Thursday, December 30, 2010

Measuring the success of Christmas

E-man shows off his newest prized possession

 Well it's been a whirlwind of activity. Three days, two turkeys, 7 house guests, 4 dozen carols, 3 spoiled kids, not enough pictures, 6 boxes of chocolates, 1 headache and a partridge in a pear tree.

KJ delights in her TNA bag. If I only knew what she wants it for.
  Or something like it.

Christmas came. I was, as usual, fully prepared in the eleventh hour. Daylight came and kids were delighted. Nothing equals the joy on their faces when they open that one gift they were hoping for. It's one of my favorite Christmas moments. Pure gratitude. Gratitude on their part that Santa came through, gratitude on mine that he managed to pick the right colour and size. There have been more than a few near misses in the past. This year was a success.

Lula celebrates with the usual off beat humour and stuffing.
 I was attempting to define my most favorite moments of the days leading up to Christmas and throughout the celebrations. I love the carols, I'm a purist in this department and opt for tradition and reverence, I belt out those carols like I have the full gospel choir backing me up. I love Christmas morning coffee. I love finding that last gift, I love wrapping the last gift. I love going to bed Christmas eve. I love being woken up Christmas morning. I love listening to the kids open their stockings while Michael and I lay in bed and open our eyes. I love talking to my Dad on Christmas morning. I think though, that if I were asked to define my favourite moment of Christmas this year it was my twelve gifts of Christmas.

My Twelve gifts of Christmas are gifts that I secretly plan, plant or deliver to the unsuspecting or an extra special pick for the suspecting. It's so much fun!

My Twelve Gifts
  • a floral arrangement that doubled as a thank you for the wonderful couple who recommended me to my new job position.
  • a food bank donation for E-man's teacher
  • a book for my "son" at work.
  • a food bank donation for KJ's teacher
  • a candy dish for my new boss
  • a gift card for E-man's big buddy. A special thank you for the extra hours and patience.
  • a Cherry Blossom (possibly the best candy bar ever imagined) for a wonderful friend who I wanted to remind about her wonderfulness and the craziness of life.
  • a food bank donation for each of Lula's 4 teachers (does that count as four?)
  • Cinnamon buns for my neighbours
  • a Children's Wish ornament for my husband's lovely boss
  • Chocolates for the office ladies who make things tick.
  • Special wrapping from the Stag Shop for my Secret Santa. it was totally worth the terror stricken look on my victims face. (that was actually a gift for the other people I work with).
Twelve gifts made me feel wonderful. I talk alot everyday about being grateful. Twelve gifts let me acknowledge some people and things I am grateful for every day. The nicest thing about Twelve Gifts is that it made me feel so good. Every gift made me want to give another. Acknowledging the things that I am grateful for illuminated more and more things to be grateful for. As a result I shared other gifts this year too. I made a point of thanking people and their efforts. I wished store clerks and mall attendants Merry Christmas. I let people have my place in line and in the parking lot.

And I received many more gifts than I was able to give.

Share What was your favorite moment of the celebrations?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Un-Christmas Post

So much of the gratitude being shared at the table these days is guessed it...Christmas. Someone is always grateful that their shopping is done or their wrapping. One of the kids inevitably adds to the Christmas gratitude countdown. "I am grateful there is only X days til Christmas." (Today's count is 3 sleeps by the way) Gratitude is flowing like pancake syrup in our house right now and it's all about Christmas.

The world consists of more than festivities though and I like to remind the kids by sharing a gratitude or two that isn't wrapped in shiny paper or introduced with a Christmas carol.

This week I am grateful that KJ folded the laundry.
KJ is grateful that she earned her phone back by doing so.

This week I am grateful that Lula cleaned her room.
Lula is grateful to use the computer again.

I am grateful for Michael and this insane ability he has to manifest his happiness.
Michael is grateful to have a supportive wife. (I got confused with this one, pretty sure I'm the only wife)

I am grateful that E-man found his bedroom floor.
E-man is grateful to have underwear and socks again.
KJ is not so grateful about folding them all.

I am grateful for my friends at work who I laugh with everyday
My friends are grateful that I have another job to go to.

The kids are on break from school and Michael says I should be grateful when they are fighting. I fail to see it,
but if it's true...

I am grateful for name calling, door slamming, shin kicking, stuff stealing, trash talking, whining, tears, converter fights, snow down your shirt, eat the last cookie, I'm calling Mom bonding moments that apparently mean our kids love and respect one another.

Tomorrow I'm going to write about Christmas again.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Where's the Gratitude?

There has been a lot of misfortune in my circle of late. People have lost their jobs. Others have lost family. Some have learned that this will be their last Christmas. Separations in my immediate circle are at a count of 3 in as many months. The statuses and postings on the walls of facebook are grim and sorrowful. Christmas in it's own right causes sadness in many, even in the happiest of people. It is disheartening.

I woke this morning to find myself in a funk, wondering how people manage a happy Christmas with so much looming overhead. I scoured posts from my friends list looking for some Space Between Raindrops. It took some digging but I found some

  • first a whole lot of posts celebrating the arrival of Friday
  • kudos for a good movie
  • a friend who earned a new car - way to go by the way, you deserve it with all that hard work and determination!)
  • 3 new jobs
  • a new baby
  • a National Championship
  • an engagement
  • a fresh start
  • a birthday
  • 1 new home
  • a coffee maker
  • a great charitable donation
  • a momentary ray of sunshine
  • Christmas errands completed
The harder I looked the more I found. Gratitude is like that.

Of course if I'd gone in search of the bad stuff I could have found more of that too.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gratitude in Pictures

This week has given us a lot to be grateful for.

A quick look in pictures...

Michael builds an ice rink for the kids in the backyard. Of course we live in the suburbs and our backyard is the size of a sticky note but oh well. We can say we have a scale model of an actual ice surface.

Michael gets some help with the construction!

and some more help...and a coffee.

A lot of gratitude in the snap. 1) we picked out a tree together and all made it home in one piece. 2) All three children are home and participating. 3) If you look closely you will note that KJ is wearing her headgear. 4) Dad made cider and is doing a fabulous job supervising. 5) Nobody is making a pair of bunny ears behind someone's head.

We managed 2 pictures without a brawl or a pair of bunny ears!

