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.

 

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Family, School

imperfect days and third options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family, Work

NO multi-tasking

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload

It is the ultimate empty-caloried brain candy.  Instead of reaping the big rewards that come from sustained, focused effort, we instead reap empty rewards from completing a thousand little sugarcoated tasks.

Levitin, Daniel J. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. New York: Dutton/Penguin Group, 2014. Kindle file.

I recently discovered the down side of being a master of none.  Juggling work, volunteer and familial obligations brought my world to a resounding halt at a time when I should have been celebrating.

But NO more.

My tendencies to do everything test me each day, and so I am re-structuring and organizing; prioritizing what is important.  This common sense goal is not easy in a digital world where texts, emails and posts fly at 120 wpm.  All of my world wide webbing easily keeps me plugged in to my social network.  But what you see; isn’t truly what you get.   You “appear” social with busy pictures, tweets and posts.  But do you actually, physically or emotionally bond to a high resolution computer monitor; alone at your desk?  I think not.

The “pure bell” notification triggers the automatic reflex for my hand to reach for the smartphone.   My mind is trained to answer the immediacy of text; the instant gratification centers of my extroverted brain releasing dopamine and getting a neurochemical high.   And with that, my focused attention is broken.  I can be good at most things; exceptional at none.    This results in loss of productivity, inattention, memory loss and mistakes.

I am on information overload.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I sit across from a live, human being, and they are  constantly checking and texting on their phone; before my very eyes.  When time is my limited resource I am insulted.  If someone expects a business call or an important message; this I can empathize with; with a short word of apology that you must continue to check your device.  But when it is done on a consistent basis; I then draw the line.

In the not so distant past, my easily distractable nature craved the mini-dopaminergic high of doing multiple things at the same time.  I was uber-productive.   But there is always a hidden cost.  I can quantify the many items on my to-do list but there is no true meaning or depth in any of these things.  There is no quality.  Currently, I de-clutter and go back to basics.

Simplicity.

The highly attentive, focused state goes against my social, extroverted nature and ADD tendencies.  I like being the jack-of-all trades; to enter conversations with tidbits and banter.    I clicked the link in an email sent by my girlfriend and items #1, #3 and #6 sadly affirmed my identity; particularly item #6.  OVERLOAD.

Love-Extroverts

I watch my sons game and interact with others online…but is this really socializing?  They attempt to do homework with music in the background, multiple colors lighting up the computer screen.  They, too, are picking up my mult-tasking traits.  And so I tell them how I am mediocre at all and master of none.

Multi-tasking is NOT allowed.

NOT while doing homework.  Until the homework assignments are completed, the computer screens are turned off; soft music in the background.  Nothing.  Else.

Most especially NOT while driving.  I cringe as I pass parents, each and every single morning,  with phones in-hand texting AND driving their children to school.  I am NOT a bluetooth user and have disabled the capability for phone calls to route through my car stereo.  Safety always comes first.

NOT while working.  My new rule at work is to limit cell phone texting to break times and lunch.  During school hours I know if there truly is an emergency; the call would come through on my cell phone; not text.

NOT during dinner.  The boys and I all place our phones on the counter during mealtimes.  It is the only time during the day where we can truly sit together and connect as we increasingly balance full schedules.  This time is SACRED and is rapidly dwindling.

NOT while socializing amongst friends.  As explained above; it’s just plain rude.   Note to my family and friends.  If you need to contact me immediately, please pick up the phone and call.

It’s easy to avoid the social interactions of one-on-one, face-to-face.   The art of communication is being lost with social media, texting and emails.    I am guilty.  This is my most preferred method of communicating.  But humans are hard-wired to have social interactions; to feel connected and loved.  The technology easily buffers against instant rejection; facial and body cues lost in cyberspace.  We can browse Google, email, text and watch YouTube videos while socializing with our 300 plus friends and followers on Facebook or Instagram.  But these are all empty, sugar-coated calories.   Soon after the immediate sugar high comes the let down as we rapidly try to fill our time with more things to do; to feel like we’ve contributed something.

I have finally discovered the power of the word, “NO.”  NO longer will I choose insipid, shallow activities and trivial details.  NO longer will I choose quantity over quality.  I am re-training my mind to be a uni-tasker; to focus my love and attention on what matters.  NO is a choice.

I choose NO.

