Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Yay! It's Summer! ....Oh, Holy crap! It's summer! Part 2

Summer is half over! And I am still struggling! Yesterday I complained to Gary, and this is what I said: "I feel like ALL I've done all day is make meals and clean them up, with some laundry and picking up after kids sprinkled in there....well, besides the 3 HOURS I spent at the pool!" See? It's paradoxical! I'm not too happy with the way things are going this summer, but WOW! what a great life I have! Is anyone following me here? Of course,the guilt I feel about not savoring these precious moments of summer, just make it harder for me to enjoy them! Does this strike a chord with any of you? Please talk to me!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Yay! It's summer.... Oh, Holy Crap! It's summer!

Please tell me I'm not the only mom who has a love/hate relationship with summer! Today is our first real day of summer. I love my kids! Oh, how I love them - which I think is obvious with all the things I do for them, places I take them, amount I kiss and hug them, birthday parties I plan for them, etc... Right??  I think it's possible, though, (and I hate to admit it) that I love them most when I don't have to be with them all day, everyday!!

So, I've signed them up for some camps - scattered throughout the summer.  We just got back from the library, where we signed up for summer reading and checked out a stack of books.  We also bought our pool pass today, and I anticipate many an hour spent at the pool.  I'm sure, though, that I will have to say a little prayer every morning, asking the Lord to grant me patience, wisdom and an extra dose of good humor, to make it through this summer!

Are any of you also saying, "Yay! AND Holy Crap!"?

Please say yes!

Friday, May 04, 2012

What Moms Do

Last Friday my kids didn't have school, so we went to the IMAX theater at the Science Center and saw "To the Arctic", which is "the story of one mother polar bear’s determination to keep her cubs alive in the face of natural predators and a rapidly changing climate..."  When the movie was over, I kept thinking about that mother polar bear, and the way that her entire existence was centered around keeping her cubs healthy and safe. This is the way of nature. As moms, this is how WE are wired.   

Interestingly enough, the message that I received from "To the Arctic" was still bouncing around in my mind when I went for a much-needed long run on Saturday afternoon.  A pretty severe storm had passed through a few hours earlier, but the sky was clear when I left.  Gary was out of town, so I left the kids at home watching TV (which I sometimes do, because Gregory is a very responsible, almost-11-year-old).  The sprinkly rain started about a mile into my run, but I wasn't worried about getting wet.  It wasn't until I was 3 miles (the farthest point, of course) from home, that the thunder and lightening started.  I was nervous, but there was really nothing I could do but keep running.  Then, even though the music played loudly in my ears, I heard a siren.  I wasn't absolutely sure, and I didn't really want to think about it (I still couldn't really do anything but run faster), but then Gregory called.  Very calmly into the phone he said, "Mom, do you hear the siren?" I told him that I did, and that I was getting home as fast as I could.  A few minutes later, Ruthie called.  She also sounded surprisingly calm, and she asked if they should go to the basement.  

We live on the second floor of a brick condo building, in a neighborhood lined with nearly identical brick condo buildings. I told Ruthie that I thought they were ok, but that if the sky turned black, or it seemed extremely windy, they should go to the basement and take the phone.  About five minutes later, while I was still about 1 1/2 miles (and one HUGE hill -- southbound Skinker, for you Forest Park runners!!) away from home, the sky turned completely black and a second siren started.  The volume of this siren, especially in comparison to the first one, led me to believe that if I turned right - away from home, rather than left - toward home, I would run directly into a tornado.  I began panicking, not for myself, but for my kids.  I called them immediately, and as nonchalantly as I could muster, told them to go to the basement and take the phone.  When I hung up, my panic prompted me to start running as fast as I possibly could, straight up the hill!  It wasn't long, though, before I had to walk.  I really couldn't run that fast up the hill, and I found myself overwhelmingly anxious about my kids, and now completely out of breath! 

Because I couldn't run, and the siren was still blaring, I stopped at a church.  There were people in the basement, so I knocked on the door and someone let me in.  I tried to call the kids and I couldn't reach them.  I couldn't decide what to do.  I briefly thought that if something happened to me, while I was running through a tornado to get home to them, they would be worse off than if we'd both just stayed safe in our respective basements.  It was a fleeting thought, though, and a few minutes later, when the siren stopped, I left the basement, and started running again.  I had to get home to my babies!  Then Gregory called. (What a relief!). He thought I'd be home by then.  Again, he seemed fairly calm, and again, I told him I was hurrying! 

When the hail began, I was still about half a mile from home, and I actually laughed out loud. HAIL!  Really? (For a minute, I thought maybe the rapture had come and I'd been left behind!) Thankfully, the hail was short-lived, and surprisingly not-too-painful, but in it's place, the sky dumped rain -- tons and tons of rain.  And still I ran.  I ran and ran, through thunder, lightening, tornado sirens, hail and torrential downpours.  I'm sure I looked like a crazy woman, but all I could think about was putting one foot in front of the other and getting back to the kids.  I'd ventured out too far from home, the climate was changing rapidly, and the cubs needed me! 

