Bleak Friday

I will admit that I was one of the early risers on November 28.  I got up at 3:30 am, showered, and drove (bleary-eyed) to Savannah to find some bargains.  Got a carseat for $34.99 at Sears, cute lil' sleeping bags for $8 at Target, blah blah, and so on and so forth.  What I didn't get (this year) was a big ticket item.  What I didn't see (this year) was a massive hoard of people waiting in line outside of the stores.  Most shockingly, none of the items on our "must get" list were even sold out by the time we got to them.  And although the lines at Target indicated that there were *plenty* of people spending money, it just didn't feel like it has in past years.

My suspicions have been confirmed by article after article reporting that sales are down.  Retails sales dropped for a 5th consecutive month in November, despite Black Friday (or perhaps this year...Bleak Friday).  Of course, economists are crying recession (to which we all reply, "Duh").  They're saying that it's terrible that sales are down, this is a bad sign, etc.

Actually, I beg to differ.

I think for the first time in decades, people are scared.  People are thinking that maybe, just maybe, it's time to start thinking about financial responsibility.  Perhaps we shouldn't rely on our line of credit to get us through things.  Maybe living paycheck to paycheck, as we dine out 5 of the 7 nights a week and spend without a budget *hasn't* been such a great idea.  It might be smart to cut back a little bit, even at the holidays.

While I do feel a certain amount of pity for the retailers, I think this whole discretionary-spending-on-the-part-of-the-consumer could be considered a bright spot in this midst of our present recession.  It shows responsibility.  And I have to admit, in my young, cynical life, I've not witnessed much of that.

To all of you, I wish a happy, albeit probably-more-frugal Christmas.  We all know that's not what it's *really* about anyway, right?

The Cutting Edge

You might think by the title, that this is going to be about technology. I'll "cut" to the chase and tell you it's not. (I wouldn't bore you that way!)

Last night, on a whim, dear ole Sam decided to de-mold the caulk in our master bathroom. It was a pretty significant undertaking (not because I don't clean our bathroom, but because we had really cheap, non-bio-resistant caulk in the shower, I SWEAR). So, in the process, he relocated all of the shower items to another surface in the bathroom...the bathtub edge. My job was to keep Abby and Ben away. And until I was asked to run to Lowes to fetch the new caulk & a new caulk gun (which apparently I threw away during our last project...oops), I had been pretty successful.

As part of the de-molding in the bathroom, there were about nine million bath toys soaking in a hot sea of disinfectant in the tub. (The same tub that now housed all of the shower items.) Abby walked in and decided that she would investigate (innocently, of course) the items alongside the bathtub. When she turned around, she looked up and saw that I had my purse and shoes on. In her mind, this means she needs to drop what she's doing and sprint to the closest vehicle (she loves to go on a trip). At the approximate same time she saw me, she squealed. So...I figured I was about to haul her on to Lowes with me. When I picked her up, her entire mouth was covered in blood.

Yes. Blood.

I said, "Sam!!! What happened to Abby?! She's bleeding!" His first reaction was, "Are you sure it's not orange [from Cheetos]?" (This is actually funny now that she wasn't seriously injured.) But yeah, I was pretty sure the crimson red liquid coming out of her lip was not Cheetos.

Turns out...the little booger had gotten ahold of my Intuition razor, removed the cover, and proceeded to trim her bottom lip. I guess it didn't hurt *too* badly because she took the time to decide she didn't want to do that anymore, and placed the bloody cover back on the razor (that was the only clue we had as to what happened).

Described by her Grammie as "tough as a lighter knot", lil' Abby didn't fuss or cry. Those slices happened so quickly it probably didn't have time to hurt. She was minorly freaked out by the blood coming out of her lip when she spotted it in the mirror, but mostly I think she was bothered by me holding her for more than 30 seconds.

In my time as a parent, I've had a few experiences like this...where I think "well crap, that could have ended up MUCH worse!!!" (The first one being when we accidently left a bottle of rubbing alcohol out and Ben drank it when he was about a year old.) Thankfully, Abby's lip is only slightly swollen today, and it doesn't seem to be bothering her like it did last night.

I guess this was a risky story with which to begin my blogging adventure, but I don't care. We're human. We mess up. We live and learn! The good news is...we all lived to see another day! Keeping my fingers crossed we'll get through quite a few more!

