Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Peanut's Lucky Weekend

(photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/leftlung/)
My nine year old, Peanut, is – aside from his incredible stubbornness – probably one of the happiest, most optimistic people I know. It has become the joke with most people who know him that he cannot tell a story without smiling. His inability to properly enunciate consonants is simply because he never is able to shape his lips in anything other than a big, ol’ Cheshire Cat grin. It is one of many endearing qualities he possesses.

This past weekend was a fun weekend for the boys and me. Our itinerary wasn’t anything particularly out-of-the-ordinary but Peanut must have thought it was something extra special. At lunch, on Sunday, he exclaimed that this weekend was a really lucky weekend. I asked him why he thought the weekend was so lucky and he summed it up by saying, “Well, we had Mom-And-Sons Date Night on Friday and had the best food and waitress ever, then we got to go to PetCo and we bought Hannah (the hamster) a new cage. Then on Saturday we played Blitz (this is our “traditional family card game” that involves a $1 per person ante to play the game) with Grandma and Grandpa F. and Great Grandma S. and I won $6. Then we got to come here, to the China Buffet, for lunch after church.”

We all thought that sounded like a pretty great weekend and what luck he had to have had it.

As we left the Chinese food restaurant, he insisted we all take fortune cookies and read them together. We took them as we walked out and got in the car to go home.

Peanut remarked from the back seat, “Well, guess what, Mom?”

“What’s that?”

“My weekend just got even luckier,” he exclaimed. “My fortune cookie has TWO fortunes in it!”

How lucky is that? It just goes to show us that we are only as lucky as we recognize we are and sometimes it just takes a nine-year old to point it out to us.

Peanut’s Lucky Weekend reminded me of how lucky I am, too.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"I Would Like To Thank My Family..."

Last time we were together, we talked about how you should always have an elevator speech so that you can give a brief “who-you-are-and-what-you-do” overview of yourself, should you ever need to produce it at a moment’s notice. I also told you that it is nice if you also had your “Oscar Speech” ready, as well. What is an “Oscar Speech”?

In order to explain this, I feel I should back up and address Oscar Night. This is the night, usually held in the month of March where celebrities parade up and down a red carpet in their designer finery and celebrate great talents in the cinematic arena. This is also the night when those selected as the “top” in their field of work are awarded a shining gold statue and invited to address the audience. We have all watched these thank you speeches and anticipate that incredibly awkward moment when the music comes up and some classic talent is cut short during his or her remarks. It is (in the eyes of the producers and directors of this carefully choreographed event, the most “PC” way to offer up) the theatrical “hook” to yank those windbags off the stage so the evening doesn’t end up running so late that we are all sound asleep on the couch in time to hear the “Best Actor” category.


Our own “Oscar Speech” is one we should all try to have just in case we are publicly acknowledged for a job well done. It is one that relays our gratitude and recognizes those who have helped us along the way.

I recently attended a dinner in which the recipient of an award took 20 minutes to say thank you. By the time they were done, the audience was coughing and shifting in their seats so much that I became wildly uncomfortable. The honored recipient never realized that sometimes, when it comes to bestowing thanks upon others, that too much is not a good thing.

Also – how many times have you heard someone reflect on a thank you speech they gave and say, “Oh, no! I forgot to thank my wife!”

If you have your “Oscar Speech” prepared, you will never forget those important people and you will never have to write it out on a little white card (come on…how grateful can you be to anyone who you can’t remember their names on your own??).

My Oscar Speech would go something like this:

“I am honored that you would recognize me for something that I am so proud to have been a part of. I want to thank everyone involved in the project who contributed their time and talents so selflessly and I want to thank all of you for your continued support. I want to thank my family, especially P.O.D. (remember this guy? If not, read my blog archives, for goodness sake!), for being so understanding of my passion for this project. I realize that sometimes it meant a sacrifice to them but they, like I, felt that what we were doing was a valuable contribution toward (insert whoever benefitted from the project). Thanks again.”

Keep it general. Keep it short. Show gratitude and make a graceful exit off the stage. Nobody wants to hear you grandstanding or taking up a filibuster for your cause.

And that’s your Oscar Speech. Have this one ready, too….you never know when you might need it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What's Your Elevator Speech?

