“Carry” redefined

On a recent trip to the art museum, my son asked me to lift him up so that he could see something. I consider myself fairly strong, so I thought I’d have no problem hoisting his eighty pound frame a few inches off the floor. I hate to admit it, but I could not budge my not-so-little buddy! This got me thinking about how, not so long ago, I carried him everywhere. First, I cradled him in my arms as he lay snugly swaddled in his blanket. Once he was toddling, I would transport him from place to place, his hands linked behind my neck and legs wrapped around my waist. I looked up the word “carry” in Webster’s New World Dictionary. The first and second definitions (to hold or support while moving and to take from one place to another) adequately describe how we typically “carry” our children in those first years of their lives. My inability to lift Junior signifies that my role as his transporter in the physical sense has expired. (He is eleven years old and just a few inches shorter than me. Pretty soon, he may be able to carry me!)

It appears that I must now use the third and fourth definitions of the word carry, as they more adequately describe how to “transport” a boy who has reached tween-hood. (To hold, and direct the motion of and to cause to go; lead or impel.) My role as my son’s “carrier” is now defined as the path I choose to lead him down-what morals and values I consider important to instill in him. These lessons will enable him to become a loving, compassionate, generous, productive member of the human race.

Years ago, when Junior was just an infant, I worked diligently on filling out the pages of his baby book. There was a page just for dads to jot down their thoughts. One of the things that my husband wrote was, “I want you to become a Mensch.” (For anyone not familiar with the term Mensch, it is a Yiddish word that means “a person of integrity and honor.”) Junior’s dad has missed out on much of his upbringing, however, I hope that he is watching and agrees that I am working tirelessly at carrying his son into “Mensch-hood!”

I Am Woman

Last month, I wrote about my mammogram. Today, it was time for my annual pelvic exam. (I will spare you all the details.) If you are a female over the age of 18, you most likely already know the drill: Undress from the waist down, cover yourself with a sheet of paper, climb into the stirrups and prepare to have every shred of your dignity tossed aside for the sake of the exam.

I look forward to this yearly ritual with the same enthusiasm as one might have towards an ingrown toenail or a root canal, but it has to be done. Years ago, I had a few abnormal pap smears and underwent a few minor procedures to rid myself of those atypical cells. I faithfully show up every year to insure that only normal cells have taken up residence in my girlie parts.

If you haven’t scheduled your yearly exam, be sure to make that appointment. A little embarrassment and humiliation are worth the piece of mind that a negative test result will provide. Enduring a mammogram and pelvic exam is a small price to pay for the gift of being a woman.

Dream Job(s)

Counselor, Writer, Professional Organizer. This is a short list of career paths that I would feel privileged to travel down. I have attempted to complete the requirements necessary to become a licensed counselor, but a family crisis (read: Type 1 Diabetes) put the kabosh on pursuing a counseling degree.  Although I lack formal training as a therapist, I often find myself in situations where I actually provide advice, guidance, or just an ear to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. Perhaps, this is the capacity in which I was intended to fulfill my counseling abilities in this lifetime. No degree required and no income earned, but it is rewarding for this old soul to serve as a life coach for those in need.

Dream Job #2.  If you have read the “Who is Joan” tab on this blog, you know that I have been writing FOREVER (or at least since early elementary school when I could grasp a pencil and actually spell.) I launched this blog on March 1st, and spent the next five or six weeks feverishly cranking out the stories that had taken up valuable space in my ever-shrinking brain. Then, spring arrived, complete with grass-a-growing-that-needs-a-mowing, mulching, planting, yada, yada, yada. (I squeeze the yard work in when I am not working at a paying job, or helping with homework, or walking the dog, or doing laundry, or cooking, or running errands, etc.) It is not surprising that an April “funk” set in and I rebelled. The first casualty of my ever increasing to-do list was writing. I just stopped. It seems that for the time being, Dream Job #2 won’t be a “job” at all. It will be a hobby, such as reading or gardening, or it will be a special treat, like getting a massage or a facial. No resume required and no queries to write! Whew!!!!

Dream Job #3. I am an exceptionally organized person. I am not sure how I actually obtained this particular “gift”, but I think it just may have something to do with being an anal perfectionist. It seems that there is quite a market out there for people who help others create a method out of their madness, or calm out of chaos. (I understand that there are cable TV shows devoted to this very cause.) I am not sure that I will ever host my own “Clear Your Clutter” program or advertise my organizing services, but I do know that I have helped many a folk reclaim a desk, bedroom, office, kitchen, etc.