(I wasn't trying to go) On a Bear Hunt

A couple of weeks ago, someone who works with Sam hit a bear on the way into work.  Warner Robins isn't a particularly rural area.  We've got enough "civilization" going on that this is kind of weird.  Granted, it was way the heck outside of the city limits...but still.  A bear?  Really?  (Isn't it too hot in Georgia for those things anyway?)  So this was on my mind.  I discussed it with my boss who informed me that the DNR trapped a bear in his brother's backyard a couple of years ago.  He *does* live in the city limits.  That had me a little on edge.

Flash forward to my weekend in Sylvania over the 4th:

It was hot, but I'm on an exercising kick (it was kind of a New Year's Resolution, but I hesitate to call it that because that means it'll fizzle as soon as I utter the words).  It's been my goal to do *some* sort of physical activity every day...no matter how small.  So, I decided to take a walk.  My in-laws have a meandering dirt road for a driveway and it's about a half a mile (give or take) from their house to the paved road.  I was going to walk to the end, past the pond (it really is beautiful there), through the pine trees.  I got about 3/4 of the way down the driveway when I heard a noise...a moan, if you will...coming from the trees. 

Here's where I have to pause the story for a second and explain how crazy I am.  Whenever I jog in the neighborhood at home, I'm constantly on the lookout for dogs.  I was attacked by a stupid, little dog when I was a little girl and I've been afraid of them ever since.  So while I'm running, any little noise triggers this survival instinct in me and I start looking for a place to climb...like the bed of a neighbors truck, on top of a mailbox, what have you...

Back to the moaning...

As soon as I heard it, I start eyeing up the pine trees.  "Yeah, that one looks good, I can probably climb up that one."  Then I start thinking...there aren't any dogs in the woods in Sylvania.  This is weird.  Then I thought it...what if it was a bear?!?!  I wouldn't know what to do, other than climb a tree...and can't bears climb trees better than humans?  I probably couldn't outrun a bear...and that's probably not what you're supposed to do anyway.  Do you play dead?  (I think my suburban roots are really showing in this.)  So, I stopped in my tracks, imagination running wild...and slowly turned back around towards the house (which, by the way is completely out of sight...if I was attacked by a bear, my body wouldn't exactly be noticeable from their front porch).

I started walking...slowly...then faster...then I was practically jogging in my flip-flops back to the house.  I cut across the field, trying to distance myself from the pine trees and that mysterious noise (that I'd only heard that one time).  I was breathing a little easier, probably because my body would be noticeable from the front porch now...and they might even be able to hear me scream for help!

Then I made it...back into the safety of the house (and the a/c...thank God for that!).  Sam just kind of looked at me.  And then all at once, it hit me. 

How ridiculous was it that I had just run from an imaginary bear?

Maybe now would be the time to figure out what I should do in case I ever were to encounter a bear, which, I've been informed, are not particularly prevalent in Screven County, Georgia.  I have also been informed that it was probably just a bird.  Color me embarrassed.

And this is what happens to adults with overactive imaginations...

The G Word

I think I should probably blame it on my parents.  Surely, it's their fault.
I'm guilty.  Not of a crime.  I'm guilty of feeling guilt.  Over EVERYTHING.
I think guilt really set in when I became a mom.  Mommy guilt is the worst and most prevalent.  However, the guilt always been there.  It stems from my intense, and often excessive, desire not to inconvenience other people at the cost of my own convenience.
Here's an absurd/embarrassing list of non-child related things I've let myself feel guilty about:

1.  Getting in front of a car in the right lane, only to be stopped at a redlight and the person behind me wanted to turn right (which they could have done if I hadn't gotten in front of them)

2.  Standing in front of a display at the grocery store that someone else wants to look at.

3.  (also at the grocery store) Needing to get by someone who has blocked the entire aisle with their cart (buggy for the southerners).  Instead of simply saying, "Excuse me" like a normal person, I just wait awkwardly until they move.  I feel guilty for asking them to let me by.

4.  Having important work emails returned to me as undeliverable through no fault of my own.

5.  Lending my van to my mother-in-law with an empty gas tank (to alleviate the guilt I got up extra early that morning and drove to get gas at the nearest gas station).

6.  Forgetting to send a note of encouragement (nope, not sympathy, get well, happy birthday...one of those normal things) to a friend when she needed a pick-me-up.  It's not like it was expected.  It was just an idea I had that I didn't get around to...and then I felt guilty.

