Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How Well Do You Hold Up in a Crisis?

I love to cook. So much so that each week I try out at least 2-3 new recipes on my family. Some weeks I have all home runs, and other weeks I just strike out completely. This week was a home run week - we had Bourbon chicken, baked fried chicken, and roasted broccoli. Everyone, including my picky eater (who we call Picky Patty), loved all the recipes.

For Christmas I got my first mandolin...and I don't mean the musical instrument. I had visions of paper thin veggies dancing in my head. For some reason, I forgot all about it until I came across a crockpot recipe for scalloped potatoes. I was giddy with excitement at the prospect of breaking out the mandolin for it's maiden voyage.

The boys were out and Mimi was snuggled up on the couch with a good book so I took to the kitchen, filled with excitement for using my new Christmas toy. The one thing I have heard is how sharp these are so I spent extra time figuring out how it worked. It did come with this odd top that didn't seem to fit over the potato so I decided to forego that and just get going.

It was so smooth, it didn't even seem like it was slicing the potatoes. I peeked at my plate underneath and sure enough, there lay these beautifully thin slices of potatoes. I could barely contain my excitement! So, I went back to my slicing and was close to the end of the potato when it got stuck.

Have you ever had that flash right before your eyes of what was about to happen but you just couldn't stop it? Here were my thoughts in the span of 30 seconds: Potato stuck, watch the blade, use finger to move potato...and then wham, I sliced a piece of my finger right off.

I quickly went to the sink and ran water on it. Sure, there was a little blood...and boy it hurt. I got a paper towel and held it over the cut and it quickly became pink. I took a look...uh oh. I think I have been clear on this blog that I don't do well with blood. If your break your leg and your bone is hanging in a weird direction, give me a call. If you have some crazy rash that has swelled your arm to twice its size, I'm your gal. If you have any sort of cut or wound that is spouting any amount of blood, don't even think of calling me. Jack is like me...but Mimi, well, I wasn't sure. Well, on Sunday I found out how she handles it.

Trying to keep my fear from showing, I asked Mimi to run up and get me a bandaid and then added in a crazy I'm-calm-but-freaking-out voice "I cut myself pretty good." She bolted upstairs and came back with a sparkly silver band aid. Perfect. I ran some more water on it, put the paper towel back on, and when she was ready, I gave her my finger so she could bandage me. Unfortunately, as she pressed on it, blood came spurting out. It was a moment straight out of a cartoon. Both sets of our eyes came out of their sockets and we froze. I put the paper towel back on and started murmuring, "It's okay...this is fine...no problem....it's okay." Mimi responded with "Do you want me to call Daddy?" I told her that would be good but when she called him, he didn't answer.

At this point I was pacing the kitchen with big cat eyes, still muttering to myself about how I was fine and it was all going to be okay. Mimi asked "Should you sit down?" while I continued to pace. Little did I know that she was wondering what she would do if I passed out. I was wondering if I should call 911 but knew it wasn't that bad and that there was nothing that could be done...there was no skin to stitch back on because it was lying on top of my perfectly sliced potatoes. Finally I said "Let's try Daddy again" and Mimi quickly dialed. This time he picked up and Mimi said casually, "Hey Daddy, I was just calling because Mom cut her finger off and it's bleeding." I quickly took the phone and told him that I cut myself...it wasn't that bad..but wouldn't stop bleeding. Then I lost it a little and said in a teary voice "it's really bleeding...you know how I feel about blood". I knew I needed to remain calm for Mimi but the blood was getting to me.

Tim is the best person in a crisis. The kids asked me one day if I thought he would run if the house was on fire. None of us think he would. He is just always cool and collected. He told me to keep applying pressure, put my hand higher my heart, and to just relax...he would be home in 5 minutes. I immediately felt better and so did Mimi apparently because she started chattering on about the bunny and how cute she was and invited me into the playroom to visit with her.

