Sunday, August 31, 2008

Quiet Sanctuaries In A Busy City

I took the kids to the Lincoln Park Zoo on Tuesday, and was so startled by the lack of morals that were paraded in front of my innocent children, that I completely forgot to share about the treasure of a sanctuary we stumbled upon as we trekked back to our car after our primate education.

And that, my friends, was a really long sentence.

I can not stand paying for parking, so our spot was a bit far from the zoo, at least for child legs, but I secured it after a well fought circling expedition. And boy did I squeeze into a dandy space. I am a fantastic at parallel parking. A skill I picked up after years of auditions downtown where street parking was the only option I would choose for 5 minute auditions. Fifty cents in a meter was one thing, but no way was I going to pay anything over a buck to run inside, spew my talent in front of a camera for 5 minutes, only to be back in my car before the engine cooled.

So we parked. And between walking to the zoo, walking through the zoo, and walking from the zoo, Zane's little three year old legs were spent. As we left the zoo, I could tell he was dreading the walk back to car. I was trying to distract him from the distance with stories about the zoo, the clean stories, rather than the sordid tales, but my efforts weren't working.

And then, we passed a gate. A gate I've driven past several times over 16 years living in Chicago, but one I've actually never walked by. Driving by, I always assumed it was some sort of service entrance for the zoo or the Conservatory.

This time, on foot, we glanced in.

All of us squealed and ran in. We stopped and looked upon what could only be described as the perfect urban oasis. For located smack dab west of Lake Shore Drive, right behind the Lincoln Park Zoo, and a spit East of the Conservatory, we discovered, for the first time, the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond. The sound of cars? Gone. The tops of buildings? Covered by trees. Sitting on the bank of the pond? A painter. Settled on the rocks? A couple having a picnic. How could we have lived here for so long and never known that this place existed?

Harper, Zane, our neighbor Bradley, and I followed the stone path as it curved around the pond which, yes, as the name suggests, was filled with lily pads. And it was quiet. Quiet. In Chicago. Zane kept commenting about the "journey" we were taking. Harper, my nature lover, expressed surprise at every little bend. Bradley, couldn't believe the Atkins were still walking after hours at the zoo and just wanted to sit by the edge. To reflect, I'm sure. Although secretly, I think our energy was too much for him.

We came upon a rock formation and noticed that there were people above us. So, we too, decided to climb up and see what we would find.

What we found at the top was a the perfect picnic spot, complete with a mini fresh water pond/waterfall. Yes, all man-made, but absolutely refreshing. We removed our shoes and just sat with our feet in the frigid water. It was there and then that we decided we would surprise George by bringing him back to this exact spot this morning for a picnic breakfast. I knew he didn't know this place existed and that he would be just as moved as we were when we first stumbled upon it.

After picking up bagels and coffee this morning we headed downtown and arrived just before 9. Zane was very close to giving away our secret by sharing with George that we were headed to the "water and the rocks". But even so, our secret was pretty safe.

He was floored when he entered. Just as I expected. "Has this always been here?" seemed to be the question of the week with regards to this hidden piece of solitude. Speaking with some neighbors tonight, we learned that they too, had no idea that the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond existed.

We took the path around until we reached our picnic spot. When George went to put our things down we took delight in telling him "no". He would need to actually climb up to find our spot. We climbed and sat.

"Guys, this is the best gift I've been given all year" was George's response.

We ate. We splashed. We guzzled coffee. No, not the kids. I may be an addict, but I'm not a pusher. We took turns grabbing Zane's hands so he wouldn't slip on the rocks. We took a few photo's with our "loaner camera" from Ritz (can't wait for ours to be repaired) and enjoyed our family.

After breakfast, we went to the Conservatory to see more beauty.

Afterwards, Harper and I actually jogged the path back to the car whereupon she announced that we should begin jogging every morning. Hmmm.

George and I actually watched many joggers and marathon training teams running the path this morning and both thought, although we didn't speak it, "That was once us." I could tell by looking at him, and he could tell by looking at me that we both felt we were missing something from the beauty of the day - a healthy run, as we once upon a time knew.

For me, witnessing joggers makes me feel as if I could run again. At least the 5K's. No more half marathons . . . just a thought. I don't know yet. Don't hold me to it.

