Friday, June 26, 2009

Sharing in the loss of an icon

Like most of the world, I was shocked to hear the news yesterday that Michael Jackson had died. After all, he was only 50 years old and he was, well, Michael Jackson! I was not surprised, however, to see this event dominate the news media, both on TV and online. Having been a teenager during the time Michael really hit it big, he obviously made a real impression on me. In fact, I still have my copy of his Thriller album, which I dug out of the basement today while thinking about this turn of events.
What did surprise me a bit, however, was the reaction of certain members of my family and a handful of folks I ran into downtown when I mentioned this news. My husband seemed much more affected by the death of Farrah Fawcett, who unfortunately lost her battle with cancer yesterday as well. The 20-something clerk at the local Albertson's, overhearing my conversation with a friend in line behind me, sarcastically commented only that "yeah, that guy really made a contribution to society the last few years." And my 11-year-old son Kody yesterday pretty much said "big deal ... that guy was weird." When he saw my album today, he said "Who's that?" Talk about making me feel really OLD.
I imagine my dad felt something similar when he told me that John Lennon had died. At the age of about 10, I really didn't see the big deal and remember saying something stupid about how a "Beatle" is just a stupid bug. I was just about as sensitive when my mom told me about the death of Bing Crosby, another amazingly talented human being I was relatively unfamiliar with at the time. So I guess I can understand the lack of reaction from folks who are a generation or two behind me. But my husband? He's only a year and a half younger. I don't get that one.
The Thriller album was one of the very first albums I owned and like many other teenagers at the time, I had the words of every one of the songs memorized and stayed up late on Friday nights to watch Michael dance on "Friday Night Videos," and later, MTV. This was the early 80s and back then, music videos were a "new" thing ... and it is largely because of Michael Jackson that they became so tremendously popular. Not only could that guy sing, but could he ever move.
You would be hard-pressed to argue that Michael Jackson lacked talent or that he did not earn his title, "King of Pop." Anyone who paid any attention at all ... before all of the weird stuff that happened later on ... has to recognize why "MJ" has so often been considered a genius, enormously talented, and a major influence on our culture.
At 14, Karstin, at least, seems to be a little more aware of the significance of Michael's death. When he came home today from staying overnight at a friend's house, he asked if the news was true. When I told him it was, he commented on what a great musician he was ... something Karstin respects because of his own interest in music. Michael Jackson is right up there with Elvis, the Beatles, and so many other icons who played a huge role in the entertainment industry. My husband disagrees with me on this, but frankly I just don't think he GETS it. This surprises and frustrates me a bit, especially since like Karstin, he is a big music buff ... but I guess that's life. It is some consolation that it takes only a couple seconds on the Internet to see that there are MILLIONS that share my opinion on this, even if my own husband does not.
Michael Jackson's death made an impression on me ... and because of that, I'm taking this time now to reflect on the role he played in my earlier years and to document my reactions. Not because I am one of Michael Jackson's biggest fans ... there are a lot of musicians I like just as well or better. And not because I approved of his strange behavior the last couple of decades, which I neither understood nor particularly trusted. I just feel sad that his life has come to an end already and realize that this is a loss shared with millions of others around the world, demonstrated by the hours of air-time already given to commemorating Michael Jackson's life ... not even 24 hours after his death ... and the fact that the online networks were nearly brought down yesterday afternoon because of the enormous activity that followed the first announcements that "Michael Jackson is dead."

Monday, June 22, 2009


Once again, I was inspired by Ali Edwards to take a few minutes to simply document what's happening in the here and now...

FOR TODAY June 22nd, 2009

Outside my window...hundreds of daisies - my favorite - in full bloom in our perennial garden.

I am is nice to be at a place in my life where Monday morning is welcomed with open arms.

I am thankful for...being in the right place at the right time this weekend when Skylar slipped into the deep end of the pool. 

From the kitchen...leftover pizza from the weekend and a growing pile of dishes to be dealt with that I am avoiding until tomorrow.

I am wearing...jeans & a cream-colored, hooded pullover I picked up at Goodwill a couple weekends ago in Bozeman.

I am creating...a double-spread layout highlighting our weekend trip to Polson and Kalispell for the annual state newspaper convention.

I am take advantage of having Karstin at home this afternoon so I can run a few errands and do a little last-minute birthday shopping.

I am reading...a couple great books - "It's All Too Much" by Peter Walsh (very inspiring!) and "That's Life" by Nic Howard (also a GREAT book!! Exactly my kind of scrapbooking!)

