Monday, December 26, 2011

Is it time to change how you approach change?

"The key to change is to let go of fear." - Roseanne Cash
Not easy for some people, and I am one of them. I like things comfortable and familiar. I like to know what to expect. I like the "norm." Even when the norm isn't good, I still prefer it to the unknown.

Some people get excited about the unknown. The adventure of something new. I envy those people.

Objectively, I see the benefit of change. And realistically, I know life is all about change and you can't avoid it even if you try. Nothing stays the same - EVER.

Not all change is for the better. But we do well to see the opportunity of change, even when we don't ask for it or want it.

My friend Brenda recently wrote a wonderful post on her blog Passionate Pursuits. Her post was thoughtful and reflective, and wasn't specifically about change, but it made me think about it in a roundabout way. She talked about events in life, broken down into three parts--the beginning, the middle and the end. It was really eye opening for me to think about life events in terms of parts. When I ponder change, I realize I tend to focus on the ending aspect.

I'm sure my focus on endings is a result of my own life experiences and one reason why I resist change so much. If you read my blog regularly, you know that my father was in the Army so we moved around a lot. Each move was about a new location, a new house, new friends, a new school, and new activities.

That's a whole lotta new. A lot of beginnings.  At the time, I enjoyed this. At least I thought I did. But once I got older, I began to crave stability.

I dig the middle. No change involved there. That's where I'm good.

So it's not ALL about saying "goodbye" it's about feeling in control. When you know what to expect, you feel in control. When you are in control, nothing bad will happen.

That is clearly an illusion, but it's funny how the human brain works. Fear is created when we don't even realize it. Fear that keeps us stuck in old patterns and behaviors, unable to move forward.

And mine is clearly fear of change.

"Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't. - Steve Maraboli

How do YOU feel about change?

With another new year about to begin, and many people making their New Year's resolutions, this seemed like a good question to ponder.

Predictably, I leave you with this song by David Bowie. You can't write about change without THIS one going through your mind! It's still one of my favorites.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Moms Don't Dance

Ok. Here's something to blog about. It's the shortest blog post ever and not even my material.  But I thought you would enjoy it. I'm saving it for my parental archives. Something to make me smile in my very old age. 

I was sweeping the front entryway and dancing with the broom. The boys were in the living room watching t.v. and they saw me and rolled their eyes.

Me: What? You guys just don't appreciate the entertainment I provide for you.

Kevin:  It's just not right.

Me:  You think I should have curlers in my hair and act like a grandma?

Kevin:  Just don't dance.

Me: What's life without dancing?

Jack:  Footloose

Hope that made you smile!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ghosts of Blogging Past

Woohoo! Ok, this idea definitely will save my ass because I have been completely unmotivated to write anything new lately. I have a LOT of junk going on in my personal life (sorry, don't want to share yet) and I just can't seem to summon up anything to say that isn't too private or depressing.

SO.... along comes this great little blog hop and I'm definitely hooking up!! The idea is to go to your first week of blogging and repost what you wrote. I'm all into recycling! Plus, this gives anyone who is new to your blog, a chance to learn a little something about you.

After you read this, you can go have more bloggy fun by following the links at Mommy2cents and Chosen Chaos. You can have fun reading some other wonderful blogs and even join up yourself.  Enjoy!

What's in a name?

Hi. My name is Michael Ann. Yes, Michael. Ann. Like Mary Ann, but Michael instead. Yes, like the boy's name.

My  name was supposed to be Melissa. Isn't that nice?? But mom changed her  mind at the last minute while watching her favorite tv show, Dr.  Kildare. There was a nurse character named Michael Ann, and I guess  that just tickled mom's fancy, and she changed her mind only days before  I was born. Curse Dr. Kildare!

All my life I've had to suffer through the same questions by well-meaning strangers.

"Are you sure it isn't Michelle?"

Uh, yea, I'm sure.

"Did your parents want  a boy?"

