Friday, July 11, 2008

One-Stop Shop for College

One-Stop Shop for College

When my second daughter went off to college in Boston, we made a list of all the things she would need to get set up for college life. The dorm room had to be stocked and decorated. There were pillows, sheets, bedspreads, lamps, towels, storage containers, microwaves, printers, etc. etc., to be purchased. We made a list that if unfurled would roll from one end of the dorm’s hallway to the other. Then we got out a phone book and tried to locate stores from which to shop. We'd never shopped in Boston before.

For several days we shopped ‘til we literally dropped. We were so completely exhausted from all of the searching, driving, hauling, assembling, and … running back and forth to various stores for things we had forgotten.

During these days I thought of all the ingenious things that could be done to make this whole process easier. One thought was to hire a college dorm room interior decorator because I didn’t know where or how to find all the little pieces that make a dorm room a home. However, as far as I know, those people don’t exist. So we plugged along ourselves and did the best we could.

Well, this week I received, in the mail, the most exciting catalog I’ve ever gotten. (I might add that I don’t like receiving catalogs. In fact, I’ve cancelled most of mine because I don’t want to add all of these unnecessary and unused catalogs to the landfills.) But this one is one that I believe will get plenty of attention and will save plenty of mother/child relationships: TARGET’S HAPPY TOGETHER 08 COLLEGE catalog.

Page 1 Table of Contents by categories


Page 2 Copy

College, here you come. One of the most rewarding parts of the college experience is sharing it with a roommate. No doubt you’ll have a lot in common, but chances are you’ll have your differences, too. The MORNING BIRD might get up with the NIGHT OWL is still working on a paper. The EXTROVERT likes constant company, while the INTROVERT needs alone time. The CLOTHESHORSE brings their entire high-school bedroom while the MINIMALIST wants a clutter-free zone. The PLANNER needs order, while the DREAMER embraces the chaos. The key is finding ways to make your room work for both of you so you can be HAPPY TOGETHER.

Page 3 The Checklist

All the categories with related items listed below complete with individual little boxes to check.

Bedding (pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, night-light …)
Bath (Towels, first aid kit, dental floss, hair dryer …)
Lounge (bookcase, clock, picture frames, bulletin board, curtains, lamp …)
Storage (totes, shoe rack, hangers, CD storage …)
Travel (bike, backpack, duffle bag …)
Laundry (laundry hamper, broom, waste basket, paper towels …)
Kitchen (compact fridge, microwave, can opener, coffeemaker, snack foods …)
Electronics ( Laptop bag, external hard drive, TV, extension cords …)
Study (Planner, paper, pens, stapler, printer paper, tape …)

Page 4 One-Stop Shop

Another table of contents, this time with photos instead of words for the scores of those who managed to graduate from high school and still don't know how to read.

Page 5 - Page 49

Page after page of colorful, creatively displayed Target items sure to send any college student into the gotta-have-that-now mode. And sure to send any parent into the I’m-so-glad-it’s-all-in-one-place mode. Ingenious. Great marketing. I hope they are well rewarded. I have to say though, I am glad that I have one more year before I have to shop for college again.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

It is a fearful thing to hate whom God hath loved.


It is a fearful thing to hate whom God hath loved. 

To look upon another –his weaknesses, his sins, his faults, his defects –is to look upon one who is suffering. He is suffering from negative passions, from the same sinful human corruption from which you yourself suffer. 

This is very important: do not look upon him with judgmental eyes of comparison, noting the sins you assume you’'d never commit. Rather, see him as a fellow sufferer, a fellow human being who is in need of the very healing of which you are in need. Help him, love him, pray for him, do unto him as you would have him do unto you.  

--St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

Friday, June 6, 2008

Camp Gigi

Yesterday was a perfect day. It was so full and satisfying. Of course there were things I didn’t get done, things I intended to do but just didn’t “get around to it.” Three loads of laundry are still piled high in the basket waiting patiently to be folded and put away and Mike’s contacts still need to be picked up at Vue Optique. But it was a perfect day, because I learned a secret.

I learned a lesson that I hope will stay with me for a very long time and continue to find new ways to express itself in my everyday, run-of-the-mill life. I’ve learned a secret for how to live in the present. There are treasures laying in wait in present moments and I want to find them. Here is my secret: Name an event. Name the activity. OK, I’m just trying it on for size but here’s how it worked yesterday.