Santa delivered a new washer (via Michael's parents) YAAAAA!!!!!! Santa also delivered a new desk and printer to work (via my new boss) I think this means he's going to keep me YAAAAA!!!!!!!

This is one of my favorites; the wreath I mentioned in an earlier post. A yearly gift from my husband's fabulous boss.

There are of course other gratefuls that I was unsuccessful at capturing on film.

  • E-Man's Christmas concert at school where he rocked the house to "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas"
  • Everyone with the exception of myself has been grateful for snow.
  • The kids are especially grateful the Christmas break begins this week.
  • Christmas shopping is almost finished!
  • Some Christmas cookies got made.
  • High school Summatives are complete.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Your Turn at the Table

It's Thursday. I'm pretty wrapped up in last minute Christmas stuff, gathering gifts and moments of gratitude to share in future posts.

If you are visiting take a minute to share a grateful of your own. I call it 'Your Turn at the Table'

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Baby it's Cold Outside

This week is bitter. The weather is the exact replica of the stereotypical conditions people expect Canadians live in. I always love when Canada is represented as a great expanse of frozen tundra where people sleep in snowmobile suits and eat cured pork. I have only slept in a snowsuit once, not purposefully I might add and I eat other items besides bacon. We do enjoy beautiful tepid spring and fall days and scorching summers are common place. Our winters are not really that dreadful for the most part, however every once in a while we suffer.

This week we are suffering. The temp in -16 with a wind chills in the very low -20 to -30 range. The roads are slick, the kids can't play outside for fear of frost bite and people are freezing.

Everybody is whining. Everybody that is except those who have no choice but to brave it. Those whose jobs are outdoors. Today my grateful is for them. Thank you to the road crews and the mail carriers, the crossing guards, police officers, tow truck drivers, drive thru workers and gas attendants. You have my admiration and I hope there is someone waiting for you with a hot tea and some fuzzy slippers when you arrive home!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What is Gratitude Doing to Us?

Our week concluded with shopping. Okay not my favourite activity and clearly a strange place for me to begin to recognize some gratitude. The mall as I've stated in earlier postings presses my internal rage button. Utter retail contempt simmers in me during the shopping 'off season' can you imagine what happens during the holiday cram session. Most years find me plowing through the crowds like a raging bull just trying the get my family safely though the mega halls in search of another $19.99 sweater that might be perfect for Uncle Rob.

Consequently "the thought that counts" means I didn't think but you count and so I braved my sanity for you. "I hope you like smoked cheese and this tiny plastic reindeer that dispenses candy reindeer poop."

Except for the kids. I agonise over their gifts. Their lists are always a mile long, sectioned into price point and categorized by wish level. My job is to scrutinize the list, select the items that meet the balance between their  heart's desire and our pocketbook and then pick the right colour. I always feel like we are going to disappoint them.

This is where our first night of mall braving holiday shopping begins; we take the kids out to do their shopping. We separate into shopping teams and get busy. The kids shop for one another as Michael and I gently guide with suggestions and monitor them for what piques their own interest. It's a covert parenting maneuver meant to narrow down the wish list and preview the excitement in their eye when they see that "one thing they have to have." It always works because the kids are always more focused on what they would like for themselves then what they want to get their "butt face" brother or sister. This is night one.

Night two finds Michael and I out with the crowds battling to complete Christmas. Sometimes we battle the crowds, sometimes one another but we get it done. This year I'm excited for night two. Perhaps the spirit of what I witnessed on night one has bolstered my resolve.

Our kids wanted to shop, they wanted to get the perfect thing. They had ideas, They had put thought into what they wanted to get one another. Last year we dragged them through the malls, this year we ran to keep up with them. So what's changed, what has happened in the space of a single year that has altered their desire to please one another? Why is it so important that they pick out just the right thing?"

I really think it is this experiment with gratitude. In the space of a year around our dinner table we have learned about one another. We have heard straight from the source what makes each other happy. We have listened to one another, shared in a tiny bit of each other's joy. We've come to appreciate one another for what makes each of us unique.

The greatest gift I will get this year I've already received, (in a shopping mall of all places!) Our family has the desire to make one another grateful.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

When There's a Question

Sometimes, due to irritability, lack of sleep or brain fog I answer my kids questions flakily. Most often I try my best to provide a thoughtful well composed answer, I really do. I'm the person they learn from after all and they deserve some quality answers.

Lately though, I've come to discover I've been doing a poor job with my answers.

How do I know?

On Tuesday E-man brought home a math test from school. It was all about rounding numbers up and down to the nearest 10. (He's in grade 3 math isn't very hard yet.)

Pay close attention to question 2 b)

Bless the teachers heart, she put a long red circle at the end of his sentence like he forgot to finish his answer.

Grateful for laughter and moments that remind us "kids learn what they live." I shall make a better effort with my answers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

If You See Sid

Today a Grateful from KJ...

"I'm grateful I get to go to the hockey game tonight"

Hockey is pretty important in our house. We cheer for 2 teams; The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Kitchener Rangers. We spend a great deal of time cheering on Sid the Kid and his team via satellite and an equal amount of time at the auditorium cheering on our hometown heroes. KJ doesn't go very often she usually passes on the opportunity so that E-man can catch the game. Tonight she went with her best friend who also loves our local team and is also a Pittsburgh fanatic.

fast forward...

KJ arrives home from the game, screaming in that frantic way only a 13 year old girl can. "WE SAW SIDNEY CROSBY, HE WAS THERE, WE SAW HIM....I swear, I swear, I swear!!!!

It's highly unlikely I know but really exciting for her just the same. Not simply for possibly having been in the presence of our family favorite hockey great but the opportunity to hold that tidbit over her brother! He thought he was upset that he didn't get to go to the game. Wait until he wakes up this morning and KJ greets him with that!

Now she's grateful for celebrity sightings (real or imagined) and sibling rivalry!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Got Milk?

In Canada our milk comes in bags. I've heard from people in varying countries that this is incredibly strange. I understand that the proper way for milk to be presented is in a carton with a picture of a missing child or ex-husband on the side.

Canada has missing children and its fair share of ex-husbands who many would like to go missing and we have milk cartons. Generally the cartons are small and expensive. A 2 litre carton in fact will cost about the same a 4 litre bag of milk. We have a family of 5 which drinks 20 litres of milk a week; guess which presentation we buy.

