Saturday, September 29, 2012

9-1-1 Call

As I turned down my street on the way home from work yesterday, I noticed a man walking a dog. I immediately realized that this man wasn't one of the "usual" dog walkers in my neighborhood. You know that "sixth sense" we all have, the little voice that tells us that something isn't right? Well, mine was screaming. I pulled into my driveway and just sat there. I observed the man, with dog on leash, looking up each of my neighbor's driveways.

I had seen this on the news once. Crooks use dog walking as a way to get into a neighborhood, and evaluate who is home at each house during different parts of the day. Needless to say, goosebumps erupted on my arms as I realized this guy was "casing" my block. Should I confront him? Ask what he is doing? Technically, he hadn't done anything wrong. YET!

I watched him walk past my house, and stop at my next door neighbor's. He hesitated, then began walking toward her backyard. Once he was blocked by the fence that divides our yards, I jumped out of my car and flew into my front door, locking it behind me.

From my family room window, I could see this man depositing his bag of doggie "droppings" into my neighbor's garbage pail. "Who does that?" I thought to myself as my heart began to pound. Next, he let the dog off the leash and climbed onto my neighbor's deck. I ran to the next window to get a closer look. By this time, he was tugging at my neighbor's sliding door. The bastard got the door open and walked in!!!

With shaking hands, I dialed 9-1-1. My voice was quivering as I told the dispatcher I was witnessing a robbery in progress, and the cops should be careful because he has a big dog with him.

The dispatcher asked my address and that of my neighbor. My heart was thumping so loudly I could hear it in my own ears. I quickly glanced at the clock to see how much time before the school buses came. Surely, we didn't want them caught in the crossfire. The dispatcher asked me for a description of the perpetrator. "Tall, white male," I answered. Now she wanted a clothing description. How could I remember when all I was concerned about was this man rifling through my neighbor's drawers and personal items?

As luck would have it, the man came out of the back door and began walking toward the front yard again. I ran through my house to look out a front window and began describing his clothing for the dispatcher. Suddlenly, a woman appeared. I didnt see her arrive. An accomplice? They both walked toward a car parked in front of the house. She opened the trunk. Horror sprang through my bones as I realized they were going to load up the "getaway" car with my neighbor's possessions. IN BROAD DAYLIGHT!!

What's this? They weren't loading the car? They were UNLOADING it! Duffle bags, and suitcases. Huh? They grabbed some items and walked into my neighbor's front door.

"Ummmm... dispatcher? I may have made a mistake. Yes, I know the police are on their way, but I think maybe, just maybe, my neighbor has some relatives visiting, but I've been their neighbor for 19 years. I know 99% of their relatives. Who ARE these people???"

I ended my call and quickly dialed my neighbor at work. "Annette, do you have house guests?" She said as soon as she saw my number pop up, she realized she should have given me the heads up. Yes, relatives from Florida were arriving, with a dog. She had left the back door open, I guess. She wanted to know if everything was okay. "Sure," I told her, "except I just called the cops on them!" The two of us burst into hysterical laughter, so hysterical in fact, that we could barely finish our conversation.

I walked out toward the squad car, and explained the whole thing to the very kind police officer, who was clearly bemused by the whole thing. The "crooks" came over and introduced themselves as the people "who are not breaking in." I was mortified. When they walked away, the cop really tried to make me feel better. He praised me for looking out for my neighbors. He said the block was lucky to have me. (Which is what I have been telling this block for years!!! LOL) He told me that it very easily could have been a robbery, and asked how would I have felt if I didn't go with my gut?

Two minutes later, another car came, and I had to tell that officer the same story. He also was extremely kind, and told me I did the right thing. When I apologized for wasting his time, he assured me I did no such thing. I think he wanted to add, You gave us something to laugh about back at the precinct!"

Oh well, this is one for the books. I live on an awesome street with awesome people whom I love like family. We will be laughing about this for a long time to come, but I hope they all realize that I will have their grandma arrested if she looks the least bit suspicious. I will always be looking out for them.

