Family, School

what the DMV and tea taught me

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Two weeks ago, my eldest son and I rushed after school to our local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.  We made our way towards line 3 and when called upon, the woman patiently asked where the golden rod colored paper was as this son and I questioningly looked at one another.  The one that provided the signature and proof that this boy had driven and passed with a certified driving school instructor.

We had to forfeit the appointment.

We both left dejectedly and waves of guilt washed over me.  I thought I had checked the list for required documentation to take the behind-the-wheel driving test thoroughly and I saw the slump of the sixteen year old’s shoulders.  I hadn’t realized how much he had wanted to take the test; to finally have a license to drive.

Why didn’t you check me? I asked this son.  He shrugged as I apologized, again, and he stated that he was okay with it.  He thought we had everything in order, too.  It gave him more time to practice behind-the-wheel in his busy spring schedule.

I immediately went home and tore apart the files in my home office in search of the golden rod document.  I had even called the driving instructor on his cell phone to inquire how to get another form while at the DMV.  Within fifteen minutes of organizing and sorting I found the document and spent the following two hours in frustration, filing and shredding.

If I had been better organized, this son could’ve taken his test.  It had already been a trying week and it took another 24 hours to reschedule another drive test appointment.

Two weeks later, we returned to this same line.  This time we had all the required documentation and when the woman asked what time the test appointment was for, we both answered at the same time.  I stepped away from the counter as he continued to answer her questions.

We proceeded to sit in the hard, plastic chairs in the very crowded DMV for an hour and when his name was called, I anxiously stood nearby as he was given instructions.  As he drove the car into the drive test line, I focused my energy on not fidgeting; to remain calm for this son as he jibber-jabbered for another fifteen minutes and inched slowly to the beginning of the line.

When the instructor finally arrived I exited quickly and stood by a tree with others awaiting their drivers on tests to return. I glanced at the time as this son pulled away from the curb.

Within seven minutes my car had returned and as I slowly walked towards my son, I caught his reflection on the driver side’s mirror and immediately knew what had transpired.  He had failed his drive test.

He chose not to drive home and crawled to the back seat of my car; angrily dealing with his humiliation.  He wanted to tear up the examination sheet and when I asked where it all went wrong, he claimed he didn’t know.  The instructor had simply written his suggestions, politely asked him to return to the DMV parking lot and exited the vehicle.

Upon reading the examiner’s words I inwardly cringed.  Critical driving error.  And though my heart hurt for this son; the one not used to failing anything, a surprising emotion had risen unbidden to my consciousness and I chastised myself.

I was secretly glad.

I couldn’t put into words these conflicting feelings until I sat across my childhood friend I’ve known since aged nine.  We both had left our humble, small-town upbringings to attend universities four hours away in the city .  As a high school language teacher in a highly ranked school district, she shared the scenarios that play out before her, day-after-day.  

All work and no play.

She handed me the book by Dr. Stuart Brown; hoping that the next generation can still cling to open, unstructured time.  Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.

This is an ongoing conversation between us; she as an educator and myself the parent of two high school teens.  The high school years have become the pressure cooker, high stakes years when students build resumes and look towards college admissions.

  • They shuttle from one structured organized activity to another; not for the love of learning or joy of playing…but to stay afloat and rise above their peers.
  • They have various extra-curricular activities to fill all of their free time, burden themselves with advanced placement courses and stay up till the wee hours of the morning trying to fit it all in.
  • They hire tutors or become tutors themselves, adding the time to community service hours to check that block on their application resume.

We sat for three hours dissecting the high school years we lived versus the ones our children currently live in.  Living two hundred miles from our hometown we easily understand how different our upbringings were versus those of our children.

As mothers we both feel like hamsters running in place as we do the things we are expected to do.  

We go to work, we parent our kids, we try to be good spouses and multi-task efficiently to prove we are productive and don’t waste time.  Our time is structured and the words come back to haunt us.  All work.  No play.

As we sat in her car in a crowded restaurant parking lot, the words began to form on the fringes of my mind.  My dear friend stated the obvious.

We forgot how to play.

Her version of unstructured time was in socializing; making time for friendships.