The bag system is near perfect. A bag of milk contains 3 individual pouches of milk 1.3 litres each. Every home has a reusable pitcher specially designed to hold a pouch of milk for pouring. Rich houses have 2 pitchers; chocolate milk comes in bags too!

So, we bring the bag of milk home, put a pouch into a pitcher, snip a hole in the top corner and pour. Easy, cold, milk.
Canadian Milk

There are two fundamental problems with the bag system.

the first problem...

 Once you drink the 1.3 litres, the bag is empty. Like a baby it doesn't change itself.  Changing the bag is like electing someone to tackle the poopy diaper, nobody wants to do it. People in our house moan and groan. The rule is "if you empty the change the bag." That's the rule, so generally after I dribble the 5 ml graciously left in the bag for my morning coffee I change the bag.

the second problem...

You need to snip the corner of the bag to get the milk out. This problem isn't really about the milk it's more about scissors. We keep 6 pairs in the kitchen, we even had a special little milk bag snipping gadget for a while. Sometimes I use a steak knife in a moment of desperation. Sometimes we get this...

Evidently 6 pairs of scissors, the milk sniping gadget and the steak knife were all missing. I'm left staring at the puddle of milk surrounding my coffee cup wondering..."which of my adorable children resorted to using their teeth to open the bag?"

E-man assures me that KJ used a knife not her teeth. I'm grateful for that.

Perhaps I should borrow a milk carton idea from my international friends and paste a picture of scissors onto the side of my reusable pitcher.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Blogger's Block

I seem to be facing a bout of blogger's block. Not to be confused with writer's block... I have lots to say, I just can't find the time to do it. Every time I find 5 minutes something blocks my way to the computer!

Saturday would have been a fine day for some gratitude blogging but I was busy preparing for an evening to be grateful for; diner with friends. We really have to squeeze our schedules to jive an evening when we are all free and Saturday was the day. It's always a wonderful evening. Diner was at our house and we enjoyed some Mexican faire, a game of Mexican train and much laughter.

On Sunday I would have much preferred to spend some one on one time with The Space Between Raindrops but instead I spent my free time at the laundry mat. Yes the washer is still broken and its replacement has yet to make its way on to the going to buy list. Actually it's made it there it just keeps getting bumped in favor of more necessary items On the plus side I love to watch and analyze people; the laundry mat is one of the very best places to do that! and I enjoy spoiling Michael's crossword pursuits.

On Tuesday I was blocked by a parcel that arrived via post; a beautiful live wreath from a tiny town in Nova Scotia. I changed course immediately! I love this parcel. Each year my husband's amazing boss has a wreath sent to our home for the holidays. It has become a Christmas Tradition that we love. It arrives late November and to me it signifies the real start to the holiday season. My favorite part, besides adding the decorations and hanging it, is being greeted by it each time I come home. After the bustle of shopping and preparations it’s fresh scent immediately relaxes me and reminds me that Christmas is about the home not the mall.

Wednesdays are never a blogging day. There are hockey lessons, late diner and homework to contend with. Wednesday is also the one TV night we subscribe to in our house. So ya, no blogging for Wednesday however the relaxing was much needed. I'm still a little shocked by the winner of America's Next Top Model but whatever.

Modeling classes take over Thursday night. This week we didn't have that commitment, thanks to KJ's dramatic arts presentation on the weekend that got her grounded to infinity. So modeling didn't interfere with my writing; a pair of boots did. A pair of boots that we never found I might add. We just spent the night cruising every shoe store in the tri-cities. Have I mentioned that I abhor shopping?

T.G.I.F.! and Thank goodness I made it to the keyboard! It's been a great long week and the gratitude has been piling up. Here's the short list

  • Friends and people determined to be your friend despite what little you have to offer in return
  • French projects
  • Bosses
  • Christmas Wreaths
  • Suction cuppy things and a cranky old principal who shared her fail proof trick of ever so lightly greasing the suction cuppy thing with cooking oil. The suction cup sticks like cement and will hold an elephant.
  • Outdoor recess
  • School dances
  • City Transit
  • Noodles
  • Tiny Oranges
  • Family feuds and the healing they facilitate
  • Skating
  • Coat hangers
  • The price of a coffee
  • Winter Coats and the 50 % off sale that made buying one not so painful
With a whole lot of luck Perhaps I'll be back tomorrow; although I suspect some Christmas baking might be blocking my way.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Your Turn at the Table

It's Thursday an I think that in the interest of starting a tradition. I love tradition (most of them anyway. That one about kissing some complete stranger under a poisonous shrub during the holidays - not so much) I want to ask anyone visiting....

What's your gratitude?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You'll Thank Me Later

Orthodontist day, yuck! Not everyone detests orthodontist day, there are some fortunate souls who have miracle dental coverage which includes orthodontics. Ours does not. I'm not sure that even if our plan did cover bracing that I would enjoy the appointments. It always ends in a fit of tears and tantrums. Yes, as you may have already guessed our victim is 13 year old KJ. We've been struggling with a headgear appliance for 1 year now in a process that was to take 4 to 7 months. Clearly getting KJ to wear the appliance is a lot like pulling teeth (pun definitely intended) She's suppose to log 14 hours a day, we manage 7 on a really good one, if I get up in the middle of the night and help her reinstall it. I get it, I hated wearing one too when I was her age. That makes me wonder about orthodontic advancements. Surely in 30 some-odd years this contraption should have been replaced by a more user friendly, parent friendly devise.

Regardless, I pulled orthodontist duty today, rearranged my schedule, worked from home and gritted my teeth for the inevitable. This is part A of why I hate orthodontist day. It's a little like being called into the principals office. She measures and sighs and begins scolding. Not my obstinate child. ME! "How many hours are we getting?"...."she needs to wear it more." .... "You have to make her." That's my favorite "you have to make her" No parent on the face of this earth makes a hormonal 13 year old girl do anything. Is this woman for real? I've discovered that her daughter is 10 or 11, which explains a lot. All the same I smile politely with our newly adjusted headgear and a vow to do our best.

Our best lasts 15 minutes. This is where part B of why I hate orthodontist day begins. The adjustments cause KJ some pressure and discomfort. The orthodontist guilt trip causes me some pressure and discomfort. A perfect storm. Tonight’s storm ended in one headgear being hurled across the room, 2 door slams, a "conversation" only slightly lower on the decibel scale than a Bon Jovi concert and one glass of red wine.