No, they already have one.

"Are you named after your dad?"

No, my brother is, and his name is Peter.

Grr....  I understood their curiosity. I understood my name was unusual. But I was just a kid for goodness sake.I  just wanted to be normal. To fit in. Why couldn't I have a name like  Susan or Debbie or Kathy like all the other girls?

When I was in high school, I had the idea to change the spelling of my name. I thought maybe  that would make it seems less unusual, or less "boy." I changed the spelling to Mykle. Um...yea, I know. That didn't really help. In fact I  think it made it worse. So I changed it back to Michael, causing even  more confusion. When I was in college, someone in my dorm started  calling me Mickey, and others followed suit. I didn't really love it, but I  thought it was  better than dealing with all the Michael questions. After awhile, that  nickname grew on me and I liked that most people didn't even know my  real name was Michael. Mickey suited me--it's cheerful and spunky,  exactly like me. :-) My college friends still call me Mickey.

That  was fun while it lasted, but when I got my first job out of college, I  decided it was time to let go of Mickey, and embrace my adult self and  the name that I came with. I decided to reclaim it with pride. Yes, I  am Michael Ann! That's my name and don't wear it out! Oh, did I say  "adult?"

Now days, having  an uncommon name is not, well, uncommon. In fact it seems to have become  desirable. The weirder, the better. Children with names like Apple and  Rocket probably won't experience what I did while growing up. Different  has become the norm. Kind of defeats the purpose huh? Better off  choosing a name like  John or Ann. Now THAT will really be unique!

I would like to  give this story a happy ending and say that as an adult, I am finally  learning to accept and even appreciate my special name, but honestly, I  still struggle with it. Maybe I just can't shake my history. I know I  could go and have it legally changed...but I've never been willing to go  that far. That just somehow seems wrong. It wouldn't be ME.

Wait  a minute. Me. Yes....I guess Michael Ann really does feel like me. It  should after all these years, huh? Ok, I admit, it hasn't been ALL  bad. I have had my share of compliments too. And I have to tell you,  when I am introduced to someone and they immediately say, "What a lovely  name!" it completely makes my day!

I realize in the grand  scheme of things, this is a minor issue, but I'm still going to tell the  Starbucks barista my name is Michelle.

Do you have an unusual name?

I leave you with this song.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Random Thoughts 2

Here's what I'm thinking in my head today.

Baking. Doing lots of Christmas baking. If you need some ideas for Christmas treats, check out my blog, The Big Green Bowl. The Rocky Road recipe is to die for!

Christmas Shopping.  Almost done, but still have a few things to purchase.  I might have bought myself a few things in the process. It oddly helps with holiday stress, to spend money on oneself, especially when the stress is about how much money one is spending.

Ozzie. My dog. He's a big black lab/pit bull mix who is not the sharpest tool in the shed. He's sweet but crazy.  I seriously need to get a video of him racing around the house like a bat out of Hell, and I need to accompany this video by Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train. I think we could win America's Funniest Home Video.

The dog has no couth.

And no, he is not named after Ozzy, he is named after Ozzie Smith, the greatest Shortstop who ever lived. 

The Wizard of Oz

Next to him is Omar Vizquel, the second greatest Shortstop who ever lived.


Isn't he cute? Sigh...

The first Giants game I ever went to, all I cared about was seeing Omar. We had great seats, right down by the Giants dugout. I had brought a big sign I had made that said, "Omar, you short-stop my heart!" When he went out on the field to stretch and warm up, I yelled his name and waved my sign. He  flashed that amazing smile and gave me the peace sign over his heart gesture! My children were mortified but I was on Cloud 9!

Ok...anyway, where was I?

One of our cats is named after Omar.  He's cute too.

I mentioned here once before that my favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz.  There seems to be a theme of Oz in my life. I think I should think about this.

Anyway, Ozzie was running around the house this morning with something in his mouth and it didn't look good.  It was my son's soccer shin guard.  Crap!!  Ozzie is truly in the dog house now.

