Tuesday, December 30, 2008

That Darn Blasted "Doghouse" Video and Why I'm Barely Able to Blog

For Christmas, I thought my husband was going to get me a wireless booster. Invisible forces often knock my internet connection to Kingdom Come, requiring a complete re-boot of the whole system with a run up the stairs. Since the husband told me about the relay, each time I ran up the stairs, I counted the days until Christmas.

He didn’t give me one.

After Christmas we were standing around Best Buy and I mentioned that I thought he was going to give me an internet booster. He told me he was, but he was afraid because of the “Beware of the Doghouse” video.


One of my girlfriends had emailed me the link. I laughed. When my husband was wandering around the kitchen, I hit play on my laptop. He laughed much harder than me. Now I haven’t gotten what I wanted for Christmas.

If you haven’t seen the video advertisement, some poor schmuck gave his wife a vacuum cleaner. Even though it was a “dual-bag” vacuum cleaner, she condemned him to fold laundry for all eternity down in the doghouse with other men who had made such mistakes with presents.

Since it ridiculed the women who would do this to their husbands, I thought it was funny. I never thought of myself as one of “those” women. The last thing I want is for my husband to waste money on jewelry when there are useful and fun-filled gifts for the picking. (For the record, he gave me something I adored but would never actually purchase, so he’s good.)

Over the weekend, one of my sister-in-laws said that her husband had laughed much harder than her when they watched the doghouse video. Since our husbands seemed to be laughing because they identified with the situation from personal experience, we were both slightly annoyed. We didn’t like being lumped in with these women, but men identify with the video because they feel like they never know the right thing to do.

I count on my husband to make my life better each day. He’s my “Can Do Pig”, a reference from a children’s book which I have always considered a compliment even though it doesn’t sound like one. At the births of our sons, he gave me the diamonds and pearls, so I’m not against sentimental jewelry. But what has become apparent in the last few days is that I depend on him to come up with the big solutions and erase all the problems in my life.

To me, that’s a much greater gift. I hope men figure out the right thing to do.

Update: Our nephew spent a day trying to install a wireless booster then returned it. Maybe the Doghouse saved us some trouble afterall!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What Do You Do When Your Friend’s Kid Steals From You?

The past several days I’ve been wrestling with a situation. One of my older son’s friends has taken my younger son’s toy. It’s not the first time. What do you do about a situation like this?

During a sleepover with the friend, my younger son nestled his three Bakugan on their magnetic cards on his desk when he went to sleep. My husband saw them there at bedtime. This was his toy of the moment. He carried the little balls everywhere. Since they’re magnetic they were even attached to his silverware at dinner. He had to earn 10 extra homework points to get them and this took 21 days. The number of days is etched on my mind because earning the toys was as stressful for me as it was for my son. This toy meant a lot to all of us.

The friend was sleeping over on a school night. Just as the older boys were about to go to middle school, the little one woke up and said his Bakugan were missing. He was trying to get the boy to show him where they were, but it was time for them to go to school. As the vehicle pulled away, my son started to wail and I understood what had occurred.

Just before they had left, I told the boy that he didn’t need to take his overnight duffle bag to school. He had this slight panicked look and involuntarily started to move toward it, then stopped. I noted that his reaction was odd at the time. He had been upstairs going back and forth between the bathroom and my son’s dark bedroom several times. Just as I went to ask him what he needed, he dodged downstairs for breakfast. The whole morning had this slightly unsettled feeling for me.

Since my son was crying, I immediately went to the duffle bag. The Bakugan weren’t there but under the clothes I found my son’s coin collection and his cub scout flashlight. Since he wasn’t crying about these items, I ignored them.

What do you do? All I wanted was for the Bakugan to come back. Bakugan were the main thing on his Christmas list and now he was without the few he had earned.

I called the parent and happily reported that they were off to school on time. Then I explained that my little guy was crying because he woke up and his toys were missing from his desk. I didn’t think my older son had moved them. Could he ask his son about it? There was worry on both sides about how to handle this, but still hope for a happy ending. However, a couple of phone calls later, I was told that they were in my house. The boy claimed they had been playing a keep-away-game where he held the Bakugan hostage. The boy didn’t remember anything. When I explained that he had been keeping them “hostage” in his hoodie pocket until my son removed them, there was some anger from the parent. The boy is willing to share a few of his Bakugan with us.

Even my little one said, “He is just trying to make himself feel better.” Yes, I explained, it’s called “alleviating guilt”.

No one wants for anyone to be upset. I’ve lost two nights sleep.

I haven’t mentioned the other items in the bag or the fact that one day last summer all my older son’s best Yu-gi-o cards disappeared. They had been playing with them and when the boy left my son went over to his decks on the table and all the best cards were gone. We didn’t say anything. We don’t want to start trouble or accuse a friend. You don’t know how to make that phone call. I made the call this time but the parent believes his boy would not lie. I’m struggling.

One part of me thinks I should just forget about it. We already accepted that we lost our best cards a long time ago. We are hoping that the Bakugan my mother-in-law bought for Christmas are an exact replacement. In the meantime, we gave him one of his Santa presents and frantically paid a fortune online to get another one delivered so that Santa doesn’t look bad. You can’t buy these toys in stores because they sell out immediately.

But what do I do next time the boy comes over to our house knowing that he has probably been taking things each time?

Do I frisk him down and go through his bag? Of course, I couldn’t do that in front of the dad. Okay, I can’t do it at all.

Do I talk with the boy myself? Tell him all I know? Warn him? It’s not my place. What good would it do? He lies to me about things all the time. You can’t have conversations like this with someone else’s child.

What if he starts to steal MY things? It’s an awful feeling. This is the feeling my sons have now. We all know what is happening.

The boy needs help. He needs to learn that he can’t take things. What if I don’t say anything and he gets arrested for taking something? Don’t I have a responsibility to try to teach him right from wrong? I care about this family.

I don’t want to l lose the friendship because they can never visit us again. I don’t want to lose the friendship because I tell the whole story and there is anger at me. Bad feelings will hang between us. I’ve spent days trying to find the right words. If I tell the whole story, I still won’t be able to trust the kid, and I probably will have lost a friend.

I want my sons to learn from this situation and I’m afraid that no matter what I do it will be wrong. Do I teach that you keep friends you don’t trust and let them take from you? Do you discard friends when they do wrong? Do you try to help someone with a problem? Can the boy really be helped?

I think I’m going to lose some more sleep.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do You Want Fries With That "A"?

ABC News Reports the following and my mouth is hanging open:

California Teacher Gets Creative

"The budget is so tight in the suburbs of San Diego that at Rancho Bernardo High School calculus teacher Tom Farber didn't have enough paper to give practice tests. Then a bus advertisement sparked an idea.

"I said, you know, in the face of tough times, maybe I could do something similar in my classroom and advertise on my test," Farber said.

The bottom of each of Farber's calculus quizzes features an inspirational message paid for by parents or local businesses. He's not happy about taking such desperate measures, but the average public school teacher already spends around $430 of their own money on supplies, according to the National Education Association."

