Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Some Summer

So far. Soooo fun.

While we're certainly keeping busy this summer, we're making sure to get tons of "down time", too. For that is what seems to elude us during the school year when we are most certainly bound by the academic and church calendar.

My kids have plenty of organized activities this summer: Summer Academy, VBS, art lessons, swim lessons, and Karate, to name a few. But, we're also doing the lazy thing. Wii and TV are allowed more often, we've been hanging at various pools several times a week where I literally lay there like a bump on a log while my kids play in the water.  We hit up the library often, we read, we play cards and backgammon at Kolache, and we overdose on Food Network.

This summer, after having now lived here a year, has found Harper spreading out a bit more, and we've enjoyed having her friends from school over to our place.  Our new neighborhood is a bit different from Evanston where the majority of kids would be in day-long camps during this time.  And yet here, in our new neighborhood, kids hang in "pockets".  My goal?  To gather them all up at the park for a good old-fashioned game of kick-ball.  Maybe we'll have to make flyers to see who can "come out to play."  Zane, too, has been meeting up with a few buddies and has enjoyed feeling "older" as he prepares to enter Kindergarten.

I like the ease of the summer.  My kids need the nothingness.  I like being unscheduled.  It's important.

Take this morning.  Zane was scheduled to be in the pool right about now, but seeing as it is too chilly for a swim lesson (my boy's teeth would be chattering within 5 minutes) he's playing Wii Lego Star Wars until we get Harper at Summer Academy.  He has waited a FULL YEAR to learn how to play and conquer this game, having sat patiently while watching Harper play it last year.  Ok, yes, it's a video game, but he is overjoyed to have mastered it, and for him, it's a milestone of sorts.  He'll play, then we'll pick up Harp, and be off to run some errands.

It's not a beautiful day out, so we'll get home and continue working on finishing Harper's room remodel - just doing some rearranging and decluttering.  Will probably add another color to wall for an accent. We'll be looking at a Craig's List find tonight, a "new" desk for her, as we are trying to create a place where she can do her homework come fall - rather than using my dining room table.

THIS is summer:  wandering with the occasional scheduled gig.  

That's how we roll.

I like to call it . . . purposeful laziness.

No pressure.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Do I Look Like I'm Made Out Of $50's?

Last Fall I was told about a great swimming program that was held at the High School. The price was right, so I decided to sign Zane up for session.

On the first day of class, he freaked.

And no, he wasn't worried about the water, he was nervous about being in a class with kids he didn't know . . . an all too familiar issue that both my kids have battled.

The teachers tried to get him in.  He wouldn't have it.  We sat in the bleachers and watched for a bit.  This didn't help either.  So, we stopped at the registration table to get our check back, as I just didn't have the fortitude to go through the emotional gymnastics it would take to encourage him to participate every Saturday. 

At the registration table I was told, "Let us keep the check.  Try again next week.  If it doesn't happen, we won't deposit."

We didn't return.  I called and left a message that it wasn't going to work.

8 weeks later, my check was deposited.

Upon calling, I was told, "Oh, you were told the wrong thing.  We don't give checks back.  You can use that money for next session."  When I explained the details, I was told, "Oh, let me see what I can do."

I never heard back.

I left several more messages.


Sure hope somebody got to use that $50.

Flash forward to this summer.  I sign Harper up for a track program three nights a week.  A program with "lots of children."  Harper shows up on Day One and is surrounded by high school and middle school students.  And one eight year old.

I'm told she needs a t-shirt.

I purchase it.

I am then asked in which event she'll be competing.


For the regional race.


If she places at the regional race, then she moves on to the state race.  And then, nationals.

Come again?

There was NOTHING about this in the brochure.  I spoke directly, as in face to face, with the Coach when we paid our registration and wasn't told anything about all the meets, etc.  Plus, as it turns out, she only needed a shirt if she was going to be competing.  Which wasn't going to happen.

After two weeks, we realized that this program wasn't helping her.  There were major nerves due to being one of the only young kids.  Plus, she developed a heel injury and MD advised us to quit running and rest it.  The heel injury, while very common in growing feet, just wouldn't heal (ha!) if she continued running.  I called the Coach hoping I could get my registration pro-rated since the program goes until the end of July.

"Sorry.  Most of the kids have already dropped off at this point since they didn't place."

I'm not sure what that means.  Did they get their money back and thus they need ours to continue funding the program?  Was the race a qualifier to continue in the program?  I'm so confused.  I just wanted a bit of my money back, that's all.  I had no idea I was signing up for such a complicated venture when I first registered and spoke with the Coach.  We thought we were signing up for a simple running class.

"So, can I still get that T-shirt?"

"Yes, we passed them out last week.  Do you still want one?"

Well, I did drop $15 on a shirt that I came to learn I didn't actually need as we had no idea there were formal track meets and we weren't interested in competing in the track meets that were spread out around PA and the East Coast anyway.  Deep breath.