It was a perfect Chicago morning. Followed by a perfect Evanston afternoon with my daughter.

Bookman's Alley: Evanston

Before having children, I invested (not wasted, mind you) a lot of time and money in used bookstores, and even dabbled in collecting First Editions of my favorites books. One of my favorite quiet spots, was Bookman's Alley in Evanston. Bookman's Alley is the complete opposite of a stuffy antique book seller, in terms of attitude, and yet very stuffy as it pertains to feeling cramped, books piled everywhere, the smell of must, dusty old furniture, and various pieces of military uniforms and other antique treasures strewn about, all creating a general feeling of being launched back in time.

It's glorious.

After Harper was born, and the budget got crunched, I actually sold a few books back to the owner at Bookman's Alley, and because I respected the quiet nook that is this place for so many, I really never returned with baby in tow. Plus, I didn't have the expanded time or money to just browse without care or responsibility once having children.

Today, while on a date with my SECOND GRADER I decided to share with her my long lost friend, and we ventured into Bookman's Alley.

Her response only confirmed that she is indeed my daughter. Yeah, yeah, everyone knows she's physically my kid, but her reaction to Bookman's Alley confirmed that soulfully, she's my girl. For upon entering the bookstore, she immediately exclaimed, "Oh! This is the greatest place!"

I could have cried as she found books on Egypt tucked in a corner.

I cringed as she attempted to touch the rare first editions, and found the owner very gracious and patient as I explained to her that I didn't have $400 on hand, and thus she should probably not be taking them off the shelf.

She saw Zane Grey books, got excited for Zane, and asked where she could find "To Kill a Mockingbird".

"Oh, Harper, First Editions of that book are rare and run something like $2500. I don't think there is one there."

We found the children's books and she chose to purchase, with her own money, a rare riddle book called "Cleo Catra", a book of riddles involving the theme of Ancient Egypt and cats. If you know my daughter, she is an expert on anything ancient Egyptian and loves jokes and riddles. She picked the book off the shelf and then tucked herself away in one of the many little crannies that are all over the store, in order to read her find. She explored drawers of old desks, finding old papers dolls and postcards, and asked repeatedly if I would purchase a $50 copy of Robinson Crusoe because, " . . . it's so old!" She didn't want to leave. Neither did I.

Could it be that after 7 years, I can rekindle my love affair with used bookstores while sharing this passion with my daughter?

And this is how Harper, who was complimented by the owner on her "coiffure", became a first-time collector of books with her first purchase at Bookman's Alley. And although she requested that we return after school so that she could complete her homework there, I fear that it would be too distracting for her. Plus, there's no way we could visit with our little wrecking ball in attendance.

But, I love my son. I named him after an author whose books are all over that shop.

I just can't bring him anywhere near it.

Regardless of whether she is every able to sit there to finish some homework, it most definitely won't be our last mother/daughter visit.

The day ended with a neighborhood movie on the Klamm's block. Families all gathered in front of a makeshift screen to eat popcorn and watch "Monster's Inc."

Today was a day of quiet sanctuaries in two busy cities.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Time to Accessorize!

Either wear the darn thing or don't.

You can choose to wear it.

You can choose not to wear it.

But if you choose not to wear it, or decide to remove it after realizing that responsibility actually takes some personal sacrifice, please don't complain that things aren't getting done, or that needs aren't being met. Admit that you don't want to wear it. Or bear it.

Know that your actions, the actions of even just one person, are relevant and powerful and can indeed contribute and lead to change. Don't follow a crowd who expects others to move mountains. Accept and walk in a manner which reveals to the world that you believe in your heart that God is present, that you know in your head that He is working, and that He has equipped you to join Him. Your actions do matter. Your actions do count. Your actions affect other people. Your personal actions do indeed affect other people.

Make a decision.

Either wear it.

Or don't wear it.

The responsibility of making the initial decision to wear the bracelet is yours, and yours alone, to make. Come on. You know how to dress yourself . . . choose your own jewelry. You don't need Clinton and Stacey to help you decide on this accessory. If you choose to remove it, and you can, as you do have free will, please don't make the excuse that someone else made you to do so.

Let's stop making excuses as to why we don't take responsibility.

Let's own our personal decisions.

Let's accept and admit our personal responsibility.

