Monday, October 7, 2013

Golden moments

Every once in a while, my husband and I forget the endless possibilities of how things can go horribly wrong, and we decide we’re going to plan a Cameron Family Fun Day, much in the same spirit as Clark Griswold packed up the family truckster and traveled across the country in Vacation.

This past Saturday was a Cameron Family Fun Day.

We had loosely planned our annual trip to Knollbrook Farm, about an hour away from our home. The place is great, with not only a you-pick pumpkin patch, but pumpkin gourd catapults, cows, goats, a huge slide, corn maze, hayrides, mums, decorations, games… if it has to do with fall fun, they have it. It wasn’t until we were leaving Bobby’s flag football game that Jeff announced we were heading up there right that minute. The rest of the kids were a little unprepared for a road trip, but everyone settled down and stopped grumbling in a short amount of time. I took issue with the fact that there was grumbling in the first place, because seriously… the boys get to hang out with friends pretty much whenever they want, and don’t usually miss out on anything unless one, or both,… or all three are grounded. I tried to explain that I didn’t think spending a few hours with family would be the end of the world as they knew it. They argued to the contrary. Whatever. To pass the time I offered a round of The Alphabet Game, and Sam was the only taker. We made our way through small town after small town calling out words and advancing through the alphabet.

About 30 seconds after we arrived at Knollbrook, we were reminded that they took neither credit/debit cards, nor checks. We had admission covered, but Jeff and Tyler drove to the nearest ATM, about five minutes away, for funds to actually purchase all our pumpkin goods. During that time, the kids and I checked out some of the games – until the rain began. Luckily there’s a covered shelter, so we hung out in there and watched a torrential downpour pelt all the other poor families who had to run in from the pumpkin field. When Jeff and Tyler returned, the super nice family who owns Knollbrook offered either a full refund of our admission, or the option to head into town, eat lunch and come back when the rain stopped. We chose the latter. In an amazing turn of luck, the kids actually sat through lunch without as much as a crossed eye or partial disagreement. It was so much fun and restored my faith in the humanity of our family. We actually *could* function normally in public! No fighting! No yelling! It was downright harmonious, and there was [dare I say it?] laughter.

We returned to Knollbrook and proceeded to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. We trudged through the muddy pumpkin field and everyone chose their favorite pumpkin. We returned home around 7pm, weary, muddy and a little sweaty… but our mission was accomplished.

I know the boys – at 14, 14 and 11 – don’t always see the value of spending “family time” together, but I hope by force-feeding continuing our annual family outings, a true desire and appreciation for their family will grow in their hearts. I think that Tyler (21) and Kate (19) have officially reached the age at which they understand the importance of family and are willing to put up with the others’ shenanigans for the cause. We are far from a perfect family – there are spats, arguing and punishments doled out daily, if not on the hour. But despite our knack for spinning out of control, we somehow manage to pull ourselves together on occasion and make it work. It’s those “make it work” times that shine like gold in my memory bank.

In other news, I am looking forward to Week 4 of the Living & Active Challenge. Last week was a bit shaky, but I have renewed my resolve – and optimism – that I can get back on track. I shared my optimism with Buddy-dog this morning on a quick run. He seemed on board too, but that was probably just because it’s also his chance to get out early and poop. Whatever works. His unconditional love and happy tail-wagging is incentive enough to get out of bed at 5:20a on a chilly autumn morning.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Student of Life

Recently – now that the shine has worn off the new school year – the kids grumbled one morning, “You're so lucky you don't have to go to school anymore.” Ha. I initially reminded them that I long ago traded school days for full-time work days; but lately I’ve realized that every day I’m still learning. Only now? It’s more a case of being a “student of life,” rather than middle school, or high school, or even college. My ability to learn and apply said knowledge is tested each and every day, not on paper, but in application. For example…

(A) I learned that the school will send a note home when a child decides for himself to not wear his winter coat in January (despite my thoughts otherwise), because he thinks it’s “too bulky.”

(B) I took this knowledge and proceeded to harp, nag and threaten to ground said child if he goes to school without his coat again.

A+B= (C) Child wore coat for the remainder of winter, stayed warm at recess and I didn’t fear CPS would show up at our front door. Live and learn, people. Live. And. Learn.

The phrase “You learn something new every day,” is really more a form of reality to me. Another example… yesterday I took on the task of reorganizing/purging/cleaning our garage, which is really more of a place where all the excess in our lives goes to die. It’s also the favored place for our house to seemingly vomit on itself, leaving random items strewn everywhere. Here are the things I learned in just a short hour-and-a-half:

• The elusive little field mouse that took up residence last winter/spring was able to carry a staggering amount of wild bird seed to almost each and every storage shelf.

