Family

When you’re fed up

When you’re finally fed up , I asked my husband, what do you do?

He looked at me mutely, knowing I had reached my boiling point.  I didn’t have an answer as I fired the question to the hubs and left our business quiet and frustrated.  It wasn’t until I walked through the aisles of the large wholesale grocer; the $0.88 cake boxes in the main display, that my answer arrived.

You feed.

I made my way through the produce aisles, noting the garlic from Gilroy, California.  Other grocery chains only carry imported garlic from China and my angst returned; knowing that cost drives our current economy.

It would be nice for the consumer to have the choice to purchase the cheaper garlic bulbs from overseas next to the garlic grown in my home state.  But most times these choices are made by higher powers in large corporations or political chambers.   I mull this over as a long time customer finally chose the larger profit margin, acknowledging they will be purchasing fasteners from overseas.

I grabbed four Betty Crocker cake boxes and threw them into my cart in various flavors; chosen specifically for their colors.  Red (red velvet), yellow, white and brown (chocolate) and a white frosting tub for good measure.  This was an impulse buy.

I had remembered my youngest son’s request to bake a cake for his sixth grade plate tectonics project; something that required time.  When my two older sons had to do this same project in sixth grade, foam globes from the craft store littered our kitchen table as they painted, cut and mounted the various strata layers of the Earth.  The youngest’s globe currently sat upon our dinner table, primed and ready to be painted.  The layered strata cake was not required.  It was one or the other.

This son’s voice penetrated through my anger; the one that reminded me that sometimes I don’t hear him.   He is lost among the older brothers whose problems seem to take precedence.  Why reinvent the wheel if the globes worked with the older sibs?  But his words came back to haunt me and I needed the distraction.

You never hear me.  It was the icing on the cake and so IN the cart the cake boxes went.

This was fortuitous.   Immediately upon entering my garage door, with my grocery bags, this youngest son sheepishly stood nearby.

“Mom, my project isn’t due on Thursday.  It’s due TOMORROW.”  

The cake mixer came out as he continued to prep and paint his foam globe.  When called to choose his cake layers he quizzically asked,  Why are we doing both?  To which I replied.

I heard you.

Fed up with the world, the very least I could do was feed my kids.  Not with junk food and cake..but with my time, and my bottled up energy.  I sometimes wonder why this is all worth it and it was as I watched my son painting his Earth project that I realized what my subconscious wanted me to do.

It’s love that makes the world go round.  It makes it all worth it.

It may not be perfect, ever.  But it’s the reason I wake up each and every morning…even lately when it’s something I don’t want to do.  I worry about our financial future for my family.  I worry about the direction our country is taking.  We are a balanced household, the hubs and I moderately on either side of the political fence.  I am a proponent of global economy but want things to be fair.

Everyone looks out for their bottom line.

Small business and customer service are becoming a thing of the past…transitioning into large, subsidized corporate profits with technological interfaces.  Customer service comes in the form of chat rooms and emails; not voice or face-to-face interaction.

Our globalization is allowing us to reach wide, but leaving a deficit in how to converse locally.

My sons sit with phones across from their friends with no words audibly spoken.  We are losing our ability to communicate up close and personal.

When the weeds took over our garden after a record winter of rain, our family had mandatory weeding time for an hour this past weekend.   The hubs and I noted after this physical, outdoor activity among gripes from our boys, that they animatedly returned to their computer screens and interacted with one another.  It’s easy to get lost in cyberspace, independently saving the free world or trading stocks and bonds.

With the ground cleared, our yard looked empty.  But removing the weeds made room for new growth.  A level playing field to start over.

Thankfully, our customer of fifteen years was not a sizable portion of our business bottom line.  But relationships and loyalties no longer reign in the climate we live in and we are cultivating future generations to forego these relations; to rely purely on statistics and numbers.

In the grocery store I see the choice to pay more for organic and/or made in the USA versus overseas.  I want to stretch my dollar, to make the fiscally sound choice.  But I grab the yellow squash from the produce home grown in my home state.  I will pay extra for the choice.

Why purchase the cheaper import produce that is flown on an airplane; that creates a larger carbon footprint in our world with the fuel it uses to get to my location?  I want my produce fresh, not gassed.

I ponder what my bottom line is.  I’ve been silently shadowing and sulking, not standing my ground.  I am finally fed up and need to make a choice and have a stance.

In choosing to feed my kids and family, fresh and locally sourced produce, I make my choice.  With the help of my sixth grader I bake for several hours, cooking dinner with my garlic from Gilroy and spinach from Salinas.  I buy strawberries from Oxnard, cauliflower from Santa Maria and beverage from Paso Robles.  My grass roots campaign is seemingly small but our business will be following the same path.

