, all share the branches of our holiday evergreen. And all lit up, it never fails to make me smile.

So, you might be wondering, at this point, what any of that has to do with my title, and who Grandpa Grandpa is. But before I can get there, I have to tell you about my nativity. See, when I was seven years old, my Grandma Carole took a ceramics class, and she created this wonderful nativity scene that she gave to my family. And every year, my mother would set it out, and we weren't allowed to touch any of it. My sister and I loved the whole thing-- but our absolute favorite piece was the donkey. Bear in mind that we were children of the 80s and the A-Team was one of the COOLEST shows on television. So this donkey's name was, "Mr. T Donkey"....It still is. My kids have no clue who Mr. T is, but they can tell you this donkey's name (;

Well, three years ago, we went to visit my parents in Missouri for Christmas, and my mother didn't have the nativity out. It almost broke my heart! There were so many fond memories of my childhood wrapped up in that display! And my mother gave me a wonderful gift-- She knew that it mattered to me-- and so she passed it on to me, to display and share with my children. And every year I have.

...You're still wondering about Grandpa Grandpa, aren't you?

Fine, fine. Okay, so when I was a child growing up, my mother was in the ARMY. And when I was seven, she had to spend the year in Korea-- which meant that my sister and I stayed with my dad's parents: Grandma Carole and Grandpa George, in Connecticut. And they are WAY big into decorating for Christmas! Now, my Grandma Carole is Sicilian-- and her father had a last name I couldn't possibly pronounce... and have long since forgotten. But I knew he was older than my grandparents. So my sister and I christened him, "Grandpa Grandpa". We loved going over to Grandpa Grandpa's house because he LOVED the red pistachio nuts-- and we learned to love them from him. Salty goodness that also dyed our finger red-- it was childhood bliss! And one of my fondest Christmas memories is quite short, but I know it was at Grandpa Grandpa's house:

It was getting late, my sister and I were both getting very tired, but my Grandparent's weren't ready to go home. All the adults were sitting around the dining room table, talking, laughing and visiting. And I came over and asked when we'd be leaving because we were tired. Grandma Carole told us to go lay down beneath the Christmas tree and count the lights. My sister and I thought it was delightful! Getting to lay with our heads down under the tree and on the tree skirt, with our legs sticking out into the room, looking up through the branches, watching the large colored lights flickering, and trying to count them. Giggling and talking as little girls and sisters will. It was like being in a fairy forest. And I remember fighting to keep my eyes open to look at the lights just a -little- bit longer. And drifting off to sleep warm, happy, with the distilled murmur of my Grandparent's voices, the smell of pine and the beautiful flickering lights.

Well, I've been thinking about that off and on today, thanks to the single string of flashing LED lights that I spread from top to bottom around the tree before putting on the regular lights we always use. Our tree has been beautiful and lit all day long. And several times today, I've caught myself staring at the lights... lost in the memories and smiling.

The Story of The Legend of Flintmarsh

So before I post this, I thought I should mention that about 3 years ago, our local SCA shire, Flintmarsh, received it's permanent status and became an official shire. The next February, we were hosting our joint event with another shire-- and I would be teaching a couple of classes on basic belly dancing and introductory drumming. I was -extemely- nervous the night before, and I couldn't quiet my mind, nor get myself to go to sleep. So, using a bit of what I knew about the actual history behind how our shire had formed, I decided to tell myself a story so that I could go to bed. After a wonderful night's rest, I attended the event, taught my classes, had a wonderful time, and during feast, shared the story I had invented with my shire/ table mates.

This was the result (from February, 2008):

The Story of The Legend of Flintmarsh
by Cigan Oszinte (mundanely known as Janin Wise)

Once upon a time, less than two hand spans ago, Flintmarsh did not exist. It was not even an idea in the minds of its founders. They were part of another shire. A shire to the East.

But things were unsettled in that shire and it was troubling times, and a portion of its populace decided that they could stay there no longer. So they banded together, said goodbye to the friends they still had amongst their old home and headed out into the wilds of the west to find a new home.

They traveled for many days, loaded heavily on their wagons. Stopping every evening and wondering “Would this be our home?” But every time, there was some reason it would not work. Perhaps there was no ready supply of fresh water. No shelter from the elements. Too little fuel for even a warm fire. Or worse yet, unsuccessful hunting.

Until one day, they came here, to what would become Flintmarsh—a bountiful area where land met water and wildlife abounded. The light from heaven shown down upon it and they knew they had found home when they sent their warriors out on the hunt and they brought back the boar—symbol of hearth, home, prosperity and hope and decided they would use it as their device.

But all lands belong to the king, and no shire may begin on the king’s lands without his blessing, so they petitioned the king of Meridies for the right to set up in his borders. Being a wise king, he gave them permission to try, but they would have to show they could prosper and grow before he would grant them permanent status, for no town can exist with too few people.

They were fortunate to start out with great leaders, people capable of the behind the scenes work that keeps all society going. And they had among them a blacksmith armorer who not only helped armor and arm their fighters to defend their new lands, but taught them to arm and armor themselves. They also had amongst them archers of great skill and prowess.

And as time passed by, as populations are wont to do, they grew. The arts came to them—they were blessed with artisans both of pen and needle. Fair maidens with sweet voices and nimble feet. Heralds, fighters, all—they grew and they prospered.

And they came unto the notice of the king, who saw that they had kept to his directives and aspired to their goals. And being a wise and gracious king, he called them to court and granted them with their permanent status, and thus are we, the Shire of Flintmarsh!