The moral of this story is that while my resume states that I have a BA in Psychology and am currently employed as an Administrative Assistant, I am also a counselor, writer and professional organizer. I am not reimbursed monetarily, however, I am rewarded and enriched in many other ways. As MasterCard commercials like to say-that is priceless!

Tara the Toro

dsc00312There she is-my brand-spanking new Toro lawn mower. We brought her home last Saturday. Once we unloaded her from the trunk, we carefully extracted her from her cardboard home, extended the handles, and quenched her thirst with gasoline and oil. For five days, she has anxiously been awaiting her debut. Today, was her coming out. She started on the first pull, and when I gave the signal, we were off.  She is self-propelled, and has a self-pacing feature, meaning her speed will match the driver’s walking tempo. I am pretty sure that Junior will have no problem directing her around the yard.

Our previous mower was a Lawn Boy, which was a politically correct shade of green. Tara is fire-engine red, a color close to my heart and astrology sign.  (I was born under the fire sign-Leo.)  I think that we will be a good match.

Show Me the Money

I hate spending money on things I can’t see.  Let me take a moment and explain what I mean by “things I can’t see.” This list would include things like utilities (gas, electric, water), cable TV and frequent trips to restaurants. Now, before you begin thinking that Junior and I live in a cave with no heat, A/C or running water, and we hunt and gather our food as we listen to a transistor radio, let me clarify even more.

We live in a ranch-style home complete with a working furnace and air conditioner, and water does run freely through our pipes. We do occasionally dine out at our favorite haunts, and in the evenings we switch on one of our analog TVs and watch our favorite shows. However, we also practice several conservation habits, which enable us to keep costs down. During the winter months, I keep the thermostat at 67 degrees or below. We sleep in fleece PJ’s in flannel sheeted beds, which helps us to utilize our own body heat when the temps in the house dip to about 61 degrees. In the summer, nearly every room has either an oscillating or ceiling fan to help circulate air and keep the house cooler. We also turn off lights in rooms that are not in use and our fixtures are outfitted with those new compact fluorescent bulbs. We attempt to conserve water by using low-flow shower heads and limiting bathing times. We also only run the dish and clothes washers when the loads are full. These household conservation measures help with two issues. (The old two birds, one stone analogy.) They help us conserve the earth’s precious resources, thus “greening up” our home, and I am able to keep money in my pocket/checkbook/savings account.

Junior and I dine out only once or twice a month. This practice also helps to keep money that I can see and touch in my wallet, and enables me to maintain my “fighting weight.” (This has become increasingly difficult to achieve as my metabolism continues to decrease with the increasing number of candles on my birthday cake. Eating out is a special treat where I can indulge myself for that one meal and then get back on track eating healthfully within my minuscule calorie allotment.) All of this extra cashola enables me to purchase items that I can see, such as new appliances, furniture or knick-knacks for the home, or cute shoes and clothes for my closet.

Oh, and don’t let me forget about that great invention, the television.  I recently mentioned to a male neighbor that we do not have cable or satellite TV. (I refuse to pay to watch the boob tube.) His face looked aghast as he commented to my son, “Not even ESPN?” I am not sure what kind of reaction he might have had if I had shared with him that on more than one occasion, I have considered removing ALL of the TVs from our home. I just may have needed my CPR skills in order to revive him.

Back to the Grind

I managed to write four posts this past week-my scarcest offering to-date since beginning this blog. The reason behind the gaps in entries is that my son was on Spring Break. (I use the word “spring” loosely here, because it snowed TWICE in the early part of the week! No accumulation, mind you, but it still was snow in APRIL!) My son managed two sleepovers during his time off, and we conquered a couple of local museums, where we brushed up on dinosaurs and fine art. We also squeezed in a few chores here and there, and I worked on Good Friday. (Most people took that day off!)

Tomorrow, it is back to real life-schedules, homework, packed lunches, and over-stuffed backpacks.  Despite the chilly, winter-break-like-temps, it was nice to take a breather and have some down time. And, the good news is the last day of school is a mere sixty days away. Bring on those lazy days of summer, along with some warmer air!

