30 July 2009

Just Keep Swimming

Nothing to see here.

I have no amusing anecdotes. No insightful observations. Not even a dirty limerick.

I could offer you a crudely drawn picture of a twister and a cow, compliments of my four-year-old? No?

Well, in that case, might I suggest that you find some witty, moving or interesting blogger to entertain you today - there are several in my sidebar that I'd recommend - 'cuz I got nothin'.

Because the ZenMom is just up to her ass in alligators this week and just can't spare any energy for blogging.

And even if I did have the energy, you wouldn't be interested in reading about the kind of stuff on my mind lately. It's pretty damn boring.

I mean, really, do you want to hear about how my co-workers are systematically trying to drive me insane? (Seriously, if you come to me for direction and then do the exact opposite of what I recommend, how much freakin' sympathy do you think I'm going to have for you when you come back to me holding your cocked-up project in your hand like a kid with a dead bird asking me to "fix it"?)

Or about how we've been fighting an algae infection in my pool that's so bad the kids have started calling it "Shrek's Swamp"?

Or about how the door handle to the kid's room got broken and the door got stuck closed and the ZenHusband finally had to break in through the window and cut the handle off with Skill Saw to get it open?

Or about how my house has been under siege by an army of freakishly intelligent and fiendishly determined black ants all freaking summer?

Or about how I'm desperately looking for a new doctor because I think it is the height of absurdity to have to sit in a waiting room for two freaking hours just to spend 60 seconds with the doctor and then get a script for the same damned meds he gives me every freaking time I've gotten an upper respiratory infection for the last ten years, instead of him just calling the damn thing in every once in a while?

Or about how Minion 1 has suddenly outgrown all of his clothes and started peppering his speech with "dammit" and "freaking" (Yeah, that's all on me. Mom of the Year. Right here, baby.)

Or about how I'm stressing about Minion 1 starting kindergarten next ... OMG - It's only TWO WEEKS away?!?! And I how I'm still trying to get him into the school of my choice and don't yet know how that's going to work out? And might not know for sure until the day before school starts?

Or about how Minion 2 - who is apparently part mountain goat (on his father's side, I presume) - has started climbing up onto everything, including his brother's bunk bed, his clothes dresser, his bookshelf, the dining table, the back of the couch, the bathroom counter, and anything with wheels?

Or about how Minion 2 has decided to stop taking naps, and so by about 6 p.m. every night he's wound up like a rabid squirrel? On speed. In a race car. Inside of a tornado.

Or about how both of the Minions seem to have decided this week that dinner should be optional unless Mom and Dad serve as their personal short-order cooks? (Which, for the record, ain't gonna happen, folks.)

Or about how every time I sit down to write, some great catastrophe occurs - like a broken toy or a bruised knee or the ubiquitous cry of "Noooo, I had it fiiiiirst! Mommmmmmyyyyyyy!"

No? Not interested in any of that? Didn't think so.

Move along, then.

Come back next week and I shall endeavor to be witty and charming.

If you brought some wine back with you, that might help.

28 July 2009


I am not graceful. But I know it when I see it.

When I was young, my dad used to say I was the only person he knew who could trip on the cracks in linoleum.

More often than not, my head was in the clouds and my nose was in a book. I paid little attention to where I was putting my feet. Which helps to explain some of those trips to the emergency room.

I'm a klutz. I trip, I fall, I bang into things, I bump my head. I bruise my skin.

Yeah. I'm pretty much the polar opposite of physical grace.

I've always admired the physical grace of athletes and dancers and the like.

But Iive discovered there are many forms of grace

In my former life as a reporter, I met

a man who was paralyzed from the neck down in a childhood accident, but who created the most beautiful pen-and-ink drawings by holding a pen in his mouth. And I saw the grace in his love of life and his ability to see beauty in unexpected places.

I've done ride-alongs with firefighters and paramedics and police officers who risk thier lives for the safety of others. And I saw the grace in their courage and their love of their calling.

I've met doctors who have turned away from "easy" practices to bring desperately needed medical care and supplies to poverty-sticken people for whom those services literally mean life and death. And I see the grace in his unwavering dedication to caring for others and his refusal of any rewards or recognition.

I've met teachers who have "adopted" a school in poorest rural Africa and whose donations of money, clothes, bikes, and school supplies are the only thing supporting the education of an entire village of children.

These people all have within them a grace and style that shone so brightly and, truly, humbles me.

