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Monday, April 30, 2012

On Multi-Tasking

I'm a little distracted right now. For the past year, I've been helping to plan a Welsh-language course for this summer. Now that the course is only a few months away, the planning has been kicked up about three notches. My powers of concentration are wrapped up in class schedules, guest lecturers, scholarship grants, publicity (shameless plug - click HERE!) and pub-hunting (yes, pub-hunting, but that'll be another post). So, there isn't much left over for new and exciting blog posts, or writing in general, for that matter. In fact, I've told all the other voices in my head - the ones that belong to the book I've been working on for, I don't know, maybe thirty years now, and my new short story - to chill out until I can give them the attention they deserve. I can only do so many things at once.

This may be the lamest blog post ever.

At least I got to see Snow Patrol in concert this weekend. I even managed to get some footage. But then my phone ate the footage. Maybe it's for the best. This clip is a little better quality, i.e. less shaky and not shot from a mile away.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tell It Like It Is. PLEASE.


I really appreciate doctors. I do. I appreciate all the time they've spent learning about the human body, the history of medicine, every possible thing that could be wrong with us, and how to treat it. I appreciate everything technicians and nurses learn and do as well. I couldn't complain about anything.
Well, maybe one thing.


Last week I had myself a little health scare. Lovely symptoms that sounded an awful lot like uterine cancer. I'm sure by now you know I'm the type of person who handles news like that calmly. Collectedly. And with what could probably be described as a massive "body-attack." The whole me was shaking like a leaf and generally having an emotional seizure. But I kept it largely inside. I have kids. The minute I rocked their little worlds by saying I might have a health issue, all of their eyes went round like dinner plates, their mouths became tiny  o's, they stopped blinking, and I realized I was going to have to be Captain Positive.


Which would have been a lot easier if my medical side-kicks had been a bit more cooperative. I'll tell you what I mean.


I'm lying on the exam table (GUY ALERT: I'M GOING TO SAY THINGS LIKE "PELVIC" AND "ULTRASOUND." YOU MAY WANT TO AVERT YOUR EYES AND COMMENCE DOING  MANLY THINGS LIKE BULL RIDING) for the pelvic ultrasound (SKEET SHOOTING, BEAR HUNTING), when the technician starts saying things like, "Oh my. Hmmm. I can't quite tell . . . well that's interesting. Sure are a lot of them."


"Wait. Them? What them? A lot of what thems?"
"Oh, I'm afraid I can't say anything. See that sign?" (Points to sign by door which says "Our Technicians Are not Allowed To Say Anything To you Because You Might Sue Us If They Get It Wrong. The Radiologist Will Read Your Results and Relay Them To Your Doctor By The Next Equinox. So Stop Asking.")
"Oh. Okaaaay. But I wouldn't sue. That's not what I'm like."
"Hmmm. I'd better measure that."
"What?! Measure WHAT?"
"And that's hardly there at all. Unusual."
"WHAT'S UNUSUAL?"
"Sign."(Pointing)


And finally at the end of it all: "Well, that's it. Our radiologist will wait four days to tell your doctor what he finds, then after your doctor has finished golfing he'll call you. Probably. You can gather your things. Don't forget your adrenal glands. They've rolled under the table there. Bye."


Then there's the wait. Four days, including a weekend during which I must spend the entire time smiling like a lunatic to reassure my children, while on the inside I am picking out the flowers for my funeral and deciding which hors d'oeuvres to start with after the eulogy.


Monday rolls around and I never hear from the doctor. So I call. And the conversation goes like this:


"Hello. This is Janiel Miller. I'm calling for the results of my pelvic ultrasound (BOWIE KNIFE. THE HURT LOCKER)"
"Oh I'm sorry Mrs. Miller. The doctor isn't in today. You'll have to call back tomorrow."
"Oh. Okay. Can you tell me anything?"
"Well, it looks like you have multiple subserosal fibroid growths located on the myometrium, and we can't rule out the possibility of leiomyosarcoma, but on the other hand many of these can be benign. Okay? We'll have the doctor call you."
"Wait! I didn't understand that."
*Nurse emits sigh then repeats entire paragraph word for word.* "So, we'll have the doctor call you, okay?"
"Um, no. It's not okay. I know that was in English and everything but I have no idea what you just said."
*Speaking slowly like I am a four year-old alien with learning disabilities* "We'll evaluate your particular symptoms against these results and let you know. Goodbye now."


