Musings from Home

Lifetime Achievement Goals

My mind, probably like everyone’s, works in a continuous stream of consciousness. It bounces from one idea to another  so quickly sometimes that I have to backtrack carefully to figure out where the last idea came from. A few months ago, it went like this: I read about someone’s bucket list and was feeling sad that someone so young had or needed a bucket list. That thought shifted to realizing that the sadness comes from the word “bucket” and its connection to death. I then thought that if you remove the death connotation, the list takes on new meaning. Instead of being a list of things you must do quickly, it becomes an insightful look into your very personality. The things that make you you.

It then occurred to me that I would love to have in writing my girls aspirations at this very moment. I felt I already knew most of them, but having them in writing would not only cause us to pay attention to them and check them off as they happen, but it would allow all of us to look back at them in the future, to see which ones had been checked off and which ones were still on the list, and which ones they had decided they no longer wanted to do.

For instance, all my youth I planned to sky dive. It was one of those things that terrified my mom even more than my taking flying lessons in college. And because I’m a complete klutz, it was one that had me a little nervous as well, but it was always a goal. But when I was 26, I had tears in both of my retinas (a hereditary thing — my dad had a detached retina at the age of 40) and was told to avoid rapid falls, like sky diving. So off my list it went, really without any sadness. That onetime thrill was not worth my sight.

There are other things I always thought I wanted to do that as I got older slipped to the other side of the paper to the list of things I don’t want to do, ever.

So back to my stream of consciousness, I decided on New Year’s Day that instead of asking my girls for New Year’s Resolutions, I would ask them to write down for me things they want to do in their lifetime. I suggested that the lists could include things they wanted to do, places they wanted to visit, what they wanted to be when they grew up, and even things they wanted to buy (but I asked that the list not be just material things they desire), or anything else that was important to them.

I was amazed at how they took to the task. Each of them asked, “Why?” when I first mentioned it, which sent a cloud of dread through my stomach. I was sure the resistance had started, which could only mean a bad thing for the richness of the list. I was wrong. The question was apparently just curiosity because when Jim answered, “Because your mom asked you to,” and I answered, “We’ll talk about it later, but for now, please write down for me what you’d like to do in your lifetime,” they both headed straight to their rooms and excitedly began to write.

After a couple of minutes, each of them came out and shared the beginnings of her list. They wanted to know what we thought of the items and if we thought they would choose those.

Over the next few days, I caught each of them adding to her list. Emerald even ran through hers with me asking me if each thing would be on my list, now or when I was a kid.

Emerald and Sapphire have both given me permission to share their lists. Em’s includes:

  • Going to Australia
  • Riding a horse on a beach
  • Being a marine biologist
  • Running in a 5K with her mom
  • Riding in a hot air balloon
  • Riding in a helicopter (on the plan for Hawaii)
  • Have the children’s book she wrote for school published and in stores
  • Sky diving
  • Learning to surf (also a possibility in Hawaii, at least to start it)
  • See the Northern Lights
  • Backpack through Europe
  • Go to Germany, Paris, China
  • See the Rockettes
  • Twirl during halftime at football games
  • Be in a marching band (she plays flute)
  • Write a novel

Sapphire’s includes:

Things I want to do:

  • Sky dive
  • Ride in a balloon

Things I want to own:

  • Horse
  • Pool
  • Building

What I want to be when I grow up:

  • A baton coach

I want to travel to:

  • Cape Cod (again; we used to go every summer)
  • Paris
  • Africa
  • The North Pole
  • Europe
  • Texas
  • South Carolina
  • Mexico

This activity has achieved more already than I had imagined. It has opened up conversations. It has encouraged the girls to ponder their wildest dreams. It has focused their attention on far away locations. It has asked them to imagine.

[One word of caution, though. If you have a goal-oriented, introspective child, be aware that this could also cause some anxiety in the end as she realizes, “I don’t know what else I want to do.” In our case, this was after a page full of ideas had already found their place on the list. It wasn’t too bad, though and was short-lived when we assured her that she had her whole life to add to it.]