Anyone want a cute but destructive and clueless big black dog? Free to good home!

Ok, last thing. One random thought leads to another. That photo of Omar Vizquel catching the ball in mid air? He isn't the only one who can do that.

That's my son Jack!

Happy Day, everyone!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Who stole Christmas?

It's been two weeks since I posted. I was out of town and didn't have anything prepared ahead of time. 

Then, well....I wanted to write about the holiday season being upon us now and my feelings about it, but whatever I have to say is rather negative, and I wasn't sure I wanted to go there with you all.

But... since this is weighing very heavy on my heart, I decided to go ahead and write about it.

Christmas used to be my favorite time of the year. What kid doesn't love Christmas?  Kids have nothing to do but soak it all in. They write letters to Santa, help decorate the tree, eat Christmas cookies and basically spend all their time getting excited about the presents on Christmas morning.

As a young adult and especially as a young parent, I still enjoyed Christmas. I loved doing all the same things that my mom did to make the holiday special. Decorating, baking cookies, buying presents, and playing endless Christmas music on the stereo.  It was fun watching how excited my children got during this time of year. I loved participating in the fantasy of Santa and the North Pole and the reindeer an elves. It was still magical.

A few years back though, I got burned out. As my kids got older, the magic seemed to disappear. They no longer believe in Santa and the gifts they wanted became more expensive.  But this is not about them. It's not their fault. It is more a cultural thing for me at this point.

Two words -- BLACK FRIDAY. 

Giving an actual TITLE to a day for shopping-- treating it like another holiday?  The creation of a day where everyone goes out to buy and buy an spend and spend like a bunch of mad people....  I don't remember any Black Fridays when I was younger.  What is happening in our world that this day even exists? It is just too much. We have sunk to a new low.

And in this economy,  how is everyone paying for all that shit they are buying?  CREDIT CARDS. This is what is wrong with our culture. Buy now, pay later.  Or not. Go bankrupt instead.  If people don't have the money now, what makes them think they will  have it later?  What ever happened to only buying stuff we could actually afford? 

Is this what Christmas is supposed to be about? 

I know, I know. I don't have to make MY Christmas about this, and why should I care how others choose to spend their Christmas? I care because it affects everyone. Materialism and the focus on STUFF as a source of happiness is just plain wrong. That's why our world is the way it is.  People are disconnected and feeling empty.  They fill this void by shopping for STUFF.

Shopping is something we do all year long anyway. Why can't we have one time of year when that is NOT the focus? 

What if we all boycotted shopping for one Christmas season?  Just imagine how that would look. If everyone just focused on their relationships and their communities, what would that look like?

I don't give a damn about supporting the economy by shopping. I do give a damn about supporting my family and my community by not encouraging  everyone to go into debt.

I don't know..... the Christmas season just shines a light on all this for me, and it makes me depressed.  I find it hard to get excited.  I am trying. I am going through the motions. I am trying to keep it sane in my own little world.

I do love baking Christmas cookies and sharing them with my family and friends. I take a tray to our veterinarian's office and the doctor's office, and I love seeing how happy that makes them.  I enjoy buying little treats for my co-workers and my kids' teachers. I do enjoy shopping for just the right gift for my special people, and I don't overspend. 

I love spending a foggy morning at the Christmas tree farm, choosing a tree, drinking hot cider and riding in Santa's sleigh, even if the kids don't believe anymore. I enjoy the lights on the houses and I adore all the holiday music.

I'm keeping the traditions in my own little family and trying to be cheerful.

I'm thinking about starting some new traditions too, to help myself and my family better focus on giving and community.  We do all the donation things that come up, but I'm thinking of some larger scale volunteerism.  Something has to change. I really don't like feeling like the Grinch!

How do you stay focused on the good parts of the holiday season?