Both avid readers, I had shared my desire to go to a tea house after reading Lisa See’s The Tea Girl on Hummingbird Lane.  My girlfriend teaches in the community where this book takes place and, surprisingly, portrays the same scenarios we live.  The Play book had not been on my to do list, this weekend, but I found myself making the time.

Reading for pleasure is my own version of play.

I returned home telling my husband I craved tea and scones as he made a fresh pot.  My girlfriend and I hadn’t  realized the long waiting lists to even have tea in a local tea house.  Reservations needed to be made a month in advance.  When we looked online at menus and saw the cost; both of us opted to forego this option for the time being.

The hubs muttered under his breath how he was doing his part and so, I found myself perusing my recipes on how to make scones.

As I kneaded dough, like Play Doh, I realized how I contributed to my son’s critical driving error and I replayed the seemingly disconnected thoughts in my mind trying to make sense of them.

I processed the words I had shared with my girlfriend, who happens to also be this son’s godmother.

  • How I questioned his maturity level when he was behind-the-wheel recently.
  • That, after leaving the DMV two weeks ago I had felt guilt ridden and then began angrily questioning why I had felt guilty.
  • When I was sixteen I knew all the rules.  I made my own DMV drive test appointment.  I had all my documentation.  I did it on my own.
  • When this son drove, he relied on my instructions to reach our destinations.  Rarely did I remain silent to let him make his own mistakes or figure out the directions by himself.

This feeling of guilt persisted but not for the reasons I had thought.

I feel the guilt of being the overbearing parent.

  • The one that scheduled the online DMV appointment.
  • The one that, when my son was questioned and he didn’t immediately answer, filled in the space and answered with him at the same time.  I had caught the glance he shot me; one of irritation.
  •  When I questioned the son if he had checked me, he really should have been doing all this documentation search on his own and I should’ve checked myself.  Checked myself out.

He has suffered setbacks but he must learn how to cope with rejection.  I am not teaching my son how to be independent and, much as I tell myself he must fail, he never does.

Until he failed his drive test.

It was a critical driving error.  He had been asked to turn left at the intersection and when the signal had turned green, he had made the left.  But there had not been a left turn signal and he had not waited for the oncoming traffic to pass through the intersection first.  He had just went for it.

I had looked at my son through the rear view mirror that day, after reading the examiner’s words while stopped at an intersection and calmly stated the following.  I know you will never forget that rule again.  That could be fatal.  My son had silently shaken his head in agreement.

I had known all along he hadn’t been ready but it took someone else to finally drive it home.

I walked into the computer den, announcing to my boys that dinner and tea would be ready in ten minutes.  They confirmed with grunts and nods, questioning the comment about tea but I had exited the den to check on my scones.  My sons know I am not, normally, a baker of any sort, unless it is cookies during the holidays.

My husband watched me pull out our fine china and tea cups; wondering if I had lost my mind.  Are you seriously bringing out your tea sets?  I brought out five different settings and began to set my table.

I am a mom of three boys and a husband and have no occasions to have a tea party.  But I’m going to have one, just because.

Our boys came to the table staring in surprise.  It was the youngest son who summarized succinctly.  This looks like those play tea sets from preschool for girls.  He was surprised to discover there were tea sets for adults.

The hubs poured the tea and the middle son got his finger caught in the dainty tea handle.  I had to hold the cup so he could gingerly wedge his finger out.

They discovered the scones and readily ate them, placing blackberry jam on their tea plates and gingerly holding fine porcelain cups.  They even pointed their pinky fingers out and stoically posed for my pic; for posterity.

They didn’t even question why we were having scones and tea in fancy china; they merely enjoyed the food and to my husband’s chagrin, quickly drained the pot of tea he painstakingly made.

I have finally learned my lesson from my son’s DMV experience.

Later, I sat on this son’s bed and candidly shared my thoughts and that, when he is ready, I’ll direct him to the online DMV page to schedule another drive test.  I brace myself, and my son, for his upcoming senior year so that when rejections come, he will pick himself up after disappointment.  He feels the pressure as his junior year is coming to a close; as do I.

