Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kindred Spirits

I am one of the luckiest people in the world when it comes to family.  I have amazing parents and three wonderful sisters that I consider lucky to call my best friends.  The older I get the more I realize this to be true. 

My father has always been a man of few words.  He lived in our house with four daughters, my mom, and even when we had pets, they were girl cats.  He never complained even when I am sure we were less than delightful company.   I can't even begin to count the number of people that would ask him how it was to live in our house and he would just smile, never saying any of the things that, looking back, I am sure he had to be thinking. 

Dad could be counted on to be home from work at 4:15 every day.  He was not at all embarrassed to hold my Holly Hobbie sleeping blanket for me at track meets and would just roll his eyes when I wouldn't do the one thing he asked me to do because I would be late for work.  He would sit for hours and explain complicated math problems with the patience of a saint, and I am not proud to say that I was not all that patient with him. 

Now that I am married with my own family I feel a special kinship with him.  I live in a house with my husband, two boys, and our male dog.  Even our African dwarf frogs are reportedly boys.  It is a house full of wrestling, fighting and gas.  I have never gotten to watch "Beauty and the Beast" with my kids, but I can recite "Cars"  and "Star Wars" nearly word for word.  If I step on one more Matchbox Car or Lego I just may lose my mind. 

Often times when I wish that I was playing with and E-Z Bake Oven instead of dinosaurs and Tonka Trucks I think about how my dad must have felt.  He never once made me feel like he wished he had at least some boys instead of all girls.  Since I am the youngest I heard all the time about how I must have been the last try for a boy.  I could always truthfully say to those people that my dad was happy with what he got.  I hope that when people ask my kids they can feel the same. 

I love you, Dad.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Relay For Life

I am the sponsorship chair for our town's Relay For Life.  This is a really big deal to me for a couple of different reasons.  The first is that my family has been affected by cancer more times than it should have, and second, I want my boys to see that there are many ways to contribute to your community besides writing a check. 

A few years ago I got laid off from a job where I was traveling about 10 days out of the month when I had three year old and an eight year old boys.  It was very hard to arrange my schedule and it was truly taking a village to raise our kids.  I am fortunate to have family close by, but sooner or later something had to give.  It was a a blessing when I had the decision made for me to leave this position. 

When all of this happened I had a ton of time on my hands and was all of the sudden thrust into being a full time mom.  Instead of being out in the world wondering what was going on at home, I was home wondering what the rest of the world was doing.  It was one day while I was playing yet another game of basketball when my neighbor came home and said that she had just volunteered to be the chair person for Relay.  I was looking for a reason to get out of my house and meet new people so I asked if I could help.  Before I knew it I was the publicity chair for an event to which I had never been. 

Cancer is a very personal thing.  Ordinarily when one of us gets involved in something you get at least ten of us whether you like it or not.  With this I am the only one that actively participates.  It is just too painful for the rest of my family to join in.  In our family we have lost many family members, but my most personal pain comes from losing Uncle Joe.  He was an amazing man with many talents.  He was an accomplished piano player that could play anything.  If he didn't know a song he would really say, "can you sing a few bars?" and nine times out of ten he could play it from there.  On the holidays he would stay at my house and that is when I really learned what an amazing man he was.  He was funny and loved to laugh.  He never met a sweet he didn't like.  He had an amazing view on life and helped me to see things in a different light.  He was great with Child 1 when he was a baby and we would look forward to his visits.  He had his demons like all of us do, but that made him into the man he became that I came to love with all my heart. 

Relay is an amazing event.  It sounds cliche, but the event has touched me in many ways.  It enabled me to deal with my personal loss and celebrate the amazing man my uncle was instead of keeping in the incredible pain I felt from losing him.  I would encourage you to see if your city is participating and consider joining.  I have met some really fascinating people along this journey that have made an impact on my life.  My kids are excited about being involved and that makes me feel like I am forging some good character in them in the future. 

