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On the reading list

Michigan Blue Sky
Michigan Blue Sky (Photo credit: alexis22578)

Rereading Strengths Based Leadership, skimming through why it’s important to lead with trust, compassion, stability, and hope. This was recommended by a former co-worker.

I’m about half way through Wire to Wire a novel by a board member with my paying employer. It takes place in Michigan. It’s a dark look at my home state. I want to say, “Not the Michigan I grew up in!” But, I can’t put it down. I’m falling in love with the betrodden character, and I’m sensing the dark ending with the hinted foreshadowing. What’s strangest is that this author is an acquaintance. I wonder if it’d be like meeting Stephen King. A mild-mannered man with these dark creations at his finger tips…

Next on the shelf is The Sustainability Revolution: Portrait of a Paradigm Shift. A co-worker had this book on his desk. One day, I had to leave him a note – not something I normally do. I couldn’t help but pick it up. I asked if I could borrow it. I now have my own copy. I haven’t started it yet, but it’s on the shelf. Given that sustainability is my main area of focus…

Another co-worker (sensing a trend here?) linked a snapshot of this book (The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards: A 59-Minute Guide to Assuring Your Organization’s Future). I found the snapshot very intriguing, as habit building always seems like good sense to me. It was a little spendier than I normally put out, especially for something that is supposed to take an hour to read. But, I like the logic thus far. I am hoping to apply the themes to all three organizations where I spend my time.

For continued self-discovery, I’ve got The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World on hand. I’ve actually left this one at work. It seems I work amidst a lot of introverts. Our office, I think is 75% introvert. This surprised me as I collected the responses from my informal poll. I sort of imagine the world divvying itself up neatly more or less 50/50. But, we also have a staff that is composed mostly of women. Not all the women are introverts.

I have a series of Facilitation books that I am skimming and rereading. I bought them a few weeks ago. I need to adjust the budget to allow for a book allowance.

Next up, on the shelf but not read:

Sometimes I wonder why I don’t read more. I schedule in time for certain “shows”. I know why though. Some days, my brain just needs to watch pretty pictures flash across a screen. My bedtime reading usually lasts about 10 minutes before I’m out, like a light.

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The Sounds I Hear

The Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean

The glass door is open maybe three inches. It is a dull roar, punctuated by the clear sound of crashing waves onto the flat beach. The heater behind me adjusts. My husband rolls over in bed. Levi is silent.

We are at the beach.

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The Magic Closet

Our open house, for work, was tonight. We had about 200 people come and go in the three and a half hour block. It was a grand time. People visited, ate, and drank. And, people needed to store their coats. We have a coat closet in our new space. Yea! It’s not huge, but it’s up front, and we even have hangers. We only have, though, 16 hangers. 16 hangers that I bought our first week in the space. I manned the door for the first hour and half, left to get Levi, and returned with an hour left. While I was there, we never ran out of room in that closet. Every time I looked in, there were barely any hangers left. But, every time I directed someone to the closet, there was magically another hanger available for use.

The miracle of the magic closet. It’s like a modern-day version of the loaves and fishes, without the punch of … you know … feeding people.

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Levi Turned Five

Today, Levi had his fifth birthday party. Yesterday, it was really his birthday. Although, all day yesterday, Levi declared that he would not turn five until his party. And, today was his party.

I planned, since last year, to have a place-based party. That is, a place that isn’t our home. I looked at the community center, indoor castles, art clubs, jumping houses … and I settled on the bowling alley. It offered the least expensive option and is closest to our home. What was included? Pizza, soda, bumper lanes, table cloths, paper plates, napkins, and cups. The best part was it was set for an hour and not at our house.

The kids (and parents!) had a blast. About 11 kids showed up. What a change from my fifth birthday where I could only think of two friends from my new school to attend. We tried to go sledding, but as mine is also a February birthday (late), snow in Michigan is hit or miss, and there was only mud. Here, the kids were set for success. We put some names up, but it served to semi organize chaos. Occasionally, the kids paid attention to the names, but they were free to run, play, eat, drink. And they did all things.

As adults, we visited with each other in rotation – what would be expected of such a party. It was amazing to me how full the small space were allotted looked. We even have plans to do this again next year. Same place, but just get an extra lane.

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”alexix22578″ id=”72157629281525045″]

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Ear Buds

I don’t know anyone who dislikes music. I only know people who like music in varying degrees on the musical spectrum. I enjoy music. I concentrate better with music (sometimes). I listen to music improve my mood if I’m grouchy. I listen to music to calm me down when I’m frustrated, like when driving in rush hour traffic. So, although I’ve enjoyed music, I’ve never invested in it like some people make a point to do.

