Monday, April 28, 2008

On Second Thought

Quotable moments.

We have many in our home.

Today's best dialogue exchange?

Joline: What would you think about putting Harper into some sort of science and nature thingee?

George: What, like a biosphere?

I was thinking more like a summer camp or class at the Ecology center or Emily Oaks Nature Center, but perhaps sending her off to Arizona for the summer isn't something I should dismiss so quickly.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

6 Weeks!

No, I'm not 6 weeks pregnant. Ha! Made you look!

Get over it. God would have to be really skilled with knots for that to happen.

No, we don't only have 6 weeks left in the school year.

I don't even have the summer schedule figured out yet.

No, 6 weeks isn't the amount of time before we take a really cool trip.

We don't even plan on vacationing until August, unless you count the possibility that I may, MAY, head to Dallas in July along with thousands of other women who drink pink kool-aid and like it.

Inspired by the television show Made, on MTV, (which apparently George watches with the kids while I am away . . .hmmm.) we have decided to give each family member 6 weeks to personally attempt something which we find scary.

Me? I'll be submitting stories to competitions and queries to a few magazines.

Harper? She first said swimming (swimming itself not being the fear, but rather not knowing other children in the class), but then mentioned soccer.

(Cause in my mind, THAT's less intimidating. Yes, that was sarcasm. I'm proud of her for even voicing it, and yet, we'll be seeing how this pans out. Maybe a few games with friends at the park as opposed to doing a league again, where a clump of kids all stampede after the ball at the same time.)

George? He's planning on getting in the running game again.

(A birthday gift of running shoes from his parents, who always seem to get hit up for shoes when they come to town, would be greatly appreciated. Wink.)

And what of Zane's fears?

He shared that he is scared of band fires.

Band fires?

Like when the stage catches on fire during a concert?

Band fires?

Like pyrotechnics and special stage effects?

And just what concert were you planning on attending?

Oh, wait.

Not band fires!


Well, now I feel much better. A little garlic (check), a cross (got 'em a'plenty), and a wooden stake (nothing Daddy can't whittle for you) and you are all set.

Go get 'em Zane.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Proceed With Caution!

For those of you who have not yet read my prior post, you may want to turn the car around and and double back in order to get your bearings before continuing on into this construction zone.


Joline is currently under construction.

Work will commence today, April 10, 2008 with the groundbreaking of a new road. Expect delays. Road work will include sharp curves, detours, wrong turns, roadblocks, equipment failures, potholes, and the unavoidable fallen tree branch or two. Reader should proceed with caution as this road will not be smooth, or straight, or mapped, for that matter. Readers should also be warned that this road work has no exact course, no defined direction, and no concrete destination. Completion date at this work zone is undetermined.

Reader will also experience the open road, vast valley's, insurmountable mountains, dark forests, sunrises, sunsets, fields, big sky, streams, storms, scenic overlooks, and plenty of surprises along the way.

Reader is responsible for their own coffee and snacks.

Stops at rest areas will be plenty.

This is not my first journey down this road. In 2001, I had a writing binge. I had two articles published, one for One City, a publication for the Chicago Council on Urban Affairs, and for Access, a publication of the American Dental Hygienists' Association. One of my personal stories made it to the top 10 in a competition to be included in A Cup of Comfort for Teachers, and my favorite piece, written soon after Harper was born describing my struggle to juggle the world of motherhood and acting, has not yet found a home.

Why didn't I continue writing?

Fear, that I should be doing something that is steady and reliable. (Motivated by money.)

Fear, that I should be acting. I mean, after all, I was an actress, so shouldn't I be acting, rather than writing? (One must live according one's label, right?)

Fear, that I wouldn't know how to get other writing gigs. (So why even try?)

Fear, that I wasn't truly a good writer. (Starting with self doubt. Good plan.)

Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear.

So, I stopped the car and turned back around.

This time, I have a solid purpose behind me. I have the desire to use my creativity, not merely for benefit of self, but also for the benefit of my family. Prior to this, I was just dabbling. I was playing. Now, I see that I can truly make this a concentrated effort, and that this effort can serve as an inspiration to both my personal growth, AND add to the quality of our family's life together.

This CAN be a reality.

I think I need a hard hat.

Do they come in pink?

Untitled Novel

"Tearful Dinner"
"Dreaming Isn't Hokey"
"I Love You So Much It Hurts"
"From Merely Sustaining and Maintaining to Soaring"
"Where Do I Go From Here When God Plants Ideas In My Head"

All worthy titles to describe what I experienced today. All of them swirling around my head at the same time, bumping into each other and becoming intertwined.

