friendships, School, Work

lines in the sand

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I have returned to the question that blew up in my face at this time last year; the reasons why I serve.  The past twelve months have given me the opportunity to ponder this and really assess what is important.   I stared at my boys, upon my childhood beach, and found myself sifting the grains of sand through my fingers.  My mother-in-law had been on my mind and her favorite daytime soap opera’s song entered my head,  “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives.”   I chuckled out loud and drew a line in the sand.

I have finally defined my boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not.  They are not according to what others expect or want to hear.  In stepping away from busy-work I mentally sifted through the layers that have defined me.  Some were superficial; others buried deep down amidst responsibilities.  I re-organized and shifted my purpose; opened closet doors with skeletons and put them to rest.   My lines are no longer blurry.  Then the tide came and partially washed away my line.

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I’ve talked of staying within the four lines that create my safety box; my comfort zone.  I’ve always assumed my life would be on the straight and narrow; that I would reach my destination in the most efficient way possible.  But those lines are never straight; they go widely off-course, and in the days of my life most times they are wavy and off-center.  But I must always have a baseline; the foundation that I must find my way to return to.  I seek to find my center; the core of my beliefs.  The world pulls me in opposite directions, like magnets, and I must always realign my thoughts and actions to what I find acceptable.  

I say what I mean and mean what I say.

That used to not be true in recent times.  I filtered my words to keep the peace.  But when I am not at peace within; why would I try to pretend to make things right for anyone else?  At the end of the days of my life, at the pearly gates, I am accountable for myself, “…to make straight the path to the Lord.” John 1:23.  I cannot lead by example if I cannot stand for what I believe in.

A good leader is not defined by strengths; but in intimately knowing weaknesses.

I sit in the cold conference room finally saying the words I’ve needed to say.  I no longer serve a certain population because I have lost respect for the leaders who represent it.  The ones who say what they want and do not follow through.  The ones who smile to your face and turn their back behind closed doors.  Whether it is the workplace, a civil/volunteer organization or a social group I’ve realized the reasons why I serve aren’t solely for the mission statement.

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In recent weeks it has dawned clear how I operate and why.  It matters; the people I serve with and serve for.  The leader who is fair and balanced; not showing favoritism.  The people who are giving and hospitable; without conditions.  The workers who do what needs to be done, without excess fanfare or introduction.   Just as with our  business, our customers choose to stay with us because they have a relationship with us.  Most companies’ goals are to produce quality products and customer service.  But when the problems arise, and they always do, our company works with our vendors to make things right.   Those who speak their mind, sometimes loudly, but speak their truth still garner my respect.  I am a person that will own up to my mistakes.  Those who smile and create drama and never seek resolution do not deserve respect.  The ones who think they are doing you a favor by keeping quiet to keep the peace and pretend nothing is wrong.  They are in a class all of their own.

My line is drawn and remains steadfast; one I now choose not to step over, even when blurred.

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I serve with people and organizations who are fair; who do great things for others because they want to.  It is not for their children or hidden agendas.  They understand my need for transparency and when problems arise, they talk them through.  They stand true to who they are and aim for authenticity; even if we choose not to agree.   Those who stop questioning and just do what needs to be done.   It is what I seek in all my endeavors, both professional and personal.  I am my father’s daughter and it is my strength.  It is the details that are my weaknesses.  My love language is in service.  I am a work in continual process; pushing my line out towards infinity.  Infinitely expanding and growing…

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Uncategorized

time in service

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I spend money on things for others; but I am spent.

service1a :  the occupation or function of serving <in active service> b employment as a servant <entered his service
2a :  the work performed by one that serves <good service> b help, use, benefit <glad to be of service c :  contribution to the welfare of others d :  disposal for use <I’m entirely at your service>
3a :  a form followed in worship or in a religious ceremony <the burial service> b :  a meeting for worship —often used in plural <held evening services>

4 the act of serving: as  a a helpful act <did him a service> b :  useful labor that does not produce a tangible commodity —usually used in plural <charge for professional services>”  Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.