I am sowing seeds in my own garden.  I want quality relationships with my family, my community, our customers.

I carried the cake box into the sixth grade classroom this morning and told the teacher to please share with her thirty-two students.   She was surprised to learn my son submitted two projects.

When fed up with the world, I choose to feed the world instead.  For my sons.  For myself.  For the future.

 

 

 

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School, Work

pay it forward by the numbers

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The Jason Derulo song, “Want to Want Me” played on my car stereo and I cranked up the volume; on my commute in to work.

When the truck slowed our traffic lane I wasn’t complaining.  I hit the repeat button on this track and eased off the gas.  Usually I am impatient on my drive in to work, to start my day, but the beat of this song got me pumped.   I didn’t mind the extra time today.

When the older gentleman took his time across the crosswalk, as I waited to make my right turn, I sat watching the cars behind me and moved to the beat.  As he stepped onto the curve he waved in gratitude; smiling as he watched my singing antics in the confines of my car.  I had to smile and wave back.

I’m paying it forward; no pun intended.

These past weeks I have been lost in the quagmire of financial paperwork.   The EDD spokesperson curtly barked instructions and I finally laughed and admitted I had NO IDEA what she was saying.  And with that her voice immediately changed.  The joy of transparency is that people can take me at face value and I called her out; reading the confusing paperwork word-for-word.  No longer do I need to put on airs pretending I know everything about anything.  At the end of the call she thanked me for making her day.

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My sons know to not bother me with their math homework questions; leaving that to my numbers-oriented and logical-minded hubs.   When a booster parent asked me to calculate the percentage to add to her donation amount for PayPal I sat for twenty minutes with an algebraic equation on my desk.  I was off by two cents.  I can do the number crunching if I absolutely have to; it was required for my coursework in high school and college with the science track I had chosen.  It is in calculus that I met my hubs.  I attended every single 8 AM lecture in that course to earn my grade and sat in the very front row.  He attended the lecture three times; for the first day, the midterm and the final, and ended with the same exact grade.    He arrived late and would sit in the back.

The numbers keep landing in my lap and the paperwork that accompanies them.  I handle the finances/payroll for work, I “volunteered” to help at the elementary school as a treasurer and currently, as auditor.  And at the end of last year I stepped in, at the very last minute, to assist my son’s high school organization after no other parent chose to step up.    QuickBooks is my very best friend; my mood dour as I run reports and stats for work and the organizations in which I serve.  Bill collection is the very least of my favorite things.

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When people meet me they are surprised that I am shy.  My preferred environment is a quiet corner in a large library; to sit and read and people-watch.  But over the years I have been forced to deal with my aversion to speaking my words, and to speak them loud and clear.  My parents enrolled me in piano lessons; hoping that would bring me out of my shell.  During recitals I would always have to repeat the first few measures of my piece; the public attention causing me to freeze.   When I enrolled in band, at age nine, I enjoyed being lost in the group of students; the music surrounding me created by those alongside.  In high school I was forced to yell and cheer; upon trying out with my girlfriend to keep her company.  The intention had never been to actually make the songleading squad; relieved to be joining the band on the field during football half-time shows.

In college I worked for the very busy financial aid office at the private institution I attended.  Irate parents would call; demanding answers to all things financial aid and I would timidly search for someone to assist me.  The powerful head of this department finally found me one day and I sat quietly; awaiting her words to fire me and let me go.  The words from her lips had surprised me.   I hadn’t known it was rare for college work-study students to work in this department with the confidential paperwork at my fingertips.  I had been chosen to work in this office based on something I had written in my college essay.  When applying to colleges I had been forced to fill out the financial aid paperwork alone; seeking help from my high school counselor.  It was my job to pay it forward to the frantic parents calling our office; to let them know the student’s point of view and to advocate for their son or daughter to handle this paperwork themselves.  If I could do it; their kids could too.

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Since that very first job her words have followed me when doing the things I least like to do; making the phone calls for bill collection or delivering bad news.  After that first job I worked in the staffing office of a large private hospital.  My job was to fill the staffing slots on the nursing floors and to beg and plead with nurses to come in to work on their days off.  It was in this job that I finally learned how to read people; my mentor who continues to work at this same hospital and is beloved by all; doctors, administrators and staff.   Through the years I have always been placed in positions of dealing with unpleasant conversations about complaints and abuses, death and dying, trusts and bill collection.  I remind myself of this fact as I call another vendor to follow-up on payment status.  And I stare at the list of names I need to call for the booster organization which I serve.  I wish it would just go away.  But life doesn’t work that way.

