the ugly


The rhythmic thwacks of our header machine is soothing as I inwardly seethe.  The smoke rises from this beast of a machine.  This motherhood thing…it can get ugly.  Fast.

With an eventFULL week of activity behind us,  I happily put away dishes after dinner last evening.  The house was clean, our family was well fed, with the baked ham in Thanksgiving fashion, and I tidied up for the night.  I had looked forward to curling up in my bed with a wonderful book; finally finding the peace and quiet I craved amongst the frenzy.

And then life happened.  Crying.  Yelling.  Disrespect.  I threw my son out the back sliding door and locked it.  I had established my boundary and could no longer have him in it.

I can count the times in my life journey (three) that I have had to put up my walls; the desperate last resort to keep it together before the banshee unleashes.  Either I exit the premises or the other person is banished.  There is no in-between.

I practice tough love.  To not enable .  To not allow disrespect.  Being a parent entails the ugly as well as the good; the real nitty-gritty of bringing another life into the world.   It is when a person is pushed to their outer limits that they either crack or persevere; when one finds true weakness or strength of character.  I can easily cling to the anger. It is palpable and easy to confront.  It is much harder to forgive; to acknowledge fault and humbly and sincerely give apology.  These are uncompromising character traits that must be instilled, to create caring and contributing adults.  It is this that I want my children to understand.

My line is drawn.  But amongst the tension I am grateful.  Thankful that I am still here to bear witness; to guide, as painful as it may be.   It is a difficult path to stumble upon, alone, as I did in my formative years.  As I take deep cleansing breaths I pray for wisdom.  I do not wish to be the picture perfect mother who can calmly rationalize with my sons.  It is my life’s work to be authentic; to bring things down to the simplest common denominator.

Just this weekend a parent shared her story; how she parented four children.  As she cared for a ninety-five year old parent, ran a restaurant and worked part-time in the medical field she was thankful for her independent eldest daughter.  She drove an hour to the highly acclaimed magnet school, ran cross-country and achieved high academic success.   She was accepted at her first choice university, attended the top medical school in the country and currently is a third year resident in a local hospital.  The mother, busy with life, urged her daughter to work hard, to dream big.  And she did.

It was only when this mother cleaned her eldest daughter’s bedroom, when she went off to college, that she found a heavy box beneath her bed.  A box full of newspaper clippings, medals,  honors and things the mother barely recalled.  As she touched each item the tears flowed; the pride of having her high achieving daughter ripped away as she realized how much she had missed; how much her daughter had not told her.  I was astounded this mother told me this story; the first time meeting her in a crowded football stadium.  Since this discovery she has been involved with her remaining three children; the eldest bitterly envious of her siblings.   I was thankful this story was not my own.

I pondered why she had shared this with me but later she made it abundantly clear as she gazed at my younger boys; huddling in the cold.  Do not make this same mistake.  Hear your children and enjoy them.  It goes by so fast.  When life gets busy, create the time and make them a priority.

Amongst forty plus parents, the next day, this same sentiment was shared by upperclassmen dads as our fall competitive season comes to a close.  It just seemed like yesterday that my son came through these doors and soon he will be leaving them.

With young infants and toddlers I first read a parenting book about the stages of motherhood.  I imagined my boys years ahead in time; how life would become easier.  It is only now that I realized the true “take away;” to stop living in the future or past and to plant yourself firmly in the now.  For the past year I believed that if I cut out the busyness of life that I would have more quality time.  But this is easier said than done.  Life is always busy and there is always something more to be done.

It is bittersweet, this parenting journey.  But it is also one of the most rewarding opportunities given to us in our short and humble lives.  To wield our authority with love and involvement; to guide our kids to physically and mentally grow.  To flex and accept change and transition.  Just as the header strikes a blow to the cold, hard steel to create the hex head on the bolt; so it is that life beats us down to create something better.    The coil of anger is straightening itself out.


The underlying foundation of parenting  must consist of love, respect, humility and faith. 

We must love ourselves and our neighbors.  We must respect people’s space, beliefs and the rules and laws that govern our lives.  We must be humble and giving in our walk; to care for those less fortunate and forgive those who disrespect.  We must have faith and community; to believe there is something outside of ourselves; a greater good.

The true trick to master, in this crazy time of parenthood, is to walk alongside my sons; to embrace the frenzy.  It is not realistic to carve out special time to create quality.  Every single moment spent should be quality…not imagining the perfect time and space where that can be achieved.  This is an unrealistic expectation.  I am finally discovering that I must seek the simple and mundane details and see the beauty in each.  To lovingly watch my youngest fiddle with tying his shoes.   To inwardly smile when the eldest is stressed and disorganized; bumbling about.  To patiently await for the middle son to “get” his homework assignment and silently cheer for him when he finally does.