They show me - and everyone else they com into contact with - that grace is not about dancing on toes or putting a ball in a basket ... it's about compassion and selflessness and little, consistent, unnecessary kindnesses.

Perhaps there is hope for me yet.

Photos: Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly,

26 July 2009

Your Life in Song: Barenaked Ladies

MEME: Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Pass it on to some of your friends and include me. You can't use the band I used, or I kick you in the shins. Try not to repeat a song title. It's a lot harder than you think. Be sure to use the artist/band's name as the subject of your note

Are you a male or female:
"I'll Be That Girl"

Describe yourself:
"It's Only Me"

How do you feel:
"Some Fantastic"

Describe where you currently live:
"Hello City"

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
"Take it Outside"

Your favorite form of transportation:
"In the Car"

Your best friend is:
"Thanks, That Was Fun"

You and your best friends are:
"Make My Heart Fly"

What's the weather like:
"Hidden Sun"

Favorite time of day:
"Go Home"

if your life was a tv show, what would it be called:
"The Humor of the Situation"

What is life to you:
"I Live With It Everyday"

Your fear:
"This is Where it Ends"

What is the best advice you have to give:
"Wrap Your Arms Around Me"

Thought for the day:
"Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!"

How I would like to die:
"When You Dream"

My soul's present condition:

My motto:
"I Can, I Will, I Do"

25 July 2009

raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

Feeling random today. And thankful for the little, favorite things:
  • baby giggles
  • bubble baths
  • books
  • best-good girlfriends
  • cilantro
  • magic jeans
  • hard drum lines
  • soft kisses
  • sleeping in on the weekend
  • the smell of fresh-brewed coffee
  • singing in the shower
  • showers for two (singing optional)
  • big, fluffy towels
  • bamboo sheets
  • Disney movies
  • flip-flops
  • orchids
  • the smell of rain
  • Vivaldi's Four Seasons
  • iced tea on a hot day
  • bedtime stories
  • chocolate
"When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
and then I don't feel so bad."

What little favorite things get you through the rough days?

21 July 2009

Felix and Oscar in Love

Inspired by Daddy Geek Boy , who wrote a great post about Compatibility over at Venus vs Mars and then poked a bit of fun at himself over a rare bout of absentmindedness over at his place, unintentionally setting my mind to pondering the two things together ... thanks. :)

I'm a planner, an organizer, a worrier.

My Husband is spontaneous, chilled out, laid back.

Casual acquaintances sometimes wonder aloud why we haven't killed each other. I usually tell them that we only put up with each other for the great sex. ;)

But the people who really know us can easily see that the truth is actually much simpler.


When I was pregnant and just after my kids were born, I lost or forgot things so often that I joked that the baby must have been sucking my brains out with his breakfast.

I left my keys in the front door, locked them in my car, even locked them inside the house - with me on the outside. I lost count of how many times I lost my sunglasses and other accessories. Or forgot to put gas in the car. Or remembered to go to the bank but forgot the checks to deposit. Or put the milk in the pantry. I even forgot some appointments - which I never do.

I used to be able to recall exact quotes and complex figures from memory when I was a reporter. Now I can't remember that I need to buy toilet paper unless I've got a shopping list stuck to my purse.

Some days, just after Minion #2 was born, I swear it was a miracle if I remembered to put all my clothes on before I left the house.

This is what you have reduced me to, my darling children.

The result? All those Mommy-Brain symptoms triggered a defense mechanism: I am totally OCD about some things.

Actually, I can't blame the pregnancies/babies for all of it. I've always had a tendency toward obsessive-compulsive organization. It's one of the things that makes me very good at my job ... and, I suspect, somewhat difficult to live with at times.

But after the kids came along, I got better and worse.

I've learned a great deal of patience from my children. I've learned to let go of a lot of control issues. And I've learned a lot about how to not sweat the petty things. (And to not pet the sweaty things, but that's a whole different kind of lesson.)

But I've also learned that when you have two kids under 5 - organization can not only make your life easier, it can save your sanity.

My husband, on the other hand ... well, if I'm: "A place for everything and everything in it's place", then he's: "Oh, I think I set it down around here somewhere."

I regularly come home to find power tools on the dining table, his shoes in the doorway, his lunch ice chest in the middle of the kitchen floor. And you don't even want to get me started on the piling system on his desk.

In his defense, it's not that he's a slob - he does laundry and dishes and vacuums and is actually pretty darn good at helping to keep things clean around here.