Has it really come to this? I was appalled when technology would allow advertisers to flash messages in the night sky from satelites. Thank goodness no one has pursued this method, but advertising on the bottom of tests is just as invasive.

I choose to use gmail and view the advertisements down the right-side column. While on Facebook, I fight the urge everyday to type in "sex toy" just to see if they have ads on this subject. I know the price and attempt to find humor as I trudge along in cyberspace.

In these situations I've chosen to use a service for free with the understanding that I will be subjected to advertising. We're the t.v. generation so we know that we need to pay the price with advertising or subscribe. But students don't have a choice and I don't want my night sky blocked by advertising.

The sad part is that teachers are so poorly paid that they must resort to such measures. In our community, the last two affordable housing proposals have been met with resistance. Expenses are up and we've all lost more than 30% on our investments. Times are tough.

I applaud ingenuity by our teachers, but advertising on tests, even if the message motivates, seems out of place.

Lets not miss the big point here, our school budgets should include enough funding for paper so that teachers can give tests.

Our PTA reimburses teachers for some of their out-of-pocket expenses. At the last meeting, we asked the teachers to tell us what we could purchase to make their jobs easier, especially since they were voting to forgo their salary increases. Perhaps the parents in San Diego could start a fund instead of paying for advertising.

Sometimes it's all about morale.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Is It Better?

Tears keep welling up in my eyes. The same tears you find dripping down your cheeks at a sad movie. On occasion, I’ve had these tears for a couple at my church. Today the tears were at her funeral.

They both have a disability, special needs. When they were young, he went to her family and convinced them that he could take care of her. Together they could have a life. He would work, pay rent, get food, buy clothes, and have medical care. At first they wouldn’t let him marry her but they finally agreed.

For 22 years he has been completely and totally devoted to her. He often would do the speaking but her eyes were always bright and she would say a few words. After awhile, she would seek me out and have a good conversational question, one woman to another. She seemed proud to be able to do that and she would surprise me. They always made a fuss over our boys and would carefully remember and repeat their names. We heard stories of how it was when they were young. You could tell how much their parents meant to them.

He would always explain how they were taking care of all the details in their lives and even going out for entertainment, a full life. He lived to take care of her, just as he promised he would do.

When he mentioned her cancer, my first thought was that God couldn’t possibly take her from him. I couldn’t get past how absolutely cruel it would be for her to die. He would recount all the details from the doctor. He always knew exactly when the next appointment would be. Upon questioning, the facts didn’t sound good. It seemed serious but he convinced us that she would be fine. As he put his arm around her, you could tell that she believed him, so I did too. She went into remission.

The cancer came back. She wasn’t able to work and he had retired to take care of her. On one of my runs through the neighborhood, they were coming out of the church. I stopped briefly as she waited with a walker. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening to her, but thought it must be something else.

On Sunday we learned she was gone. Today he was so deeply sad, so slumped. Perhaps this is a breaking point for me. Another long-time couple ripped apart.

After my father died I thought I would be stronger in hospitals, as if I had built up immunity to the sadness. Shortly thereafter I went to visit my boyfriend’s grandmother in the hospital. Luckily she decided that she didn’t want to meet me in her condition because I was down at the end of a hallway by a window unable to handle the situation. I never met her.

About ten pages into a philosophy paper in college, I realized I had picked the wrong premise. I couldn’t crank out a paper supporting the statement “It is better to have loved and lost.”

On days like today, I still don’t know if I could.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Samsung Omnia 910 Handheld Heaven

I’ve had a tough time with my laptop addiction since going back to a part-time office job.

For a few years I’ve heard about the CrackBerries so I thought I should get one. Since the Storm was building on the horizon, I waited for its release. What a disappointment since it was recalled for software problems before the release date and the touch screen keyboard was impossibly small (which has been an ongoing BlackBerry problem). However, once I played with the touch screens in the store, I couldn’t tolerate the mouse-like BlackBerry. The world had changed and I wasn’t going back.

What’s a poor girl to do if she’s not willing to give up her Verizon coverage in the Washington DC Metro system? I’d have to forgo a new phone until technology improved and ignore all the iphone people. My husband found out that he could upgrade his phone and my sixth-grade son could be added to our plan now with a free phone. I could change my mind at any time in the future without a problem.

Fellow blogger Jennifer Deseo at the Silver Spring Penguin told me that the Samsung Omnia 910 was due to be released and it had wifi (which the Storm does not). [If you live in Montgomery County, MD, you should be reading the Penguin.] Friends, Tim and Heather, happened to be in the Verizon store to get a free phone for their sixth grader and they pointed out the Omnia after I mentioned it. Heather bought one. Still on the fence, we set up our plan without upgrading my phone. At the last possible moment, I threw all caution to the wind and bought the Omnia.

When it comes to new technology, my philosophy is to let everyone else pay the expensive prices and work out the bugs. This was a major change in my consumer profile, but the Omnia 910 is as close to a laptop in my pocket as I could get.

As an event planner, my Microsoft Excel spreadsheets are my up-to-the-minute memory. The ability to update on-the-go was a major plus for the Omnia, which has the Office Suite: Excel, Word, and Powerpoint mobile. The Omnia has a small stylus dangling from its side for working on these documents. If you don’t have razor sharp fingernails like me, you will have an easier time with it. Since I never had a Palm, I was working out my stylus envy.

You can visit the Samsung website and watch cool videos that explain all the features of the Omnia. No program is more than two screen touches away. Zooming in and out is as easy as tapping the screen twice. The camera and video is 5 pixels which is as good as my current camera, so I won’t have to take it with me when blogging anymore.

As a blogger, I have full access to gmail, google maps, google calendar and other features which I don’t use. You can use blogger.com to write and add a picture or video to a blog, but not your own. Google will create a new blog and you have to get home and post it to your blog on the laptop. At least some of the work can be done in the field but I haven’t tried it yet.

The touch screen keyboard is big enough for my fingers and has a vibrate setting that helps with typing. Of course, the screen orientation has a motion detector. There’s video and picture messaging and the ability to visually see your voice mail without going into your account. You can watch tv and movies, as well as listen to the radio. When web browsing, five tabs can be open at one time and the device is geared toward keeping you in touch with all your social networking sites. There’s music, weather, and metric conversions. You can take notes during a phone conversation. This morning it fit in my tiny little jacket pocket.

Since I’m a klutz , I’ve already dropped my Omnia three times without a problem. My old cell was a Samsung and honestly, I think you could play baseball with it.

Most of a night’s sleep was lost playing with the Omnia and I still haven’t figured out everything it can do. As close as I could get to sleeping with it under my pillow, the darn thing woke me up when it was fully charged. Unfortunately, the battery ran low after about seven hours. For me, that’s not long enough, so we’ll have to see how it goes this week.

No matter, life's been upgraded.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"The Family Unit Must Remain Together"

Last summer, I took my sons to the amusement park. The boys are almost the same height so an amusement park trip would be fine with one parent. We could easily stay together. Although I’ve been a full-time mom for eleven years and have done just about everything possible, I’d never ventured to an amusement park with them alone.