Did you ever TOTALLY misread a situation?????

Monday, September 10, 2012

Drowning in My Tears

I found myself at my parents' house today. In some ways, it feels like I'm walking into a museum. Things are mostly the way they were on the day my parents left. My dad needs a new eyeglass case, and he told me he has some at the house, so I began to look through some dresser drawers. This act in itself seemed kind of illegal. I was digging into things that are my parents' personal items. It's a creepy feeling, and I know it is only the beginning. I came across a few items that really hit me emotionally. One was a Valentine card I had made for my parents when I was in elementary school. The doilies I had used (and yes, you know you made things out of doilies too!), were all yellowed and the glue had dried out, but the message was there. In my childish handwriting, I had written a long note, professing my love for my mommy and daddy. And so began the tears.

The next thing I found was a card dated October of 1969. It was a birthday card to my mom, from her mom. Now my mother's mother died in 1970. I was less than 2 years old and have no memory of her, but the card said, "To my Theresa," and I thought about how much my mom's own mother must have loved her, and more tears came. I thought about the love that had been passed down from these women that I now pass on to my own children. And I realized that when she received this card, my mother had no way of knowing that in a matter of months, she would lose her mother. At this point, I began sobbing hysterically.

As I looked at these items, I sat on my mom's bed. This was the bed that I had sought refuge in from a bad dream, the bed I was allowed to lie in during the day if I wasn't feeling well. In those moments I became a child again. It was as if I was looking down at my younger self and all my childhood memories seemed to be happening over again all at once. I kept trying to calm myself by saying over and over in my head, "They aren't gone, you can just go see them." But in reality, they are gone. I can go to The Arbors and visit two people who look just like my parents, but the parents I knew are gone, and they aren't coming back.

I had the urge to go out to the backyard, and sit in the spot where I used to dig as a child. I remember always looking up from that spot and feeling like the back door of the house was so far away, as if I were off on my own island. Today, I could not believe the reality when I sat in that spot and looked up. The back door couldn't have been more than 10 feet away! I wandered over to the spot where my dad used to have a beautiful vegetable garden. The area is fenced in and has now become overgrown and unrecognizable.

Suddenly, it all became too much. I began to cry and gasp and almost moan at the same time. The sounds that came out of me were ones I can only remember hearing once before-when I lost my third child in the fourth month of pregnancy. Again, it was as if someone else were making the sounds, but there I was, all alone in the house, and this time my husband was not there to wrap his arms around me. After what seemed like an hour, but was just mere minutes, I composed myself somewhat.

I went back inside because my sister had texted me to say that she had found my birth announcement the last time she was there. There it was, dated Sept 1968, in the town newspaper. I saw my birth announcement and the announcements of four other kids that I would later meet in elementary school! Needless to say, I was intrigued with the ads and stories from my town 44 years ago. Want ads in the back of the paper specified that they wanted male or female workers--that would never be allowed today! There was also a story about local female high school teachers who wanted equal pay for coaching sports! There was an ad for a meeting of moms to discuss the topic of "Furnishing your home for a happy life!" Wow! I have always been a crazy fan of the show "Leave it to Beaver," and always felt I was born in the wrong era. Looking at this newspaper, and feeling the complications of life on me now, I so long for the time when things seemed so much simpler.

My heart is yearning to go back to a time before things changed so much. I am feeling change all around me, not just because of my parents, but because my kids are growing up as well. I'm feeling my own mortality like I've never felt it before. I feel like the sands of the hourglass just kicked it into high gear. I'm sure I am a downer to be around lately, and I know this isn't light hearted reading, but I feel it is cathartic for me, so I beg your forgiveness.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Empty Frames

I'm back again, and while I am beginning to think maybe I am becoming a bit maudlin in my posts, I do have a few things to share and I'd love to know how you feel about them.

