Saturday, March 26, 2011

What Keeps You Up At Night?

At the beginning of Lent, I asked for writing suggestions for post 500. Well, here we are! Numero Cinco cero cero. I don't know whether to cry or laugh or throw a party. So, instead, I'm going to write.

Most of you responded to my writing request with this: " ."

"Stale Air? Nothing? Crickets?" Yes. Yes. Yes.

But, one person, in fact the very one who challenged me to start blogging to begin with, created a list so exhaustive that I could write a year's worth of posts off the list and barely scratch the surface.

So, today, I decided to tackle the one suggestion that I'm not too mentally exhausted to take down in one gigantic bite: What keeps me up at night.

Thankfully, in a very literal sense, I am a good sleeper. So, at the outset, my answer is "Not a darn thing."

Then, when I probe a little further, I realize my true answer is more like "Kids who can't settle down, have tummy aches/head aches/leg cramps, and a new cat who is a purr-box and is still exploring the house and meowing excessively for some unknown reason."*

But none of those answers drills down to the heart of the matter. So here's what freaks me out enough that I might need Nyquil to take the edge off:

I am concerned that our country is dividing itself along so many lines that, pretty soon, we are all going to hate each other.

Choose your poison: illegal vs. legal, white vs. anything not white, liberal vs. conservative, denomination vs. denomination, gay vs. straight, male vs. female, home schooling vs. public schools vs. private schools, rich vs. poor, educated vs. uneducated, Christian vs. any other religion.

I despise the fact that morality has lost its compass, that right vs. wrong is now a continuum, instead of black and white.

I regret that stating my opinion as a Christian now causes many to have a "bad taste" in their mouth. Frankly, I wish there was some way to take a time capsule back to the 50's and keep everything as pure as driven snow through the next fifty years of war, sexual revolution, women's rights, abortion-on-demand, gender equality and so many other things that have blurred lines and tainted our ability to say "NO. That's wrong."

I hate that there are so many people suffering all around me and my best efforts only seem to be a drop of water in an ocean.

I wish I could eradicate homelessness and suicide and abortion and hopelessness. I wish "illiteracy" was a word that could be taken out of the dictionary. I wish I could read the minds of the autistic people I encounter so I could truly get to know them. I wish the biggest house in the world could become home for all the children who've been abandoned by AIDS, and war, and neglectful parents.

I hate that we are so politically engrossed in creating law after law intended to enforce common sense that we never stop to analyze what is truly going on in our world.

I wish we would stop worrying about legalism and figure out how to share a common ideology. I would love if we could truly learn from history, not just repeat it, ad naseum. I don't want the next generation to inherit a world that just repeats the same chaotic mistakes and largely ignores dictators who are cruel and unreasonable, who inflict genocide on their countries.

I worry that my boys will be exposed to pornography of any sort.

I want to place "purity contacts" in their eyes that will disallow them to see anything meant to tease or tantalize them before they've met their wives. I wish my radio could tune to catchy, popular songs without the underlying message being about sexual conquest and inappropriate behavior.

I fear that forgiveness is going out of style and that empty "Sorry"s are here to stay.

I think that most people fail to understand the power of forgiveness isn't what it does for the forgiver, but in the life of the forgiven. And I worry that, if we don't learn to forgive each other, we are headed down a path of destruction that is wide and deep and unyielding.

And, even though I could look at all these issues and think myself sick with worry, I don't. I know that I know that I know that God is in control.

He sees this post and all these things that I think about and knows how they will all play out. He is the only one who can take what appears to be an evil, hopeless, unjust situation and turn it around for good. His understanding makes my worries pale in comparison.

So, back to my original statement: Nothing really keeps me up at night. Because, when I am really in tune with God, before I go to bed I turn these things over to HIS capable hands through prayer. And, with God by my side, I have nothing, absolutely nothing, to fear.

And that, folks, makes for some mighty fine ZZZ's.

*Bob is his name. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Land of Inbetween

I'm not going to say much since what follows my shallow opening is simply brilliant and breath-taking and

Enjoy. And thanks to blogger All Things Hendrick for bringing this to our collective attention.

There's a place between here and there. A piece of ground in the middle of take-off and landing. A section of the unknown within beginning and ending. You probably find yourself there from time to time. It's the land known as Inbetween.

Inbetween is one of the most rugged places in life. You aren't fully here, and you aren't fully there. Your emotions and hopes are strewn across an endless list of possibilities. Door knobs of wood, brass, and silver line the path, but which will open? In the land of Inbetween, the paths are lined with sealed envelopes and foggy dreams. Excitement runs forward and fears hold back. And if you stay long enough, you feel the tremors of your soul.

The land of Inbetween is downright scary. It's a place of blind trust. It's where the pedals of faith meet the narrow road of fortitude and where movement is demanded though there's no place to go. The worst part of this land isn't the uncertainty or frustration that accompany it - it's that God likes it when you're there.

While He's no sadist, God loves the land of Inbetween. He loves what it does to us. He loves the humility and dependence it creates in our hearts, so He creates innumerable forks in life's road that swerve us into the land of Inbetween. The unknowns of job, marriage, children, and home are the signs of this uncertain land. At times, people are thrust into Inbetween by mishaps, accidents, sudden deaths, and even unexpected fortune. Some people visit so many times they begin to wonder if it's life. And they aren't far off.

So what will hold you steady when you walk through the terrain of Inbetween? A recognition that Inbetween is God's design. In one miraculous moment, the Creator of the universe placed you in the greatest Inbetween of all time - the place between the earthly creation and eternity. Life's smaller lunges forward and backward are merely postcard reminders that there's something greater than this place we're visiting.

If you're in your own land of Inbetween, remember that God was the original designer of this journey. You can get mad, scream, and even pout if you want. But it doesn't change the fact that you're merely passing through. Everything else is Inbetween. (from Deeper Walk, a Relevant Devotional Series)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Weight Loss the Hard Way

As if my body wasn't revolting enough with the cleanse being in day 14, I developed a stomach bug.