Michael came home to find me pouring the glass. I don't drink wine during the week.
"Good day at the orthodontist?" he inquires sarcastically. He's taken a hit or too of his own on the front he knows from where I pour.
"Yup." is the reply I can manage.
"You're doing great, she’ll thank us later." He says.

I mull that over as Michael goes upstairs to shower off a day of work. I'm still mulling when he reenters the kitchen
"Black or beige?' he asks standing proudly in his dress pants and undershirt.
"Black or beige, for what?" I ask.
"For Dinner."
I'm staring dumfounded "We're dressing for dinner now?" I ask, thinking that this is one of his creative parenting tricks. He has an insane ability to approach challenges from some northwest direction and make things right with the world.
"No, we are going to diner remember?"
Clearly I don't. Then I look at the snap shot in my head of our family calendar. Nov 23...KJ orthodontist...Mom & Dad sports assoc volunteer appreciation diner. Damm. I look at the clock 30 minutes. I look at myself; I worked at home today, comfy pants and bed head are not going to cut it. Double damm.

Now I'm angry with a daughter, an orthodontist and a husband, on my way upstairs to speed shower and dress which will most inevitable end with bad hair and a run in my stockings. (I should have filled my glass again.)

By some miracle we arrived on time and in half decent humor. Diner is lovely, the wine is lovely. The guest speaker is interesting. The head coach for a university football team which has been suspended from play for a full year because of illicit enhancement drug abuse among a small selection of its roster. I'm listening to him speak about how he blamed himself, how others held him responsible. I listen as he discusses how getting  kids who enrolled under the football program through a year without a single football game is the hardest challenge he's faced in his coaching career. He speaks about sharing the issue with other teams, coaches and athletic support staff. He talks about appreciation and how so much of what volunteers and coaches do goes unrecognized and he assures us all that at some point "they will thank you later." a parent, an athlete, a member of the board. Not all of them but at some point one person from the sea of beneficiaries will.

I listen with compassion. If this man can keep a stiff upper lip, face the tantrums and ugly words of the press, the public and even some players, then surely, I can weather an orthodontist an archaic appliance and a 13 year old daughter.

I'm grateful for the 'buck up, shot to the shoulder' message I’ve taken from the evening...

Difficult challenges must still be faced, regardless of the discomfort. We must toil through. If there is a reasonable hope of future gratitude, it's the right thing to do.

(and a glass of wine)

Congratulations to Michael for the recognition he received for his dedication to the executive committee and the welfare of our athletes. Proof, that sometimes they do "thank you later."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Red Hot Toes

Michael and his Christmas Light apprentice E-man
Today I had planned a post recounting the grateful moments listed by my young nephews last night at dinner. I am impressed with their genuine understanding of what it means to be grateful. They are very young and do not subscribe to the rule of gratitude in their home. Truthfully I'm not sure that there is an abundance of 'things' to be grateful for in their lives at the moment. They are experiencing family separation and all of the hostility that accompanies it. All the same they have come to expect that at dinner with Auntie Shell everyone gets a turn to share somethings they are "happy" for. They love it! for 15 seconds everyone's attention is on them and they can share about something they choose.

I was looking forward to writing the post. Then this morning Michael and I went out to hang the Christmas lights and I was struck with another post idea. I would write a gratitude about Michael and E-man and their devotion to festivity. We are a week late decorating and have missed the warm weather opportunities so I really am grateful for their efforts.

Ordinarily I stay inside and cook while the lights go up however today I thought I would help. Of course I don't climb ladders and I'm technically challenged. I do however have a great aptitude for harassment. So, while Michael fiddled with frozen fingers on the roof I launched cleaver comments and jabs skyward, trying to lighten the mood and keep everyone merry and bright.

Once I get started hurling remarks I have difficulty stopping. While the banter kept everyone in good humour for the duration of the job I should have stopped when the last bulb was clipped into place; but I didn't. I took it inside and things went horribly wrong. 10 minutes into making lunch I was struck by a smartass pain. If you are unfamiliar with the terminology here's the definition:  Pain felt immediately after uttering a smart ass comment or remark. The pain generally originates from a stubbed toe, tongue bite, banged funny bone or paper cut. Karmic shock therapy for behaviour modification. You know what I'm talking about, I guarantee it has happened to you.

I'm a slow learner perhaps or simply a freak willing to risk a minute of pain for a moment of pleasure. Either way I suffer greatly. I must have really pushed my luck today. While retrieving a plate from the pantry 2 incredibly heavy broiler pans avalanched from the cupboard and attacked my bare feet. I buckled in pain to the floor, holding my breath and my toes. IT HURT! KJ and E-man came running, Michael was already attempting the pry my fingers away to inspect the metatarsal damage. (I'm so lucky to be married to a "foot guy") There's a tiny cut and some bruising, my toenail is destined to turn black. I suppose I deserved it.

Now I'm sitting on the couch with red hot toes, writing a new post idea. reflecting on how Tyler is grateful for dinner at Nanny's, How Riley is grateful for his Birthday (even tough it was actually Ayden's) and how Ayden is thankful for his Lego presents. I'm smiling and waiting for Michael, who has taken the kids skating and who is most assuredly due to return with a bruised tailbone. A smart ass pain of his own. When I explained that I knew the pans were destined to fall when I put them in the pantry, he shouldn't have commented that it was a reasonable explanation for my not swearing a blue streak.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

At the end of Nine Lives

As promised a post of eulogy

18 years is along time to love a pet. Zipper came to live with us that long ago after a long heated debate over the merits of pet ownership. It was the first real marital compromise Michael and I faced. It took some time but eventually I was standing at the pet store scooping up the tiny black and white bundle who had stepped on every furry face and arse in the cage to get to me. It immediately became clear that my pet ownership share was wrapped up in those 20 minutes at the pet store, after that everything else was Michael. He named the cat, made him a bed, took care of the litter and spoiled him rotten. In return Zipper followed him around the house, slept beside him, on him or under his side of the bed. I was the facilitator of a beautiful friendship. Eventually one cat gets lonely so we got Zipper a brother; Pepper. Pepper slept under a laundry basket for the first week because Zipper was not prepared to let another cat take over his claim. Eventually they worked things out and life became interesting. Zipper was like the older more responsible brother keeping Pepper in line with a swat or a squawk when needed. Pepper was the rebel, sneaking drinks of our rye and coke and sniffling candles. They were inseparable. They trashed, not once but twice, our family Christmas tree that first year knocking it to the floor and smashing every single ornament.