So, by now...you're probably all thinking...man, this chick is a WEIRDO.  I probably should have started with the things that are normal to feel guilt about...like missing my best friend's father's funeral in high school.  And failing to say "I love you" enough.  Seeing my family so infrequently.  Falling out of touch with my friends from "home" who still mean the world to me, and they probably don't even know it anymore. 

Then there's the mommy guilt.  And it's unrelenting.  I feel guilt over being a working mother.  That my children spend more time during the day with a teacher than they do with me.  Then I think about if I were a stay at home mom, how I'd feel guilty about not helping to pay the bills.  I feel guilt over leaving my kids with their grandparents from time to time even though everyone involved LOVES it.  If I raise my voice, I feel guilty.  If they eat too many hot dogs, I feel guilty.  Too much tv...well...you get the picture.

I read an interesting snippet the other day about Mommy guilt.  Considering the source, I was [mostly] able to blow it off, but it still kind of chafed me a bit.  The comment was that working moms feel guilt because they *should*.

I don't play the girl card much.  In fact, I hate it.  I hate the dang girl card.  I hate that people think I accomplished anything strictly because I am female.  But when it comes to a "traditional" womanly role, I simply can't do it.  In fact, in my house, Sam does most of the cooking.  I cut the grass.  We have things we trade off on and it works for us.  So for some extremist to tell me that my guilt is justified, that's ridiculous.  I think that was good for me.  It was a step in the right direction.  I've been beating myself up since birth over things that are just plain stupid.  And it took an ignorant person to teach me that.

I think I'm that much closer to taking Lucas's wisdom from Empire Records in that "we mustn't dwell". 

Here's to not dwelling.  And in the words of my favorite working moms, here's to not doing anything out of fear, obligation, or *guilt*.

God's Sense of Humor

I remember praying for patience when I was 15 years old.  I had a short-temper, got easily frustrated (particularly with my mother, as most 15 year old girls tend to do), and just was generally...impatient!  I could see it in myself, and I wanted to change it, but didn't know how to do that on my own.  So I prayed that God would help me to be more patient.

Then I got a phonecall.  I was offered a babysitting job for two kids.  In retrospect, they really weren't bad.  They were normal kids, and I didn't have much experience.  But for a 15 year old with very little patience, it was a harrowing summer job to say the least.  I remember fixing bagel bites in their kitchen for lunch one day, as they got further and further under my skin.  And I closed my eyes in front of the microwave, and prayed yet again for God to just give me some patience.  Then it hit me, all at once in that minute and a half...

God doesn't just hand over patience.  God puts us in the situations we need to be in so that he can help us learn.  Life is one giant learning experience.  God delivered me to that job so that I *could* learn patience.  Those two rambunctious children were the answer to my prayers.  So with a shake of my head, and a "you got me on that one, God", I passed out the bagel bites and tried to change my attitude.

I've had similar experiences recently in my life.  My wonderful, unbelievably patient, and always optimistic husband had an intervention of sorts with me regarding my negativity.  I've always considered myself to be a realist, but truth of the matter is that I'm a cynic.  I was jaded early on and I don't know where it came from.  So, I prayed that God would make me a more optimistic person.

Then He delivered a new office manager to my workplace.  I have never in my life met a more negative, miserable person in my life.  I could literally write a book about her, but that's not the point.  The point is, that I truly believe that this miserable wretch of a woman was brought to me so that I could see how *not* to act.  Everything that came out of her negative mouth, was a slap in the face.  It was a mirror of how I'd been living my life for who knows how long.  So not only did I commit to changing, I decided that I would try to bring this oh-so-grumpy lady a little sunshine into her day.  I don't know how well that's working.  I think she's much grumpier than I am sunshiny, but it truly has helped me in my outlook!

The main lesson I've learned from observing this woman (and believe me, it's a big one, considering I'm one of the world's foremost complainers) is that there is no point in complaining about things over which you have no control, nor is there any point in complaining about things over which you do have control.  If that's the case, it's your duty to make it right.

God has also put me in situations that have helped me to be less judgmental, more compassionate, you name it.  But when you stop and think about it, God has an interesting way of answering prayers.  Some call it "working in mysterious ways", but mostly I like to think God has a sense of humor.

And Another Thing

It has come to my attention that some people think that they are owed things in this life. 

Case and point:  A certain mom on a message board I read believes that the Georgia lottery owes all preschool aged children a spot in the state funded pre-k. 