In short I feel like I am being seen and making a difference.  It feels really good. 

The True Melting Pot

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to do something I almost never get to do.  I went out to dinner with just my sister.  No kids, no husbands.  I really can't remember the last time we did that.  We went to Hibachi Japan where you sit around the grill and they cook in front of you.  I really like this because I can see what the food looks like before they cook it, and also that nobody has a chance to do anything to it.  ( I special order EVERYTHING and always worry that there is spit in my food.)

One of the things about this place is that you sit with strangers.  When you first get there everyone is kind of quiet and reserved.  As the meal goes on people start to loosen up and that is when the fun begins.  Time after time I am reminded that you can not judge a book by its cover.   I have sat next to a photographer that took pictures of all of his food and how the chef was making it.  I have sat next to a man that looked like a skinhead but it turned out that he was a convenience store owner who wanted to scare away potential robbers.  I have sat next to soldiers coming home and even a superintendent of a local school district. 

This trip there was a family that seemed slightly uncomfortable from the very beginning.  They were very concerned about who was going to sit by whom and when the waiter asked how we were going to split the bills there was a flurry of discussions while they decided who was going to pay for what.  One half of the people were into sushi where the other half was more of a meat and potatoes group.  The two people in the middle were a couple.  It was obvious that the others were the families of this couple. 

As we were talking to these people it became clear to me that they thought that my sister and I were a couple.  This was quickly cleared up when we told them that we were sisters, but it brought up an interesting thought.  As I have mentioned before, I go through life thinking that I am invisible to others, not like I have the invisibility cloak or anything, but I always think that nobody notices me.  It was the first time that I was there where i realized that someone else was looking at me and guessing about my life. 

As it turns out, that group of people were there to celebrate a graduation.  Allison was the valedictorian of her class.  The two families  do not spend a ton of time together and that is what was causing the tension.  It is fun to find out what the story is at the table with you.  Once again I was reminded that just as you can not judge a book by its cover, you can not judge the people around you until you take the time to find out the story.

Friday, January 21, 2011

An Open Letter to Mother Nature

Dear Mother Nature,

I am sorry that I complained so publicly about the gift you have given us in the form of snow.  I now understand that like all mothers, you know what is best for us.  We need snow in the winter so we can have enough water to grow the beauty that is to come in the spring.  With a drought comes death.   Snow does have a beauty in its own right, especially when it coats the trees in a light blanket of white and I have nowhere to go and a good book to curl up with. 

Like all petulant children it is my duty to tell you that you are doing it wrong.  I am really thinking that it would be best if we could have some spring now.  We have paid our dues with the white death.  The cold is getting old.  If I were mother nature I would give us a reprieve and let up already.  I would let the crocus start to stick their heads up out of the cold ground.  I would show the world just how loving a mother you can be.  I would let the world have sunlight on their faces and enough warmth that they would not have to shiver in your cold. 

Just saying....

Thanks,

Kate

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter Rant

The winter doldrums have set in.  I am cold and bitter about it.  I am tired of walking around with my shoulders up to my ears and freezing when I walk Child 1 down to the bus stop.  I am ruing the day that we got the dog since he takes forever to decide where to do his business. 

I am tired of driving in snow.  I am tired of seeing dirty black snow along the sides of the road. There is very little that is pretty in January in Ohio. 

I am tired of wearing a coat, hat and boots.  I can never find both of my gloves at the same time.  I hate having to find socks every day, and getting Child 2 to put them on is torture for both of us.  Both of my children seem to have hang-ups with footwear.

I am tired of it being dark all the time.  I know they say that the days are getting longer, but not fast enough for me. I miss the fresh fruit selection with no local strawberries, blueberries or grapes.  I don't really like blueberries, but I like knowing that if I go over to my mom's house and walk down the back yard I could find some in the Smith's blueberry cage.  