Someone once told me to always have an “elevator speech” ready. What, you ask, is an elevator speech? It is a 3-5 minute description of who you are and what you do and it usually includes some interesting tidbit about who you are or what motivates you or some little nugget that would make you interesting to the elevator speech audience.

I am usually faced with producing my elevator speech on airplanes. As much as I desperately try to avoid conversation with my seatmate(s), seventy percent of the time I am finding myself giving it. I often wish that my seatmate had an elevator speech because usually they give me a 45 minute monologue on their life, their family history, and any medical conditions they may be facing at the moment. I once had a seatmate tell me within the first three minutes of my sitting next to her that she was having surgery on some female issues (I will spare you the graphic details) later that week. I think I must have stared at her for a full minute before I reacted to her story. I could tell it was going to be a very long flight. Thankfully, she was removed (she was in the wrong seat) and replaced with a teenager who slept the entire flight. Whew.

I digress.

So, my elevator speech goes something like this:

“My name is 1SweetMama (name changed to protect the innocent!) and I am a mother of two boys, ages 14 and 9, and we live in Le Mars, Iowa, The Ice Cream Capital of the World. Le Mars is actually called The Ice Cream Capital of the World because more ice cream is made in my town than any other town on the planet. Le Mars is actually located in the northwest corner of Iowa and it is about 30 miles north of Sioux City. I have been employed at Wells’ Dairy, Inc. (we make Blue Bunny ice cream), with the exception of a four month sabbatical, since 1998. Presently, I am in the "blah, blah, blah" department serving as the "yaddah, yaddah manager" (awww, c'mon....I have to leave some mystery to 1SweetMama's identity!). What this means is that I am do stuff to get people to buy Blue Bunny ice cream (again....nebulous....I am kind of an enigma). I also love to write and do some copywriting for Wells’ Dairy, including writing my own blog about how sweet life is. I really do enjoy my work.”

With the appropriate dramatic pauses and inflections, this elevator speech takes me about three to four minutes. It sums up who I am and what I do and how it relates to them. Sometimes there is a follow-up question and answer period but the gist is that it is concise.

Elevator speeches work great on airplanes, at small dinner parties, or even if called upon for a “get-to-know-you” ice breaker activity. I highly recommend you carry your elevator speech in your “cerebral back pocket” so that you can quickly and easily reference it at a moment’s notice.

Now, an “elevator speech” should not be confused with your “Oscar Speech”, which we will talk about next time. Stay tuned! Until then, I remain…..1SweetMama

Friday, March 20, 2009

Short, But Oh, So Sweet!

Today’s blog comes with no pictures, no sugar-coated blah-de-blah, no funny. What it does give you are simple, yet powerful words for anyone to live by:

Life is too short to wake up with regrets…
So love the people who treat you right;
Love the ones who don’t just because you can.
Believe everything happens for a reason.
If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.
If it changes your life, let it.
Kiss slowly.
Forgive quickly.
God never said life would be easy…
He just promised it would be worth it.

Until next week, I remain….1SweetMama

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Are Ya Feelin' Lucky?

Today is St. Patrick’s Day and this morning, while I was walking Max, I got to thinking about this day and how it is known for celebrating the Luck o’ the Irish.

Now, I am mostly German and Scottish, by ancestry, but I understand that there is a wee bit o’ Irish in me somewhere and on no other day of the year is it more prevalent than today. But this morning, I was trying to contemplate something else, other than the wearin o’ the green, or eating corned beef and cabbage for dinner tonight.

I was thinking about my luck.

The Luck of the Irish historically refers to the fact that the Irish people have come through such overwhelming adversity and have come out on top and kicking! It must be luck... or true perseverance. Or stubbornness. Whatever it is, I think that I might actually be more Irish than I thought.

There has been some adversity here and there to overcome and I feel as though I have not only come out on top but have found my way to the end of the rainbow, too. I have been very lucky. My life has been, for the most part, very good.

A wonderful childhood. A solid upbringing with parents and grandparents who have been and continue to be my rock and my compass. Two healthy and amazing children who make me laugh every single day – even if it is sometimes through tears.

For the past two and a half years, I have been lucky enough to have been placed in the life of a simply remarkable man who I adore and hope to one day spend the rest of my life with. My health. A solid job with benefits. A roof over my head. Food on the table. Fun in my life. Friends. Family. Laughter. Inspiration. …and all of you who follow this blog on a weekly basis – it is truly my creative outlet.

