March 31, 2011

On strength

Me: "Wow, this sucks." (Referring to the needle being unceremoniously jammed into my stomach)
Doctor: "Yes, Jennifer, chronic diseases suck."

I was reading some of the posts on the Arthritis Foundation's Facebook page the other day. It was all about how you get others to understand what kind of pain you're in and what it's like to have a chronic disease.

Now I've been accused of a lot of things. With reference to this disease, I'm told I'm too stoic, told I shouldn't act so tough, and even that I'm "not really that sick". All things I've never quite felt fit. But because I've always subscribed to the philosophy that you just put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving forward with your life, nobody really does understand. And I know that's my fault. It's not a matter of denial, either. I know what this disease is and is doing to me. I know what degree of pain I'm in. But does it matter that someone else doesn't get it? And am I really so different from anyone else, just trying to deal with what I was dealt?

Like the woman I work with who earlier in the morning sent me an email letting me know she was going to be out for a while because she was going in for a double mastectomy the following day. Or a friend posting about how worried she was about her disabled child's breathing problems the previous night. Or the woman I work out with who'd canceled her trip to France to be with her mother who is in late stages of Alzheimers. Or the countless others who I knew were bearing burdens big and small, each in their own ways.

I physically hurt. A lot. I hurt daily. Hell, secondly. It's sometimes really pretty awful. And during those really awful times, when I hear others complain about really insignificant things or worse, playing the "Why me?" card, I admit, it can be maddeningly disheartening. And when I try medication after disgustingly expensive medication that doesn't seem to pan out, it gets really depressing. Depressing to the point that I've been seriously considering taking a medical leave from work to try to get my head back together again. (Geez, I almost can't even type that, it's so hard to think about.)

Despite all that, I'm not sure what it accomplishes to try to make others "understand" the incomprehensible. Isn't it a little like trying to explain something in Farsi to an only-English speaker? The color of the sunset to a blind woman? Convincing a Republican to think like a Democrat? Seems pretty futile to me. And at the end of the day, I'm not sure what anyone gains.

Yes, I hurt. But so do a lot of people, unfortunately. Maybe the message for all of us is just to have more compassion for and be more forgiving toward others around us. And stop complaining a little less. After all, we never know what cards the person we're saying it to has been dealt that day.

March 29, 2011


Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation... even so does inaction sap the vigour of the mind." - Leonardo da Vinci

I've been thinking a lot about action vs inaction these last few weeks. When is the cost of not acting more than the cost of actually doing something? Of saying something? At what point is it worth extending effort to try to move that boulder up the mountain? At what point is it just better to cut your losses and move on to the things that can actually improve?

This has been a constant topic with C-man, as he encounters other kids who may or may not be nice to others. What's the right thing to tell him? To teach him? To show him? In the end, what do I want him believing in as he grows up?

It's an incredibly poignant question right now, because I really try to trust the people around me. I want to believe they're good in their hearts. But lately, I've experienced so much selfishness, so much meanness, and such deeply rooted lies - lies I think the tellers have come to believe themselves they've been told so many times, that it's kind of rocked my foundation.

And so now with all that in mind, I sit questioning if it's worth pushing that boulder up the mountain, or if letting it roll down the hill to smash itself once it reaches the bottom of its pit is the better option.

March 28, 2011

Favorite places

We all have our favorite places to go in our lives. Those places that find the calm inside us (Praia do Futuro, Fortaleza). Places that are beautiful and great fun (Brier Island, Nova Scotia). Places that just feel right (Luzern, Switzerland). I could go on and on and on all day on my favorite places to be and go around the world, and explain why they feel good to me.

But this one pictured is one of my favorites and happens to be the one closest to home. It's only a mile from my door, and then a long, steep walk down a pretty big hill. Rain or shine, cold or hot, it's always changing and always beautiful. And it somehow always seems to mirror my mood.

I love the old, broken piers and the texture they give to the endless water. Sometimes they're pieces of my photos. Sometimes, great solid spots for me to rest my tripod while I take photos of the super moon. Sometimes they're launching pads for a crazy little boy on a hot summer day. Sometimes they're beached whales while we're explorers. And sometimes, they're nice resting spots for me to sit on while I dangle my feet in the water.

I love this place, so close to my home. It calms me. It invigorates me. It is my favorite.