Warning. I didn't say doing so was easy.

Taking responsibility for our words and actions has become blurry. Being "others focused" has turned into a blame game for our own missteps. Whereas shouldn't being "others focused" actually mean loving and serving others and putting the needs of others before our own?

Let's put the blame game away and choose another activity.

And before you get all up in a tizzy, know that I am speaking to myself just as much as I am to you. Whoever you may be.

Responsibility is hard. Sacrifice is uncomfortable. Confronting our true thoughts, words, and actions (or non-actions) can be embarrassing.

And yet ultimately, we don't ask other people to wear our accessories for us, right? So get dressed.

Wear your own responsibility.

Wow! That looks great on you!

Matthew 5:33 "But let your statement be, "yes, yes' or "no, no' and anything beyond these is of evil."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Primate Education (Or . . . Gorilla Porn)

Contrary to the little girl's comment, the female gorilla was not giving the male gorilla a piggy back ride yesterday during our visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Nope. Not at all.

Not even close.

Of course, when I heard her squeal, "Look, Mommy! That gorilla is giving the other one a piggy back ride!", I very quickly gathered up Harper, Zane, and Bradley, our neighbor, to come and watch the scene as I didn't want them to miss out on the fun.

I should check the source before blindly following the crowd.

We got quite the free show.

Front and center.

Up against the glass.

I could have been "window shopping" in Amsterdam.

Daddy Gorilla finished his "piggy back" ride and moved off to the side where he literally slumped down to floor with his back against a pole. Exhausted.

All of us shocked parents just stood there. Speechless. None of us wanted to overreact, as then we would have to explain. So, a "piggy back" it was.

I love the zoo.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

This Is Where ADHD Can Land You

By now, unless you have been living under a rock, you know of Michael Phelps and his incredible 8 gold medals and 8 new world records in swimming during the Beijing Olympics.

What you may not know is that Michael has ADHD. His mother, Debbie, a principal with the Baltimore school system, has shared about this in interviews and is also a contributor for ADHD Moms, a group on Facebook. I have been reading this group for some time now and somehow glanced right over the fact that I had been reading articles written by Debbie Phelps. Michael Phelp's mother! I didn't even put two and two together until I began reading interviews she had given. So, now, we're Facebook friends.

How incredibly crazy is that?

Michael, like Harper, was on medication when he was younger. Once swimming became his source for expelling excess energy, he chose to leave the medication behind.

So, no, he was not on medication when he wow'd us last week. He was not on medication when I was jumping on the couch screaming. He was not on medication when I allowed my daughter to stay up until close to midnight so she wouldn't miss one fingernail finish in swimming.

Harper was shocked to hear that she and Michael Phelps share something in common.

What she doesn't see, however, is how she also shares a talent for swimming. She has decided to hop out of the pool for an indefinite amount of time, but I do honestly pray that she will pick it up again at some point. There is something there. We're not sure what triggered her wanting to leave swimming - something only she knows in that head of hers, but we're still hopeful.

What she can see, however, is that her issues with "focus" happen to the best of them.

The best. Like Michael Phelps.

Where's the Wheaties box??????????

Friday, August 22, 2008

Beach Bums

It's a wonder to me that we were even able to get this picture of all the cousins.
All smiling.
All looking at the camera.
Is it really possible?
Thank you Lord for this photo.
Now, if we could only get this same shot year, after year, after year . . .
THAT would be cool.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Offending Security

We caused a bit of a ruckus at the airport today. Not a great place to have a ruckus nowadays, to be sure, but we honestly didn't mean to do so. It wasn't severe, well, not in our eyes. We weren't pulling an Olsteen or anything like that.

No, we just assumed something we probably shouldn't have assumed.

Last week, when we started our little merry adventure back in Chicago, we missed the early boarding announcement for those traveling with small children. As we stood in a really long line to board, I noticed, after some time, that it wasn't moving. Nobody was boarding. I made my way to the front to find that they were boarding those who needed extra time: passengers in wheelchairs, parents with children and carseats to get strapped tight. We quickly left our place in line and boarded with this group.

Today, on the way home from vacation, the gate was crowded. No seats available. No seats offered - and yet there was one seated woman in particular who seemed peeved that Zane was walking around. Fun. I love irony.