To which I sat on my hands and didn't type back the following:

I think the point is that since pre-k isn't *required*, there's no point in worrying about it regardless of whether your child was chosen or not.  If they get in to a free program, you can count your blessings that they get that opportunity.  If they don't you can count your blessings that they have another year to be a kid.  The Georgia state lottery doesn't owe every child the chance to be enrolled in pre-k.  It's a privilege.  

Furthermore, you have to consider the other fund that the lottery pays into…the HOPE scholarship which enables deserving students to attend public colleges in Georgia for free.  I guess what it boils down to is, do you want to take away a college education from someone so that a handful of kids can go to pre-k?  I don't think I would.  Just my two cents.

Aren't you proud of me for resisting?

The examples don't stop at this and they didn't start with this either.  People think that they are owed lots of things...like vacation time, healthcare, a better parking space, for everyone to bow down to them when they enter the room, whatever.  I don't think we're owed much in this life.  In fact, I think we need to be grateful for just about everything...even the bad stuff (that's right I'm going that far).  Even the hardships in our lives teach us about ourselves and if we never went through it, how would we learn?

The things I have, I owe to God.  The things I owe to other people are my respect, my courtesy, and whatever help I can give them.  I'm trying.  I'm doing my best.

All I ask is that the next time you start to place blame, complain, or that you feel that someone owes you something, stop and think.  Look inward.  Where is *your* responsibility in the matter?  Consider...is this something I am owed?  Or is a privilege that I missed out on?  Chances are it's the latter.

A Hero in my Book

Benjamin Solomon Carson was raised by his 3rd-grade-educated, illiterate, single mother in one of the most impoverished sections of Detroit.  In his words, she "pulled a fast one" on him and his brother by encouraging them (and sometimes forcing them) to read anything and everything they could get their hands on, when she couldn't even read herself.  He evolved from hating it, to liking it, to loving it, and ultimately craving it.  He realized that through learning was the ticket out of poverty...and out of any situation, really.

In about a year he went from the popularly dubbed "dumbest kid in the school" [kids are ruthless] to the smartest in his class.  All thanks to reading and a thirst for more knowledge. 

Dr. Benjamin Carson is now one of the most accomplished neurosurgeons of all time, literally carrying out God's miracles through the gift of his hands.  He's performed so many unbelievable surgeries including countless seperations of conjoined twins, intra-uterine spinal surgeries on yet unborn children, and hemispherectomies which remove half of the brain to stop seizures, allowing the other half to compensate for the missing half (and it does!).  On a personal note, he has been the surgeon to a dear friend of my family's who was born with spina bifida.  In his mother's own words, they are so blessed to have Dr. Carson as their surgeon.

Dr. Carson has written two books; Gifted Hands (an auto-biography) and Think Big (a motivational book).  The 2nd is an acronym for:

Talent: Our Creator has endowed all of us not just with the ability to sing, dance or throw a ball, but with intellectual talent. Start getting in touch with that part of you that is intellectual and develop that, and think of careers that will allow you to use that.

Honesty: If you lead a clean and honest life, you don't put skeletons in the closet. If you put skeletons in the closet, they definitely will come back just when you don't want to see them and ruin your life.

Insight: It comes from people who have already gone where you're trying to go. Learn from their triumphs and their mistakes.

Nice: If you're nice to people, then once they get over the suspicion of why you're being nice, they will be nice to you.

Knowledge: It makes you into a more valuable person. The more knowledge you have, the more people need you. It's an interesting phenomenon, but when people need you, they pay you, so you'll be okay in life.

Books: They are the mechanism for obtaining knowledge, as opposed to television.

In-Depth Learning: Learn for the sake of knowledge and understanding, rather than for the sake of impressing people or taking a test.

God: Never get too big for Him.

Carson further outlines what he believes to be the keys to success: "One's ability to discover his or her potential for excellence; the acquisition of knowledge to develop it; and a willingness to help others."

While I definitely don't claim to be on the same level intellectually as Dr. Carson and I'm certainly not wise (or motivational for that matter!), I have expressed before that I believe success is measured in the ability to live up to one's God-given potential.  Reading the biography of a man who overcame the situation into which he was born, ultimately to become not only a physician but a notable neurosurgeon who performs God's miracles on daily basis, I'd say this rings true.