March 27, 2011


I've been POD (parent on duty) all week, while Beerman was in San Francisco. And we've had quite a week! We muddled through some friend problems at school (Let me please say here and now that once again I was shown that there really is no substitute for an amazing teacher!), made cookies, built birthday Lego ships (5 of those picky little suckers!), did homework, wrote all 28 thank you notes to generous gift givers, did some science experiments, went on nature walks, saw Rango, hung out at the library, scooted everywhere, visited a few parks, read books, made pancakes multiple times, and actually found a pair of jeans that fit him (5s are too small, but many 6s are way too big).

Whew. That was a lot of good stuff, and we still have a play to see today.

March 26, 2011

On sticks

"Hey Mom, you know what's great about a stick?"
"No, what?"
"They're awesome."

March 25, 2011

On the journey

I like finishing. (Preferably first, but that's a whole different issue.) I love the end of a book. I love the credits on a movie. I always loved the sound of my foot as I tap home plate. Finishing is incredibly gratifying to me. That whole "enjoy the journey" shtick has always kind of been lost on me. And having things open-ended or unfinished makes me totally batshit crazy

Which is why knitting can be really frustrating. Not only do projects take a long time to complete, but there are days, weeks even, when my hands won't cooperate to let me do anything at all. And during those times, I have to sit and look at my partially knitted piece of work, waiting for the day I can pick it up again.

But I like knitting a lot. I love seeing the tangible evidence of my own hands slowly take shape. I can look at something and say that I transformed that ball of yarn into something useful, and sometimes even beautiful. I love being able to give someone something, even if they don't know how much work and money it took to complete, and know that it was created by me.

Yet somewhere in this sweater project I've been knitting since the beginning of the year, I began to realize that there is something special in that metamorphosis process. I love seeing it in everyone else - my son as he grows older, the trees as they leave winter and bud into spring, the caterpillars that will be emerging soon - so why do I resist it so much? Now don't get me wrong, I'm still going to be really pleased with myself when it's all done. (And probably the heat of the summer by the time I'm done, but whatever.) But I've been able to enjoy the transformation along the way a bit better. Now if I can just develop that patience with the rest of my life.

On a totally separate note, ring out a hoya!

March 24, 2011

Thursday thirteen things I need to stop doing

  1. Getting injected with this new medicine. It now gets injected into my stomach once a week for 15 excruciating seconds. I feel like total crap after. And THEN I made the mistake of reading how they make it (from Chinese hamster ovary cells). Do I need another reason to quit?
  2. Throwing my bra on the floor at night before I flop into bed. Some weeks, my bedroom could be some sort of bizarre bra art exhibit, the way they're artfully strewn everywhere. Because, of course, I'm too busy to pick them up in the morning. And then at night, another just gets added to the pile.
  3. Watching Parenthood. I had such high hopes for it, but at the end of the day on a Tuesday, I don't need all that real-life awfulness to bring me down. Plus, the story line is going nowhere fast.
  4. Planning on getting my nails done. Somehow, it always falls to the bottom of the list, and I end up with sketchy looking toes. I think it'd be better if I just sucked it up and realized that nails are a 6 times a year gig, tops.
  5. Playing Words with Friends before bed. I wake up in the night thinking of new great words I can play.
  6. Going to the book store to browse. I never just browse. And I now have about 10 books waiting to be read on my nightstand.
  7. Trying to decide on the perfect color for my living room and just paint the damn thing. When the neighbor kid comes over and quizzically asks, "What is going on?", it's time.
  8. Expecting Harry to not sleep on the couch. Or the bed. Instead, I need to remember it's his house we're living in.
  9. Eating wheat. I did it for a month back in January, and felt amazing. Well, for me, at least. And I don't know if it's the cause, but my hair stylist freaked out at how much my hair had grown that month. I can totally tell the difference when I'm eating it. I think I just need to stop. But that's pretty hard. So maybe I just need to cut way back.
  10. Hating the treadmill so much. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a necessary evil when the weather's bad, and thinking about it as grueling makes nothing better.
  11. Being so short tempered. I've been feeling pretty crummy lately for a variety of reasons, but I've been taking it out where I shouldn't.
  12. Getting travel magazines. They're rarely where I want to go. Or at least can afford to go. Although, the photography in them is usually amazing.
  13. Drinking so much coffee. My consumption has gone through the roof, and it's not helping anything. Time to cut back. (Sob)

March 22, 2011

Rainiest of days

On this, the grayest and rainiest of days; a day that I sit at a conference table above butt-ugly conference carpeting; a day that I'm wishing I were home curled up with my baby on the couch; a day that sees my hands swollen, red and useless, I thought we could all use a little sunshine.