• Same field mouse designated the area underneath a Little Tykes wagon as his toilet, as well as a lunchbag-sized insulated cooler. Also? My North Face winter boots. Grrr.

• I am almost certain that I will now likely contract hantavirus from contact with mouse turds.

• My dear husband is henceforth banned from buying motor oil unless he first uses the generous supply he’s amassed by forgetting he already bought enough motor oil for a dozen oil changes.

• The same goes for weed killer.

• Sawdust from the table saw will fly into the air and gently settle everywhere. Everywhere.

OK. So these aren’t things that will put me in the same league of intellect as Einstein, but they were things I learned – some, much to my dismay. (Ahem,… bird seed, sawdust, mouse turds in my boots.) The point is, there is always something to discover and learn every day. And when you do stumble upon these little nuggets of information, you react and adjust your sails to either fix a problem or take it in stride and carry on.

Similarly, as I enter week #2 in the Living & Active challenge, I am faced with learning new things about myself and the capacity that I have for increasing my wellness and spirituality. I am learning that some weeks, it’s going to be a genuine challenge to carve out four, 25-minute (minimum) workouts. My usual workouts come in at about an hour, start-to-finish; or about 30-35 minutes if it’s an early morning and Jeff needs to leave for work. Still… the days when he’s at the station for 24 hours and I’m Alpha Parent, I’m lucky to find 25 seconds to use the bathroom in peace, let alone 25 minutes to throw down a workout.

But I’m learning…

Monday, September 16, 2013

Up for the Challenge

Last week while perusing Facebook posts, I spied this posted by a friend from high school: "Living and Active 5-week challenge"  -- it sounded interesting. And an icon with running shoes AND a book? That really caught my attention. I mean, really... running and reading are my things. So I clicked on the link and investigated. Let me say first, that lately I've been feeling... depleted. I seemed to have misplaced my mojo for running, and I've been feeling sort of hollow in my spirituality too. So, when I read more about the Living and Active Challenge, I discovered that the basis is tied to both physical and spiritual activity (yeah, that "book" in the icon is THE book, a Bible). I immediately perked up a bit, and it was as if the Lord himself reached down, poked me in the head with his Holy finger and whispered, "Hey... this is for you."

 And so, I am starting this challenge today. I've signed up for the emails, downloaded/printed my first "Soul Food" verse and I'll be heading to the gym shortly for a little one-on-one with the treadmill.

Before I do, though, I thought I would share the importance of what I consider to be the "divine intervention" that led me to a path that can only serve to improve my physical and spiritual health. Granted, thumbing through a Facebook news feed can hardly be considered "from God," but hear me out. I know I was meant to see that post. The same way, several years ago, while running a half-marathon I was all but smacked in the face with a divine message. I was in the "why-did-I-ever-sign-up-for-this-punishment-again" phase, somewhere between mile 6-7. I glanced around and did a visual check-in with the other runners who had been keeping the same pace as I was. Yes, they were still there toughing it out, but my concentration and resolve started to get a little cloudy as I slogged along. Suddenly, two runners came up behind me, one passing on each side of me, and kept pace just ahead of me. I hadn't seen them before. And in longer races like a half, it isn't uncommon to quickly become familiar with those other runners who are keeping your speed. I have no idea where this couple came from, but I would have remembered seeing their matching, brilliant sky-blue shirts before. Then I read the wording on the back of their shirts:
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13

I nearly stopped running right there out of complete shock. Then I smiled. And I looked up at the overcast, gray sky and thanked Him for the reminder that I could, in fact, get through the next six miles. I know in the grand scheme of things that God has much bigger problems to attend to, but that was a reminder that no problem, big or small, escapes His notice. As much as someone praying for the health of a loved one or praying for peace through a difficult time, I got a visual nudge to have faith and carry on.   

And those two runners ahead of me? At some point I lost them in the crowd. Never saw them again.

Verse for week #1 in the Living and Active Challenge"
"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."   Ecclesiastes 4:12

Gotta run. Literally.

Monday, September 9, 2013


For anyone reading "Clearing the Cobwebs..." and you click on the link to, please for the love of God scroll down past her frozen yogurt post.

While I love that one and always think the conversations between Jenny and Victor are hilarious, *that* particular post doesn't quite capture the deep, meaningful sentiment as the one further down the page titled, "I didn't eat anyone that I know of."

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Clearing the cobwebs

Clearing the cobwebs indeed.

Sometimes the seemingly incessant demands of everyday life (parenting, working, housekeeping, etc) will suck the life right out of you and then you face this spiral of "oh-holy-hell-I'm-failing-at-everything-I'm-doing." And that's no good because who wants to feel like a failure? It's a shameful parenting moment when you think you're too busy to sit and watch an episode of "Caillou" when your 4-yr old invites you to do so.