Yeah. No kidding. That's a lot to process.
And believe it or not, I'm not the one in the family with ADHD.

What happened today to precipitate this post?

The knowledge and relief and excitement that after several years of feeling as if I've been merely hanging on, making every desperate attempt to maintain daily life, (while keeping up the appearance of wellness, with the occasional complete meltdown witnessed only by a few) it is now time for me to explore some personal dreams that I have.

My least favorite speech at Mary Kay's Career Conference was by the number 1 Sales Director in Illinois, Jeanie Martin. She spoke about the importance of allowing ourselves to dream, acknowledging our dreams, visualizing our dreams, and going after our dreams. She even held a "Dream Book" in her arms while speaking. Come on! Throughout her speech I kept a strong, emotionless face. No notes were taken. I gave her no non-verbal head nods of agreement. I even left before she was done to go to the bathroom. What a waste of my time.

Dribble. Fluff. Sap.

My personal reaction to Jeanie has gnawed away at me every day since hearing her speak last Saturday.

I have been consumed with telling others how disinterested I was with what she had to say.

I recall another time in my life where I was consumed with telling others how disinterested I was with something. Or someone.

About 18 years ago, I told my friends, my family, anyone who would ask, and even people who didn't ask, how very disinterested I was in dating a man named George Atkins. I told them this hourly and daily. I told them this when we weren't even on the subject. I told them this out of the blue. My mom put it best, "For not liking someone, you sure do talk about him alot."

Good thing I ended up not believing my own lie. Right?

Today, I realized that the reason I was so very turned off by Jeanie's speech was because I haven't had any dreams for quite some time.

Well, that's not exactly true. Actually I have had dreams, but they've been a buried underneath the mountains of fear and insecurity. Sure, I've had to make some sacrifices and put some personal desires on hold over the last few years and even more so over the past year for the sake of my family, but even that "sacrifice" has a tiny bit of excuse included in the clever "Supermom" wrapping.

Today, I realized that I do indeed have dreams. Today, I allowed myself to voice them at the dinner table. Dreams that I tearfully told my family I didn't think I could possibly accomplish. Dreams that seem completely unattainable. Dreams that sound ridiculous when actually verbalized out loud. Dreams that I "joke" about, when inside, I really do want them to be. Dreams that recently someone reading my blog for the first time hinted that I should pray about developing.

Let me set the table here: I cooked two new recipes tonight. While I cooked Harper read to Zane. It was the most precious, gentle, serene evening. We sat down to eat. Zane reminded us to pray. Harper asked to open the prayer. They ate EVERYTHING. That's a dream come true. But, that's not the one I'm talking about. Who writes an entire post about the fact that their kids ate dinner and now all is right with her spirit? Anyway . . . Harper told me that the two recipes were keepers. Zane actually ate beans. Nope, that wasn't the dream either.

Wait for it.

It was if God was setting the perfect scene on my behalf to serve as the catalyst to get me to crack (in a good way). And I didn't see it coming. Caught up in the beauty and comfort and trust I felt for my family sitting around that table I suddenly found myself blurting out, "Do you think having dreams is silly?" George said "No". Emphatically.

So, out it came. Quickly, with no thought, no preparation, no control. "I think I have a new dream. If I could do anything, I think I would be a Writer and Mary Kay Consultant."

There, I'd said it.

Then, I started crying. Not the heavy, lead filled tears of these past two year, but more like pure water. Light. Refreshing. Why? Because George said, "Jo, you could totally do that. You've done so many things over the years, most of which have been to help sustain this family, but it's been a while [since my acting days] since you've really done anything [in terms of a profession] to further yourself."

It's not that I don't like teaching children's music, and yet my heart yearns to take guitar lessons in order to play with the worship band, perhaps to even learn how to jot down the songs that come to my head. The one's that end up disappearing because I don't know how to make them reality.

It's not that I don't like coaching, and yet I've lost the "fire" I once had for preparing someone for a role, feeling almost as if I give away a little piece of my creativity every time I do so.

One might think I would want to return to performing, and yet, I haven't the desire to be away from my family for the amount of time performing takes. Writing, however, takes the creative rush I feel inside and releases it, all the while fueling me with the same fulfillment I used to feel from being on stage, only now, I'm home, with those who are my true inspiration.

Writing has become a joy, a habit, a desire, a need, a have to, a want to, a must do, an offering, a gesture, a release, a passion, a relief, a discipline. But, a . . . dream? How could I possibly make that a reality? It just seems too big. Bigger than me. Who am I to think I could actually be a Writer?

