Monday, March 30, 2009


Every morning Marlin says "Good morning" to me, and that simple kindness is changing my life.

It isn't just that he says good morning. He stops what he's doing for the briefest second, looks me in the eyes and says, "Good morning, Jane." (Although my name isn't really Jane.) And then an hour later, he looks up again and say, "Have a nice day, Jane," or "Good-bye, Jane," or "Have a nice weekend."

The first time he did it his boss was right there, and I chuckled to myself that he was just showing off that he knew all his boss's clients by their first names. I thought, good for him -- I'm happy to help him earn a few brownie points. But he's continued to do it everyday since then.

I don't imagine that I'm anything special to him. My guess is he does this with everyone who works out in that gym regularly. But that doesn't matter, because it's still nice and still makes me feel important and recognized and somehow human. Like at that gym I really am more than just a monthly credit to their bank account.

Because I don't like to exercise. I like to have exercised. Just like I don't always like to write, but I do like to have written something funny or pithy or profound. (Or rather, I would like to have written something funny or pithy or profound.) But exercising everyday is still a chore. Every morning I wake up and my first creative efforts, before I even open my eyes, go toward thinking of whether I have any legitimate excuse for not going to the gym after I drop my kids off at school.

Apparently last week I was blessed with a boon of creativity, because I managed to come up with convincing excuses on four out of five mornings. But all week long I was plagued with thoughts of Marlin wondering where I was. And this morning I was able to relieve myself of a backlog of guilt as I swiped my gym card past the card reader and Marlin said, "Good morning, Jane." And I was able to give an earnest "Good morning!" in reply, as if to say, "No worries, mate! I'm back!"

All this to say though, that Marlin's simple kindness means a lot to me. I think it's important to spend a minute appreciating that. I wonder how many people I could affect throughout my pedestrian day by simply looking them in the eyes and smiling as we exchange common pleasantries. By not being in such a hurry. By remembering that I'm interacting with human beings who take my money at a checkout, or take my shirts at the cleaners, or bring me my food at a restaurant. And their humanity is more important than my to-do list, or my time constraints, or the next thing I'm rushing off to.



Last night was my son's last hockey game of the season. It was for the house championship, so it was a big deal. And what an exciting game it was! The teams were pretty evenly matched, so the score went back and forth all game, but by the end of the third period it was tied, 5-5.

Now in years past I think they would have played a short, 5 minute overtime period. Then if they were still tied after that, they would have done a shoot-out. But apparently the powers that be saw fit to change it up this year. Now the rules call for the kids to play 5 on 5 for 1:30 minutes. Then if there was no score, they play 4 on 4 for 1:30 minutes. If still no score, they play 3 on 3 for 1:30. The first team to score in all this wins, and no player can be repeated in the overtime play. (In other words, if a kid plays in the 5 on 5, he can't play in the 4 on 4 or the 3 on 3.) If there was still no score after the 3 on 3, I bet they would have gone to a shoot-out.

So, in our game last night the kids played the overtime 5 on 5. Still no score. They did the 4 on 4. No score. And out come the players for the 3 on 3. One of the three was a kid named Pete. Pete is a big, slow kid, can't skate backward to save his life, and always manages to fall down every time the play gets anywhere near him. (Okay, I'm exaggerating a little and I don't want to be mean. My son rushed to his defense when I conveyed this in an e-mail to his brother, so Pete must at least be a really nice kid. Suffice it to say, he was not one of our better players this year.)

When I saw Pete out there, I turned my head (away from the other parents) and whispered to my husband, "Why is Pete out there?" My husband said (out loud, but not loudly), "They've got to play him -- they can't have any repeats." Which would've been fine, except the guy next to us picked up on it and said (quite loudly), "Yeah, I wouldn't be putting Pete out there right now!" To which I cringed because Pete's parents were sitting right next to this guy, just across the aisle. I would be surprised if they didn't hear that. Grrr...and I started the whole thing.

So the play begins and it's clear the kids are tired. But somehow, all the way back in our zone, Pete gets the puck and he starts to skate it up. He gets by one opponent, and then the next. Where are his other two teammates? They're hanging back in our zone, even as Pete, in his slow and lumbering fashion, works his way up the ice toward the other goal. I couldn't figure why they were hanging back -- were they expecting Pete to lose it right away and staying back to protect the goal? Or were they just tired?

Whatever the reason, Pete, looking like he was out for a Sunday stroll, made his way up the ice, went "coast-to-coast" in hockey lingo, all alone. He gets to about 12 inches from the opposing goalie, and I'll be darned if that kid didn't poke that puck into the net! It was no snazzy shot, it sure wasn't fast. But he tucked that thing in right between the goalie's legs, in the 5-hole as they say, and won the game!

No one could believe it! The whole crowd of parents, grandparents and siblings went wild. The team rushed off the bench and jumped all over Pete. It was glorious!

Who needs professional sports when there's so much pure and wonderful drama in simple, house hockey?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Back-Pocket Happy

My laptop came in the mail yesterday. So extravagant. My oldest son, spartan as he is, will be appalled when he comes home that I so impulsely spent this kind of money. It is silly that I feel like I have to give an account to him, but his attitude will resonate with my own self-doubt, so it will bother me a little. But not only is there competition for the family desktop with three kids at home either needing it for school or wanting to check e-mail, IM and play games, it is also tucked away up in our bedroom. So the only way for me to be online was to be away from the heart of the home and family.

So it came yesterday and now I am connected with the world right in my very own kitchen. And I am still available to help with math problems, put up emergency ponytails, hear who said what to whom, get snacks, and give "poor baby's" for the latest boo-boo. And more important than being connected to the world -- this is where my self-doubt comes in -- I have an avenue to create something useful. At least I'm hoping it will be useful.

