Friday, December 31, 2010

Are you up for Unicycle Rose’s 2011 Balance Challenge?

Eh hem. Ladies and gentlemen, this is hereby your personal invitation to come along on this All-American Girl’s Balancing Act (2011 Edition). End of formality. Read on and join me!

Looking back over the year, I slipped away from my original intent of blogging. Unicycle Rose was born to help myself maintain balance in this hectic world of kids, job, spouse, pets, chores, love life, faith, exercise, friendship, environment, extended family, inner-peace, food, vino and the list goes on and on to that big slab of cheese in the night sky (so it seems). How do we do all that we need to do in such a way that one part is not neglected nor another overdone? The results of being out of balance in any of these areas result in guilt, tight pants, marital discord, overflowing smelly hampers, ignored kids, hangovers, illness and emptiness. Just to name a few. Again, this list can grow faster than a speeding unicycle tire can turn.

So I said to myself, “Self, how to keep better balance?”

Well, I know how it is done on a unicycle. There are special padded shorts to be worn, a strap ‘em down bra, certain posture, iPod music to be loaded, helmet snug, shoulders pulled back, water belt fastened, sense of humor turned on and focus galore. Lots of focus! A similar checklist could be made for any life subject mentioned above. I thought, as I scratched my chinny-chin-chin, “Maybe I just need to check off one challenge at a time and it will add up to one stable, steady life? Maybe? It is true that balance is key in all that we do if we want to stay on a healthy course.”

For example, a Balance Challenge relating to relationships. “Be kind to unkind people” ... Today attempt to be nice to that person in the office, the street, or your family who is really grating on your nerves. Pick them out ahead of time so you will be prepared to schmooze them with unexpected kindness.

Or, why not a balance challenge relating to health (be kind to your back); shoulders back, chest out….today why not try to balance something on your head for a minute or two while you cruise the house? It will slow you down, fix any slouch and make you aware of posture. Plus it will be fun. Grab the remote control and fold the clothes while it sits on your head.

Or, a love Balance Challenge? You know how important passion is in marriage. And, without effort, passion disappears faster than pounds on The Biggest Loser. Give your spouse a hot, passionate kiss out of nowhere and note their reaction or unreaction.

Then let’s swap feedback.

This year I am tuning myself up. When I post, I will toss in a Balance Challenge that I will attempt to work into my day, and you can too. Every challenge may not be for you, but I promise that one or two will dare you to get out that oil can and lube some part of your life. Some will put me out of my personal comfort zone (like going to a movie alone) and others will be as easy as making time for a hot bubble bath.

The goal? To be a whole, well-rounded, sane woman with minimal wobbling or falling in 2011. Minimal. Falls are part of learning to keep balance. Oh, do I know that truth on and off my unicycle Blanche! So tomorrow, the first day of the first month of the brand-spanking New Year we will hop on to Unicycle Rose’s Balance Challenge.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

One neck, two hands

In 2009, my husband gave me exactly what I wanted for Christmas. It was a silver cross by Michele Baratta and he bought the matching tiny cross earrings too. He was sweet and sneaky to go behind my back and order it so I was surprised. I have worn this cross just about every day this past year. I am no fashionista and like to keep accessories simple and this gift just spoke to my heart. It was exactly what I wanted. I love the cross. I love my husband. All good.

For Christmas 2009 my sons gave me another treat that I love; nice lotion and cream from Bath and Body works. My kids were plenty generous, giving me six bottles! The year before that they gave me the same thing, but only four bottles. Regardless, I smell great year round with plenty to spare. I see it makes them happy to see me pleased so I lay on the “I love the lotion” real thick and they are tickled.

So, when this year rolled around, I was curious what they purchased when the three of them went to the mall. Really, I did not need anything; I am more of the card-with-sweet-words sort of woman. For example, my husband gave me this card for our anniversary and I loved it. It reflects the true us and love for our Weiner dogs and he wrote the right amount of heartfelt mush inside. Very thoughtful! I am that easy when it comes to gifts, unless I really want something, like the silver cross from 2009. But, this year I mentioned I wanted black boots and a ticket to see Cher in Las Vegas (yes, I will attempt another AdventCHER). Now these were two gifts my guys could not shop for and I was content to take care of it myself and hope to receive mushy “I love you because …” cards (and maybe a foot rub by my husband, it could happen).

The setting? Christmas morning 2010 next to our tree

The two gifts from my husband were wrapped in big boxes and I was intrigued. The first was a trick-wrap job for inside was a tiny jewelry box with a beautiful gold cross with a little diamond in it. Lovely! The next big gift was another trick-wrap job (I love his playful Christmas spirit!) as it was another small jewelry box with ANOTHER gold cross. This cross was more decorative and again, really beautiful. Next I grabbed the gift from my sons and this round cylinder shaped gift had me at a loss. It looked like one of those plastic pretzel jars from Costco, and I had no idea what was inside. Yep, you are right, it was a plastic pretzel jar with six bottles of my favorite lotions from Bath and Body works. I graciously thanked them and mentally scratched my head thinking about all the money they spent on more lotion. All I wanted was a love note. I mean come on, I only have one neck and two hands, how many crosses can I wear and how much lotion can one woman use in a year? I’ve learned the answer is two bottles, one cross.