Pepper left our family early under unclear circumstances. One day the two went outside and 2 weeks later Zipper returned alone with streaks of dry blood on his fur. One can only imagine that something untoward happened to Pepper and Zipper stayed by his side comforting him in his last days. That's what I like to imagine anyway because that's how Zipper was. He would alert me to crying babies in the middle of the night, curl up with the ill in our home and stand by the emotionally distressed. When the kids were really small he would sleep on the floor outside their bedroom door while they napped. When they grew bigger he moved to their beds moving from Lula's to KJ's and eventually E-man's as their legs grew longer and the space grew shorter. Unless they were sick. When E-man had H1N1 last year that cat took up vigil on the bed and did not leave. Lula wrote about Zipper as her keeper of secrets for a school assignment that left us all damp eyed. To each of our children Zipper was fury sibling complete with the occasional spat and rivalry.

In 18 years there are moments that stand out. The $500 health spa vacation Zipper took by faking Feline Leukemia. The spectacle our champion mouser created when he brought a mouse INTO the house and how he sat back and laughed as Michael and I tried to get rid of it. I swear he was laughing! The smell from his encounter with a skunk and so many more.

Those memories of his last days are most revealing. He was not in any pain just simply old and at the end of his nine lives. We decided to allow him the dignity of passing at home. It was painful and heart-wrenching but he deserved our strength, having been ours for so many years. In those moments when you think no one is watching I witnessed each of our children seeking him out, checking on him, comforting him with words and touch. There were so many tears. The day before he passed a tiny meow sounded from the laundry room where he had chosen for his last days. Lula went to check and found him struggling out to the hallway and towards the living room. She propped him up and guided his walk. He moved into the living room. clearly he wanted to be with his family. It was his way of saying goodbye.

They following evening he passed. As I removed his collar and wrapped him in a blanket I uttered my final words of gratitude. When E-man helped Michael prepare his grave they uttered theirs. When the girls prepare a memorial shadow box they will utter their own.

Its all about how you choose to say good bye and honour his life. It's about being grateful for what he brought to ours.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Your Turn at the Table

Our family is mourning at the moment having lost our beloved Zipper.

I'd like to turn to anyone viewing this blog to help with some gratitude posting.

Your turn at the table... What 's your gratitude today?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

When the Glass is Half Empty

Finding gratitude over the last few days has been a challenge. We are at the very end of Zipper's ninth life and our house has moved from feline nursing facility to hospice. I was unprepared for the grief, even though we knew it was imminent. My tribute post is being written throughout Zipper's last days with us and I will post it in memory.

One truth is that death waits for each of us, human and feline. In its' face we need to put one foot in front of the other and continue living. Children still need to eat and bills still need to be paid. dishes need washing and incomplete homework will still earn you a detention. Math teachers really do suck. (no offense to any math teachers who may be reading, its not you personally, it's just your breed in general.) Perhaps in these times more than any other and extra effort to acknowledge our gratitude is needed.

E-man always has great items of gratitude. Sometimes he's grateful for mastering a kick-flip or getting to go to a Rangers game with Dad. This Friday he looked at us in exasperation when it was his turn around the table and said that he was grateful the week was done; at which point I mused to myself "he's either had a really bad week or we have been setting a very bad example." I hope he had a really difficult week because I'm not sure my parenting can take another blow to it's confidence, we have so much we are attempting to correct already.

Lula hasn't dined with us much this week which leads me to suspect she is grateful for her boyfriend, his mother, sisters, nieces, nephews and grandparents. I hope they are grateful for her company. That sounded a little bitter and more like an ungrateful didn't it? Well I'm not going to disguise that one very well. I am bitter and ungrateful and really quite sad that she is migrating away from us. We miss her and I'm not ready for that stage where the comfort of strangers is more rewarding than that of family.

KJ's big grateful this week was her return to modelling. This week was learning to stomp the runway in 4 inch heels and proper makeup application techniques. In truth I should have said no. Last week she missed because, well she was simply being foul and obstinate. I caved however and allowed it because this week she was simply being foul. Next week I suspect she will make a return to obstinacy due to my critical parenting error.

Pharmaceuticals are paramount on Michael's gratitude list this week. In actual fact he should be grateful that his annoying nag of a wife managed to badger him long enough and hard enough that he finally went to see a doctor! Oh dear, that sounded bitter too didn't it? A person can only suffer so long with chronic sinusitis and diminished lung capacity before someone close to them snaps. Now he has some testing underway and some medication to alleviate the suffering. He's also made his wife happy in the process.

We've made it a rule in our home to recognize some gratitude each day. As my week and my entry clearly illustrates it's not always easy. Things go wrong. Kids leave you for greener grass, boys get bullied, math teachers suck. Fast food patrons can be downright ignorant. Brother's leave their wives. Husbands get sick and cats die. It leaves a taste in your mouth and gratitude is difficult to identify. My glass this week is half empty and I want to wallow in some hostility for a while. I want to pull a Rick Mercer Rant for 45 seconds and get it all off my chest. I want to tell 400 lb. double burger, extra large fries and a 1300 calories milkshake man, that yelling at me because it takes more than 90 seconds to get the goods from the grill to his mouth will not compensate for his sense of internal guilt. For a few minutes I want Zipper to not be on death's door so that he can comfort me; the way he has done for 18 years. I don't want to be grateful! But I am. Despite the "glass half empty" state of my life this week I am grateful for my friend who put her Christmas decorations up already. Grateful for karma retracting it's lesson and re-shuffling the secret santa list at work. I'm grateful that there is so much to be ungrateful for this week and the reminder that a glass half empty is still a glass and that with a little luck what's left is on the rocks.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes.

A simple little gratitude from last evening courtesy of my E-Man.

"I'm grateful that I didn't loose all of my blood tonight"

(He took a stick to the chops during a street hockey game last night and put some teeth through his lip.)

We are all grateful you didn't loose all your blood E-man!

