Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Need Help

More than once in my life I have needed help. In college it was a six-week outpatient program for an eating disorder. When my baby had two open heart surgeries and was hospitalized for six months, I needed help on a grander scale. Lots of prayers, coworkers donating vacation time, neighbors mowing our lawn, grandparents who took me in, an antidepressant, legal advice to combat our medical insurance, nursing assistance to learn to care for him, medical opinions and counseling to cope with the disappointment and heartache … this help list is pages long. A different sort of aid was sought when our home caught fire while on vacation. I needed lots of hands to move our belongings out, then to move them back in. I needed help finding a place to live for nine months, construction advice, help wrestling fire-insurance agents, redecorating suggestions, and again, counseling to manage the stress and loss.

Like most folks, I don’t like asking for help, but with age I realize it is part of being a normal, humble human. My advice? Submit to this truth and watch life’s swells shrink as the rescue boat motors out to toss you a line. In the form of friends, family, specialists, strangers, people you’d never think of.
In a perfect world, the help I HOPE to give (part of my new collection, see previous blog entry) and receive looks like this … While at recess with my Fourth Graders, I looked up at the sky as the cool breeze rustled the trees next to me. Then I saw The Love Cloud hiding amongst the whipped topping – puffy, white cotton candy. “Look at the perfect heart in the clouds!” I exclaimed. The kids did not see it, so I helped them by pointing it out. We stood there in awe at this priceless beautiful vision that only lasted seconds.

Help that I crave asking for looks like this … My kindergartner friend had an assignment to deliver a joke to his class and I was his practice audience. I leaned in as he asked, “What kind of car does Luke Skywalker drive?” He smiled.
“Wait; don’t tell me.” My mind raced through Luke Skywalker trivia as I mentally mumbled the words “pod,” “saber” and “sky.” The only connections I know of from my two boys.
Help, I don’t know.” Again he smiled as he burst out the answer, “Toyota!”
Then he repeated. “Toy Yoda.”

I wish all the giving and receiving of help was this beautiful, funny and simple, but it is not. No matter what the size of help, conditions of help or if you are on the give or get end of help, embrace help and rally around the fact it is here to stay.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What Do You Collect?

I spend a lot of my workday reading fourth-grade papers. Every week for homework, spelling words have to be used in sentences. There is a wide range of what is created and turned in. While reviewing them, I laugh; sometimes wrinkle my brow or scratch my head while I correct with my red pen. Sometimes the sentences make little sense to me at first. For example, when the word “disappoint” had to be used, one child wrote, “It is hard to disappoint your fun.” That’s true, if you think about it. Last week another sentence caught my attention. It stayed with me like the smell of the fourth-grade class after recess on a hot day. I found the sentence thought provoking. The spelling word was “collect.” One boy wrote, “I want to collect hope.” Those words touched my heart.

We are a society that revolves around collecting stuff. My big sister had a pig collection growing up. I collected Indian Head Nickels. My younger son collects sticks. My other son used to collect Pokemon cards. My husband collects technical computer programming books. My house collects dust. My money collects interest (sometimes). My car collects miles. My dogs collect fleas.

Could you imagine if people started to collect the likelihood of success we call hope? What if we sought out the feeling that something desirable is likely to happen? What an abstract thought! Think about it. The best thing about hope is that you can never collect it all. There is enough for everyone, it is affordable and is extremely uplifting. Hope is filled with great excitement, ocean-deep desire, and endless possibility. Everyone’s hope collection would look different, just like those fourth-grade sentences.

Like that fourth grader, I want to collect hope. My first piece of hope is that my son will never, ever have another heart surgery. This piece of collected hope looks like a grown healthy, happy, peaceful and satisfied man. The other hope is that my Aunt Linda will beat cancer for the third time. That piece of hope has her wrapped in good health, watching her grandchildren grow from little people into successful, amazing adults. For today, the last wish I will add is my hope to be, not a good wife and mother, but a loving wife and mother. These first three pieces in my collection will be stored in my heart and handled with anticipation and care. I will take pleasure in my new mental collection and be reminded that there is always a chance that something desirable will happen or be possible if we collect enough hope.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies. ~Author Unknown
Uh, hum … Attention audience of eight followers. Have you noticed my new name and feed burner addition to the blog? Plug in your email address in the box to the left and I will sneak my way into your inbox whenever I post. How convenient is that? Please… do it now, go ahead … I can wait…really, I will wait. (Imagine elevator music in background, along with toe tapping to the rain).

Now that we have that business out of the way, let me “splain,” as Ricky Ricardo would say. Why the changes? Where is The Sharing Fish? Gone. Poof. Kaputz.