The plan is to type these up when the girls are finished (or scan them in to preserve the handwriting as well) so that I can find them in 10, 15, 20 . . . years. In addition to lifetime goals, what I have here is a lifetime of memories, beginning now.


Holiday Homes Tour 2012

For the past 5 years, my friend Jen has hosted an online Holiday Homes Tour. I am so excited to be a part of her fifth annual tour today. This year is particularly fun for me since we have moved since last Christmas and therefore have a whole new house to decorate and many new traditions to start.

My husband will tell you that I started decorating this house in my mind the minute we put a contract on it, and he’d be right. For years (actually for as long as we’ve been married), we’ve had 8 foot ceilings, so we’ve had to be very careful not to get a tree that was too tall. Our new great room has a 2-story ceiling, so that was no longer a concern. As soon as we moved in, I tried to get Jim to talk about where we would put our tree, but alas June was too soon for him to engage in those discussions. 🙂 Long about Thanksgiving, we got that figured out.

Anyway, enough chit-chat from me. Off we go.

Let’s start outside, shall we?

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I was going to tell you that the kids talked us into this inflatable for the front yard, but the truth is that we were all excited to find something fun and festive for the lawn and this was just the ticket. I also went online to find outdoor ornaments. My mother-in-law sent us the gorgeous wreath for the front door.

[Note: Apparently, WordPress has changed the way it handles media and is only allowing me to post these pictures as thumbnails, but if you click on them, you’ll get the full-size photo.]

As you continue into the house, just inside the door, this is what you see:

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To your right is an old German desk my grandparents owned, adorned with nutcrackers, candles, and an angel. Above the desk is an adorable snowman that was a gift from my mother-in-law years ago and is always a centerpiece of our decorations.

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Just ahead is the stairwell, which we have wrapped in paper-chain garlands the girls and I made together.

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To your right, is a hall table, decorated by my wonderful Emerald. This has been her table to decorate since she was very little. In those days, she would choose all of her favorite decorations (angels mostly) and clump them together in the center of the table. She still adores those angels, but she now lovingly arranges them so they are just right, throws in a few Santas, and a few of her other favorites, and . . . Lovely!

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Just before you get to the stairs, on your left is the dining room.

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Several years ago, the girls and I decided to make a table centerpiece by placing different colored ornaments in a crystal bowl. We love the result. The table runner was a gift my mother-in-law brought me from her recent trip to England. She knows how I love to decorate for Christmas. 🙂

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As you face the table, to your left is a table decorated by my sweet Sapphire. She couldn’t wait to decorate a whole table of her own, like her big sis. (Last year I gave Sapphire a shelf of the Baker’s rack in kitchen to decorate, but this year she wanted a table.) She chose the decorations that were near and dear to her heart (including a snowman she made two years ago during a playdate with her best preschool pal) and off she went. She was so proud of the result:

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And to your right:

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Back in the foyer, to your right is our home office (which is where I work part-time). We didn’t do much in here, but there had to be some Christmas cheer:

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And a little buddy on the desk:

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Moving on down the front hall, you enter the kitchen/great room area, with the tree right in front of you.

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One of the reasons that I was so excited to be able to get a bigger tree this year is that we have so many sentimental ornaments and I wanted to be able to display them all without have an over-crowded-looking tree. Jim’s grandmother made ornaments and Jim’s mom shared her collection with us years ago, so along with ones the kids have made and ones we’ve collected over the years, our tree is a tale of our family history. It’s such a treat every year to take the ornaments out of the boxes and listen to each person’s delight as he/she recalls a particular ornament and the story behind it.

As an aside, I will mention that when I thought of a big tree way back in the summer and ever since until we purchased this one, I had Jen’s story of the Big Ass Tree in my head as a cautionary tale. Hence, we did not go any taller or fuller for fear of recreating her misadventures. 🙂

Turning left into the kitchen, on the table is a centerpiece made by Emerald when she was in preschool and it’s still one of my favorite Christmas decorations. Next to it are candles given to me by Emerald’s Kindergarten teacher as a thanks for my being one of two Room Moms that year.