Mom is grateful for real moments that remind you that they really are little and have a wonderful perspective on the world

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gratitude Coles Notes for a Busy Week

LULA, who dines with us sporadically now that she works and enjoys the company of her boyfriend and coaches, listed a few gratitude items this week.
  • grateful for her job - not because she loves to work but because she loves her new laptop the paycheck helped her buy
  • Grateful that work went by quickly so that she could move on to the company of her boy.
  • Grateful that her sister is selling Avon. it's always good to have a direct line to makeup and fashion when you are 15
KJ, has had a very difficult week. What 13 year old girl hasn't? There have been report cards and tantrums, a detention and a stolen bike and gratitude.
  • Grateful that she got to make cupcakes with her best friend
  • grateful that Friday is a day off school
  • grateful that her first Avon order arrived, That was like Christmas, those cardboard boxes with her name on them just waiting to be riffled through, organized and delivered
  • Grateful that Mom's food doesn't taste like poo! (She’s been incredibly nasty towards me this week so Daddy chose her to supply us with a "what I like about Mom" as well as a grateful one evening.)
  • Grateful that she got to stay and watch the school volleyball game.
  • Grateful that Mom's phone interview with her teacher didn't result in personal humiliation...yet!
***What I Like About You*** is a new feature we recently added to our Gratitude routine. Each evening we reveal a redeeming quality or trait we appreciate about someone else at the table. This was created to counteract the "you smell like cheese" comments that are hurled continuously in our home. There's only so many cheese stink, fat head, ugly butt comments a person can take.

E-MAN, greatest challenge this week was being responsible for the theft of KJ's bike.
  • Grateful for hockey school, even though this week his skates pinched and he took the stick that was too long
  • Grateful that his best neighbourhood friend was allowed to play outside. I'm not sure why people insist on keeping their kids inside. Do they prefer them to vegetate in front of the tv or computer?
  • Grateful for Trick or Treating and his teen buddy who makes a very great surrogate big brother he upped the Trick or Treating cool factor by taking him door to door sans Dad.
  • Grateful for report cards and parent teacher interviews. Grade 3, this is probably the last year he'll be grateful for this one.
  • Grateful that KJ offered her forgiveness over the bicycle incident. Although he is grief stricken with guilt it helped that he approached KJ to apologize. It helps more that she accepted his apology with compassion.
MICHAEL, most often needs reminding about the "your grateful can't be about food or dinner" rule. Pressed for other items he manages some great reflections
  • Gratitude for his new IPAD. A purchase for work but a fabulous toy for home too!
  • Carpooling with my stepfather to and from work. I think he enjoys the company.
  • Grateful that the car for carpooling actually fits into our garage Monday to Thursday
  • Grateful that the attitudes of the under 18 crowd in our home have taken a turn for the better as the week progressed. I'm not sure we are living in the same house.
  • We let him have one food gratitude this week because we all share his sentiment "chocolate"
MYSELF, There have been trials; the learning curve of a new job, hormone rage conflicts with teens, stolen bicycles, school holidays...and gratitude.
  • Grateful that I survived my first days of work and that the prospects of full time hours are closer than first imagined.
  • Grateful for a lovely dinner with friends, we don't always make the time
  • Grateful for store return policies and the ability to correct impulse buys and budgetary faux pas
  • Grateful for the power to modify behavior through confiscation. Removing cell phones and computer privileges, denying modeling classes and sleepovers has an amazing ability to make kids like you. or at the very least feign civility towards you. 
  • Grateful for my friends at work who always make me smile, a sweet old man who brought me Flemish beauty pears and my good friend Karma who chose to send me a gentle reminder to forgive and be gracious to those who irritate the living crap out of us and generally make our lives a misery. When I picked my name for our secret Santa gift exchange for work, I drew the name of the one person in that fast food joint that boils my blood. 
All in all it's been a pretty good week. Lula is on line. KJ is in-line. E-man is still cool. Michael is thinking about things other than food and I have a great new office job that I didn't get fired from in my first week!

Now the only question remains; what do you get a pain in your arse for Christmas?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Not Easy Being Green but it has Potential

The days preceding this post have been filled with chaos and anticipation. This week marks the beginning of my new employment. It's a part time position to start off although the prospects of fulltime hours and a very promising career have lured me; despite a return to the art of job juggling. It's very unlikely that I will excel any better at it this time than in the past. However my arsenal of tricks is growing and improving. I have two teens at home who can step up to the plate with our young E-man. I think that very soon one or both will be receiving a crash course in the fine art of weekday dinner preparation. Why not, at twelve I was doing it my self; mainly because I was the oldest daughter of a newly separated mother. A mother who, in a desperate attempt to make ends meet, rented the basement apartment of our home to female college students in exchange for childcare; a very clever use of space, need and resources without argument. I am fairly certain that adequate cooking skills were not included in the job posting. Let's face it most college students are not culinarily equipped with much aptitude beyond toast. Our first was challenged even with that task. It became abundantly clear very early on in the experiment that if I was going to keep myself and my two little hellion brothers alive I would need to cook.

I was green, much like I am now in my new job. Unfamiliar with the tools and techniques required to produce edible or marketable results. Undeterred, I mastered mac & cheese, hotdogs and banana muffins, teaching our freshman sitter along the way. My brothers grew to be strapping young hellions and nobody died. With a little bit of luck and some persistence I am hoping for the similar results behind my new desk and in our home.

Lula will be the likely candidate for cookery. Being the oldest she is at an age where she is beginning to understand the need for household cooperation for the greater good. I believe she will handle 'green' well. She’s mastered being green at high school and in her first job. I cross my fingers that at her age she remains green in the area of relationships and sexual exploration. Although I do feel for this time of adolescence, remembering myself how I abhorred the "green" label. It was thrown about like a curse word among my peers. Meant explicitly to insult and belittle members of our social hierarchy. That was the instance of being green that I hated; not that undeniable fact the I was... but that it was a tool of persecution.