Family

jars and jolts

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Do you ever have one of those days where the mere presence of a person just irritates you; to no end?

And that the person just happens to be your spouse?  For an entire week?  The moon was not full, nor am I near “that time” of the month.

I doggedly worked and tried to ignore him.  Observing my mood, said spouse, opted to email me with items that needed my attention.  The sound of his voice made me grit my teeth. The hairs on his face made me roll my eyes in annoyance.  These are the cons of working with a spouse 24/7; separating the business from the personal.    Walking into our CPA’s office, this morning, his snarky remark made me retort,

“Today is one of those days where I do not like you.  I still love you.  But I don’t always have to like you.”

Surprised, he could only stare back at me.  And blessedly, thankfully, he finally remained silent.  It has been a long week.  I am not a personality that can hold my tongue.  But I did.  Because when my anger simmers beneath the surface I do not yell, nag or berate.  Instead, I shut down; working like a drone.   I could see the wheels turning in his head.  He chose wisely.

This morning as I approached the traffic light where I turn towards my children’s schools; the minivan before me sharply veered into my lane, effectively cutting me off.  Instinctively I laid on my horn hoping she’d avoid hitting my vehicle; I, in her blind spot.  She just missed.

My eldest son grabbed my arm from across the car console as I emitted a low growl. All of my sons reminded me of my Lenten goal to be a good driver.  Be good, Mom.  Be good.  I continued to growl as I gripped my steering wheel, following the mini van into our middle school drop-off lanes.   As my eldest exited my vehicle he yelled to me.  Be good Mom.  You can do it.

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My sons continue to grow before my very eyes and as we entered the gates of the high school for orientation, this past week, I visualized his journey.  He walks ahead now; independent.  He is old enough to know what is right from wrong and I pondered this as I dropped-off his younger sibs at the elementary school across the street.  It is he who now offers advice to me.  Instead of I, chirping, be good, son and have a nice day it is his deep voice that reminded me to be good, Mom.  You can do it.

I am jolted back to reality as I type.  A 5.1 magnitude earthquake has my middle son and I dashing to my bedroom doorway as the house creaks and sways.  Frames topple on tables.  Life has a way of reminding us of what’s important.  The hubs yelled upstairs to make sure we were okay.  Earthquakes are a normal part of life, here, but I can see that, this time, my sons are shaken.  Is this a precursor to the big one?

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I wear the flower in my hair to remind me there is a light at the end of the tunnel to this maddening craziness of March.  Deadlines continue to demand; nerves frayed.  The mad rush to convert raw material into usable bolts and rods have usurped many of our weekend hours.  Our time rudely got trumped by deadlines, meetings, appointments and school events.  Juggling various balls-in-the-air extols its price.  Lack of quality.  I am still stuck in the fast lane.  The hubs absorbed the brunt of it.

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Walking out of our tax appointment the hubs went in the opposite direction of our vehicle.  We found ourselves in a red booth in a busy IHOP with thirty minutes to order, eat and drive back to work to meet a customer.  I was told, by my in-laws, to gaze at the finished bolts lovingly.  To the th-thwack rhythm of the machines I should chant the cost of each part; dollar sign$.  But instead, I hear the tread of Father time as precious moments are lost creating objects.  I would much rather have that time spent growing sons.  The rhythms I long to hear are their heartbeats as they hug me close.  While they still choose to hug.  Enthusiastically.

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I relay the above sentiments later in the evening. The “business” hubs ebbs; the man that is my mate slowly returning.  He fights illness, physically tired from the relentless schedules and demands.  I sit on the opposite side of the heirloom family kitchen table.  And our wedding vows enter my mind.

I, (whiny, simplicity, craving wife), take you (hardworking; frugal, taskmaster), to be my (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part. 

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I remind myself of the Corinthians verse that Love is patient.  Love is kind.  But love becomes comfortable and complacent.  Sometimes we need the jolt to shake things up, a bit, to remember what is important and what we stand for.  My happily ever after of hand-holding and kissing is short and sweet.  But marriage is the mundane daily details; the ins and outs, that define strength of character.  The ability to accept a person; flaws and all.  To overlook certain details and see the larger picture upon the wall.  Yes, his whiskers on his mountain-man face annoy me to no end.  But if I step back and re-focus I am able to see the wood frame, the beautiful fall leaves near the red bridge in Virginia Beach.  The day those whiskers depart from my life will be dark, indeed.  Until death do us part; the big one.