The sweet part of it all is that my husband, who has funded my extravagance, is happy about the purchase and supportive of my venture, even though there is no obvious way it will ever produce ... money. The one who paid for it all is supportive and more optimistic than I am even, but swirling all around in my head are the imaginary reactions of almost everyone else I know who are rolling their imaginary eyes and mocking me, saying Why would anyone spend so much time on something that will never pay? How could that ever benefit financially? And she BOUGHT A LAPTOP so she could work on it???? Good grief!

And they'll remember all my other hare-brained schemes -- which were never actually "schemes" as much as interests that the demands of my family prevented me from pursuing as far as I'd have liked. But they were things I read about and talked about and probably spent a little money on, but in the end didn't have time for. Now I've spent a big chunk of money on something that I can't see ever giving me a return on my investment.

It is a depressing concept that ideas are only as good as they are fiscally beneficial. In the face of all the nay-sayers, I insist that pursuits that do not produce an income can be very important. One is for just plain happiness. This laptop, this blog and the website I'm working on -- they make me happy. They are a healthy salve to a personal ache that was threatening to develop into full blown sadness, an ache that first niggled its way to the surface when my oldest left for college and my third-born entered public school in the fall.

I still have one at home during the day (being homeschooled) and plenty of running around to do for all of them, so my job is secure for the moment. But it's clear my role here is winding down from the frenzy it once was. I find myself now, for this first time in maybe 16 years, having moments, even sometimes a couple hours in the day, when no one is pulling on me. Schoolwork has been finished, no one needs to be driven anywhere for awhile, dinner can wait, and the only thing between me and a good book is housework. The housework is always there.

But housework doesn't satisfy. It does for some women (my mother-in-law), and I admire them for that. I imagine they get a inner peace, a personal glow from a house well-cleaned, like an endorphin rush. For me that inner happiness comes from words well-written and ideas well-expressed. All the better if someone wants to read those words, but readers are not even entirely necessary. Just getting the words down makes me happy.

(I am not saying necessarily that my words are well-written or my ideas well-expressed. But they're as well-expressed as my abilities allow, and that's enough for me.)

And so I find that in the short week of its existence, this blog has become my "back-pocket happy." As I scurry about my daily tasks, important but mundane, I find myself remembering this blog. Like pulling a favorite pet out of my back pocket and holding it for a minute, I'm reminded that it's there waiting for me. Waiting to hear all the words and ideas that have floated through my silly brain in the past day. And it fills me with a crazy sort of joy that defies description. Isn't that worth the price of a laptop?

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Wonder of Being Type-B

What is lonelier than an unattended blog? So I hate for this brand new blog to go without a new post for too long. Can't set that precedent so early. And even though my intention was never that this blog be overly personal, I am going to post a somewhat personal entry only because I have complete confidence that my reading audience at this point is in the zero to negative range. And if someday I'm ever lucky enough to garner a small coterie of cyber-friends, by then this will be buried deep in the archives! :)

And one thing I must also say at the outset: regarding this particular topic, I am most definitely not a "small dog in tall weeds." I am the premier expert of the world. A very tall dog on the top of a rather tall hill standing in very short grass.

My credentials are thus: a classic type-A person married to an extreme type-B for over 20 years. So I have had time and opportunity to meditate on why this precious type-B person is so good for me.

I have learned the value of spending money on fun. I have learned the joy of sleeping until 10 on a Saturday and then going out to breakfast. Of choosing the late service for Sunday church only because it means we don't have to get to bed on time on Saturday night and can start the movie at 11 p.m. I have learned that the grocery store is filled with really wild and crazy options, none of which would ever make a grocery list, and not all of which end up being that fun to eat, but you don't know unless you try, right? And that remote control boats, although pricey, make for very fun vacations. I have learned that nothing too bad happens if the Christmas lights are still up on Easter. And that it is actually humanly possible to take a nap right after breakfast.

From my perspective, if a place is worth getting to, it's worth getting to faster. My fine fellow, on the other hand, has perfected the art of ambling. After all, there's a lot to notice on the way. Definitely people to talk to. And who knows, maybe we'll change our minds about where we're going anyway.

Fun is fine, but too much just gets boring is my take on things. Give me good solid work. Something to sink my teeth into, something to produce. And please let it not be housework. Hence this blog. Hence the websites I'm working to create. And as the demands of my family grow less and less, I'm feeling driven to situate myself in such a way that I can be a producing member of society. I don't know if I'll ever produce any money, but doggonnit, I'm determined to produce something. I'm desperate to produce something.

But living with my favorite type-B has softened my edges. (On the other hand, I don't think I've in the least taken the edge off his type-B-ness -- he is the most determined type-B I've ever known.) He has slowed me down. Maybe extended my life. He provides a little balance.

I say all this in order to remind myself of these truths after a particularly harrowing weekend of naps, snacks, TV, and more naps. All capped off with a long soak in the hot tub. But hey, maybe we'll give our neighbors something to talk about by turning those Christmas lights on for Easter.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Welcome, Small Dog!

I can't tell you how happy I am to be here! Completely anonymous, I'm sure, but out for the world to see nevertheless. It's been a labor of love, creating this blog. Coming up with the name was trickier than I thought. So many darling names are taken (taken, but never developed, I might add).

But I'm satisfied with "Small Dog, Tall Weeds." Suits me just fine, because no doubt, that is what I am. And I do have strong opinions about the "weeds" in my immediate vicinity!

So, without much to say at the moment, I just had to extend myself a hearty welcome to the wonderful world of blogging. I'm sure very soon I'll bubble over with ideas about things the world needs to know. Until then...