Archive | March 2012

I am now considered by some to be “one of those outdoorsy types”?

This assumption that I am an outdoorsy type of person started on a recent trip to Las Vegas. (the un-outdoorsy capital of the world)  It’s actually the third time I have made that trip.  On the second trip, my boyfriend and I booked a tour to the Grand Canyon and promptly fell in love with it, despite the 5 hour bus trip (each way) and the limited time we had to stroll along the south rim of the canyon.  We made a vow to return, and we did, just less than a year and a half later.  This time in early spring, when it wouldn’t be quite so hot.  We decided to rent a car so we could do some exploring on our own.  That was quite fun, although we put about 500 miles on the rental in the four days we were there.  Not exactly environmentally responsible, I know.  But the car did have good mileage.  We drove out to Arizona from Las Vegas, foolishly believing the tour company with whom we booked our helicopter ride.  They said it was best to drive to Arizona and then to the west rim of the canyon.  Apparently the tour company failed to provide road maps to their employees.  It was twice as long.  However, it was fun to drive, the desert has that stark beauty and the mountains are just incredible.  To be able to see them all around the car while driving took my breath away.  We stayed in a hotel at the edge of the Indian reservation and promptly fell asleep as soon as we unloaded the car.  The next morning, being completely turned around by the time zone changes, we woke early and drove another 2 and a half hours to the canyon for our helicopter ride.  This was beyond description.  I was fortunate enough to sit in the front seat of the helicopter and had a panoramic view of the canyon and the Colorado River.  I took video and photos but they don’t do it justice at all of course.  After this, we got to ride a boat on the Colorado River for a bit.  That was relaxing.  The views of the canyon walls rising up on either side with their red and brown ancient rock was amazing as well.  After the helicopter ride back up, we clambered around on a few well-chosen touristy sites and took pictures of ourselves dangling off rocks and such.  The next day was spent at the Hoover Dam.  Not quite as spectacular, but  jokes about the ‘Dam tour’ are always amusing.  After that we explored some other hiking areas.  We still enjoyed several indoors activities, the ones Vegas is famous for like shows and dinners and casinos with overpriced shops.  In a casual conversation with the concierge of our hotel, the matter of our travel plans came up.  After hearing what we had done and were still planning, she nodded solemnly, smiled and said “Oh, you guys are outdoorsy people.”  Well, I wouldn’t consider myself so, but it’s all relative isn’t it?

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Spring Birds

This has not been a cold winter.  In fact, I recently heard that it was one of 4 warmest on record.  I think we ‘ve gotten about 3 inches of snow in total.  Be that as it may, I still dislike winter.  Since I am one of those people who get cold at 75 degrees, I spend most of winter trailing around in thick fleece and have a blanket on the couch at all times.  The other day as I left the house in the morning, I noticed the birds. Being so warm, we have already all seen the extra early blooming flowers, and that was to be expected with such a winter.  But there is something about hearing birdsong in the morning, that makes my spirits rise, no matter what temperature.    It’s a mental boost, putting me in mind of  warm sunny days, the smell of grass and flowers.  It always gives me extra energy too, although thinking about what I need to do quickly uses up the energy.  I don’t think the kids have noticed yet.  I called their attention to all of the lovely birds that were singing, but they looked at me with the kind of pity reserved for moms who have gone off the deep end.  Still being young, they actually like winter, and don’t even mind the cold, so they don’t quite see why I am so excited about spring.  With literally days left in the official winter season, I feel like a kid on Christmas.  One thing I have missed, and no, not the ice and snow, that extra appreciation that comes with a cold winter.  When we start seeing those blue skies and feel the actual warmth of the sun for the first time, it’s like no other feeling.  I appreciate all of those things this year as well, but just not quite as much.  It probably was colder in the beginning of March than all of February.   Now that it is half way through March,  it really is beginning to show signs of the spring season.   The birds certainly are putting their best effort into spring this year and my kids are finally noticing.  And that I do appreciate.