I’m a grandmother. More accurately I’m a grandmommy and my two little granddaughters live right here in town, only ten minutes away. So, naturally I get to babysit a lot. At least two times a week these little punkins come over to play while their mom catches up on adult life.

When the kids come over, they usually just hang out. Once they burst through Grandmommy’s kitchen, they head straight for the stash of toys and settle in for the day. All the while, I’m busy doing my usual things, e-mailing, bill paying, laundry, dishes, phone calls, etc., etc. Periodically during the day, our worlds intersect. “Grandmommy, can you reach that box for me? Can you open this for me? Will you button this for me? Can you tie this ribbon? May I have a banana now? I’ll briefly stop whatever I was doing before the interruption and fulfill the little request. It works out well for all of us. We’re happy. We have a good time.

Well, yesterday was different. Yesterday babysitting went from Good to Wow. Yesterday we had Camp Gigi. (I’m trying to transition from Grandmommy to Gigi. Camp Grandmommy just doesn’t have the same ring as Camp Gigi.) Anyway, Camp Gigi. The day was named. So, what difference does naming an event make? All the difference in the world.

My whole approach to being present to the day, to being present to my grandkids was radically different. I also found, surprisingly, that I was more productive. I was more present to my tasks and even more present to myself.

Earlier in the week Mindy asked if I could babysit for her on Thursday while she had some appointments and ran several errands. I happily agreed. Without thinking, I announced to the girls, “When you come over on Thursday, we’ll have Camp Gigi.” “Hurray!” They both started jumping up and down. (Camp Gigi is inspired by my friend, Bobbie Wolgemuth’s invention of Camp Nanny held every summer, for her grandchildren, at her home in Orlando, Florida.)

When Thursday morning came I found myself regretting the announcement. I had had no time to prepare. There could be no pottery classes, water slides or campfire songs. I wanted to cancel until I could get it all together. But, I’ve lived long enough to know that you CAN NOT go back on your word to a 5 and a 3 year old. Not quite sure what to do, I had a hunch. Maybe their expectations for Camp Gigi were different than mine. After all, they had never even been to a real camp. So I called Mindy and asked her to find out what the girls expected out of today. She called me back, and much to my relief, told me that they couldn’t wait to paint with their watercolors and play in the hose in their underwear. That’s all. … I can do that.

In three hours the girls would arrive, so I had to kick into gear. I made a list of things I HAD to get done today, got dressed and started checking them off one at a time. Bed made, check. Dishes done, check. Grocery list made, check, etc. I started planning their lunch – a no-brainer – macaroni and watermelon. And I considered watercolor paints and back yard hose activities.

Soon, I was off to the grocery store and secured the macaroni and watermelon. But realized I also would need to have snacks. Camp = popsicles. Popsicles and Ice Cream Bars into the basket, check. As I pushed the cart toward my car, my eyes caught sight of the business next door. Hobby Lobby. I got the brilliant idea to run in there and find something to kick the painting activity up a notch. Sure enough I found a beginners Paint-By-Number kit. Perfect. These paints were in teeny-tiny, miniature, individual plastic paint buckets. The girls were expecting the rectangular watercolor pallets that we already knew and loved. These were new and different. One notch up. And the painting itself would be on a board, not just on left over computer paper. Two notches up. Check.

Now back home I popped the popsicles in the freezer. Then I set up the painting station at the kitchen counter complete with Pyrex custard dishes for the water and paper towels for the messes. Thirty minutes until they arrived so I had time to answer a few more e-mails and put a load of laundry in the dryer. To my surprise, it was now almost 10:00 and most of what I HAD to get done was done. Check.

The girls arrived full of excitement and anticipation. The Paint-By-Number activity was a big hit – despite my oldest daughter’s opinion that painting and “staying in the lines” were mutually exclusive.

The backyard hose-play lasted for hours. We played catch-me (with the water) if-you-can, had a “car wash” for the little red wagon, washed “laundry” in my giant-sized stainless steel mixing bowl, washed dolls in the “bathtub,” watered the sad, “crying” flowers, and brought water to the desert – the brown patches of grass. On and on. I absolutely LOVE to see kid’s imaginations in full bloom. Talk about inspiration …

All too soon, I was waving good-bye to the campers. The wagon was safely parked in it’s open-aired “garage,” toys and bowls were returned to their proper places and the kitchen counter was wiped clean ready for the return of the head of the house. I was exhausted but so satisfied.