Through tears, I asked George if I could really do it. Write, for actual paychecks, and continuing my new found love for my Mary Kay business by moving upward within the company.

Zane answered the question before George did.

"Yes, Mommy" he said looking me right in the eye, "You can do that. Be happy. Don't cry."

I tried to tell him that I wasn't sad - just the opposite, and that I was actually feeling such an enormous amount of happiness due to my ability to admit that I have a dream and because the love I felt around the dinner table at that moment was so very overwhelming, but he's three.

Harper tried to explain that sometimes when grown ups are happy they cry.
Then she shared that she had a dream to become a better reader. And to become a Veterinarian.

Zane shared that he had a dream to play with toys.

George just sat and watched the scene with a contented look that conveyed that right there, at that moment, he was living his dream. He gave me quite the pep talk. He can see it. I love that.

There was a group hug, initiated by Harper, talk of a plan (perhaps phasing out the music classes once Zane "graduates" SLC), a lot of kissing, and a flood of excitement over a new sense of purpose.

I'm sure this isn't the end of this post. Well, it may be the end in a literal sense, as I'm about to stop typing, but not so in terms of my processing and exploring ways to move in the direction of my . . . it's still so hard to say . . . Dream.

My Dream is to work at home. My Dream is to be a Writer and, at this point in time, a Team Leader in Mary Kay. My Dream is to wake in the morning, get everyone off to where ever they need to be and to then get to work on writing projects for which I have been hired to complete. My Dream is to write, hold Mary Kay appointments and train new consultants on my team. My Dream is to be available for my family. To work while they are in school. To be present when they are home. To cook meals with them. To gather around the dinner table and recount the day. Yes, to sacrifice for them, and yet, not at the expense of losing my ability to Dream for myself.

Yeah, I need to tighten that up a bit, but give me time.

And that's it. It's time to move forward.

My family has agreed to help me create a Dream/Vision poster to help encourage me. I'm rereading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and investigating what I do next, 'cause I don't have a clue.

So, what would YOU title my new novel?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Literary Dinner

Tonight while George and I were preparing dinner:

"George, do you want garbanzo beans in your salad?"

"I don't like garbanzo beans."

Zane: "Well, I don't like green eggs and ham!"

And apparently, he won't eat them with sheep. Well, that's his version of the story anyway

Monday, April 7, 2008

Please Watch Your Mouth In Front of the Children

This piece of advice is being given by me . . . for me.

An afternoon a few weeks ago . . .

George makes some comment in an attempt to show how very hip and trendy he is.

Me: "What are you trying to do? Bring sexy back?"

Zane: "I'm bringing sexy back."

Mouth open. Jaw dropped. Head lowered in shame.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Explorer Down! Explorer Down!

Zane is done exploring.

Today we visited the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum.

We got a late start, as I had to finish the whole controlled substance prescription situation before we could visit the museum, but we got there.

We arrived and couldn't find parking.


Out of all the FREE museum days, this one was the most trying. And the most packed.

After driving in a circle for about 15-20 minutes the sun shined and we all cheered as someone started to pull out of a spot DIRECTLY ACROSS FROM THE ENTRANCE. Ah, things were looking up.

We really enjoy this museum as it is truly hand's on for the kids. However, that being said, it's very hard to be hand's on when the joint is literally packed with schools and every other mother, their children, and their SUV strollers.

Harper and Zane worked together to turn a river into a lake by building a dam, we experienced the butterfly sanctuary as just that - a sanctuary, (as all the other kids were leaving the exhibit just as we entered and thus it was quite peaceful - plus, Zane didn't step on any butterflies this time), attempted to take some portraits in the photo booth (um, yeah, try that with two monkeys and see if you get a good shot), explored a "green house" and made a family crest to remind us to recycle.

Zane spent the entire time going in and out of a grumpy, whiney, "I'm so done with all this" attitude. I had the stereotypical mother/child experience when Zane yelled at the top of his lungs, "I want a snaaaaaaaack!". I smiled. I gritted my teeth. I left my wallet in the photo booth and Harper's crest in the art area.

We got both back.

But, all in all, this is just what it is . . . being a parent and having children. Two tired children.

We got home, read books while Zane used the potty, he got his 3 jellybeans for being successful and then he took a nap.

He's still a bit out of it, even after the nap. Just plain crabby.

My mom says everyone has days like these.

Even in Australia.

Test Subject

I received a free skin care sample by L'oreal today, and decided that if I truly want to know more about the competition out there, I should try it. So I did.