So, that would be a yes.

But, my $55.  Gone.

Guess how much Zane's Karate will be every month?

Master Z, I desire a full return of my $50 investment in the form of kicking and blocking.

And personal fulfillment.  I have a hunch this is your thing, buddy.



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Random Thoughts on Writing

Writing gives me joy.

Writing gives me fulfillment.

Writing clears my head.

Writing makes me hungry.

For buffalo wings.

And cheese.

Shoot. Now I'm thirsty for a pomegranate martini.

Writing every week, as in, a real job (because I now have that deadline that I've always wanted) is hard.

I think about writing every day.

I second guess everything I write.

I have a hard time editing myself and could use a good grammar program to check me.

I need a new desk chair.

This one hurts my patootie.

I keep a notebook of possible blog posts.

If not, I'd forget everything.

I have recluse tendencies. Just like really cool writers.

Only, I have children and can't lock myself in a room and write all day.

They'd starve.

I think most people don't take enough risks and believe they can't do something, and thus, don't, before they even give it a try. But, that may be due to the fact that they haven't found their passion. Or have, and are just too scared to tackle it. It's a vicious circle, really.

I love to communicate.

By writing.

And even though I am now hungry, my head is clear.

This list of random thoughts gave me fulfillment.

Writing gives me joy.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Overheard in Beaver County: Part 2

Don't jump on all over me.

I live here.  So I can't very well overhear and then recount conversations from, say, Chicago.

So this is NOT a "the big city is better than the small town" post.

After checking out at Giant Eagle last night, the cashier shared with me that I had earned $1.10 off for each gallon of gas I purchase at GetGo.

"Good! Because I won't get gas from BP. Even though it's right up the street from me."

"Yes, I heard that something had happened with BP. What's going on?"

I had to simmer down. I wanted to blow. Like an oil rig that hasn't had the proper inspections.

"Um, you know in the Gulf? Rig blew. Killed 11 men. The Gulf is a complete mess.  Worst oil spill ever in our country."  (Maybe, in history - I'm not sure and didn't want to exaggerate.)

I had to stop talking.  I was just surprised how this many days in to the crisis, somebody didn't know the enormity of this particular catastrophe.

And then, to kick my heart one more time, I heard the following from the guy behind me as I pushed my cart away:

"Yeah, so there's oil in the water. I guess a few people are upset about it."

Now, granted, I don't know where Getgo obtains their fuel.  So my boycotting BP and going to Getgo may not help one bit.  I also realize that many don't read papers or watch the news, but I guess I just think that due to the internet there is absolutely no excuse for not knowing what is going on in our country.

In our country.

This is a very patriotic area.  It's "God Bless the USA" territory.  I'm not making fun.  If you think I am, then ask me, 'cause you got it all wrong.

No, I'm just sharing that if we love the USA so very much, how can we take this spill so lightly?  Quite frankly, it's not a light spill.  Our Earth is God's creation.  Look it up.  You don't have to go far.  Genesis.  Chapter 1.  And God's creation just got hammered.  By us.

The Gulf Shore is a part of our great nation, and it has been hit by storm after storm, and now, this.  But, the damage from this spill will wind up affecting more than just the Gulf area - and not just in terms of environmental issues.

I read yesterday of a local Gulf business of over 150 years that is no longer able to get clams, their main product, from the Gulf due to the crisis.  They are now bringing in their clams from the west coast.  You don't think this will affect their business????

Do a little reading.

Know what's going on in our very own country.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


"You should have chosen the cupcake," joked a friend upon hearing that I was in the midst of a life threatening experience due to a tiny piece of baby carrot that was apparently lodged in my windpipe.

He was probably right!

How funny/ironic that while on this huge health kick of mine, it was a piece of carrot that was precariously stuck in my throat and impeding me from taking a long full breath without wheezing and coughing. While I couldn't actually feel the piece of carrot, it was obviously there, turning my once clear breaths into the sound reminiscent of someone struggling with emphysema.

As I was too scared to lay down for bed knowing that my airway was still hosting a mini room-mate, I shut myself in the bathroom and proceeded to work myself up into a very intentional, and quite forceful coughing fit. Thankfully, my attempts proved successful, and after only a few heaves, the culprit exited, the rasping breaths stopped, and I was able to snuggle down for bed without the fear of choking during the night.

I now have a better appreciation for long deep breaths.

My blog is a means of catching my breath.  A long deep breath where my airway is always unblocked, and my thoughts flow without labor.  Just as I breathe without thinking about the mechanics of each inhale and exhale, writing also comes naturally for me, and I often find that words have poured onto the screen without my realizing what I've just written until I proof the entry - for I have learned not to censor myself while in the moment.

I tend to be long-winded writer.  And opinionated.  What a great combination.  Isn't that just what we need?  More long-winded and opinionated people?  Sorry.  Warning. This one is going to be a doozy.