Twenty years ago when my husband and I started dating, we had the reputation of doing everything together. When we were married, we couldn’t understand all the couples that split up errands on the weekends. Grocery shopping and all those other tasks were never fun, but when we were together it didn’t matter. We were together.

During the summer months we always visit amusement parks as a family, sometimes camping exclusively for this purpose. But for the first time, I was in an amusement park without my husband. Both my sons will jump on any ride, no matter how treacherous. We went on the swings but then hit the two big wooden roller coasters. Then we changed to bathing suits and threw ourselves down the water slides. Laughing and teasing, we enjoyed every part of the park and were happy to be together.

Although enjoying the thrills, a part of me was missing. The four person water slide would have been faster without that empty seat, not to mention I couldn’t carry the giant tube without help from a fine young man in the group behind us. The roller coaster seat next to me was empty all the time. The experience felt slightly lonely.

Recently, my best friend lost his partner of 23 years in a terrible, unusual accident. He called me that morning when the police told him to call someone. It reminded me of September 11th when people jumped out of the World Trade Center holding hands. Everyone started to think about who they would hold hands with to jump. Who would you call if you found your spouse dead? Who’s going to hold your hand? I was one of many that showed up that day and the experience was a nightmare, a horror.

I felt guilty for going home to my husband.

At the amusement park I missed my husband in a small way, knowing that my friend feels this way about every single moment of the day without relief. I knew that my family would be together for our regular evening dinner, but my friend’s loss never ends. I feel his pain because we have been so close. He’s always the one I call when I feel down. He never fails to put my situations in perspective and cut to the chase about the other people in my life.

So I understand the pain of his loss. I even feel it but I can’t fix it. He has to reinvent his family with his son. A new life needs to be created.

This fall our oldest nephew went to college. His dad and I always keep up with each other and share the news. They cried when he left. I tried to console him by emphasizing what a wonderful job they had done with their son. He’s a remarkable young man who I admire. He’s a caring person who learned sign language and has a full scholarship to college – tuition, room and board. The change in their family is just so large.

Although I’m thick in the middle of my family with a young child who can’t be left alone, I know there are changes coming. Not yet, but soon. Even now the oldest one has all day and weekend commitments and the younger one goes to sleepovers .The family unit is not together all the time like it used to be. I’m thankful for the times we are.

I’m also thankful for the friends who dropped everything to be with me when I needed them this year, and most of all, I’m thankful for the strength we give each other to get through life’s changes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Can I Stop the Stumble?

As I've mentioned, I fell the first time I tried to ride the motorcycle across the parking lot. When it came time for my riding exam on the course, my nerves were starting to get the best of me. With this article in mind, I stamped my nice, new black leather boots on the parking lot, and kicked it into high gear.

In high school calculus, they gave us an exam to determine our problem solving ability. It did not cover material from the class. We all knew the score did not count. When it was over and our graded papers were coming back, the teacher hesitated next to my desk, holding my paper. He had read about this, but had never seen such a clear example.

I had the first five answers correct, then hit one I couldn’t do, which led to the next few wrong. Then I found one that was easy and had success on the next few, until I found one I didn’t know again. Without exception, the results were groupings of right and wrong answers. With concern on his face, my teacher advised me to be aware of this tendency to get rattled by wrong answers.

He had put a weight around my neck with no hope of removing it. All I could think about was all those wrong answers.

I call this my “stumble”. The “stumble” occurs when the results don’t matter, the outcome is celebrated, and the situation is beyond my control. These days, I still grapple with it. I “stumble” and can’t seem to get my balance for a while afterwards.

Although not always as obvious as a black-and-white test on a piece of paper, the stumble surfaces in other ways. Last year I didn’t read the agenda. Just before the meeting started, I discovered I was responsible for more than an hour of it. To add to my grief, I couldn’t find my file. I winged it from memory -- but my entire week was put off balance. I felt inadequate for days, as if everything was slipping through my fingers. All my encounters seemed bad.

For the last month, I have been co-hosting an internet radio show about local happenings. During two of the shows my connection filled with static and caused problems. Each time I could dial back in to the show without a problem, but I wasn’t at my best. Feeling frustrated and filled with mistakes, I didn’t perform well. After each show, it takes me days to regain my footing.

I always notice people who can just shrug things off with a “no big deal” attitude. How do they do that? How do you not care that you made a mistake?

In my high school calculus test, I immediately lost confidence, thinking that I wasn’t as smart as the other kids. This is really what magnified and set off my failure. During the no-agenda meeting, I knew I was the best person to organize the event but I wasn’t perfect. Although I had confidence, it didn’t go exactly right. Is it a loss of confidence or a desire for perfectionism that causes me to stumble?

Educators are aware of this effect. I must not be the only one who struggles with it. How does a person recover from the little calamities in life? Distance from the incident often helps, but when it’s happening you don’t have any distance. The effects can be stopped with reason over time, but in order for me to function well, there needs to be an immediate fix. The goal is to let things slide and not feel dreadful. Being aware of the stumble problem helps, but how do we run upright during the short sprints and keep going?

We won’t make changes until we fail and know that we have something to change. Change takes commitment, dedication, and energy. In this case, all three need to occur on the spot. Lately I have been mentally forcing myself to put the problem away, as if in a box, but often I still don’t perform well because I feel bad. Feelings are not as easy to turn off and they only get worse in that box.

So I’ve decided I need to picture myself in boots, with Nancy Sinatra singing “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” I mentally put my foot down and try to shrug it off. Since it’s all in my head, I might as well have the luxury of sturdy, stylish boots. Hopefully, this will speed up time and help me feel better. Whether it works or not, the important part is recognizing the situation and finding a personal way to improve.

Step by step.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

On Wheels

At the end, only 7 of the 12 in my Motorcycle Safety Class actually walked away with their licenses. I was one. It wasn't easy.

We all aced the written test. I was thanked for everyone getting one particular question correct due to my overly-thorough presentation. Granted, I misunderstood and wrote out the answers to all 126 (I only remember because it's my birthday 1-26!) questions in the study guide. Now when I ride these facts sometimes pop up in my mind giving me some confidence, so it's not necessarily an awful mistake.

During the class, I didn't think I was doing all that well. I'm sloppy. I push everything as far as it will go. I was going too fast.

Added to all of these naturally-wrong instincts was the fact that I fell over with the bike the first time we had to ride it in a straight line. The bike fell on my leg - bad. My elbow was bleeding and took a few bandaids. My fingers weren't working because of a bicycle accident two weeks earlier. If I doubted how serious this excursion was going to be, I found out right away.

After we had to do tight turns, the instructor gave a speech about how only a few people could really control their bikes at slow speeds. For some reason, he spent the whole speech staring at me. I just figured I must be the worst in the class.

I spent the night after my first day on the range concentrating on every single move we had to make. The last thing I did before leaving the class was ask my instructor why I couldn't stop. With frustration, he explained that he couldn't really tell but it was one of two things. All night I thought about how to correct both, just to be on the safe side.