I’ve owned a small radio, a CD player, a larger radio (still under $100), one tuner (now broken), and a $20 mp3 player (now missing parts!!). I own maybe 30 CDs. I love music, I just don’t invest in it. I buy books. I buy art supplies. I don’t usually buy music. I am not hip on new artists (or even old artists). I know what I like when I listen to it. I often say things like, “Oh! That guy!”

Regarding technology, in general, I’m usually a few years behind the most recent thing. I buy mid-grade computers when I buy them new. And, that’s only happened twice. Afterwards, I refurbish the parts, and often use Open Source software. I have only purchased two mobile phones. two in 6 years. I received phones from relatives in between. so, now, I have a new, fancy phone that is new technology, and a little more than midgrade!

This phone happens to be a built-in music player (and camera, and video recorder, and email, and calendar)… yes… a true “personal computer“. The phone came with ear buds, but like most ear buds, they didn’t work for my ears. So, I bought fancy new ones. A co-worker called them “gummies”. I didn’t even know they had a nickname.

Well these little buggers work. I have never, in all my limited music listening (save one experience with a pair of snug fitting Bose headphones), had a personal music device that sounded so .. good. Without music, like some Bose headphones, it works as a white noise filter, blocking out various background noises. With music, that’s all I hear. Even when turned down low. (Okay, I can hear the phone ringing at work too.) It was an amazing experience, when I first tried them. My husband and child were chattering in the room, just feet away from me, yet I couldn’t hear them. I was in a crowd, but it was nearly silent.

Going from old technology to very new is an exciting process. The phone I had before was a first generation (phone) touch screen that barely registered my swooping finger. The software was buggy and the sound quality was awful. I get my shiny new phone with ear buds, and it’s like the world has been revolutionized.

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Setting Expectations

Fixing Bicycles
Fixing Bicycles

This concept, I find very interesting. In some instances, expectations are clearly defined by the type of event it is. You are invited to dinner, the expectation is that you will consume dinner. If you go to an interview, there would likely be an expectation of questions asked and answered. Some situations are less clear, like if you were going to some sort of information summit – you might not be clear on what type of information is to be received or what would be relevant to your every day life. As a parent, I am even more amazed at how I feel like I need to set proper expectations. Sometimes I remember, and sometimes I forget simply because I assume the expectation should be obvious. But, to a four year old? Probably not.

Today, I needed planner-page refills. I use Franklin Covey‘s system. I love it. I have used it for going on five years now. I happened to start my system in July, so April is my time to fill up on planner pages. Like my cousin Jodi, I too enjoy a good handbag/shoulder bag. Franklin Covey has a rich supply of these too.  I find myself perusing their website pages, often, trying to decide which new theme or bag would suite me. There is a retail outfit between work and home. Sometimes, I like to stop in and see if the bag I’ve been coveting digitally will work as the real deal. This means examining the cut, the size, the stitching. This also means transferring the planner and perhaps the wallet and a few other purse staples into the bag to see if it will fit all my stuff I cannot live without. If I’m coming home from work, this means taking the kiddo in tow. This often means taking the kiddo with me because the shop has restrictive hours for our schedules.

I have, on occasion, forgotten to cite the proper expectation. Parenting, though, is both training for child and adult. The store is spacious. There are many shelves, tables, and of course bags. Lots of things to click and turn and look at. It’s both amazing for adults and children. It’s especially amazing for a child who likes to crawl under, run around, or open things. Momma rarely gets a good browse in when the kiddo is in tow — unless the husband is also present to navigate the kiddo curiosity. Sometimes, I have set the expectation, but the space, the things to look at, the things to touch – it’s all too much for the curious kiddo. Usually, the clerk politely stands behind the counter, posture getting stiffer, mouth tensing. “Hmm,” thinks my brain, “she thinks my kid is out of control! Please don’t judge me! He’s not always like this! It’s just this store …..”

Today, we walked in. I am at least a week overdue from refilling my planner pages. I really wish they’d have them printed and ready six months before my year is up. I am much more comfortable with 18 months worth of planning instead of a mere 9-12. Alas, it could not be so this time – our vacation took precedence too. Today, was the day. I work from home one day a week, which means four-9s and one four hour day at home.

I said to Levi, “Okay, how do we behave in the store?”

He said, “Uhm,” looked down with focus, “like a Big Boy.”

“Yes!” I exclaimed. “And, what does that mean?”