Oh, well. That was so much better.


Needless to say by the next morning my smile was fixed, my eyes glassy, my kids were looking at me nervously as I waved them off to school, and I had moved on to the post-funeral luncheon menu.


So imagine my shock when I finally got a call that afternoon and a perky nurse announced: "Well, Mrs. Miller. The doctor says that your uterus (BRAZILLIAN STREET FIGHTING) looks fantastic! The endometrial lining (HOCKEY) looks terrific, and those pesky little fibroids are nothing to worry about and will probably disappear during menopause (PORSCHE 911 PLUS A CAMERO). Have a nice day!"


Well YOU HAVE A FREAKING NICE DAY TOO, LADY!  Me? I'm going to go fall face-first into a vat of pineapple-coconut frozen yogurt and day-dream about being the medical profession's broker. The next time the economy tanks and they want to know how their money is doing? I'll just smile, say "Oh my. How strange." Then I'll point to a sign on my wall.


Sheesh.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I totally tripped while at the symphony

This weekend I attended the symphony. Most people enjoy a night out on the town with zero issues. Me? Well, not so much. Oh, I dressed up in my sequin gown with a lacy fascinator. You know the fancy smancy hats that guests wore at the Royal wedding. The only difference is I bought mine half off from a drunk guy at the mall.

Anyway, back to my embarrassing moment. The glass door to the Symphony Hall is opened and I stroll in gracefully. Granted in my head I am thinking repeatedly, "Don't trip. Don't trip. Don't trip," and sure enough, what do I do? I trip and not just some teeter of your feet and then catch your balance. Oh, no, when I trip, I make sure to make my presence known. And when your 6'2 and collapsing to the floor it's quite a spectacle.

All I remember is placing my hand on the railing to walk up the large stair case, I stepped on my gown and that's when trouble ensued. I collapsed on the stairs. No joke, my body was as straight as a surf board. My date is trying not to laugh but seriously, I look absolutely ridiculous. I pull myself up quickly and laugh heartedly.

An old woman clutches her son's hand said, "You all right, Dearie?"

All I can do is smooth out my gown and say, "And to think, that was one of my more graceful falls."

Yep, tripping is practically my super hero power. I'm down for the count and before someone even notices what happened I am back up and ready for an adventure.

Someday's are going to be a mash up of utter beauty and horrid moments but I am learning that those moments rejuvenate the mind.

Ps- this story reminded me of the time that I tripped at a boutique while shopping with Janiel and Maegan. I knocked over some display in the process. I wonder if they remember that day. Anyways, that's a story for another day.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Where The Wishing Comes In

Have you ever been reminded of something good that you didn't even know you'd forgotten about? That happened to me last week when I attended a performance where the choir sang "When You Wish Upon a Star." I hadn't heard or thought about it in years, but as soon as I heard those first three notes, I went, "Oh yeah, I love this song!"

Don't get me wrong. I've been around long enough to know that simply "wishing on a star" ain't enough to make stuff happen. Dreams take work. Like any compelling protagonist, we have to take an active role - become the hero of our own story, if you will. But sometimes, after you've done everything you can do, you have to trust the Universe to meet you halfway. That's where the wishing comes in.

Like a bolt out of  the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true.




(Is anyone else feeling an irrepressible desire to go to Disneyland right now? Or is it just me?)

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

Drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt
This has been a funky week.
It's amazing how things can pile up and you just deal with them and move along and carry your load. You may have stress from work or school, or trying to write, trying to get published. All of your kids may be riddled like swiss cheese with hormones that must all firehose out of them at precisely the same time. You may have marital challenges, or the challenge of not being married. A spouse or significant other who just keeps saying the wrong thing. Or you keep saying the wrong thing to them. And either way you just want to slap something. You may have boyfriend/girlfriend issues of all types: people speaking to you or not speaking to you. Political-religious differences. You may be worried about family or friends and their struggles. There might be sick children, employment/unemployment issues, or just a serious lack of inspiration on your "What To Cook For Dinner" page. Most likely you've got some or all of these going on at once. And life might feel a tad strenuous if you sit and really look at it all. It's easier not to look.