My sister and I made the first step toward "getting something done" at my parents' house this week. As I said in the last post, we have to begin getting the house ready to be sold. After moving mom and dad into the assisted living facility, my sister and I were so emotionally done that we agreed to just leave the house alone for a bit. But a month had passed, and we knew that there was a lot of food in the house-food someone could use.

We went to the house to go through the cupboards and salvage what we could. Upon entering my childhood home, the only home I knew until I married, I felt a sense of emptiness. Without mom and dad in it, as cliche as it is, a house is just a house. The lines in the carpet show where furniture used to be, the items there are proof that people once inhabited the house, but there isn't any life there anymore.

Years ago, a good friend and fellow english teacher, Laura, and I taught a poem about aging. The poem, though the exact words escape me, was about a wife who had to go through her husband's belongings after his death. The line in particular that really hit our hearts went something like, "and there lay his belongings like the frames of stolen pictures left behind." We were both newly married back then, and the thoughts of having to one day experience what the woman in the poem was experiencing was devastating to us. Our husbands were young and strong, and our protectors. We talked about this subject a lot.

Now entering mom and dad's home, I hear that line in my head. I see their things, the evidence of a happy life lived, but they are all just the "frames." The "paintings," my mom and dad full of life, are gone.

We went through the food, and tossed a lot of expired things, for people with dementia tend to hoard things and really don't check expiration dates. We were also able to donate about 7 full boxes to the food pantry, for people who lived through the depression, not knowing when their next meal would come, tend to collect canned goods!

I realize that mom and dad accumulated the normal stuff that we all do: pots and pans, linens, toiletries, books, etc., but at the end of the day, none of it is really important. We gave my parents only what they need in their studio room. The reality is, we all don't need very much to live. Many things we think we can't live without are really not necessary. We place so much importance on so many things-things that will just be left in an empty house for someone else to discard when we are gone. I don't want this for my kids. I came home after clearing out the food, and began going through things I'd like to get rid of as well. I feel this urgent need to live with less.

I've never been one to accumulate clutter, but this goes even deeper than that. I am feeling the slipping of time, the longing to be a child again with my old mom and dad back. I know things will never be the same again, and I am desperate to make this ordeal I am going through non-existent for my children. I keep promising them that I will get rid of my things, and my husband and I will leave this house long before we are forced to. It will make the transition much easier for everyone.

Each time I enter mom and dad's house, it is an emotional experience, and it can be exhausting having all these emotions hit you at once. We are planning to go through the items and then have a yard sale. Sixty years of marriage and 47 years in the same house--all sold at a yard sale! It would be funny if it weren't so sad. But what choice do we have, really? We have so much ahead of us. The personal items won't be easy, I'm sure, and having to say good-bye to items that remind us of our childhood and family will be brutal, but we will take it one day at a time.

The other day my sister and I were visiting with mom and dad. One of the old ladies who also live there said to my dad, "You have very good kids." My dad puffed up his chest a bit and said, "Yes, I do. I have three really good kids." I saw the pride in his eyes, and how much we mean to him. I guess that's what is left after 47 years in a house and 60 years of marriage. And that could never be sold at a yard sale.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Here I am

Here I am, staring at my computer, not knowing where to begin. I haven't written anything since February, not by choice, but because of a bunch of crazy circumstances.

The short version of the story goes something like this: I became overwhelmed working full time and needed every single second of free time to tend to house and family; my parents both became ill and hospitalized, and my siblings and I spent a very stressful two months dealing with that. We have put my parents into assisted living, but the journey to get there, and all the physical and emotional stuff that came along with it has taken a toll on me. Every second of that journey is a story in itself, but for the first time in my life, I couldn't share how I was feeling. I think in any stressful situation, our bodies have a defense mechanism which allows us to get through it. I think I went numb emotionally because it was the only way I could handle it all.