As the time of our departure drew near, we noticed that a line had formed for boarding and that a family with two small children was making their way down the ramp to board the plane. Immediately, I recalled last week, and thought, "Oh, we missed the announcement!" and made our way down the ramp.

Yes, in hindsight, I did find it odd that there were no airline personnel at the top of the ramp to take our boarding passes, but I figured they were at the bottom, at the door leading to the whatchamacallit thingamabob that one walks down to reach the plane. Nope. We reached the door only to find TSA agents. Well, they don't take boarding passes. Where was everyone?

They let us through anyway. They let us through anyway.

We made our way through the whatchamacallit thingamabob that leads to the plane only to be met halfway by two attendants walking towards us from the plane while making circular motions with their fingers. Circular motions which meant "turn around".

"Why are you down here?"

"Um, we saw the family boarding, and assumed you had started early boarding."

"We haven't."

One of the flight attendants then muttered, "Oh, crap." and hurried off back upstairs to the gate.

At that point I thought the second attendant would ask us to turn around, or would at the very least ask to see our boarding passes.

Neither happened.

"We haven't started boarding yet."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Should we . . ."

"Go on ahead."

She never once looked at our boarding passes.

We realized at that point that we had made a snafu. And so had they. There were no airline personnel at the top of the ramp to stop us from heading down the ramp. TSA didn't stop us as we made it to the whatchamacallit thingamabob. The flight attendant didn't stop us from boarding.

But, obviously, the "Oh, crap" response from the male attendant made it clear that someone had messed up.

Just as we got settled on the plane she came for us. And she was mad. And in charge.

"Did you board before you were told to board?"

They could have removed us from the flight.

"I'm sorry, we didn't realize you hadn't started early boarding. We just assumed you had when we saw the other family with children boarding."

"This is considered a huge security offense. Next time, do not board until you hear the announcement."

"Yes, Ma'am. Thank you."

And then I shut-up. Just shut-up.

Now, I admit, we made a mistake. We done wrong. We made an assumption about the situation based upon our boarding experience back in Chicago a week earlier, but clearly, clearly, today, someone had left their post. Anyone could have gone down that ramp. We weren't being sneaky. How could we be? We were loud. And clunky. And in plain sight. Two adults holding two carseats, two bags, a restless Zane, and Harper, following behind lugging her own carry-on while complaining that her arm was tired from pulling her bag, but that she couldn't pull it with her other arm because that was her non-dominant arm. We were not hard to miss.

And yet, there was no one to stop us.

Not even the TSA.

Hmmm . . . now that's good work.

And then, of course, mid-flight, I attempted to take my potty training boy to the lavatory at the front of the aircraft. We were in seat 8. It made sense. Um, no. One in coach does not venture past the first class curtain. Even though Zane was squirming, I was sent to the back of the plane.

They were glad to be rid of us.

I almost expected to be met by TSA back in Chicago.

Wonder who got written up because of us?

Notice that the name of the airline has not been mentioned in this post. I've learned my lesson on that one.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Food, Glorious Food!

Even though I have lived in the Chicagoland area for 16 years now, it took this most recent trip back to the East Coast to reveal that I have not necessarily developed a sold-out love affair with Chicago delicacies. After pondering this a bit I realized that my "it's ok" attitude towards Chicago eats may be due to my taste buds lacking the nostalgic history of Windy City fare. It's not that I dislike Chicago's famous foods, I dig the hot dogs, and have learned not to drench one in ketchup. However, I didn't grow up salivating over hot dogs or with the culinary knowledge that ketchup is sinful, and thus, the whole idea of the ultimate Chicago hot dog is not really ingrained in my senses. Deep dish pizza? I can take it or leave it. I'll choose a nice thin New York slice over the deep dish any day - even if that means using a napkin to sop up the oil that rests a top that wonderful gooey melted cheese. So, while my taste buds may harbor a crush on Chicago foods, they certainly aren't married to them.

Before I left for my trip to Dallas back in July, I took 4 weeks to return to a way of eating that has always been very effective for my body type. I had just purchased a lovely gown to wear on Seminar awards night, (for a whopping $18 at a second-hand store), and I wasn't about to not fit into it. It was the push I needed to get my eating back under control. And even through my time in Dallas I was very careful not to overindulge. The result being that I felt fantastic.