When you're a mom, this is what you do.  When you're a polar bear mom, you swim hundreds of miles to find food for your cubs, you herd your cubs away from danger, and roar at your predators!  When you're a mom like me, you drive your kids to sports, make them nutritious meals, help them with homework, take parenting classes to learn how to talk to them better, and if you have to, you run!  You run as hard and as fast and through whatever you need to, in order to get back to them -- to keep them healthy and safe! 

This is What Moms Do!

**I ran though all that, and came home to find my kids making forts and eating snacks in the basement -- each wearing a brave face to keep the others calmer!
They were fine. My precious cubs.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Oscar Thoughts - 2012

This year I saw seven of the nine films nominated for Best Picture.  The movies I saw were: The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, and The Tree of Life.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and War Horse were also nominated, but they both left the theaters before I had a chance to see them (and are not yet available On Demand).  This blog post is my brief thoughts about these 7 movies.
The Artist seems to be the favorite to win Best Picture.  I loved this movie!  It's so hard to conceive of how a silent movie, about silent films, would work, but it does!! Jean Dujardin plays a silent movie actor, George Valentin, who is the king of Hollywood. However, when silent films are replaced by "talkies", George finds himself de-throned. Dujardin has a wonderful face that is so expressive and entertaining, you can't help but be drawn into his story (even though he never speaks). Berenice Bejo is a beauty, who plays an up-and-coming actress named Peppy Miller. Peppy starts as an extra in George's silent films, but moves her way up, just in time to rule the talking picture scene!  Bejo is very fun to watch. Dujardin is nominated for Best Actor and Bejo is nominated for Best Supporting Actress. I would love to see them both win, and the movie to be named Best Picture. My favorite scene in the movie takes place on set, when Peppy, as an extra, and George, as the star, bump into each other in a dance sequence, and dance together for a few minutes. The actors are required to tape the scene over and over, and it's such a joy to watch them interact differently with each take!

The Descendants is a touching story of human nature, and one man's realization that he does not have the relationships with his wife and daughters that he thought he had and that he wishes he did.  George Clooney shines in his portrayal of Matt King, a man who is dealing with the fact that (a) his wife is in a coma, (b) he has no idea how to take care of his daughters without her help, and (c) he is in charge of a multi-million dollar deal to sell family land. Clooney brilliantly shows King to be a man forced to face the tragedy before him, but also to take a good hard look at the world he has created.  Clooney could definitely win Best Actor, and that would be fine with me!

I read The Help before I saw the movie.  I loved both the book and the movie! Viola Davis is nominated for Best Actress, for her role as Abileen Clark, a maid in Mississippi in the middle of the 60's civil rights movement.  Abileen and her friend and fellow maid, Minny Jackson (played by Octavia Spencer, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actress), become involved with a young white woman who is writing a controversial book about the racism experienced by maids who are working for white families during the 60's.  The book is told from the maids' perspectives.  I felt that the story was wonderfully told in the movie, and the actors all rose to the occasion of bringing this book to life.  My favorite scene in this movie may have been when Abileen is talking with the white girl she takes care of, who is somewhat shunned by her own mother for not being pretty enough.  Abileen tells her over and over, and makes her  repeat the phrase, "You is smart, you is kind, you is important." Such a sweet, even as it is somewhat heartbreaking, interaction between this maid and her curly blond-haired little charge!

Hugo was a very pleasant surprise for me! This delightful story about a young orphan who lives in the clockworks of the Paris train station is not one I was planning to see, but I'm so glad I did.  Hugo is a difficult movie to describe, so I won't try. I will tell you, though, that I was deeply moved by it, and especially this concept from the young orphan protagonist (as paraphrased by me), "I like to imagine the world as one big machine.  Machines don't come with any spare parts.  That means I can't just be an extra part.  I must be in the world for an important reason."  Think about that!  Isn't it beautiful?

Midnight in Paris is a Woody Allen movie about an engaged couple who travel to Paris for a business trip.  Owen Wilson plays a screenwriter and would-be novelist, who explores the city at night. Each night, at midnight, he is transported back in time to rub elbows with some of his literary heros from another era.  Midnight is an enchanting movie, set in a beautiful city, with a sweet message about what is important in love and in life.  I especially enjoyed seeing the portrayals of such greats as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dali, and dreaming about what life would've been like if lived among them! 