The after shocks and quakes make me search for my center; my balance.  I know life will rattle and roll; jarring me back to reality.  I asked the hubs what picture makes him think of our marriage; imagining the framed shot above.

His answer surprised me.  He tells me his favorite shot is in our garage, just above the light switch.  I comb my mind for what photo sits outside our garage entry; drawing a blank.  He tells me to walk out into his man cave and find out for myself.

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It is this person who has always carried me.  There are days, like this entire week, that I can be a heavy burden (and vice versa).  This picture from 20 years ago is his fave; a harbinger of simple, youthful love and a vast future of opportunity.  I had forgotten.  I returned into our home to let him know that he has returned to my like column again.  He smirked; silvery whiskers and all.

I am grateful for the reminder.

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized, Work

jolt & bolt, taxes & fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work

things unexpected

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I raised the hubs and father-in-law onto the roof yesterday and was warmed by the fact that they trusted me to operate the tow motor that lifts them.    After a week of chill and my complaint of the lack of heat in the office; the “boys” decided to find a solution and either fix it or call our HVAC guy.

“Did you find the problem?” I asked as I lowered the bin onto the ground.

They appeared smug and I was relieved.  Between these two individuals they can fix anything.  I looked forward to the warm comforts of my domain, once again.

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The hubs S-beamed the photo.  Our HVAC (heating, ventilation & air conditioning unit) had been gutted.  I was to call the police and to file a report.  When the hubs had fixed the roof leaks with mastic, two weeks back, he had not noticed the missing pipe that was causing rain to leak onto the office roof.  It was then that I remembered the business next door’s visit from an officer in October when they replaced their HVAC unit.  Apparently, all the businesses on our block had been hit.  But we just discovered this yesterday.  So, amidst an already hectic, manic Monday I found myself on the phone with our local sheriff’s department and insurance agent.  And then, I called my pregnant neighbor whose husband replaces commercial units for a living.

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Amidst the chaos we received unexpected gifts from random places.  I am always stunned at people’s generosity and later, as I stood in the post office line with multiple calendars and packages; people went out of their way to help me.  Everyone was cheery; including the postal clerk who helped me for 20 minutes to mail all of my items.    Though I do not wish for damages or “grand theft,” as the officer stated on his police report;  I am thankful. We will soon have a new roof over our heads and a shiny HVAC unit paid by our insurance.

While the “boys” visited our local businesses to hear their stories I grinned.  Normally the other building occupants do not visit with one another.  Soon we saw other people upon their ladders and back slaps from our neighbors.   They were all bonding over our shared losses.   Who knew?    Most days we fight over parking spaces; the tow trucks constantly roaming our lots.  The camaraderie was welcome and unexpected.

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Today I discovered the SUV that I have been diligently searching for has changed vehicles to a white cab truck.  Again this father dropped his daughter off and stopped all traffic.  Since I was driving I did not have the time to grab my smartphone to take the picture of the same girl whose father chooses to drop her off in unsafe places.  But when I approached the stop light I stopped traffic and made sure to take a picture of his license frame.  I then peeked into the cab to make sure it was the same person and it was.

I am heeding the advice of my beloved brother-in-law; a staff member at another elementary school who also directs traffic.  I am to snap pictures and video and obtain a list of names who witness this each morning.  Then, I shall submit this to the local sheriff’s department who will make a visit to the owner of this vehicle’s home.  No need to get administration or myself involved.  Thus, I am journalling with due diligence and collecting evidence.

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All is chilly in our office as I call for quote appointments.  The dog is curled up beneath my desk as I sit in three layers of clothing in 59 degrees.  This is with all of the window blinds opened in the front office.  But the chill does not quell my indomitable holiday cheer.  The Santa hat is quite warm and the thwacking and thunking of machinery punctuates the air.  The steel is hot to the touch and equates dollar signs.

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I should’ve brought one of the cocoa snowmen crafts to work; TO DRINK.  Oh well…maybe tomorrow.

Family, Work

Can someone adopt my family?

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  • 761 pictures
  • 13o posts

That doesn’t include today.

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

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

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

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

I really struggle with this. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncategorized

parent vigilante

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

What to do?  What would you do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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