In hopes that people will pay their financial obligations, I also need to pay forward the lessons I have learned from my boss in financial aid and my dear friend in the staffing office.  Jason Derulo plays on repeat on my work computer.  Time to get to work; the numbers await.

Happy Fall.

Family, Work

presently making fasteners

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As we drove home in our vehicle I debated if I should even voice the question aloud.  But I had to know and I inwardly cringed as I found my voice and turned to the rear of the car.

“So, um, if family ask me what you guys want for Christmas; what should I tell them?”

The boys noisily climbed out of the SUV and settled upon our kitchen table as the aromas of our breakfast settled around us.   I thought they hadn’t heard me but between bites the eldest said the words I thought I’d never hear.

I have everything I want, Mom.  I’m good.

Shocked I glanced to the hubs on the opposite side of the table as the youngest son echoed the same sentiments.  The middle one ate quietly; nodding his head.  Thinking I had heard incorrectly,  I rephrased my question.  It was then that the middle one finally answered.

I guess if people need to get us something, we can always use clothes.

That was on Sunday.  Black Friday had passed without a second thought.  There had been nothing I felt the need to buy; a vast departure from years prior.  When Cyber Monday arrived I told the hubs to search online for deals; for anything he felt we needed.  Most times these two days arrive and we buy in flurried frenzy.  We tell ourselves we are buying for others; but really we are looking for deals for just ourselves.

Did I finally arrive?  Have I finally reached my holiday destination of simplicity?

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I know that the above thought probably will be tested and eventually, the consumer, materialistic me will emerge.  The holiday shopping season helps drive our economy.  As small business owners we know this; need this for our survival.  If people don’t buy product then we have no business to manufacture.  Nada.  We definitely need a robust season to bring our economy’s financials into the black.

After Sunday breakfast the boys debated various consoles; valiantly trying to think of something to want.  They argued the pros between XBox One and PlayStation 4;  neither of which they’d use since they are online PC gamers.  Tablets or toys, Nah!  I listened to the nine year old; the son that is more adult than any of his older brothers were at that age.  When they had been nine there were lists of things they wanted.  With googly eyes he brazenly asked if he could have a phone; an answer he already knew would be no.  With a hug and a smile he loped away with the words hanging in the air.

I’m just happy to have you.  Oh, and daddy too.

The present is the gift.  The gift of presence.

After recovering from a very full fall, I spent the Friday after Thanksgiving digging amongst the boxes.  Yes, we are that annoying home that is fully decorated the day after Thanksgiving; the first one on our lane.  This also is a first for us.  In years past the kids were asked to help decorate; to create the Rockwell moment of family merrily decorating for the season.  This year my Christmas elf, aka my youngest, sadly looked up at me as I began to dig through the boxes.

Is it okay if I don’t help you this year, Mom?  I usually help you every year.

Weirder still, I was okay with that.  I don’t want to force joy and cheer upon my family when it is not sincere.  I want them to do the things they do because they want to.  Decorating should not be a chore.  Gifts should not be a requirement.  I’m done with buying, just to buy.  I want things to have meaning, for people to be authentic.  I’m tired of being blinded by the glitter of grand expectations.

I appreciated the youngest’s honesty.  It allowed me to appreciate it more when the middle one decided to join me; the one that rapidly grows.  For three hours he teased my short stature as he placed ornaments high upon our tree and hung lights above my reach.  When the hubs ventured outdoors to put the lights up; the eldest chose to help him without prompting.  Much later, the youngest willingly assisted as I struggled with branches; his two hands steadying the base.  These are the gifts I gladly receive.  Presence.  Without the distractions of buying and completing lists I could truly enjoy some time, here and now, with my sons.

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As we replaced the boxes in the storage shelves in the garage; the hubs noted they were not empty.  I decided not to put all of the ornaments out; paring down.  The de-cluttering mentality has permeated my life in ways I had not imagined.  No longer do I wish to accumulate things to show that I have.  These days, what I have is just enough.  There are still things that I want versus the things that I need.  I am learning to let things go, slowly but surely.

Have I arrived?  Hardly.  I’ve only just begun.

Sunday evening, amidst the twinkling of lights, I finally finished reading Katrina Kenison’s memoir as she traverses middle age.  I’m not far behind as her written words foreshadow what is yet to come.  I began to realize all that I currently take for granted.  I can still count all of my family of five within my four walls.  Someday soon these sons will emerge into life; leaving the hubs and I behind.  I have continued health and mobility.  Eventually age will physically mark us; teaching us to rely on others.  Pride and self-sufficiency were values of youth; compassion, humility and the ability to ask for help will be harbingers of our future.   We must cultivate relationships.  It is these bonds that define us.