On the second day of range practice, I kept up the speed but had more control. I stopped perfectly and the instructor sent me on to practice other skills.

During the test I aced everything. I was surprised that most people in the class couldn't do the tight turns. I guess the instructor looked at me because I could handle the bike at slow speeds.

Each step of the process on the range took all of my concentration, strength, and courage. It's worse on the street with traffic.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Cars Can Change Your Life

One night last week my husband explained that the car wouldn’t start. Since it was in the garage, I just left it there. The next day I jumped in the Jeep. Between piano lessons and soccer practice the Jeep wouldn’t start. How can both vehicles stop running at the same time?

For most families this would be a catastrophe but we have a Class B RV van and a classic ’72 Hurst, so I just grabbed another set of keys. After a few trips in the bulky RV and a realization that it didn’t fit in the school carpool lane, I went with the Hurst, which we call “Sylvester”.

Sylvester is great for Sunday drives as a family and perfect-weather evenings with the windows down. As it’s all white with gold racing strips, heads turn at every intersection. The front hood is soooo long and the V8 is mighty powerful. The attention from passerby is addictive. People wave and smile.

Both vehicles were in the shop for a week. The old car grew really old.

As I raced from appointment to pickup to practice, I kept glancing at the dashboard clock, except there is no dashboard clock. Honestly, I didn’t realize how much I look at the clock all day. Old cars don’t have cup holders either. In the morning my coffee mug was stuck between my legs and in the afternoon my bottle of green tea. Here’s the worst part, only an AM radio. Granted, I like news radio but not all the time, so I had to drive around with my ipod in my ears. Those little conveniences never meant anything to me. All the hoopla about cup holders always seemed ridiculous, but my perspective changed.

Each day I felt out of place. For some reason I was always a few minutes late. I had to keep using a key to open the doors. A key takes longer than a remote and the doors are more difficult to open. Sometimes the key needs to be jiggled to get the car started. Most of the time I didn’t have a reason for being late but everything was just slower. Since the car is so precious I had to drive carefully. Other drivers look at Sylvester and vere off in unexpected patterns. Driving requires more time and attention.

I had no idea that a vehicle could make such a difference. Day after day I felt out of sorts, cut off from my life. Your vehicle changes the way you feel. So for the first time in my life, I’m wondering what I could feel like behind the wheel of a different automobile.

I’ve never had a dream car. My dad bought me an old Duster with racing stripes and slated windows when I graduated from college but I was never fond of it. When I bought my first car my goal was dependability and price. The Buick Skyhawk looked cool in black but then the dealership called and reported that the car was discontinued in black. When we married, my husband and I bought a Jeep Cherokee because it felt right to both of us, rugged, ready to work. My husband picked out the current sedan and even though I knew it would wind up being mine when his commute as a professor ended, my only request was cutting-edge safety features for our new baby son.

Practical. I’ve always been practical. My recent week with Sylvester made me realize that cars can change the way you feel about yourself. Can a new life really be as easy as a new set of car keys? If it’s true I want a sports car, preferably a convertible. Sleek and fast for dodging around town. Ease and style would be at my fingertips in every suburban parking lot.

Although very powerful, our fine automobiles are not the only material thing capable of changing your day. Last year, I just felt down in the dumps when I rolled out of bed. Resisting the temptation to put on old baggy clothes to mirror my feelings, I grabbed a flattering outfit and put on the war paint. Down at the kid’s school, everyone responded to me with enthusiasm because I looked happy. I knew that if I was standing there dressed like I felt, nobody would have been cheery.

All the world’s a stage. My son is going to be the prince in Cinderella. He’s very upset because they are stuck with the forest set from the preceding play. He wants a castle. He wants the right props. Without them, it just won’t be the same.

Our everyday lives can also benefit from the right scenery. Brandishing the props – cars or clothes – can set the stage for success but really it’s all about your attitude. The way you feel is the way people will respond. These things shouldn’t matter but we’re human in a material world.

The convertible will make me feel just fine.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Carrying Around the Past

When I descend the stairs to the basement, my heart sinks. A sea of boxes clutters the unfinished footprint of our house. Many of my childhood possessions, including all my dolls, grow dusty and old. Up until now, I haven’t been able to part with them. Will I ever be rid of them?

For a long time I felt isolated from my past. My childhood and college years didn’t seem real. The whirlwind of kid and volunteer activities enveloped me and nothing existed before my present life as a mom in the suburbs. When I tried to describe the sensation to my husband, he didn’t understand my desire to embrace those distant, and often unhappy, days.

Last year, I peeked inside the basement boxes and remembered playing with the dolls and cleaning my room. The physical presence of the items reminded me of my parents’ divorce and my desire to leave that place. Then after many years without contact, I spent a couple of weekends with a good friend from college. Having someone else remember all the same exploits reaffirmed my memories, but also forced me to acknowledge the waywardness of my behavior. These connections to my past made me feel whole, but also brought pain.

The more I accept my past and talk about it, the more I’m convinced I can actually get rid of the boxes.

Perhaps we reach a point in our lives when it’s time for a spring cleaning. A good toss of all the shortcomings we’ve been carrying around since our childhood. In order to free ourselves, we need to confront our memories. By letting go, we can be the person we want to be.

Unencumbered by our mistakes and the missteps of others, we can make sure we are headed in the right direction to accomplish what we want with the rest of our lives. Although we may think we are on the right path, if we chose it many years ago, it may not lead to the life we want.

The old possessions can be donated or brought to the dump. I’m ready to trust that my past will always be with me without these material objects. Up until now I thought discarding these things would be a betrayal, as if I was turning my back on my family and our history. By accepting the good and the bad, the betrayal disappears.

Lately, I spend a great deal of time thinking about the person I want to be. Hopefully with a lighter load, moving on will be easier.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Motorcycle Moments

“Don’t you think that’s dangerous?” my friend asked with a slight frown. Last week I excitedly signed up to take the Basic Riders Course required for a motorcycle license. Friends’ comments vary from cool to crazy, but this decision has been years in the making and it’s mine.

Since my dad always looked out for his little girl, he adamantly forbade me to get on the back of a bike. He had good reason to discourage motorcycles when the drivers were young and irresponsible. One afternoon when I was standing in my uncle’s barnyard in Upstate New York, one of the guys took the turn onto the bridge too fast. The motorcycle made it, but he didn’t. As I watched, his right leg was broken back in an unnatural position. The ambulance took forever while he screamed in pain then grew silent. We thought we were losing him until they started to cut off his jeans. He yelled, “I don’t have on any underwear!” His worry over this detail assured us that he was going to be fine. Dad’s warnings were justified.

Years later as an adult, my dad’s rule was very much on my mind when my husband asked me to ride. We were only dating back then, but I trusted him and jumped on the back of a bike. He would take me out over the mountains in rural Pennsylvania. Soaring over the hills with my arms around him was the most exhilarating feeling. I never wanted to let go.