In this whole process I am most surprised by this son’s resiliency after taking some time to lick his wounds.  For this I am glad.  I am slowly exiting the hamster wheel; finding my footing in the things in life that bring me joy outside of my family.

It’s time for me to create unstructured down time, turn up the music, find my rhythm and throw some more tea parties.

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Family, School

imperfect days and third options

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While treading the worn hallway, upstairs, I heard my eldest son’s ringtone from the furthest reaches, downstairs.    With one last command to my younger sons to hurry down and eat breakfast; I rushed down the stairs to catch the phone before it went to voice mail.  It was 7:20 AM.

Mom!  I need my history textbook!  I heard the stress; voice cracking on the other end of the cell.  I quickly scanned his desk, unable to locate it until he remembered it had fallen on the left side.  I glanced at my phone;  it was 7:23 AM.  His late bell rings at 7:30.

My mind screamed, This is your fault for not getting up early; let this be a lesson to you!

My mouth said, “I won’t make it.  You’ll be tardy for your first period.” 

I heard the resignation in his voice as he accepted this truth; the consequence.  He knows, he said, but please try anyway.

I got every single traffic light to his high school.  I spotted the police cruiser at the intersection and my son; who clutched his phone for dear life,  amidst the kaleidoscope of teens who rushed to beat the bell.  His classroom is on exactly the opposite side of this sprawling campus.  When I stopped he grabbed the textbook, yelled thank you and bolted.  We both knew he wouldn’t make it in time.

Sometimes in life we know the outcomes won’t meet our expectations.  But I am always wiling to try something; at least once.  It is a lesson learned for this son who is used to being punctual.  These years, that he currently occupies, will be the ones where he must learn to adapt and adjust.  Responsibility is a trait to be learned.  Earned.

Today he was lucky; it is his birthday.   This won’t happen again.

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Sometimes when we make choices; the decision is clear-cut and easy.   Should I eat breakfast so I am not hungry later?  Yes.  I should.  But most times our choices are between two conflicting things.  Do I sacrifice being late to my first period or do I leave the textbook at home?  We weigh our options; both negative outcomes.

Lately I feel like most of my choices weigh negative consequences.   I think of my cluttered counter top with highways of dead ants.  Do I spray the ant poison near my food stores to salvage my cupboards or do I toss excess food to prevent the ants from foraging?   The desire to cook in my disorderly kitchen is at an all-time low; amidst toxic fumes and triple digit temps.  But my desire to not eat out, with excess calories and expense, balances my aversion to cooking in a cluttered kitchen.

Each day feels like I am taking a multiple choice quiz where I must choose the response that best answers the question.  It will never be perfect; exact.

This is really what I must always remind myself of; imperfection.  Rare is the day that my kitchen is scrubbed clean, full of groceries and organized where the spices I need are at my fingertips.   Rare is the morning that my three sons are awake, dressed and fed; waiting to be taken to school.  I know when I reach my twilight years that I will miss these years of semi-organized chaos, the full schedules, the clutter and footsteps that tread the halls upstairs.  Someday my house will be silent.

All of these every day wanderings are minute details in the bigger picture; the maelstrom of ants and pots and pans, the broken tile.  Instead of my messy home I’ll remember driving, in traffic, to my son as he discovers the effects of his actions.  He may not remember this day; the indecision and realization that either outcome would not be ideal.  But he will remember the feeling of hopeful helplessness and will learn to organize himself and find ways to prevent this situation from recurring in the future.

When life’s outcomes are stacked against you, there is always the third option.  Hope.  To want a positive outcome; so bad, that you completely ignore the negatives to attempt to do the right thing.   You have to believe, to have blind faith, that there is always something better; a path not yet found if only one tries.

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In the end, none of the above mattered.  The son; late to his first period class, discovered the principal and assistant principal inside.  On this particular day his geometry teacher was absent and the substitute had not arrived.  From the principal the classroom of students learned that a fellow parent; speeding, had struck another student.  Only two days before had our high school’s parent population sat in the auditorium; advised of traffic rules and repeatedly, told to drive S-L-O-W.  The student, thankfully, is okay.  The police presence and throngs of late students were explained; traffic at a stand still.   My son, indeed, was lucky; in more ways than one.