March 21, 2011

Two hands

My dear, beautiful son. Today, you turn six. That's no longer a baby, but an age that requires the use of two hands to display it properly. Was it really six years ago that you came into this world so abruptly, butt first? (You've been doing things your way ever since.) Six years since I held you in my arms that very first time? Since you became my "just one"? My, how time passes in the blink of an eye.

While it is short in the scheme of your life, during those six years, I've learned so much more from you than I knew possible. I've learned that life shouldn't be so serious. I've learned that smashing things can be as fun as building them. I've learned that for some people, making friends is as easy as drinking water. And I've learned that it is possible to love someone else more deeply than your heart can handle.

You have great dreams of being everything, from a book illustrator to a police officer; a true testament to your thirst for learning. You are a fantastic story teller who is happiest when others are paying attention to what you have to share; something that will serve you well in the long-run. Your competitive spirit will lead you to great things, as long as you learn to leave some of that frustration behind. You let life and its events affect you deeply. And while this is at times an asset, I also hope that you learn to let go of the things you cannot control so that it does not eat away at your beautiful spirit.

But of everything you are and want to be, it is your ability to love others unconditionally that I most admire. Your desire for everyone to be friends and happy together, and your willingness to facilitate that happiness, that I find so beautiful and endearing.

There are so many things I can't wait to teach you. So many things I want you to know about and to experience. And there are so many other things I wait for you to teach me with your cute one-dimpled grin and infinitely curious ways.

My wishes for you are many. But most of all, I wish for you to know you are loved more than anyone has ever been loved. Happy birthday, my beautiful boy.

March 20, 2011

Party survivors

Sort of super

When the moon is 135 miles closer than it was the last time it was in perigee (January), what else can you do, but drag your family to the park to walk them down half icy, super steep steps that were probably built 50 years ago to Lake Michigan after dark? At least I'd remembered a flashlight.
We were at a baseball party, so missed the moonrise. And it was pretty cloudy, so I kept getting hazy pictures. But it finally broke through the clouds for a bit.
We ran into some friends who were there for the same reason as us, so did the walk with them, too. And then we ran into some tattooed guys who had a really fantastic bonfire and called them our friends too. I was thankful, because it kept the kids happy so I could take a few more photos.
Between the fire, the treacherous walk, the baseball party we'd just come from, being outside all day in the springlike air, and it being a half-hour past his bedtime, C-man fell asleep in the half mile from the park to our house.
I'm so glad winter is over.

March 19, 2011


You know how some people are thought of as "old souls"? Those people who seem to have wisdom and thoughtfulness beyond their years. I've always thought of C-man as one of those people. And now, as he insists on exclusively wearing white short-sleeved t-shirts and Chucks like it's 1957, I'm totally convinced he's an old man in a 6 year old's body.

March 18, 2011

On truth

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.” -Elvis Presley

March 17, 2011

Irish Family History Lesson

To say I'm not Irish is a pretty fair statement. That's because I have to track back to the 1100s to get to the Emerald Isle. The good news is, that my family didn't just live there, they owned it.

My most recent Irish heritage is Aoife MacMurrough (1145-1188), whose anglicized name is Eva; who is sometimes even referred to as Red Eva of Leinster.

Aoife's father, Dermot (Diarmait MacMurchada), was ousted as King of Leinster. He asked King Henry II for help. In exchange for the troops and his crown back, he pledged his daughter to Richard "Strongbow" de Clare.

Not much is known of Eva, as is to be expected of a woman in her time. She had 2 sons and a daughter and is inexplicably buried in Wales. There is a statue of her in Carrickfergus Castle, although no one seems to have a photo of it.

And that, ladies is gentlemen, is about as Irish as I get.

In other non-Irish happenings, Happy birthday, Cole!

March 15, 2011

Melting snow

Be melting snow. Wash yourself of yourself. -Rumi

The snow is supposed to melt in a big way this week. And that always leaves behind a wet, sloppy mess that threatens more flooding. But it also leaves behind the water for the trees to begin to warm up and bud.