After we had our first child, my husband took possession of one of his family’s bikes. With an authoritative attitude, I deemed the Washington, DC area too dangerous. As parents, it would be irresponsible for the both of us to get on a motorcycle. No need for my father’s warnings, my own apprehensions were taking precedent. My husband suggested I get a license. He rightly surmised that if I was on my own bike, I would agree to ride. Although an enticing idea, I was soon pregnant with our second son and it didn’t happen.

Last year I signed up for the motorcycle course but had to cancel because my husband took a different year-long work detail and we had to go away that week. Fighting a strong feeling that this was the end of it, I promised myself that in a year I would take the course. Now I’m signed up four months in advance, waiting for my reward.

The little voice in my head is very much warning me to be careful. Even so, there’s no doubt that my time to hit the road on two wheels is finally arriving, my very own motorcycle moment.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Not Seeing the Big Circle Around Us

Yesterday my boys went to their first practice for the track team. My oldest ran up a steep hill three times with ease. The younger one kept smiling and running with enthusiasm. I was proud of their dedication.

At the end the coach called the team together. There must be more than 80 kids from 1st grade through middle school. He asked them to form a big circle and face in one direction. At first I didn’t notice my two boys in the middle with their backs to me. I was chatting and joking with a fellow parent. We both noticed them at the same time. As I don’t sugarcoat anything about my kids, I blurted out, “Oh my gosh, look at my kids!” We laughed. I tried to decide if I should go across the field and into the giant circle and make them stand like everyone else. They were listening to the coach. If I went out there, I would draw attention to them and create a scene.

How can you not notice when everyone else is doing something? As kids we’ve all stood in a circle for games. You feel the energy surrounding you. Everyone is looking at you. How could you possibly not notice?

When we came home I asked them about it. At first it was crowded so they stayed toward the front and everyone else must have moved. That was it.

Have you ever noticed other people oblivious to a situation?

I was tempted to give examples like someone eating while everyone else at the table waits to be served or someone talking on a cell phone in a quiet room, but this is not rudeness. It’s something else.

When my father was dying, the complications from his diabetes worsened over a couple of years. As I describe the situation, you know he is close to death. He was blind. His kidneys had failed and dialysis wasn’t working. Gigantic calcium deposits the size of baseballs were all over his body. He was missing parts of his fingers and toes to gangrene. Doctors came in to examine him because they had never seen someone so far along. Each of these conditions was a small battle. They developed over years and he survived each one. He would get through.

His sister is squeamish and came to the hospital. I changed his socks as a matter of course. She ran out of the room. Down at the end of the hall she cried and told me I had to know he was dying. I didn’t know, not really. There had been so many hospital visits and he was only 50 and I just kept taking care of him. It took someone to tell me directly before I saw it.

The bar moves slightly and you adjust. This continues to happen and you don’t realize how much things have changed. My boys made an adjustment to where they were standing and never realized the true situation. We all just keep plowing forward in life. It’s easy to say we should take stock of our situations and notice if things are different, but there’s no guarantee we will. That’s why we need other people to understand and help us join the circle.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Lying for Your Spouse

Yesterday I realized a friend lied to me a year ago. Back then I didn’t know that her marriage was dysfunctional. I believed her. I believed this lie for a full year even after learning how she lies to everyone to survive her narcissistic husband and cover up the terrible distress of her family. She left me in the lurch that day because I had been depending on her. It was a bit of a disaster.

Up until this point I have been understanding, but I became angry. The anger spread to a couple of other friends who had lied to me in the last few months.

In one case the husband and wife told me two completely different stories. One was elaborate with many details and the other was a simple denial of the situation. I’d always believed the long-winded story but my ten-year-old son declared that the story is probably the lie. After spending a night thinking about it, he may be right. I now realize that the friend was trying to tell me something else with that story. Who knows? I just know one of them lied.

The other case was a simple lie, an excuse. I found out because someone I know was excitedly telling me about an event. The details did not fit with what my friend had told me. I must have had disbelief on my face so this person continued to add details to confirm the date, time, and people. Truthfully, I didn’t want to know. During the conversation, I just wanted to believe that my friend had not lied. When pounded with the facts, I couldn’t deny it. Although there could be reasons, it was still a lie to me.

In all three cases the lie involved the friends’ spouses. Can I ever believe anything someone tells me regarding their spouse? Seriously, I’m in doubt.

As a Philosophy major I had to read a book about lying. One of the basic premises of survival is that people will lie to protect self and kin. Remembering this tenet does not help me gain faith in my friends, but rather confirms a sad reality.

Currently I am rereading Rockville Pike by Susan Coll. In this story the main character, Jane Kramer, starts lying to everyone. Her marriage is in dire straits and she finds herself covering for it with more and more lies. She contemplates the person she has become.

In all of the cases where my friends have lied to me, I believe there are problems with the marriages. Some hide it much better than others. My husband doesn’t agree, so maybe I’m just trying to find a way to at least trust some friends. If I can deem a marriage strong with good communication, maybe I can trust those friends. I’m grasping at straws.

We all want our lives to appear perfect. The public image of a happy family that interacts with the community and is willing to meet people and be friendly is paramount to a little white lie.

Now that my guard is up, I’m fearful that I will scrutinize everything that people say to me. Since you really can’t function this way in life, I will have to believe people. However, I doubt I will invest any emotional energy into what people say to me. The only thing to do is go forward in good faith, but protect yourself.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Is It Real or Fake Friendship?

One local fellow wrote that he was glad we are “friends” on facebook.com. We have met at public meetings and I would talk to him, but it is very true that we are not friends in real life. Since his profiIe was up on facebook, I sent a friend request. In “fake life” we are now “friends”.

What kind of friends are these people? I see references to “online friends” and “cyber friends”. There are poems about cyber friends. Websites designed to help you make netfriendships. There is no expectation of knowing these people in the flesh. I know I’m not nearly the first person to wonder about this, but every day I see more ads and ways to connect online. To me it always seems like a waste of time, or a way to stop the loneliness, or an addiction to interacting. Even so, sometimes you do become closer to these people online, but is it really a friendship?

In my life around town, I know a lot of people, talk to a lot of people, and refer to a lot of people as friends. Because I volunteer in so many places, I have people to interact with in real life, so I’m having trouble processing these new cyberfriendships. Why do people do it? Is it a hopeful sign that we constantly want to reach out to strangers in this world? To me it feels like we are on a path to the oneness of death by joining together beyond the physical world. Now that’s too heavy, but this internet world does swirl around me. It can also disappear with the push of a button.

My disapproval seems to be at the falseness of the online friends. It’s like some type of hobby where you collect things, except in this case it’s people’s profiles. You learn things about people that you wouldn’t if you were say … just neighbors. Sometimes the information is too personal and directed at others but you are exposed to it. Most of the time people are putting their best foot forward or simply promoting themselves.