I miss seeing green grass and flowers.  I miss leaves on the trees.  I miss the feel of sunlight on my face and I miss sandals and shorts.  I miss having the bathroom window open at night so my towel smells like it was hung outside to dry.  I even miss playing endless games of HORSE with Child 2 when I would like nothing more than to read my book. 

I feel better now.  Thank you for listening.  Only 4 more months until we have reliable warm weather. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Don't Mess with the Chips

There was a bit of controversy at our house the other day.  It was over, of all things, a bag of Lay's Lightly Salted Potato Chips.  Is it so wrong of me to want one thing in my house to be all for me?  Am I asking too much to have the experience of opening the fresh chips without the boys crushing them and wrinkling the bag? 

Dave thinks I have lost my mind. The bag had been sitting on the counter for a few days and he wanted some.  I said I was not ready to open them and he should just eat the bag of pretzels that I always get for him.  He said he was tired of eating pretzels and wanted chips.  One thing led to another and I took the bag and started to flee.   He does not appreciate the delicate chips.  He thinks it is merely a bag of chips to be devoured without really thinking about it.  I do not buy chips very often as I try to watch what I eat.  Recently I have changed my diet to include mostly whole grains and natural sugars.  If it has enriched wheat flour or high fructose corn syrup, it does not go into my mouth.  I say that as I just got home from Olive Garden where I ate two breadsticks and Fetticini Alfredo.  It was not my finest eating hour. 

I love the experience because I only eat about one bag every other month.  I love opening the bag and hearing the pop sound it makes and the smell that eminates from it. I love picking the best chip.  It is usually one that is folded over so when I take the first bite the crunch reverberates in my ears.  I love to have it with onion chip dip that fills the fold.  It is best when I have an ice cold Polar Pop and a good book and nobody around to try to take my chips from me. 

I did open the bag but it was a disappointment.  I was rushed and did not have a pop or a good book.  The kids were circling and reaching and I had to fight them off.  Again, it was not my best eating moment, not to mention not my best parenting moment. 

Don't misunderstand.  I am willing to share my chips, just not when they are first opened.  Once I have had about 4 handfuls I am done and the rest can be devoured by the vultures boys.  After the bag has been opened and I have had my fill,   I don't want them anymore until they once again call to me from the grocery store shelf.  I did go back and get another bag and I think Dave and the kids will think twice before reaching for that bag. 

Is there anything that you want just for yourself?  What is it that you hide in the back of the cupboard so you can eat when nobody is watching?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's in a Name...

I am sure that many of you wonder why I named this blog "One Third Acre Woods". We live in a town that is relatively middle class whereas the town directly north of us is quite a bit more affluent. In that town a lot of the homes have names as if they were on par with "Tara" in "Gone with the Wind." Some examples are "Thirty Acres" or "A Place for Everyone".

Down here in my town, nobody names their land. My sister and I were laughing about that one day and started thinking of names for my house. One that we came up with was "C'ead Mile Failte" which means "A Hundred Thousand Welcomes" in Gaelic. I come from a very Irish family and all are welcome at my house, so it could work.   If I lived in the other town it would be perfect because it sounds kind of pretentious and people would wonder what it meant. I also thought of "Dancing in the Shadows" because we live on a heavily wooded lot and I feel like I dance in the shadows of my family. I love supporting my kids and husband as well as my extended family.  I am the go-to girl for weird jobs that nobody else would ever dare do. For example,  I am the one you call on if you want to take a picture of someone on your camera phone without them knowing.  I am basically a people-pleaser.  I thought that it sounded kind of needy and weak so that was out. 

Finally I decided on "One Third Acre Woods" because we live on 1/3 of an acre that has so many trees in the back yard that we can't get grass to grow.  It is also a play on the hundred acre woods from Winnie the Pooh. 

Now if I lived in the other town I would get a sign made and hang it by the end of my driveway.  Since I live here, I decided to start a blog instead.   If you had to name your home, what would it be?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things...

