Friday, October 28, 2011

The scratched eye that helped me see clearly

Published on (click HERE for the link)

A birthday letter to my 16-year-old daughter thanking her (in a manner of speaking) for being super smart, super bossy, and getting scratched in the eye. In other words, thanking her for being absolutely fabulous.

Dear Daughter,

It’s always been easier for me to nag you about things I think you should change than it is for me to recognize and acknowledge everything that is wonderful and amazing about you. So in honor of your 16th birthday, I want you to understand how truly fabulous I think you are.

First off, you are super smart. Which is great, but I have spent many a night on my knees, praying that you will be able to combine that intelligence with wisdom and channel it in a positive direction. Because I often see you being smart (but not necessarily wise) and outwitting siblings or winning debates regardless of whether you’re technically “right,” it’s not always easy for me to detect positive progress.

But recently, your high school biology teacher chose you to receive an award for excellence. She wrote the following to explain why she chose you:

"(Your daughter) is a joy to have in class. She is always willing to help anyone I ask her to with their work and does so with a positive attitude. More importantly, she is self-confident and stands out by making good choices and decisions regardless of what other kids around her are doing."

Reading those words helped me take a step back, see you from someone else’s perspective and begin to understand who you are becoming. I can’t imagine a better use of intelligence and wisdom than what you displayed in your biology class.

Secondly, you can be bossy. When you were 8 years old, your grandpa watched you playing with your brother and said, “I grew up with a bossy sister and I sure feel sorry for him!” I did too, to be honest, and have tried over the years to help you curb that tendency. Sometimes, when I hear you barking orders at your siblings —who generally comply because you’re cool and they like you — I wonder if there has been any progress at all since you were 8 years old.

But then your Sunday school teacher stopped me in the hall at church to tell me how much she appreciates having you in her class. I listened with interest as she explained that you are a great leader because you always stay on task and encourage the other kids — who generally comply because you’re cool and they like you — to stay on task as well.

Again, hearing what your teacher had to say helped me take a step back, see you from someone else’s perspective and understand who you are becoming. I can’t imagine a better use of leadership skills — sometimes known as bossiness — than what you show in your Sunday school class.

Lastly, you possess a will of iron that often refuses to bend. I have definitely lost the most sleep over this through the years, and wonder if and when you’ll decide that it’s OK to admit weakness or vulnerability — that it’s OK to ask for help when you need it.

During a recent family vacation, something terribly painful lodged itself in your eye. It was late at night, so we decided to see if it was still there in the morning before taking you in. Crying (which for you is so very rare), you curled up in bed beside me and I moved to turn out the light so you could sleep. But you stopped me and said, “Mom, I hate to ask, but could you read me something from the scriptures?”

Your pain was intense — the doctor later explained it was excruciating because a tiny piece of glass scratched your cornea each time you blinked — yet you still had the fortitude to ask me to read so that you could keep your goal of reading daily. I can’t say that I would have done the same under similar circumstances.

By the time I was done reading, you were asleep and I was the one crying.

I cried because I couldn’t imagine a better use of wisdom and willpower — sometimes known as unbending will — than asking for help to reach a goal that simply couldn’t be reached alone.

I cried because I understood how lucky I am to have a daughter who is becoming someone with incredible willpower, intelligence and wisdom, and who is on the road to being an inspiring leader.

And I cried because I realized how much I have already learned and how much more I can still learn from you.

You are beautiful, fabulous, wonderful and amazing. I love you.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Review: "You're Next" by Gregg Hurwitz

Book review: 'You're Next' serves up heart-stopping thrills and first-rate chills

Published: Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT
"YOU'RE NEXT," by Gregg Hurwitz, St. Martin's Press, $24.99, 407 pages (f)

Raised in foster care under difficult circumstances, Mike Wingate has defied all odds to build a successful life for himself. Mike is married to the woman of his dreams and has a beautiful 8-year-old daughter. The construction company he owns is on the brink of completing a popular "green" housing development, the proceeds from which promise to land Mike and his family on solid financial footing.
But a past that has remained dormant since his father abandoned him at a playground at the age of 4 suddenly resurfaces. Shady characters begin threatening Mike, leaving him confused and searching frantically for answers. Mike soon discovers that their sinister threat, "You're next," is both immediate and life-threatening for him and his family.

As the horrific truth continues to unfold in Gregg Hurwitz's novel "You're Next," Mike finds it necessary to utilize all the survival techniques he relied on during his teenage years — including enlisting the help of his best friend who is a convicted felon — to save all that he holds dear.