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To the right of the table, we have more sentimental favorites on the Baker’s rack, including the Gingerbread house Sapphire made at school this year and Christmas cards we’ve received. [To the Arbaughs, if you notice your card is not up there, it’s because Sapphire insisted on keeping that one in her room.:)]

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Moving on to the great room, which is without a doubt our most decorated room. Here’s an overview:

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Stepping on into the room:

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On the coffee table we have a Fisher Price nativity scene, which Sapphire just loves. As for the center of the table, I love the bowl that is the usual centerpiece and didn’t want to move it, so because the ornament-in-a-bowl idea works so well for us in the dining room, I decided to continue that theme in here. Also on the table is a plush, musical sleigh we got years ago at Hallmark.

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Turning around the room, we have more plushies, a small gold Christmas tree, and a pillow:

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We hung more paper-chain garland around the windows. The girls and I made this years ago, but had to combine two of them and make it longer this year to get it to fit all the way across. I was glad it needed some “tweaking” for the new house, because it was yet another fun mother-daughters moment that I treasure so much.

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On the mantle, we have more angels, Jim Shore figurines that were a gift from my mother-in-law two years ago and that we treasure, and our stockings. We hang one for each person who will join us on Christmas Day, one for our puppies Riley and Raine, and one for our kitties, Squeaky and Shadow.

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The last thing I want to show you is our screened-in porch. It is my favorite room of the entire house (especially when the weather is nice). We couldn’t resist lighting it up, too:

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That just about does it for our leg of the Holiday Homes Tour. Thanks for stopping by. Continue on this way to the visit the other homes.


Yesterday was the 6 month anniversary of our move. No, we didn’t celebrate it in grand style. In fact, we didn’t even realize it, although it had crossed my mind several times in the last week that it was coming.

When the girls and I got home yesterday, they noticed that our next door neighbors were in their front yard, having just said goodbye to a friend of theirs who was over for a playdate. Sapphire jumped out of the car, ran over to their yard and told them that she had to take her backpack inside and unpack her lunch bag and then she could play.

After we went inside and the girls put their bags away and did that small chore, we all went back outside to find the neighbor children waiting patiently by their back gate and when they saw our kids, all four kids ran into our backyard and began playing.

A few minutes later, as I was talking with our next door neighbor and we were both watching the kids play, I got a text from our neighbor across the street asking if we were home because her daughter wanted to play. I texted her back that we were in the backyard with the other neighbors and told them to come on over. They did.

Six kids playing happily in the backyard until dark. A bunch of happy pictures of said children taken by Emerald on her phone. Adult socializing time thrown in for good measure. Blissful.

In some ways it feels like forever since we moved. In some ways it feels like it just happened. And although we most definitely miss our friends and our favorite haunts, we are home.

Gold Card

A few weeks ago, Emerald came home telling us about an honor at school she wanted to apply for. It was called a Gold Card and it came with all kinds of privileges, as shown in the photo below.*

*HAC is their middle school’s version of recess.

To be considered, a student had to complete an application (which was basically, name, home room teacher’s name, sixth grade team name, and date), and write an essay as to how the student thought he/she meets the criteria for a Gold Card.

The criteria are the main reason I’m writing this blog post. Instead of being about popularity, or grades, or athletic achievement, the Cougar Gold Card is all about a kid’s behavior at school. To earn a Gold Card, a student must treat his/her peers well; take direction from and be respectful to, the adults at school; take personal responsibility for his/her own learning; and follow school rules (each of which had specific bullet points to explain exactly what is expected).