Friday, November 18, 2011

California Dreamin'

"Goin' to California with an aching in my heart."  - Led Zeppelin

In my last post, I wrote about what it was like to grow up in the military lifestyle.  It got me to thinking about HOME and what that means. It probably means something different to all of us.

When I was younger, home meant where my family was, wherever it was we were living. But I also had another sense of  home--a deeper meaning which came from my family history. A sense of place based on that history, filled with stories of family beginnings, lives lived, and stories told.  A place where we would go back to in between moves, where our extended family was, and where we felt we belonged. That place for me was always California.

California is the home state for both my parents. My dad grew up in San Jose and my mom grew up in Roseville. When my dad was in Vietnam, we lived in Roseville in a small rented home. This was so my mom could be near her parents and have some support and help with us kids. When dad came home, he was stationed at Oakland Army Base, so we moved to Walnut Creek, a small town closer to Oakland.

Then we got sent to Maryland, and my brother and I were NOT happy about it! We were quite content with our life in California. Well, as it turns out, Maryland was a great place to live. But as much as I enjoyed it there, I still pined for California. In all the places we lived after that, I never lost my longing for HOME. I knew someday I would get back there.

All the years we moved around, we would always make trips back to visit my relatives, usually in the summer. We loved spending time with my grandparents and my cousins, and we loved the sunshine. It was always hot in California! I think most of all though, it was the connection to something consistent. I was always very sad to leave.

My longing for California intensified when we moved to Ft. Lewis, WA. Let me tell you, for a girl who loves the sun, the constant rain and darkness up in Washington just put me into a depression. Every year, I tried to scheme a way to get to California. Couldn't I go live with my grandparents? How about my cousins? Please? No, my parents did not go for these ideas.

When I was in 9th grade, my best friend, Jean, and I devised a brilliant scheme that we called "Operation C." The C of course stood for California. Our plan was to save all our money, every last penny, and in the summer, we would hop on a bus and take a trip down there all by ourselves. We didn't know exactly what we would do once we go there, but we were pretty certain it would involve rock music, Birkenstocks and San Francisco.

We saved all our allowance and babysitting money. We even begged small change from our friends, saying we  forgot our lunch money. Shameful, I know! We put all this money in a shoebox, and by June we had $300. Not bad for piddly change, I'd say.

Well, then of course we realized the futility of our scheme. What would the two of us really do out in California? Where would we stay? Was $300 enough? We might be in danger and we wouldn't want to worry our parents.... So much for our California dreams. Instead, we split the money and went to the mall.

All through high school, I continued to fantasize about living in California.  Then it became obvious to me how I would finally get there.  It was simple really. All I had to do was choose a California college.  So, in the fall of '82, my dad drove me down to Sacramento to begin my new life--the one I had dreamed of for so many years.

I never looked back.

I  love living here as much as I knew I would. Even with all its financial and political problems, I still love it. It is a beautiful state with interesting people and a laid-back, free-spirited culture that I enjoy. It is HOME and I don't see myself ever leaving.

What does home mean to you?

"Someone told me there's a girl out there, with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair." - Led Zeppelin

Friday, November 11, 2011

I was a brat

It's Veterans Day. While I am grateful to all service men and women who have made sacrifices for us and our great country, the person I think of the most is my own father.
My Handsome Dad

You see, my dad was a career Army man, so I grew up immersed in the world of soldiers and all things military.  Base housing, military schools,  the PX (Post Exchange), the Commissary (grocery store), MPs (Military Police), military IDs, moving every 1-3 years, making friends and leaving them, standing and listening to the Star Spangled Banner at the theater before the feature movie, epic 4th of July celebrations, security checkpoints to get on base, and seeing my dad in uniform almost every day of the week.

Growing up military was a mixed blessing. But overall it was pretty awesome.