My Hilly Relationship with Religion

I think almost anyone can relate to my title.  My relationship really isn’t that rocky, so I used the word hilly instead.  It’s much less hilly than most people’s probably, and it certainly isn’t hilly now.  I never considered myself particularly religious.  Sometimes I have to ask my daughter about certain traditions or practices during the service.  Still, I guess if being comfortable with my faith and hoping to explore and learn more about it is religious, maybe I am.  I was one of those kids who grew up in a very non-religious household.  My parents strictly adhered to the principal that I should choose what I believed in.  And they were right.  As usual.  I did have some experience in going to church.  My dour Irish grandmother was intensely Catholic, so when she came to visit for the weekend I would go with her and my dad.  It wasn’t a terrible experience.  I really didn’t know what was going on but it had a pleasant structure and the church was cute.  Perhaps that started me off on the lonely road to a degree in medieval studies (but I prefer to think that was brought on by a childhood visit to Westminster Abbey)  Because of my insane and impractical love of the middle ages, I took numerous college courses which dealt with the formation of the early church and read countless books written about or during the middle ages.  Through those books, most especially ‘Confessions’ (St. Augustine), which really spoke to me, I found a place where I was comfortable with my faith.  I wanted to understand more though, so I joined a “baptism class” at the college Catholic center.  At the time, I really never considered any other religion because, well, in the middle ages, there was only one christian religion.  I joined the class, found it very interesting, met some really great people, and got baptized in due course.  The came a bump in the road.  I was going to be getting married and my fiance and I wanted it to be in a church.  But the Catholic church where we wanted to be married wouldn’t let us get married because I had only become baptized several months before. Too new, they said, or wrote I think, in a decently worded letter.  Well we fixed it up with a different church.  They were friendly and the church was pretty, I couldn’t really ask for much more.  We started our lives and I found one very great truth.  It’s pretty hard to get up and go to church on Sunday morning when the other person is sleeping in a warm cozy bed.  So that ended what was about a year and a half long flirtation with the Catholic Church.  It didn’t do anything to my faith however.  That was still there, just as strong, only it slept in on Sunday mornings, and gave me a twinge of guilt every so often.  Time passed, the guilt faded, and the faith took a back seat to life. Two children and a divorce later, I found myself wanting to re-acquaint myself with my faith, and also I thought it would be lovely for the kids to see something other than cartoons on Sunday morning.  I decided to go church shopping.  I wasn’t all too comfortable with returning to the Catholic church that I had gone to in the past, it was big and for the most part seemed unwelcoming.  I think that the size part was true but that if I had stayed to look at bulletin boards or had gone more than once a year, I would have found it to be much more welcoming.  Church shopping was sort of like a mix between writing a research paper and trying on shoes. It takes a while to get the right fit, and a lot of reading.  I poured over websites about theology of different christian churches, since the theology had kind of changed since the year 1300, and I had brilliantly forgotten almost all of my college education anyway.  I checked out different churches around my area, because I didn’t want to drive very far either.  In the end I went about it in sort of a backwards way.  There was a small stone church with a red door on the main street of my town that always looked inviting and old-fashioned. I had been tempted to look in it for years.   I drove past it one day and found out what kind of church it was.  Then I looked up that kind of church, hoping that it would fit with me because I really liked the red door.  As it happened it was a perfect fit.  I read up on the theology, handily presented in spreadsheet form.  The more I read, the more it seemed like a great fit.  Plus, being of  the Anglican variety (sounds like a sort of tulip when I put it that way), it really satisfied my obsession with all things British.  I went back to the church, noted the times of the service, (it took me several years to stop saying mass)  and visited it one weekend when my daughters were with their father.  There were literally 5 people in the congregation.  It seemed that the majority of the people had gone to the earlier service because there was a large crowd in the adjoining hall.  I took a seat unobtrusively toward the back, somewhat early.  People passed to and fro, getting ready for the service, dressed in flowing garments.  I looked around, pleased by what I saw.  It was a small church as I had mentioned, old, with beautiful stained glass windows, white walls and lovely dark beams on the ceiling.  It gave me a good feeling.  One of the women who passed, came up to me, introduced herself as the Rector and invited me to join her in a cup of coffee after the service.  I was amazed at her friendliness and very excited to find that the priest was a woman.  The service was really very similar to what I remembered from going to a Catholic church.  But there was more laughing.  After I joined the rector in a cup of really delicious coffee and we talked about the church, my kids, and also discovered our mutual love of science fiction.  (Alright no need to hide it, we were both Trekkies)  The next week I brought my daughters.  They seemed to like it.  They were both very shy and I think that first year, I spent more time in the hall with them and their Sunday school class than in the church.  But that was ok.  I didn’t want them to feel abandoned or to feel pressured into going.  Four years later I can easily say that they are more spoiled by our friends in church than anywhere else.  I had expected to find a place to explore my own spirituality, and to find some activity for the kids on Sunday mornings.  I found that.  But what I didn’t expect was to be embraced by all of the congregation.  I found myself asked to join several groups.  It was fun and I felt useful.  I also found that this little church I had stumbled upon had so many outreach projects going on.  For such a small congregation, the percentage of people involved was huge.  There was so much care and feeling for those both more unfortunate and also just for those who needed an extra hug or a warm smile.  It made me proud that I knew so many people who didn’t hesitate to help those in need and happy to be able to make some small difference in the community.  I really had not banked on finding a church which would become my family.  It truly is my second home and I find myself wishing I could do more to help out and to spend more time there, just to soak up the quiet, peaceful atmosphere.   I feel, much like almost anyone, that I have been on a journey which took me for a real Sunday drive, and have gotten lost a few times along the way.  The road led me to the point in my life where I am most comfortable though, and I attribute so much of that to the small stone church with the red door that I kept passing in my car.  I expect there will be many more hills in life but I am still drinking that delicious coffee every Sunday.

5 easy ways to improve the busy mom’s morning routine

I have read many advice columns and lists aimed at helping the busy working mom in her morning routine.  Most of these are just plain impractical.  They include words like, blow-dry, make-up, glowing complexion.  Let’s face it, at 5.30 in the morning, who is thinking about their complexion, much less wanting it to glow.   I am sure  that if I’m a bit skeptical about these advice columns, then I’m not the only one.  So I’ve compiled a list of 5 helpful hints, which are a bit more realistic, to ease the morning rush. 

1. Always set your alarm 10 minutes early.  That way you can press the snooze at least twice and not have to jump out of bed with the realization that you have cut into valuable shower napping time.

2. Showering with your coffee in hand saves time.  Especially if you have managed to throw your alarm across the room after the second snooze and fallen back to sleep.  If you drink tea, the hot shower really helps it get a nice strong brew.  Try not to spill it when you fall asleep leaning against the shower wall.

3.  Make sure you have plenty of time to get that polished professional hair style.  Nothing says you are ready to climb the corporate ladder like a  pony-tail with your daughter’s spangled pink hair band which you found under the bathroom vanity.

4. Who needs matching socks?  Searching that cluttered sock drawer wastes valuable minutes you could use to try dissuading your child not to wear the neon purple shirt and polka-dotted orange skirt together. 

5. Finally, my last word of advice for you masters of time management.  The busy mom should always dress to impress.  Monochromatic outfits ensure that you can easily dress with your eyes still closed.  This is a must for those who did spill their coffee in the shower and have not yet had their morning shot of caffeine.

Now you are ready for a stress free day.