After going back and forth mentally on how to handle this, I got my gumption up to be honest with my honey. We both love honesty, but this was a delicate matter.  Christmas night I asked if his feelings would be hurt if I returned the crosses and bought some black boots. I explained how much I loved the cross from the year before. He, being the amazingly wonderful husband that he is, said, “No problem.” Then we discussed the lotion, but don’t tell my kiddos.

Next year? I am making a list.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

For the record, I did not sing

Sing to the Lord with Thanksgiving.
Psalm 147:7 
I awoke this morning to thoughts of Christmas Day … grateful feelings that this Christmas season found my family members healthy and alive. This has been a tough year and I don’t just mean the economy, but for those who are sick or dealing with the loss of a loved one. Those type of life events can redefine the holidays. In 1998 when Lucas was in the Intensive Care Unit for 168 days, he “missed” his first Halloween and Thanksgiving. The passing of those dates on the calendar represented the loss of what I had hoped for. When it seemed Lucas would spend his first Christmas in the Pediatric ICU, I was deeply saddened (despite the antidepressant). The thought of my nine-month old not gazing into the twinkling lights or sitting on Santa’s lap busted my already broken heart. Thankfully, he was released nine days before Christmas, making that the best gift ever.

Lying in bed this morning, I thought and prayed for my cousin whose baby died hours before birth earlier this spring. What an emotional blow for her and her husband to grieve. Still struggling six months later with the loss of their daughter, her husband died. My young, strong, spirit-filled, hilarious cousin, Larry, died. Everyone was shocked and left in a state of disbelief. My heart grew heavy remembering the loss of my father-in-law and how he struggled for six months before losing his battle with brain cancer in July. Reflecting, I recognized that our health or life situation can change in the blink of an eye. It can happen to me or the ones I hold dear; just like that. So I relish the blessing of today and these wonderful Christmas memories.
Before my feet hit the floor this morning I thanked God for this past Christmas Season. For the record, I did not “sing to the Lord,” but I sure let Him know that I appreciated all that He has blessed us with.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What screams Christmas louder than candy cane cake, barn birth, carols and Santa suit?

This Christmas Eve, I have prepared my signature 2010 ice cream cake. This creation is a chocolate-fudge cake with candy cane ice cream and my own home-made topper. We are spending Christmas Eve with dear friends after we attend a church service held in a barn. And yes, it smells kind of like a barn (as barns usually do). This place sets the scene for that first Christmas when Mary squeezed the King of Kings out the shoot amongst piles of hay, manure and farm animals. It was not until I was six months pregnant with my first son (in December) that the gravity of Mary’s birth experience hit me. Not an epidural, nurse, episiotomy or sitz bath to be found.  And then, imagine  the stress of a bunch of dirty shepherds stopping by soon afterward! All this while she was physically exhausted and trying to get Baby Jesus to latch-on while goats, sheep, cows and a little drummer boy stared on. Remember that she had to walk/donkey ride with Joseph 90 miles to Bethlehem before this miraculous birth even took place? She is the perfect example for the saying, “Don’t ask the Lord to guide your footsteps if you are not willing to move your feet!”
Then after our Christmas Eve? Tomorrow we will play our annual Christmas Tree Game and face the challenge of a homespun Christmas concert with my family. My son and I have practiced piano while my husband and older son work it out on their guitars. My mother and brother-in-law played trombones in their high school marching bands (decades ago) and my crazy mother has this harebrain idea that we are going to gather on Christmas and bust out Carols, Boston Pops style. I tell you, it aint’ gonna happen! However, it will make for an awfully fun memory (stress the awful). Meanwhile, I am packing my ear plugs and praying for a Silent Night.

On another note (non-musical) I dread the New Year and having to end rationalizing that sugar cookies, cake and ornamentinis constitute a balanced meal. I don’t want to think about that now, but will share that my sons have enjoyed a hand-me down Santa suit. Who wouldn’t? I'm tempted to put on that jolly get-up and swing by Target or Starbucks. Or, dare I wear it to the Christmas Eve Barn service?  Ho-Ho-HOLY NIGHT!
 Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Linus knows

Guess what we gathered around last night? Nope, not the tree, but the TV. We watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s been a while since I have seen this classic and I recalled why it I love it so much. Remember that Charlie thinks that Christmas has become too commercial? His little sister wants cash from Santa and Snoopy decked out his doghouse in the hope of winning a Christmas decorations contest.

To lift his spirits his pal Lucy recommends that he direct the Christmas pageant, but the cast is also self-involved and uninterested. Charlie and Linus set out to get a tree for the pageant and they return with a small, sickly pine tree that he thinks can use some love (Charlie Brown’s compassionate spirit is wonderful). Of course, everyone gives Chuck a big thumbs down. Frustrated, Charlie Brown asks if anyone can tell him what Christmas is all about, to which Linus eloquently responds by quoting Scripture (Luke 2:8-14). That is the part I love … that without hesitation Linus tells the group that Christmas is about a heaven-sent king who came to earth as a little baby. 