The Sharing Fish has moved on to that big aquarium in the sky, for a few reasons:
1. I don’t fish, live on a houseboat, snorkel, or own a fish tank
2. I don’t possess a love of the sea. The beach? Yes. Shrimp and crab? Love it. The sea? eh.
3. My husband is not a fisherman. Not even close. He is a typical Technical Engineer. His favorite cartoon is the one of a handsome hunk leaning into the beautiful woman, about to kiss her, with the balloon above his head that reads “I’d rather be programming.”

I admit it. I confess my last name includes the word “FISH,” our eating utensils are in the shape of fish and I am a sharing person (roughly 92.8% of the time). However, that blog name never fit ME ... I hastily rushed into it like the impatient Italian I was raised to be. A change was in order, but I feared the eight of you would never find me again. I stopped and mulled things over and then decided to go for it. Scratching my head, I pondered, “Who am I?”

The quote, “Remember you are unique, just like everyone else” came to mind, but offered little hope. A couple weeks passed and while grading papers in fourth grade, it hit me like a kickball to the back of the head. Unicycle Rose!! I have never mentioned it, but I started riding the unicycle when I was ten (save that story for another time) and my best and dearest friends call me by my middle name, Rose. Voila! Unicycle Rose…It fits! So hop on. Maintain your balance and enjoy the ride. It is okay to wobble and fall off. Don’t be embarrassed, it happens to me all the time :o)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Things That Bug Me (Today)

 I can’t tell if it is a He or a She.
When my son was four, we were checking out at the market, he loudly asked, while pointing at the checker, “Does she have a penis?” I wasn’t sure myself.

Mealy Mouths
This refers to that group of adults and children s who mumble when they talk. For example, in Fourth Grade some kids verbally bellow out their assigned paragraph in Island of the Blue Dolphins, while others make me wish I owned Miracle Ear. Please speak loud and clear.

Repeating Myself. Repeating Myself.
No. No. No. Stop asking, “no” does not mean “maybe!” (See, I am not a mealy mouth)

Cold Hands
I end up sitting on them, makes typing difficult

Folding Laundry
Clean clothes are necessary, but folding is that extra step I hate. What are a few wrinkles as long as you don’t smell?

Poop on the rug
Mostly pets, but once my toddler pooped on the driveway. He should not have been off leash.

Reading Directions
My solution? Marry an Engineer, they live for this stuff.

Everything is Translated
While playing a game of SORRY! over the weekend, we had a dispute, I reached for the rules. They were all in Spanish! LO SIENTO!! (FYI: That means "I'm sorry" in Spanish)

The Electric Bill in December
$215!! Christmas spirit should come with a discount

Stinky Dog Breath
Why won’t my dogs eat the yummy eucalyptus breath chewies I bought? These treats could not taste any worse than the dog excrement I see them eating.

In Grown Toenails
Pedicures should not lead to a $30 co-pay

It is none of your business what other people think about you

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Kari

With all this chatter about birthdays, I must note that my friend Kari celebrates her birthday on January 17. I thought it would be a great idea to make one of those online photo books and scan all the old pictures of us, starting when we met in fourth-grade Catholic school, standing on the playground in our plaid jumpers. I made my way to the shed in our backyard to dig through the boxes and locate the albums that document our 32-year friendship that has endured many ups and downs … but mostly the best ups of my girlfriend life.  I found a bevy of memories, places I’d forgotten and times I’ll never forget. I found photos of us cheerleading in junior high, attempting some shaky pyramid with her long athletic legs and my stubby short ones, side by side. Nice home-made uniforms too. And those pictures of the rundown house we rented one college summer, sharing the master bedroom, and smoking Capri cigarettes in the backyard, while listening to the concerts playing at the outdoor amphitheatre nearby. One night we listened to Midnight Oil, another night the Gypsy Kings. Staring up at the stars in our beach chairs planted in the dirt, just floating through our twenties.