During this time of year I find myself searching YouTube for the song, “Last Christmas” by Wham!  The panoramic snowy views featured in the video immediately deliver wintry cheer.  But the sidebar beckons and I find myself clicking the link to the song above; which has remained on repeat the whole month of December for the third year in a row.   My mind sees the Wham! cassette tape constantly being replayed on my Sony Walkman.  The device eventually ate this tape because I frequently pushed the rewind button for this particular song.    I had coveted leg warmers, red hi-top Converse sneakers and Guess overall jeans at the time.  I never got any of those things.

On Sunday  I closed my bedroom doors and locked them; effectively shutting out my family.  I kept this song on repeat for two hours. I was frustrated over a cup of coffee and a Santa picture.   My anger, simmering below the surface for half of this year,  clawed its way out.

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It wasn’t really about the hubs grumbling about my desire for a Nordstrom’s cafe almond latte coffee.  Nor was it about the spontaneous idea to stand  in line with my three sons; who were over a decade older than the other children waiting for Santa (which we did not do).  It is about being disappointed in life and people.  My family is bearing the brunt of my wrath.

For the aging priest diagnosed with liver cancer who, along with his religious order, will no longer be serving our parish after December 31.

At the staff who turned their backs at my request for a family who has served the school for almost seven years.

To the parents who find fault with those who volunteer in booster organizations and PTA  who serve for everyone’s children; not just their own.

For the salesman and family friend who is tired of filling someone’s coffers at the expense of his integrity.

The frustration of crumbling walls, leaky plumbing and cracked tile in a sixty-four degree house.

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I hope that my husband does not think that everything I want is centered around material things.   He is well aware of the love language that defines me, from Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages.   It is not words of affirmation, receiving gifts, quality time or physical touch that make me feel loved.   When my children open doors or do their laundry, when my husband mops floors and creates dinners, when someone does something kind, just because.

It is in acts of service that I find value; ones that come from the heart with nothing expected in return.

I have lost my love language; my desire to serve.   For the past six months I’ve embarked on a mental journey of organization; clearing out junk to find what’s important.    I sorted through my reactions and actions this past weekend; comprehension slow in coming.

I sat during the service, focused on our parochial vicar recently diagnosed with liver cancer.  Priests are an ailing breed;  the numbers greatly diminished of men who choose this vocational path.  Wasn’t there anyone out there to help him?   Their religious order no longer has priests to serve our parish.

Whilst typing an email response to a question, I found myself adding an FYI.  I could finally give voice to my bitter disappointment; to the assistant principal of the elementary school that used to be my second home.

I listened to our family friend, a seasoned salesman, consider options.  At what cost do we serve others before ourselves?  Parents sobbed around me at a parent meeting and I seethed.  Why is that those who serve humbly feel used and spat-out with a bitter taste in their mouths?  Was it worth it?

I see the full glass rapidly spilling over.   I need to know that serving has value.  Because in my life; this is the gift that I can freely give.  Service.

We know what it means to serve.

 The USAA (United States Automobile Association) slogan, we know what it means to serve, scrolled across my computer screen as I perused our home insurance policy.   USAA began with a group of army officers who couldn’t insure their vehicles and decided to create their own company.   Military service members live the sacrifice of service.  They willingly place their lives in danger to serve our country.  My husband served sixteen years of active duty and my eldest son considers following in his footsteps.  But the mother in me screams, no!  The residing cynic wants to say it’s not worth it.   I am selfish.  I want him to live.

Because we can maximize our wealth and our health but in the commodities of life; the coffers I want to fill are the memories in my mind and heart.  I have to invest my time in serving those who bring meaning to my life.   The people that remain on my Christmas and obituary mailing lists who accept the flawed me; just as I am.  The ones whose time spent in their company share the highs and lows that change with the season.   The ones whom you can pick up a conversation when you don’t see them on a day-to-day basis; as if they were always there.

I heard the girls in the loud, busy restaurant as we shared ideas of what they were getting their kids for Christmas.  The consensus: an experience.  Instead of presents, be present and do something together.  Day trips.  Unique outings.  The gift is in the giving; the investment of time.  I can easily spend money but if my spirit is spent and not receiving joy, why spend?