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From our building front door I gazed at the gray landscape; the leaves of autumn strewn upon the wet ground.  I contemplated the thoughts above in the quiet moment.  Usually this busy street is lined with cars rushing to and fro.  It is rare to hear nothing but silence as I quickly snapped the shot.  A season in my life is changing like the fading leaves on the grass.  I tenaciously kept hold of the branches of the tree; fighting the winds of change.  For a year or two now I’ve felt as if I’ve floated slowly, trying to catch shifts in the current; to sail above and away.  But now I humbly stand on the ground and get my bearings; finally understanding that what I’ve been searching for has really been within me this whole entire time.  I just needed to peel away the layers, to de-clutter, to find it.

Fastener.  noun. “Any of various devices, as a snap or hook and eye, for holding together two objects or parts sometimes required to be separate, as two edges or flaps of a piece of clothing.” Def. 2. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

I work on holding together the merging edges of my work life with motherhood.  Presently, I continue to custom manufacture fasteners for my mental needs; nuts and bolts to hold the ties that bind.

May you fasten your attention, this season, with quality moments.

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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.

Uncategorized

#1677 fastening my attention

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I stare at the bookshelf across from my desk.  It remains empty; the color swatches taped to the wall.  I have not returned the books and folders to its shelves until the wall behind it is painted a new hue.  Two months have passed.

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The color was undecided.  Until now.

It has been over a year since the hubs and I have fully taken over the family business.  Over the summer, the files of folders accumulated in  twenty five years have finally seen daylight; scanned with my own two eyes.  I sneezed dust as things were categorized, shredded and thrown away.  The task was overwhelming.  Eighteen banker boxes now sit in the shop’s top shelves; waiting to again be forgotten.

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The work computer is not much better; a project in progress.  My digital “junk drawer” consisted of files unknown.  My computer desktop is cluttered with icons and downloads fighting for memory space. They slow down my hard drive; the disk dangerously full.  When the computer scientist, hubs, implements new technological programs and tips, I resist.  I am not ready.  I do not want change.  My brain is on overload.

My current read, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel Levitin, could not have arrived at a better time.  I am only in chapter two and my whirling thoughts are crystallizing on my Kindle Paperwhite’s pages.  I have found my muse.  I am being affirmed.

With affirmation comes inspiration (again I am looking at results with the -tion).  And with inspiration comes motivation.

Neuroscientists have discovered that unproductivity and loss of drive can result from decision overload.

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

And with motivation comes the action.  The doing.  I have returned, finally to the present tense (the -ing) as the light bulb glows brightly in my mind.  I have procrastinated for far too long.  It is in watching my sons struggle with back-to-school busyness that I must also confront my own issues.  With so many transitions and decisions I have been paralyzed with fear; unwilling to make decisions in order to progress.  And so, the hubs and I focused our eyes on the Benjamin Moore wall swatches to choose our top two choices.   Independently, we both got resolution.

#1677  colonial blue.

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I have decluttered our office and paperwork; trying to make sense of it all.  I have been satisficing. 

Satisificing is one of the foundations of productive human behavior; it prevails when we don’t waste time on decisions that don’t matter, or more accurately, when we don’t waste time trying to find improvements that are not going to make a significant difference in our happiness or satisfaction.

The example Levitin uses to illustrate satisficing is in our house cleaning.  We clean just enough to be satisfied.  If we did a thorough spring cleaning each and every time; we’d have little time for much else.  I sacrifice absolute cleanliness for time spent on other things.  There is much more to life than an  OCD obsession with clean, perfect homes, thank you very much.

A painted wall does not a successful business make.  Is a visually appealing improvement going to make a significant difference in my happiness or satisfaction at work?

Trivial as this color choice appears; it is symbolic.  This one change will propagate much more.  One colonial blue wall in a dull office can inspire creativity, productivity and progress.  Choosing a paint color marks the beginning of a new season in our life journey.  Just as homeowners paint their walls to define their space, to take ownership of their place, we too must prime and fix holes with joint compound and putty knives.

We must own the business within these four walls. 100% Quality.

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I’ve discovered that the things, the people, that aggravate me most are deep seeded issues buried in my subconscious; waiting to be dealt with.  The stronger the reaction; the deeper the issue.   Years can be spent in denial, in waiting, hoping time will heal the wounds within.  But when confronted, in a swift lightning strike, it is always surprising how quickly the problem is resolved; if I only fasten my full attention to it.  Out of sight; out of mind does not ever bring resolution.  It is only when my eyes see; that thoughts form in my conscious, that I can sort and catalog.  I can sift through  the detritus.  I can finally make a choice.

Sometimes evaluating the trash can be valuable.