Yes, my friends….while St. Patrick may be remembered for leading the snakes out of Ireland, I hope I am remembered as the nice girl who realized that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was her richness of life and the value of everyone who contributed to it.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the 13th!

This has been my day so far….

I woke up a little too early this morning because I was having a bad dream about missing my flight that I am supposed to take later today….

I got too little sleep last night because I had to re-arrange my furniture, late into the evening, in order to move my couch away from the front window (there is a great debate between my grandmother and me – I think Max the Wonderdog is eating my couch in defiance of my being gone all day and he is bored and my grandmother thinks he is tearing it up because he tears around the house – repelling off the couch cushion that is torn up – when the postman comes…and we know how Max feels about the postman!)…

Just before I left the house, I had to stretch across my son’s (Peanut) bed in order to check behind it for one of his favorite stuffed animals that he thinks he might have left at my house before he left for his dad’s house. Turns out “Iceberrrrg Junior” (a Lil’ Webkins Huksy dog) was not behind the bed, after all. When I left the house for work, I glanced at my coat (which I had on while I performed the Husky search) and it was so covered in dog hair that it looked like I was actually wearing Max…..

After parking the car in the corporate office parking lot, I realized I left my cell phone at home. My plan was to not go back home until after I return from my trip on Sunday (since I am getting a ride to the airport). I had to call my grandmother to go search my house (because, of course, I cannot remember where I left the darn thing) so that she could bring the phone up to me, here at the office (thank goodness she lives close by!).

But…always being the eternal optimist….It is now 9:27 a.m. and things are beginning to look up for me.

I did get my coat cleaned off (it took several swipes with a lint roller), Iceberrrrg Junior (I think) has been located at Peanut’s dad’s house, Grandma found my phone, and I am pretty sure there is a bar in the airport so I am thinking there may be a cocktail in my near future (after all, it is 5 o’clock somewhere!!). Oh, and it is payday today. Sweeeet!

Here is to a better Friday the 13th and I am hoping that you all are finding the number 13 to be a lucky one.

Until next Tuesday, I remain……1SweetMama

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brain Freeze!

It is March 10 and I am really getting tired of the bad weather. People who tell me that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb obviously do not spend a lot of time in northwest Iowa. We “locals” know that March can never reliably be counted upon for good (or predictable) weather. In fact, March is often the most outrageous month for unpredictable weather…..and today is no exception.

Rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow, high winds, and bone chilling air temperatures are the gifts that Mother Nature has given to us within the last 24 hours. This is just her way of reminding us that we are mere mortals and can never control the weather….we can predict it, analyze it, and get out of it….but she holds the ultimate power in this department.

So, today’s entry is short and sweet – because my brain is frozen solid.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The New Washing Machine

Coincidence? Perhaps. No one will ever know for sure…..in my last blog, I wrote about how Hannah the Hamster (aka – Hannah The Escape Artist) was very recently extracted from the guts of my washing machine.

Max The Wonderdog – or Max The Hamster Hunter – (please refer to my last blog entry) quickly located her, by smell, as being inside the washing machine. We all had our doubts but we couldn’t overlook Max’s intense concentration on the lower, front corner of the appliance.

Now, understand that my washer has been on the fritz for the past six months. It came with the house, but if I had to make a guess, I would think the washer was probably 20 years old. In recent weeks, it has been acting up and, really, has developed its own little personality. It will knock and bang around a load and will run so loudly, that I would start a load of wash and leave my home, just so that I would not have to listen to the ruckus. On many occasions, I have gone to the basement to find my washing machine had strolled across the floor – possibly to socialize with the water heater?? – you know, appliances really do need to get more social with each other…

Until the “Hannah” episode, the washer and I had formed a nice little relationship: she won’t bother me too much as long as I don’t bother her too much. However, the “Hannah” adventure tipped the scales in her favor. After my father disassembled parts of the machine in order that we could locate and remove Hannah from the inside, this washing machine has refused to run without incident.

Her wash cycles grew louder –as if she was screaming at me from the basement, "WHY DID YOU TOUCH ME???? I TOLD YOU NOT TO TOUCH ME!!!! WE HAD AN UNDERSTANDING!!!” She would knock around in the basement, walking away from her little corner, in total refusal to cooperate as a functioning contributor to my household. Then, the other night, she put her foot down for the very last time. She ran all night, spewing water and never draining. I found her the next morning in a pool of lukewarm water, still churning the load I placed inside her at bedtime, the night before.