I pray this for my children (and truthfully for everyone).  That you will always know that you were successful, as long as you did the best you could possibly do.  That you can do amazing things when you tap into your potential.  That you *never* let someone tell you, "you can't"...because chances are, You Can.

This is my thanks to Dr. Carson who is not only a respected neurosurgeon, but a respectable one.  And this wouldn't be complete without a thanks to Sonya Carson, his mother, for recognizing the potential in her children and doing an amazing job raising them in the direst of circumstances.  They are *both* heroes in my book.

I'm rich.

I took a quiz yesterday that asked me to pick my socio-economic status from a drop down menu.  Aside from being completely irrelevant to the quiz (it was about being right or left brained, I'm obsessed), the options were intriguing to say the least.  They ranged from Lower Class with an associated $ amount in parentheses to Upper Class, again, with an associated $ amount.  There are SO many reasons that was a dumb question, particularly the $ amount of earnings having such different implications based on geography.  What I make is peanuts compared to someone in the northeast or California...and on the other hand, probably seems like a lot to people in other parts of the country.  So of course my mind starts going in a gazillion different directions.  (Must...stop....the tangent........)

The point of the blog is this:  What is your definition of rich?

Dictionary.com (one of my all time favorite websites, along with it's counterpart thesaurus.com) gives MANY definitions for the word:

1.  having wealth or great possessions; abundantly supplied with resources, means, or funds; wealthy
2.  abounding in natural resources
3.  having wealth or valuable resources (usually fol. by in)
4.  of great value or worth; valuable
5.  (of food) delectably and perhaps unhealthfully spicy, or sweet and abounding in butter or cream
6.  costly, expensively elegant, or fine, as dress or jewels
7.  sumptuous; elaborately abundant
8.  using valuable materials or characterized by elaborate workmanship, as buildings or furniture
9.  abounding in desirable elements or qualities
10.  (of wine) strong and finely flavored
11.  (of color) deep, strong, or vivid
12.  full and mellow in tone: rich sounds
13.  strongly fragrant; pungent
14.  producing or yielding abundantly
15.  abundant, plentiful, or ample
16.  Automotive(of a mixture in a fuel system) having a relatively high ratio of fuel to air
17.informal~highly amusing

I realize how nerdy this must be of me, but there really are just so many ways to use this word, I figured why not put it to rest right now and look the darn thing up. 

So the next question...considering only the 1st definition...do you consider yourself rich? 

When I ask you this question, what does your mind immediately turn to?  Money, right?  But money isn't the only "resource" by which wealth is measured. 

In light of certain events in my life recently, I stopped and did a little soul searching.  I took notice of the sheer amount of *stuff* in my house and it made me kind of sick to my stomach.  I have no right to complain...ever.  In terms of material possessions, I have everything I could ever need and WAY more.  (Before I continue, this isn't some big brag-fest.  It's true, and I'd venture to say it's probably true for most of you reading this, whether you realize it or not.)  But you know what, if I lost every bit of that stuff...I would still be rich.

I would be rich because of the other infinitely-renewable resources in my life.  These include, but are not limited to: 

~The love of a husband who will stay the course, no matter how windy/bumpy the road may get
~One set of blue eyes and one set of brown eyes that look at me with complete love and trust in a way that only an innocent child can
~The love of a Heavenly Father who never leaves my side and lets me fall asleep in His arms
~The comfort of being able to confide in a close friend, no matter how far apart we might be geographically
~The support of two parents who reared me in a God-loving home with way too many rules (and OH how I appreciate that now, as a parent)
~The memories of my childhood that will never go away...from our annual beach trip to Rehoboth, to catching lightning bugs in the backyard in Joppatowne, to I-don't-even-know-+how-many-hours spent at church retreats/functions, to that amazing summer tour of New England
~The friends I made throughout my life that will forever mean the world to me, even now that we hardly (if ever) talk to each other...and who helped me become the person that I am now

While I still can't figure out what socio-economic status has anything to do with how right or left brained a person is (I'm 93% left brained in case you were wondering...even worse than I thought), I do know that socio-economic status has absolutely nothing to do with a person's wealth.  And I am thankful for that.  And I am thankful for that ridiculous quiz…for helping me to realize how incredibly rich I truly am.

[And I'm thankful for you, if you're reading this...because you probably fall into the category of "friends who helped me become the person I am today".  And I'm grateful that you're a part of my life!]
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