Online friends can give advice but they aren’t going to be able to help you move or water your plants when you are away. You can exchange ideas but the friendship isn’t real. These new kind of relationships depend on the amount of time you can spend on the laptop, as it sits right here on the counter while I dash around doing chores. Sometimes it feels more like an addiction which is usually when I stop.

Will I be better friends in real life with my “friend”. We’ll see.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The One and ONLY One Requirement for a Spouse

This week I have decided that there is one and only one criteria when picking a spouse, the quality of the sex. Society deems it acceptable to go outside the marriage for every other facet of matrimony but not sex, so you had better make sure it is good.

The public really frowns on affairs and prostitution which is very evident in the media frenzy concerning former Gov. Spitzer this week. He apparently admits to both. You just can’t, can’t, can’t go outside the marriage for sex. Think about it, for everything else it is perfectly fine.

If your spouse doesn’t like to talk, you can talk to a friend. Why stop at one friend? Find a bunch. We all have cell phones. I always wonder who everyone is talking to when they almost run me off the road. It can’t always be a spouse. You can also depend on family members like siblings, mothers, fathers, or aunts. Talking with a trustworthy individual about all sorts of personal subjects is completely acceptable. You can have a best friend in your corner to support you in everything that you do. Society will not blink an eye at the relationship.

If your spouse won’t support your career path, then find a mentor, depend on a coworker, or get a counselor. Recently I even read an article on “work spouses”. People actually admit that they are very close to someone of the opposite sex at work, confide in them, go out with them, watch each other’s backs, discuss everyone else at the office, and basically share everything. I’d never been in one of these, but I think about Jim and Pam on “The Office”. All said and done, this type of relationship seems to be accepted by people.

How about if your spouse is a terrible cook? What about if you both hate to cook? If you are really rich, you can hire one. There’s always the possibility of takeout every night or going out to eat. Fast food restaurants or prepared meals from the supermarket are also extremely easy options. You needn’t marry someone who can cook.

Same goes for cleaning. You can always hire a cleaning service. Both spouses can be pigs.

You may not agree on financial matters but there really is only so much money, so you are forced to work these problems out.

If you belong to different political parties or religions, it’s alright to go your separate ways and follow your heart. Want to play a sport that your spouse hates? Go right ahead and join a team. You can watch sports with your friends too and yell your head off. If you love books, join a book club. Thank goodness for ipods if you like completely different types of music and you can always go to a concert with a fellow fan.

Society really doesn’t care.

You do have to agree on whether to have children or not but there are countless instances of infertility or accidents that change people’s plans. This one is not entirely up to the couple but there should be agreement, or at least nieces and nephews you can borrow if need be.

Thinking about having kids, brings me back to sex. You can’t go elsewhere for this one, so it sure better be knock your socks off as in “I never imagined it could be this excellent in my wildest dreams.” It’s the one and only thing you must exclusively get from your spouse so no other criteria matters when getting married.

Believe me, I never thought I would say this because it sounds so shallow and purely physical. Since sex really is the most absolutely awesome thing you can do, why wouldn't you make it your number one priority for your entire married life when you know you can’t get it anywhere else?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

One Small Way

Last year, my friend Christine gave me a book, Through the Eye of the Storm by Cholene Espinoza. She buys them by the case and gives them away because all the proceeds go to building a community education center to serve the Katrina survivors in Mississippi. The book is written by a phenomenal pilot who witnessed the devastation from the hurricane and was moved to action to help rebuild a community. Along the way she makes many discoveries about herself. The faith and strength of this book continues with me each day. Quite frankly, I’m in awe of these women. Amidst the overwhelming feeling of despair we all feel about Katrina, they are making a difference in one community.

Last year at my Episcopal church, I was talking in my usual way. I found myself suggesting that it would be great to have a coffee house. We should fling wide the doors of our parish and invite the community to perform. We had never had a coffee house at the church nor had I ever organized one, but I love music and thought that everyone would have a good time.

Ideas flew around and we decided to collect donations for Richmond, South Africa, a community living in poverty. Three women from our parish who work in medical fields were going to travel to meet this community and hear their needs. All the better if my fun little coffee house can help someone. We wound up raising $1,800 and collecting a few hundred dollars worth of items that the women would take on the plane with them to make sure they were not stolen during delivery, which happens. The idea was to have a fund so that when they came back with a clear understanding of what they needed, we could help.

In life, I’m just the inspiration and the organizer. I do events in my sleep. I haven’t spoken to the women since they returned two weeks ago. Last week one gave me a small African instrument because of the coffee house, but that has been the extent of my contact.

Some of the items we collected were for a sewing business. We gave them supplies so that they could sew and sell. Many international programs have been established to help people move toward self sufficiency in developing nations.

At their presentation this week, I was listening to the stories about the people, the conditions, and the facilities. The sewing shop was not great and had substandard machines, but the women were dedicated and trying to earn a living. They need three sewing machines and a press. The women from my church told them to buy them.

They made this announcement in the middle of the presentation, amid pictures that showed smiling women displaying their work, a report that they don’t have a bathroom, and the fact that the shop is next to a very busy liqueur store.

They are going to use the money to buy sewing machines. I was overwhelmed to know that far away in the desert in South Africa women are going to be able to sew to earn a livelihood with machines bought with the money from my coffee house idea. It was a powerful moment. In a tiny, tiny way I understand how Cholene Espinoza feels reaching out to help. The world is filled with problems and it’s not much help, but we will make a difference to these women and their families.

What should they sew that will sell here in the United States? They make pillows and placemats. Someone suggested baby bibs. What ideas do you have?

Monday, March 10, 2008

I Finally Know Someone Behind the Myspace Mask

Today I discovered a myspace account. It belongs to a friend who is married with a kid. It states that he is Single and a Leo. He used a different name “Hugh” but the correct hometown. I don’t think he’s THAT much younger than me but let’s not quibble about that claim. There’s no picture.

For those women out there who have myspace accounts, you may know about the propositions. Often they are from men without pictures that want to start an email correspondence. Some are from places far away and some are from your metro area. I’ve always suspected that the ones that live far away are not that far away.

I wonder about these men. I’m very clear about being married but my husband always says that I’m worth a shot by these guys. They “like my smile”. Think I’m “intelligent like them”. I seem “fun and full of life”. They really would “enjoy talking to me”. One even admitted to a bad marriage and thought mine might be bad too. At least he was honest about wanting to have an affair. My suspicion was that he was someone I knew.

I’m in it for the bands. Really! My niece set me up so I could follow and promote bands. I was a college radio station disc jockey. I love music and wish we would have had myspace twenty years ago. But hey, the internet has killed college radio stations. Every single person has access to all the music so we don’t need someone to play all the new, unknown stuff for us. Come to think of it, thank goodness we didn’t have the internet because I loved that microphone!

Back to my friend with the fake myspace. He hasn’t touched it in more than a year. What did he try? Did he send a few messages? Did he just think about it? It’s not like Facebook where you need to have an account to see other people’s pages, plus he lied so there’s more going on.

All marriages have their ups and downs. I know his wife and have a feel for their marriage. It’s just so engrossing to finally have proof about one of these myspace guys. Was he drunk late at night? Why hasn’t he erased it?