This immediately reminded me of the time that our cat Gracie died. We had gone on vacation and our friend who was cat sitting never saw her when she came to feed her. On day 2 she called me and because she was an indoor cat, I immediately thought she must have gotten out somehow and I was sure wild wolves were feasting on her. Turns out, she had gone into the basement to die and my friend's husband found her 2 days later. When Margaret called to tell me they had found the cat, we were having dinner at a restaurant. She told me very gently but it was obvious to Tim and the kids what had happened. I immediately started crying but tried to stay quiet. Mimi and Tim started talking about how good the burgers were "These are the best, aren't they Daddy?"..."They really are! I think these are the best burgers we ever had"...meanwhile Jack curled up in the fetal position on the banquet and began sobbing while I ran to the bathroom to bawl. Jackie and I = a pea in the pod. Timmy and Mimi = another pea in a pod.

So, there she was working on distracting me because it was easier than dealing with feelings and not knowing what to do when Tim and Jack pulled in. Jack ran into the room as though his hair was on fire. "Where is it?! Where is your finger?!" he yells as he starts looking on the floor. Tim saunters in with a few bags of groceries and says "How's it going?" How's it going??!! Uhm, I'm bleeding to death here Timmy!

In the end, it took about 40 minutes to stop bleeding and then Tim bandaged me up. I was really cold so Jack put a blanket on me and layed on the couch with me, rubbing my back. Tim and Mimi chattered away while they put the groceries away in the kitchen as though it was the sunniest, happiest day. I asked Tim to make sure he threw away the potatoes and checked for my finger piece so I didn't have to see it. He assured me it was all taken care of.

Later that night we took the bandage off to rewrap it for the night and when we removed it, the cut had stuck to the bandage and began bleeding like crazy again. We went through the ritual again...pressure, hold hand up, pressure, wrap it up...and then it was time for bed. It was all quiet when I said to Tim, "If I bleed to death in the night, just know that I love you." He couldn't stop laughing. It could have happened....

In the end, the slice wasn't that bad...only about 4 layers of skin are gone. I have a dent in my finger but it will come back. It took two days before it stopped stinging so bad in the shower that I thought I would pass out. The kids aren't scared anymore when they look at it. It's starting to just look like a small cut. It still hurts when I put pressure on it or bang it by accident, which seems to happen alot. When you can't use your thumb, you quickly realize how much you rely on it. Typing on the computer, zipping your coat, taking your watch off, you name it...we use our thumbs alot. I'll never take my thumb for granted again.

On Sunday night when I went to kiss Mimi goodnight I told her what a great job she had done and thanked her for staying calm for me. She said "Yeah, I wasn't sure what to do when you started talking to yourself and walking like a crazy person around the house. I wanted to ask you what to do if you passed out but thought it might not be a good idea." So, we talked about what she could have done in that situation and then I told her she was just like Daddy...great in a crisis. She was very proud of herself, as she should have been.

On Monday I came home and was getting dinner ready. I glanced in the sink and there was the mandolin at the bottom of the sink. I had visions of slicing my finger off just by picking it up. Just looking at it brought back the feeling of the slice. A tingle went right up my spine. Finally, I just reached in to rinse it and put it in the dishwasher. I don't know why but I turned it over, and sure enough, there was the piece of my finger. It had soaked in the water a bit so my fingerprints were incredibly pronounced. It was both fascinating and disgusting. As I threw it out, I thought I was going to faint.

On Tuesday, I was reading Real Simple on the train and there was an article about a great new glove that can help against knife accidents. That is now on my mother's day list. Until then, the mandolin will remain in the drawer.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lessons Learned

Last weekend I saw my friend Nancy at the hair salon...I haven't seen her in at least 6 months. When I asked her how she was doing she said "Busy..." and then said "Just kidding...I'm just saying that because I read your blog. I hate when people say they are busy too!" I love that the things I write about might make us think twice about saying things like "I'm busy" and instead opt for sharing ourselves in a more authentic way.

We laughed for a minute and then she lowered her voice and said "Sometimes I think you are writing about me!" I think there are moments when we all think that...and it's only because we all feel the same way. Because I am addicted to Pinterest, I am finding a similar kinship when others pin things I like or when they repin things that I originally pinned. It's silly but it feels like a validation that the things I like are valued in some way...that in some way we are sharing similar feelings and we are on the same page. My friend Beth recently emailed me and said "I know we haven't talked in awhile but I feel like we are talking alot because I see you on Pinterest. We love the same things." It's just one indication of why we are good friends...I can see an image that was pinned and know it was from her even before I see her name.