My brother and I both agree on that. We didn't know any other way of life. As military "brats" we got to do and see a lot of things that most children never get to. We lived in many different parts of the country and even in Europe. I was born in Frankfurt, Germany and we lived there for several years, so I actually have some memories of it. I remember our apartment building and I remember my Oma,  a lovely German grandmother who would babysit us and help my mom when she needed it. We also lived in Italy and I remember going to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Venice. In the states we were stationed in California, Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, Kansas, and Washington.

My favorite place we ever lived was Ft. Meade, Maryland. Although when we first stepped off the plane and felt the extreme humidity in the air, I wasn't so sure I would like it! We were coming from California and I had never felt that feeling before.  Humid summers aside, it was a great place to live with so much to see and do. Historical towns, battlefields, museums, and of course Washington D.C. was right next door. We'd go there almost every weekend in the summer and there was always something new to see.

Friendships are made easily and quickly in the military. Everyone is in the same boat--new place, new people. Most folks were friendly and eager to make the new place their home. However, that was also one of the draw-backs. We made good friends, but then everyone moved away. We got used to leaving people behind, but it was still difficult.  I so wanted to stay with my friends forever and grow up with them. But instead, we had to pack up and move to a new home and go to a new school.

My least favorite place was Ft. Lewis, WA because they had no schools on base, so my brother and I had to go to a civilian school.  That was difficult because the civilian kids had grown up together and weren't eager to let new people into their groups.  All us military kids kind of stuck together. It took a long time to make new friends and feel like we belonged.

Our base housing at Ft. Lewis.

That was the last place we were stationed.  My dad retired and my parents bought a house and remained in Tacoma for awhile.  Now they are happily settled in Oregon. After high school, I left for college in California and am still here. My brother  joined the Marines and then the Army (just like Dad), but left the military after the first Iraq war. Thankfully, he did not have to fight in that war.  He also lives in California, not far from me. 

Though mom and dad are settled, they still have a strong love for travel and are lucky enough to do so often.   Me, not so much. I guess I  had my fill, and now I prefer to stay in one place. 

The military life shaped and formed us all in many ways. There was a camaraderie amongst us that I have not experienced since.  Military friends are always your friends. My parents have stayed in touch with many of their old friends, and they have had several reunions. Since Facebook came on the scene, I have found a couple of my childhood buddies and it has been really fun to catch up with them.

I feel lucky to have grown up the way I did. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving us a unique and wonderful childhood.

Thank you to all those who are serving our country.  Your way of life allows us to have our way of life. You are much appreciated.

This song is for all those old friends....

Friday, November 4, 2011

Random Thoughts

I've had a busy and stressful week and my brain is pretty fried. This is what I'm thinking in my head today....

1. I really like the foamy soap that comes in a pump. WAY better than the liquid soap. That stuff tends to pool under the dispenser and make a gloppy, soapy mess on the counter. The foam just goes right where you want it and is so much easier to use. Two thumbs up!

2. I know the organizing "experts" say you should dispose of all your junk mail the minute you bring it into the house from your mailbox. But what about recycling? I am obsessed with recycling. And you can't just toss most of that junk mail in your paper recycling bin for a few reasons. First, most of those envelopes have plastic windows and you can't recycle paper with plastic. Second, some of that mail has private information you don't want to make available to those identity thieves that are rifling through all your trash. So, you really do have to OPEN the damn junk mail to deal with these sticky situations. You have to rip apart the envelope to get the plastic off, and then throw the paper parts in the recycling bin. Then you have to separate out the personal information so you can put that in the shredder. Oh! And you can't just put an envelope with plastic windows straight into your shredder for future recycling, because, again, there is the plastic issue.

So see? All you organizational "experts" are just wrong on this one. It's much more complicated than that.

3. Why am I getting mail from the local funeral home? I'm staring to get concerned.

4. Send us your tips!  Why do women's magazines pay someone money to give us stupid advice like, "Have your kids set out their backpacks the night before, so they won't have to rush in the morning." Really? Someone got paid $100 for this tip?

5. I stayed in my bathrobe today until 2:30 p.m.
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