“Uhm, no running, and be quiet, and, and, and, no running.”

“Yes.” I said. After so much repetition, so many times of trying to set the expectation. He got it. He is getting it. Oh, the light. I see the light. And, the kid did all right. He wasn’t perfect, by any stretch. But, compared to the last time we were in that store, he was leaps and bounds improved.

Growing up is such a fascinating thing.

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Potty Training

Little Levi Sunshine
Peter reading a "Little Miss" book to Levi. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I blamed the frequent night-time urination for the reason we stopped using cloth diapers. But, in retrospect, I think it might have been the poop.

I hate poop.

Let me repeat myself.


Hate it. Really really hate it.

If it’s dried out in a bag labeled “steer manure”, I can dig it. A bag of bull shit is good for the tomatoes.

But poop, that you have to clean off with your hands, or a brush which in turn you need to clean off the brush with your hands. And, where do you put it all? It all doesn’t float all nicely in the toilet. Oh no. You have to scrub it. A lot. You have to treat it. You have to soak it.

Yes, in retrospect, I think it’s the poop. The poop is why I changed to disposable. I wanted the sanitized throw aways where my hands didn’t need to get near the poop. Sure, I soaked the cloth diapers – but after we were in Michigan for 4 weeks, something changed. My patience lessened, and I just couldn’t deal with it. Either way, we were looking at a cost for a bigger investment in cloth or a more expensive, easier to budget cost of disposables. We chose disposables, and this retrospect thinking encourages I pushed it for avoiding poop.

Now, enter potty training. Today, Levi is four years and six weeks old. He began potty training in 2009. He was 26 months old when he started. Right away, he picked up on the mechanics. Unfortunately, the daily ritual daycare provided only lasted two months. Exponentially, from when he left daycare, his interest in going potty declined. Peter and I, perhaps, expect too much of our young person, and we wanted him to feel the urges to go and go, right away. He knew the mechanics, so what’s the big deal? Oh, how short our memories are.

Confession. I still wet the bed until I was in 4th grade. I am not sure of my husband’s potty practices, except that I do know we both go when we have to go as adults. The whole definition of being “potty trained” I find interesting. Especially wrapped in with when I stopped wetting the bed. What does fully potty trained mean? Going to the bathroom on your own 90% of the time, even if 80% of the whole is under the guise of peer pressure and constant reminders to go? Does “fully” mean when we’re in adulthood and 99% of the time we are without accident? What does it mean when we age and we’re back in diapers? Does “potty train” simply mean an adult isn’t burdened with wiping our butts? How far does this spectrum go – because it is a spectrum!

Well, Levi would fall into the he knows the mechanics, but needs to be reminded constantly to listen to his body. We’ve been reassured countless times by peers and his pediatrician that he will go when he is ready. After year 3, bribes (stickers, candy, chocolates, other rewards) are moot. We are heeding part of this advice. After one of these poopy-in-the-underwear incidents, I asked Levi why he won’t go in the toilet. I had to reword this query three times. He answered my suspicions: he likes being changed. I don’t know what about it he likes. If the poop is on his bum longer than a minute, he breaks out in these awful hivy, localized bumps. The only cure is diaper cream and a baking soda bath. So, I proposed a bribe. If it’s quality time he wants, there are a million ways in which we can have better, more interesting, more fun, and less gross quality times. The standard should be one book a night before bed. So, every time he goes potty at home (at school he’s dry all day and often comes home in underwear), he will get an additional book added to the nighttime ritual. If he poops in the potty: two. So, if he pooped once and peed three times in the potty, he’d get an additional 5 books for six books total.

It’s been working. Now, mommy and daddy need to be consistent in the enforcing of this bribe. Right away, the reasons bribes don’t work was showcased as he tried to exploit the rule. He peed in his potty and turned around barely having his pants pulled up to pee again, AND, then said, okay that’s two books! No… one full incident. What a concept to explain!

We are still with accidents, but again, this whole thing is a spectrum. If we can just help encourage the listening to your body so he can poop in the toilet instead of his underwear…. well, that’d make my day.

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For the Love of Books

Geek Love
Image via Wikipedia

I love to read. I always have. I was even more excited when social networking put me in touch with applications like Goodreads. Levi and I bought many of 2010’s Christmas gifts in a book store. I was elated at the opportunity to introduce him to the smell of books.