To me, myspace is like being out at a bar, which is probably why I love it so much. There’s a band, a bunch of people who want to have a good time, and someone sends over a drink. Sorry, I’m just here for the music and I’m married but I understand because I look like I’m having a good time. No harm done.

However, I've been naïve about all of my extramarital affair options on such sites as: http://www.marriedcafe.com/, http://www.housewivesmatchonline.com/, http://www.discreetadventures.com/, or http://www.meet2cheat.com/.

With statistical claims that 60% of married men and 40% of married women admit to having affairs, this is big business.

If you are truly interested, why not just go full force with one of these sites? Why even bother with myspace? Will it be more real if you find the woman on your own and start a cyber dialog? Can you justify it by saying that it “just happened”? You “weren’t really looking just chatting online”?

I’m not going to mention the myspace find to him, but I’m curious. I considered asking to friend him so he knows that he has been found out, but he might take that the wrong way. I finally know one of these guys!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

That Must Be a Murdered Body Over There

When I was out running a couple of weeks ago, I saw clothes in the woods and my first thought was that it must be a dead body. Now, why would I think that? I wondered if everyone would think they were seeing a dead body.

Today someone must have forgotten a jacket on a log and I thought the same thing. The thought is very matter-of-fact with no emotion attached. We live in a nice suburban City and there really is no reason to be thinking there are dead bodies lying around.These are those quick, instant thoughts that slip out before you even know it. Where do they come from?

As I jogged along, I remembered that when I was five they found a dead man’s body in the lot next to my house. No identification on the body. No one knew who he was. My father explained that it was probably a mob hit, no big deal. They killed him over in New York and dumped him in the lot next to our house in New Jersey during the night because they could loop around the ramp straight back to New York.

When Tony Soprano drives out of the Lincoln Tunnel and gets on the NJ Turnpike at my exit, his fictional route passes about 200 feet from my childhood house. I love this TV sequence and study every detail everytime. It might have been a mob hit!

Is this why I think dead bodies will turn up during my nice run through the neighborhood? Why do we have these crazy first thoughts pop into our minds when we least expect it? In this case, I really think I was so young that I accepted the situation as normal.

Have you had such strange first thoughts? Do you understand why you have them?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Did She Just Threaten Me?

This morning I was waiting for our PTA President to finish talking with the mother who is chairing a school activity. I would step outside then back in again while waiting to wave to my son's class before school started. So I overheard parts of the conversation and was REALLY glad I wasn't having it!

The PTA President is a warm and caring woman who I consider a friend. She grew up in Puerto Rico and reminds me of a girl from my childhood. When I was in grammar school Addie would exert a great deal of time trying to get me to look better. She was very open and honest and pulled you right in. By the way, it never worked. I was hopeless and just didn't care about what I looked like.

So here is our volunteer President who is a very special, caring person and she's being told in a forceful voice that if this Chair doesn't get exactly what she wants, somebody else can chair the event next time.

I was reminded of the kids yelling at each other "If you don't do it, I won't be your friend anymore!" We try to teach the kids that they shouldn't threaten this and now a parent is doing it!

We all get caught up in our projects and work. Her overreaction indicates just how dedicated she is to this project. The President continued to talk to her and explain and look for a way to make the situation better. We all know I admire talking to stop negativity.

After the Chair left, the President wanted to know if the proper word was "threaten". Was that a threat? Yes it was! This issue is far from over and no doubt will take up some official meeting time.

As a volunteer, you don't need people threatening you. You need team players with positive attitudes. It's this type of situation that gives PTAs a bad reputation! Please take a step back before lashing out at a fellow volunteer.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Are You Like a Cartoon Character?

During a conversation with a friend today, he blurted out that I was Peppermint Patty. I always thought I was Lucy. He didn't think so.

Since I always had good grades and was never an athlete, I never considered myself like good old Patricia Reinchardt. Also, I notice everything about everyone so I'm not so clueless about others, and their names (Chuck), and whether they are dogs or human, or how they are reacting to me.

How am I like Peppermint Patty? I can see that people would call me "Sir". My family thinks I would be the first one kicked off Survivor because I would start telling everyone the best way to do things (but they say "boss everyone around on how to build the shelter"). For Pete's sake, I'm just a mom in their lives, and that's my job. Friends do seem to follow me around. I definitely had a Marcie in my life from time to time. Also I enter a situation like "Chuck's" baseball team and do immediately work to improve it by being pitcher. As we know, I was a tomboy and was friends with all the guys. Actually dating is an area where I was completely clueless like Peppermint Patty. At least one really cool guy apparently tried to get my attention for a long time. I didn't notice until he took drastic and direct action.

How well do you know yourself? Are you like a cartoon character? My friend is not like any of the Peanut characters. He's not like any character I have ever known. What about you?

Image from www.snoopy.com

Monday, March 3, 2008

Perhaps It's the Little Proactive Actions

At a Christmas party last year, I was talking to someone I had just met in the kitchen. He had lived in our City his whole life and worked for the same company for over 20 years. Hearing first hand accounts of the olden days is something I enjoy immensely.

The hostess came in the kitchen and warned, "Oh, be careful talking to her. It will all seem good and you will be happy and she'll talk you into doing something and you won't even know it." He won't even know it? Apparently when I talk to people we share ideas and you leave excited to take some action. I will have tricked you into doing something you think you want to do.

(Now I'll confess, I had just suggested that he and his wife attend an event I was planning. She was right.)

For over two months I have been thinking about this comment and how I interact with people. I don't think I am pushy, but I get excited talking to people. I love talking to folks and finding common ground or new perspectives. I'm not judgemental and actually seek out different opinions. My goal is to always understand where someone is coming from and why they are acting or speaking as they do. I accept people for who they are.

So what does this mean in daily life? Do I inspire people to do things for the common good? The world is full of books and theories about how people should interact, how we can engage them, and what it will take. What does it take?

My experience always results in the same answer - personal contact. Reaching out to someone and talking works. In the conversation you can find agreement and a course of action.

Take for example the day I voted. I knew the person in front of me but had not seen her in almost five years. We recognized each other but didn't remember names. Of course we did not admit we didn't remember names but we didn't.

She and her husband were making comments about the line to vote which wasn't that long but usually there is no line at our voting place. There was some griping. I had to break up my sons who were arguing while we waited on this line I didn't expect.

I could have just thought, "How terrible she is complaining." but I didn't. I asked where her kids were. They're in private school so they had school that day. I explained that they really needed Election Judges to work the polls. They were short on volunteers. This is why there is a line and for the general election it will be longer. I always want to be a judge but can't because I have no one to watch my kids who go to public school. They don't have school on election days because we use the buildings to vote.

She said she could be a judge because she realized her kids would be in school for the next election. She laughed and it was so cool to see someone think about being part of the solution.

Personal contact is the way to motivate people to improve a situation. Judging people and complaining about them will not help. Although I have been worried about the impression I make on others, I don't believe I'm wrong to help people see a different way and challenge their perspectives as I try not to bneg.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Am I the Kind of Person Who Can Do This?