But really, you ought to look. Look at everything you're doing! It's amazing. I mean, who can multitask like that? 150 years ago all people had to worry about was getting the cows milked and the crop in. Don't get me wrong; my husband grew up on a farm. I know it's a lot of non-stop unbelievably hard work. But it was a handful of big things on those to-do lists. Easier to look at and take in and organize. And it didn't change much from day to day. Now? Our lists are endless. Our running around like proverbial headless chickens unfathomable to our forebears. Crazypants, the amount of stuff we shove into one day. Amid much more stress and distress, I think, than used to exist in life.


But you're doing it. So congratulate yourself for getting it all done. You're amazing! And it's okay to take a moment to slow down once in a while and notice the peaceful, happy, good stuff. You don't want your body to slow down for you. There's a lot of good, even with the crazy. And if that's what we look at, that's what our lives will be. Good.


So, go you! You're a tiger. Grab that day. And have a lot of fun while you're at it. Meet me at the FroYo shop tonight and we'll discuss it over pineapple/coconut swirl. With kiwi. And mochi.


Cheers!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ways to improve your discipline

Athletes are known for their discipline. Every thought they have when in training is centered around one idea-how will this affect me in the morning.

You are no different from an athlete when you pursue your dream. The idea of discipline sounds overwhelming but did you know that there is one way to strengthen your discipline? Watch you posture.

I know, I was baffled when I read this idea in Success magazine. Your mind is something that needs to be exercised daily. The act of constantly checking your posture strengthens your mental muscles. In the words of Success magazine, "You're paying attention to yourself, giving yourself something to watch out for and regulate."

Another way athletes manage their discipline is to have a short term memory. You can't focus on the moments that you failed. Learn from the mistakes and then keep going full steam ahead.

You're dream is right around the corner and it's waiting for you. Keep working hard hard, my friends.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Have You Ever Wondered . . .

. . . why old books smell the way they do? I love that smell. I could wander around a used or antique bookstore forever. This is one reason why I'm so reluctant to get an e-reader. There's something charming and comfortable about a genuine ink and paper book, especially an old book, that you don't get with a screen and a bunch of pixels. Books soak up the history around them, just like people.

This video actually made me feel a bit nostalgic for my college chemistry days. Now there's something I thought I'd never say!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Embarrassing Parents and Tweaking People's Comfort Zone



I recently embarrassed my kid in public.
Actually, this is not news. I consider it part of my job description to embarrass my children. Regularly. I also consider it my duty to shock and perplex my husband on at least a weekly basis. Mostly because my hub is utterly unflappable. Like, nothing phases him. Ergo, I must flap his unflappableness as often as possible. 

But this was different.

Sometimes parental embarrassment of a child occurs simply because the parent is in public and actually breathing. This time it happened because I posted a video of myself on this blog ("Caytelynne" the movie PruViewer, reviewing "Breaking Dawn".) Now this is no big deal. My family has seen me on video and stage lots of time. They're used to me being a giant spazz in public. 

But this literally made my child cray-zay. In fact, two of my kids, my husband and a family friend all wanted to peel their skin off after watching it. Like, they hated this clip (and others I've done in the same character).

I was in "High School Musical" last summer. I played Ms. Darbus, and her character is more than over the top. Yet my daughters gave me an unembarrassed thumbs-up on the performance. Sooo what was the difference?

I don't know, but here's a thought: Darbus is roughly my age. Caytelynne is younger. My kids and hub are used to seeing me as an adult. Seeing me act like a teenager takes them out of their comfort zone. And what little dignity they think I do possess goes right out the window. And they. don't. love. it.