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Acknowledging my internal mental garbage means I must accept the things I cannot change (as in the Serenity Prayer); and have the wisdom to know the difference.   It is always hardest in taking that first step; to bring about change.  My multiple intelligences mode of bodily-kinesthetic must be activated.  I must physically work towards a goal to make it happen.  I must paint a wall to affect change.

It is time, I tell myself, to fasten my attention and focus 100%.   The decision is made.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

friendships, School

Intersecting thoughts & roundrects

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These past two months my mind has been looping in circuitous circles; going round-and-round.  With the crazy schedules and multiple tasks I have been unable to focus my internal lens.  But yesterday my circles interlocked like Venn Diagrams; my thoughts intersecting.  I love when it all comes together and I can begin to make sense of things.

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Unable to write/blog I busied myself with digital graphics and the tablet graphic, above, visually summed up where my thoughts ran.  It all began with rounded rectangles.

Rounded rectangles?

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When Bill Atkinson, an engineer at Apple, discovered algorithms to create ovals he excitedly showed Steve Jobs.

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“Well, circles and ovals are good, but how about drawing rectangles with rounded corners? Can we do that now, too?”

Dismayed Atkinson replied that it would be difficult to do and felt there was no use for them.  Jobs demanded they take a walk, his modality for communicating important issues and decisions in his life, and proceeded to show his lead engineer the various rounded rectangular objects they encountered.  Jobs’ demand for more made Atkinson discover how to create this graphical interface the very next day.  These roundrects became the design philosophy for all things Apple; from the original Macintosh in 1981, to the iPod/iPad designs and apps today.

And of course the icons came in his favorite shape, the primitive he made Bill Atkinson design into the software of the first Macintosh: rounded rectangles.

This small detail would’ve escaped me; but my computer scientist hubby noted this design feature as I worked on creating a yearbook cover for my sons’ elementary school.  The idea was not my own but I was designated as the implementer; the one to manufacture the vision digitally.  It is a small detail, the rounded corner, and as I created apps we began to realize it permeated everything;  tablets, iPods and apps.  I had not realized this in December, but this feature would lead me to various unrelated paths that would come to intersect.

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At this same time I had begun reading the Malcolm Gladwell book, Outliers.   I had indulged my epidemiological curiosity of what defined off-the-chart individuals, and discovered that being born in 1955 would be a harbinger for success.  Interestingly enough both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were both born in 1955, and Gladwell discovered that a combination of factors created outliers in our society.   One assumes hard work, motivation and innate ability creates success but there are other socio-economic, physical and geo-political factors that align to create, “the perfect outcome.”

Rosie Project

I continued to learn to use Inkscape for my vector graphics and thought of the book choice I would make for our February bookclub.  The bright red cover brought The Rosie Project to my attention; tying in with the month of Valentine’s day.  And as I read within its pages I discovered the protagonist had the characteristics of Asperger’s.  As a parent always worrying about my eldest son’s lack of empathy and social skills; I took this read to heart.   This led to reading Flowers for Algernon and the curious incident of the dog in the night-time about the lack of services for severe retardation and special needs services.  I had traversed from high-to-low outliers; statistical points or deviants from the mean or norm.

As I began to populate my tablet cover with applications, apps, I thought of how technology pervades my children’s lives. Most of the students of our school are familiar with electronics and social media.  It is both a blessing and a curse as instant gratification produces immediate, and sometimes dramatic, results.  Growing up, without our current technology, I had time to think before I made choices.  My modem would still be dialing the CompuServe server to check message boards.  I recalled the green screen of the TRS-80 in my middle school science class and programming with DOS prompts.  Now, with the press of a touchscreen, kids had the means to include and exclude.  Comments and photos were instantaneously seen and  read by large groups of people in a short amount of time.

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Yet I lament that our school lacks technology.

On my Goodreads feed I see the Amanda Ripley book, The Smartest Kids in the World, and I devour it in three days during a busy work week.   The Rubik’s cube on the cover intrigues me as the yearbook cover is sidelined for approval.  This book was completely off my radar and when I was done; I went online and diligently looked at several of the author’s resources.

Technology did not prove to aid in creating smarter kids in our society.  Instead our education system needs a better way to compensate and support our teachers to raise the bar.  We need more rigor and to demand all of our kids, not just those tracked or designated as special, with support services.  We are a community and parents, teachers and students need to be aligned with the same common values to create smarter kids in the U.S.  The theoretical physicist Michio Kaku claims the top scientists in our country are not born in the U.S.A.  He asserts that they become American and have been granted their residence due to the H-1B Visa.

Where are the innovators? 