The Sound of Music

The sound of Colin reading a new "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book. The laugh is contagious.

Graham Crackers and a cold glass of milk after swimming.

My three sisters as my three best friends.

The beach.

A brand new bag of Lightly Salted Lay's potato chips and a cold Polar Pop.

A Polar Pop filled to the top with crushed ice and then topped with Coca Cola.

A night out with Dave.

Clothes right out of the dryer.

Watching the kids sleep at night.

Strawberry Pie with fresh picked strawberries.

The books "Water for Elephants" and "To Kill a Mockingbird."

A night out with the girls.

Magic Bunco Punch.

My luxurious 15 year old Stickley bedroom furniture.

The feeling of waking up in the morning before I start thinking of all the things I need to do.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Help When I Needed It Most

About 10 years ago my mom and one of my sisters dropped in unannounced. It is not unusual for someone in my family to do this, but on that day I knew something was very different. They sat me down and had an intervention of sorts. They pointed out that they could tell that I suffer from a great deal of anxiety, and at that point depression. It was winter and I had a one year old baby. September 11th had just happened and I was worried about losing my job. It was all understandable and relatable to the times we were living in.

They took it a step further and told me they thought it was more than that. They suggested that I go see the doctor, and they would come with me. They wanted a better life for me and were willing to hurt my feelings to get me where I needed to be. They came to the appointment with me and helped me tell my story and filled in the blanks that I couldn't even see.

I have never kept it quiet that I suffer from anxiety disorder. I have never kept it quiet that I take medication to help control it. My mom and sister gave me a great gift that day. They got me help when I needed it the most. They let me see that I am not alone in this and that it is okay, and even responsible behavior to take care of an issue when you know it is adversly affecting your life. There should be no shame in this even when we are told we should have it all and do it with a smile.

I write about this for two reasons. I want people to know that there is help out there for these disorders and there is no reason why you should not seek it. You would seek help if you had heart disease, so why not with a mental disorder. It has made me a better, happier person; a better wife and mother for the people that deserve only my best. The second is to tell you that if you see someone suffering, please, please offer the same hand up that my mom and sister offered me.

Earlier this week there was a mass shooting in Arizona. It was commited by someone that needed this help. It was the classic case of people knowing it was going to happen. Time after time we are hearing of people that are saying that they knew he was a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. His college expelled him and told him he could not come back until he had cleared a mental health exam. While it is true that you can't give help to those that are not willing to see that they have a problem, I wonder if that school offered him any help in finding the medical professional he so desperatly needed. Did anyone in his family see the need to step in and take his hand and lead him to the doctor and stay in there to tell his story?

There is little doubt that this man was not willing or able to acknowledge he has a problem, but what about the countless others out there like him? Is there a future tragedy that might be avoided if we were willing to go out on a limb and show somebody the way?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Eighteen Years

Yesterday was the 18th anniversary of my first date with Dave. Or I should say the first one that Dave intended.

Dave is very shy. He used to deliver the mail to the library where I worked. The ladies always called him Dave the Mailman and told me that I should go out with him. He was cute, manerly, and quite a catch. I thought he was cute as well, but was not in the position to go out with him right then.

We had a class together so I arranged to work on the project with him so I could get to know him better. It just so happened that the guys that lived in the apartment above me were friends with him and also in the same class. For an entire semester I tried to get him to notice me to no avail. I had actually given up on him ever asking me out and had forgotten about it. Eighteen years ago was in the dark ages before computers and the internet were prevelent, and our group was made up of four guys and me. They needed the only woman in the group to type the project so Dave suggested that if I typed the project that he would take me to the movies. Over Christmas break he finally made good on his promise and called to take me out. He picked me up at my parent's house and we went to see "A Few Good Men" I suspected nothing as the evening went on and really thought we were just going out as friends. We came back and watched Johnny Carson and whatever was on after that, and finally he went home. All this time I thought he was just paying on his debt, and then he kissed me.