I had been able to accomplish all of the crucial/urgent things on my agenda while also having a string of perfect moments with my two little punkins. I was present for these girls. That feels good. I was able to give them a day that exceeded their expectations and left them wanting more. Next time they want to come to the overnight Camp Gigi. My own expectations were exceeded. My chores were done, the house was put in order before my husband got home and I was already looking forward to another day of Camp Gigi. I can do this. Even without a Leather Workshop and Canoe Trips. Mostly kids just want to pretend, make something, eat watermelon and play with their Grandmommy. I can do that.

Oh, the laundry still is waiting to be folded. Maybe I’ll have to think of a name for doing the laundry.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Root of the Problem

It’s high time that I posted another blog. I find it so hard to write. At some level I’m still “letting the best be the enemy of the good,” as my husband has said.

You’d never know it by looking at my life, but I’m a perfectionist. I completely identified with Karen Anderson’s post on perfectionism. Read it. She says it much better than I could.

Anyway, if I can’t do it “right,” I won’t do it at all. Then nothing gets done. Let’s face it: I have a family of excellent writers. The pressure is ON! But why? I’m not even telling people that I have a blog. And, let’s not forget that my first post (ok, my second) was all about the fact that it’s not about “them.” I’m writing for me.

Today I wrote a letter to a friend of mine. (I’ve changed her name to protect her privacy.) I’ve decided to post it because I don’t want to forget where I am today. And I want the accountability of having this in writing—in “black and white,” for my own sake. If, at some point, you read this, maybe it will be of some help to you. (I can use the word “you” because YOU wouldn’t be reading this if YOU weren’t ... anyway ...)

By the way, you will discover while reading this, that I talk about OA—Overeaters Anonymous. I began going to OA last January 2008. I have committed to going for a solid year. I realize that I have a problem with food. I want to understand what it is and change the way I relate to food.

I’ve tried lots of diets, therapy, supplements, etc., etc., but my weight continues to increase and my self-image continues to decrease. I believe that OA is going to help me get to the real root of my struggle and give me the freedom from compulsion that I long for. Time will tell. In the meantime, I want to be a good student and learn everything I can about this area.

So here is the letter—not written for prime-time—just written:

Hi Julie,

Great to hear from you. I haven’t seen Lisa since she’s gotten back, but from a few conversations we had over the phone she said she had a GREAT time on vacation with you. You are a very special friend to her!

You asked how I was doing. I’ll tell you what I am doing (OA-wise) and what I am very excited about. I am reading the book HOW TO LISTEN TO GOD by Wally Paton. He’s the one who wrote BACK TO THE BASICS, the subject of that “seminar” I went to a few months ago which was two Sunday afternoons for three hours each. He’s dedicated to helping AA people, etc. get back to the spiritual roots of AA. He’s done a lot of study on The Oxford Group, the original group through which Bill Wilson (founder of AA) got sober. Anyway I HIGHLY recommend it. Buy it today! You can get it off of Amazon or from You might consider getting the book BACK TO THE BASICS as well (from the same publisher).

Seriously, I am loving this book and I am trying to figure out how I can lead a study group on it.

Otherwise, the thing that is helping me this week, while I’m at the beach, is not having ANY junk in the condo. Mike and I went to the grocery store yesterday and I was “internally obsessing” over wanting to buy brownie mix or something. I said to him, “Hey want to get some ice cream to take back?” (It is a vacation after all!) He said, “No, not really. Let’s get some of those grapes, they look fantastic. And how about that watermelon?” (He really meant it. He wasn’t thinking of me—trying to “help” me. He was thinking of himself and was just wanting more healthy stuff.) So, no brownies, no ice cream.

I’ve been reading non stop since I got here. When I crave a snack, or I’m just tired of reading ... I head straight for the kitchen ... and grab a handful of grapes, or some trail mix which is sitting out in a bowl. Choosing something healthy is a no brainer. On one level I hate it. I find myself getting angry about it—craving something else. Then I remind myself that this is the problem. This is what I am NOT happy about in my life and I get thankful that the temptations aren’t there. I get thankful that there are some really good alternatives to helping me brake this vicious cycle I’m in. 

I also remind myself of what I really want, to obey the Voice within me that says “No. Make a different choice, a better choice.” But I feel like I’m going through the DT’s. (I guess I am ... detoxing from SUGAR!! ... and detoxing from control ... wanting to be in control) and I don’t like it one single bit. But I know it’s what I want - to be free from the power of sugar, (and self) etc. And it’s what God is leading me to do. I just need to obey His voice within me. That’s my problem! I want to obey my own voice—rationalize, make excuses, make exceptions—and look where it’s taking me.