Thankfully, I wasn't throwing up my toenails, I just felt like someone had punched me in the gut with a steel glove. For two days. In bed was I.*

So, on top of the over-the-top process of realigning my body to crave all that is right, good, and green, I also managed to fast.

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart. WHERE? Down in my heart. Down in my heart.**

Now that I've made it back out of bed, I can rightfully say that everything that transpired in the last 48 hours was just flat WRONG.

I take back all those times I've said "The best way to lose weight is to get eerily close to the face of someone with the flu so they'll send their germs your way."

No, no. Fasting via the flu is some sort of medieval form of torture that was legal, easily put on display for the pagans, and WORKED. I totally would have admitted to being a witch for a mere scrap of food that wouldn't have made me gag.

The best way to lose weight is definitely the old-fashioned way: never gain it in the first place.

Notice how well that's worked for Ms. Roller Coaster Weight Girl.

Since I can't take my own advice, then let me end with some good advice: if you ever find yourself in the middle of a cleanse and get the flu, call me.

Not only will I be able to relate, but I'll also bring you the biggest piece of chocolate cake I can manage to carry.

Trust me: you'll deserve it.

*Channeling my inner Yoda.

**Apparently my brain thinks in musicals, because this particular song popped into my head in response to the cleanse/fast combo.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Post Updates and a HUGE Thank You!

I'm doing something I've never done before: dedicating one post to updating the rest of the month's worth of posts that were left "dangling".

Well, maybe dangling for me, and not so much you. Just oblige me. You might find some of this interesting:

1. Charlie Sheen. Still bat-crap crazy. Lost custody of his youngest kids, is trying to hire a "social media intern" so we can watch him implode in every possible form of media, and, most surprisingly, has kind of laid low lately.

Seriously, goddesses. If you smell some strange stank in the mansion? Please make sure it isn't his decomposing body.

2. My HUGE Thank You: Smile Train and Operation Smile decided, four days after my post (not because of it, in case that sounds haughty), that they would stay separate orgranizations. I AM THRILLED!! Seems an online petition, that represented $81 MILLION DOLLARS of potential lost contributions from those who signed, swayed the Smile Train board.

Money talks; now let's just hope BS walks (yes, that's YOU, Charles Wang.)

3. Nickels managed to get the clay dried, painted, and labeled and got 100% on his project.

As a Momma, this wasn't the desired lesson. If I had been grading this project, I would have taken a -5% for griping, whining, and generalized moaning and
-10% for procrastination. But, nobody asked me.

4. Apparently, 98% of you don't really care what the hell I write about, as evidenced by the lack of commentary on what I should write come the milestone of post 500.

The two comments I did receive didn't amount to anything I could work with, though one commenter did give me a laundry list offline that is tantamount to becoming bright enough to win a Pulitzer, Nobel and Darwin award all in one year. I'm still deciding what to tackle, so stay tuned.

5. I'm dragging into Day 11 of the cleanse. Literally, dragging my butt. Feel like a good gust of wind could take me to the ground and I MIGHT have the strength to stand. Or at least scream "I'VE FALLEN AND I CAN'T GET UP!"

I never want to see another vegetable in my life. Fruit is still OK, though I "cheated" a bit and bought some dried bananas and now my intestines are screaming curse words about being all bunched up.

Bonus? Below that weight. The women in the audience know the one. The number is different for all of us, but it's the weight that we say "If only I could get below ___, I'd be within spitting distance of my goal." Problem is, for most of us, we generally expect we'll only see that number with loads of exercise, Weight Watchers mania, or a good case of the stomach flu. Preferably, the flu.

6. Not only have I noticed The Babe using "r" in place of "l", but it has also become apparent that we are replacing the "r" with "w". Hence, the phrase this week that he was "Weally, weally happy" after he felt better. Because before, when his stomach and head hurt and he felt chilled, he didn't feel "wight".

To which I wanted to respond "Son. Ethnicity isn't a state of mind." But, I didn't.

So, there are the "mid-March" updates. Hopefully, if you've been fretting over any of these issues, you can get back to your "wight" state of mind and get a good night's sleep.

And, if you've haven't been losing zzz's? I'm WEALLY, WEALLY happy for you.

Friday, March 18, 2011

On the Cusp

To say that protein 1) does a body good* and 2) is the building block of muscle is no understatement.

A little hint about protein no body will share with you: days and days without solid protein cause you to really miss it in a desperate, "I'd give a left appendage", "Dog food? Why not?" kind of way.

Case in point: right now, I'd down an entire can of Spam**, given three minutes, a spoon, and a private room with a lock on the door.

THAT is what you call desperation, people.

Thank goodness I am on the cusp of "halfway through the cleanse", when chicken and deep-sea fish is on the menu through the end of Day 21.

Mike has already pronounced Saturday's breakfast "chicken". I think he'll want a side of chicken with his chicken, if he's like me. I really won't care what else is on the plate, as long as something within the confines of the plate used to have a beak and is a solid chunk of matter.

Truly, I'd rather be pregnant at 44 and go through natural childbirth with a broad shouldered, sunny-side-up, 13 pound bowling ball of a baby then go through the first ten days of this cleanse again.

Because, at least if I was pregnant, people would forgive me for craving Spam....

*Or is that milk? Whatever it is, it involves protein, I can tell you that.

**Spam's protein. With a side of complete narst. But protein, right?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Break Break

It seems the Nowell Four* have been blowing and going since Spring Break sprung last Friday.

We've had family fun night at the church, a chance for the kids to bond with things like ping-pong and foosball tables, Wii and XBox games, and, generally, the other kids in the church while Mom and Dad go bond with each other.