I know some of you may be thinking, "You're parents are in assisted living, they didn't die. What is so stressful?" Well, like I said, that was the short version. And yes, they are physically alive, but they are not the same parents I once knew, they are only semi-recognizable versions of themselves, and I am mourning that loss.

We all have our own problems and I don't want this to be "woe is me," and come across as if I think I am the only one going through a difficult time. I just want to explain where I've been, and maybe share a few things I have learned about life and myself throughout this journey.

My mom has a form of leukemia, and her mind has been steadily declining for years. She still recognizes her family, thankfully, but her short term memory span is less than three minutes. She is easily confused and can't be left on her own at all. My dad, on the other hand, was the one who had all of his faculties, that is, until this recent turn of events. Sadly, dad seems to be declining at a faster rate than mom did. Mom has always been very pleasant throughout this ordeal, she takes direction, and is really easy to deal with. Unfortunately, with my dad, this was the exact opposite. Dad became extremely agitated and violent. He couldn't accept the fact that all these changes were happening, and he was fighting our every effort to help.

The strain of those weeks is something I will never forget. Finally, with the help of my dad's trusted doctor, and let's not forget medication, we were able to coax him into this assisted living facility. My siblings and I scrambled in the midst of all this to check out prospective places, and nearly had heart failure at the cost. I was stressed because I was just finishing up my first year back at work, and was trying to juggle that and hospital visits. When school ended I felt awful because my kids had to literally sit around and wait for most of their summer because I had innumerable things to deal with each day. Suffice it to say this is a summer we won't soon forget or ever want to repeat.

I had to sift through my parents' belongings and decide what they would and would not take with them because they couldn't do that on their own. I had to weed out my dad's socks and underwear with the holes in them, while he looked on helplessly. Basically, I had to take a 60 year marriage's worth of stuff and say, "Here's what is important, and it has to fit in this box." Thinking about it now makes my stomach flip, and as I said, I have learned a thing or two. I will save that for another day.

After a physically and emotionally draining moving day, we have them settled in a wonderful place. The care they receive is top notch, the workers who share their day are incredibly loving people, and the facility offers so much. They are limited in what they can do, but they seem content. Mom thinks she is in a hotel in Atlantic City, but if she is happy, then let her think that. Dad likes talking to the other residents, but the next day he doesn't even remember that he knows the person.

My brother had to go back to his family in Florida, and my sister and I are finally getting some sleep at night. At least we know they are eating three meals a day, and are getting the right medication. This journey is far from over because every day there is something that comes in the mail from their "old life" that must deal with, we are filling out about 600 forms just to get dad some veteran's benefits, and we still need to take them to medical appointments, etc. The biggest task that awaits us is going through our childhood home where mom and dad lived for 47 years to prepare the house for sale.

Reading this back, I realize I have left out so much, stuff that would make you tired just to hear it, but I think you get the gist. I'm rarely at a loss for words, whether it be spoken or written, but this experience has knocked the stuffing out of me. I'm hoping now that I have made this first start, I will be able to continue to share with you.

Summer is winding down, and that means back to work for me. I am slated to be the permanent substitute again, but I honestly don't know if I will be able to fulfill that all year. At every doctor visit, there is the chance we will be told that mom needs chemo again, and I need to be there through that. My saintly sister has been picking up so much slack through this whole deal, but even she has a breaking point, and I'm seeing it affect her health. Going through that house is going to be a job in itself, and not one I can do after school with kids by my side. With three kids and activities, weekends are just not an option. So I begin the school year really not knowing what lies ahead, and feeling very different inside. I don't want to parent the man who provided for me my whole life, or remind my mom, my mommy, to change her underwear. I don't want any part of it. But here I am.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Jo Ann

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The story continues...

It has been two months since I last wrote about my journey to substitute teaching. I am busier than ever, and am trying to manage my time. My blog has suffered, but my brain is swirling with tales to tell. My journey has continued, and I don't even know if I will be able to express all that I'm thinking and feeling.