When I watched the seventy minute YouTube video on Amanda Ripley; I noted that her former editor at Time magazine, Walter Isaacson from the Aspen Institute, was the author of the Steve Jobs book that sat on my nightstand.  I barely made it to page 88, in February 2013, and set it aside. I haphazardly glanced at the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and knew it was being piloted at our school this year; before it officially rolls out in Fall 2014.  I began to dig deeper, and researched the lofty educational goals.  Would they work?  How would we implement them?  Would we be able to, once again, produce the smartest kids in the world?  

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In manufacturing we’ve discovered the lack of technical expertise needed to create products from raw materials.  Most businesses look outside the country to fill the void.  Why?  Because Americans do not have basic mathematical skills to measure, to analyze and to critically think.  The blue collar jobs are now outsourced overseas to those who can and will do these things.

Steve Jobs lamented that Apple contracts were overseas because there were not enough technical engineers who could decipher how to create the products he produced.  If we are transplanting foreign born “genius” Visas and not providing ample compensation for those who occupy our top math and science professions; how will we motivate and nurture our children’s generations?  Will we continue to lose our knowledge base and jobs overseas?

I finally did pick up the Steve Jobs book again.  And upon its completion I stared at my graphic above; understanding his obsession with the rounded rectangles.  I also noted the author’s observation that Bill Gates’ geeky fascination flirted on the fringes of Asperger’s.  Steve Jobs’ success was, in part, due to his obsessive and ruthless desire to push the limits; raising the bar.  He demanded his product be the best and that meant he only needed A players; weeding out the B and C players.

Apple is about people who think outside the box, who want to use computers to help them change the world.

Simplicity isn’t just a visual style.  it’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter.  It involves digging through the depth of the complexity.  To be truly simple, you have to go really deep.

Jobs envisioned his products and tablets replacing heavy textbooks.  In education he had strong opinions, as well.

Teachers should be treated as professionals, he said, not as industrial assembly line workers…All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time.

I commiserated Windows 8 woes with my son’s former first grade teacher.  Windows 8 is NOT intuitive.  Neither of us endorse the closed integrated system that Apples promotes, but we talked about innovators.  She shared that she attended a GATE conference where Steve Jobs had been the keynote speaker.  We both lamented the brain-drain in the fields of math and science.

CCSS

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Soon after I sat in the audience of parents as both our administrators presented the Common Core State Standards.  How could our kids take the Smarter Balance assessments when they didn’t have basic typing knowledge? My youngest son is able to type now; a typing program available for all of our school families, for free.  Last year a cost analysis to purchase a typing program had been $1,000.  Thankfully our administrator thinks outside of the box and utilized resources untapped.   Later, as I stood in her office I noted the Aspen Institute webpage on her monitor.  Unbeknownst to either of us we both had watched the same seventy minute YouTube video.

The Venn-diagrams appeared in my mind; our thoughts were aligned.  Independently we had arrived at the same place.   I stared across at her and was grateful that my children attend this school; her school.

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My circles began intersecting.  Education. Technology.  Simple Design.  Common Core.  Depth of complexity.  Love of reading.  Manufacturing.  Math & Science Skills.  Collaboration.   Delayed tracking.

Tracks for vocational and technical occupations and college shouldn’t be determined until high school.  All of our students should universally be taught higher, rigorous standards until this time.  Teachers should have more rigorous training, more support services available and compensation.  We need to streamline these pathways.  The hope is that Common Core will do this.  I cross my fingers but I know this isn’t the sole answer to this problem.

The way to a great start is to model a love of reading to our children.  It is that simple.

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It is the simple beauty that inspires.  The rounded rectangles, the colorful covers of books, the tea cups that set the mood for an informal, pajama-clad group of ten women who enjoy discussing books.   Most of these women did not make the time to read books before we began our reading discussion group in January 2010.  It is now a priority, each month, and our children note our solidarity.  Yes, we do socialize.  But what our kids also see is a love of learning, the ability to discuss and think outside of our four walls.  We are exposed to outside worlds…vampires and female trafficking.  Nazi occupied Germany and slavery in the South.  Tiger mothers and ordinary days.

At the end of the day, any of our ten women can think outside of the box.   We can provide text driven responses and back up our statements with written evidence.   We’ve learned to collaborate with each other and to communicate issues and concerns.  When we hit our lows we’ve learned to put one foot in front of the other, to ask for support, to rediscover who we are and what we feel is right.   We take missteps and leaps but that is okay.  Our kids won’t solely learn to think critically from CCSS and education alone.  We have to model it for them.

The circles are closed; circuits interwoven.  I appreciate the rounded rectangles and enjoy the tablet graphic that allows me to visualize  my intersecting thoughts.  My lens is clear and focused.