Linus reminds us that the true “Reason for the Season” is the birth of Jesus Christ. Thanks Linus.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How do the folks in Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland and Maine do it?

Nothing shouts out "Winter" more than visiting the ice skating rink. Living in Southern California, cold-harsh winters are (thankfully) hard to come by. Over here, Winter consists of rain or intense-dry heat for days … not a snowflake or sharp wind-chill to be found. However, when stepping foot (or shall I say skate?) into a freezing rink, it makes me wonder. What would it be like to HAVE to wear mittens and a funny hat for an entire season?Or to swing by the market? Walk the kids into school? Or take out the trash? It makes me scratch my chinny-chin-chin and question ... if your state’s name starts with the letter M, are you destined to spend months shivering under ice? I wonder.

That theory aside …

This past week I attended Lucas' middle school Christmas party and froze my fanny off. It made me want to sing, “Oh, what fun it is to glide and watch awkward teens fall on the ice!” The best part was spending time with my older son and chatting with other moms who agreed their toes were numb. The kids had fun sipping on hot cocoa, goofing around trying to balance and nursing sore feet, all while trying to act cool in front of the others. I loved it!

No matter where you live, I think it is a big-old blessing to be healthy enough to visit the skating rink and watch young life go round-and-round like a ride at the fair. There is so much spirit, hearty health, loud laughs and simple joy packed into one huge-cold space! It reminded me that life is good as long as you are warm and with the ones you care about, even if you are falling down on hard ice sometimes.

That must be how they survive Winter in those cold states that start with an M!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

All I want for Christmas is my first fake tooth

On the playground last week a second-grade boy ran up and said, “Stevie lost his tooth!” and I replied, “That’s great!”

You see, when you work with seven-year-olds, teeth fall like mortgage rates this past year. Down they come every day (not so much lately though, huh?). Often, I watch loose teeth being shifted around by a tongue, ones that hang by threads, or just a proud, big space. I see fallen teeth that have been bagged or put in “the envelope” or shared with me from the palm of a small hand, like a treasure. So, hearing about a lost tooth that morning was just another chance for me to smile and say, “Wow, that’s great!”

Or was it?

Twenty seconds later, a different second grader ran to me and said, “Stevie’s tooth is knocked out!”

I was getting suspicious; this didn’t sound like the standard tooth loss.

“Yikes, was it a permanent one?” I asked while walking briskly to the blacktop. Then I saw Stevie with his bloody sweatshirt in his mouth, blood around his cheeks, and even a splat on his forehead. There were no tears, just lots of blood and a gaping hole where his permanent front tooth used to hang. Yes, a permanent one, that was now held tightly in his dirty, little hand. My heart gulped as I put my arm around him and we scurried to the office where I cleaned him up and they called his Mother.

There, I had flashbacks from when my son was in second grade and playing the limbo game. Realizing he could not shimmy under the pole, he jumped over it. However the limbo pole-holders did not like that, and quickly pulled the pole up to stop him. That is where the limbo pole met his fresh new permanent front tooth. It chipped, big time! Some might think it was odd that I photographed it, but I did, and for the record we are all a little odd. I take pictures at odd moments. I shouldn’t have been so crushed, seeing that this kid survived two open-heart surgeries and this was just a measly tooth! Small potatoes in comparison. However, I did feel disappointed that for the rest of his life he would have a composite tooth in every smile.

In light of little Stevie’s experience I felt grateful that Lucas did not lose most of his tooth because for Christmas Little Stevie is getting his first root canal and false front tooth. Thus, rewriting the famous Christmas Carol, “All I want for Christmas is my first fake tooth.”

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gifts too big to wrap

Goodbye Grandma ... Hello, Sweet Girl!

Thanksgiving was a pleasant break since school was out all week and that meant no work for me! My mother-in-law stayed with us for ten days and she is the easiest person to live with; a gentle southern lady, who is mouse quiet, and easygoing. Decorating the tree, building gingerbread houses, bowling, watching ELF, visiting the Santa Ines Mission and the overall Christmas “kick-off” was more enjoyable sharing it with Grandma Fish. Yep, Grandma Fish, that’s her name! She returned to Kentucky and I had one day to prep for the next guest; twelve-year-old Sweet Girl. I have known this little lady since she was born and her parents are dear friends. Her mom is in the hospital for a week, so we invited Sweet Girl to stay with us. Again, it is a wonderful experience having another female under the roof! FINALLY, I had someone to watch Letters to Juliet with! Sweet Girl’s Dad has his hands full caring and comforting her Mom as I am savoring having a girl, pre-teen edition, around. Yesterday we snuck into her house and took down their Christmas decorations so that when her mom returns from the hospital their Halls will be decked! That sure was fun.

The past couple weeks have served as a real-time reflection of the best-year-round blessings; family, friends and good health. I hold this winning trifecta close to my heart (especially during Christmas). I am thankful for a cozy home and the opportunity to share it with people I love. Some gifts are just too big to wrap!