I glance at my cracked-tile in a different light and a softened focus.  I imagine the hardwood, unblemished floors.  What good would they be without others to trod on them?  I will have plenty of time for peace and quiet when my children are long gone from my four walls.  But for now I walk on, treading lightly as I let the anger within dissipate.   I don’t want to find the heavy box underneath the bed with all the things I missed.  I will trod amongst my messy life and home, frenetic schedule and immerse myself.  To be present.


It gets ugly, to lead by messy example.  But the beauty lies within.  I am slowly finding it.

Family, School

riptides act -tion


This week has been a rough and bumpy ride.

Traditionally on the last Friday of summer vacation we head to the ocean. I greedily clung to the remaining hours of freedom; willing the sands through the hourglass to sift slow. The forecast called for hazy sunshine and high surf advisories.

I stood in awe of Mother Nature. There is nothing like witnessing the ocean’s breathtaking power; allowing me to let the tethers and ties of life go. As the sets of monster waves crashed towards the shoreline I could finally be present in the moment with all my senses aware. Over the roar of the waves I shouted to the younger boys.

If the riptide takes you, float and don’t fight it. It’ll pull you sideways so don’t panic. Wait for the waves to calm and then swim to shore. Will yourself to relax and breathe.


I felt the waves carry me this way and that during this first week back- to- school. I mentally resist the return of demanding schedules and am physically exhausted trying to get it all straight. I longingly wished for the waves of last Friday crashing on the shore.

I need to ride this.

I need to let the waves crash over and around me; letting the routine settle to the rhythmic tides of time eternal. To give up the tiresome task of trying to control the things I cannot. I will myself to relax and breathe; to not panic.   I need to go with the flow and let go.


transition: noun. passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another.”   Def. 1. Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2014.

When the suffix -tion is added to a verb, it changes it to a noun; meaning   the act or result of (verb).

I am in the present tense of the verb, the doing.  Most times I am fixated on the end result, the -tion.  Instead of enjoying the transit, I am looking towards the end of the journey (transit- tion).  I hold my ground wanting time to stand still, to have control.  But the truth of the matter is, life is always in a state of flux and transition.  These are not finite stages.  We are always in transit, riding the waves; big and small.

monster waves

I stayed in the water of foamy 10 foot waves for over an hour waiting for the perfect one to ride in on the boogie board.  We need to go further out my son yelled to me.  I signal to remain; to stay put.  To keep our eyes on the water.  The lure of the perfect wave means that we must put ourselves in strong rip currents.   I chose to ride whatever tides I could, just because.  The danger in life is always waiting for the perfect moment which rarely ever comes.

You gotta just do it.  Live.

I spend too much time looking back thinking, should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.  I ponder the future seeking the end result.  But living in the present, in the here and now is tough; the doing; the action.  To breathe deep and let go.  To block out the fear and float; trying to rise above the foam.  You can’t swim, you say?  It’s okay to ask for a lifeline, to wear flotation devices.  Maybe it’s time to learn to swim.  But if you never ask, never try…the fear wins.  You get stuck.  You panic.

On day three one obstacle after another came like sets of rogue waves; knocking me out. I had lain awake til the wee hours of the morning; my mind racing.   I was locked in the barrel; the walls of water collapsing around me as I fought to stay afloat; eyes searching for the shore.

But I am learning to reach for my lifelines; the ones who hear and affirm; not compare and contrast.   When I flail in an angry sea, they deploy the flotation devices.   They are my life “guards.”  If I ask, they will come.  To paraphrase the English poet, John Donne.

No man is an island.


The sirens wail.  I am in need of saving.  And my lifeguards deliver at a moment’s notice. This back-to-school business is for the birds.

Frustrations run high as procrastination and anxiety peak by 6:57 AM.  The lunch bag gets tossed about as doors slam and tempers flare.  On the first night of school we sit in the twenty-four hour mega store at 10:30 PM, picking through shopping carts.  There is not one five subject, college-ruled notebook in sight and this son needs two of them.   On day three the teen is frantic; his lack of organization glaringly obvious.  He is made to run around the field until his dot book and needed items are delivered in his seventh period.

Day four, the hubs and son spend an hour searching for a world newspaper; the assignment due in the morning. My eyes see red.  Quick to intervene before tempers escalate out-of- control the hubs sees it.  The teen is his spitting image; procrastination and all.  Upon returning home empty-handed; my caffeine habit proved useful.  A quick trip to my local coffeehouse produced several newspapers.   Crisis averted.

nate newspaper
The middle son is unsettled; his junior high schedule now in its second revision.  He longs to get into his routine; to know his class schedule is final.   After typing several pages of homework he is disgruntled to discover neither of our printers work.  Our workhorse that we’ve owned since 1996, the LaserJet, is on its last legs and the ink jet; dry.   From upstairs I hear the hubs grumble.  He currently is installing two new printers.