The past two years I have advocated for parents to be vigilant drivers with the kids at our elementary and junior high.  It is ironic that, of all places, the high school campus is where the unthinkable happened; the teen a junior and struck by a parent.  As parents, each and every single day, we weigh probable outcomes and try to make the best choices we can to guide our children.

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Our actions do not only impact ourselves.  Shall I be late to work or hurry up and get out of this mess; to beat traffic?   We, too, must learn responsibility; own culpability.  We, too, must find a better outcome.  To leave our houses earlier, to take the time to get our children to their campuses safe.  To put down the cell phones; to stop with the text.  I still hope for the third choice…that we CAN do better.  This, I believe.

We have imperfect days.  But we can always strive to make the choice that best fits the situation.  The answers are rarely perfect and clear and bad days will happen.  But tomorrow is another day.  Make it a better one.

Family, School

riptides act -tion

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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.

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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.

geometry

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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Family, School

what’s popular. white elephants

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It’s amazing how this one word, popular,  can create such havoc.  I usually attribute this word to tweens and teens as they navigate through the social strata in middle school and high school.  But discovering the deadly shootings at UCSB; an area I was supposed to be camping near this past Memorial Day weekend, I gritted my teeth.

I watched an almost seven minute YouTube video of the 22 y/o gunman talk about popularity and being a loner.  His day of retribution against women and humankind had arrived last Friday,  leaving seven people in its wake.   This was his way of dealing with disappointment.  When life dealt him lemons he didn’t make lemonade.  Instead, he chose to cut down the entire lemon tree.

As a parent and member of society I am scared.  Has our society become this?  Loners and suicides and deadly shootings?  What should be an anomaly has become the norm.  The final act to be trending and popular.

How can we redefine popular?

Again I am driving and my kids notice my silence.  My SUV is lined up behind other cars at the back gate of the junior high my son attends.  When asked what was wrong  I spoke of the senseless deaths at the UCSB campus last Friday.  They listen as I talk to our school front office through my car speakers.  As a parent I try to remain immune to the fears of random acts of violence.  I think that my community, my values will keep my kids safe.   This won’t happen to me.

But it can.  Because one of those victims attended my children’s same schools, her family home within a mile of my own.  The same church.  Our community reels as I listen to the front office’s talks of purchasing candles for a vigil.  After dropping off my sons I drive by the park where her vigil will take place this evening.  I am not isolated in my bubble; safe.   None of us are.

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Mental illness.  It doesn’t get the attention like heart disease, cancer, AIDS.  It is swept under the radar.  When are we going to do something about it?  It is the white elephant that always is in the room.  We talk of tighter gun control, the black market.  But the stigma of depression and mental illness needs to be lifted.  Discussed in our schools.

My boys just went through an outdated, uneventful presentation of family life aka sex education.  What we really need are counselors proactively in our classrooms, talking about mental illness with our kids.  We need forums for our parents with medical professionals and law enforcement, to learn how to catch the warning signs.      We already have these forums for sex and drugs in our secondary schools Only then can we make these random acts of violence unpopular.  Only then can we affect some kind of change.

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I am pretty pissed off.    Angry for all  the families who have lost their children in this senseless manner; even the gunman’s parents.  It’s easy to point the finger at them for not reining in their son; for not cutting him off financially.  What if YOU are the parent of a child diagnosed with mental illness?  When these tragedies happen each and every one of these parents cringe.  They worry, could this be my son next?    This isn’t about some single, affluent, white male with access to guns.  If you believe that, then you have your head in the sand.

Mental illness is not going away.  Sheltering our children and nation from these issues propogates the stigma it carries.  We need to address the white elephant in the room.  I share this with my boys; the angry mom in the SUV.  The white elephants are never popular.  My girlfriend’s daughter has learned to deal with life’s disappointment; wearing the shirt above.   She’s discovered how to navigate through what’s popular.  It’s time to change the momentum for our children and affect change.

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Family, School

voices not heard

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And you go though life so sure of where you’re headin’,
And you wind up lost and it’s the best thing that could’ve happened,
Sometimes when you lose your way it’s really just as well,
‘Cause you find yourself, yeah, that’s when you find yourself
~ Brad Paisley “Find Yourself”

I had been driving, this morning,  when this song came across my car’s stereo speakers.  Whenever I hear the deep timbre of Brad Paisley’s voice I am transported to 2006 when The Cars Movie had been released.   I immediately think of Bryan Adams’ song from the Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron movie released in 2002.   Interestingly enough these two songs, from kids movie soundtracks, have a profound affect on me.  There is a theme going on here…and in seeing the lyrics I am able to piece it together.  It’s only taken me eight to twelve years to figure this out.
Got to fight another fight
I gotta run another night
Get it out
check it out
I’m on my way and I don’t feel right
I gotta get me back
I can’t be beat and that’s a fact
It’s OK
I’ll find a way
You ain’t gonna take me down no way
~Bryan Adams “Can’t Take Me”
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I’m always trying to find my way.  These songs are just points on the  number line continuum; marking thoughts in time to music.

If there’s one thing in life that I’ve learned; it’s that no one else can advocate for me, except myself.   By communication.  I had been shy as a young girl and many of my childhood friends can attest that I would beg them to speak for me wherever we went.  It wasn’t until I was forced to yell LOUD, as a songleader in high school, that I found my voice.  An unwilling one.

I hadn’t really known how words could affect a situation and discovered this the hard way.  Gossip, it cuts deep.  Silence, it isolates.  But if I could discover how to find the words to my own thoughts and speak them aloud; I could change an outcome.   Most times, for the better.   Sing it loud.  Natasha Bedingfield’s song “Unwritten” has been my personal anthem since its release in 2005.

No one else, no one else can speak the words on your lips.

Lately I have found my voice.  I choose to watch my words.  People put down others and make excuses to laud themselves.  I usually choose silence; keeping my words to myself until my hubs must hear me.   Written words are nice but it is in the face-to-face communication, with another human being; that promotes change.  I was reminded that even written words and texts can easily be misconstrued.  Misread.

Communication.  It goes both ways.

I left work for an hour to sit in a school district board room.  The words were one-sided and protocol had to be addressed.  Our LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan) draft for our local schools was disseminated and I sat there amidst frustrated parents wanting to be heard.  But when one person is doing all the talking and not accepting feedback; what’s the point?

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I felt similarly when I sat in the very full media center of a junior high last Thursday.  Hundreds of teachers attended an evening board meeting to voice their thoughts to elected board members.  At one point the microphone was turned off on a teacher whose negative speech didn’t truly serve the purpose.  Finger-pointing and blaming incited anger and various dissenting voices echoed in the room.  I stood, for approximately four hours, stunned.  Negotiations were at a stand still.   How can they say they advocate for our students when they put our teachers last?

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I continually work on finding my voice.  Emails and written words are easy; vocalizing them is difficult.  I sat, this morning, feeling that I had no voice.  And though I had no agenda  besides fact finding; I’m realizing that I have a lot to learn.

When I first discovered I was pregnant I sat in our bookstore reading.  I purchased various pregnancy journals and books, subscribed to Parents and Parenting magazines.  I could not get enough reading material for my soon-to-be-role as mother.  But I, naively, assumed that when my children went to school that there was a well-oiled machine in place.  I did my research.  We bought our home in a community with high Academic Performance Index scores.  I went online to search Megan’s Law to see if child predators lived nearby.  I went to the sheriff’s station to request crime reports.  Never had I imagined that our education system could be flawed.  That the communication process, amongst educational administrators and professionals, could be disjoint; non-existent.  Both sides are on different planes.

What has become clear is that I need to stay informed.  To do my due diligence and research.  To be my children’s advocates.  Only then, can I discover what my voice is; to affect change in my kids’ education.

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I continue to walk this path in my personal relationships.  I say what I mean.  I’m done with smoke and mirrors.  Just as in the songs above I continue to fight to find my way; to find myself.  My voice is merely a whisper right now.  But give me time.  I will be heard.

Uncategorized, Work

jolt & bolt, taxes & fire

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Yesterday I found myself between the two door frames of my sons’ bedrooms.  I had not realized I had bolted over there until my eyes fully adjusted and the rest of my mind woke.  Whenever the jolt of an earthquake occurs I instinctively bolt to my children.  The hubs sauntered upstairs; working late into the hours of the morning online.  He casually mentioned the epicenter and magnitude and noted my footfalls during the rolling motions.  Oh, the joys.

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Later I sat with a classroom of adults absorbing information from the IRS and EDD.  The numbers are not as intuitive as grammar and spelling.  Upon the fourth hour of this course my mind went blank.  I have a great appreciation for all CPA’s out there; particularly during the tax season.  The one B I received in high school was in economics.  I loved statistics and anything having to do with epidemiology.  But basic accounting?  Just ugh.  The acronyms, forms and schedules made me dizzy.  It is laughable that I am entrusted to handle the business financials; as well as serving as a PTA treasurer at my kids’ elementary school.   When the IRS representative gave the contact information numbers and drily said to apportion 30-60 minutes of time when calling; I was the only one that laughed out loud.  The rest of the room was overwhelmed and grumpy.

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This morning I woke, pre-dawn, to complete PTA paperwork and was surprised to hear sirens.  Upon dropping the boys at their respective schools, I finally understood why.  What is it, Mom?  Is it smog? the youngest asked.  But upon closer inspection I noted it was a fire and the sirens earlier registered in my brain.

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Unlike the rest of the nation we are experiencing above normal and dry conditions.  But we were reminded of the cost of living in our location.  Earthquakes, dry/high winds and fires.

I am thankful.  We have only been mandatorily evacuated, once, as the smoke approached our community.  Half of our school was affected and the community rallied together to help the families who had lost everything.  The community where this current fire is located is where my sons learn the game of golf.   The pilot of the spotter C-12 plane (which guides the super scooper planes with water drops)  may be the hubs’ friend; when they flew C-12s together.

I continue to be a parent vigilante and, as the looky-loo parents gazed at the rising plume of smoke, creating traffic, I was able to record my favorite black, NOTW, Chevy Suburban SUV blazing past cars as the crossing guard stepped upon the curb.  Finally!  A clear shot.  I am sick and tired of this daily occurrence and plan to visit my local police department.  Who knows what happens after I report this, but I have been keeping watch for over three months for this opportunity.  Sadly, it took a fire and traffic to get what I needed.

With the smallest full moon of 2014 the craziness has begun.    Praying for calm wind and lowered temps.  The local fire agencies are awesome!

Family, Work

Can someone adopt my family?

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That doesn’t include today.

It’s been exactly a year since I hesitantly posted my thoughts online.  I remembered returning to my privacy settings to make sure people WOULD NOT find me.  I had deliberated, off and on, the entire day before I allowed my index finger, hovering over the PUBLISH button, to depress my mouse.  When the hubs suggested I journal online (to relieve him of listening to me for hours in the eve ranting after putting the boys to bed) I don’t think he realized how he has affirmed me.  A happy wife makes a happy life.  It now allows him to open his nothing box and to read my thoughts when he chooses.  Not the ideal communicating situation (face-to-face contact is still the best but since we share a bed I guess this allows him to do other things).  Like SNUGGLE, thank you very much.   In silence. (grin)

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Katy Perry’s song Roar is playing in the shop amongst the hiss of the pointing machine and drip, drip of rain through the open bay door.  The hubs, during a summer from college, aged 19, had manufactured this contraption to create points on steel.  He’s proud of that machine.  The Porsche studs emerge…high quality parts for high quality vehicles.  BIG LOL.  Meanwhile the hubs is creating sparks amidst the dreary, rainy day.

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When precipitation comes to our neck-of-the-woods people do NOT know how to drive.  Traffic crawled for the short freeway commute I make to work.  But alas!  Today the NOTW black SUV again barreled through school traffic as I stopped my vehicle, grabbed my phone off the dash and snapped a shot of his daughter.  I am hoping my dear friend, who works at the middle school, will recognize this girl.  Amidst the drizzle the SUV appeared from nowhere as the serpentine line of cars waited to drop their middle schoolers off in the rain.  The bell was about to ring and, once again, this annoying driver broke the rules; almost causing another car exiting our elementary school parking lot to hit him.  I wished I had thought to video this driver on my smartphone.  I’ll be ready next time.  I continue to be vigilant and collect evidence before I visit my local sheriff’s station.  Hear ME roar!!!    I’m a mama bear trying to protect all our little cubs, darn it!

After the idiotic adrenaline rush of playing detective; which my lawyer friend requests to be careful lest a restraining order be considered for stalking an unfit driver, I sift through all the random thoughts in my head.   At work, between invoicing, I find myself on Pinterest perusing holiday ideas.  The consumer in me zealously looks at all of the pretty pictures trying to sell me perfection.  I pin pictures and sites to my board thinking, I too, can create this holiday nirvana.  If my Thanksgiving table looks as beautiful as this all the memories created will be happy and blissful.  If only I create these Christmas vignettes within my home I will be blessed with instant beauty and happiness throughout the land.

I really struggle with this. 

Amidst the pinninpinterestg of all things materialistic and magical I had to put myself in check.  The adopted families my boys’ classrooms have chosen to provide gifts for, the Angel Tree donations that our church provides, the canned goods drives, charitable donations….does this really make me a better person?  My kids?  I read several articles about how serving in a soup kitchen line with your children can actually be a hazard and hindrance for the organization providing this service.  How do you explain to an 8 year old why the homeless person arrived on this path.  Can the younger kids avoid splattering hot liquids or foods?  When natural disasters strike it is easy to explain why we need to give.  But I don’t want my children to only do this in the months of November and December to ease my guilty conscience while I peruse sales and gimmicky ads for my family.  What kind of example am I?

One father decided he wanted his young daughter to purchase a gift for another child; the exact same age.  He wanted her to hand the gift to the other girl, face-to-face.  But what about the other child, the recipient?  Critics ask Does the child need to be praised for doing this by a direct hand-off?  Does it make it more real for either child?  I noted that the CCD flyer that came home with my sons, yesterday, requested that the gift they give be something THEY WOULD WANT FOR THEMSELVES.  That was interesting for me to note because it makes it harder to give away.  One good deed.  DONE.  So when my children whine and gripe for the things they want, the cynic in me grits her teeth.   I need to figure out how to teach my sons to appreciate what they have.  

I happily read Cynthia Ewer’s site http://christmas.organizedhome.com/user/cynthia-ewer  (cut and paste and check it out) and saw that she, too, had read the Dad’s wishes for his daughter to directly give.  And she, Cynthia Ewer, wrote what I was thinking.  Thank you.   In past years we have adopted a family and had the option to meet the family as we gave our gifts.  I opted not to do this; preferring to remain anonymous.  But I also became jaded.  After the third year of doing this I was disgruntled to realize that the requests for gifts were items I wouldn’t even be able to afford my own family.   Currently, my eight year old’s class has adopted a family who has requested: a camera, a bike and a penny board (skateboard).  When I vented to the hubs the question lurked in my mind.  What do I consider worthy of being needy?  I happily would provide clothes and needed basic items like food.  But luxury items?  One year the family we adopted wanted Wii games (when they were popular) and handheld Nintendo DS items multiplied by three children.

My third grade son heard my rant which prompted him to share his list.  The hubs was outraged but calmed down by the time the actual list was verbally done.  After games, a faster computer, an XBOX One he finished with…if you can’t really afford all that, all I want is the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book and Hurley pants.  When the hubs questioned about the “hurt me” pants this son explained that it matched his backpack and he likes to match.  I was incredulous.  This son has no idea how expensive this brand name can be and the hubs glared at me.  After all that, the son asked why I didn’t want to give the child, his class adopted, the requested items.

The million dollar question.  Who am I to decide what people want or need?  Isn’t this season about giving versus receiving and judging?  Wasn’t my goal for my sons, our family, to learn to give generously?  Humbly?

I need to model what giving means; even when I don’t want to.  This is the reality of our messy, shades of gray life.  It is never in black and white.  The joyous, deep satisfaction of giving isn’t and shouldn’t be the reason to offer something to someone else.  The adage, charity always begins at home rang through my mind.

The next morning I handed this son the envelope with a generous monetary donation.  It went against what I really wanted to give.  But sometimes it is the sacrifice that means more than the easy button.  It pained me to hand the envelope to him but I also included canned goods to assuage my conscience for the school’s canned goods drive.  As a mother would I ask someone to do this for my kids?   I know what it’s like to be on the other side; even at this time last year. I am no money tree.  The older boys quietly listened as I answered the youngest’s query from the night before.  I hope they will remember.

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Next on my mental list:  How to make the holidays joyful versus my very, merry stressful  ideal of what I think the holidays are supposed to be.

Uncategorized

parent vigilante

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My steering wheel is my ally; my smartphone is my witness.  I am reaching my tipping point with the parents who clog traffic and drop off their children in unsafe places; only 300 feet from a crosswalk!  Most days I turn-up my stereo to keep my outrage inside my vehicle.  But whilst stopped behind the SUV who consistently turns a blind eye to the rest of the junior high and elementary school population, I snapped the shot of the license frame for future reference.

What to do?  What would you do?

Appalling as their erratic driving is, what is more disconcerting is the fact that the black, suburban SUV has a NOTW sticker on his rear window.  Truly, if this middle school father’s faith is Not of this World it clearly does not reflect in his driving.  Since this school year has begun he has cut-off parents patiently waiting in line to drop off their children.  This is a daily occurrence.  He zoomed past the crossing guard last week, trailer-in-tow, as kids were crossing on the opposite side.  The guard, amazed at the car’s audacity, threw up her hands in disbelief as the junior high kids stood to the side; his daughter amongst them.  I mean, REALLY!?

The other offending vehicle, a white CRV,  appeared as I made my daily commute to work.  Today as we exited the off-ramp she cut across three lanes of traffic to get in front of me; apparently late in dropping her kids to school.  I looked closer and noted the rosary beads hanging from her rearview mirror and my photographic memory returned.  This was the mom, not a month ago, who flipped me off after cutting me off at this same intersection.  I had taken the picture as our vehicles were stopped at the traffic light as she screamed at me and I even rolled down my window to point at the toddler in the back seat and her elementary aged child in the front.  My eyes had alighted on her beads as I pointed at her children and, in deference to them, did not return the friendly middle finger wave.  So much for shared camaraderie with my fellow Catholic.  Today, I waved at her as I snapped the picture of her license plate; she apparently recognizing my vehicle, as well.

Only once before have I gone to the local police station to file a complaint.  I noted the same car parked in our cul-de-sac and committed the make, model and plate to memory.  Increased patrols came into our street and neighborhood; the car disappearing, suddenly, after weeks of noting its presence.

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Parents, notoriously, ignore the  NO LEFT TURN WHILE CHILDREN ARE PRESENT sign in our elementary school parking lot and when I complained to administration; discovered they had no jurisdiction over the matter.  But when children’s and drivers’ safety are tested, every single day, I ponder making the local trip to my sheriff’s station for increased patrols.  For one hour on a 1/4 mile stretch of road, with two administrators on each side AND a crossing guard this is still not a deterrent.

I am becoming a parent vigilante.  Tempted as I am to post license plate numbers on Facebook, Instagram or social media I am quietly considering my next course of action.  I know this will continue.   How much longer before this repeat offender Dad clips another person or vehicle?  And where is the respect and regard for the crossing guards?!

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A fellow parent shared her experiences as a crossing guard at the elementary school just across the way from our own.  Upon her first day, this August, she was amazed at aggressive parents who drove their car right where she was standing; screaming for her to move.  She immediately recognized the parent as a PTA board member at her school.  This parent continued to harass the guard to the point where she had to bring this to the principal’s attention.  Does volunteering endless hours of time at a school give you the screaming rights to make the rules fit your itinerary?  What about the other self-absorbed parents who disregard the rules of the road and etiquette so that THEIR child can enter the school gates on time while others patiently wait?

Each morning I take a deep breath as I enter the school zones.  It used to be that I would be a screaming banshee in my own vehicle or, if my children were inside, muttering under my breath.  I am reminded that each day I have the privilege of driving my sons.  Some days, like today, I need more meditative and breathing exercises than others.  On the plus side, it allows me more time for steering wheel conversations.  Today the topic: Idiot parent drivers who do not follow the rules of the road.