Then we helped clean-up Valley View park with a dozen or so other people who decided a gorgeous Saturday should be spent outside. In case you think "Your kids are SO GREAT that they would want to do a mission's project on their break", you are VERY, VERY WRONG. MommaJ drug them by their ears, kicking and screaming. But, the upside was that they were thankful and happy to have participated once it was all over.

We've been to the gym, roller-skated, had numerous AirSoft wars, driven to East Texas for lunch with Mike's side of the family and seen the new assisted living situation Mike's Granny is in.

All and all, a good time away from school.

Then Wednesday morning, 5am, hit. With throwing up and fever and headache for The Babe.

This was the day we had planned to take the train to the Dallas Aquarium and shell out way too much money to see a bunch of wet animals. But, it was in the budget and on the schedule, so we were going to march forward.

Instead, we spent Wednesday just piddling around the house. After I told the boys they couldn't watch another millisecond of TV just because their little brother had the privilege**, they rediscovered Monopoly. I managed to make breakfast and stack the dishwasher. Beyond that, the morning was just spent doing something that was slightly short of nothing.

Literally, at 2pm, I was still in my pj's. By 3p, I was in my clothing from the previous day because the headache that had been milling around in The Babe's skull became unbearable, so I had to get some meds. Stat.

Incidentally, am I the only Mom on planet Earth who simultaneously loves and loathes children's pain meds? I mean, at 4am, I am never more grateful for grape, chewable acetaminophen. But at 2pm, when pain meds give a child the sense they are CURED and release tons of pent-up energy, I am absolutely convinced that the people who concocted these drugs never, ever had kids in their family tree. In fact, they invented the stuff and died out in one generation.
Anyway, back to Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the older two boys had discovered that the rest of the neighborhood was, blissfully, back on the block, and were doing their usual running in-and-out of houses.

After I medicated sweet man, he asked me to get Daddy. Mike had promised to play a video game with the little guy over lunch but an unexpected, happy business call prompted Mike and I to have a very long, very detailed conversation over vegetables and protein smoothies.***

Now, Babe had previously said to me "I'm so tired I can't sleep." I knew that meant "I'm exhausted but I'll be darned if I'll take a nap because naps are for babies and I'm so old I think I may get hair under my arms at just about any moment now."

Right in the big, fat middle of that game, Mike realized "I'm playing alone." Babe went to Sleepyland for the next three hours.

Today is Thursday. The Babe woke up and asked if he could get out of bed this morning. He felt much better, thank you, and wanted to play Legos and watch TV.

It is now 10am and I finally managed to cobble together breakfast. The Babe's neck still feels a little warm, so I've canceled the previously scheduled gym date. I'm watching like a hawk to see if the biscuits and eggs come back out to play before I proceed to schedule anything.

Regardless, I think this has been a great break away from the regular routine for us, even if we didn't get to everything on our "Spring Break Bucket List".

We've had time to do things we love, time to do things we're called to do, and time to relax with people we adore.

I'm not sure I could have asked for much more.

*Mom and the boys. Daddy, sadly, has been working most of the time.

**I have fond memories of being sick in front of the TV for hours on end when I was little. I think there should be at least one upside to being sick. Hence, the tradition continues.

***There is absolutely nothing romantic about eating this together. It's more like trying to down gruel in an orphanage.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day Five

So, I'm sure you are curious about how yours truly is doing on her Lenten promise to cleanse her body of all her favorite junk food. Right? You care. Right?

And, no, I'm not going to give you the blow-by-blow of my time in the bathroom on this one. That would be gross and imprudent and would use way too many keystrokes. Let's just leave it at "LOTS".

But, thanks for asking, I feel GREAT!

Just today, I realized I was craving a veggie burger something fierce. Which is totally ironic considering all I can have right now is vegetables cooked on a bed of other cooked vegetables.*

Anyway, I knew I had the rice and tons of leftover, cooked green food, so I Goggled "brown rice veggie patties" and found a couple of recipes, modified them for the ingredients on hand and, 30 minutes later, Mike and I were having these AMAZING patties made entirely of the following:

Rice, Sweet Potatoes, Wilted Spinach, Mushrooms, Onions, and Roasted Green Beans.

All that goodness, cooked until crispy, in coconut oil. You can not even imagine how badly I wanted to eat my weight in these things.

But, surprisingly, at least to those of us whose weight has yo-yo'ed up and down the dial for the better part of our lives, that much fiber can actually fill you up rather quickly. Especially when you are eating a mixed green salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing on the side.

If you are starting to sense snark in my commentary, you.are.right.

Yes, those veggie patties were amazing. Yes, the salad was really good. BUT I WANT A BIG, FAT HONKIN' SLAB OF MEDIUM-RARE COW.

I want to go back to Kroger and say "HELLS Yes!" to the Girl Scouts outside the door who were peddling cookies.** I want a pink lemonade from The Babe's stand with a tequila shot and a good bowl of queso and chips. Heck, I'd even take a late-night run through Whataburger for a "Breakfast on a Bun". ANYTHING OTHER THAN ANOTHER VEGETABLE OR PIECE OF FRUIT.

But, dear readers, for my benefit, I am going to write about what I'm craving and how much I want to cave, so that I don't.

So, go ahead and yuck it up at my self-imposed food prison. Send me anonymous boxes of Girl Scout cookies just to see if I'll write a post about how cruel you are. Flash your fully-caffeinated coffee with double sugar and cream in my face.

I can take it. Really, I can. For sixteen more days, at least.

But, day seventeen?

All I have to say is "Katie, bar the door! MommaJ just got her walking papers. And she intends to use them."

*I'm guessing it was REALLY the bun and mayo I was craving.

**I actually went out the "in" door to avoid their Siren voices, beckoning me to eat their Thin Mints.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pink Lemonade

Right in the big, fat middle of a lazy, Spring Break Sunday afternoon comes The Babe, with a burning desire to do a lemonade stand.