But all is not lost.  The youngest son  happily memorizes state facts.  Who knew our state rock was the serpentine?  Test me again Mom!  He memorizes in the car as we roam to and fro; the older brothers dropped off at their respective schools.  After the youngest’s drop-off I will myself to keep my calm as frazzled parents rush to push their kids out of cars; allowing them to illegally cross.   When I lower my automatic window I see the assistant principal straddling the double yellow line.  With each late, jay-walking child she whistles and yells.  Use the crosswalk!  Next time, detention!  Tempted as I am to high-five her I hit the button as the window motor whirs.  At the crosswalk, the police car parks.  Stuck amongst parent drivers I turn up my volume and sing to my stereo; windows up.    By the time I reach the freeway, the ride is smooth sailing.  Glassy waters.


Day five is still in motion; the craziness of to and fro.  The constancy of the tides, as in time, continues and I must learn to roll with it; absorbing the impact.   I may not be able to control what happens around me,  but I do have control of how I react to it.

One of my lifeguards’ text reminds me:  My happiness is not dependent on someone else.  I must create it, all on my own.   I declutter and surround myself with things that inspire; not tire.   Some days I’ll be riding the crests of the waves; others I’ll be locked in the barrel; crashing to shore.  These things, these rip curls,  happen for a reason.  I take stock of what is good; remembering to taste the saltiness on my lips and the coolness of the foam.    I can do this, ride this.

I am grateful.


the messiness of it all


I watch the hubs roam around the shop searching.  We spend a good portion of our days; our lives, searching for something lost.  He happens to be searching for a pipe to hold the steel as it rolls into a machine.  I see the grease beneath the machine oozing.

I ignore the red number by the Fakebook icon on my smartphone.  If I am tagged by someone; I glance quickly at the newsfeed at the exciting lives of my other hundred or so “friends.”  2013 was coined the year of the selfie; the pics people take of themselves.  I, myself, enjoy when people share pictures.  But more than one selfie in one day seems a bit much.  I mean, really?  And how many people take countless pics of themselves; editing to profile their better side.  Yes. I am also guilty.

I wanna know the nitty-gritty real stuff.  Most people seek escapism in social media; to portray themselves in a better light with the deluge of likes to validate their day.  To be seen.  I can’t relate to all that stuff.  I’m too busy unloading a dishwater, making school lunches and looking at the dirty bathroom mirror I had just cleaned a day ago.  I see my children’s clothes littered on the bedroom floors as my ire begins to rise at 7:03 AM.  After three calls to ‘wake up’ in a sing-song voice; the sound gets tinny and hard.  We have 25 more minutes until we walk out of the door and I need fully clothed, washed and fed children with all your gear! 

I have been awake since 5 AM and have returned from my early morning walk.  Instead of feeling revitalized I am disgruntled.  This doesn’t include awakening the hubs who continues to burrow beneath the blanket shutting my voice out.  To  my fellow people out there whose mornings begin like this, most days…I am with you.

The youngest wipes maple syrup (not high fructose corn syrup) on his face and shirt (his napkin).  sigh.  The eldest can’t find his phone and when he does; it’s uncharged.  The middle son grins happily at his other two brothers’ harried routine and demise.  The taunting and shoving continue as we back out of our garage.  I turn the radio up.

And Sara Bareilles’ song , “Brave” plays loud on my car stereo.  The bickering ceases as I crank the volume up.  Does it have to be so loud Mom? the youngest shouts.  The better not to hear you argue.  I respond.  The car becomes silent as I finally lower the volume.

I kept it on repeat as I drove into work; reflecting on our weekend.  I cringed.


Our Sunday morning brunch at my in-laws became more than we bargained for.  Still in church clothes and heels I began plucking broccoli, spinach and lettuce from my in-laws’ garden; shopping LOL.  If I pick it, I can keep it.  My retired father-in-law is now gutting his trailer and rebuilding it; his wood working tools in the garden.  None of us knew my dear hubs decided he would use the saw to cut wood for my middle son’s science project.  That is; until this son came to share that blood was getting all over the wood and his father was at the sink.  My father-in-law ran up the garden incline.  I took a deep breath.