"You're Next" contains graphic violence including descriptions of torture and a moderate amount of swear words. A few brief sexual encounters are described without gratuitous details.

Once the mystery behind the threats becomes evident, the storyline might feel somewhat implausible. If this thought should surface, it will likely be fleeting. By this point in the book, the mystery and suspense and pure terror of what Mike is experiencing is riveting enough that the credibiliy of the plot will be of minor conseqence.

Hurwitz proves himself a master of suspense, dread and extreme terror. "You're Next" is also beautifully written, heartbreaking and emotionally riveting.

It is physically and emotionally exhausting to race through the pages of "You're Next," hoping against all hope and logic that Mike will defy impossible odds to save and protect the happiness he has worked so diligently to secure for his family.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Contest to re-name my column and blog is under way!

Ok, so I have to rename my column and blog.  I won't go into details, but it has to do with trademark issues that I was blissfully unaware of up until a few weeks ago.

Ignorance really can be bliss.

Other than the fact that I now have to carefully check into registered trademarks and copyrights before officially deciding on a name, I'm at a complete loss.

Should the title include my name?

Should it have a reference to moms?

Should I try to make it funny?


I shouldn't stress about it, but I am.

I'm taking any and all suggestions, serious or otherwise.

I can't wait to hear all of your collective creative genius ideas!!

As of Friday morning, here are the ideas I've received (via Facebook & the column):

Close to Home
Legal Trademom Issue (perfect reference to the legal headache :)
Sensical Susie
Momsters Inc.
You Dropped a Mom on Me
Mom and Jerry
Mom Sequitur
The Mommy Brain
Welcome to My World

Keep the great ideas coming . . .

Toilet clogs sale of home

Published on (click HERE for the link)

After months of unemployment, my husband had finally landed an out-of-state job. I was thrilled that he was gainfully employed, but staying behind with five kids while we tried to sell our home in a down market was taxing at best.

Three months into this adventure, I received a phone call one day at 2 p.m. to inform me that prospective buyers would be coming to look at our house between 5:00 and 6:00 that same evening. Three hours wasn’t much time to prepare a house for a showing, but my kids could help when they got home from school.

No problem.

Putting a positive spin on the situation, I enthusiastically announced to the kids that this was their lucky day. Not only did they get to clean their rooms and bathrooms instead of doing homework or practicing piano, but I would also be taking them out to dinner that night.

The response was less than enthusiastic.

While I cleaned, scrubbed, dusted, vacuumed and moved breakable items to their "showing" positions, the kids seemed oddly quiet. So I went upstairs to check.

Small problem.

Their rooms still in complete disarray, all my kids were in my room quietly watching TV. With a positive smile, I found it necessary to crack the whip.

Time had almost completely run out when I discovered that the boys had never vacuumed their room.

"What's this all over your floor? Pencil shavings? Pistachio shells?"

"Mom, you're overreacting! It’s not like they won’t want to buy our house because of pistachio shells!"

Call me a neat freak, but I made them vacuum. And the last thing I did before we left to go eat was spray all the bathrooms with air freshener. There’s nothing worse than bathrooms that don’t smell fresh.

In the event that our lookers were running late, I carefully timed our arrival back home to be 10 full minutes past 6:00. The kids dispersed, and I was finally able to relax.

Five minutes later, I answered a loud knock at the door and found the prospective buyers and their Realtor standing on my front porch.

Somewhat larger problem.

"Did you just get home?" the Realtor asked, smiling.

It took a great deal of effort to smile as I said, "Yep, but I'll gather the troops and we'll be out of here as soon as we can!”

Unfortunately, gathering the troops proved difficult. I ran into three pretty big problems.

After some searching, I ascertained that three of my children were attending to certain business on three different toilets. “Hurry up!” only goes so far when trying to rush such business.

Needless to say, three of my bathrooms smelled less than fresh when we finally exited the house.

I was washing my face in my bathroom that night when my oldest daughter stomped in. "I need to use your toilet. Someone clogged the toilet in the hall bathroom and it's soooooo disgusting!"

I froze, water dripping down my arms.

"Was the lid up or down?"

"I don’t know. Up, I think."

Largest and most horrific problem of all — so large, in fact, that I crawled into bed and went to sleep.

Not surprisingly, that showing did not result in an offer on our house. The reasons for this could have ranged anywhere from the smallish family room to the corner lot to the outdated light fixtures. But I like to say it was the clogged toilet.

Because in the end – after a good night’s sleep has helped us find perspective – some of our most stressful of days and largest of problems turn out to be the ones we laugh at the most.