Recently, during a brief discussion with a fellow writer, I inquired as to whether he had ever retracted or appended a published piece - against his better judgment.  It's a confusing topic for me, seeing as I write a blog - the home of thoughts and opinions which are based upon my personal experiences.  Over the past three years, however, I have ruffled feathers on more than one occasion due to my content.  My friend shared that while writing a book, he too met with some criticism and although he wanted to allude to the disagreement in the finished product, he ultimately chose not to do so.  Same goes with me.  For each time I've had someone question my content, I have made the choice to cool the pot by re-editing a piece, rather than allowing the pot to boil over.

Both of us were a bit frustrated with our choices.

Me, because while I never set out to intentionally hurt someone with my words, they do run the risk of being misinterpreted.  I realize that putting myself out there is an invitation for criticism.  I actually like a healthy/respectful dialogue and will usually state my opinion with the hope that anyone who misunderstands or disagrees with my take on an issue, will respond by addressing their concerns with me directly before dismissing my words as those of a dramatic dingbat.  I am finding, however, that the dialogue I seek rarely occurs.  Confrontation is too dangerous for many.  And uncomfortable. It is simply easier for one to discuss the content with someone else, rather than talking directly to the originator. 

I received my first tongue lashing (or, rather, finger lashing) back in Evanston where I wrote a post letting a local business have it after months of dealing with them.  All my readers agreed they deserved it, and yet, somehow actually writing about it was considered rude.  I still haven't completely reconciled my decision to amend my original posts about the issue, for I know that I will never verbally recommend this business to someone else.  It's hard for me knowing that although I've written a slight retraction, ask me directly, and I will tell you directly not to use this particular business.  I have often wondered if my writing about the situation would have been considered more legit had I written a review for the local paper, or sent my criticism to a local news station to be part of a consumer alert segment. 

In blog form, however, my comments were merely considered mean-spirited and cheeky.

Talk about being confused.  I like truth, but truth can sting.  So, what's a writer to do?

As a Christian, I do believe that I have the responsibility to love my neighbor, and my enemy, even through my writing.  This does not mean, however that I will always agree with them.  It does mean that I must be "slow to speak" (and write, for that matter).  Which brings me to my post-Memorial Day moment.

Freedom of speech via writing.

There are two areas of the Christian life which invoke fear in me, and cause the hair on my arms to rise.  I truly believe these two areas cause the majority of relational damage in a church community.

Gossip is the first. This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Homogeneous thinking is the second.

No one, including myself, who has ever worked as an actor got there by being safe.  Theater is not safe.  In fact, safe theater is downright boring.  Auditions?  Please.  Some of my scariest moments in life occurred at the hands of a production team staring directly at me as they sat comfortably behind a table while I did my shtick - and the worst thing I could do in that situation was to perform the same shtick as the person who just went before me.  Homogeneous acting is a no-no.  Even during rehearsals, a good director will always suggest and help the actor find and successfully pull off riskier choices to make the character more interesting.  Thus, my life, and specifically the last 18 years have been shaped by those types of risk-taking experiences, which now translate into my writing.  Acting involves  a ton of self-discovery, honesty, directness, conflict, open-mindedness, love, vulnerability, and transparency. When you read me, you read this background.

I would love for Christians to take the riskier choice with one another - in love.  Without planks.  Wouldn't it be great if we could actually make the more difficult choice of engaging in direct conversations with one another before resorting to the easy choice of communicating our assumptions, accusations, and judgments to others through gossip? And wouldn't it be cool if during these conversations we were able to show respect for differing perspectives rather than chalking them up to being less than Christian?

When I breathe in my blog, I will always tell you what I think.  You may not agree.  You may find my thoughts petty, or rude, disrespectful, immature, sinful even.  Maybe you'll even find me controversial - although truly I've always been a pretty straight arrow.  As I learned through my experience with that business back in Evanston who got hit with the writing-wrath of Joline firsthand, I have since learned to be careful not to "name names" or use this blog to rake someone over the coals - and yet, I still open myself up for the annoyed critic.

One thing is for sure.  You will always know where I stand, and I'd be glad to enter into discussions with you if there is question as to why I wrote a particular post. 

I'd rather breathe out, than walk around holding my breath - and I encourage you to do the same. With me. Your neighbors. Co-workers. Whoever you've been discussing with others. We've all been there.

Let's really embrace this freedom of speech that we have been given and use it for meaningful discussions and not for creating circles of whispers about one with whom we disagree - for I'd venture to say that in the majority of disagreements, the background or experience of an individual is not taken into account before they get roasted. It's time we get above board on this one, Church.

Let's all take deep, encumbered breaths together.

'Cause I'll tell you - having something stuck in one's throat is uncomfortable, dangerous, and distracting.

Clear the airways. We've been given the freedom to do so.