Frankly, the idea was hatched because Babelicious realized that he was going to be too cash poor to buy Legos, unless he became supremely industrious, over Spring Break.

We garnered a deal that he would buy the lemonade and provide change for his customers and I would make the lemonade, pay for the cups, provide the water and ice, set up the table and chair, and make the signage.*

With all our ducks in a row, Babe was in business.

When the first car passed him by, he threw down his hands in disgust. The second one that passed caused a foot stamping. The third? He yelled "You have an ugly car."

In my brain, I mentally checked "salesperson" off the list of potential careers.

Then, like a miracle from above, neighbor children started appearing. The first set of two asked me for refills; I deferred to The Babe's opinion and he stated "That will be a quarter." With his hand held out!**

Then the first car of unknown origin appeared. And bought three cups of the sugary, pink stuff.

And so it went, until the first batch of lemonade was gone and there was a customer waiting for me to hurry and make the next.

It was a hoppin' little business. And, as for industrious? Babe turned a tidy profit, with enough of the liquid sweetness left to do another round tomorrow!***

To say I am proud of him is not only true, buy an understatement. He's a kid who acts just like I used to: when he is unsure of where to get the money for something he wants, he might fuss for a few minutes regarding his circumstances, but then he figures out how to earn what he needs.

Now we just have to work on how he handles rejection. And find that third car and apologize to the owner.

And, hopefully, sell her a glass of liquid gold!

*This lemonade stand defines parenting: they give a little, you give a ton.

**YES! A capitalist in training. That I birthed!

***Which is currently sitting in the refrigerator, gently calling my name, reminding me of the delicious pink lemonade tequilas my awesome upstairs neighbor introduced me to when I was still single. LOVE THEM!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

First, let me say, that if I were single and had no kids and Matt Damon was single and had no kids and if I looked like Elle McPherson, I would TOTALLY be Mrs. Matt Damon right now.

Now you'll understand, in a world where chick flicks exist and are probably playing at the theater at this very moment, why I chose to go see an action/adventure-type movie.

SPOILER ALERT!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!! IF you read past here, you are going to get a real plot spoiler. STOP READING IF YOU PLAN TO SEE THE FILM AND DON'T WANT IT RUINED..........................

The best way to describe The Adjustment Bureau is "Matrix-like". It twists and turns and you just aren't sure which side is up for the better part of the picture.

The whole plot line is based on a short story. Unlike other movies, whose short story lines feel stretched to accommodate a full-length flick, this one felt just right.

I just couldn't quite figure out if the men in hats* were what they appeared to be at first blush. Just a few minutes into the show, I whispered to Mike "Those dudes are working with the devil but we're supposed to think they are angels."

For once, in figuring out the plot, I was wrong. They WERE angels.

But, the problem was, the story line got the whole God/free will/destiny/love thing wrong. Terribly wrong.

At the very end, the "Chairman" (ostensibly God), who has been attempting to break apart the lead couple's romance for the entire movie, changes his mind because the two are in love.

And that is where this film took a turn down a road that is opposed to my understanding: Humans don't change the will of God. Listening to God, our minds become one with his will and our actions follow. And His will is always for our good, even if it doesn't "feel" right at the time.

Sadly, the message was just the opposite: If you love someone enough, even if being together means you won't reach the full potential that God's plan has for you, then you can change God's will and, hence, his mind.

But here is the really interesting part: this movie made me THINK. I left the theater scratching my head about what was "off" with the plot, went to bed STILL wondering what was off-kilter, and literally didn't have an epiphany until I woke up this morning.

I will likely rent TAB to put together the little pieces that didn't quite fit into the bigger puzzle: Why were the "angels" powerless without their hats? What was up with the big parking garage? Why was there so much black, which is generally associated with evil?

I fear what I will discover, if I delve a bit more into the background of the short story and its meaning, is a twisted view of what the Bible says. Sadly, I think the author may WANT the audience to see God as an unapologetic, meddling ruler whose opinion can be swayed when "true love" descends upon two people.

And, that's my conundrum in recommending vs. not this movie.

I could recommend it purely for the sweet love story. Like the plot, I do tend to think there can be love at first sight with the right person. Conversely, I think too many people are near-sighted, going into a relationship with way too much emotion and sexual energy that they forget the real person they are dating. And, when they come up for air? They discover how wrong their vision is.

I could recommend it for discussion value. This movie won't disappoint. And I think it would make for lively conversation over coffee after the theater.

I could recommend it for the action. It is non-stop. And fun.

But, for the actual story line? I can't give it two-thumbs up. That's where the buck stops with me.

Because when the overall theme of a movie runs contrary to my values, I have to put it on the no-fly list. Even if everything else about it was stellar.

If you've seen The Adjustment Bureau, I'd love your hear your thoughts.

Just don't go into some long diatribe about how ridiculous it is to even THINK of me being Mrs. Damon. Because a girl can always dream.**

Even if her dreams are delusional.

*NO, not the 80's band. HA HA. Now "Safety Dance" is in your head....

**And since I already found the perfect, God-approved man, I really don't intend to ever pursue Mr. Damon. So, don't worry, security people being paid to protect him; I'm cool.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Is it REALLY Potty Talk?

Heard from the backseat of the car tonight:

"And then my teacher crapped and then we went inside. But we were supposed to crap, too."

This was The Babe talking. And the only thing that stopped the poo slinging commentary was Nickels going "WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?"*

See, The Babe has a little issue with sounds. In words, he will regularly drop an "L" and replace it with an "R". Hence, a whole bunch of poop talk instead of a bunch of hand slapping.

Just another stellar moment in the Nowell family annals of history.