Asking KJ to step up to the hotplate would be a hit and miss experiment; one that would most expectantly end in screaming and tears. Not to mention latent hunger. Her 'green' is social. At a precarious age where she is not certain of her place in the social hierarchy and convinced that our inability to supply her with the proper fashion labels is to blame. Consequently her world is fury right now. Everyone is stupid and tasks are pointless unless they advance her social spectrum. (Side note for personal reference: Teachers, parents, homework = stupid. Facebook, texting, shopping = good) I do not think that we will add to her frustration by imposing the cooking chore. In truth she's really quite skilled in the kitchen; she has cooked at my elbow for sometime and enjoys it. However, with the current state of grounding from facebook, texting and shopping we would most assuredly be dining on purposely disastrous food.

E-man will be happy if he can sway our home into the green revolution. He is determined to raise us up to be environmentally responsible citizens. We try but honestly some days I can't get people to take their garbage to the can let alone sort, crush or break it down. Bless his heart he keeps on us. I think that's a big enough task for an eight year old. He does after all have bigger things like hockey to concern himself with.

Making the green and spending the green remains the mission of my Michael. Although I know regardless of training a new house chef most days I will arrive home to find him slaving over a hot stove, Crockpot or frozen pizza.

Green truthfully I believe is one of those pleasant uncomfortable positions is life. I always think of Kermit sitting on that log in the swamp singing the blues about being green when the rest of the world is red and orange and blue. That amphibian had it good actually and I wonder if he realized it. Sure he felt over looked and dismissed but the expectations were low too, right. No one expected amazing things from him. They didn't look to him for perfection or direction. He simply muddled through. Like learning to cook or learning a new administration job. It's best if the expectations of you are not too high, if people will accept over cooked pasta and misplaced files. I expect that the day will come, like it did for Kermit, where I will shine in my new job position. Lula will achieve culinary excellence and KJ will grow into new colours. E-man will turn us all green and Michael will worry less about it.

Green is something to be grateful for. It is the first phase on the way to the big production. It's the quiet swamp where nobody knows who you are. The space for us to learn, take chances, make mistakes and grow.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What you don't know

For months I've been skirting the law. Each time I climb into the driver's seat I've been flirting with a possible  date with the criminal justice system. Never let it be said that this mother doesn't live on the edge. It would of course had been a lot more thrilling had I known. Had I been aware. If I knew by choice that I was roaming all over the province without a driver's licence! There would have been that adrenaline rush every time I saw a police car, that fear that rides right on the edge of rebellion. The clutch in your chest that says "go ahead pull me over!... or not ...please, no really, please don't pick me, don't pick me."

I know the feeling well. In our very very broke days Michael and I would play 'Let's see how long we can drive with an expired sticker'. One year we made it 7 months and only had to pay for the remaining 5. That was a golden year. Speed traps, ride programs, officers in traffic all provided a crazy cat and mouse adrenaline and some fabulous tales of evasion for diner.

I wasn't even aware that I missed those days of corruption. Not until this week, not until Ashley at the cell phone store refused my ID because it was expired. Not just a little expired...5 months expired! I traced my steps. It's been a busy summer. We spent 2 weeks cruising southern and northern Ontario, there have been appointments, outings, kids taxied, work. I've clocked a good 3,000 km on that expired licence. Had the MTO alerted me that it was up for renewal I would have taken care of it right away. Now I'm disappointed; not only am I without the legal right to drive until sometime at which I can fit government hours into my schedule, I also missed some fabulous adrenaline moments! There were a lot of cops in that 3,000 km. For a brief pause after Ashley pointed out my driving status I was sentimental, reflective of those days when we drove on the edge; tempting MTO fate with our rebellious ways.

We've grown up since then and like partying until dawn and eating pizza for breakfast there are somethings we just don't do anymore. So I write this waiting patiently for Michael to arrive and drive me to renew my licence. Sad that my social conscience has matured past my sense of rebellion but very grateful to Ashley for alerting me to my dilemma, so that I don't have to explain to my kids why Mommy has to go to court.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What Sets us Apart from the "Apps" that Make our World Go Round

Monday morning presented itself this week with the usual hectic pace; everyone running behind, dashing out the door and hoping to make their destination on time. Lula, our 15 year old is particularly concerned with being on time. She's incredibly busy and her schedule demands that she not miss a beat. As a result; glitches put her into a tailspin. When her school bus didn't show up Monday morning it was out of the ordinary, an inconvenience, frustrating. Kids waited for a while then eventually disbursed to city transit, or parent taxi's. I'm quite certain that more than a few opted for a return to bed, no bus is a pretty plausible excuse for ditching. Lula herself arrived to school late via city transit and of course it set the tone for her day. By the time I arrived home there was very little to salvage. Her rant began with the absentee bus driver and ended with same. I myself was more than a little perturbed. School transit should be reliable and dependable. Already this month in our city there have been reports of school bus drivers operating under the influence, uttering threats and facing charges of assault. I'm starting to get a little uptight about the whole adventure, preferring the years leading up to high school where my child walked. Lula's rant became mine momentarily as I shared her frustration.

Tuesday we had put the matter behind us. A bus arrived on time to transport her to school. The driver was new. The usual driver absence perhaps disciplinary from the previous day. Wednesday the same. Whatever, they were getting my daughter to school on time and in one piece that's the extent of my concern. Thursday we learned that the usual driver had in fact suffered a heart attack and passed away! On hearing that news I gulped, feeling an immediate sense of guilt. Surely Karma is hunting me down at this very minute to dispense some much justified retribution.

Why is there gratitude in this moment? Where can it be? We jumped to conclusions and rants; there is no dignity in that. A man died; that is nothing to celebrate or give thanks for. Karma is hot on our heels, I'm certainly not looking forward to that.

The gratitude moment is found in my daughter's facebook status from last night "RIP Chris :) you were a nice bus driver <3".  I am grateful that she knew his name. That the person who drives her bus or serves her fries or handles her returns are more than cogs to her. That, as Chris's passing so clearly demonstrates; the people who facilitate our day to day life are people, with lives and families and love and sorrows and names.

Tomorrow, when a young lady or man serves me coffee of rings through my groceries, I am going to remember to take note of their name tag and thank her or him by name.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sibling Rivalry Expressed Over Lunch

Mom: "why didn't you eat the sandwich I packed you?"

KJ:  "It looked like it was cat food"

Mom: " do you really think that I would have made you a cat food sandwich?"

KJ: "No, but sometimes you mix my lunch up with Lula's or E-man's."

Mom: "Do you think I'd make one of them a cat food sandwich?"

You have to be grateful for rare moments that prove teenagers are not necessarily smarter than their parents!