The bff texted and called me out.  She had placed me on her naughty list because the Christmas card I had sent was not as simple as it seemed.  There are things worth spending dollars on; big or small.  The hubs lamented the plumbing bill after six hours of labor was spent fixing leaky pipes.  But I willingly invest money and time for a needed or worthy cause.  This morning as I handed a gift of appreciation to the mom who carpools my three sons, from three different schools, I felt joy.  It was heartfelt; my gratitude for her selfless offer to drive loops around our community to safely deliver my boys.    On Monday, after receiving the naughty list text, I summoned the hubs into the office to snap the picture of the shirt I was wearing that day.  The laugh escaped unbidden.  Small joys. When I open the mail to another Christmas card portrait I have to smile.  These greeting card tidings are one of my favorite things about the holiday season.

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I cleared my schedules thinking it would bring me peace but this is not the case.  There is no joy in building up walls and closing doors.  The joy is in having something to offer; to contribute time to causes and people.  It’s taken me all this time to realize that the panacea for an angry and bitter heart is not to try to fill its ache with food, stuff or white noise.  The healing comes in filtering, sorting and giving things away.

I invest more time in soul searching.

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I continue to let go of hoarding hateful things and struggle to find my gift; to give without strings.

Family, School

and the wheels turn

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So many thoughts whirl about in my mind; waiting to be unleashed.

Thoughts like, does beauty pay?  Does a good looking person have more opportunities than the average looking person?  Are they more successful?

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Questions like how our educational system is run. How can our students become critical thinkers and compete in a global society?  Is the Common Core of State Standards (CCSS) the answer?  And what about our teachers?  Are they adequately trained or compensated?

How do I parent sons to be self-motivated?  To find their voices and navigate in our instant gratification, social media world?  To be good stewards to the environment.  To continue to grow in their faith and be good citizens in our society?

Chatting with my two girlfriends about all of these things; one turned to me and asked, “What is it that you are searching for?”

I am full of questions and too few answers.  She handed me a book about teenagers which I will immediately begin to read.  They applaud my efforts to pass responsibilities to others. But this is a slow process.  I am a servant; this quality ingrained from my own mother.  Acts of service is my love language (from Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages).

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I search for balance.  The ability to let things go.   Simplicity.

I am still in transition but I am beginning to wonder if I will ever feel like I’ve arrived.  Because isn’t every day of life about change and transition?  Another gray hair arrives upon my head, my boys continue to grow taller.   I desire a simpler life but distractions constantly fight for my attention.  It’s hard to shut out the white noise to focus on what’s important.  I can’t escape to Walden’s pond or Muir’s granite-cliffed Sierras.  Our Maui spring break seems like years instead of three weeks.

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These musings leave me frustrated.  I want to tell my sons, who are realizing the power that beauty wields in adolescence, that it doesn’t matter.  But it does.  I expound the virtues of brushing teeth, trimming nails, presenting a clean appearance and deodorant.   To put their best foot forward.

I asked one of our salesman this question about looks and if it produced more sales.  Without hesitation he answered with a resounding Yes!; citing examples in our male dominated workplace of manufacturing.   It was my son who posed this question and I consider how I will answer him.  I want my boys to value intelligence, a work ethic with follow-through, and communication.  To not be fooled by beauty and appearances.

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I continue to research and observe how our school district is managed.  Because right now my local district really doesn’t have the students’ welfare on their minds; only the almighty dollar that sits in the coffers.  I’ve learned great teachers are barely making a decent wage; many who are leaving our district to better provide for their families elsewhere.  I’m discovering many disgruntled parents who feel that their voices are not heard and are not being informed.  Everything seems to be under the guise of the new Common Core curriculum; a distraction from the real underlying problems being swept under the carpet.

And it all returns to money.   It crumbles established institutions like marriage, religion and education.  The worship of flimsy paper is the panacea for all things.  It can make you beautiful.  Powerful.  I work to have it; bringing comfort and stability to my home.   The deeper you get in it; the tighter its grip.