*I'm thinking "Crap. Where did he learn that word?"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Temple Grandin

Given that we don't have HBO in our house, we are kind of at the mercy of our friends to let us know when HBO Productions has created something that is worth the watch time. That's what happened with the ultra-awesome series on John Adams.

This time, however, it was my addiction to award shows that led us to Temple Grandin. And boy was the list of awards long! Best Made-for-Television Movie, Best Director, Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Music Composition, and Best Camera Editing. Incidentally, Clare Danes, as Temple Grandin, won a SAG and a Golden Globe as well.

I mean, if you see a list this long, you should just go ahead and put this #1 on your Netflix queue or sign onto Redbox and truck down to the Stop N Go and rent it pronto.

I can not possibly express how absolutely charmed Mike and I were by this movie. I've liked Clare Danes for almost forever, since "My So-Called Life" back in the mid-90's, so it wasn't much of a stretch for me to want to see this movie.

If you like stories that highlight what a person CAN DO against insurmountable odds, this is a movie for you.

It had a Forrest Gump vibe about it, yet there was nothing fictional about the story. It is based on the real life story of an autistic woman who eventually became a preeminent animal behaviorist.

If you aren't as awed as we were and brought to tears whenever Temple discovers yet another closed door or aren't reminded of the famous Alexander Graham Bell quote: "When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us", then I guess we're just oversensitive cry babies.

Unlike that heinous movie Sanctum which post-movie offered us NO FRIGGIN' CLUE about the lone survivor of a stupid stunt gone deadly*, this movie had a very concise, two screen description of exactly what has happened with Temple.

And Mike and I, right then and there, decided we want to see this remarkable woman speak, if we are ever offered that opportunity.

Temple is an amazing woman. Clare Danes tore up the screen with her portrayal. And the movie is about perseverance and determination and becoming who God made you to be.

What's not to like? Go. rent. it.

*Can't believe I've waited this long to tell you what an absolute waste of my life this movie was. And to not add a post-script?!!? James Cameron, I'm hoping you didn't hit the peak of your career and this was the first movie on the downhill slide to your last film. Because this one REEKED.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lenten Promises

For Lent this year I decided to give up Facebook. I'm pretty sure that won't absolutely kill me. But, I can't really be sure that the other decision I made won't.

You see, I've decided, for the second time in my life, to embark on a cleanse.

A cleaning. A readjustment. The creation of circumstances in my body such that my colon becomes more like a Slip N Slide than the interior of a grease vat.

Are you tracking with me?

For 21 days, I am going to devote myself to eating nothing more than vegetables, fruit, and protein shakes, with a daily (yet paltry) 1/2 cup of grains.

The makers of this regime, just so they don't have to attend court weekly to defend their company against murder suspects who have declared themselves "temporarily insane due to diet" and just HAPPENED to be using the makers products and plan, added a couple of tablespoons of "good" oil to the routine, hoping to keep mass murder to a minimum. Especially around drivers of Blue Bell Ice Cream trucks.

Those grains? The mere 4 ounces worth? I will savor like it is beluga caviar and I am eating the last tablespoon of the stuff available to mankind.*

And I'll be taking 21 "cleanse" pills daily, pills made of fiber from MORE vegetables and fruit and probably sawdust.** And drink so much water that you'd think I was a camel about to embark on a thirty day trek through the Sahara Desert in July.

Trust me, though. I won't develop some clever hump on my back. No, I'll be running to the bathroom every 14 seconds for the next few days until my bladder decides "OH CRAP. She's on some water kick again. Better stretch out a bit and stop sending pee-pee signals."

Can you tell that I do this cleanse because I know it's good for me? And not because, at least for the first week or so, I enjoy it?

Once I'm over the proverbial hump, life is grand. My body will recoil at the thought of sugar and big hunks of meat and lowly carbs made from white flour.

But, RIGHT NOW? Day one, breakfast? All I can think about is coffee. And hurting Mike. Who keeps asking me questions about the cleanse ("Did you include your greens? Have you taken your pills.") And who just announced, before eating anything this morning "HEY! I've lost four pounds."***

Looks like Jesus may not be the only one in the history of the world to end Lent on a tree.

*Never had caviar. Not sure I ever will. But, when I eat my brown rice at night, I feel like I've won the food lottery and have received the gastronomic equivalent of the best tasting food on Earth.

**Though that isn't exactly listed as an ingredient on the pill jar.

***Yes, he was joking. But I had a lovely mouthful of shake in my mouth and I was determined NOT TO SPIT MY SHAKE OUT. That could have been the 10 calories between starvation and fulfillment later in the day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

You Want to Hear About WHAT??

I am going to give you, dear readers, a bizarre opportunity.

I say "bizarre" because you never know what is going to come out of my writing when I think of the topic.

So, the fact that I'm asking YOU to suggest a topic for post #500* is really stretching my abilities as a writer.

And I'm going to work really hard with someone's suggestion to knock it right the hell out of the park.

So, go ahead, punch that "0 comments"** link below and leave me a suggestion. There's nothing too outlandish, though I can tell you that I reserve final say on whose idea is chosen.

And, heck! In honor of number 500, I might throw in a themed gift, to match your suggestion, if you are chosen.

So, go on. Quit reading and start writing.

I can't wait to see what you are going to force me to write about.

*Can you believe it? Five hundred. Like the car. Like a great hitting record in baseball. Like, WOW, man.

**Or "1 comment" or "2 comments", etc. Just find the number and the word "comment(s)" and you will be on your way to making literary history. In my world, at least.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Class Projects

When is it time to let your little pumpkin sink-or-swim (in a non-literal way, of course)?

I think I've figured out the answer: The time to let your little pumpkin sink-or-swim coincides with the time when they've figured out they can blame YOU for not reminding THEM that they've forgotten to do a very important, graded project.

Yes, when buck passing becomes the order of the day, it is most definitely time to shove the assignment back into their ten digits and declare "I'm done!"