When a teacher walks into a school building each morning, he/she takes on an unbelievably important role, and he/she takes that role seriously. Parents send their most precious and beloved children off each day to be cared for, nurtured, and taught by other adults. Those adults had better be ready, willing, and able! What I witness every day tells me that they are, and sometimes what I see brings tears to my eyes.

I know what I brought to the classroom all those years ago, but I guess after having been removed from the situation for so long, I needed to be reminded that millions of teachers, teacher assistants, and teacher aides all over the world, are "bringing it" every day as well.

What I have witnessed in the past weeks at the middle school shows me that all of our children are in excellent hands. It is a very different type of job than most people have. When you deal with kids, anything can happen on any given day. Teachers and administrators deal with a myriad of issues each day; kids who have conflicts with other kids, kids who are dealing with issues at home, kids who have developmental or social disorders, kids who are having trouble fitting in, kids who don't feel well, kids who didnt get enough sleep, and kids who are just plain having a bad day!

Did I mention anything about having to deal with these issues while at the same time trying to teach these children math or science or english? That is another part to this job. Let me tell you what I was quickly reminded of as I go through this journey: Teachers can't have a bad day! Every minute of the day counts, and every interaction with a child makes a huge impact on that kid. It's a lot to think about, and it is a huge responsibility.

I am seeing things in a much different light now than when I taught many years ago. The reason for this is that back then I had a very young baby, and school for him was years away. Now I have been a mother for a very long time, my kids are all in the school system, and I know what challenges they face each day just by being kids, dealing with schoolwork, and extra curriculars. I know how I want my kids to be treated by the adults with whom they interract each day, and I am so happy to say that this kind of treatment is what I witness each day at the middle school.

As a substitute, I have the advantage of being all over the building, meeting many, many teachers and students, and observing pretty awesome "ordinary happenings." The students and adults in my school have a special bond. I see kids seeking out adults all day long; they ask for advice, they just want to chat, they need a human connection. On the flip side, I witness the adults treating the kids with respect, listening to them, and being a constant in the lives of these kids. Teachers don't do this because they are paid to do so. Teachers do these things because that is why they became teachers in the first place. This is what many people, and those who berate teachers, do not understand and never will until they spend some time in a classroom with real kids and teachers.

I am only a sub, but I have become a familiar face to many of these kids, and it is awesome when I walk down the hall and hear kids calling my name. I am very, very attached to this school and these kids. My journey will continue, and I hope to share with you more of what I am learning about schools, kids, human nature, and most of all, MYSELF! (And I am learning a ton about myself that I never knew, or maybe just forgot!)

Just rest assured that your kids are in great hands when they enter a school building, wherever that building may be. Teachers are for kids. Plain and simple. What I see every day is confirmation of that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Whole New World

Wow! It has been over a month since my last post, but I've had a lot going on. I started this blog originally to see if, in sharing stories of my life with others, I might actually inspire myself to figure out what was next for me. My kids are getting older, and even though they need me full time when they are home, I no longer have a child at home during the school day. I recently began making lists as to what I might want to do with the next stage of my life. The one thing I knew for sure was that I did not want to work full time or do anything that would take any time away from my kids. I still wanted to be able to do all the things I have always done for them, and be 100 percent present (physically and mentally)when they got home from school.

Twelve years ago, I made the hardest decision of my life. I left a secure, decent paying, high school English teaching job after ten years. I left a building, colleagues, and students I loved to become a stay at home mom. I have never regretted that decision, although my husband and I have made many sacrifices to allow for the loss of my salary. We both truly feel that our children have benefited greatly from having me home. I feel blessed to have been able to be class mom numerous times and volunteer at the elementary school for various committees. BUT...recently I had begun to feel that it was time for me to start a new chapter of my life. I longed for something that would be "my thing," apart from my family.