I glanced at the bloodied wood and hazarded a pic of the deep cut the saw blade made.   I can barely look at the finished project; the blood stains still on it  The son wants to keep it there for character.  The father-in-law offered his paint brush and paint.  To my astonishment the grandfather and father taught this 11 y/o how to wield the tools safely; building this trebuchet all on his own (minus the cutting).  The mother in me cringes at the thought.  The son wants to keep his project plain to remember the blood and sweat put into it.

I stand beside the hubs with the torch; grimacing at each popping noise it makes.  The Sara Bareilles song is playing overhead throughout the shop and I think of how the intense heat makes the hard steel malleable.  It transforms before my very eyes.  And strange as I hear the lyrics, once again, I think of my girlfriends.  I quickly return to my computer and email; the song like the lit torch making me see.

Show me how big your brave is.

It is in revealing the messy, unpretentious lives that we lead that allows us to be brave.  To know that we are not alone.  It is being brave that gives us our voice; to discover the person within.   Because of my friends I see the diversity; how everyone struggles to keep it together.  Some carry their burdens alone as it festers with resentment.  Others try to hide it with various masks: overeating, drinking, overcompensating by doing too many things.  All people want to be validated.  I am guilty of the latter.

validate: to recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of

There comes a point when, in taking on too many things, that my finished product is mediocre.  It is an empty feeling knowing you are spread way too thin.  I now compartmentalize and take baby steps.  I see the long view; the result I want.  But to get there I need to do it one step, one day at a time.


That’s easy to type but much harder to say.  To be brave and say what I mean.  It’s hard to acknowledge our flaws but harder to lay them out for others to see.   Fear of judgment.  Pride.   But once the torch is lit it’s hard to remain hard and unforgiving.  With the heat and the blows of the hammer steel can transform into a thing of beauty.  I have since learned to appreciate the artistry in bending metal and creating useful things of worth.

And with that I turn to my books as I number crunch for the end-of-the  month tax filings.  Overwhelming.  But I will continue to plod through and be brave in the messy.


Manic Monday


On my early morning show I heard an interesting statistic.  The first Monday  each year is the most depressing day of the year.  People return to work, children return back to school and buyer remorse settles in after the holidays.  I walked into the office and was greeted with our philodendron’s droopy leaves.  Gasp!

By noon our day grew infinitely more interesting.   A bill settled upon the desk from the business owner the next building over.  All of us share the cost for our water valve testing and Gasp!  The repair for our water lines was $1300.  Thus, the owner suggested we all run our fire sprinkler systems to clear out the lines before a re-test.


My brain registered the loud clanging noise of the alarm after I contacted the alarm company that we were testing the sprinkler system.  One of our employees stated that a car drove to our bay door; worrying about the amount of water being dumped along our property line.  To our chagrin we noted the cluster of 10-15 people huddled on the sidewalk; alarmed at the clanging and hugging one another.  The hubs went outdoors and explained the alarm was on as a test; amidst the worried glances of our neighbors.  We should have thought to inform them we were testing our sprinkler system.


Especially when the fire truck pulled into our parking lot, sirens blaring!  Our alarm company was instructed of our tests; but the neighboring businesses took it upon themselves to call the fire department instead.  Then the police.  It was during this hour of commotion that a customer came with his delivery and the HVAC owner visited with his quote for our stolen HVAC  unit.  It was a zoo!

And the phone lines rang off the hook.  I was surprised to have three calls from people saying they had heard about our water damage.  When I inquired where the water damage was and where they were standing I finally discerned that these were contractors wanting to repair our “water damage” from our supposed fire.  These ambulance chasers must have their radios on the frequencies for the fire department and police.  As if our “high fire alert” status with dry, above normal Santa Ana winds, temps weren’t keeping these people busy with real situations.

Ugh.  Just ugh.   I laughed maniacally just as the in-laws rolled in the door.  They missed all of the excitement.  How could anyone be depressed after a morning like this?  

And so it goes…our business is kicking off into the new year with a bang!  The firemen lingered, a bit amused, as they perused the type of items we manufacture.  Ironically, we manufacture bolts for local fire ladders.  Need fasteners anyone?  

To add to the comedy of our first Monday I had to share the written assignment that came home today from my youngest.  I shall re-type for clarity…

Charlie santa letter

December 24, 2013 A.K.A Christmas

Dear Santa,

Christmas is my favorite kind (time) of year and I just have some questions.  Are you going (to) travel around the world with cookies with you?  Are you happy about Christmas and the Holy Spirit, God, and Jesus?  Do you like your elves?  Does Your Wife Mrs. Clause Go with you to drop off the presents?  When your (you’re) late, do you just drop the presents in their chimney or just throw it in the window?  I wish I could see you!

Sincerely, (my son’s full printed name)

2014…here we come!