We had to go out again the next weekend where he took me to ChiChi's and to see "The Bodyguard" so we both knew we were on a date.

That day started us on this journey we call our life. 15 years of marriage and two kids later I am still one of the luckiest people on the planet. Dave is much better at telling me what is on his mind so we are now both on the same page. At least most of the time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Memories

Peter Walsh is a genius.

While watching his show on the new OWN (oprah winfrey network) he said something that was so true it changed the way I am thinking of my clutter problem.

He said that there are two types of clutter. One was memory clutter and one was "I-may-need-this-later" clutter. He then challenged this poor mother who was suffering from memory clutter to pick three items in one minute that she can not live without. She couldn't do it.

This had me thinking about what I would choose if I only had one minute. The key to this was you had to know where the items were located in your house.

The first one was a no brainer. I would take my wedding album. That was, without a shadow of a doubt, the happiest day of my life. It was like living my very own episode of "This is Your Life". All of those people were there to share in my love for Dave, and because I meant something to them. I tend to lead my life in a vaccuum and never really think that I impact people either in a good way or a bad way. I often feel invisible. This is not a good thing or a bad thing, it is just the way I am. That day, more than any other, proved that I do not go unnoticed.

The other things were much harder to pick. I chose my bag of pictures of the kids and my memory cards from my camera. I am not sure that Peter would approve of this because my bag us a huge handled bag from Kaufmanns. It holds A TON of pictures. It is no secret that my kids mean everything to me. They make me laugh and cry almost every day. I love them more each day, so much so that it sometimes hurts my stomach. I am indeed a lucky girl.

The third thing is still up in the air. I think it is the blue bowl that used to sit on Uncle Joe's dining room table. This is probably because it reminds me of all the people that have made such a huge impact on my life. I am not lucky enough to still have my grandparents. In fact, I never even got to meet my dad's parents. Through Uncle Joe I feel like I knew them. My mom's parents were only with me for a short time, but in that time they loved me enough for a lifetime. It is because of Papa that I can not eat the top of my banana for fear of spider eggs, prefer fresh bakery bread to almost any other food, and I always fill my gas tank up when I get to a quarter of a tank. Okay, not always, but when it gets there I think I should.

The power of what Peter said about the memory clutter is that now I know I don't need things to remember. They may bring me comfort, but it is more important to feel serentiy in your house than to see reminders of things that will always be in your heart.

I feel like I have been set free.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year, New Start

I am an Oprah Winfrey junkie. I think she has a way of making me think, and see things from a different perspective. I have had a ton of "aha" moments.

Yesterday was the launch of her own network. Now I can watch her 24 hours a day. My favorite show so far is "Enough Already with Peter Walsh". I feel like I should stand up in front of the world and say "My name is Kate Murray, and I am a clutter bug." I believe Peter when he says that in a cluttered home lives someone with a cluttered mind. Don't get me wrong, I am not a hoarder, but I do have a ton of things in my house that I don't need. The things that I have are not organized at all and it is a dream of mine to get it under control and keep it that way.

It is no secret to anyone that has ever met me that I suffer from a great deal of anxiety. My mind is always going at warp speed in many different directions. I have been working on this for years, and it is a dream of mine to be able to make it slow down so I can live in the moment. I want to be able to focus on one thing instead of trying to take care of too many things at once. There is no way that I can do a good job on any of them. Over the weekend I was watching my sister play with her kids and really be present. If I was doing it I would have been thinking of all the things I could or should be doing, and my kids get don't ever get my undivided attention. One day soon they are going to really understand this and it makes me queasy to think about it.

In 2011 I pledge to get the clutter under control. I have Peter DVR'd and I am going to follow him to the clutter-free promised land. My family deserves better, and I deserve better. This is the year that my dining room table will remain clear, and the year that I will finally be comfortable in my own skin.

Wish me luck, I am going to need it.