I am have time this week to catch up on a growing list of layouts I'd like to do.
I am hearing...giggling girls and thumping boys. Our house is NEVER quiet when the kids are all at home. It's a happy, productive sound today though.

Around the house...signs of a typical summer day. Kody's shoes, Skylar's sandals, the boys' job lists, a stray glass, baskets emptied by Dani, pipe cleaners & stray beads left by Skylar.

One of my favorite things...sun streaming through the window and an uninterrupted hour to myself behind closed doors.

A few plans for the rest of the week...Rotary picnic tonight, dentist appointment and Jacques' birthday tomorrow, then getting ready for Danica's first birthday on Sunday with the possibility of a visit from Nana & Pop.

A picture to share... cruising Flathead Lake this weekend during the annual MNA convention.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Taking a different approach this summer...

Summer at our house is not what you would call nice & peaceful. In fact, as the end of the school year was approaching, I was beginning to dread the chaos of having all four kids at home - and their accompanying noise, inevitable messes, lack of predictable schedule, and frequent requests for money to finance trips to the pool, get-togethers with friends, must-have toys, etc. etc. I'm a creature of habit and I like my regular routines and, I admit it, I like my quiet afternoons when the girls nap. I was not ready to give this up...
So this year I decided to try something a little different and so far, just a little over a week into summer vacation, it's working out pretty well. My plan consisted of three parts:
1) I wrote out my expectations of the boys for the summer ... This includes the frequency with which I expect them to shower, clean their rooms, pick up after themselves, etc. It also included mention of the fact that the majority of the time, they could expect to have to shell out their own cash for any extracurricular activities, camps, purchases, etc. they wanted during the summer.
2) I created a list of "Responsibilities," otherwise known as "jobs you GET to do in exchange for the privilege of living here." This included tasks such as setting and clearing the dinner table, emptying the dishwasher, doing their laundry, sweeping the floor, etc. Here's the kicker: Next to each job was the price the boys would get to pay ME if they did not fulfill a given responsibility that week and I had to do it for them.
3) I created another list titled "Opportunities," otherwise known as "jobs available to you for which you can be PAID." This included a list of jobs I was willing to pay THEM to do, as well as when & by what deadline they needed to be done. For the most part, these are left blank and the boys get to choose their own deadlines, a privilege they will keep as long as they follow through. Jobs on this list will vary from week to week, depending on what needs to be done (and my budget). So far, they have included babysitting the girls for two hours in the morning while I work on my grant-writing, mowing the lawn, cleaning the fridge, weeding the garden, cleaning the bathroom(s), etc.
Kid Payday is every Friday, at which time I add up how much each has earned and deduct any fees incurred for not following through with responsibilities.
I presented these three items to the boys on the evening before the first real day of vacation and then they got to take turns signing up for the paid jobs until the blocks were filled in. They weren't too excited to see this at first, but once they started figuring out how much money they might earn, they really started warming up to the whole plan and those blocks filled up very quickly. I especially enjoyed listening to Karstin plot how he could sign up for the jobs that would bring him the greatest reward... $$$$$!
So far this plan is working, though I've already had to be flexible in order to work around a last minute decision by Kody to go to Day Camp last week and a crazy schedule this week as we get ready to head to western Montana for a few days. It helps that both boys feel a real need for cash this summer - Kody is saving up to buy himself a mini-bike and Karstin has discovered that daily visits to the pool and coffee shop tend to add up, especially when he likes to be able to treat his new girlfriend to her favorite coffee drink!!
I like that this system is helping create a bit of routine for the summer while simultaneously teaching the boys a bit about money management & how to be a good employee, not to mention start to be more aware that money doesn't just grow on trees!! It's also interesting to watch them figure out that work isn't always a heap of fun ... but that it's worth the effort sometimes. (Of course, it doesn't hurt that it is also giving me a solid two hours of more-or-less uninterrupted work time every day ... something I didn't even have BEFORE school got out!!!)
So far, so good ... maybe for once I won't be quite so anxious for school to resume again!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Taking a bit of a leap of faith...