However, I didn't merely stick to the plan for the sake of that trip. I knew I had a big vacation coming up, and wanted to be in a place where I could really enjoy my favorite East Coast foods without the constant worry that I was overeating and thus ruining all the work I had done. I wanted to be in a good place mentally and physically so that I could eat the foods I love!

For instance, when we head to Cincinnati we hit Montgomery Inn for ribs, Skyline for chili, and Graeter's for ice cream. So, it would only stand to reason that when in Maryland and Pennsylvania there are other favorites that must be consumed!

And, well, consume I did!

I had my fill of my favorites: Chesapeake Bay steamed crabs for one, (or, rather, a dozen), which is the type of meal that makes your mouth sting from the amount of Old Bay seasoning covering each and every one. With chunks of crabmeat, a ton of melted butter and vinegar for dunking, a feast can be had! Note: there is a lot of melted butter and a lot of licking one's fingers. You come out smelling like Old Bay, and everything is a complete mess, (this is definitely not a meal for those who insist upon manners and tidiness at the dinner table), but that's what wet wipes are for. And a trip to the boardwalk is not complete without Thrasher's Fries covered in vinegar - which can only be eaten on the boardwalk. Let's add on some Philly cheesesteak and an icee - which is NOT a slurpee - purchased from a vendor on the street and we've just about had it all.

Back at "home", we've got Nanny's sausage and peppers, eggplant parmigiana, and corn beef and cabbage . . . all in one meal. Yes, all in one meal.

I'm stuffed. I'm just now beginning to come down from my food orgy and will definitely need some detox time when I return home.

And then again, after walking Philadelphia yesterday for 4 hours, I think I've gotten in the amount of exercise needed in order to take on something else. Especially because today we're headed to an exhibit on treehouses. Lot's of climbing involved.

I'm sure I'll be famished afterwards.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Best Quote of the Week from My Sister

"The words "throw" and "cat" should not be used in the same sentence. Find another hobby!"

Friday, August 15, 2008

Vacation: All I've Ever Wanted

Combining a family vacation with the Olympic games is awesome.

You hit the beach during the day, get home around 4, shower to get the Atlantic salt and sand off every inch of your body, listen to your daughter teach campfire songs from family camp to her cousins, look at old family photos and marvel at how much she looks like you, grab some grub (grub being Chesapeake crabs or boardwalk fries with vinegar - two must haves out here), take in an amusement park with the kids, ride your first roller coaster since college with your daughter who keeps her hands raised the entire time while you are just trying to "create a great moment" for her even though you are scared *&^%less, ride the smaller coaster with your son, stop for ice cream, get home late, snuggle your boy and rub his head until he falls asleep, and then stay up even ridiculously later watching Olympics, the most perfect summer television event to settle in and watch after a day full of activity, knowing that you can sleep in the next day. Remember, we're on East Coast time, so the Olympics last until 1:00 AM.

But since your daughter is also staying up ridiculously late watching the games, and your son is wiped out from waves, no naps, and all that other stuff I just typed, sleeping in is almost a given.

This has been a great trip thus far.

Many of you parents out there may choke on what I'm about to write next.

Vacations are better with children.

I know that sounds completely screwy. And yet, there is no better way to take in new experiences. New, meaning, new for them, which in turn, makes them seem new to you: the adult. Adults who have a tendency to lose the wonder in the moment due to all the clutter in our heads.

Take the roller coaster. I really didn't want to ride it. It was a carny coaster. Freaked me out. And, in all honesty, my back is a now a bit tight. But my own fear and discomfort seemed so very unimportant next to sharing a new personal risk with Harper, void of visible fear. Her squeals and smiles were infectious. Thus, I had a great time. She went on to ride that coaster 4 more times.

Zane also rode a coaster, albeit smaller. First with his cousin Toby, and then again, with me. We were the only two on the ride. He was so excited to be riding with me that he must have turned and kissed me square on the lips at least 10 times throughout the ride.