It's just that he doesn't at all mind the presence of my arch-enemy: Clutter. (Dun-dun-dun!)

He can walk right by some random item in the middle of the hallway floor for weeks and never even think about picking it up - unless it happens to be something he needs at that moment. Because it just doesn't bother him.

Meanwhile, I'm developing a nervous tic waiting to see how long he ignores it. (Because, apparently, I'm a masochist like that.)

Of course, when I do "commit a cleaning" as he calls it, then he notices. Because he can't find the cordless drill battery he knows he left sitting on the microwave a couple weeks ago.


And yet, somehow, we've haven't killed each other.

It probably helps that we each knew what we were getting into before we shacked up. In fact, I had one "condition" for agreeing to marry him: I had to be in charge of the "the books". I don't mean in charge of spending decisions; we make those together - I mean in charge of the actual bookkeeping: Paying the bills, balancing the accounts, etc. Because, pre-marriage, my husband's idea of balancing his checkbook was keeping it all "in his head" with an occasional call to the phone-teller to check his balance.

I know. I was horrified, too.

But, the thing is: He was perfectly happy with his "system" before I came along. But - and this is the real key to our "success" in this area, I think - he's also perfectly happy with "my" way.

Because that "it's-all-good" personality that gives the ZenHusband his chill attitude about clutter is the same trait that lets him put up with my obsessive-compulsive control-freakiness.

On the other hand, it's my uber-organized control-freakiness that keeps the lights on around here. ;)


So, yeah:

I'm a planner, an organizer, a worrier.

My husband is spontaneous, chilled out, laid back.

He's the Oscar to my Felix, the Ernie to my Bert, the Yin to my Yang.

But, while we might look like incompatible opposites from a distance, the truth is that we're actually complementary - each supplying something the other would otherwise lack.

Yes, we sometimes clash. But, overall, I think we balance each other pretty well. Maybe even make each other better. :)

What about you and your significant other? Do you have "issues" like these?

18 July 2009

Whirling Dervish



Elapsed time: About an hour.

Some days I wonder why I even bother.


Oh, right. That's why. :)

14 July 2009

Kid Logic: Compartmentalizing

Four-year-old Minion, with his hand at his chin: "Mommy, I'm full all the way up to here! I can't eat anymore."

Me: "All right, if you're full, you don't have to eat anymore dinner. You can be excused from the table."

Five minutes later:

Minion: "Mommy, I want ice cream"

Me: "I thought you were full?"

Minion, without missing a beat: "Well, yes, but that was my dinner place. My ice cream place is empty.


09 July 2009

I have a bad feeling about this

So, a little over a week ago, I twittered about the sinkhole that appeared in my front yard.

Turns out there was a busted water main at the end of my driveway. The City diligently sent out a maintenance guy within an hour - which was awesome. He pumped the water out of the hole and declared that the busted pipe was on our side of the property line - which was not so much with the awesome.

So, the ZenHusband started digging and I called my dad, who just so happens to be the best darn plumbing contractor in the tri-state area. (I can't even begin to estimate how many thousands of dollars that fact has saved me over the years. Thanks, Dad.)

So, that weekend, Handy Dad and The ZenHusband got to play with a jack-hammer and shovels and PVC. Oh my.

Two six-packs and 12 goddammits later, they'd replaced the section of pipe and filled in the sinkhole at the end of my driveway. Huzzah.

This morning, I went out to my car and saw this.


So, yeah. Looks like we get a Mulligan on the water main repair. Oh joy.

Our house is more than 50 years old and the pipes out there are all original, so, we figure that pretty soon we'll need to replace that whole line from the City hook-up to the house.

Apparently, we are just going to start by doing it one section at a time.

The Good News is: The kids think it's way cool that we are the only house on the block with a moat.

The Bad News is that Handy Dad is out of town this weekend (Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!) and The ZenHusband has a shoulder injury that the doctor warned against aggravating.

So, guess who gets to dig a big ol' hole this weekend?

That's right! The four-year-old!!!

Okay, no. Me.

But don't worry, The ZenHusband says he'll be happy to supervise and point out whenever I might be doing anything wrong.

Wish me luck. Or, you might want to wish him luck, or at least speed. To, you know, avoid any accidentally wide shovel swingage that may or may not occur.