Family, Work

lunar craziness

131016 moon

The full moon rises…

And I rage.  I yelled at our employee across the shop’s expanse as he stared at me.  One of my glaring faults is in watching my tongue.  I do not tolerate people who disrespect my kin; including my f@#%ing dog.  The employee made the above statement to the hubs; his employer.  Our canine has come to work with the hubs for as long as we’ve had him; approximately four years.   My succinct words that we, “left our dog home so his bark wouldn’t annoy you”  angrily percolated out; continuing to stir the pot.  Our furry canine will now spend work hours patrolling our backyard.   I was proud of the hubs when he calmly stated, “Please do not kick the dog; it’s like you are kicking me.  The day you choose to do it will be your last day here.”  This employee has been with us for ten years.

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It is only mid-week and I rubbed my temples together amidst the mess.  We have conferred with the almanac and the full snow moon arrives with cupid’s arrow; February 14th at 6:54 PM.  My sons have been forewarned.  They know what that means.

Our conference room was also full, mid-afternoon, with various family, vendors and old friends passing through.  Amidst the craziness I tried to remain hospitable and, eventually, did make peace with the above employee; with hugs at the end.  But I explained that I needed to vent my anger, to be transparent, to be able to forgive his outburst.   If I did not my resentment would continue to build and boil over.   He apologized profusely for his rude behavior towards the hubs.     He still dislikes our dog.   Though my outburst wasn’t ideal we all finally are communicating.  It is never pretty; nor easy.  But it clears the path for change and reconciliation.   Or termination.

Sing it loud & clear.  Transparency.

I take deep breaths.  I think of the phone call with a dear friend as she struggles with physical issues; my heart wrenching in two.  Life is not fair!  After the call I headed, early, to the church to pick up children from catechism (Catholic religious education) in hopes to sit in the silence of the pews to catch my breath and mouth a prayer.  Instead I arrived to a traffic jam, at the sole entrance, into the parking lot.  The church was full of high schoolers and the quiet moment of solitude was not to be.  Instead  I stood in line with parents.

Drama unfolds within family as a niece struggles with her pregnancy.  I find myself in the role of counselor as I listen to her hopes and fears.   I think of the tough road that lies ahead and hope that she can find it in her heart to forgive those who have hurt her.  I thought of my own pregnancies; the joys, the fears.  Again my heart saddens.  Life is not fair!

I stared at the dishes on the table; crumbs and remnants of our dinner. I was too tired to pick it all up.  The butternut squash soup was not a hit.  After a long day at work, the hubs and I cooked.  But there is no satisfaction in cooking when it is left, uneaten.  Not one son liked the soup.  At.  All.

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Life.  It is messy.

The gravitational pull of the lunar cycle is taking its toll.  Craziness is everywhere.  And it all leads up to Valentine’s Day.

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For years I’d sweep up the crumbs; cleaning up.  I get agitated when I see a mess and clutter; my mind not able to focus until everything is put in place.  But with kids and schedules I have had to learn to let things go.  Sometimes seeing the crumbs reminds me of what I have.  My girlfriend’s quote comes to mind…

Life is what happens when you are busy making plans.

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The crumbs of my life have been swept up in a tidy bin; stored and forgotten.  I wanted to forget the tragedies, the inequities and messy things in my life that have happened to me.  But these broken, jagged and messy remnants have made me the person I am.  They define me.   And so I recall them, piece by broken piece.  And I am empowered.  I have survived.  I know how this life ends.  It is between these two points that I have to make my choices and pathways; amongst the lunar craziness.  I need to let things go.  To go with life’s messy flow.

Like water off a duck’s back.

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I cannot control the craziness that happens around me; the things that make life unfair.  I always want to; my willful personality overriding my rational mind.  I need to master mental discipline and  cope with the mess that is always present.  Each weekend when I clean my home I think of how happy it makes me to see clean, simple lines without clutter.  But it is how we cope with the messy that makes us better and stronger.  If I can do this with grace and panache; it would make my life Simple.  Enjoyable.  Grateful.

But for now I stare at my colorful and full calendar; crossing out dates and adding new ones.  My heart palpitates as I think of the end-of-the-school year and the craziness that marks my life as a working mother of three.  Within a two week period I have: concerts, spring programs, First Holy Communion celebrations, a 3-day camping weekend, theme parks, picnics, promotions and graduations.  Deadlines now change as I think of the piles of paperwork upon my desk at home.  And so I organize and plan.  Maybe if I am mentally ready the stressful little details will not derail me when this time comes.  Mental discipline.  Go with the flow.