Personally, I've been in my own sort of winter, not growing or learning anything new; just stagnating. And as the snow melts, I find myself waking up to the possibilities of cleaner, healthier days. Days filled with who and what I want to be, not filled with other peoples' baggage and bad choices.

I can be anything tomorrow if I just start today.

March 14, 2011


This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Each one of us has so many facets; so many likes and dislikes; so many identities; so many personalities we portray. Yet they all make up the one whole, held together by the core of what we believe to be true.

Lent, for me, is a time to pause and reflect on who I am in each of these segments, and what that says about me as a whole. It's a time to reassess what my own essence is through the lens of my own beliefs and faith. It's a time to assess what I won't tolerate, and then gives me the time to purge my life of it. It is, most importantly, a time for me to reflect on all the different parts of me so that I can make each of them better.

You know, kind of like a faith-based New Years. Except without any of the noisemakers or fondue.

March 13, 2011

Impatient wait for summer

It's a beautiful day today. A rare March day that actually requires sunglasses. So Harry and I took a walk along the lake. The ice shelf is slowly breaking up. But the entire pier is still engulfed in ice. And so, my favorite picnic table patiently waits. As do I.

March 12, 2011

Marching on

March continues on in what feels a little like a death march beneath the gray skies. Beerman mentioned that C-man's party is next weekend, and I had a little internal freakout. But the cake is ordered, the babysitter is hired to help out, and the goodie bags are stuffed (minus the candy, because I'll eat it if I get it too soon), so I think we're in good shape.

Working out has become mostly a routine now, which is good. It sure does make me feel loads better.  (I know this, and yet, I fall back into the pattern of not doing it. Which is dumb. I'm glad I'm in a healthy pattern right now.)

We're also finalizing our plans for next month's New Mexico trip, which can't get here soon enough. It looks like we're doing an overnight camping trip in the Rio Gorge with llamas, which in theory sounds like a total blast. I've already got my new camera lens picked out that I want to take on it. My new best friend Stu at the camera shop is just so old and sweet, I barely noticed as he was totally suckering me into coveting a ridiculously priced lens. Damn that Stu and his sweet camera loving ways. ("Just go outside and get the feel of it and tell me what you think.") At least I have a birthday coming up, so it's sort of justifiable. Sort of.

March 11, 2011

March 10, 2011

Swimsuit season?

The snow has been beautiful. But honestly? I'm kind of over it. Last night we went into the local Lands End store to get some new gloves for C-man because his have become beyond embarrassingly sad. I had been hoping I wouldn't need to get him another pair, because, well, it's March. But I couldn't not do it anymore, they are just that sad. Despite the fresh snowstorm and Lands End being a Wisconsin-based company, all there was for us to buy were swimsuits and goggles. In March.

Now I understand the theories of retail - push the next season to get people buying more over a longer period of time. But it's March. In Wisconsin. If there wasn't snow everywhere, our skin is still so pasty white from it not seeing the sun for the past 4 months, we glow brighter than the snow that's on the ground. So a new swimsuit is not what I want to be putting on my body, thankyouverymuch. Just let me have the darned gloves! (Thankfully, Lands End provides free shipping, and a bright red pair to C-man's liking should arrive at our house tomorrow.)

March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday

I informed C-man that he's dessert-free for Lent. He did not feel like my answer of "fruit" was an appropriate one when he asked what sweet stuff he was supposed to eat. You'd think I was torturing the child.

I'm also torturing him, because we arrived home and one of his presents I'd gotten for his birthday was at the door, and I wouldn't let him open it. He actually wouldn't speak to me for an hour, he was so mad.

I debated whether or not to eat one of the paczkis in the office today. After all, I worked out really super hard last night. To the point that I think I've finally revved my metabolism up, because I was dreaming of eating a giant steak. So after much consideration, I ate the paczki. After all, it's Fat Tuesday. And I did work out last night.

March 7, 2011

Birthday month

It is officially C-man's birthday month. And because he is my child, his extensive and long-thought about list has been created (The darned thing should just say "everything except Justin Bieber stuff", because that's what it's come down to.) And the surprises from the UPS and mailman have begun to arrive, making arriving home from school a celebration in itself.

The responses to the birthday party continue to all come in as "Yes" (So far, not a single "No" in the bunch, so we hired one of his babysitters to help. Because seriously, 23 six  year olds in a bowling alley? CRAZINESS!)