Hmm. Is this a bad thing? Taking people out of their comfort zone? Being taken out of ours? Catherine Pulsifer said: "If you remain in your comfort zone, you will not go any further."


That's a horrifying thought. I mean not that Caytelynne is some sort of brilliant new horizon that I must pursue. But it took courage to put her up here. Because she is different from me, and I knew some people didn't like it. Maybe everyone didn't like it. (Except Maegan, bless her! She actually asks for the silly posts.) But, I'm ultimately not sorry I posted Caytelynne's PruView, even if it means I made an idiot out of myself. It's good to be uncomfortable once in a while. (Like when I posted a picture of myself with no makeup on on my other blog. EEP!) And it forces me to deal with some insecurities and not take myself too seriously.


Well, I'll probably still do the occasional Movie PruView, because it's fun. And Maegan, at least, giggles over them. I like making people giggle. But they'll come with a Surgeon General's warning so those who value their skin and don't want it peeled can avoid it. In the meantime I'll leave you with this great poem I found on www.essentiallifeskills.net, whose author is, ironically, listed as unknown:

My Comfort Zone - A Poem
Author Unknown

I used to have a comfort zone where I knew I wouldn't fail.
The same four walls and busywork were really more like jail.
I longed so much to do the things I'd never done before,
But stayed inside my comfort zone and paced the same old floor.
I said it didn't matter that I wasn't doing much.
I said I didn't care for things like commission checks and such.
I claimed to be so busy with the things inside the zone,
But deep inside I longed for something special of my own.
I couldn't let my life go by just watching others win.
I held my breath; I stepped outside and let the change begin.
I took a step and with new strength I'd never felt before,
I kissed my comfort zone goodbye and closed and locked the door.
If you're in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out,
Remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt.
A step or two and words of praise can make your dreams come true.
Reach for your future with a smile; success is there for you!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Stay positive no matter what

According to Tennis magazine, "Recovery takes longer than you expect. Progress isn't linear, it accelerates and stalls."

Recovery is something we all go through, some of us recover from injuries and heartache. Others recover from the scarring that life can bring. No matter who are, you have faced something freaky. Can I just say you are incredible? Everything you face strengthens your resolve.

Progress means opening your eyes and figuring out what you really need. It's the ability to carry on with patience and confidence. To progress means that you encourage yourself. You stay positive, no matter what obstacle is ahead of you. Remember this dream of yours is going to change lives.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Just Because

Hello all! I'm afraid I used up all my creative mojo for the week on a new short story I've been working on, and it has been awhile since we've had some Welsh songs, so . . .

Ysbryd y Nos - Spirit of the Night (I am slightly freaked out by this guy's uber-bleached hair and plasticized face, but he does have a good voice.)




Haleliwia - The Welsh version of Leonard Cohen's oft-covered tune.



Have a great week, everybody!

Friday, April 6, 2012

In-Laws and Dork Dogs And What It All Means


Note: If you are a relative of mine on my husband's side, please avert your eyes. Maybe find something else to read. And remember, I love you.


So. My husband's family has a problem with dogs. The family home was a farm, which meant there were always ten batrillion canines running around. And for as long as I have known these lovely people, every. single. one. of the dogs. has had brain-damage.


Oh, not technically. Like, not on paper. No veterinarian has ever handed my in-laws a piece of paper that said, "This dog is clinically brainless." But I tell you, that piece of paper has been there in spirit.


For example: the hub's fam had a dog that used to run headlong into walls and hit with such force that it would change directions. On purpose. This is, in fact, how the dog turned corners. The same dog would get so excited when it barked that it would begin choking: "Bark! Bark! Bar--cough, choke--ark! Bark! Bark!--gag, cough, choke--" etc.


Then there was the little beastie that, every time it stood up from lying next to you, left body parts behind. Not. Kidding. Ew.


There was the Pomeranian who thought my shoe laces were possessed and attacked them venomously every time I was near. The Spaniel that decided my husband was the alpha-male and peed on his shoes every time we came to visit. And the ginormoid Dalmatian that knocked furniture, cars, and often my mother-in-law over with its tail.