I had to find the pictures of the day we went to the Del Mar race track … when we won over seven hundred dollars, so we drove to Las Vegas --  immediately!!! Why? Because, we could. We have shared laughter, Palm Springs road trips, broken hearts, music, various jobs and cars and we didn’t even realize how uncomplicated our lives were back then. She was so carefree, yet reliable and responsible, like she is today. Kari has always been a hard worker; whether it is at a hospital, in an office, running Gymboree or managing one husband, three kids and one large dog.
We have seen each other through thick and thin, literally, in a story only the scale can tell, and she even let me cut her hair back in the early 90s. That is friendship built on trust! Kari was a good sport about having her long permed hair trimmed at my urging. This only happened one time. There was a lot of laughing, and maybe some beer involved, in her precision cut that I faked the best I could. We both wore neon bikinis and hot pink lipstick when it was cool, and yes, it really was cool at one time! When my son was in the hospital, she took me to lunch to help me forget about my heartache for a while. She just listened to me and kept a very big ear. She still has big ears (She is a good listener, not an elephant!), and they work best when we are sitting on the couch without children running amok. It doesn’t happen often these days, but I know they will come full circle as soon as she raises her little one.
When I backed my Chevy Tahoe into a new car, I called her crying and she showed up with flowers later that day. That is the kind of friend she was and continues to be to this day. So thoughtful and so considerate, even now, when her life is in full swing, she still radiates kindness. When I am in the dumps she knows exactly what to do or say to pull me out. I was in a schlump in early December and she commiserated with me over the phone and the next day left tulips on my doorstep, just like a true-blue friend. She has such a tender heart, this Kari friend of mine. Some time ago she left a slice of both our favorite cake (white on white) beautifully wrapped on my porch. We both have this thing for sugar. Red licorice, big gumballs ... those sorts of sweets that lead to what she has termed “rock gut.”
By example she has shared simple ways to soften my rough edges and reach for my dreams. You know those amazing people that set goals and then actually see them through, no matter how much difficulty and sacrifice is required? She is one of them. She breaks down the mountains and conquers them one step at a time. I admire this quality. With Kari, anything is possible.
Sitting in the shed outside, I flipped through those frail, aging albums, jumping back and forth from decade to decade. I ended up sitting there sniffling with tears, as I walked down our memory lane of grade school, college, various roommates, boyfriends and marriages. Remembering how silly and goofy Kari is put a smile on my face. One of her nicknames I don’t use much anymore is “Crazy” because she is crazy fun to be with! She has always been a friend I can be myself around, no frills or makeup needed. She has seen bare naked me, as in, she was there watching and cheering when I birthed our second son. Reminiscing past dramas and remembering our present joys, lifted me up. I thought about what a centered mom she is, how giving she is of her time and talents and how she finds ways to feed her spiritual life. She gently leads those around her toward the Lord, and I love how Kari lives in the truth, seeking God at every turn. It always impresses me that Kari tries new recipes, even the really complicated ones I avoid. I can’t forget how she appreciates her husband, a healthy lifestyle and loves her dog Peyton, most of the time, even though she is nothing close to a dog-lover. She radiates inner and outer beauty with her wide smile and huge blue eyes.
 For whatever reason, on this morning sitting in the shed, I was at P.M.S. peak level (probably a 9.4 out 10, hence the easy tears) and my picture album launch came to a screeching halt before it even started. I became nostalgic, emotional and overwhelmed with the huge project I set before me that it ended right there in the cold, metal shed. However, by sharing with you this amazing friend of mine, I hope you understand why she is one of my life’s treasures. Those photos may still be boxed up in an old shed, but in my mind, and hers too I hope, they are in perfect chronological order, in vivid, 70s, 80s and 90s Technicolor clarity, with a soundtrack I know all the words to, hidden in my memory. To commemorate Kari’s birthday, in my mind’s eye, I am playing the perfect film of us growing up together and becoming the women we are today. It’s the best movie playing in town! Happy Birthday and I Love You Kari! Love, Crista Rose

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Birthday Seasons

I know this is not nice to admit but…..I feel bad for the kid who has a December birthday. Obviously Jesus’ birthday overshadows and Christmas babies seemed to get short-changed. Like the two-for-one Christmas present so many people combine as one. Or the birthday present covered in Christmas wrap. Nice try…it’s still not a birthday gift AND a Christmas gift. I understand why it happens, it just doesn’t seem fair. I have noticed that children with holiday birth dates tend to skip parties or push them back into January, which honestly isn’t much better…folks are buried in Christmas debt, the weather is unpredictable, many are partied out, and the kids just pulled in plenty of loot from under the tree. The upside of the January birthday? There are fantastic toy sales. Just today I bought a $30 remote control helicopter, for a roller-skating party on Saturday, at half off. Yea me!

My cousin’s holiday birthday is on December 31. Difficult for a kid, but she hit the party jackpot now that she is older. Parties are everywhere celebrating Cousin Marinna and that New Year’s thing. For whatever reason, we have an abundance of folks in our life who were born in January. Seven that I shop for. My husband moans that it is expensive, and that I should just send cards. Ya, right, Mr. Birthday Bummer!