In making my usual rounds and catching up on favorite blogs this morning, I ran head first into this:
Looks like I'm not the only one who suffers from feeling like I am sometimes drowning in my own life. Luckily, reading Jenny Lawson's spot-on affirmations (the part where she celebrated one achievement, but scratched out the "I'm failing" part) bolstered my spirits. And in a crazy twist of coincidence -- as the universe often provides -- I had the chance to visit with my two oldest and most dear friends yesterday. These wonderful women, -- Maria and Tammy -- and I met in 7th grade, a time when self-confidence and fear of rejection are very real every. single. day. We met. We bonded. We began what would grow into a life-long friendship. From day one, we accepted each other for who we were and celebrated every aspect of our lovable, nerdy selves. Today, we laugh over memories that span over 30 years and still celebrate our lovable, nerdy selves. Collectively, we have 11 children, spanning in ages from 3 to 21. Three are in college. One in high school. Three in middle school. Two in elementary school. Two in pre-school. That's a whole lotta kids and a whole lotta crazy, folks. We are each graciously blessed to have found and married our soul mates. We are good people, and we are happy -- but still may find ourselves wondering if we're not failing miserably at something at some point of a day, week, month. It happens.

There's a line in the movie "Terms of Endearment" where Patsy is visiting Emma in the hospital and tells her tearfully, "You're my touchstone, Emma." Maria and Tammy are my touchstones. Two of only a few people on the planet that I can be with and find myself instantly centered, connected with the most honest and true essence of who I am. They save me from drowning in my life. And for that? I owe them so much and love them dearly.

Today, I feel like I have cleared the cobwebs that have grown in the parts of my life that matter -- while I've been busy doing laundry, clearing clutter, working, shuttling kids here and there. And having that renewed sense of "Hey! Pay attention!" I feel like I can take Jenny Lawson's advice and go forward and not feel like I'm failing at things.
  • I will work on the next chapter, instead of "finishing the book."
  • I will pick an smaller area to de-clutter, instead of the entire house.
  • I will go out and run a few miles, instead of worrying about the marathon.
  • And I will not eat anyone. (You won't get this unless you clicked on the link above and read her blog post. You're welcome.)
And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm taking my green tea and going to watch the umpteenth million episode of "Caillou."  Because my 4-yr old asked me to watch with him.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Lacing up and going public

Lately I’ve been really trying to commit myself to making wise decisions overall as it pertains to my health. I think I’m a little ahead of the curve on this, given the fact that our new insurance company awarded me with “elite” status as far as my physical health is concerned. (Pausing for a moment to mentally flex my muscles and make “Grrrrrr!” noises.) In reality, I think they just caught me in a lucky streak of running and we must not have had any ice cream in the house prior to my blood draw.

I’ve discovered that my middle-aged self is no longer a fan of sugar. Let me clarify – it isn’t the eating that I have developed a problem with, it’s the way sugar works on my body. I can't enjoy a nice dessert after dinner without knowing that I will wake up feeling like I had five margaritas rather than a slice of cheesecake. I have no idea why this happens, but it does. I can usually resist most sweets, but there are times when it’s oh-so-hard to say no. Case in point: Last night we had our umpteenth fire of the summer, which means s’mores. I relegated myself to being the marshmallow/chocolate/graham cracker distributor (because, let’s face it… you do not simply give an entire bag of marshmallows to the kids). It was difficult to see those puffy, white mallows being toasted over the dancing flames until they reached the perfect golden brown color, knowing I wouldn’t allow myself one. I knew my resolve was thinning when one burst into flames and I considered telling the owner I’d take it off their hands. For free. But I held my ground and resisted. I sipped my green tea and reminded myself that I’d feel great in the morning by not giving into the gooey, chocolatey, crunchy graham goodness of a s’more. I’d be lying, though, if I said I didn’t savor the chocolate smudges left on my fingers as I assembled the fixins for everyone else. Come on, people, I said I am committed, not downright stupid.

In any event, this more focused attention is not without its (potential) reward. I have verbally committed to running a half-marathon in September (my 10th), and my first-ever marathon in early November. I went back to basics and downloaded a training plan devised by a runner whom I trusted to get me re-started in the hot mess of running back in 2005 after a nearly 20-year hiatus. With the exception of one missed long run, I have stuck to the training schedule for two weeks. I feel better and so much better overall when I make time to run. Granted there are days when it just isn’t going to happen, but most days I can get to the gym at work during lunchtime, then grab a salad from the cafeteria to eat back at my desk.