The best part of it all is this: my mo-in-law now owns a Shelty. It's a little thing that used to be a show dog and has demonstrated tremendous air-headedness on many occasions (enough that my oldest son once said to me, "What do you expect, mom? She's a model.") (Bwa! Points for wittiness!) Little doggie generally gets in the way, barks her guts out, runs and hides from strangers, and does nothing to protect her owner.


This drives MIL crazy. She complains. Wishes her dog were better. And generally has given me the feeling that she does not like this animal.


So here is the best part (yeah, all that stuff before wasn't it. This is it): The other night during a storm my mother-in-law's little doglette got out of the yard. It was 45 minutes before my MIL noticed her missing. I expected some eye-rolling. Maybe some snarky commenting. But apparently I know nothing about dogs and dog-owners. Because for all of her kvetching about the little pet, my mother-in-law turned out to be attached to the thing. She was very distressed. Rallied the troops. Family spent over an hour driving around in the dark looking for the dear creature. There were dangerous roads and the dog could have been anywhere, or even no longer anywhere at all.


Finally, after much searching, Tia was found trembling in a stranger's driveway. My mother-in-law got the little fur ball to come with her and soon had her snug and safe at home. Then she called and shakily told me the story and how grateful she was that she had found her little friend.


And frankly, I was too. Turns out little dog-face means a lot to that good woman. It brings to mind the saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." And more serious, the idea that we don't really appreciate what we have until it's gone.


So, maybe here's what I'm taking from this: When something frustrates or annoys us, maybe it's a sign that we should look a little closer at it. See if we can find some good. If we succeed, how much better life will be. If we don't--if we can't find anything redeeming at all in whatever it is--at least we'll know. And we can move on to something better.


I like that.


But I'm not getting a dog.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kerri Strug and determination

I've been reading a biography on Kerri Strug, the gymnast that landed her vault with one leg and led the US Olympic team to gold. She states, "Just when you believe your dreams have been shattered, everything can come together and you are vaulted into a world where dreams come true."

I believe Miss Strug is right. The moment you think everything revolving around your dream is lost is the moment where your dream will come together. The road blocks are there not to discourage you but to make you work even harder.

My friends, you have a beautiful future ahead of your self. Stop for a minute and see just how remarkable you are- I mean, you have continued on when most people would have given up. I say you deserve a treat, go nab some ice cream or whatever makes you smile and then get back to work. I believe in you.

Monday, April 2, 2012

John Carter of Mars


It's no secret on this blog that I am a huge nerd. I used to be embarrassed by my love of Star Wars, Star Trek, and all things geektastic, but no more. As I've gotten older, I've learned to embrace it. I love a good story, and if that story happens to feature grown men with ponytails and light swords, then so be it.

Let me introduce my latest nerdy obsession: John Carter. It's about a tortured Civil War hero who's transported Mars, gets caught up in another civil war, and falls hard for a Martian princess. Based on the first of a series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs (aka the guy who invented Tarzan), the film also features some pretty spectacular southern Utah scenery as a stand-in for the red planet. I've since learned that Burroughs spent time in Utah as a young man, and may have used it as inspiration when he was imagining Mars. And if the premise sounds cheesy, that's okay. It's supposed to. Another great thing about the film? It doesn't take itself too seriously.

I've been reading the book too. A PRINCESS OF MARS is even cheesier, with a John Carter character who has considerably less depth on the page than he does on the screen. But it's also great fun to read - keep in mind, it was first published 100 years ago - and I can't help but notice certain precursory elements to some more recent popular science fiction. Without Dejah Thoris, there would be no Princess Leia. Without John Carter, there would be no Avatar.

There's so many things I love about this movie: the steampunk-esque airships, the loyal frog-slash-dog monster Woola, John's bromance with the four-armed Martian Tars Tarkas, the abundance of cool tattoos, the idea that someone can find the place they belong a long way from where they started, and yes, the love story. So how come hardly anybody is going to see it? Poor reviews? Shoddy marketing? The massive hype surrounding a certain other movie also based on a book (which I loved, but not as much as John Carter)? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is, I want sequels!