About two months ago, I was encouraged to apply for substitute teaching. It was a strange turn of events, and actually not even one of the many ideas on my "lists." Without thinking things through and mulling them over for days on end as I usually do, I went and obtained an application. In order to fill it out, I needed to dig out some documents I had not seen in a very long time. My teaching license, my graduate school transcripts, and my teacher's retirement number were all packed away and a little yellowed! I somehow got it all together and made it to the subbing list.

I have worked three days a week for the past three weeks!

After my first day jitters passed, I felt like I had never left the classroom. I had forgotten the awesome responsibility it is to work with live kids all day long. It is a challenge and a privilege. They are balls of energy and emotion and hormones. They demand the best you have to give and they can spot a phony a mile away. They are draining and awesome!! I have been mostly working at a middle school, and I LOVE IT!!!! I love the surprise of what subject I will be doing each day, the interaction with other professionals, and the thrill of being able to be a positive part of a child's day. Kids are so accepting. On one of the first days, I approached a child to ask if I could help with an essay he was writing. I thought maybe he would feel strange because I wasn't his real teacher, but I couldn't have been more wrong. He was so happy for the help, and really seemed proud of his work when we finished. Since I have been mostly in the same school, the kids are getting to know me, and seem excited when they see me in the hallway.

I have been very lucky that my sister can come to take care of my youngest for an hour and a half in the morning. Without her, I couldn't have done this. But I am home in time for everyone in the afternoon, and I just stay up as late as I can to get the laundry and chores done.

I feel that this opportunity came at the right time, and I am glad I decided to take the plunge. I feel like a person again, not just "mom."

I can be called by any of four schools right now, but am getting extremely attached to the middle school and the wonderful people in it. Seeing first hand again the inner workings of a school, and the dedication that these teachers have for their students every minute of the day is inspiring. I hope that I can continue to work at this school and have even a small impact on the kids.

So that is my reason for not having a new post all month. Starting this new chapter during the busy holiday season was a challenge, but I am fired up and ready to see what the New Year will bring!

Stay tuned to see how this new journey turns out!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving more than Thanks

Today my family and I were privileged to help out at a church in Far Rockaway, serving Thanksgiving dinner to the needy. This is the third year for my family, and every year I end this day with a mix of emotions running through me.

The organization that makes this possible is called Rock and Wrap It Up. It was founded by an incredible guy named Syd Mandelbaum, who many years ago, saw a need and has been working to fill that need ever since. You can check out the story of how this incredible organization came to be on their website if you have a moment.

The reason my family became involved with this organization was for purely selfish purposes. I could see my children becoming less grateful for what they had, through no fault of their own, I admit. My husband and I wanted them to see that they had no reason to complain when they had so much, and others had so little. My husband's boss is directly involved with this organization and mentioned to him that they could use help. We thought this would be an eye opening experience for our kids, but we had no idea how eye opening it would be for us as well.

Before we let the "guests" in to eat, Syd asks us to join hands and form a circle. He thanks us for coming and reminds us that the only thing separating us from those outside is circumstance. He reminds us that one bad break or turn of events could leave us on the other side of that door as well. We are no better than the people we serve, it is only that we have met with better circumstances. For now, anyway.

When the guests come, they all have different stories, and are there for different reasons. There are some who put on their best clothes, trying to maintain dignity as they come for a free meal. There are some that eat the food so quickly that you wonder when they last had a meal. Then there are a few, and they come every year, that walk around and try to act as if they are one of the servers because they are embarrassed to be there.

Some of the people who come are very different in appearance than what my kids are used to seeing. Some haven't seen shampoo in a while, some are missing most of their teeth, some are even mentally ill. But our job while we are there is to remember that they are human beings and treat them with respect. We must try to make them feel comfortable, and not feel as though they are taking a handout. We serve more than turkey dinners, we serve kindness and friendship.