I laughed as my girlfriend shared how liberated she felt as she gave away her vast collection of shoes.  It gave her great joy to shop for them.  But it gave her greater joy to be rid of them.  I am on this same glide slope.  It has given me great joy to serve and contribute.  I am working on giving these things up to allow me the time to focus on what’s important.  But I am not there yet.  This parenting-marriage-relational thing; it never ends.  I continue to fight for the balance; not just in my budgets, but in my every day.   I have a lot of unfinished business yet to do.

 

 

Uncategorized

the good wife

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Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. ~ Proverbs 31:30.

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While at a Halloween party, last evening, the hubs and I won a ribbon for costume theme & originality.  For those who know us, my husband truly is a priestly saint and I, the whirling dervish she-devil.  The irony is that I am the Catholic and he is not.  Amongst the songs at this 80s music themed party the DJ played Jermaine Stewart’s 1986 hit, “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” as I poked and prodded the hubs onto the dance floor with the pitch fork.  I used to love this song when I was a teen and upon finding it on the web; listened to its message.  Stewart died at the age of 39 due to liver cancer; a complication of AIDS.  When asked what this song was meant to be about this was his response in an interview with Donnie Simpson, a well-known Washington, D.C. disc jockey.

“I think it made a lot of peoples’ minds open up a little bit. We didn’t only want to just talk about clothes, we wanted to extend that. We wanted to use the song as a theme to be able to say you don’t have to do all the negative things that society forces on you. You don’t have to drink and drive. You don’t have to take drugs early. The girls don’t have to get pregnant early. So the clothes bit of it was to get people’s attention, which it did and I’m glad it was a positive message.” ~ Jermaine Stewart, singer.

When I asked the hubs what he thought made “a good wife,” his response was physical touch.  This is his love language, in reference to Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages,  He grinned salaciously as he said it while fulfilling my love language of acts of service.  He recently has volunteered to usher during our church service and was dutifully cleaning our fish tank during this conversation.  Normally his “nothing box” would be open on this beautiful, fall Sunday afternoon but when I nonchalantly asked if there were fish in the tank, due to all the algae, he began to clean it.  I had already done my household chores neglected during the week, while at work, and so I sat on the couch to watch him.  I was curious how he would answer my query.  I played the song through my speakers to tease the hubs with the song’s lyrical message.

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We are watching the hubs’ parents transition into retirement and have realized that the issues they have with one another is due to a lack of communication.  My FIL (father-in-law) is like myself; constantly moving and buzzing with various home improvement projects.   Since the hubs and I began to assume the family business on April 1st (their 25th year of business) the FIL has had his driveway repaved, replaced his front lawn with new sod and is currently putting in pavers in his breezeway.  This is no small feat considering the amount of property their home sits on and he does this all by himself; the only hired help to pour cement on the driveway.  My MIL (mother-in-law), in retirement, enjoys sleeping in, watching her Days of our Lives and reading; leisurely pursuits that do not involve any physical exertion.  And so the differences that have always been there are laid bare without the business distracting them; causing strain in their 47 years of marriage.

Are we going to be like them? I constantly ask the hubs.  I mentally take notes, reflecting on how our differences in personalities will affect us twenty plus years down the road.   He could not clearly answer my question of what made “a good wife.”  

The Proverbs quote above is one of my faves; one I continually need to remind myself of.  It is a part of the “Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character” in Proverbs 31: 10-31.  I get too self-absorbed in our busy lives and kids’ schedules; the Lord absent from my thoughts.  The headiness of charm and the vanity of beauty beckons daily.   When I first asked the question to the hubs of what makes a good wife, his first and immediate answer was being a good mother to our children.  When I clarified that my question involved, solely, being a wife, he then grinned salaciously with physical touch.  In our current season of life we are, parents first, partners second.  And so we have to make more of an effort to remember one another’s needs.  Will it only be when our children leave our home and we become empty-nesters that we will try to rekindle what brought us together in the first place?  Will we even remember?