Pinterest is full of little sayings that I tend to ignore but once in awhile I come across a saying that hits a cord in me for whatever reason. I have a whole notebook of little sayings that I have collected throughout life. It's funny...I never really go back and look at them...I just like to write them down and know some day they will come in handy. Some of my recent favs include:

"Don't let others dull your sparkle" - I just love this. First, the quote was in pink and green on Pinterest so I was immediately drawn to it. Secondly, its so important to be confident in just being yourself, not matter what other people think. I think I may reprint that and frame it for Mimi's room. Of course, hindsight is 20-20...you can only appreciate this quote when you have confidence in sharing your sparkle with everyone.

"Knitting is the new yoga". Seriously, a year ago, who would have thought I would be saying this? I can only thank my Sensei Cori and my knitting pal Ann for sticking with our knitting circle. Ann and I took yoga together about three years ago and I was in a period of my life that I was stressed about everything. During every class, I had to resist the urge to yell at my yoga instructor to move the class along. I often left the class more stressed then when I started. When I started knitting Cori told me I needed to relax...my stitches were tight and my body language screamed, "Get this over with!". Last week I almost impaled the guy next to me with my needles on a flight because I was so loose with them. My sensei would have been proud of me.

Last week, a friend and I got into a discussion about never having enough time in the day to get everything done. She said she was going to ask for a free day a month for her birthday. Just 12 days a year is not much to ask for right? Sadly, we are putting "alone time" on our wish lists these days. I came across a quote on Pinterest that made me think of her...and all of us that wish there was just one more hour in the day. It is by John Burroughs and reads: "I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see." Note that the quote doesn't wish for more hours in the day to work or more time to clean the house. I feel like if there was one quote that could sum up how much I have changed in the last 2 years, this would be it. In the old days, that quote wouldn't even have resonated with me because having time to read books and take walks wouldn't even have been on my to-do lists.

We are two months into the year so far....there is plenty of time to focus on being your authentic self, relax more, and find time for the things that you love!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Valentine

I think once you get past that honeymoon phase in your relationship and move into Kidland, Valentine's Day just isn't the same. This year, ours went something like this.

I made the kids favorite dinner - lemon chicken...which I have grown tired of because they beg me to make it all the time. But, I knew it would make them happy so out came the lemons and the chicken. After dinner, I pulled out three little gift bags. I always give a little something Valentine's Day...usually a little trinket, a heart full of chocolate, and some other little candy. That's what kid memories are made of, right? Candy. This year I made "cupid's arrows" which were skinny pretzels with a candy sugar heart on one end and red sugar arrows on the other end. I handmade little gift tags that said "Use With Caution". I should note that when I made them I overdosed on red sugar hearts and will likely never be able to look at them again, never mind snack on them.

I set the gifts down on the table and everyone scattered like mice. Well, everyone but Jack who looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He froze, blinked, then ran, like his hair was on fire and he wasn't sure where to go to find some water. Everyone came back with their gifts in hand, except Jack. He never came back. Finally I called to him and after a pause he said, "Uh...yeah, when I walked into the playroom I bumped into the markers and they fell all over the floor. I'll be there in a minute." I told him to forget the markers and just join us in the kitchen. He replied with, "Uhhh, I have to just look at something..." Finally he ran out and he threw a card at me.

It was made out of pink construction paper and written in red letters on the outside it said "happy Valentines day, Mom". Then inside it said "Can I be your Valentine (except for Dad)? Love, Jack". He is thirteen. Now listen, I tear up over the Ellen show every time I watch it...I tear up at commercials. But this....it just made me cry. How cute! Okay, granted, he didn't think of it ahead of time, but the first thing that came to his mind in a pinch was "Can I be your Valentine?" So darn cute.

Fast forward three days later to Friday when Jack got his braces off. I was preparing myself for waterworks days in advance... I teared up when he got them on and I knew seeing his smile without braces again was going to set me off. Sure enough, there I was dabbing at my eyes in the ortho's office, much to Jack's shock and horror. Or maybe it was the camera I pulled out of my purse and made him smile for...right there in the doctor's office. When we got into the car, he immediately pulled down the visor mirror and flashed his pearly whites. He didn't skip a beat before he said, "Can you get me some contacts at the store this weekend? Then I can go back to school after vacation a new man!" Look out, Ladies...Jackie is on the loose!