Then I look at my schedule for today.  Yee gads!  I have empty Valentines day cards, kids’ golf and running schedules and a booster club meeting; all within a five hour period.   When the 13 y/o stated he needed 9 X 12″ poster board, yesterday afternoon during our crazy work day, I told him to walk to the grocery store and purchase one.  He had only known about this assignment for two weeks and, of course, it’s due today!  I came home to a mess as this son scoured all of our closets and organized craft areas to search for paper.  Popcorn kernels lie beneath my kitchen table and I had attempted to pick them up last eve.  This same cycle will most likely be repeated this evening.  And the next day…and the next.

And then one day my house will be sterile and quiet.  My sons will have grown and the hubs and I will stare across at each other and wonder how time flew by so fast.  I share this thought with him across the office as he quotes customers on his computer.  It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow I say.  The bff’s text reminded me; her husband wishing her this sentiment today.  We both text “LOL” simultaneously.    We have no plans.  Normally we make a fancy dinner with our family of five.  The boys like the fanfare with our fine china.  Currently we have no food in our fridge. (sigh)

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Yep.  Going with the flow in my crazy life.  And the moon continues to grow full. Happy Valentine’s Day (tomorrow).  LOL.

Family, Work

to yell or not to yell

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I fight the tingling in my nose;  a sneeze working its way out.  I have been fortunate, this flu season, and have missed the high fevers that my two older sons endured last week.  But alas, I feel my body succumbing.  I open the windows to hear the pitter-patter of blessed rain!   Breathe.  I glance at my framed word art to remind me.  Breathing space and humble grace.

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It took all of my willpower to not scream at all the various people entering into my workspace.  A few of my pet peeves surfaced today: procrastination (not on my part), lack of clear communication and those who take satisfaction in watching others struggle because it’s not my job or not my problem.   If ever you really wanna irritate me you can either brag incessantly or pass-the-buck.   I usually grin and walk away; letting the comments slide like water off a duck’s back. But those social cues don’t necessarily get picked up by most.

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It’s only when it matters that I choose to speak my mind.  I finally spoke succinctly.  I did not have to shout.  When my sons called at work to “check-in” I forewarned them.  Do not mess with Mommy today.    The WSJ article came to mind, affirmation that I learned from my own experiences with my children.

Talking to Your Child After You Yell:How Yelling Can Hurt, and How to Stop It

http://online.wsj.com/news/article_email/SB10001424052702304691904579348773978001590-lMyQjAxMTA0MDMwMDEzNDAyWj

I sit alone upstairs after dinner with my gratitude journal.  The goal is to get to one-thousand and I am half-way there.  I began to count things I am thankful for in September; as a reminder of the simple things in life that I take for granted.

#555. Boys happy to see me after a long, grumpy day; even the teen.

My sons are accustomed to my frank comments.  When asked why I was grumpy they genuinely listened and, to my surprise, commiserated.  They are beginning to understand empathy.  The Wall Street Journal article states that, we, parents, yell more at our kids since we have been conditioned to avoid spanking.  On numerous occasions my in-laws have taken liberties to criticize this approach; the strange ideals of our Gen X generation.    The article cites studies that children who are raised with constant yelling get less satisfaction in relationships, as adults.

I totally get that.

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The middle son snapped the shot during our early morning school drop-off.  On this short drive the details and schedules of our day are discussed.  The car is my quiet zone; the boys filling in the silence as I maneuver amongst insane parent drivers.  I am being more careful with my driving habits since kids learn to mirror the behaviors parents exhibit behind the wheel.   I do not gesticulate with my hands as often and am trying to watch my words.

When I do make inappropriate comments my sons will admonish me.  Do you have to lean on the horn Mom?  or Calm down!  These days I own up to my sons’ criticisms and sheepishly apologize.  I do NOT want my boys to become drivers like myself.  My ingrained habit to mutter or gesture is extremely hard to break.  But I continue to work on it.   No more yelling.   Discipline…be a good disciple.

#554.  Tax paperwork filed.

I think of the long and boring monotonous days and catch myself.  These are the days I need to cherish; the no-drama, hum-drum days filled with nothing eventful.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  When something goes awry in our lives we long for this routine and sameness; droll as it may be. 

#557.  A purring cat and rain on the roof.

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But it was after I had deposited my son at the golf course, sharing my day as he laughed, that I discovered my flaw.  As I grow older my tolerance, my empathy, for others grows short.   I am glad I kept my  frustration in check; sharing my words without yelling at others (okay the hubs heard the brunt of my rant before I left to pick up my child) or taking it out on my kids.  I was able to find my words.  It is this simple thing that has made all the difference in my day; saying what I mean.  Let it go.  Go with the flow. 

I am thankful.

2014 WordArt