March is another big month of making-merry at our house. Pisces that I am; along with my older son and father … Birthday overload … Not to mention two aunts and another cousin I don’t even buy gifts for. Another expensive month, without the after-Christmas sales to benefit from. The weather is usually cool and breezy, so swim parties don’t fly and there are runny noses that time of year… but these are not complaints, just observations. Spring is a great time of the year to be born and apparently a great time to conceive, with all those January birthdays, as noted above, see what happens when you try to stay warm? If I could pick any month to be born it would be May. Spring has sprung, daylight savings has kicked in, the weather is beautiful and there is not a major holiday in sight.

My older sister has a July birthday, and every summer she was stuck with a “family party”… the obvious downside of a summer birthday. When you are young it is not as easy to gather your school friends, many are on vacation. We used to go to our beach house all summer so even if everyone was home, the birthday girl wasn’t. The upside of the summer birthday is that everyone is healthy and the weather is always a winner (that is, if you live in California). My other son hit the Birthday bonanza, being born on August 31. I wasn’t crazy about giving birth on the caboose of the month; it would take to long arrive since it was the.Very. Last. Day. Unlike my husband who was born August 10. I am happy that it is gorgeous summer weather AND it falls at the start of the school year. It’s an easy date to pull off a kid or adult party with great attendance and perfect weather.

My little sister HAD a wonderful autumn birthday date, until September 11 crashed the party. Now every year America mourns, when she is ready to celebrate. The autumn birthday is not bad if you can keep far enough away from Thanksgiving … once the turkey lands, Christmas has one foot in the door, and then it is all about hanging lights, sending cards and figuring out a way to condense your birthday, if you’re born in December.

The Birthday Bottom Line for me is that I love to give gifts and celebrate the friends and family I have been blessed with for another year. The Italian in me would throw a huge bash, if time and funds permitted, for each person I hold dear. Birthday wishes can become messages of love, inspiration, and kindness that can carry you through your new year…and the thing about a birthday is that you never know if it will be your last. So, my advice? By no means miss an opportunity to commemorate a birthday, even if it is just a card, a big hug or ginormous surprise party.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The First Church Laugh

“The best blush to use is laughter: It put roses in your cheeks and in your soul” --Linda Knight.

It had to be in the early 1980’s that the term “Church Laugh” was coined by my older sister and I. The first documented church laugh occurred during mass in a pew close to the front at St. Mary Magdalene Church. Attending mass every week was never a choice in our home and there were strict instructions on how young ladies were to behave. Quiet was one of them. I can’t tell you what it was that tickled us so much, but I do remember that we were not allowed to laugh out loud while mass was in full swing. Why...... we should not have even been whispering in the first place! It was a no-no.

However, on this particular Sunday, we had stumbled on something so hysterically funny that we could not help but jiggle the pew with our bodies as we fought holding in the giggles, while tears streamed down our faces. The more we held in the laughter, the redder our faces grew, the faster the tears rolled out and more the pew swayed. From the repressed  chuckles forced to stay in, the hushed cackle escalated. My mother squinted her Italian evil eye, but we could not contain ourselves, other than struggle to keep cool and quiet throughout the ten minute noiseless episode.My sister and I had to avoid eye contact if it was ever going to stop.

Since that Sunday morning, no matter what the situation, location or volume, when your funny bone is tickled, when you just cannot stop hysterically laughing, and the more you try to stop, the harder you chortle, until you are doubled up like a rolley polley bug, and you can't halt the happy tears from slipping out, then you experienced The Church Laugh. It is truly the best natural high in the world!

When is that last time you had a Church Laugh?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Define Cat Fight

Who knows why I have been waking up at 5 AM this past week? I tried to fight it many mornings. Today, I just got up, even though it was a Saturday. It felt pointless to fake sleep because my mind was not going to shut off. I wrapped up in my robe and let the doggies out, turned on the computer and started making coffee.

Around 6:00 I heard the cry of two cats outside the living room window...that long drawn out whining that cats do before a brawl. It is a screeching, whiny sound that reminds me of labor pains. The cat screaming peaked into a fight and I heard their scratching and crying just a window pane away. My dogs went berserk hearing all the wild commotion. It sounded like one cat was getting hurt. I had to do something; I was afraid it was Twixie, our neighbor’s cat, and I did not want the noise to waken my family and destroy my morning peace.

A bit nervous, I went out to break up the cat fight. Shouting at them in the dark, the two cats scrammed in different directions. Thinking that was easy, I went back inside my cozy home.

Fast forward two hours and my family was slowing waking up. My kids and I sat on the couch, my husband stood by sipping his coffee. It was a relaxed Saturday morning chat. I told them what I had been doing for the last three hours. My husband and I talked about the movie we watched last night and the kids shared what they could remember of their morning dreams.

Then I blurted out, “Did you hear the cat fight this morning?”
My husband and Lucas said "no."
With great interest, Daniel, my nine year old asked, "Who were the girls?"