I decided to bring this area of my life to the blog for no better reason than simple accountability. I can rationalize my way out of working out like nobody’s business. I practically minored in Rationalization Theory in college, learning from the best: Shipley.

Shipley: Hey, what are you doing?

Me: I’ve got Spanish in half an hour.

Shipley: Wanna go to the Fashion Shoppe?

Me: I should really go to class.

Shipley: Come on….. it’ll be fun. And you’re getting an A in Spanish anyway.

Me: (divided pondering)

Shipley: It’s just one class….

Me: Mmm… OK.

OK. So I was probably an easy mark for her persuasion, but had I not been? I would never have had all the bonding experiences we have shared as best friends. And I would have never found myself being driven backward through a Rax restaurant drive-thru, with me looking pitifully up at the confused Rax employee holding our chocolate chip shakes, while Shipley cackled next to me in the driver’s seat. Oh. Yes. She. Did.

My point? Rationalization will get you out of what you’re supposed to be doing, but it will move you no closer to your goal. (In my defense, I still kept that A in Spanish class.) I figure if I post my training on Back to Square One, it’ll make me accountable to do it without cutting any corners. No matter how tempting they might be. (I am getting back to basics… “square one” … you know.)

Thank goodness there isn’t a Fashion Shoppe in Fort Wayne.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

You wouldn't believe how exciting the last several months have been...

And neither would I. Because it simply isn't true.

Sure, I'd love to say that in the time since my last post that we've enjoyed successes and excitement beyond measure. However, while we've had some really great things happen, there have been plenty of days/weeks/months where our days have been swept into the usual whirlwind of our life. Plainy put,... I got busy. Sidetracked. Delayed. And, sadly, at times lazy.

In a nutshell,...
  • Wonderful Husband's (a.k.a., Jeff) arm healed nicely, and returned to work after about four months on medical leave. Lesson learned: We are officially in "middle age" now, with the abundance of aches, pains, twinges and increased opportunity for injuries. We're so not 20-something kids anymore.
  • The college student and school-aged kids all finished their respective academic years with amazing grade reports and plenty of fun. With that came the reminder for me that we are truly blessed with these children, and their achievements continue to amaze us and make us crazy proud.
  • We kicked off our summer with a family road trip to Florida. Yes, two parents, five children and a friend comprised a two-vehicle caravan that made its way to sunny Florida. Our first stop was Orlando where we stayed at the Nickelodeon resort, and visited Downtown Disney and The Magic Kingdom the first two days. We were surprised and amazed that our 4 year old was not only tall enough to ride the bigger rides, but a totally willing and eager participant! One of my favorite moments was after getting off our second consecutive trip on Big Thunder Mountain, he burst into tears. I heard a woman behind me say something like, "Oh, poor little guy... he must have been terrified on the ride." I turned around laughing to let her know that his outburst was in disappointment and anger that the ride was over. Crazy kiddo. Midweek we traveled about two hours south to the Port St. Lucie area, staying at Jensen Beach on Hutchinson Island. This is rapidly becoming one of our favorite destinations, after staying there three years ago for Spring Break. The main reason for the trip was the Cameron Family Reunion at the end of our vacation week, which was a truly wonderful time. So great to visit with Jeff's family members, most of whom live far from us.
Back home now, our summer is clicking along nicely. We have had many evenings by the fire out back, hosting the kids and their friends as they enjoy the buffet of s'more fixins we always have on hand. Now that we're settled into summer, I find I can finally relax a little. And for me, relaxing never fails to conjure up all the "To Do" items I keep on my mental list: decluttering, laundry, organizing all the kids' keepsakes from the school year, laundry, helping with home improvement projects, laundry, ... oh, and writing. While I keep my freelance writing steady on the side (a true juggling act with a full-time job and boys with summer baseball league) the characters and story lines are still rolling around in my skull, just waiting to be put on paper. Or on screen at least. But when I think back to that lesson we learned from Jeff's ruptured bicep tendon and repair... we're not getting any younger. That said, if I want to achieve my goal of getting something published at some point, I'm going to have to work harder at time management and prioritizing. Naturally, the family comes first, so I will just have to grab those elusive idle moments and tip-tap-type my way into completion of at least one project.

And all the while, this blog needs attention too. If not for the entertainment of others, but to keep my sanity. Because, really people. Some days,... it's hanging on by a thread. A. Single. Fraying. Thread.
If you're reading this right now, then THANK YOU. I hope you can feel the big cyber-hug I'm giving, because writing is one thing, but having readers is incredibly awesome. Hope you come back, if for any other reason than to delight in our family's antics as we bridge the gap between chaos and hilarity.