Let me preface this by saying that prior to becoming a Mary Kay customer, I was a skin care junkie. Upon opening my medicine cabinet one would find a wide assortment of cleansers, added benefits, moisturizers and the like. I kept and used every single sample that I received from cosmetic counters, and while I tried to use them before purchasing anything new, I now realize that this wasn't always the case - as evidenced by the amount of stuff I chucked when I became a Mary Kay consultant - not a requirement, mind you, but a personal decision. Some of the products were a few years old (I recall some microdermabrasion by Origins from 2005 . . . it was now disgusting) and should have been pitched earlier.

So, back to the stuff I tried. It's called Skin Genesis (a multi-layer cell strengthening product with Pro-Xylane and Hyaluronic Spheres - ?????). It won some "break though" award in Allure Magazine. It's similar to that of Mary Kay's Day and Night Solutions which are applied prior to moisturizer, offering additional age fighting benefits. It must be stressed that these are age fighting products with ingredients that will not be found in basic skin care, and thus they are priced a bit higher.

I found the product very slippery and it reeked of alcohol. It took a while to actually settle into my skin. My skin was soaked for a few minutes and I wasn't sure when I could apply the moisturizer, as the serum didn't seem to be drying.

I read the ingredients and found that it included added fragrance. Even now, with my Mary Kay moisturizer on top, I can smell the frangrance and my skin feels very taut - not a good taut, but rather a "masky" taut.

I don't know how much this product costs, but as with Mary Kay, this product is part of an age frighting system which includes a cleanser, the skin genesis step, and moisturizer. I do find that there does seem to be a "second" step with age fighting systems, so it is indeed similar to what we offer with our Miracle Set, although I must say, as objectively as I can, that I appreciate that our system does not have added fragrances and is non-comedogenic - Skin Genesis does not state this to be true.

According to PETA, L'oreal also continues to test on animals.

As does Olay.

My face is still sticky.

We may be all pink, and Texasy, and "old school", but I'll hang with the Mary Kay girls.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cold Turkey

Today was not a museum day, but rather a catch up day . . . Harper's hair needed some immediate attention, there were library books to check out and books to return, there were prescriptions to fill.

I tried to make it as fun as possible. Harper's haircut went without a hitch, although she was a bit nervous about venturing out today with the bruise on her nose that she got while attempting to fly like one of the Superfriends last night. Thank God it's not broken, as when she slammed headfirst into the couch, I thought, "OK, when she gets off the floor, don't overreact", as I honestly felt she was going to come up looking like a boxer.

I digress. The hair is great. Zane swept the salon while Harper sat in the chair. She has amazing hair. Zane sweeps very well.

Then, it was off to the library . . . what I've failed to mention is that today, I put Zane in underwear. We've just had it with diapers, so today, I decided to just stick him in underpants.

Cold Turkey.

Of course he had an accident at the library, I was actually expecting one, but at least HE TOLD ME HE WAS HAVING ONE, and then said, "Quick, Mommy!" as we dashed to the bathroom. We didn't make it, but I praised him anyway.

The kids got great books, I got the last copy of Atonement, I paid all my fines (including the hefty one for a Bob the Builder page ripping incident), and then took the kids for Portillo's as they were pleading for hot dogs.

They didn't eat their hot dogs.

I ended up eating my hot dog and their hot dogs. And their fries.

After the Hershey store from yesterday, the bag of chocolate I bought yesterday, Portillo's and the movie popcorn that I'll be having tonight at Horton Hears a Who, I will need to go on some sort of diet.

The Cold Turkey diet.

I think it's called Slim Fast.

OK, so then, we go to the pharmacy to get Harper's prescription filled as she only has one more capsule left for tomorrow. Little did I remember, that this is a controlled substance, and thus, I must get the prescription filled within 7 days of it being written. It has been 9 days. Would Harper now have to come off of the medication cold turkey until we could get our hands on another prescription? The prescription can not be faxed or emailed, and thus, George is driving down to Children's tomorrow morning to get another one, as we couldn't trust Chicago mail to have it here by Friday. On top of this, our pharmacy doesn't carry this particular medication, so I spent the afternoon calling around to find another one that does.

I wasn't, um, pleasant at the pharmacy.

I called to apologize. Admitted to them that I was terribly rude. It wasn't their fault that I'd forgotten that a controlled substance off which one can make a mint on the street had to be filled within a certain timeframe. They were just following the law as enforced by the DEA. I, however, freaked out on them.

So an apology was completely necessary.

I'm such a turkey.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Smallpox, Water Tower, and Hershey's

What do these items have in common?

Well, they make for a very special day.

Seriously, you ask? Smallpox makes for a special day?