My kids really stepped up to the plate today, and I couldn't be more proud. At one point today, my 14 year old was in the kitchen, on the plate making assembly line, forking ham onto plates while my 8 year old stepped up to two men and asked what they would like to drink, and then got it for them. My 11 year old daughter made 72 "toiletry kits" at home over the past few weeks to give to the guests as they were leaving. She saw people asking if they could have one, and realized just how appreciated her kind deed was. Today my kids had to know they made a difference.

Yes, on this day we all say we are thankful, and we probably really mean it. We pause and reflect on what is good in our lives, and realize that for most of us, the "bad stuff" isn't that bad. But what happens when tomorrow comes? Or that Black Friday midnight sale? Do we jump back into the land of "I want," or "Why don't I have it?"

The truth is my kids, who pitched in and worked as a team at the church dinner, were fighting before our car left the parking lot to drive home. Tomorrow they will no doubt be working on their Christmas lists, and they will complain about something they don't have. But somewhere in their hearts, and in some part of their brains, I know that a lesson was learned. I know that they feel good about what they were part of today.

I'm not looking for accolades or pats on the back. Actually, I am ashamed that we only do this once a year. Like most of you, we give to charity, adopt families at the holidays and give to the food pantry year round. But today was different because we gave our time and attention to many who just needed someone who would listen to their stories. Compassion is a beautiful thing to give to another human being. And maybe its cliche, but I left there feeling as if I had received the gift.

So this year I am thankful that my family was able to do more than just give thanks, we gave the gift of us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


There is a thread that bonds us all, one thing that all of us have in common, no matter how different our backgrounds. It transcends religion and ethnicity. It's a dirty little secret that no one likes to talk about, but something must be done before it takes over our lives. Yes, that's right. I'm talking about CLUTTER. Clutter builds up over time, like a snowball rolling down a hill. You look up suddenly, and WHAM!, you are blindsided. Where did all this stuff come from?

Most items of clutter once had a perfectly good reason for coming into your home. It's the kids' school papers, coupons you clipped but never got around to using, catalogs you received in the mail, dioramas that the teacher was nice enough to send back home, and the toys from happy meals! Then there are receipts, and the free water bottle you got for signing up for Newsday. And that's just what is visible!

There's clutter in your fridge too! Almost empty jars of condiments that no one will ever finish, and packets of duck sauce from the chinese takeout place! There is clutter in our dresser drawers as well. Be honest. Aren't there a few pair of socks that should have been discarded? And we all have a kitchen junk drawer! Where else would be keep the buttons that come off our clothes that we mean to re-attach, and the paper clips, and mysterious screws that we find on the floor? Dried out markers need a spot, and old batteries, since we aren't supposed to throw them out!

If you think clutter isn't a problem, think again, my friend. Clutter is big business! Ever see the ads for GOT JUNK?, or CLUTTERBUSTERS? These companies will send someone to your house to take away all your unwanted junk. And don't forget HGTV!!! There are entire shows devoted to helping people rid themselves of clutter so that they may lead more productive lives. It doesn't matter how CLEAN your home is if you've got clutter. It will always appear messy.

Why do we keep clutter? There are a few reasons: We keep things because we are emotionally attached to them. (Think baby clothes- and your baby is 23!!) We also keep things out of guilt. Maybe your mother-in-law gave it to you, or your child made that macaroni and glitter self portrait. We also keep things because we are afraid that we will find that we need them as soon as we get rid of them.

I abhor clutter. I can't stand to see a cluttered counter or table top. I fight the clutter battle daily because I have three kids who really don't seem to mind it. The problem is, when you live with other people, there will always be a difference of opinion concerning what constitutes clutter. Every time I de-clutter, I invariably throw out something that someone else needs the very next day--even if they haven't looked at it in three years. A recent conversation with my son went like this:
"Mom, where's that paper with the worm on it?"
"Which one?"
"The one with the orange worm. I need it right now!"
Of course, he is referring the the scrap of paper that looked like it was ripped off the bottom of a loose leaf sheet, with one orange squiggle drawn on it. That paper sat on my end table for about three weeks, never moving once. I threw it out yesterday. Then I hit him with my standard line, "You need to keep better track of your things, buddy. If I see it, I'll let you know.".