The application states that the Gold Card “is a tangible symbol that recognizes students who demonstrate specific, responsible behaviors. . . Possession of a Gold Card means that you can honestly say, ‘I am responsible. I am trusted. I can handle making choices, and I exhibit positive behaviors the majority of the time. I am licensed to make choices and accept responsibilities identified on my Gold Card.'”

The Gold Card is only valid for one 9-weeks. Students much reapply every term and the card can be revoked if the student does not maintain the behavior that led to the award in the first place. Students who applied but did not receive a Gold Card this time were told individually and privately what they could do better in the future to better qualify for one next time.

I do not have enough good things to say about this idea. This card rewards, even honors, kids for behaving well. It’s not about the end result (academic or other achievement). It’s about the approach to learning and being a good citizen. This sort of thing teaches kids that success is not the only important thing. Treating others well and taking responsibility for your own actions is important, too.

Of course, I can’t end this post without telling you how Emerald’s application was received. Last week, just after Jim picked her up from school, I received a text from him that was just a picture of our very happy, very proud 11-year-old wearing her Gold Card around her neck. It looked much like this.

Back in the Saddle

Ever since I quit my freelance editing/writing job a little over a year ago, I have continued telling people when they ask what I do that I am a freelance editor and writer. I’m not sure why. I guess because I still considered myself one, although I didn’t have any projects at the moment. I was focusing on my family and our move. But freelance means you don’t work for any one company. I could’ve had projects crop up at any moment. I also planned on starting some personal writing projects (still do). In fact, I had a few offers, but I wasn’t ready to go back to work yet.

A few weeks ago a friend, who is also a freelance editor, asked me if I was ready to take on some editing, as the company she freelances for was looking to add some editors. The project is editing scientific journal articles — right up my alley. I told her I’d like to hear more. So we had a nice long conversation on the phone about the project, the time it takes, the future expectations, and yes, the pay. I told her I’d think about it, get Jim’s two cents, and get back to her.

A few days later, I told her I was ready to take the plunge. She sent my contact information to her supervisor, and the ball started rolling. The first step was to send my resume and cover letter. Next, I had to take a test, a.k.a an editorial work sample. I had two hours to complete it (any more than that and I wouldn’t qualify for the job) and I could use a dictionary of my choice.

The anticipation of the test was excruciating. I hadn’t taken a test like that . . . well ever. I had no idea what to expect. But by the time the day and hour of the test arrived, I was calm. Either I would be a good fit for this job or I wouldn’t. If I didn’t pass, no biggie. I wasn’t actively seeking employment at this point. I was only applying because the job was there now and it sounded like something I’d enjoy.

The test consisted of three sections. The first asked you to minimally change sentences to make them grammatically correct. The second asked you to fix the punctuation. The third was a sample journal article, which you were supposed to edit. There were a few guidelines attached, which you were supposed to follow. Other than that, consistency was key. I completed the test in 1 hour 50 minutes. I felt good about it (except for a few comma issues), but man was I keyed up when I was done. Emerald had come home early from school that day, so she and I took a walk with the dogs to burn up my excess energy, and then she rode bikes with our neighbors while I chatted. And then the calm set back in. That was on Thursday.

Throughout the weekend, I wondered how I did, but didn’t really worry about it. I didn’t want to fail, because I didn’t want to fail. I like the choice to whether I take a job or not to be mine. Who doesn’t? But I was fine if this job wasn’t right for me. In hindsight, I think the reason I was so calm was that this test really was a sample of what the job would be. If they weren’t happy with what I did there, then I really wasn’t the right person for job, or it for me.

Yesterday afternoon, I got an e-mail telling me that I had passed and which project I would work on. I was told I would hear from my new supervisor separately and she would send all the materials and documents I needed.

This morning I heard from her. We have still not discussed how much I’ll work, but from what my friend told me, I’ll start slow, most likely with one article a week, which should take me half a day to a full day, I think. Perfect. That’s plenty for me for now, in addition to the volunteering I’m doing and all the things around here.

I need to go read this 269-page style guide and download some software, but I’m excited. It’ll be fun to use my brain for science again. Part of me has definitely missed it.