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For days I have contemplated what I would consider being a good wife and had hoped my hubby would give me some guidance.  According to this 1955 Good Housekeeping article I’ve failed at my job.  And so my introspective list begins as I consider the wife I am and aspire to be.  Being a good wife is (in no specific order):

  • knowing that my place is equal to my husband’s.  We are partners in this marriage and the load of our relationship should not be carried by one person or the other.  If he feels burdened I must try to lighten his load.  If I am sad, he cheers me or lends me his shoulder to cry on.
  • communicating after emoting.  I must learn to take a breath and pause; to choose my words.  I am reactionary and respond with feelings versus objectivity.   But I still must communicate.  I am a product of the silent treatment and a good wife should always be able to communicate her needs without scorn or retaliation.  Honesty.  Nagging is not allowed.
  • listening to what he has to say.  There is nothing less affirming for my hubs than when I don’t hear his words.  When he complains about his bad day I’m usually bustling around; half-listening or distracted with kids.  I must hit the pause button and hear him; even when what he is saying isn’t what I want to hear. Just as he must hear me whine and vent; so I must validate his words.
  • humbling.  The desire to be right should instead focus on a shared path.  Compromising, the give-and-take, is what makes relationships work.  I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff; the shoes left in our hallways, the footprints on our clean tile floor.  Cleanliness is not holiness.
  • being the heart of the home.  A happy wife makes a happy life.  Most times it is the woman who sets the tone of the house; positive or negative.  This does not mean having the perfect home with gleaming appliances with blinds dusted.  It is a mindset, the happy home.  In my four walls I seek:  Love. Peace. Laughter.  Faith.  Democracy.  Honesty.  Humility.  Empathy.  Space.  Beauty.  Unity.  Grattitude. Simplicity.  Health.  Security.  Family.   Creativity.  Balance.  Fitness.
  • being thankful.  I easily can fall into the I want and if only game but in order to be a good wife I must be able to see what lies before me and be grateful.  I am happy for the home my husband provides for our family.  That he is hands-on and can fix or create anything he sets his mind to (with the help of YouTube tutorials).  I am thankful for the greasy hands that fix my faucets, install my car water pump or cooks our slow food meals.
  • respecting the man cave and boundaries of the nothing box.  The hubs must be allowed to escape into his man cave aka computer den to surf until the end of the Internet, play online games with our sons or do whatever it is that he does in that dark, loud cave.  I must let him enjoy his own space; to open his nothing box and watch The Walking Dead, Ancient Aliens, Yukon Men, Doctor Who, Law & Order, Deadliest Catch, Good Eats, Diner, Drive-ins and Dives, Defiance and Revolution.    Inappropriate movie nights occur when I am not at home. LOL.
  • learning flexibility.  A common complaint of the hubs is that I lack spontaneity; that I fret over unimportant things.  I cannot leave on vacation without a cleaned house.  I must learn to not be a creature of habit and just go with the flow.  To step out of my comfort zone and think out-of-the box.
  •  mastering balance.  To be able to laugh at myself, to unclog toilets and fix lights, to be tough and accept criticism.  The hubs would love for me to change my vehicle oil, install and fix computer issues, be fit like Jillian Michaels and take constructive criticism with panache.  He requests a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, fix-it/techno-geek know-it-all and funny/tough persona of Sandra Bullock.  And I must look hot while doing all this.  LOL.
  • being comfortable in my own skin.  When he gives compliments, accept them.  To appreciate the stretch marks from three labors, the laugh lines that crinkle when I smile, the sagging parts that reveal my years of experience.  I don’t need to look like Debbie does Dallas in Victoria Secret lingerie and heels (though I’m sure he wouldn’t mind).  The hubs claims it isn’t what I’m wearing (or not) but the self-confidence of who I am and what I’m capable of that turns him on.
  • happily doing her Christianly duty.  My husband enjoys Ephesians 5: 22-23, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”  He takes this verse literally which speaks of his love language.  Laugh.  Out.  Loud.  My bookclub girlfriends know my husband’s vernacular and giggle when he teases amongst us; the man having no shame.

As I sat staring mindlessly at my computer, the hubs entered the bedroom to peer over my shoulder.  I read to him the 1955 Good Housekeeping article and we laughed together.  He added the last few bullets to my list with his preferred shows while Jermaine Stewart’s song played in the background.  He has since retreated to his man cave downstairs to open his nothing box.   I will continue to contemplate being “the good wife.”

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