Seems that Nickels was assigned a project back in late February. It is due on March 9th.

Now, between the 23rd of the month of love and the 9th of the month of Ides, my duties for a school auction have picked up exponentially. I've been out-of-town for two days in Houston for reading therapy with the Hooman. And this past weekend was Dad's wedding, with a gob of good German people in town to entertain.*

When, in Sam Hill, did I discover that sweet Nickels had received information about this project? Yes, you guessed it, when I was going through his backpack to find missing plastic food containers from his lunch sack. This past Thursday. The assignment sheet was in a big, crumpled ball at the bottom of the pack.

I panicked. Immediately we headed out to big-box office supply store and big-box craft store and picked up the necessary supplies. And when we arrived home, the complaining began. "Do I HAVE TO do more than this?", said with a side of WHINE, GRIPE and MOAN.

THIS was gluing together the two foam boards and writing his name at the top. HARD WORK, people. Sprain-inducing work. The stuff that is put in a museum and, decades later, people walk past the exhibit and shake their heads and say "Boy. Our forefathers had it TOUGH."

Mind you, I had received information from the teacher via email back in February, just when my workload was ramping up. But, at the time, my mind didn't fixate on the phrase "3-6 days to dry". It fixated on the fact that we had two whole weeks to complete this project. And the fire under my butt at the moment seemed mucho importante compared to creating a painted, clay-infused project on a big white board. And my inbox became more filled and the email drifted out of the messages I could see at a glance, and I forgot.

Yes, I'll admit it. I FORGOT.

But, cripe. It's NOT MY PROJECT!!!

In fact, more than once, since Thursday, I've emphasized the importance of the work being done over the weekend so the clay would dry. And, I went about the task of preparing the house for guests, shopping for food to feed everyone, and generally getting ready for the wedding.

So, here we are at Monday morning. Did I work like a banshee this weekend? YES. Was I preoccupied by the task at hand? YES. Did I remember the project hanging above my son's head? NO.

And now? We** have less than 48 hours to complete the whole blooming thing.
I've gone the extra mile by calling 1-800-Crayola about the long-drying clay. A wonderful Mom on the other end of the line answered my "thinking outside the box" questions: "Can I dry the project in the oven?" Sure. If you want to burn the house down.*** "Can I use bakery-grade dye to color the clay, so we can avoid the whole 3-6 days of drying time before we paint?". Sorry. Haven't tested that. You could TRY it.****

So, I ended the conversation by laughing with the customer service rep about the lessons our kids are learning as they grow and mature. Even though she wasn't help in a practical sense for this project, it just helped to know someone out there also has irresponsible kids.*****

This afternoon? Nickels is going to be up to his rump in foam board, clay and whatever else he needs to complete the first stage of the work.

And I'm going to figure out which room has the best ventilation so this thing will dry in the quickest time possible.

Because, while I'm willing to participate in the little things, I don't want to be the Mom who is calling my son in his dorm room asking "Did you finish your biology project? You know, it's due in a couple of days."

Maybe this is the project that will be late and cause a failing grade and wake him up to his responsibilities. Yeah, it's nice to think that one late-started, fifth grade project could have that much power.

Actually, I think this project does have power. Power beyond learning, and project-management, and hard lessons.

I'm betting this will be the one that simultaneously gives me a headache, stomach ulcers and diarrhea.

Oh joy.

*Translation: the food was less important that the booze. And there was a ton of joking about each other's best qualities and so much laughter that my new step-brother and sister-in-law felt right at home.

**WAIT! I just realized I'm using the word "WE" a whole lot more than I should here. That royal "WE" is going to become my little prince's "ME" when he gets home this afternoon and tears through this work.

***True irony here: I had a small hunk of the clay in the oven during this conversation when she said "We don't recommend you EVER put the clay in the oven or use it to make a candle holder because it is a flammable project." Let's say I moved rather quickly to remove the experiment from the oven.

****With a tone of voice that suggested, "If it works, will you call and let us know you've done the testing for us? And what the results were? We'd be mighty grateful."

****In fact, just last week, another Mom confided in me that her little sweetums had failed to inform anyone about two projects that were due in one week. The phone call from the school a day after the first project was due made for one mad Momma. And, I remember thinking, "Thank goodness we aren't having to deal with a project right now." DOH. Forty-year-old brain = no memory.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Secret Millionaire

Secret Millionaire is ABC's latest foray into changing Sunday night into "HEY KIDS! Let's all gather around the TV and cry."

It has the feel of CBS's Undercover Boss, the show about CEO's of well-known corporations going incognito to discover the good, bad and ugly about their companies. But Secret Millionaire has a whole lot more heart and substance.

I was fascinated by the concept of Secret Millionaire from the very first time I saw a commercial for the series. In my heart of hearts, I have a special place for giving. In fact, my dream job is to give away tons of money to deserving people and never run out of cash to serve those truly in need.

I could have blown through an entire box of kleenex in the first 15 minutes of this show. By the end of it, I was covered in mascara and snot, having not learned my lesson in the first segment.

My kids were equally as touched. They begged me to DVR the series so we could watch again next week.

And it gave me the opportunity to talk to the boys about how much I want them to truly learn to give from their hearts, without it sounding like a lecture. It also paved the way to a conversation that allowed me the chance to clear up Hooman's understanding that our family doesn't do anything "like the lady on TV did".*

I'm pretty sure there will be critics who say this show is trying to highlight the wealthy to make them look good. Or make them feel better about themselves. Or some other negative, let's-divide-our-country, BS speech.

But, to those critics, I say: the point and beauty of this show is that it demonstrates all the good that is going on behind the scenes in America. It underscores the "pay-it-forwards"** coming from every strata of our society, from the richest to the poorest.

This show takes the time to call to attention the acts of service we are, undoubtedly, passing every day and not noticing. It proves that hope still exists in our country, even in the poorest of circumstances. And that we can all give in ways, big and small, to effect the lives of those around us.