Actually, knowing my husband, he'll end up down in that hole with a shovel and a pipe-wrench despite Doctor's orders. So, I guess a little kibitzing can be forgiven. :)

So, what are your plans for the weekend? (If you're planning an exotic trip or glamorous event ... lie to me, 'kay?)

06 July 2009

Pattern Recognition

My first pop culture crush was Han Solo.

No, wait, actually, my first crush was a rat named Justin. But my first human crush was Han Solo. And I'm pretty sure Indiana Jones was second or third on the list.

So, I don't think it's entirely unreasonable for me to blame George Lucas (and maybe Harrison Ford) for my long-term attraction to lovable rogues - the charming tough guys - "emotionally unavailable" I think the kids are calling it these days?

But, while Ingenue-loves-Rogue might work great in the movies, it's hardly ever a recipe for a happy ending in real life.

You can file that little bit of wisdom under "Stuff Zen Learned in College That was Not on the Approved Curriculum List", boys and girls. It's a big file.

Looking back, the self-perpetuating pattern seems painfully obvious. But, back then, I just wondered why every guy I dated turned out to be such a stunning jerk. Now, I see that I really just dated the same guy with different faces a half-dozen times:

- The Frat Boy: Who was killing time 'twixt break-ups with his high school girlfriend.
- The Soldier: Who should have been a sailor, based on his "girl in every port" habit.
- The Cowboy: Who just quit calling and coming around when the newness wore off.
- The Executive: Who forgot to mention his wife and kid back home.
- The Writer: Who wooed with great skill and enthusiasm, and lied the same way.

And then there were all the ones who oh-so-obviously only wanted to get into my pants.

Tinker, Tailor, Rich Man, Poor Man: Liars, cads, manipulators - all.

Is it any wonder that this is around the time I started to develop my "All men are pigs" theory?

Personally, it took hitting an emotional rock-bottom for me to finally recognize that the problem - the pattern - was mine. And so, in a strange way, I will always be grateful to the one who broke my heart the hardest and the last.

Still, it would be easy to blame him - to blame all of them. To label them Bad Guys and leave it at that. But I know, now, that they didn't do it by themselves. I mean, if you stick your hand in the hive, can you really get angry at the bee for stinging you?

Really, I did it to myself. Because, not only did I keep falling for the same "type" over and over ... I was falling for someone who was never real to begin with - an idea, a fantasy, a myth.
My college roommate - a Nice Guy of the highest order - always lamented that, despite what we claim, most women are attracted to the men who treat them like crap. And that Nice Guys just can't compete with that.

I countered his argument with the truism that (most) men want the woman they can't have - until they can have her. And maybe that's why our Prince Charmings so often turn into wolves.

See, Sir Nice Guy and my inner Ingenue had the same problem - but from opposite sides of the fantasy: I was in love with a charming rogue who would never commit to anything beyond "today" and so broke my heart over and over again. And he was in love with a woman who used him as the rebound guy in between her own Bad Boys.

We spent more than one night nursing a bottle of Jack Daniels at our kitchen table, debating the finer points of our theories on the theme of "Love Sucks".

We never did come up with any completely satisfactory answers.

But one thing we did decide in our brilliantly drunken and love-sick ramblings, was that pop culture has to shoulder at least part of the blame.

One night, we lounged on our living room floor (the kitchen chairs just seemed too dangerously high at that point) cursing all of the jerks who had ever broken our hearts, swearing we were "over" them, toasting to our wise epiphany, and damning-to-hell all of those chick-flicks and love songs and romance novels - and especially those insidious fairy tales - that set up such unrealistic expectations about love and sex and romance.

- Wuthering Heights? Drivel.
- Gatsby? A bloody fool.
- Bull Durham? An urban myth.
- Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty? Pfft. We don't need no stinking princes.
- Westley and Buttercup? True Love only happens in bedtime stories.
- Superman, Batman, Spider-Man: Type A, emotionally unavailable jerks.
- John Hughes: The devil.
- Jane Austen: A whore.
- Shakespeare: Her pimp.
- Even my beloved Han and Indy were thrown onto the raging bonfire of our anti-romanticism, along with James Bond and James T. Kirk : Cads and bounders, they were. Not worthy of the love of a good woman, thank-you-very-much.

As we tipsily pondered who we might be able to sue for our extreme emotional distress over these pop culture crimes against the heart, we made a vow: No more romantic fantasies for us, we declared, high on whiskey and our own worldly wisdom. We were done with it all. We would be all about the "anti-romance". And we would kick each other in the ass when we needed reminding of that.