Both Harper and Zane jumped waves with Daddy. This too, freaks me out, and yet having grown up at the beach every summer, I can jump 'em, swim through 'em, and body surf 'em. However, my adult mind has clouded those childhood memories. Knowing I would need to help them resurface, I left the two piece at home, donned the one piece, and got in the water. Harper debated the waves for a day and a half before inching her way out with George. And after getting hit pretty hard, (it was bound to happen, as the waves have been fierce the last two days), she came up laughing and shouting, "AWESOME! That was awesome!" Zane, too, was caught up in the moment and allowed George to walk him in.

My children seem to give me the ability to put myself aside: my fears, my discomfort, my disinterest, and my busy ways, in order to just enjoy. To rediscover pure enjoyment.

As we left the amusement park tonight, the kids asked if we could stop for ice cream. Zane was insistent.

"Mom, there's a MxDonald's. They have ice cream there."

I was silent.

"Mom? Did you hear me? There is a MxDonald's."

I remained silent.

"Mom?" a tiny little finger gets pointed in my face. "Mom? You have to speak."

I couldn't. I was just enjoying listening to him.

Ultimately, my answer was yes. We did not, however, hit MxDonald's for ice cream. We're at the beach. There's far better than MxDonald's.

Tomorrow we're off to Assateague Island and will hopefully get a glimpse of the famed wild ponies of Chincoteague while taking a boat to the island. No doubt there will be much to discover on the island.

Thanks, kids.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Zane Atkins: Political Analyst

It's the stuff of which tabloid stories are made.

While driving to church on Sunday morning, I was enjoying the comfort of my new and improved Forester. Thanks to my mechanic and the "trans guys" ;).

Zane was having a discussion about how snowmen would melt in heat, because he is that sharp.

And Harper, upon listening to a news report over the radio, reported enthusiastically that the broadcaster had just announced how Obama had won the election for President.

"Mom! Did you hear that? Obama won the election!"

"The election is in November. I think they were just discussing Obama and the election."

And then Zane chimed in with his unique form of political satire.

"Are you talking about the Obamanable Snowman? That's scary."

And just what are your trying to say, Zane?

Are you using your silly wit to mock my decision to move to the other side for this election?

Do you think this is funny? Wipe that smirk off your face!

Come on boy! Think of your father!!!!!!!

You know your father has yet to lose his fear of Bigfoot, instilled in him by "In Search Of", hosted by the great Leonard Nemoy. The two of you just watched a show about Bigfoot on the Discovery Channel, and yet you throw it back in his face. Goodness, son! Your big, strong Daddy still sleeps with blankets covering his nose; his eyes peeking out in order to keep watch should Bigfoot set up camp in our back yard.

And while Dad may still believe that Bigfoot exists and that he and the Abominable Snowman are one in the same, or, at the very least, closely related, don't be fooled into thinking that your juvenile scare tactics will work at changing our minds.

Mommy and Daddy will exercise our right to vote with responsibility, each of us making an informed choice based upon educating ourselves about the candidates, rather than succumbing to the influence of of tabloid-like lies. We won't vote blindly.

Your comment showed a real insensitivity towards Obama. And your Dad's fear.

Perhaps there's a spot for you at The New Yorker .

No more political shenanigan's.


I Surrender

Yeah, I wish this were some deep post about how I am learning to give all to God; to surrender my own ambitions and desires for His glory.


It is just a post from a desperate mother who has decided to raise the white flag of potty training.

Zane has had a successful start to potty training and continues to show interest in using it, and yet, we are now locked in a battle of wills with regards to, well, a very particular area of potty training.

A particularly dirty area.

And frankly, I'm tired of cleaning it up. Plus, I don't want him to feel as if he is continually missing the boat. Which he is. Everyday. I hate that the kid feels as if he needs to hide in order to do his thing. It's either hide or sit in the bathroom for 30 or so minutes while Harper reads book after book after book. And even then, movement is not guaranteed.

Thus, I'm relenting. We are going back to pull-ups during the day and diapers at night.

And before you jump all over my case about the use of pull-ups and diapers, let me just say, in my own defense, that I have really tried. We have been in underwear for some time now, and this particular area is just not improving.

So, with all respect to those of you who seem to be able to handle the cloth . . . we just can't. It's a great idea . . . but we are not homebodies and the bags of underwear full of particulars are getting to be too many to handle. My utility sink is full.

Yes, yes, yes, I have tried all the Internet "tips" that are sprinkled throughout various parenting websites. 100% effort has been made here. I'm not just crapping out.


Perhaps Mike Rowe should take this job.

Or I could check out one of those potty training boot camps that are advertised these days.

Better yet, why not just give the kid a break and return to it when he feels more comfortable?


Friday, August 8, 2008

Wow'd By Reconciliation: It IS Possible

Simply put, we, as Christians, are CALLED to be different. We are CALLED to be in this world, but not "of" this world. We are CALLED to treat others as we would want to be treated. CALLED.

Sometimes I fail to answer.

Reconciliation IS possible. Jesus did not just speak to it, he lived it. And died for it. His forgiveness is not conditional.

Sometimes I make it conditional.

You've read over the last few weeks how I have struggled. I am not perfect. Today, I was able to have a conversation with my "trans guy" in response to a comment he left on my blog. I didn't simply comment back. I called him. Immediately. During our phone conversation, I thanked him for his apology and shared how Jesus has been working in my life to reveal to me how our auto drama is less about the actual car, and more about the need for humans to work alongside one another towards reconciliation in matters that, for lack of a better word, suck.

Big Picture vs. Little Picture.

Ultimately, it's not about the car. It's about people.

In the future I will make every attempt to wield my blogging power for good.

I've had a good, strong cup of Reconciliation Blend this morning.

Enjoy a cup on me.

The following Comment has been re-posted with permission

Cuppa Jo.

First of all, I'd like to sincerely apologize for the experience you are having with your car. It sounds terrible. In our daily business we strive to provide our customers with the best quality and service. Unfortunately, on occasion, for one reason or another, we fall short of that goal. Believe me, I personally spend many hours lamenting over situations such as these. But they do happen sometimes none the less. Ultimately, all we can do is everything in our power to rectify the situation and do our best to make amends. Rest assured that we are working diligently to get your car back to you with the transmission in perfect working order.

Upon return of your car we will also be giving you a $200.00 Target gift certificate to show our appreciation for allowing us to serve you. This is not something we do only for someone with a blog page, but for any customer who is not 100% satisfied with our company.

Furthermore, although cooler line hoses only break on rare occasions,and we do visually inspect them, we are currently implementing a program to more closely examine every line and replace any hose that shows even a minute sign of wear to avoid any future problems. It is my belief that the Internet and blogs such as yours can only help to improve relationships between businesses and their customers. I do not fear this technology, I embrace it.

I only wish that we had been aware of your situation sooner, and for that I am truly sorry.If you have any questions or if there is anything more we can do for you at all please do not hesitate to call us at 888-808-1066 and ask for Joe.

Thank you,

Gator Transmissions
The "Trans Guys"

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Beans Spillith Over

I began blogging when Harper was 3 months old, which also happened to be during the time in my life when I was still auditioning quite regularly for commercials.

A few times a week I would traipse downtown to David O'Connor Casting, circle the area to find a parking place, sit in the waiting room with the other hopefuls, perform a glorious audition lasting, oh, say, 5 minutes, get back in my car, and trek the hour (with traffic) home again. As I was being called in with some regularity, I began a blog to share with my family the details about my auditions: how I felt, what I wore, whether I would change my delivery, the result, etc. Never once did I hesitate about what I wrote, or censor my words.

One day, however, as I was exiting the casting office after an audition, I was I stopped cold in my tracks by David O'Connor himself as he announced with a grin, "Joline, I really enjoy The Audition Chronicles."

It took a moment to register what he had just said, but once I realized that he was referring to my blog (which was indeed called The Audition Chronicles) my insides turned to jello. WHAT???!!! David O'Connor had read my blog. David O'Connor, one of the biggest casting director's in Chicago had read my blog. Any flattery I may have felt disappeared quickly as my mind raced to weigh the situation. At the very center of my racing thoughts one stood out: had I written anything negative about David himself?

It was on this day that I was hit square in the face with the reality that blogs are public. Very public.

I mumbled some incomprehensible response about my parents living out of town and my wanting to give them the details of all my auditions, blah, blah, blah, panic, panic, panic. I stumbled. I muttered. I think I may have spit or drooled during this exchange. Regardless, I came out looking like a buffoon.

I called George immediately and told him to read through posts to see if I had ever said anything derogatory about David himself. You know how temperamental actors can be: blaming a bad audition on the casting director. (Not that I'd ever had a bad audition . . .) He assured me that all was OK. But, I was quite flustered and sure that I would never be called into his office for an audition again. I also wondered how he had found my blog. And concluded that it must have been due to googling either the name of the casting office, David O'Connor Casting, or, (as if the next option was even a remote possibility), me.

My next post detailed what had transpired and included a "hello" to David himself.

I never heard another word. And it wasn't the end of my career. Catastrophe averted.

Since that experience, I have continued blogging and have often struggled with the question of when and when not to "spill the beans", so to speak, or, rather, so to "write" when blogging about specific situations that I encounter as I stroll through life.

I am pretty vulnerable. To be sure. And yet, there are several experiences which I choose to keep off the public airway that is the Internet. I don't bare it all. I'm not a blogging pole dancer.
And yet there are those experiences which I share with complete freedom and candor of opinion.

The debate over spilling the beans in a blog certainly arises when one, like David O'Connor, actually locates a blog in which he is mentioned.

Take today.

In this case let's say that the someone who has located my blog is, oh, I don't know, let's go with, MY MECHANIC. And the mechanic's "trans guys".

Google is a really good search engine.

George talked with the owner. He requested that we remove any reference to his shop or the "trans guys". George talked with me. We came the conclusion that since we are working really hard at actually reconciling our relationship with our mechanic, I would agree to remove all references to the actual companies involved. Not the posts, mind you.

Did I struggle with this decision?

Um, yeah.

For the readers that have been following our auto drama, I hope that you can see the shift I have begun to take from my earlier posts which communicate sheer anger and wrath, to my most recent attempt, however feeble, at forgiveness and reconciliation. This is where I struggled over the request that I edit my posts. As, what I have tried to convey with my most recent post was how we are working very hard at repairing and reconciling with this business. After all, they did reimburse us for the taxi and the tow, loaned us a courtesy car, honored their warranty, and credited us back the entire amount for the transmission until which time the work is done and we deem it sufficient. So, yes, they have worked with us. I see this. I am thankful for this. I can not, however, continue to mention them in my blog.

Putting aside all the frustration I've felt towards them, I must say that I doubt other businesses would give us the personal attention they have. In terms of trying to do the right thing by us (based upon their actions that I've mentioned above) they are striving to be above board.

And yet, the situation has been completely inexcusable and unacceptable. Thus, I still struggle with having to edit what I have written - even though I understand that the goal is reconciliation. Yeah, some of you would say, "The goal is getting your car back! What about that!" That is the earthly goal. The bigger goal is to "Treat others as you would want to be treated", which is a much harder goal to reach due to all the pride and personal effort I have wrapped up in my little blogging world.

For this reason, I have agreed to remove all references to the parties involved. Don't think for a moment that I am totally sold out on this or that I am just trying to be all high and mighty and righteous with my decision. For honestly, it sucks a little.

I'm just trying to do my part in cleaning up the mess of spilled beans.

One by one by one . . .

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The First Time Ever Zane Saw Her Face

Ahh, the beauty of young love.




Zane met the first gal of his dreams this weekend at Family Camp in Saugatuck, Michigan. In years past, we have either had our own cabin, or shared it with a family from our church, but this year, cupid intervened and booked us into Elderberry with the Gaertner's, a family from Glen Ellyn.

We really did click with with them, but apparently, it was Zane who came away most changed from his new crush on eight year old Emily, who, in Zane's words, " . . . has a very nice face."

And while the weekend schedule didn't allow time for a discussion about arranged marriage, we're hopeful.

Harper and Emily hit it off as well, and it warmed my heart to hear her ask, "Emily, is 2nd grade hard?" They had a blast making funny video's on my camera, and I think meeting Emily inspired Harper to hit the books, as evidenced by her needing to tackle Chapter One of another Magic Treehouse book late one evening at 11:00 PM. There was no convincing her to start the book the next day. Nope. 11:00 PM it was.

Zane has asked several times when we're headed back to Family Camp, which he described as "perfect". I'm glad you think so little man.

One tip, son. Get that potty training done. Come on now. You know what I'm talking about. Truly, it will make you even more irresistible.

It's just a thought.

I don't mean to meddle.