I love that he still has moments of being a little boy while he is navigating his way through his teen years. I know I'm on the cusp of this vulnerability disappearing but I will take it as long as I can get it. Sadly, for Jack, my tears brought on by every little sweet minute in life will never go away. The tears...and the camera... will keep coming out...no matter how old he is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy

I saw an acquaintance the other day in the grocery store that I haven't seen in awhile. When I asked how she was, she responded "Busy.....just really busy." This answer is one of my pet peeves. I ask how you are and you say busy? When I think "busy" I imagine someone running around frantically trying to do ten things at once. Not someone casually pushing a cart in the pasta aisle of the grocery store.

One of my favorite books is Amy Krouse Rosenthal's "Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life". Her book is a hilarious, thought provoking view of the mundane and interesting observations of the moments in her life. By page 45 I was in "friend love". The book is set up as an encylopedia and right there on page 45 is an entry about "Busy". I identified with so many of her thoughts that if she lived in my neighborhood, I would be stalking her until she fell in friend love with me....or took out a restraining order. But I'm pretty sure she would love me too.

Amy shares a few interactions where the responses are always busy. She goes on to suggest that surely there are more original ways to answer the question "How are you?". Things like "I'm hungry for a waffle" or "I'm itchy". I'll be honest...I don't want to know that you are itchy but I wouldn't mind hearing "I am great - I just came from the gym and I feel great". Maybe that will inspire me to get out and exercise. "Busy" doesn't inspire me to do anything.

Amy nails it right on the head when she says "I am busy is the short way of saying - suggesting - my time is filled, my phone does not stop ringing, and you (therefore) should think well of me". Let's be honest, we are all busy. I'm not sure when this merry go round got cranked up, but we are all on it and have been for some time. You aren't any different than anyone else. And being "busy" doesn't make you popular. News flash....no one equates your busyness with your popularity level. We aren't in high school anymore, people.

I heard a quote once that I loved... "You are only as busy as you make yourself". So true. I think this can be translated two ways, the first being that you should just stop overscheduling and overcommitting yourself. First, stop running your kids ragged with extracirrucular activities and stop saying yes to things you don't even want to do. Life is short. Fill it with the things you want to do that make you happy. Okay, sure, sometimes, we have to go to the dentist but stop filling up your precious time with those things that don't put a smile on your face. On Sunday night when you are reflecting on the week that just passed and planning the upcoming week, when you are undoubtedly feeling overwhelmed by all that you have to fit in, use your happiness gauge to determine what you can strip out of your week to turn it from "busy" to meaningful.

Another way I look at "busyness" is that it's all in the approach. In my opinion, your view of life is either half empty or half full. Which are you going to choose? When my week is crazy because it is filled with the things I feel are worthy of my time (with a few obligations sprinkled in there), I don't approach it with dread and it doesn't feel like a chore. Even if your week is filled with more obligations that activities that you choose, you are in control of the attitude with which you approach those moments. Why end the day feeling miserable and overwhelmed when, instead, you can reflect on the moments during the day that made you laugh, made you think, made you happy?

So, the next time someone asks you how you are, think about it before you answer. Answer honestly. If you are itchy and you want to share that, well, okay then. Just don't say that dirty two word answer, "I'm busy".


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Two Great Recommendations

Sorry it's been awhile since my last post. I have been busy being addicted to the best website ever....Pinterest.com. It's such a problem that Mimi said to me the other night, "Mom, I'm just going to take the Ipad away from you and we are going to give it a rest...ok?" She moved slowly and spoke to me like she was taking a loaded gun out of my hand. If you don't know about this website yet, log on and get yourself addicted!

I also wanted to tell you about a book I just finished reading that I found amusing. The title is MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche. I kept seeing it recommended online and in magazines so I decided to give it a whirl. In a nutshell, it's about a girl who is originally from New York, goes to school in Chicago and ultimately ends up back in Chicago once she gets married. She has lifelong best friends, but they live in New York and she finds a gap in her life for a local BFF. So, she undertakes a year long quest to find the perfect BFF by "friend dating" at least once a week for a year. There were many times when I felt squeamish about her techniques....she would "pick up" waitresses, do speed friending, and even went so far as to rent a friend for a day. The outcomes though, were at times very amusing. The thing I liked most about the book was it made me think about the state of my friendships. I found myself reflecting on the type of friends I have and the status of those relationships.