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm Not the Only One

Veruca Salt was the fabulous name of the pain in the arse brat in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I've always been thrilled with the name, it sounded foreign and clever. for some strange reason it fit her personality perfectly, although I've never understood why. It has been said of my husband and myself that we know a whole lot of useless information. Perhaps it's Michael's passion for crosswords or my love of reading but it's true. I am continually amazed and intrigued with useless facts and some days in the middle of an ordinary normal conversation about pickles and kitchen cupboards you learn the darnedest things.  'Veruca' by definition is a wart. A fact that I would not have otherwise know had it not been for Michael's pedorthic pursuits. Now, how clever of  Roald Dahl to put two and Veruca together! He must have been a purveyor of useless facts too.

Tonight I'm grateful that we didn't name our first born daughter "Veruca"

It Can't be That Simple...or...You Can't be That Dense (depends whose shoes you're in)

Few things are as simple or rewarding as a cardboard box. Our kids, on more than one special occasion have opted for the box over it it contents. E-man selects boxes for packing groceries with future intentions in mind; a box much too large for a bag of apples is a perfect size for constructing a r/c car jump. KJ collects shoe boxes and stuffs them with odds and sods. Boxes are fabulous! and like many fabulous mundane items they are often tossed about and overlooked, under appreciated

Our family gratitude, especially that of our cat, goes to a simple nondiscript cardboard box today. Zipper our cat is old. 18 actually which in human years is like 79. He's feeling his age and our home has turned into a feline nursing facility. We've moved his litter to the main floor (stairs are rough) we fill his water dish 12 times a day (he's fussy for fresh) We comfort him in the middle of the night when he is confused. Continually we frighten the Beejeebers out of him because he doesn't hear us coming. He dines on the finest feline foods and pumpkin to help his digestion. There is little we don't do for him in his ailing age. So much so that we opt to sit on the floor in the living room if it means displacing him from his favorite chair. What can I say, he's been through a lot. He listens to our tears, guards the kids, comforts us when we are ill. We love him.

The last few months have been very disconcerning. Michael and I have stopped counting his lives. We've placed rotating bets on his expiry date and survey for chest movement before approaching. More than once we have braced each other and the children to loose him. Recently he stopped eating, he was more lathargic than normal and was loosing weight at a rate I only dream about.  Our thoughts again turned towards the "big" cardboard box. (gulp)

Today I put his food to the floor for him and gazed gravely as he sniffed it and made an attempt to eat. I watched for a moment. He was clearly in agony, suffering. Not from some ailment or disease but from the stupidity of his caretakers. He's 79 years old! I'm half his age and I have a hard time bending down to tie my shoes some days! Clearly he would eat if he could eat. I did reach for a cardboard box. I turned it upside down and put his food and water dish on top. He looked at me... in disgust that it took so long for me to figure out and gratitude that I did before he starved to death!

Our Zipper

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pick Your Battles

Ignorant people, being cold and shopping are on my list. E-man has migraines, pink and cleaning his room on his list. KJ tops hers with homework, housework and orthodontists. Lula's list; interruptions, tuna and boyfriends who don't call when they say they're going to. All things that aren't going away no matter how tight we squeeze our eyes or how far we stick our fingers in our ears.

I really should add spontaneous thinking to my list, it sets me up every time. This time it set in motion a culminating event of the top three triggers from my "things I'd rather not deal with" list. A perfect storm of mother stress overload.  I really only wanted to leave Mike some quiet space to cram in some last minute studying. It began with "I'll take the kids out for the evening." I could have suggested a movie but the money for that would have come from the kids need winter coats fund. So we went shopping for winter coats. Set Scene: one mother, shopping, for a seasonally detestable condition, in a mall. (malls are magnets for ignorance).

Thank Karma, the Lord or the Money Fairies, you are all my grateful today! I scored the best of the worst days to brave my storm. 30 minutes in I landed the sweetest of deals. So sweet in fact that for a brief second I felt that rush chronic shopaholics rave about. The dopamine connection. E-Man's coat called to me. A 4 in 1 high quality number with an original price tag of over $100.00 on clearance for an unbelievable 20 bucks!!! I scooped it up, responsively scanning the racks for more ways to depart from my money (and fortunately immediately tasted bile) Cha-ching! my bargain set me in fantastic humor for the next insurmountable challenge; a coat for KJ, the pickiest of the pickies, our family fashionista. Who, to my delight found, fell in love with and decided on a wool number in a matter of minutes. On sale I might add!

My elation at having conquered the evening lasted through our celebratory ice cream, our stop to fill the gas tank, our quick nip into the liqueur store. I held it all the way to the grocery store parking lot. Where E-man snatched the clearance tag KJ was using as a big pair of red lips. She snatched it back, smacking him in the process to which he replied with a quick foot intended for her seat back that missed it's mark entirely landing squarely on her back.

I didn't say a word. I pulled into a parking spot, got out of the vehicle and locked the doors. I walked calmly into the store for my milk, bread and bagels, returned to find both still breathing and continued home.

Come to think of it, I'm not the only one who owes some gratitude to those Money Fairies.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Okay I Get the Point!

So two weeks ago I decided that a blog would be a wonderful way to chronicle our "Gratitude Rule" I created the blog-spot, description etc. yup I got that far! A major milestone for someone of my character and by that I precisely mean a person who has never been one to commit to routine. Case in point; we are in week 6 of school and my vow to prepare lunches in the evening has already been smashed to bits. I am tossing leftovers and unwashed fruit haphazardly in to lunch bags between brushing my teeth and drinking my morning coffee, just like before. Suffice it to say I am a woman of great ambition...for about 15 seconds. This blog then should be an interesting challenge. Should I manage to nurture it daily it will be a pleasant read. Should it actually develop a following those people many wonder in time where I've disappeared to.

So why begin today? Basically I was told to. My horoscope, (and I quote directly) said "you have so much to be grateful for why aren't you acknowledging it?" You should know that I'm generally not a 'universe told me to do it' kind of girl. However this advise? I've put gratitude into strict practice in our home. we have a rule about it even! what more can I do? I didn't need to be yelled at. I get the point. Write about it.

I'm grateful today for my too short coffee break that sent me to read my horoscope which told me to get off my butt and get started. Day one...see you tomorrow (perhaps)