Of course, after we sobered up, we both went right back to the jerks who had driven us to drink in the first place.

Sometimes, those epiphanies take a while to sink in, yeah?

The good news, though, is that this little tale does have a happy ending - two of them, actually.

A couple of years after finally hitting rock bottom in her last humiliating heartbreak over Mr. Emotionally Unavailable ... our Beloved Ingenue had healed up enough to take a risk on love again. And, more importantly, she had wised-up enough to pick a man - a real, red-blooded, imperfectly perfect man - who was worth the risk.

And Sir Nice Guy? Well, he took just a teensy bit longer to come to his senses. He actually married his rebounding princess. I know! Look, I desperately wanted to chuck a bottle of Jack Daniels at his head during the entire ceremony, okay? But this was a path he had to walk on his own. So, I just smiled through clenched teeth throughout the whole thing, hoping that I was wrong about her.

I wasn't.

Thankfully, he came to the same conclusion not long after and finally purged her from his life. Today, he's happily married to a smart, good-hearted woman and has two fabulous step-kids.

I'm quite proud of him - of both of us - for overcoming our pop-culture poisoning and finding happiness in our perfectly anti-romantic romances.

And, though he may never read this, I realize now that I owe him a big Thank You.

Not just for being a shoulder to cry on, and a pal to drown my sorrows with, and a big-brother figure to make me laugh or to offer to punch a jerk in the face ... but for being a constant example to me that there were, indeed, Very Nice Guys out there. And they were just looking for Nice Girls to love them, too.

Without that bit of light in the darkness, I might never have found my way out of the woods and into the arms of the Very Nice Guy who I married and still love madly to this day.

So, belated as it is: Thanks, J.

Love you, man. Cheers.

02 July 2009

That was Zen, This is Tao

"There are no mundane things outside of Buddhism,
and there is no Buddhism outside of mundane things."
~ Yuan-Wu

Despite the title of my blog, I don't actually spend a lot of time writing about "Zen".

Honestly, I sometimes feel like I'm committing false advertising. :) I kind of feel bad for poor wandering web-surfers who might be seeking wisdom or enlightenment and instead find me. Sorry 'bout that. ;)

As much as I dislike labels about this sort of thing, I do identify with Taoism and Zen Buddhism as part of my life philosophy (I don't consider them religion. At least not in terms of my practice.) - which is where my nickname/blogging pseudonym came from.

But, despite what some people think, that doesn't mean that I spend all my time meditating on spirituality or philosophizing about attachment or "striving for enlightenment" (whatever that means). (I do enjoy yoga, though. So I guess I fit that stereotype.)

But, no. It's pretty much the opposite of that. I don't mentally separate my "practice" from my "life".

It's not about doing something "above and beyond" my everyday life. It's about living and appreciating my life every day. It's about acting with mindfulness and compassion. And about forgiving myself and others when we fall short. And I do. Fall short, that is. A lot. But that's okay, too. That's why they call it "practice" ... because you're never perfect.

Having said all of that ... I do enjoy reading about Buddhism and Taoism and people who practice them.

If that sounds interesting to you, you should check out some of my favorite "zen" blogs ...

Cheerio Road
Karen Maezen Miller is the author of Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood. If you are a parent, you should read her book. Like her book, her blog is insightful and inspiring. She also blogs at The Laundry Line at ...

Shambala SunSpace
I subscribe to the Shambala Sun Magazine, but I think I enjoy the blog even more. They feature a variety of authors with interesting perspectives on a breadth of topics.

The Zen in You
Caroline at The Zen in You is taking a little blogging hiatus right now, but her site is still worth a visit. Her beautiful photography is complemented by posts that reflect her kind, caring personality.

Zen Moments
This is a lovely collection of real life stories contributed by a variety of people about their personal moments of awareness, inspiration, compassion and beauty.

I'm a relatively new reader at BlissChick, so I don't feel like I really "know" Christine yet, but her bright, positive energy really jumps right out at you and her joi de vivre makes me smile.

Dr. Amy Tiemann is an interesting and intelligent blogger and I'm really looking forward to reading her book.

The Buddhist Blog
This one always makes me think. James explores a huge variety of topics and ideas from a Buddhist standpoint. He also has about a bazillion links to online Buddhist resources and blogs.

I hope you enjoy these. And I always love to hear your reading suggestions, too.