I'm so excited tonight because I finally made a decision I've been weighing for over a month now. To make a long story short, I booked a flight to San Antonio during the first week in August, reserved a room at the Marriott for three nights and bought my ticket to the first ever Digi-Crop hosted by my favorite digital scrapbooking store, Designer Digitals.
Now this may not seem like a big deal to some people, but this was a big decision for me - for several reasons. First, I will be traveling alone with Danica, who will be just over 13 months old at that time and just recently learned how to walk. This means dealing single-handedly with a toddler in an airport, including switching planes on both legs of the trip, as well as juggling luggage, a carseat for use once we get there, a camera (a definite MUST!) and quite possibly my laptop computer. Not sure how I'm going to do it, so it's a good thing I have several weeks to figure it out. (Any tips on flying alone with a little one would be very much appreciated!!!) Fortunately, my new DD friends have already offered to lend a hand with Dani once I get there ... otherwise I don't know that I'd have the guts to give this a try.
Next, this isn't the cheapest way to spend a weekend, once you add up the cost of the flight, motel, food, transportation, etc., etc. I could find a million other ways to spend that money - including a lot of scrapbook-related items - but the idea of actually meeting all of these wonderful people I've been getting to know the last few months who share the same interests as I do was more than I could pass up. I know I would regret it if I there was a way I could go and I didn't follow through. It does feel a little odd (and guilt-inducing) to spend that money entirely on myself, though...
Finally, I've never really taken a purely recreational trip just for me, especially one where I will be hanging out with people I've yet to actually meet in person. Of all the things that make this trip feel a little risky, however, that's not really one of them ... through our sharing of scrapbook pages, comments, posts on Facebook, Thursday evening chats, and other messaging, I feel like I know many of these people better than a lot of others who I HAVE met face-to-face. There's something really special about the DD community that's hard to explain unless you are a part of it. For that, I'm very thankful ... and anticipate this will truly be a weekend to remember. Hopefully, it will simply cement the beginning of many wonderful friendships... :)
For now, it's time to pinch my remaining pennies to make sure I don't end up stranded and hungry somewhere in the middle of Texas in the August heat!!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Celebrating Five Years

Jacques and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary yesterday. It started off rather humorously ... I had left him a card in his vehicle so he would find it on his way to work. In it, I had included a P.S. that we had 6:00 dinner reservations later that day at The Mint Bar & Grill. He found the card ... and came back into the house chuckling.
As it turns out, he too had left a card for me that morning. In it was the note ... "let's celebrate at The Mint at 6:30!"
Nice to know we're on the same page... :)
It turned out to be a very enjoyable day - and date. Because this was the last week of school, we had the treat of attending the junior high school talent show during the afternoon. Karstin & buddies Jacob, Chad, and Dillon played a piece under their current band name, "Name Pending." It was very loud - and very well-received by their peers. Lots of high fives & cheering followed their performance ... a great way to end <gulp> Karstin's elementary school career!! By the way, you can view their performance here.
Then later in the evening was our turn to get out and celebrate a little, just the two of us. Doesn't happen very often, so it was very, very nice. We enjoyed a very leisurely (about two hours!) dinner at The Mint, including our new favorite appetizer - batter-fried shrimp with a special house jalapeno sauce - and drinks, tap beer for him, white zin for me.  We pretty much stuck to our favorite entree's too - I had chicken & artichokes (very, very good!) and he had the pork medallions. This was accompanied by fresh-baked bread, so by the time we were done, we were too full for dessert ... at least for the moment.
We had walked down to the restaurant, which is less than a mile from our house, so around 8:30 or so we started back toward home via Main Street. We didn't get far, though, before we were drawn into Lola's, where they were hosting open mic night. We listened at the door for a while and eventually decided to get a bit of ice cream and sit down and listen. It was great ... the musicians were very good, the atmosphere even better, and the break from our usual routine was probably the best. We stayed until they wrapped it up around 9:15 or so, then walked back home to where Karstin was holding down the forte.
I then managed to sneak onto the computer for an hour or so and catch the tail-end of my weekly chat with my friends from before calling it a day. All-in-all it was a very nice day and a great way to celebrate our first "milestone" anniversary...
Reflecting on our first five years also gave me the urge - finally - to start a scrapbook about "us" as a couple. Since we eloped, I didn't ever really do a wedding album and rarely do a page that doesn't involve the kids, or just me. So, I'm adding a "Story of Us" album to my project list ... Here's the first page I did...
Hopefully you will see pages toward that effort in the next few weeks. I need another project or two, right??? LOL. This should be a fun one, though... I already have a long list of topics I'd like to include.
For now, I'd better continue packing ... we decided at the last minute to head to Bozeman overnight tomorrow for a Rotary gathering where, we found out this week, Jacques will accept a "Club of the Year" award on behalf of his group, of which he has been President for the past year. He is also going to sit on some sort of panel while the kids & I hang out at the motel pool and maybe do a little shopping. I love Bozeman, so I'm looking forward to a fun weekend. Plus, the forecast this weekend includes SNOW, so we're not missing any big outdoor opportunities.
Here's to a great "official" beginning of summer vacation!!! :

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