The sliding sound as you pull the book from the shelf. If it’s a hard back, that hollow thump it makes, between the hard covers. The slight creaking noise it makes as you open it. And, the smell. The glorious, beautiful, wonderful smell of a book. The character embodied in a new book, as its dry pages beg to be loved and turned and read over and over. The character of an old book that has been loved, and read and reread, on shelves of differing nature. The stories it tells with the smell between those pages. That dusty, library smell. New printed page smell. The combination of ink and art flowing through to make such an exotic combination within your nostrils.

I love books.

I also love art. And, sometimes, the two intertwine. I was explaining to a friend, for example, that I learned lemon can neutralize the scent of fresh garlic when fresh sliced is rubbed on hands or cutting boards. Geek Love taught me this – a thought provoking book about freakish changes and what people will sometimes do out of desperation.

The Golden Compass
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

The same friend who lent me Geek Love lent me the His Dark Materials collection by Phillip Pullman. The first book in the trilogy is The Golden Compass, where you are introduced to Lyra and her magical Oxford that is a lot like ours but very, very different. Subtleties mastered by authors like Atwood shown in delicate perfection with Pullman. The imagery described by Pullman was so vivid, I created a painting. It’s unfinished, as my painting skills have a long way to go. So, in the meantime, it hangs in our kitchen.

When reading meets my visual fantasies, it is a dream come true. Luxurious words, written in a way that makes the vivid imagery pop – so that the only thing I can do is put pen to paper (or brush to paper, as the case may be) and create it. Even in its imperfect scene, the colors are mostly right. That’s what I saw when Pullman’s words pulled me into his story of Lyra. A beautiful thing happens, to be sure, when the sensory scents of the books co-mingle with the tactile description of art.

I love books.

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What do you mean he can’t listen?

Levi, Christmas, and Cars
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Some aspects of parenting feature “Duh” moments. Sometimes regularly. I can’t believe what a learning curve this is, and how amazing it is to watch, every day. Sorry, terrible twos don’t exist, but terrible threes, and frustrating fours (so I’ve been told), now that’s another story. No one can tell you. But, experienced parents can giggle and chcuckle when you (I) have these realizaitons.

Levi was 18 months old. I was trying to teach him to pick up his toys. Why won’t he pick up the green block, I wondered. Oh, right, he doesn’t know his colors! So very obvious to some, but not something I thought of until then.

What I knew:

  • He should start walking around a year to a year and a half
  • Potty training happens after two years old, but don’t push them because they’ll resist
  • Breast is best
  • Kids in cloth diapers tend to potty train sooner
  • A water birth, in theory, is more “natural”
  • He’ll start talking eventually, and he’ll probably say something embarrassing
  • At some point he’s going to push back
  • He’ll need a schedule, regularity

What I learned while pregnant:

  • He needs tummy time to learn to crawl, get stronger, and eventually learn to walk
  • Breast feed the kiddo until at least 6 months
  • There are these things called milestones!
  • There are an awful lot of recommended shots
  • He has a heart beat at 13 weeks, and boys tend to have faster heart beats in utero

What I started to learn that first year or four

  • Things are going to break and get messy
  • You’ll never imagine how many shirts you’ll change because you’ve been thrown up on
  • Life doesn’t go as planned
  • Kiddos have their own schedule, and we work to accommodate and ensure some regularity
  • Walking at 16 months is not late, it’s normal
  • He will get potty-trained when he’s ready, not necessarily when I am
  • Boys’ hearing develops slower than girls’ hearing

I want Levi to grow up to be compassionate, judicious, fair, have the ability to express emotions, be generous, handy (cook his own food and fix his own cars), independent, trustworthy, honest. He’s smart. We know that. We know he’s smarter than we are. So, I want him to put his brains to good use – fair use, responsible use.

It’s an interesting, humbling ride. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, even if I look at parts of my historic single-life with some longing. There’s something heart-wrenching that fills a biological need when he calls, “Mommy!”

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Time for a Change

Sony Clock Radio
The clock radio I purchased.

Literally, time for a change. It had been my alarm clock since I was in 8th grade. Yes, you may do the math. That is about 18 years ago. Yikes. It stopped working great more than 10. So, finally, we ponied up, and I bought a new alarm clock.

So, what’s changed in the last 18 years?

You could get clock radios before, and I think they even increased their volume in conjunction with the time it takes the owner to turn off the alarm. But, my old one never did that. This one does.

Finally! You can adjust the time for both the clock and the alarm by going fowards and backwards. Who woulda thunk?

It syncs, magically, with radio waves, or something. I plugged the clock in, and it knew the time!

It understands Daylight Savings Time.

It adjust for time zones.

It even recognizes that there is a day, month, and year to its being.

Yes, time has changed a lot in 18 years.

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