Next Sunday night? I'll be prepared with a big, honking box of tissue. Won't you join me, either in person or in spirit in your own home, to watch this show?

I think it may "The Little Engine That Could" of TV right now. And, if it even inspires one person or family to volunteer from the storehouse of whatever they have, it will be the best that TV programming can offer.

Bravo, ABC! Thank you for a show that I can watch with my family that reminds us of how very blessed we are and of the importance of giving back to those in our community.

*No, we can't give away checks totalling $100,000, but that wasn't the point of the show.

**ADD thought: If you have never watched the movie "Pay It Forward", do yourself a favor and rent it today. Helen Hunt, Kevin Spacey, and Haley Joel Osment lead you through a heart-wrenching story of giving of oneself in circumstances that are less than stellar. It will leave you speechless, with the desire to search for opportunities to give to those around you.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bengy and the Zipper

This is dedicated to Pop, my wonderful Father-in-law, who is also a Baptist preacher by education and former occupation.

Incidentally, in all her years as a preacher's wife, I don't think my Mother-in-law has ever done anything remotely as crazy as this.

Love you guys.

PS: Thanks for passing this along, Aunt Louise!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Request for Help!!!!

It will be very, very rarely that I ask you to do something for me via this blog.

But, this one is super important to me.

For the past several years, Mike and I have supported a charity called Smile Train. Smile Train has provided doctors in remote locations, such as China and India, with medical training to repair cleft lips.

Literally, in other countries, this deformity castrates its victims from society. Parents of children born with clefts think the children are cursed. It is only through repair that this misunderstanding can be reversed. Literally, once the repair is done, the "curse" is lifted.

ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of the money donated to Smile Train goes to training and cleft repair. And, for $250, a surgery is performed!

The next best alternative charity for cleft repairs, Operation Smile, does not train doctors locally, providing jobs in poorer countries, but ships doctors to medical sites. Therefore, the true value of the training is not local.

Also, because we've given to both charities in the past, I am privy to the information that Operation Smile does NOT use 100% of their donations to directly impact surgeries. Sadly, I can not find information on exactly what percentage does impact surgeries, but I can add that we've stopped donating to Operation Smile because of phone conversations I've had with their staff that were backhanded attempts at forcing me into giving to their charity.

SO, it is with great concern that I share that I want to help save Smile Train from being merged with Operation Smile.

Charles Wang has used underhanded, dirty, illegal tactics to force a merger that will eventually, if approved, funnel money into a "trust" that he would have control over, to the tune of over $100 MILLION DOLLARS. If Mr. Wang gets his greedy hands on this trust, children in remote parts of the world will never benefit from it. And, SOME OF THAT MONEY CAME FROM OUR HOUSE!

Because of a desperate money grab that a financially strapped Mr. Wang and associates are attempting to orchestrate, the very children we've sought to help will languish with a very easily repaired cleft, while Mr. Wang slowly uses the trust to keep his hockey team afloat. (See NY Times article below.)

More shocking is the fact that, even though this hasn't passed the hurdle of the Attorney General of New York, Operation Smile's website is heralding the merger as a done deal! They've even gotten Roma Downey to put her sweet name behind this injustice.

If you feel so inclined, you can sign a petition to stop this merger from taking place and, hopefully, put Smile Train back on track.* Simply go to

I can not express the sorrow I feel thinking about my favorite charity being hijacked by a scumbag like Charles Wang. In case you want to know more about him, there are three articles at the bottom of this post that show his "illustrious" past.

In addition to any support you might show by signing the petition, I would genuinely appreciate you joining me in prayer, that justice would prevail in this situation and that Smile Train would be saved from a merger with Operation Smile, to the complete benefit of the children who desperately need their services.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

New York Times Article: Opposition Arises to Charities’ Merger


Ultimate Injustice: More Shenanigans from Charles Wang

Charles Wang's Messy Second Act: The ex-CEO of '90s highflier Computer Associates is trying real estate. But his past won't stay behind him

As Charles Wang’s World Crumbles, Justice is Served

*Yes, even though I'm mad, I'm still fun of puns.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Great Wolf Lodge

The Great Wolf Lodge is aptly named. It is Great. It is a Lodge. There are Wolves.

This place is a cool concept. It works hard to be all-inclusive. And it does a great job.

In short, it's enterjoyment* to the max. With one big, fat exception: the beds.

We paid a small fortune to go to GWL. And it was worth every penny of it to see the kids have so much fun. But, my entire body is still gritching about those beds.

I mean, good golly, Miss Molly! Is it too much to ask for a mattress AND a box spring, not just a bunkie board? I understand Mattress Giant will sell you last year's model for a song!

Retrospectively, though, I think I understand why the beds were the way they were. Truly, when you have had your fill of the water park and have walked through the bazillion square feet underfoot to point a really cool wand at random pictures of medieval stuff so you can collect tokens and play a game called "Dragon Quest", you are beyond tired.

I can almost hear the conversation the executive design-team had: "So, what's the big deal about a mattress? After all the fun our guests will have, they'll be asleep in no time. The mattress really won't matter. So, let's pursue the CHEAPEST model on planet Earth."

Since, in my case, the biggest water ride became my Netti pot by shooting a gallon of water up my left nostril on my descent down the wall of the ride, the bed really DID matter. My sinus cavity was burning like crazy for a good hour after this happened. I could feel all those chemicals designed to render poo and pee molecules in the water "safe" just sitting in my sinus cavity, rubbing their little atoms together going "HAHAHAHAHAHA. ANOTHER VICTIM."

And, yes. Two weeks later, I am STILL recovering from that water bomb.

So, when it was time for bed, I was in pain from being violated by overly-chlorinated water. I didn't need another source of discomfort to aggravate me.