I tried to read the book, Moneyball, but I never got through it.  This true story is based on Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt (Best Actor nominee), who is the general manager of the Oakland A's.  Because his ball club is not as wealthy as some of the other teams, Beane is forced to take a different approach to building a team capable of making it to the playoffs and beyond.  He teams up with a young Yale grad, played by Jonah Hill (Best Supporting Actor nominee), who takes a more statistical approach to recruiting.  Moneyball is not one of my favorites on this list, but I am really glad I saw it, and I especially enjoyed seeing Andy from Parks and Recreation!! :) 

Tree of Life is a very difficult movie to describe, and while I didn't really enjoy every part of the movie, I was definitely moved and inspired by it.  It's a movie that is impossible for me to recap or explain, so instead I will share with you how I responded.  For me, this movie is about parenting, faith and loss.  Brad Pitt plays the father of three boys, who while trying to raise them in a way that he thinks to be right, ends up alienating them from him.  There were times when I could feel what I believed to be the father's anguish in trying to love his boys, while doing what he thought was necessary to prepare them for the world. I can also say the same for the mother. I watched her love her children, and heard her whisper (in voice-over), the things she felt they really must know. Tree of Life included expressions of deep grief, and statements of deep faith. The story in this movie was, for me, profound, even as it was told in a somewhat disjointed and circuitous way.  My favorite mother's voice-over quote is this: "Help each other. Love everyone, every leaf, every ray of light. Forgive. Learn." 

I didn't really make predictions this year.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the movies and the Oscars!!  If you've seen Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and/or War Horse, I'd love to hear what you thought of those movies, too, and how you think they stack up to these seven.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blessing Bags

Thanks to amanda94 for commenting on my homeless post, and directing me to a blog page which describes blessing bags (please read about them here). Tonight the kids and I put together our own blessing bags. 

Making (and eventually handing out) these blessing bags definitely doesn't feel like enough, but it feels like we're doing something.  This is a place to start, not only for me, but also for my kids.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

A Reflection on the Homeless (from someone who has very little contact with anyone homeless)

A couple of months ago, at a stoplight, I saw a homeless man who looked to be about my age. He had a dog. I'm not a dog person - at all - but for some reason, that man with his dog really tore me up. I went straight to a local grocery store, Dierberg's, and bought a gift card (thinking that Dierberg's has both people and dog food). I went back and the man and dog were gone. I'm not sure why I didn't just give the guy money, when I had a chance, but I tend not to do that. I've been known to buy coffee and egg sandwiches for homeless guys.  One time Ruthie and I went to Diergergs and bought raisins and trail mix and other such snacks and took the bag of them to the homeless guy at the corner of Skinker and Forest Park Parkway. My point is that I don't hand out cash very often, so when I got back to the spot where I'd seen the homeless dog owner, he was gone and I hadn't helped him (or his poor raggedy dog).

Right before Christmas, I saw another homeless man at another stoplight. I can't remember what his sign said, but it broke my heart. I actually ended up giving him the Dierberg's gift card that was originally intended for the dog guy. I also gave him a $5 Target gift card that I had in my purse from buying three bags of coffee and getting a free $5 card (or some such promotion). When I drove away, I thought, "Have I actually ever seen a homeless person in Target?" What will that guy do with the $5 gift card?  Will he make his way to Target and buy soap and deodorant? Will he get a pretzel and a drink at the Cafe?  Will he trade the card in? Do the homeless have a place where they gather and barter and exchange what they've been given? Can he get drugs for a Target card? Do these questions matter?

I never know what to do about the homeless that I see pretty regularly around town. There are some obvious answers to the question of what I could do to help the homeless in general. I have a degree in social work.  I could go get a job working with homeless people.  I could volunteer regularly at a homeless shelter.  There are things that I DO do.  I donate yearly to the St. Louis food bank. I give hats and gloves when asked.  I buy Christmas gifts for kids in need.  I put money in the Salvation Army buckets sprinkled around town at Christmas. BUT what about the guy on the corner with the dog? What do you do?

I spent last weekend in downtown Chicago, and of course, I saw many homeless. I dropped some money in, here and there, and then I saw a homeless man at 7-11 feeding dollar bills into the lottery machine. Sad! I almost can't write about how sad I felt seeing that. What should he do, though, with the small stack of dollar bills he might receive throughout a day, sitting on a corner of Michigan Ave., with a sign telling a sad tale and an old Starbucks cup? How should I feel about it? Does it even matter to me what he does with that money? Should I be glad he's not buying drugs or alcohol? Right now it just breaks my heart that he's spending the money he has, in hopes of hitting it big. I don't care that he chooses to spend his money on lottery tickets, so much as I'm sad that people live their lives this way! The incident at the lottery machine is just an example of how destitute so many people are.

So, back to me (and you). What should I (we) do? Should I just give people a couple of dollars when they ask me at the stoplight?  Should I load my purse with gift cards (because they may be gone by the time I get back)?  Should I just give more money to agencies that help the homeless?  Please share with me your thoughts! If you're reading this, and you work with homeless people, I admire you, and I'd love to hear any advice you have for people like me!