Robin Masters’ Territory

There is a whole lot of excitement around our house. We are making lists. We are checking pamphlets and books, and websites. We just can’t stop smiling and planning. It’s not Christmas we’re thinking of. It’s the fabulous trip we have recently booked for Jim’s and Sapphire’s spring break in March. [Emerald’s break is a week later, so that’s when she’ll hopefully be making up all the work she’ll miss, but it’ll definitely be worth it.]

So where are we going?

Hint #1:

Hint #2:

Hint #3:

Got it yet? Here’s the dead giveaway:

That’s right. We are going to Hawaii!! We’ve been promising the kids for a while that we’d take them there. So the time is now . . . well, 5 months from now.

We’re flying into Honolulu and spending 3 full days, 4 nights on Waikiki. On the fourth day, we’ll fly to the Big Island (flying into Kona) and will explore there for the remaining 3 days of our adventure. We’re busy now picking our specific activities. We have lots of ideas and have just about filled all the days already (in our minds anyway, reservations for the activities will be made soon).

Waiting for March will be the hardest part, but of course there are lots of fun things to look forward to between now and then. And we’ll watch lots of Magnum PI as a warm-up. 😉 The kids are thrilled you can see our hotel on Waikiki in some of the scenes.

And they can’t contain their excitement that their dream trip is actually scheduled (and partially paid for). Neither can Jim and I. This will be a trip to remember, for all of us.

Photo credits: Yahoo Images

Deal Breaker

I am a big fan of the old game shows. I was so thrilled when our AT&T Uverse service included Game Show Network. Along with HGTV, it is one of my top two picks for mindless t.v. watching.  My favorite game shows are the ones I remember watching with my mom and my siblings during summer breaks when I was a kid. Occasionally, I turn on the tube for a few sit-down moments during the day and check in on my two favorite networks. This morning I caught the last few minutes of Card Sharks (from the 1980s), which I had totally forgotten about until very recently, but which I used to greatly enjoy.

For those of you who don’t know, the premise of this show is that staff members have polled 100 people (sometimes specific groups, sometimes general population) about a particular question and the contestants have to guess how many of the 100 people answered a certain way. The contestant first asked the question gives an actual number and his/her reasoning for that number, and then the other contestant says whether he/she thinks the number is higher or lower than the one given by his/her opponent. The correct contestant gets to then see his/her first card and guess whether the next card is higher or lower until he/she has either chosen to “freeze” or continues through the seven card or so to win the game.

The question this morning that caught my attention was a poll of 100 women who wear glasses as to whether or not they believe the old adage “Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”. The first contestant to play this question was a man, who said that he thought a high number of women who wear glasses would say “yes” because he personally doesn’t like women who wear glasses so he guesses a lot of men feel the same way.

I had an immediate negative reaction to his answer, and by extension to him. I started judging not just his statement, but everything I could tell about him. First of all, he wasn’t very attractive (imho). Who was he to decide that all women who wear glasses are not attractive? Glasses have nothing to do with what the person is like. What a horrible way to decide whom to date. Etc., etc.

But when I calmed down a little, I asked myself if I had any deal breakers when it came to dating (back when I was dating). Deal breakers that had nothing to do with who the person was. And of course, I instantly recalled that I didn’t date men who smoked. I think it’s a nasty habit. The smoke makes me cough. I don’t like to smell it on my clothes, in my car, or in my house. Second-hand smoke is unhealthy. And the list goes on. I can probably give you many more reasons, if it really mattered to list them all.

The point is, although I still really dislike his answer (which was completely wrong according to the poll on the show, btw) and the attitude behind it, I realized it’s not too unusual for people to have their own personal deal breakers when it comes to finding the perfect life partner.

So I ask you, dear reader, do/did you have any personal deal breakers that aren’t/weren’t related to who your potential date was or is as a person, but rather something else about his or her looks, accessories, dress, or personal habits, or the like?

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