At first I thought I was uncomfortable because I needed to use the loo. So, I got up, did my business and returned to bed.

Then I thought I needed to blow my nose. Trucked it to the bathroom again, blew my nose until I thought I'd see brain material, and realized there was NOTHING coming out by air and the smell of chlorine. Back I schlepped it to the bed.

It was the third time I hit the bed that I realized it was designed for someone with no bones in their body. Because, if you didn't have bones in your hips or shoulders or knees, the bed would have been fine because nothing sharp or pointy would need cushioning. And, even though I have the benefit of three layers of cushioning from having three children, that wasn't helping.

Sadly, I realized in that moment, "I hate having bones."

I tossed and turned all night long. I'd wake up, turn over, turn over again, and then turn to the midpoint between my first and second overs. There was NO comfortable position.

Come morning, the fun started all over again. Literally, we were active from 9a.m. to 3p.m. Walking the building, getting in and out of the water, searching for clues. You name it, we did it.

By the time we hit the car, I KNEW the kids were going to sleep well that night. And, I was SO grateful. That meant Mike and I could have some "private" time together at an hour that didn't start with the word "eleven".

Because, even though we were paying for a hotel room, and hotel room + married couple = S.E.X., there was no privacy. And, frankly, I was afraid someone might bruise themselves on the mattress if we even tried to get intimate.

Problem was, by the time we made it home, everyone was cranky, including me and Mike. "Tired" and "hungry" were also in the air. Cranky + Tired + Hungry = one ugly trifecta of family misery.

Nickels actually said "Can I eat and go to bed?" It was 6p.m. I wanted to ask Mike the same question, but I knew I was the one who had to make dinner.

When I finally laid down on my bed around 7:30p.m., I audibly sighed. And pulled the covers all the way up underneath my neck. And smiled like a Cheshire cat for about three minutes.

When Mike walked in the room and saw me, he said "Are you glad to be home in your own bed?" To which I responded "Can you tell?"

Of course, within about ten minutes of being in bed, I was out like a light. And, the next day, and the subsequent 10 days after that? I've been sick, thanks to that nose shot of chlorine I didn't even ask for.**

Retrospectively, I think I would have had more fun if I had taken a couple hundred dollars, sent them through the shredder and stayed home in our own bed.

True to form though, in about six months, when our next child "earns" his trip to GWL, I will have forgotten all about this experience.

By then I will have purchased a proper nose plug. And, yes. You can laugh all you want when you see me.

At least that will alleviate one of the dimensions of sadism I'll experience when we return.


*It's the fusion of entertainment and enjoyment, a phrase coined by one of the Nowell boys awhile back. And filed in the beaner for use later by MommaJ.

**I now understand what it must feel like to snort something up your nose. NO THANKS. I gave at GWL.

***That's the sound of the wolf in the water park that plays about every 15 minutes. It doesn't drive you COMPLETELY crazy...only partially.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Oh Charlie!

If there was ever a need for someone to end up all Tom-Hanks-style, stranded on a deserted island, with little hope for escape and a volleyball as his best friend, it's Charlie Sheen.

These past few years for Mr. Sheen haven't been the most stellar. In fact, they've been down right ugly. The further up the ladder he has climbed with Two and a Half Men, the farther away from reality he has gone.

Prostitutes, drugs, alcohol, charges of spousal abuse, multiple divorces, rehab. Nothing has woken him up.

I've had to wonder this week: Where are the publicists in all of this?* It is beyond time for some damage control. Seriously, if you have to hog tie this man to the bedpost and gag him to keep him from talking, now would be a good time to consider which bed is the sturdiest.

Sadly, you can see the God-complex in Mr. Sheen right now. He genuinely believes his rants have gotten the cast of Two and a Half Men paid. He sees none of his behavior, including shacking up with two twenty-something women he calls "Goddesses", odd. He says he's enlightened. He says he's drug-free. He says he is in a good place.

I guess, if you have "Tiger Blood" in your veins, you can tackle just about anything.

Mr. Sheen's behavior should serve as a big, fat warning for the rest of us. This is what happens when someone becomes his own God, hits rock bottom, and bounces.

Likely, he'll end up losing custodial rights to his children over this. It won't surprise me when I hear he is back in rehab again. Life for Charlie Sheen, in all of the 45-years he has been on planet Earth, is spiraling out-of-control.

And, in my humble opinion, the only person who can save himself is Mr. Sheen, who will have to figure out that it is time to turn away from the world and start seeking God.

If I were to have five seconds alone in a room with him, I'd say: "Charlie, it's time to find something bigger than yourself. You can't hold this together. Only God can. And, watching your behavior, I see that God is working hard to call you to Him. But, you aren't listening."

And you know what? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't make anymore headway that Mr. Sheen's parents or siblings or rehab counselors or anyone else who's given a rat's rear about him in the past few years.

Sadly, this isn't the first recent implosion and it won't be the last. Heath Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith are recent memories of public figures gone nutso.

We have no control over the behavior of other people, especially those in the public eye that we don't know personally. But we can learn from the behavior.

We can learn not to turn our backs when people who love us, who have our best interest in mind, tell us we are screwing up. We can learn that messing around with any drug, whether it be legal or not, puts us in a position of losing control of everything in our lives. We can learn that love can't be bought, it has to be born of mutual respect, admiration and genuine selflessness. We can learn, above all, that, even when we are imploding, God is STILL in control. And it is NEVER, EVER too late to come back to His fold.

I'm just very sorry this example is so public and so ugly. I truly hope Mr. Sheen is able to see the truth, pull his life back together and find his way again with God's help.

Even if this lesson means we never hear another word from Charlie on the stage, screen, or TV set, it would be worth it to see him overcome the world's traps and come out the other side a better person as a shining example of God's grace and goodness.

*Less-than-shocking newsflash: The publicist quit Monday.