But not only is getting the presents glorious and indescribable fun, the boxes they come in then double as hamster houses, C-man forts, battlefields, and TV watching huts.

Being almost 6 is really cool.

March 6, 2011

Wrapping up the weekend

The weekend is almost over. And more than normal, it feels like it's coming to an end too soon. So I'm going to spend the few moments of it that are left with my family. Well that, and searching for a non-toy that starts with "T" that can be taken for tomorrow's show and tell, too. Here's wishing you the best on your remaining weekend moments, too.

March 5, 2011

Starting today

Wednesday night, I was running on the treadmill. To say I hate the treadmill might be an understatement. It's boring and grueling. But in spite of that, something sort of excellent happened while I was sweating piggishly, grumbling along every single step. The woman in front of me had on a t-shirt that said, "I can do anything tomorrow if I start today." And as I stared at that for 50 minutes, something about that really hit home.

You see, inertia is a real problem for me. I have great intentions in my head, but to get up and do what I mean to do is a bit of a stretch sometimes. And I'm not just talking about exercise here. So I think that "I can do anything tomorrow if I start today" might just become my new mantra when I don't feel like doing something. I've missed having a mantra. It's good to have one again.

March 4, 2011

Giving up and out

Lent is starting next Wednesday. (Which reminds me, I need to order my paczkis!) So it's time to start thinking about what I'm going to do during Lent as my constant reminder of my own faith and beliefs.

One school of thought says you should give something up. Another is against that, and thinks you should do something for others. I'm in the camp of "both". The giving up something simple in my daily routine is a constant reminder to me that it is Lent. While doing something for others teaches me and my family that we need to do more with less and help others get more.

The overall focus on my Lent this year is going to be on patience and positivity. My patience has gotten too thin lately, and my negativity has gotten too big. And it hurts those around me. Life is short. Why would I want to continue to hurt those most important to us with petty grudges and insignificant things? So I'm going to do my best to stop the complaining about things little and big.

I'm also going to start donating more to the local shelters. They desperately need food and money, two things I'm incredibly blessed to have. Plus, it'll help C-man to see the shelters and what it means to be homeless a bit better. So every Saturday, I'm going to make sure we make a trip to one of them to give what we can.

And I'm also going to give up chocolate. Because seriously, that's just plain ol' hard.

March 3, 2011

Weekend bound

Everyone is back to work and school today. Just in time to whoop it up for the weekend.

March 1, 2011

Another week

On the way home from work yesterday, I listened to Bob Uecker call the Brewers win over the Giants 10-9. I also listened to the Giants fans shout, "You suck!" to their own players, which made me giggle, too. Idiots. But hearing those promising sounds of spring made life that much sweeter, making walking in the door to a husband who continues to ail from strep throat and a son who came home from school with a 102 fever and an apparent raging ear infection, that much easier. (How does a child with a bloody red ear drum on Monday be the same kid who was doing underwater flips in the pool for an hour without complaint on Sunday?) The two of them are so sad looking, and I feel so helpless.

But it appears Beerman is on the mend, although thankfully still at home today. C-man is on antibiotics now too, although I always doubt the effectiveness of antibiotics for ear infections. And so far, I'm still among the living, which is positive. Since I don't have an immune system, I'm crediting my twice daily use of the neti pot and the 4 times a week sweat out in the gym for helping with that. (If I come down with something, clearly, the gym wasn't helping and maybe I should consider quitting.)

I'm slowly getting my act together for C-man's birthday party. We invited 23 kids, (his class plus a few other friends) thinking a few would bail. How wrong I was! So far, we've gotten 16 responses, and all are coming. Maybe I need to hire someone to help us! It's a comic superhero theme at the local bowling alley. I really wanted to get the kids capes to wear, but they're way expensive for 23 kids. And then we watched the Incredibles again the other day, and was reminded that we really should have no capes! So the good news about Borders closing its store is that I could get comic books for 40% off. That, a mask, and some candy will be the goody bag stuffers. (As an aside, I'm taking 23 kids bowling, feeding them, shoving their gullets full of cake, AND I have to give them stuff to leave with too? Who started this stupid tradition?) A March birthday is such a pain.

In other randomness, you may remember on the way-back machine that I spoke to the people at myheritage about my family tree. They decided to feature me on their blog, and it's up today.