Well, that attitude from my washer just doesn’t “set” with me. It was time for her to go. And I was gonna throw out her little friend, Mr. Dryer, too. He just couldn’t seem to dry a single load of clothes without taking his own sweet time – sometimes taking two or three cycles to accomplish the job. I was sick of him sucking off my electricty while taking total advantage my benevolence - allowing him to remain under my roof without contributing 100% to the laundry effort.

So, let this be a lesson to all the other appliances living within the walls of my residence – get lippy with me and OUT YOU GO! Today, my new washer and dryer stand proudly in the spot vacated by the insubordinate ones. Gleaming white, they are not the big, fancy front loaders I often daydream about, but simple laundry sentinels, standing at the ready – awaiting their next load. The new crew washes and dries three times the capacity as the old ones in half the time. In fact, I am happy to report that, for the first time in several months, I am totally caught up on the laundry. And no back-talk from either of them!

So – I guess that the entire ecosystem within my household supports each other in ways I never even fathomed….it took one little escape adventure from Peanut’s hamster to trigger a whole chain of events that resulted in a brand new set of appliances that make me very, very happy.

I guess that in the “Ice Cream Capital of the World”, it is the little things that make me realize that life really is sweet!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Max The Hamster Hunter

Today I must pay homage to the family dog, Max – or “Max The Wonderdog” as I have referenced him in previous blogs.

Max has been the center of our lives for a year and a half now. The boys adore him and my youngest is fascinated by the fact that Max has a metal rod in his left leg as the result of injuries sustained from a hit and run incident from his puppyhood (judging from his extreme hatred of the Schwan’s Man – we think it was some kind of truck that may have struck him).

Aside from his continual shedding and occasional neurotic behavior of eating random areas of my carpeting and inconspicuous areas of my couch – he does this when he is ticked off at me because I have been gone all day (“What? And you couldn’t just leave me a note? Well, take that, 1SweetMama! Let this be a lesson to you!”), Max has proven his value in protection, love, and loyalty to our family…and now Max has assumed another role in our household: Max The Hamster Hunter.

Hannah – as in “The Hamster” (not “Hannah” as in “Montana”, as my 9 year old, Peanut, enthusiastically explains) is an escape artist. She has only gotten out a handful of times but I am continually amazed at her verve for wanting out of her humble abode. No matter how heavy the object placed atop her cage, she somehow manages to muscle up the strength to pull back the lid and drop 3 ½ feet to the floor below in order to explore the basement.

It is important that I mention that Hannah lives in the basement (which is actually a very decent living area – she lives in the “rec room” area) because when we have tried keeping her upstairs in Peanut’s bedroom, it drives Max insane. The hamster cage is like “Max TV” and Max is completely transfixed by the fact that we keep a rodent under glass for his viewing enjoyment. Max is a hound dog and, eventually, he is totally consumed by the movements of this rodent and he begins to whine and foam at the mouth in anticipation of what this tasty morsel might feel like in his belly.

To save Max from madness, we keep Hannah on a separate level of the residence, with the door between the main floor and the basement closed. But, occasionally, we will allow Max into the basement, under close supervision, to observe Hannah in her habitat. Max thinks we must be marinating her for his future enjoyment (“The longer that thing stays in that glass box, the fatter and juicier she gets!”).

The greatest thing about the Max and Hannah relationship is that we have discovered that each time Hannah disappears, Max is able to locate her in less than 10 seconds. We simply send him downstairs with the charge, “Max, go find Hannah!” And it is done. End of story. He doesn’t even stop to take a sniff. His incredible sense of smell leads him directly to her hiding spot and we are able to extract her from whichever precarious predicament she has placed herself in and she goes back into the cage. (“She must not be done yet”, is what Max must think every time we put her back into the glass box.) The last Hannah escape found her tightly wedged into a tiny corner of the washing machine. We would never have located her there if it wasn’t for Max who insisted that she was there. He probably wound up actually saving her life. Good dog!

Every one in the family plays a role and Max’s place within our family unit is no different. He provides us with limitless unconditional love, protects us from the Schwan’s Man, and keeps Hannah well accounted for.

For this, we are eternally grateful. Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama