friendships, School, Work

take two, or five

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I hung up the phone with my son after he refused to attend any of his scheduled activities last evening.

He was to be in three places at the same time.  I’ve come to realize that when this son is stressed, he becomes adversarial and shuts down in all things.  There would be no reasoning with this teen as he continued his diatribe on the phone as to why he couldn’t attend any of his events.  He had already been excused from attending a jazz pep band at the high school basketball game due to a conflict with his Confirmation class.  But the high school course information night was sandwiched between these two commitments and he stated he was not required to be there.

It was easy to disconnect the line.  It’s hard to have honest conversations; to not seem disingenuous.

  • After a long day at work I want to ignore the fact that my sons are (on social media/playing video games/general procrastination) not doing what they’re supposed to; namely homework.
  • To tell the employee off when he feels “sick” while doing a task he doesn’t want to do.
  • When your friend/spouse sounds like a broken record; repeating the same issues over and over and not wanting to find resolutions.

Being an effective communicator takes a lot of tact, patience, empathy and practice.  I struggle with all of these things within my own circle of family and friends.    I overthink my words and in doing so; choose to be silent.  To mull them over and over, just so, until the perfect lines emerge.  Since this hardly ever happens, I swallow them and work through my issues on my own.

I am one that can sit silently.  To observe quietly.  To serve humbly.  I do not need a lot of words; a mere tap on the shoulder, a simple smile or hug can relay encouragement or acknowledgement.   I find that when people use too many words; are too effusive with their thank yous or compliments; that they are not sincere.  I know, I’ve caught myself doing this same thing.

With our current political climate dividing our nation I listen and observe as those around me weigh in.  But recently, the hubs called me out.  In choosing to remain passive and quiet, I am choosing not to participate and allowing events to happen so that I do not take ownership of the outcomes.  His words were not just meant for politics; but in all things regarding our home and business.

Ouch.  To this I must plead guilty.

I got quiet when the hubs chastised our sons that things cost money.  February, traditionally, is our slowest month at work.  Anticipating our upcoming property tax bills and income tax filings, the hubs’ worries pervaded our dinner.   Later, the youngest asked about our financials and I found myself explaining economics.  On my high school transcript, my one B was in this course.

How transparent should I be with my boys?  With people?

From work I headed to the high school to glean information.  Ironically, I thought about this while sitting in an economics class as the teacher presented the course to would-be senior students.   As a parent I appreciate the efforts the school administration and staff offer to include parents in our students’ education.  The texts, that very morning, from my girlfriend regarding the confirmation of the new secretary of the Department of Education were etched in my mind.

Education is important and I do not want to sit passively.  I want to be informed.

As I had exited the general meeting, deciphering the location of the sessions my son may decide to take, a figure appeared from the shadows and grabbed my arm.  Shocked, I blindly followed my son through four sessions before he walked to his Confirmation class at our church; which is adjacent to his high school.  He had asked his father to drop him off.  We went to none of the courses I thought he’d be taking.  I’m glad he decided to show up; to take ownership of his education.

It was in the economics class that I could process my thoughts.

I spoke with my sons after remaining quiet for a few weeks about the virtue of honesty.  They have felt my bitter disappointment.

  • I am not fooled by screen savers masking online chats, inappropriate content or video gaming.  Do not deceive.
  • I do not want the carpool mom to sit in a high school parking lot waiting for forty-five minutes for a son who claimed he was “studying” and was walking at the outdoor mall with his “friend.”  Do not be disrespectful.
  • I will not be fooled again when the attendance office tells me a son has unexcused absences in a period to visit, said “friend” in her classroom.  Do not lie.

I recount the details of those who have deceived me in the not-so-recent past.  Of the grade level teachers who said one thing and turned around and did something else.  Of the friend(s), whom I asked a question confidentially, who shared my probing with others.

I realized who were true, who wanted to discuss things with me to work things through and those who never would.  The parachutes that held me down have been cut loose and it has taken me time to forgive; but not necessarily forget.

I cannot be fake; nor disingenuous.  In dealing with disappointments I discovered what was important.  Trust and truth trump all things.  The words I need to speak finally do come.  And it always takes two.

I will speak up.  I do not have control over how my words are received.  I must accept this and remain true to who I am.

The two boys sitting in front of me, in an economics presentation, reminded me of what friendships are.  These high school teens have not mastered the art of deception.  When their fellow friend went through a difficult time with a cry for attention; these boys rallied.  They listened.  They didn’t completely understand.  They didn’t lie, gossip or tell their friend that everything was okay.  They continued on their quests to work things through and trusted that their conversations were confidential.  They are loyal to one another.

I hope that life’s distractions don’t ruin what these boys have, right now.  It may not last.  But each of these guys are accepted for whom they are; not by an outside measure of success like high grades, cool gadgets/ cars or by whom they know.  They don’t need to be popular.  They just need to be their transparent selves.

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Recently in the midst of a boisterous book club group, someone heard the distinctive ring of my cell phone; Dave Brubeck’s tune, “Take Five.”  Our shaken friend had just been involved in an accident, while driving to us, and was alone with police and paramedics with very low cell battery.

My hubs, still at work, was not nearby and so I interrupted the group discussion to inquire if any of their male counterparts were available to go to our friend; to provide support and inspect the vehicle.  Immediately four girls called and texted their spouses.

I had just settled in; a glass of something yummy in-hand.  I knew I would not be of much help but felt the plea of this dear friend; who didn’t need anything additional on her full plate.  As her minivan got towed away, the officer urged her to let it go, to have a good time at book club.

When she walked through the door, the hugs engulfed her, the tequila relaxed her and she was embraced by the room of women discussing a book about hormones.  It was later that I discovered our hostess loaned their extra vehicle so she wouldn’t have to be without a car.  And the other friend, who has always opened her home and heart to this family who has undergone too many hurts and disappointments, deployed her husband to her aid.

I have been empowered by these friendships.  For the moms who look out for my sons; as if they were their own.  For the girlfriends who hear me on repeat and listen; gently redirecting me to other solutions to my issues.  To those who are transparent; even when we do not agree on parenting, religion, politics and everything in-between.  I hope to be able to reciprocate; even when it is not convenient.  Even when I can’t afford it.  Even when time doesn’t allow.

It is in honest, genuine interactions with others that matter.  I can’t let life passively go by.  Silence is lonely, solo and a cop-out.  It takes two (or in my family’s case, five).  Engage.

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friendships

talking too much

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I had been sitting in traffic on my daily commute to work; stewing.  A parent had cut-me-off as I exited the parking lot, dropping off my youngest son at his school.  I had then gotten stuck behind a slow driver who was texting and almost hit the crossing guard in the crosswalk.  When the third car went out-of- turn at a four-way stop I threw my hands up in the air; mumbling epithets under my breath, in my vehicle.

Then a song caught my ear and I turned it up.  Music can immediately change my mood, especially when I discover something new.  I’m grateful to Coin’s new song, “Talk Too Much” for doing that for me this past week.

I work through my issues by voicing them or typing them and in a household of males, the hubs bears the brunt of this burden.  I constantly chastise myself with why I can’t leave things unsaid.

My teens, surprisingly, are maturing and are now able to engage again in conversation with more than two words.  Recently we’ve had some great discussions about the things happening in their lives.

As a teen I felt disconnected with my parents so any tidbits of information from any of my three sons are welcome.  I know they do not tell me everything but I am grateful they choose to talk and willingly share something (without prodding).

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The spontaneous texts from my girlfriends to meet for walks, coffee, brunch and Friday night beverages were most welcome.  I’ve missed face time with fellow females and my schedule has finally opened up.

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Most times I walk my path alone in the morning, watching the fog rise from the ground in eerie patches of mist.  The silence and solitude allow me time to process and think through the various events occurring around me.  But the issues don’t resolve themselves until I talk them out.

My hubs is always the first filter, the one I trust implicitly, but females are vastly different than males.  He offers solutions and when I don’t take his advice he becomes frustrated.  I merely want him to “hear me;” to affirm the words and things that I observe are, in fact, real.  I want to talk through the scenarios, all umpteenth million of them, and consider the actions and reactions of those involved.

This is taxing for my dear hubs and so I am always grateful to the girlfriends who empathize; the ones who hear me.  The ones who don’t judge or critique.  These friends are rare and, over the years, I have discerned which ones I can feel affirmed with and, surprisingly, have gained a few new girlfriends along the way.

For a while I kept my thoughts and words for the hubs alone.  I soul-searched for the person I was/am after feeling bitter disappointment in various things.  This process allowed me to discover myself, both the good and bad, and in sorting and filtering I have been able to reconnect with my husband and family.

To engage.  To say no.  To let things go.

This has opened up space for me to discover things new.

To learn.  To explore. To grow.

My sons have watched me struggle and have heard me with my hubs.  For the boys to become decent men, they must have decent men in their lives to teach them these things.  To learn how to navigate through friends; to sort and filter if they affirm them.

Our two older sons have recently had to go through this and in observing my own process and discovery, they had a path to guide them.  Teenagers, today, are having to grow up faster and are exposed to more things due to technology.

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This morning I had to acknowledge this fact after discovering that my son’s close friend posted a suicide letter on a chat page and was admitted to a hospital.  At 12:59 AM my son received a text and a phone call from another close friend trying to help him.  But my son and the hubs had been watching a movie downstairs; his phone upstairs on his bed unanswered and unseen.

This is the second time this scenario has played out, with an entirely different person and situation, in three months.  But this one was close to home.

Growing up suicide letters were NOT the norm.  But social media has become the primary means of communication versus face-to-face interactions.   Talking has been replaced with typing and I wished my sons DID talk too much.

Instead, words are acronyms, memes and emoticons.  When the son saw the jumping off a cliff meme with the GKY (Go Kill Yourself) acronym, he assumed it was a joke.

This would be unheard of even a decade before, but our children have become desensitized to these thoughts and ideas.  When someone talks of cutting; kids roll their eyes.  Prescribing prescription drugs for anxiety, depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have become common practice.  Everything is immediate and easy; just take a pill.

I stood at this son’s bedside, this morning, after receiving the call from my girlfriend of his friend’s suicidal ideation.   I quickly communicated with the other parents of my teen’s close circle.

This group of teens had just sat in our house on Friday evening talking.  This teen was the only one missing from their group and I am grateful that I have engaged with my boys’ lives; that I know who their friends are.  That I can open up my home to have them hang out on a Friday night so they can talk to one another, face-to-face or, most times, heads down texting phone to phone.

If ever I have appreciated the gift of hospitality and friendship, it is now.

We, moms, texted one another.

These kids, these days aren’t given coping skills.  When they get the real world, they are ill equipped to cope.  We protect them too much and don’t let them fail.  How do we guide them?

This pack of teens have one another.  They work things out together and that’s real life. 

One of the moms decided to open up her home, next week, and cook dinner because all conversations go better with food.  While our sons hang out, the parents will work through the issues to figure out how to navigate parenting today.  Our kids try to do the best they can.

Although I have a conflict with this dinner my son told me my presence is important to him.  So I must balance and make it work.  For him. 

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When my sons, this weekend, determined they wanted to bake cookies…I stopped what I was doing.  I rarely bake and all of my boys associate the holidays with their Mom baking cookies.

I took the time to directly look at my boys and frankly talk about what to do if your friend wants to commit suicide.  Thankfully, the teens in the situation did the right thing and called 911.  They were not critical nor judgmental.  They heard a teen’s cry for help and brought in the proper authorities and people to see it through.

We, parents, need to follow things through. 

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Being a parent isn’t always about giving our kids the best things, sheltering them or doing work for them so that they won’t have to worry.  They need to fail.

They need to learn how to navigate through stressful situations,with our guidance and support, to learn coping mechanisms to move forward.  And they need friends.

It is important for our kids to watch parents work through their conflicts to find resolution.  It is in talking too much with our friends, and spending face time that makes us human.  In walking alongside other people’s struggles, or vice versa, we learn the power of the ties that bind.

It’s easy to be our own islands, to try to work things out ourselves.  It is only in experiences that we can discern what a good friend is.  It’s not someone to gossip with; nor is it a competition of who has more things or titles.  It isn’t the one who brings in more money; nor is it the one who volunteers on PTA or booster boards.

We are not super Moms; we are all flawed.  We try to do the best we can.

I texted this friend’s mom, to make sure her son is okay.  The teens wanted to visit him.  His friends are ready to be there for him.

Parenting is a community and today, I am grateful to be a member of it.   Thanks to my fellow moms for being transparent and keeping it real.

Family, friendships

the words and silences that matter

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This morning, on my morning jog, the car making a right turn didn’t stop.  It hit me.

The angry words spewed from my mouth; my adrenaline spiked high.  What were you thinking?  Did you not see me?!!  (I was hard to miss in my white fleece jacket and bright pink cap.  I was within the crosswalk and just about to step on the opposite curb).

Sometimes it’s not the words you say, that matter.

One of the character traits I appreciate in a person is the ability to communicate honestly and openly.  I am a woman of words.  But lately I’ve come to realize the wisdom in the adage that some things are better left unsaid.

  • I stood at the office door; the opportunity opening to share my angst when the director asked how he could help me.  It was on the tip of my tongue.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a social group of friends, co-workers or volunteer groups like PTA and booster organizations; drama and power struggles exist everywhere.  When the student stood behind me, I allowed him entry first.
  • When my dear friend shared the words that I was being thrown under the bus, in a social dynamic between two former bffs, the words came to mind, ready to deploy.   I am not afraid of confrontation and always advocate for transparency.  This would be a welcome conversation since I tire of those who don’t own their words, judge behind people’s backs and deflect on others.
  • I hear the family chatter about finances and wills; feelings of exclusion and rejection.  There are favorites and black sheep.  Long held resentments and actions that can never be undone.  After the headstone arrives and the financial obligations are met, doors come to a close.
  • I gaze at the hubs across the table, listening to him share newfound discoveries in web page design.   He explains the various statistical data from testing the time it takes to load a website, the process of upload speed and data transfer in programming language and military acronyms.

I sat across from the girlfriend I’ve known since aged seventeen for coffee.  I reside in my current suburb because of her.  She stood in my bridal party when I married my husband and held my hand with calming words to “push” with the birth of my youngest, my almost eleven-year old son and our middle children are in high school classes together.

I ate lunch with my bubbly girlfriend; the one who left her position to stand up for what was right.  She never received affirmation for her time and dedication and felt discouraged and alone.

Catching up with my girlfriends the common theme revealed itself in the scenarios we shared.  We walk similar paths.

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When parents get too involved in their children’s dynamics and live through their lives; drama enfolds and relationships are destroyed.  Parents who serve for PTAs, booster or religious organizations revert to the social capacities of their children’s ages…queen bees and wannabes.

There are always favorites and black sheep in family dynamics.  Our family members, whom we expect to be our biggest supporters, sometimes become our biggest liabilities.

At the heart of all of these things is that we just want to belong; to feel like we are needed.  To not be rejected.  To know that we have meaning in our lives and that we are loved and accepted for who we are.

Years ago when we moved from one duty station to another, I met various groups of women in military spouses’ clubs.  As an only child it was my first introduction to group dynamics, not of my choosing.  As our husbands deployed we relied upon one another for information, support and camaraderie in a new place.   When the commander’s wife pulled rank and caused drama for us, as well as our husbands, I had been rudely awakened to the subtleties of human nature.  There are always those who want to control everything and have the power; to prove their self-worth.

I learned the mistake in saying my words.  To speak the truth.  My husband got an earful on the aircraft carrier half a world away and for six months he endured.  It brought me no pleasure to share that when this commander came home, my words had rang true.  Years later, when the hubs ran into his former commander; he learned he was divorced and unhappy.  The commander genuinely had been happy to know that we were one of the few couples, that made it.

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One of my unfavorable traits is in using my words without sorting and filtering them.  My hotheaded, need-to-be right, type A personality allows my mouth to pick and shred; to defend without listening or thinking.  I am finding that it’s not always the truth that matters.  I shared this with the priest, in confession, and to my surprise, he readily agreed.  It was one of the best and honest conversations I have ever had as we talked of child molestation in the Catholic church, hypocrisy in people of faith, abortion/ right to life issues and rituals that are archaic and unrealistic.

We may not always agree in our points of view.  But we came to an understanding and respected the other’s stance and life choices.

That’s what matters.  The ability to empathize and connect.

  • I waved at the director when he peered past the student; trying to decipher what was bothering me.   I smiled and walked away.  I cannot push my need for transparency in the organizations I serve if others are not willing to see or hear it.
  • I thanked my dear girlfriend for sharing what was being said about me.  I have been blessed with her friendship as she’s undergone big transitions in her life and let the toxic words roll off my back.  I am grateful to finally realize which friends are true and which ones are not.
  • I keep my thoughts to myself regarding family matters; ready to share if ever asked.  I have not walked in their shoes and cannot place judgment on other people’s choices and actions.  This would not be how I choose to handle relationships but I must respect other perspectives and find my own way based on my personal relationship; not others’ points of view.
  • I affirm my husband.  Does he need to know that my to-do list runs in my head and that I have no idea what he is saying?  No. Not really. I am happy he has found his hobby in programming, once again, and nod in encouragement.

In teaching my sons to say their words, I also have to teach them how to filter and sort by modeling this on my own.  When the car cuts me off, the words that come off my lips aren’t ones I want my sons repeating.   They readily tell me so.

But every once-in-a-while you realize your kids hear them, the words that matter.  Each Friday, after school, my son and his four high school buddies converge on our home to hang out.  Later that evening, as I cleaned up the empty soda cans and mess, this son quietly approached and without preamble, murmured, “Thank you.”   I straightened as he walked away, too stunned to respond.

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When the words are sincere and genuine, their weight settles upon you, making the daily, mundane every day routines worth it. 

I had picked myself up, off the road, and continued on my jog; too angry to think.   The car stopped alongside the heavily traveled road and to my irritation, the driver stepped out.

Are you okay? she shakily had asked and immediately my questions snaked out.  How could you not have seen me?  You had a red light! 

It was then that I noticed the shaking.  The tears in her eyes.  Her windshield had been fogged up and she had been distracted and I saw the truth in her words.  The angry diatribe disappeared and instead, I gave her a hug as she shook like a leaf; a mother dressed for work, close-in-age, to myself.  After several more assurances to her frenzied questions and apologies, I let her vent her fear.  I silenced my words, hearing her,  and I eventually sent her on her way, urging her to drive safely.  I still needed to jog and get home to awaken my own household; to merrily send them on their way.

I was okay.

I continue to filter and sort and choose the words that have meaning and matter.  The peace wraps itself around me, like a warm, fuzzy blanket.

 

Family, friendships

a place found

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Most times, when a void occupies a place in my life; it sits empty and hollow.  Bad things hover on its edges; thoughts of insecurity, anger and sadness hope to fill the empty space.  My tendency is to venture into the void to dwell; to remain in its shadows.

It is when I let my expectations go that I gain unexpected joys.

This morning I had, unknowingly, jogged past my destination; lost in thought.  When the realization registered I was overcome with happiness.  It is a chore for me to awaken, early in the dark hours of the morning, to get some form of exercise for myself.  Initially the expectation had been to lose weight; to regain the body image of years before birthing three boys.

But in the year or so that I have forced myself outdoors; it was only today that the true benefit was realized.  My early morning  run is my time to sort through my dark and jumbled thoughts; to clear my mind.  The end had arrived too soon and I finally was experiencing the adrenaline of a “runner’s high.”

I no longer jogged for vanity; I jogged for sanity.

I came to work and stared at our office entryway.  The paint brushes and trays remained from our additional accent color on our office wall.  The small Christmas tree sat upon a dusty table.  The banker boxes leaned against the wall.

The hubs found me sifting through files, storing away the years to make room.  I had let my worries about the future go; concentrating on the present.   Somehow my perspective had changed and I racked my brain for answers; wondering How?  When?  Why now?  What had changed?

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I have finally taken ownership of my life circumstances and claim them as my own.

I held onto the Yellowstone National Park reservation; the one I knew I had to let go of due to a scheduling conflict with my sons’ activities.  I had made the reservation a year in advance; securing a coveted area at an enviable savings.  I had been looking forward to this vacation and was shocked when the middle son shared that his favorite memories from our family excursions were our road trips in our car.  The car?  I had realized my favorite memories of trips were always in the journey and spontaneous stops along the way.  To hear the teenager say he enjoyed the car had brought unexpected tears.

As I sadly and regrettably cancelled our reservation with the ranger; she reminded me what great amenities I had given up.  But, as a consolation prize, she then proceeded to instruct me on how to get the better and preferred room for the same price as the one I had given up; for 2017.   The information she passed along was priceless and I profusely thanked her.  I will get to this destination next year with better amenities.

In letting this go; something unexpectedly filled the void.  Our schedule opened up to share the fiftieth anniversary milestone with my in-laws and family.  The hubs who refused to take a cruise finally relented; at his mother’s request.  The years are rapidly flying by and opportunities for our sons to vacation with their grandparents and aunt’s family will soon be few and far between.

Friends have come and friends have gone.  In letting relationships run their course, for lack of reciprocity,  the unspoken words no longer wound me.   I, the only child, have been fortunate to have friends that continue to walk alongside as young as age four; who’ve shared my various milestones, both good and bad.  We camp together, our high school kids are in classes together, we meet in various cities and quickly remember the ties that bind.

I assumed I had no room for others, after recently feeling disappointment, but I had been wrong.  In the void that was left; my capacity to feel connections with others was rekindled and surprising.    We have boated on lakes, sat in bleachers and homes eating cookies and cakes and served in programs that matter.   This was freeing.

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I am coming to terms with my new stage in parenting; the letting go.  I am not the end-all, be-all, person for my children any longer and to be a good mother, I need to pursue things that bring me happiness.   I feel an affinity to cacti and how they sustain harsh climes and weather systems and remain standing tall.  They fill my entryway.

I have rediscovered the joy of growing all things green.  It is not the short-lasting showy blooms that bring beauty to my yard.  It is the variegated leaves, trees and shrubs, that are present all year long, that fill in my canvas; the textures and varying heights that bring interest and pleasing diversity to my outdoor landscape.

It is the friends that remain constant, with diverse backgrounds and varying views, that fill my life’s stages.  I can finally look past what’s popular and expected; to create my own canvas and fill in my open spaces.

The books pile upon my nightstand and I am devouring them.  The fifth grader snuggles nearby with his own blanket; the avid reader reawakened as his stack grows.  My thirst for reading is currently unquenched and with that in mind; I have let go of my expectations of the various social dynamics in our ever-changing bookclub.   I focus on the books; the words that have always brought me comfort and escape.  With or without  these women, I would still be reading them.

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It is how people choose to deal with one another; with authenticity and transparency; that matter the most. 

I am grateful for the people in my life who value these same things, who keep things confidential and will speak their words clear and true.  I repeat this often to remind myself; to not get complacent or get stuck in the void.   I have found meaningful relationships with my husband, my family and friends (old and new).

They sustain me in this space.  They continually give me grace.  In their lives they grant me a place.

There’s a spanner in the works, you know
You gotta step up your game to make it to the top
So go

Gotta little competition now
You’re going to find it hard to cope with living on your own now
Oh oh, oh oh

Let’s make this happen, girl
You gotta show the world that something good can work
And it can work for you
And you know that it will

Let’s get this started girl
We’re moving up, we’re moving up
It’s been a lot to change
But you will always get what you want

Took a little time to make it a little better
It’s only going out, just one thing then another
You know, you know

Took a little time to make it a little better,
It’s only going out, just one thing then another
You know, you know

Let’s make this happen, girl
You gotta show the world that something good can work
And it can work for you
And you know that it will

Let’s get this started girl
We’re moving up, we’re moving up
It’s been a lot to change
But you will always get what you want ~ Two Door Cinema Club, 2009.

Uncategorized

just do it; embracing my inner cheerleader

“Gold (Gold).  Always believe in your soul.  You’ve got the power to know.  You’re indestructible.  Always believing.” ~ Spandau Ballet

  • The biting words hung in the air.   I chose to ignore them, attributing my lack of response to limited sleep.
  • They reverberated on social media; packing the intended rally and punch.
  • They were whispered in ears with a smile; nastily uttered to shock and bully.
  • They were plastered on stop signs and walls, shouting to the neighborhood.

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The utterances swirled about me and I stood still, trying to make sense of them all to which I concluded; there is no rhyme or reason.  Sometimes the words forcefully emerge trying to find a way to vent and be heard; in inappropriate ways.  I wanted to fume and shout, to argue and defend.  To erase them and start over to make slates clean.  How does communication go so wrong; all misunderstood?  The phone calls, private conversations and texts blew up my mobile.  Whom do we talk to?  To whom should we email?  How can justice to any of this be served?

Amidst a cacophany of sound and people I finally found peace and solitude to process.   It is currently where I reside as I hibernate and consider all of these things.  I wish to mediate, to explain, to articulate the right words to make things right.  But those words do not come.  When vengeance and a desire to make someone account for a wrong overtakes all; there is nothing left.  The negative clouds everything and anything good and worthy gets pushed aside to win; to be right.  It gets tiring to tell others to turn the other cheek.

I battled these questions which usurped too much of my mental time; round-and-round.   As I commuted to work I acknowledged the wave from the truck driver; the one I had allowed in front of me to merge into heavy traffic.  With the simple gesture and smile I was taken out of my reverie; the eye-to-eye exchange through rolled up windows enough to penetrate. I waved back with alacrity, cranked up my stereo and laughed out loud.  I could finally see the snow on the top of the mountain vista scene spread before me, the varying colors of the trees that lined the avenue as I headed north.  I remembered the simple one word text from my girlfriend who was hospitalized for 176 days.  I had re-read the text to check the sender’s name, to be sure I had read it correctly.  Home!  She had finally returned home.  I grinned wider.

I had needed to engage back into reality; to the people who live and breathe alongside.

It’s easy to be a cheerleader for someone else; to encourage others to do their best and yell from the stands.  My voice was hoarse as I yelled from the top of a college stadium; my exuberance at the conclusion of a busy fall competitive band season.  I flitted from group-to-group to socialize, held hands with parents as awards were being presented, offered physical help where it was needed and hugs to encourage weary chaperones.  I wanted our kids to feel proud of their accomplishments, whatever place they earned, to know that persistence and hard work pays off not by trophies; but in character traits learned, in friends gained and in appreciation of what a common goal could create; community.

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The unexpected phone call was a much needed respite; a surprise after traveling 250 miles as I stood in the high school parking lot.  She had known we had subsisted for the past two weeks on take-out and adrenaline; our schedule full.   I squealed in delight as she relayed the message.  She was delivering a home cooked meal just because.  I whooped a little cheer by myself.

When I finally found my son and asked him his thoughts, he hadn’t really worried about titles and trophies.  He knew he would win, whether first or last, and was grateful it was over.  He’d made memories that would long outlive the medals around his neck and had discovered his love for music composition; something noted by his piano teacher at aged seven.  He experienced that diverse backgrounds and people could work together to create something poignant and beautiful.   And he discovered that he could sleep through almost anything, to the annoyance of his three other roommates and chaperone, as his alarm awakened everyone but himself.

Winning isn’t everything.  Principles, morals, religion and being right isn’t what life is about in the end.   It is all about relationships.  Most times there isn’t a clearly defined boundary or line that is right.  What matters is that we try our best to do the right thing; even if the outcome isn’t what we want.  When I let that expectation go, I could find resolution to my queries.  I could once again empathize, to gain perspective and hear the other side.

Turning the other cheek isn’t a sign of defeat but a sign of character; knowing who we are and standing by it with resolve. 

It is harder to let the negativity go to work things through but in doing so, we gain so much more.   We accept that life is give and take and that there are some battles which we cannot win.  We can cut through the detritus; focusing on things and people that build us up; not tear us down.  I do not base my worth on others’ approval; the most likes, the big home, fashionable wardrobe, or the smartest children.  I feel most loved and accepted when I have relationships based on mutual respect and integrity; those who will always stand up and try to do the right thing and accept who I am, faults and all.

It’s hard to embrace the inner cheerleader, to self-encourage and motivate to seek the good in all things.   It’s easy to focus on the negative; to fixate on being the savior and feeling the glory of making all things right.   I’ve been out of practice for way too long; getting distracted by things that don’t matter.  But no longer.  I am finding my way back and digging deep.  My pom poms are getting dusted off and I rest my sore throat.  But wait!  I don’t need to yell loud, type sentences, whisper words or create signs.

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On Thanksgiving I could sit with family and let these things go; adapting an attitude full of gratitude.  I was grateful for the clarity to move forward; to get unstuck in a place I’ve circled for so long.   That my eldest son is mature enough to see my transparency and to speak his own words to set me straight.  For the unconditional love of my “boys” who endlessly hear me rant and serve as a reminder to keep it real.  The middle son filled our home with Christmas music as I mumbled my bah humbug and gritted my teeth; to bring the joys of music into my heart on his alto saxophone.    The youngest is our biggest cheerleader; the outspoken one who says things just as he sees them with infectious laughter.   And to every extrovert should lie an equal introvert; the mate that balances me like no other.

No longer do I stand in lines for “the best deal” or squander dollars purchasing the hot ticket item to make this holiday memorable for my sons.  Instead, I embrace the lengthening dark days and cold, the layers of clothing no longer weighing me down but bringing me warmth.  I yearn for the advent ahead; quietly waiting and listening for the sounds of the season that only Christmas brings with carols, band concerts and gatherings with family and friends.   I look forward to full stomachs, hearty drinks and family memories that remind us why we are here and where we belong.

Serenity prayer

I recite the Serenity Prayer above as  I cut the negative ropes of the parachute that weighed me down.  Actions speak louder than words as I embrace my inner cheerleader.  Just do it.

 

Family, friendships

the blind side

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Words are important to me.

My husband has to hear them, day-in and day-out, as I download my thoughts and he acts as the sounding board.  As a young girl I would write them in my diaries; the ones I burned when I sold my childhood home in 2003.  My sons can attest that I am always insisting that they say their words.  I tell them to advocate for themselves because, one day, Mom is not going to be here to speak for them.  I continue to type them, daily, in emails, comments, texts and blogs.  I am a communicator.

There comes a point, though, when the consonants and vowels, strung in sentences, are ineffectual.   Words.  They are powerful.  But they can be misconstrued, misinterpreted and used against you.  They can bring hurt and devastation in their wake.   They blind side.

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blind side: transitive verb. 1:  to hit unexpectedly from or as if from the blind side <blindside the quarterback>  2:  to surprise unpleasantly.   (n.d.). In Merriam Webster Online, Retrieved October 21, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blindside.

I heard the words of my girlfriend, mobile phone in hand, as she processed the words in the text; blind sided.   I had dropped off one child and was en route to pick up the next; my Tuesday evenings the busiest in our week.  It was all I could do to hug her before I shuttled off for another child and my heart hurt; knowing she was angry and trying to make sense of it all.  I had no words to help her heal as she considered options on how to help her tween daughter navigate through queen bees and wanna bes.  I do not envy the middle school years, distinctly remembering the hormones and cliques.

But I recently realized that it is not only our children who experience these social dynamics of adolescence.  Adults experience these things too.  Exactly a week before, as I picked up the same son at the same location, the phone call came from another girlfriend; also blind sided.  It is painful for me to observe adults navigate in the same way as the adolescent tweens.  I find myself speaking the words no one chooses to say; the others choosing to be politically correct versus morally correct.  It’s the harder path to follow; it’s easier to feign ignorance.

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Respect is not a word I use lightly and when a person earns it; I will humbly serve and fight for what is fair; knowing that I most likely will be burned.  But at the end of the day, I have to know that I do the right thing; for myself but most importantly, for my sons.   I can’t tell them how to do the right thing.  They have to see it with their own eyes.  Actions speak louder than words.

I value integrity above all else.

I am a work in progress and have to restrain myself to sit still, to keep quiet, and to hear what others have to say.  To not throw words at people as I verbally spar.   To not shoot off the email that sits in my drafts folder.  To not interrupt when I want to correct or push for my point of view.  In my marriage I am the extrovert and it is my introvert husband who balances my tendencies.  He is a man of few words; but he is also one of action.  It frustrates him to have to hear my issues without the ability to fix them and as I share, he counters with the following quip to our sons and I.  Nobody loves a whiner.

For every problem bring me several solutions.

I try hard to re-teach myself to think this way.  To stop with the words and to seek resolution; even if the process is ugly and arduous.

Exhausted as we were, last Sunday, after working all day at an event; we made the effort to trudge through the local tourist attraction away from the distractions at home.  It takes effort to step away from the daily demands and schedules to make time to spend with others, just because.  When our dear friends offered free tickets, we knew it would be tight.  But the hubs and I constantly say we want to spend unstructured time with our boys before they leave our nest.  Our time grows short.  Fortified with coffee on four hours of sleep, we made the trek into the city to tour back lots and explore movie magic.  The hubs, a native, had never actually been here.

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As the sole female in my household, none of my sons speak in paragraphs; merely short, monosyllable sentences or grunts.  Each day, upon returning home from work, I ask each one, individually, how their day went.  I use multiple tactics to make them share, to leave my questions open-ended, to turn down the volume and stand directly in front of them.

Mom, the day goes just like any other day.  We go to school.  We do homework.  We hang with the same friends.  Why do you ask so many questions? 

I have been tempted to stalk them on Facebook, Steam,  Instagram or texts (I have the ability to do all of these things and they know this) but have come to realize that they will tell me in their own good time; most often when it is least convenient for myself.  No longer am I their sole confidante that can fix all things.  It was this a-ha moment that made me realize that this is how my husband feels about me.

And so I just do.  We walked the various attractions, stood in long lines amongst foreign tourists in hopes of meeting my girlfriend and her family in the park.  We never found one another; both the hubs and I’s phones ran out of charge as the park came to a close.  When the exhaustion hit, in the sixty-five minute Transformers line, I leaned into my husband and watched my boys observe everything around them; everything new.  I was grateful for this time; away from the sibling squabbles, school and work demands or daily chores.  My house remains a mess but the time spent was worth it.

I think of the shared post from the girlfriend above, a photographer.  To focus the lens on what’s important.  To develop (from) the negatives.  And to take the next shot.  We create our own portraits of who we are; the words unseen and unheard.

I want the portfolio of my life to be filled with shots and compositions of the people who choose to be transparent, authentic and do the right thing.  Those who will walk on my blind side and point me in the right direction with love, respect and integrity.

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I know the tween has her work cut out for her, to learn to walk away and to feel confident in her own skin.  That her worth is not defined by the quantity of friends but by the quality and that actions speak louder than words.  That her mom does not enter the drama and can advocate and mediate respectfully for what is right.   It was in high school that I learned to finally stand up for what was fair; mediating amidst a songleading squad full of prima donnas and alpha females.  I find myself in this role, once again, amidst adults; hoping someone will follow-through, that the words are not spoken in vain and that action will be taken in the right direction.

I seek resolution (both in action and high def pixelation).

Family, Marriage

walk your talk

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I was not in the frame of mind to be festive.   My jaw had been clenched as I made the commute to the house where my extended family has always celebrated birthdays and holidays; since its purchase in 1981 by my late cousin.   I sat in heavy traffic, for two consecutive days, to attend events leading up to a wedding this past weekend.

I tried to push the negativity out of my mind as various commitments pulled me in opposite directions.  I mulled over bits and pieces of information; sorting and filtering through my observations to the truths that lay somewhere in-between.  What I was discovering was not what I had wanted to find.  For once I was grateful for the stopped traffic; buying time to think my thoughts in the privacy of my vehicle alone.   The F words come to mind.

I think of those who govern by Favors versus Fairness.  When Fear of being Found-out drives others to Follow.  It always comes with bitter disappointment when you discover someone is a Fraud versus a Friend.   This has been happening to me a lot lately and it is Frustrating.

When you choose to walk-your-talk and do what you say, and say what you mean; you realize how many others do not live by those same rules.

I can say what I mean but others don’t want to hear the words.  I can do the things I say I will do; but can’t make others do what they say they’ll do.  When you choose what is right; not what is easy, you find that it gets a bit lonely.   I begin to lose Faith in my fellow human beings.  It gets really lonely finding my way alone.

Whenever I question what I do and the reasons why I serve, I repeat the following.  Serve the program, not the people.  Program, not people.  I find myself repeating this phrase often as I watch politics and power positioning occur in various organizations in which I serve.  I must find my way to navigate through these waters; to remember my own moral compass and to know my boundaries.  I am a people person and naturally want everyone to communicate their thoughts and to receive others’ feedback. But this doesn’t really happen.  I keep waiting to be inspired, for someone to lead.

I sat at the empty reception table for seven; four of the members headed towards a field competition almost two hours away, two others in line at the bar, and myself.  I didn’t mind the solitude; my dear cousin and her new husband only a few feet away.  I caught her glance at the empty table in the midst of the festivities and I gave her a reassuring smile.  I am most comfortable being by myself; the only child.  I was surrounded by my extended family as I gazed up at the lanterns and various lights strewn across my cousin’s backyard; an idyllic setting for a garden wedding.  In the 34 years this home has been in our family, celebrating a wedding was a first.   It shouldn’t have caught me off-guard as my younger male cousins began their toasts to the bride; each sharing their sentiments of the significance of the location and how we all claim this as our family home.

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My mind brought me back to the first time my older cousin had excitedly shown my parents and I his purchase.  He was newly married and, as a young girl, I only remembered tall weeds obscuring the dilapidated barn and the creaky Victorian style home.  He claimed it had good “bones” and soon he and his wife moved in and started their young family.  There were countless birthday parties and holidays for my cousins and I, and as the bride’s brother shared his toast I saw the tears in the bride’s eyes; the same tears forming in my own.  We had all grown up here.

Every Christmas day I have had Christmas dinner here; save for the year of 1998 when the hubs and I traveled from Virginia Beach in a military cross-country move to return to our home state.  We had not arrived in time for Christmas.  It has been the only time I’ve missed.  The last time our entire family came together at this location was at this cousin’s unexpected funeral in 2010.   He loved to throw parties and his hospitality is the legacy he has passed down through the rest of us.  He was Mr. Hospitality.

It was laughable that my cousin’s widow and I were the hostesses for the bride’s garden wedding.   What does one do as a wedding hostess?  I haven’t felt hospitable in a long time so I don’t exactly make a good poster child for Mrs. Hospitality.

We found ourselves moving tables, hiding linens, arranging floral arrangements, giving directions on cell phones and answering questions the wedding event planner had about the location.  We grinned at guests in 103 degree heat, with no air conditioning.  The luxurious port-a-potties had air conditioning that the Victorian home did not.  When the cousin, closest in age to me, shared his Facebook post of a selfie in the port-a-pottie to enjoy fifteen minutes of air conditioning I had to laugh.   The bride paid attention to details and as the toasts were said, I contemplated the touches most people would take for granted such as the two luxurious air conditioned portable bathrooms.  The bride’s creativity is always Pinterest board worthy and those touches were found everywhere.

Sitting alone under the twinkling lights, surrounded by family and wedding guests, reminded me that I don’t need to perform acts of service to find worth or prove that I belong here.  The love between the bride and groom was obvious.  I was happy the groom was officially a part of our family.  Finally.  There are no sides.  We all belong here.  On Facebook various family and guests took picture upon picture.  I am in none of them and that is okay.  I don’t need to be seen and I’m working on the part about not having to be heard.  I need to just do, for the sake of doing; not for acknowledgment, favors or friends.  I only need to serve the one not of this world.

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I serve for the F’s that matter to me.  Fairness.  Freedom.  Family.  Friends. 

I push foward through the dramas, botched communications and misunderstood intentions.   It is hard to stand up and buck the tide, to call-out what is wrong and what is right.  To live by example and forge my own way.  Waiting for someone else to motivate, inspire or lead is a cop-out and an excuse.  My vision is focusing and my thoughts are centering; words forming.  I know where I am from and what I stand for.  With my hair flying behind me I stride forward,  leaving others in my wake.  I hope they all figure it out and sort through the mess and drama.   I’m walking my walk and not looking back.

Family

Falling on big ears. I hear you.

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I tell my sons to use their words, to say what they mean and to assert themselves.  It’s been a gradual process and over the years I’ve been surprised that my sons can speak their words.

The problem is, a lot of the time I don’t hear them.

I consider myself an authoritative vs. authoritarian type of parent. I don’t expect my children to think it’s “my way or the highway,” but instead, to understand my reasons; to question and advocate for their point of view.  The authoritarian parent doles out punishment and brooks no argument.  The authoritative parent will discipline and listen to the issues at hand; serving a consequence that addresses the problem.

It’s only natural when kids are younger that we are more authoritarian in our ways; the kids too young to understand.  But my sons now speak their minds; sometimes a bit too much.  So it caught me off guard when I was issuing commands and verbal barbs that I barely heard what the quiet, middle son had to say.

You never hear me, Mom.

I had stalked off hot and angry; doling punishment to all three.  But the middle son had only been present for the infraction commited by the other two.  The next day the eldest claimed he was always blamed for everything.  And the youngest gave up trying; his voice lost among the deep timbre of the teens.  Of all my sons, he has learned to articulate his words the best; but whose voice gets drowned out.

I need to find my big ears.  Their words fall on deaf ones.

When the school year began, in late August, the physical adjustment to the hectic schedule had gone better than expected.  But the communication in our home became non-existent; five bodies in five different areas passing one another.  We ate together but quickly dispersed to other tasks: homework, practices, meetings, the Internet.  And when we did finally come together; information was exchanged about our schedules for the week.  The connections to one another were lost.

I observed my social interactions outside of my household.  It is rare that I see my girlfriends on a regular basis; my schedule busy.  And so when we sit over coffee, or discuss books at book club, the words tumble out; one person drowning out the other.  I sat at a committee meeting and the participants felt their words were more important; talking louder and louder and over one another.  Nobody was listening to anything anyone said.

As the sole female in my household; holding a long conversation is rare.  The males want things said quickly and succinctly.  When I started a sentence with my hubs, today with, “Do you know what I was thinking about?” his eyes glossed over.  I immediately quieted; until he turned his face towards me with a slightly irritated expression.  He had been driving.  I wondered if he really wanted to know.  Most times I talk and the hubs listens.

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It’s been a learning curve; to learn to hear what others have to say.  To open my ears.  To sit still and actively listen.

I have been a passive listener with my sons.  I can filter out what I want to hear and hear what I need to hear.  But I really need to hear it all; to acknowledge what they are telling me and to let them know that I am listening; that what they say matters.  It’s easy to get lost in self-absorption and thinking that what I do is more important.  I have to learn to validate who they are.  It’s something I can do with complete strangers but something I don’t practice with my own sons.

This past month I’ve been reminding myself to stop my train of thought and to hear the words that I’ve advocated for my sons to say.  To not nod absently and say uh huh in all the right places.  To be present.  Instead of reminding them of all the things they are not doing, I need to acknowledge the good things that they are doing.  All things begin at home.

Thanks for always doing what you’re supposed to be doing, I said to the middle son when I walked through the garage door.  He had been doing his homework quietly at his desk.  I didn’t yell for him to turn down the music from the computer speakers.

I like that you’re taking time washing your face at night, I told the eldest as he read the directions to his face wash and ointment.  I chose to ignore the clothes strewn across his bedroom floor; the ones I step over every day.

I’m happy you like that book, I told the youngest; trying hard to ignore the fact that he was procrastinating on completing his homework.  I reminded myself that I needed to foster his love for reading.

At book club I sat quietly, listening to what the others had to say.  During a meeting I made sure to make eye-contact with the person speaking; versus rifling through my own paperwork preparing for what I needed to say.  Over lunch I listened intently to what my girlfriends had to share; instead of catching them up on what was new with me.

These were simple adjustments, things easy to say although my mind wants me to be doing other things.  The extrovert in me wants to share my own words.  But sometimes it’s not in the more of doing things, it’s in the way we do them.  Saying more things does not create quality relationships.  But listening and empathizing; saying less allows open, two-way conversation.  I can continue to see these girlfriends on multiple occasions but if the authentic words aren’t being said, or drowned out, what’s the point?

When I stopped nagging, the kids were more willing to converse back.  It opened the doors of communication as they shared tiny snippets about their day.  Instead of bustling about my home complaining about the loud noise, the eternal mess, or the lack of completed homework, I made the conscious effort to stand or sit beside them.  I nestled next to one, ruffled the hair of the other and grinned like a fool at the one who is the quietest.  My body language conveyed that I was listening and when there was a pause I looked at the person talking to me.

I hear you.  That’s all anyone really wants; to be heard.  To know that their words aren’t in vain.  That their existence makes a difference.

My youngest shared a long conversation with me; one I wouldn’t normally have heard had I not sat beside him.  He was buzzing through a trumpet mouthpiece and, though I knew I had to start dinner before leaving for another meeting, he shared the words that the music teacher had told the class on the first day of elementary school band.  The youngest had chosen the same instrument as his eldest brother and the teacher remarked how his brother had started with him.  The eldest and middle son had come out to listen to what the youngest had to share.  You should tell him how we’re doing, said the older sons.  All of us had been surprised the teacher had shared that with his beginning band class.   I sent the email over to him the next morning before I could “chicken out.”

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These days, I still struggle in letting my house go.  I try not to talk over my husband or my kids.  And I put this time in my life all in perspective.  In a few short years my house will be empty; my sons will grow away and probably rarely call to talk.  Maybe they’ll text or private message me although I’ll always hope they’ll return, face-to-face, to check-in.   Instead I learn to actively listen, to hear who my sons are and who they are becoming.  Hearing their words validates not only themselves; but myself as well.  I am grateful that they still share them with me.  I’m enjoying the fall and turning over a new leaf.  I hear you.

Uncategorized

fighting on thru the unpleasant things

It is starting to feel like fall in our parched state that is ablaze in flame, and whose inhabitants cannot drive in rain.

The tween assumed I played the marching band CD from my alma mater because fall means football,  and we are attending our high school and college games this weekend.  But the song that streams through my car’s speakers is the repeated: quarter note, six eighth notes, two quarter notes, a dotted quarter and an eighth note that becks and calls between the low brass and trumpets.  It is a simple song but the harmonies and incessant snare riff  exemplify digging deep; played for the defense on a third down.  Over the years, when I’ve needed to push through unpleasant tasks it is my “go to” motivational song.  On YouTube I discovered a post that continuously plays this song for ten hours straight.

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As I battled through traffic, in the rain with impatient parents, I clenched my steering wheel and quietly kept my tongue.

Why are you playing THIS song on repeat? asked my tween.

The words were out of my mouth before I had thought them.  This is my defensive song and I’m on the defense.  It had never occurred to me WHY this song resonates with me until I had vocalized the words.

I get it, was his simple answer as a parent driver cut us off; grinning back.  I was defensively driving. The alto sax sheet music for this song sits upon my piano as he memorizes it for fun.  I know this song is one of his favorites too.

The phone call came this morning and I paused the music.  The matriarch of my husband’s family passed away this morning in her sleep; aged 89.  On Labor day we had received the phone call that she would be placed in hospice and the family had sat around the pool in silence.   My brother-in-law had just shared that his father would temporarily be placed in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) after arriving at the emergency room via ambulance.    When the hubs asked if the placements in hospice and a SNF were good things, I pushed through the silence and tactfully searched for the words no one else would say.

Your grandmother is dying.  The brother-in-law’s father’s placement in the SNF most likely will be permanent.   His grandmother had been taken off of dialysis because it showed no indications of improvement. My brother-in-law’s father’s Parkinson Disease had progressed.

All things unpleasant.

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My years as a gerontologist and of losing my parents as a teen and new mom, respectively, have given me perspective.   As an intern in college my project had been to discuss advanced directives with the physician’s elderly patients.  She had thought my plans were ambitious and had forewarned me that it would not be smooth sailing.  She had been correct.  The patients became defensive and angry when I broached any discussion of mortality and death and dying.  Durable Powers of Attorney, burial trusts and getting papers in order were not topics people wished to discuss.

Later, as a county ombudsman who advocated for the elderly, the abuse complaints that crossed my desk were usually concerning a family member taking advantage of elderly clients.  I used to think that blood was thicker than water but discovered that the almighty dollar was quite powerful in obliterating those ties that bind.  To this day I advocate for this paperwork but this topic is still taboo; something I know all too well.  For over two decades I continue this conversation with my in-laws; the paperwork yet to be done on another day.

As the bad things in life happened, I became bitter and angry and used these emotions as my shields.  This would not happen to me again.  I would control my circumstances and cut the ties.  I had no immediate family and walked away from my faith.  I would control my destiny.

After each of my parents’ deaths I became uncommunicative and would place headphones upon my head to drown out all sound; choosing dark brooding music.   When engaged to my non-denominational fiance (now hubby) my mother had agreed to our marriage if my fiance promised to be married in the church.  Ironically, it is my husband who returned me to my faith and continues to walk alongside.   When disappointment in people darkened my door, recently, the earbuds went in.  But as in all things unpleasant, time mends and the relationships that occupy my life bring me back; my fighting spirit returning.

Dwelling on the unpleasant things brings growth.  I have rediscovered the person I wanted to be.  I can now speak the words instead of simmering silently in a corner.  But I also work through filtering and sorting; to be able to say the words authentically but with empathy.  Tact.

Last evening I clenched my jaw as I sat in the back of a classroom amongst parents at a back-to-school night.   One of the lessons learned from the internship in college was in finding tactful words.  The other lesson was in keeping things confidential; particularly conversations that are unsavory where there are no words than can cover up the ugly.  I simmered quietly at the artifice and dramatics of parents sitting in the room with me.  They push their own agendas for themselves, in-turn, hurting the whole.  When the bell rang it was all I could do to drag the hubs out of there before my unfiltered words could be spoken.

My song continues to play on repeat at work as I do some of the administrative tasks I dislike doing.  I am digging deep to work through the unpleasant things.  It is sometimes hard to march to my own beat; the relentless riff of the music having me fall-in-step with it to keep moving forward.  I continue to fight on; to find the path I will choose to march.  To do the morally correct thing confidentially, with tact and authenticity.

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friendships

true or false; the things I appreciate about the XY

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I am still learning, after several decades, the ways of being a female.  Currently the moon is full, the hormones fluctuate from day-to-day and I parent a ten year-old and two teenagers.  They call these years mid-life but I sometimes feel like I am re-living my teenage years all over again.  I’ve been granted a do-over of all the unresolved issues I never figured out way back when.

I stand before my closet, on most days, as if it is my enemy.  How does one dress for one’s age?  Most mornings I rush out the door; grateful to choose from among ten polos that bear our company’s name.  I have no time to change my mind; the choice easily made.   But what is appropriate for other occasions? Is the blouse too low-cut for work?  Are the overalls too casual for a parent meeting?   Is the dress too hoochie-like for a girls night out at the movies?  My cluttered closet overflows yet I can’t find anything to wear.

It is on days like these that I wish I were a man.

I watched the husband empty clothes hangers into black trash bags.  He never has to worry about a low-cut blouse, mini shorts or skirts, heels, nor make-up.  He doesn’t delude himself that he will fit into the jeans he wore in high school; he tosses them in the bag.  He holds on to the Top Gun shirt with the holes.  Four trash bags were donated; his closet almost empty.

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Men do not mince words and usually say what they mean and mean what they say.  They don’t waste time with small talk and get right to the point.  They do not tell you all is well when they really don’t mean it.   There are no hidden social snubs; they are much more transparent.   Instead of worrying if they should hug or kiss one another; they extend hands or clap twice upon the other’s back.  They can nod from across the room.  If a guy doesn’t like another one; he just stays away from him.

Not so for us females.  We enter rooms hoping our appearance exudes what we want others to see.  We are not transparent.  We will smile and hug our enemy while telling them they look great.  We assess bag brands, children’s schedules over coffee and tell one another what we want to hear; not necessarily what we need to hear.  We post pictures on social media; the good ones, that tell the stories we want others to see.   We form groups and cliques and love feeling included.  We cluster around those with titles and think of witty things to say; like queen bees and wanna-bes.  We write paragraphs trying to get our points across.  I am guilty.

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Yes, there are the males who compare cars and jobs, dropping hints of six figures.  But for the most part my male friends talk news and  politics and argue sports calls.  They are not super sensitive; they are more apt to say things like they are and hash it out.  They can assess situations much more objectively.  They use bullet-points to get their points across.  A sentence is short and concise; not more than six words.  It’s that simple.

I found myself asking the opinion of my hubs as I worked through a situation in my head.  My husband has always given me the same answer; the one I refused to acknowledge.  I was surprised to hear the eldest son interject his opinion as I rattled names out loud.  I am tired of the girlfriends who say things are fine when really they aren’t.  The son answered who were true and who were false.  He had no reason to lie; he spoke with candor and the depth of his understanding rattled.  He called things like they were.  I was blinded by emotions, false loyalty and history.

I admire the males who can exude confidence without drawing too much attention.  Those who are fair and can share what needs to be said to make things right.   The men who can lead by example and motivate others to serve.  I appreciate the XYs who are well-maintained (good hygiene, groomed, dressed appropriately, etc.); they don’t have to be buff or uber-athletic.  The ones who work with their hands and love the challenge of tough questions.  The guys who give people space without judgment; who don’t micromanage nor are OCD.  The males who smile without artifice; who can laugh out loud and take the heat when someone else dishes it out.  The guys who give hugs and words of encouragement, without subtle meanings.  The ones who won’t kick me down when I’m hurting but will lift me up and throw me back on the horse.

I wish my female friends could be more like men.

Don’t get me wrong, I can be a girlie-girl.  I love to go shopping and perusing make-up counters in malls.  I love to chatter away with a drink in-hand: coffee, beer or wine.  I write in paragraphs and enjoy the nuances and subtle meanings of the written word in poetry, books, music or news articles.  But I’m distracted by things that don’t matter and smoke and mirrors.  I say yes when I really need to say no.

I long for acceptance instead of accepting who I am.

I get lost in the cliques and brand names.  I am invisible to others without a title.  When people ask how are you?  they say the words but don’t really care about the answer.   I need a way to work this through; longing for boxing gloves and a punching bag versus disingenuous words and getting sucker-punched reading between the lines.  I need things to be simple.

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I thought the above as I sat in the cafe, waiting for our order.  The couple at the order counter had sat behind me in a crowded stadium, the night before, at a high school rivalry game.  We are parents in the same booster organization.  Last evening they were chatty and in the cafe I readied my hand to wave at them in acknowledgement.  When my hubs called to me to toss my keys; he had crossed directly in front of them.  But I never got to wave; their body language pretending they did not see me.   I was invisible.

When asked what super-power I’d like to have, I usually answer with invisibility.  Instead, I want the power of discernment.  To know who is true and who is false.

Most of my male friends do not hold grudges.  They get their agressions out and let things go.  All is forgiven.  I strive to tap into this mentality; to resolve my issues and stand up tall.  I take the hits as they come and am grateful for my hubs and sons to bring me clarity.  I speak my truths.   To the friends who have heard me I thank you; you know who you are.  I am making progress.

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May our relationships remain simple and our words be always true.