Yep. Add some Chicago history and chocolate and this Mom found herself having one of those perfect parenting days, basking in the enjoyment of my children.

First up for us today was the Museum of Contemporary Art, which upon entering gave me the impression of one of those restaurants that serves really fancy food. Albeit tiny, fancy food. Minimalistic. Food that doesn't cover the plate. I was terrified that the kids would yell out, "So, where's the art?!"

They didn't.

The first piece we saw was bleeding on the wall.

Good start.

Harper brought along her journal and jotted down the name of every piece she found interesting. Zane asked when we would see the toys. Harper would asked, "What's this called?" Zane would ask, "When can we play with the toys?" It was quite humorous.

And then, we hit the mother load.

In one gallery, there was a sculpture in ebony of St. George and the dragon. We literally just read that story. This peaked Zane's interest as he found the dragon's wing, the dragon's beak, the head of George's horse, etc. All the while, Harper was jotting down the names of pieces she found interesting.

Both of them agreed on a favorite piece, Wall's Paper, which was enormous and took up an entire wall. Sorry, no pics allowed.

There was one piece on which they could climb, Convertible Clam Shelter, by Vito Acconci, who became an artist due to his dislike (he went as far as to use the word hatred) of art. One of the reasons for his dislike of art was due to the "no touching" rule. So, he created a piece on which the kids could crawl. It is indeed a huge clam shell with the sound of the ocean playing inside. My two "pearls" (ha) crawled in and had a jolly time until they were told by an employee that they were having too jolly of a time. Hey mister, have you read the artist's bio???!!!

And then there was the piece that Harper almost stepped on, as it just looked like a mess in the middle of the floor. A mess of pills, capsules, a mirror, white powder, a spoon . . . I don't know the name of it. I think I'll call it "Crack on the Floor". Whatever.

Upon turning a corner at one point, we came upon a huge white wall. The bottom corner had some dripping red paint, some type of fuzzy thing and, oh, I don't know, something else I can't remember. What I do remember was Harper's comment about it.

"It makes me feel sick."


The piece was entitled Smallpox.

Other favorites, if you ever get over there, were Garbage Wall, Weed, The Unwearable Dashiki (Zane saw bones in it), and Cage.

We then walked a block to the infamous Water Tower. Did you know it's haunted? Apparently, the guy working the night of the Chicago fire decided to hang himself there rather than burn to death. He haunts it. Kind of ironic, right? As this was the only building left standing after the fire. Had he just hung on (um, wrong phrase), he would have made it out alive.

The Hershey store was next. Free samples. Need I say more.

Then lunch and home. At lunch, Zane had a love fest with mom. It was hugs and kisses the entire time.

Do you think Harper and Zane are enjoying their week so far?

The Museum Adventures of the Dynamite Explorers

Yes, this is a pretty long title, but created by Harper, and thus, perfect.

For Spring Break, we've decided to take advantage of FREE museum days here in Chicago. It seems as if many museums no longer offer free days, or only offer free admission at limited times, however, we have been able to plan a week involving the exploration of at least three of them.

First up was the Chicago History Museum. Become a giant Chicago hot dog, sniff the smells of the city, ride an old fashioned bicycle, hop on the "L" or a steam locomotive, and learn about the great Chicago fire . . . a lot to do and see. We learned that Chicago is named after a word in the language spoken by the Miami and Illinois peoples meaning “striped skunk, ” a word they also applied to the wild leek . . . and we sniffed one. Yuck. Zane wouldn't go near it after the reaction Harper and I had to smelling it. The kids met a little boy name Charlie during our visit and the three of them repaired the steam engine.

I also gained a bit of insight into one of the reasons Harper is embarrassed to share her name with others when they ask (for sometimes he is hesitant). After not answering Charlie when he asked, I took her aside to question her about it:

"I don't like to say my name. People don't get it when I say it."

She went on to share that her name was different and that sometimes people don't "hear" her or get it wrong, or have to repeat it in a questioning tone, ("Harper?"), and that this embarrasses her. Interesting.

Today, we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art.

More on that adventure later!

Avid Reader

The time is 9:15.

Harper has been reading books to Zane non-stop since 8:30.

The vision of them cuddled up on the couch together is priceless.

Listening to Harper's voice as she reads book, after book, after book, is priceless.

Not hearing the word, "Mom!" shouted for 45 minutes straight is priceless.

Headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art this morning. I'm attempting to hit FREE museums this week. Yesterday we visited the Chicago History Museum . . . which brought back a few memories from last year, although this year proved to have a much happier ending. I'll post some pics later today.

I hope the art museum is ready for us . . .