Even though I detest clutter, I am guilty of occasionally adding to it as well. I once changed a doorknob and kept the old one in my garage for a year. Did I think I was going to change my mind and put the old one back on the door? Did I think a friend was going to say she needed a doorknob and I'd offer her my outdated, scratched one? I just recently threw it out.

Look around your home right now as you read this. Do you have visible clutter? Are you hiding your clutter? What's holding you back from taking the steps necessary to rid yourself of it once and for all? (For me, it's those darn kids!!) And if you don't have clutter, what is your secret?

I have a friend who takes a laundry basket when she is having company and does the one arm sweep of her counter tops and tables, depositing all the clutter. She then hides it in a locked closet in her room. Instant de-cluttering! The problem is, she never ever goes back to look at the contents! Bills are sometimes forgotten, and permission slips not handed in. But out of sight, out of mind, and her house looks great! She needs to build another closet, though, but that's another story. Hey, I wonder if she'll need a doorknob for that closet. Oh, man! I knew I should have saved it!!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Country Music

The other night I watched part of the Country Music Awards while lying in bed. I've never been a huge country music fan, but I think that's about to change. I'm telling you the truth, I sobbed through most of the hour and a half I watched! What is it about country music that evokes such emotion? My eyes were red and swollen, and my nose was stuffy, but it was cathartic!

Country singers have a gift for telling a story with words. Everything sounds so dramatic when sung by a country singer. They sing songs that speak to the experiences we all have shared, with love being a main topic: Finding love, losing love, forbidden love, even love for a pet! They sing songs of wanting someone you can't have, and the love that got away. Country singers sing songs of hard times and struggle, songs of triumph over adversity, songs of going home again!

All music brings you back to a time and a place when things were different, when YOU were different. Sometimes, if you close your eyes, you can almost swear you are back in the past. It can makes you feel alive and young again. Country singers have a knack for making any topic seem urgent and relevant. But it's not only the words, it's the country twang, and the look of the performer that touches us. It's all in the delivery! If Brad Paisley, with his stetson and worn blue jeans, sang a song about a toothache or a clogged drain (both of which I've experienced!), I'm sure it would have touched my heart as much as the others. The way country musicians perform, usually without a lot of fanfare, is what really allows you focus on the words of the song without any distraction. Most country musicians don't dress in costumes, pop out of cakes, or enter on a moving piano. No, mostly it's a guy or girl with his/her guitar, just making great music with lyrics you can actually understand!

Even if you didn't have the same exact experience, it can still move you to tears. Martina McBride sang, "I'm gonna love you through it,"a song about loving someone through cancer. She talks about getting the news, and how her husband held her close while she cried. The words brought me back to years ago when I suffered a miscarriage, and there were many days when my husband had to literally pick me up off the floor and hold me close or I would have stayed there all day.

Toward the end of the show, they did a tribute to Glenn Campbell, who now has Alzheimers. It was so sad, I couldn't take it anymore. I wasn't joking when I said I cried for the entire hour and a half! I thought my husband would be disturbed by my sobbing and my outpouring of emotion, but no worries! He was snoring so loudly he didn't even hear me!

Oh well! I'm thinking that would make a great country song.

So...Does country music have the same effect on you? (The emotion, I mean, not the snoring!)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Book Recommendation

Hi everyone,
I just finished reading a great book and I wanted to share it with you. I found it by accident while walking around the public library. It is by Susan Wiggs, and it is called The Goodbye Quilt. It is narrated by a mother who is on a road trip to drop her only child off at college for the first time. This mother will say things that you already feel, make you think of things you hadn't, and be grateful for the time you have with your kids. I don't want to say anymore, but I think if you like my blog, you will love this book.

Let me know if any of you read it!!