In the book, Rachel talks about the type of friends she has:

BFF/Lifers: These are friends that know you inside and out, that you go to for everything, that you may not talk to for awhile but you can easily just pick up where you left off, and those that you can call in the middle of the night with a crisis.

Activity Based Friends: There are certain friends we call to work out with, attend a gallery opening or movie with, go out for a drink when you just need to get out, go shopping with, or someone to try a new restaurant with. These aren't necessarily the same people but you know who to call when you need a partner in crime to get out and "do" something.

Work Friends: Sometimes work people cross over into other categories as well but many times they are your work sisters/wives/husbands. People you spend the majority of your day with because of work but that you do really enjoy.

Acquantainces - These are people you keep in touch with either through email, Facebook, or see occasionally but whose friendship hasn't progressed past a certain level, for whatever reason.

The list goes on and on, but what I realized while I was reading the book was that I wanted to change a few of my relationships. There were a few people that I hadn't connected with in awhile, mainly because life is so busy, but that I missed. I found myself reaching out and reconnecting and making plans to get together again. I also made peace in my mind with a few relationships that I have. They likely are never going to progress or change in the way I want, and I realized that's ok. I can stop trying to make sense of the actions of a friend that I think should be different based on how long we have known each other. Up until this point, I believed that if you knew someone for a really long time the person should understand you very well, you should be "close" considering all the life events you have gone through together, and you should be getting satisfaction out of the relationship. Not so much. If you aren't getting what you want out of the relationship, and you are walking away shaking your head after your interactions, then maybe you should either downgrade your expectations...or quite frankly, just part ways.

One night after dinner Tim and I were discussing a recent interaction I had with a friend and how it frustrated me. He said "This is why I keep my circle small. I hang out with the people I want to, I know what to expect of them, and they know what to expect of me. It's that easy." Ok, he's a guy...this is how many guys work. He went on to tell me what my problem was. This always goes over like a lead balloon, doesn't it? Apparently, I have too many friends and I want to live in a meadow ablaze with flowers and bunnies where you get exactly what you expect and want from your friends and everyone is happy. Okay, he didn't say those exact words, but that is what I interpreted. He went on to explain that if you keep your circle small, like he does, you won't have these problems.

I do feel I have a small inner circle...those I really count on and hang out with most of the time but in addition, I love meeting new people, learning about them, learning new things from them, trying out new things with them. I don't think that is going to change anytime soon. It's just who I am. And where's the fun in life if you don't experience it and take advantage of it? Before reading this book, I think I lumped all my friends into one big friend category and didn't really think of them as distinct types of friends. I think when you realize the types of relationships you have, you will set realistic expectations for them which will ultimately make you happier with the level of friendship you give and receive.

In that same conversation, I was going on and on about how I thought I was a good friend but that this person had not been a good friend back, at least in my mind. I asked Tim if he thought he was a good friend. He thought about it for a minute and said he never really thought about it. "I think I'm a good person and I think I assume that my friends think I am a good person too otherwise they wouldn't be friends with me. And if my friends don't think I'm a good friend, then I assume they will just move on." Then came the "You know what your problem is..." followed by "you expect your friends to give you exactly what you want." Yes, that is true but it never seemed so stupid until he said that out loud. Everyone's idea of friendship and how to be a good friend are different and vary friend to friend. I have to admit, for the majority of my friendships, I think we are all getting what we give and what we want to receive. I'm sure there are some people out there who think I am a great friend and some people who don't. There are probably some people who wish I would give more or be a different friend based on their own expectations. I will admit it does pain me to think this is the case because I don't like to disappoint people but it's the reality of friendships I guess. Someday I'll be having the "I guess he's just not that into you" painful discussion with my daughter when she falls in love with someone who doesn't feel the same way. The same can apply to friends, I think...sometimes they just aren't that into you and you have to move on. On the flipside, sometimes you are both so into each other that you are in friend love...and that is always fun!

Even if your friend dance card is all filled up, I think the book is worth reading. If nothing else you will laugh. If you look a little more deeply, I think you'll learn alot about yourself and your friends.

Enough about friends...go get on Pinterest!