Truly obeying and trusting God’s voice is what I have such a hard time doing, but only HE can show me what is the right and the best thing for me to do. Only through Him can I break free from my compulsions! But I’m not a puppet. He won’t do it FOR me. I am the only one who can make the choices and take the action. I have to be WILLING to trust Him and do what I know is right. Then I have to DO it. I have to match my prayer with ACTION. HE WON’T DO IT FOR ME ... dang!

Until I started reading this book, HOW TO LISTEN TO GOD, I never before saw or admitted how stubborn I am and how rebellious I am. I cringe as I even say those words because I don’t want to see myself like that. I am the good one. I am the one who loves God and follows Him ... or am I?

Do I really follow Him—in every area? EVERY area? Am I waiting for Him to intervene and do it for me? Am I really lazy, when it gets right down to it? Let’s get honest, Gail ... Well, I am just BEGINNING to get honest. I hate it, but I also am really hopeful for the first time in a long time. I think this has been one of the missing ingredients to my “success.” I have never completely surrendered to Him. I still want to hold on to certain things—to keep control.

So there you have it ... a long answer to a short question. Get the book today! Maybe we can study it together long distance.

(Today I am also making a point to get out and walk. I want to get really consistent with that. I know “moving” is crucial! and good for me in so many ways ... not the least of which is emotionally and psychologically.)

Love you. Make good choices ... “just for today.”


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Blogging - A sermon to myself

It's been almost a year since I wrote a blog. That's right, "a" blog. Just one. What's that all about? I am in a family of writers, a family who thinks about and processes life "out loud." And I really enjoy reading their blogs. So why am I not blogging? Good question.

My answer is probably the answer of anyone else who isn't blogging. Because I have nothing to say. I mean if you write something, which in essence is public, you assume that it will get read by people, right? So if people are going to read something there must be something of interest to read, right? Wrong. It's not about "them."

Last night I was with my friend Karen Anderson and her husband Steve. She's a professional writer and communicator from way back and is trying to flex with the times - technologically speaking. Mike got her hooked up on Twitter - which was a blast to watch. She was like a two year old who just discovered the world of wind-up toys. Then after we left, she wrote her first blog. Though she's had a website forever, she's never blogged. And she was paralyzed to begin. Why? Because she was concerned about what she should say, what she should not say (didn't want to give away all the content to a new book she's writing), who would be reading it, etc., etc. My comment to her was, "You're over-thinking it."

Blogging isn't really about everyone "out there." It's mostly about you/me. (An interesting thought just popped into my head:" It's about me." That sounds very egotistical. But actually that makes it less about me. When "it's about everyone "out there"" it becomes all about me, my ego - how am I being perceived, etc. But when "it's about me," it's not about my ego, it's about my teachability and my ability to be a good student of myself - where I'm growing and where I need to grow. It really becomes about what I'm learning from "everything else "out there"" and how am I being changed - change is life.) In my opinion, blogging is about sharing what's in your heart. It's about living in the present moment, and observing things. Being a good student of life.

Blogging keeps us accountable. It's a great vehicle to keep us moving in life. It forces us to pay attention - to things we want to see and things we don't want to see. There is something about putting things "on paper" which forces us to be true to our word. I hate this and love this at the same time. I hate it because I don't want to be accountable, even to myself. After all, I might "fail" and discover that I'm really lazy or scared or self-centered or pretending, or whatever. But I love that, because I don't want to be any of those things and being confronted with them in black and white forces me to do something. I can't ignore them. Especially if I keep "discovering" them over and over. So there. I've said it. I wrote it. I love being accountable. Because I don't want to stay in my same ruts.

So, my words to Karen about over-thinking now apply to me. I'm not going to obsess about writing for others. (If I do I'll never get started.) I'm going to write for me. And I can put up with imperfections in my writing, so I'm good to go. I'm ready to embark on my treasure hunt. I'm ready to discover everything I can about myself, my purpose on this earth, my Creator, creation itself (people, places, things) and everything else - did I leave anything out? -

The truth is, I do have something to say, even if it's just to myself. And if you want to listen in, then that's OK. But, I'm not writing for you or for "them." I'm writing for me. And if my suspicions prove true, not only will my life be enriched but others will too.