A Chip off the Old Block

Junior has been working on a fictional narrative in his fifth grade class. The students have been closely instructed and supervised as they learn about character development, rising action, climax, falling action, etc. His teacher has communicated that the class is doing a great job and are quite imaginative. Junior’s story is entitled, “Dog Heaven.” It is about a family of mutts that have the good fortune of being adopted by the well-to-do Miller clan. The canines-mom, dad, and their four offspring-take up residence on an upper floor of the Miller home. Their private wing comes complete with a butler, personal treadmills, an indoor swimming pool, flat screen TVs and more. The story meets all of the criteria of the assignment, and is typed up, ready to be turned in tomorrow.

I can remember writing lessons of this nature from my own elementary school days. A story about leprechauns, penned by me in the third grade, is my most vivid memory of my earliest attempt at the fictional narrative. Perhaps my son’s short story will inspire him to continue to reach inside his right brain and create more works of fiction. And, if he becomes a better writer than me, I will bow to his lead and change the name of this blog to “Junior’s Jottings.”

Stalked by Sleeping Beauty


I have written a few posts about our lovable Lab, Lexi. We adopted her nearly three years ago from a rescue. She is my first venture into the world of retrievers. (Previous canine companions have included a beagle-poodle mix, a couple of Chow Chow’s and a Rottweiler.) I have been introduced to a few common Labrador attributes, such as their incessant urge to hunt, chronic ear goo and an inability to be separated from their top dog (me) for even a nano-second. It is this last trait which has forced me to label our dog, The Stalker. If I am home, simply going through the motions of the day, she literally follows me from room-to-room. If I head to the basement gym for a workout, she tags along, often standing over me kissing my face as I crunch my abs. If I need a moment for bathroom duties, she feels compelled to follow. Her latest stunt is to jump on me while I talk on the phone. (I am pretty sure she learned this technique from Junior, who still, at the age of eleven, is in desperate need of my attention as soon as I have a telephone receiver in hand.) I have been forced to shut the door and hide from Miss Lexi Lou in an effort to speak on the phone or flush in private.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love our Looney Lab, but some days between Junior’s constant supervision with homework and Lexi’s silent stalking, a girl tends to go a little crazy. Calgon take me away!

Rock-a-Bye Baby


I am hoping to take advantage of the creative juices that have been flowing within me since beginning this blog. I will be swimming in un-chartered waters as I attempt to refinish a piece of furniture. I have never really had the desire (or the patience) to take on a project of this nature, but with time on my hands and a lack of change in my pocket, I figure, what the heck.

This particular rocking chair is a token from my childhood-a comfortable resting place that once accommodated my pint-sized tushy. Once she could no longer safely contain my increasing size and weight, this rocker became a haven for my vast doll collection.  She had been safely stored away in my basement, until recently, when I brought her upstairs and found her a new home near the fireplace. Her current dye-job does not blend well with the decor of the room, so I will attempt to update her look.

This past weekend, I ignored my self-imposed shopping ban and headed to Lowe’s, where, for about twenty bucks, I picked up the products necessary to transform Miss Thing from her current oak wash to ebony. I posted a “before” photo, so you can see her original state. Once the makeover is complete, I will post an “after” glamour shot. That is, IF she turns out well.

Driving Miss Joan

If you read my earlier post, “The Religion of Joan,” you know that I believe that EVERYTHING happens for a reason.  This belief has definitely come into play as I try to figure out exactly what I am supposed to be doing with myself career-wise.  In 2005, I was accepted into a master’s program in Community Counseling. (I have a bachelors degree in Psychology and wanted to obtain the credentials necessary to become a counselor either in a cancer clinic or hospice.) I took my first course that summer and enrolled for three more for the Fall semester. One week before classes were scheduled to begin, my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I withdrew from the university in order to focus my attention on taking care of him. I have never taken any more courses towards the degree that I had believed I was meant to pursue.

Fast forward to late 2008. I had been unhappy in my part-time administrative assistant position for quite some time and made the decision to resign in order to pursue work in the mental health field. I  had my sights set on working at a nearby clinic that specializes in eating disorders, addictions, bipolar disorder and more. (I was willing to work as a volunteer in order to accrue some relevant, current work experience on my resume.) I applied for a few job postings at the clinic and even sent in my application for a volunteer program that they are planning to implement. (My sister even forwarded my resume and volunteer application to the director of the program with whom she has worked in the past.) Funny thing, I have not heard a word from them in over two months.

It seems that each time I make a decision to pursue a certain career path, I am “steered” in some other direction. I do believe that a higher power is at the wheel. I will do my best to be a silent observer, snugly belted in the passenger seat. Too bad I can’t Google a map to show me where we are headed.  Patience has never been a virtue, and I don’t care much for surprises.