If you had asked me last week if I could survive three additional boys living with us, I would have said no. I'm not that kind of person. Deep down in my heart, I know for sure I am not that kind of person. If I was, I would have had more kids!

I tried to say I couldn't take care of these kids for five days/six nights. All my friends knew I didn't have the strength. I said I couldn't do it but the mom called in desperation with no other options. She has another dream of this next best position and the mandatory trip required to be successful. I felt like I had no option and agreed.

On Tuesday, the day of arrival, I finally went to a yoga class. My goal was inner strength to center me for this ordeal. What I truly forgot about was the physical pain a new class brings. I didn't know the class would be an hour and a half. The owner is a friend and I always meant to help out her business by taking some classes. Yoga at home when I feel like it is more my style. I'm not a "joiner" when it comes to exercise because I hate to exercise.

By Wednesday I was popping pain killers all day but I had inner strength. As a matter of fact, I completely surprised myself with my positive attitude and ability to handle it all - different drop offs, a preschooler again, some crying, no backpacks, nonstop requests, no socks or underwear, no long sleeve shirts in winter, no phone calls - everything. I was on a dedicated high and could handle anything.

Last night my head was killing me. I never sleep but I slept for eight hours and was still drained this morning. Some one's eye was just hurt playing and they are yelling. Only two more days to go, but it is the weekend and there is no school.

Someone commented that I must be really good friends with her. As friends go, I would say that I am not. I just feel that if life had dealt me her hand, I would want someone to be there for me. I always admire how she never gives up. I've always been sure I could not be a single mom but really you need to take it one day at a time and hope for the best.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What Happens When Your Kids Aren't Friends?

When I was a kid, I remember my mother wanting to take me to visit a friend of hers for coffee in the afternoon. The friend had a son, Freddie, who was exactly the same age as me. I didn't want to go. He wasn't my friend. She showed me a picture of the two of us sitting together before we were even one year olds. The idea being that we have known each other forever and wouldn't it just be great to see him again. Of course, I went. You really have no choice as a kid.

Now that I have two kids, I realize the same situations occur. I drag the kids to be with families and the kids really aren't their friends but they make do. Luckily, we have Nintendo.

This past week I realized that my son wasn't invited to another boy's party. The mom and I are friends and I thought the boys were too, but apparently not. That's okay. When I asked my son who should be invited to his party, he named 14 kids but not her son. In the past they were, but now they are not.

Every year I make my kids invite everyone to their parties, even if the festivities are in my house. That's how you get 18 kids in the living room. The thought of leaving someone out or excluding one of my friend's kids is unacceptable to me. In my mind, everybody has to be included. I would never want there to be "hard" feelings. Friendship is more important than anything else.

Lately, I'm beginning to feel like I'm the only one that thinks this way. Other people seem to exclude friends without a care. She's not really a part of this. Her son is not really friends with my son.

All this makes me feel hardened. I'm thinking I need to exclude people in order to be like everyone else. Friendship doesn't need to be a priority. Has everyone else given up like me? Does everyone else just not have the ability to think of other's feelings?

I know a mom who used to make her first son sacrifice what he wanted for the good of the others. With her second son, she decided to do what was best for him and not others. I agreed with her decision at the time and I realize I may have come to the same conclusion. It's sad to look out for yourself and not others.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tustle at the Voting Machine

Today I went to vote in the presidential primary with my two sons in tow. One wanted the woman and the other one wanted the black man. I was undecided, which is highly unusual for me. I picked one yesterday, then stood in the parking lot and couldn’t decide.

I’ve been talking to two friends who were both undecided too. They were not enthusiastic about either candidate. One is a gay man and the other a Jewish woman. I’m a Christian woman for the record. Why were people turning out in record numbers? We weren’t inspired.

As I was voting I couldn’t vote for the candidate I had decided upon. I flipped. One son was happy and the other screamed loudly, “You’re voting wrong! Can I vote? You’re voting wrong, noooo!” He almost seemed like he was going to push me out of the way and take over.

It was music to my ears, and a bit embarrassing. He felt strongly about a candidate. He had been having 5th grade discussions at school. Parents had been encouraged to explain their thoughts on the Presidential election. He’s a cub scout. I put great emphasis on participating in public life. Always take them to vote with me and they always get stickers.


I’m hoping, I really am hoping that I’m raising them right. I want them to have opinions, feel free to express them, and vote. His frustration with me was terrific. Just six more years!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Power Trip at the Grocery Store

Today it happened again. I bag my own groceries at the supermarket and the person in front of me stood in my way. This happens quite frequently but lately it's every time.

This older woman has all her bags in the cart and stands blocking the checkout aisle where I need to put my groceries in the bag. Even after the groceries have come down the belt the woman just stood there blocking me. I'm forced to have the check out person hand me the items, so I can put them in the bag.

I would chalk this one up to this one person just not realizing it, but it is every type and age of woman and it is every week. Why can't they move down to the end of the aisle and fuss with their wallet like I do? I don't think it is any more of a risk to take a few steps to put away your credit card. They all realize what is going on. They know they are inconveniencing me. I would move out of someone's way.

This is the ultimate power trip. It happens when people are driving too. They have that space, even if just for an extremely small amount of time, and they are not giving it up. I drive around blocks rather than block traffic. Some people's self importance is unbelievable. Why aren't people more considerate of others? Can't we put ourselves in other's shoes?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Numbers Stacked Against the Double Four Happiness

Last week I turned 44 years old. My good friend, Amy, a statistician, decided that she would mathematically prove that being 44 was happy because somehow it all came down to the number 1. Then she proved 2008 was also a happy number 1.

Boy oh boy, a happy age in a happy year! Things were looking up.

Then she sadly had to admit to the entire email list that she had made a mathematical error. All my friends then knew I was in for an unhappy year because both were 2's instead, and 2 is apparently a very, very bad number.

BUT, two is my lucky number! When I was a little kid I won a prize at the Sportsman show in the Catskills, NY with the number 2! The first time I had ever won anything. It was immediately my lucky number. Several years later at a carnival I had the overwhelming feeling that the number 2 was going to win on the spin wheel. I ran with all my might across the fairgrounds and threw my quarter on the board landing squarely in the number 2 space. Sure enough, the wheel spun and I won a big stuffed animal. I know 2 is lucky for me and I know when it is lucky for me.

I put the whole thing out of my mind. Then my friend, Trish, emails me that she just heard on the radio that people are the most unhappy when they are 44. After 44 is over, then they are fine again. Contrary to this report she said I seemed really happy lately. There must be something wrong with me.

Has everyone gone insane? I tried to google "radio unhappy 44" but couldn't find a written report. Is EVERYONE determined to convince me that I am going to be unhappy this year. I refuse. I hate when anyone tells me what to do.

But finally she sent me the link: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Depression/story?id=4208216&page=1 I always thought it was in your 50's but apparently my recent observations of everyone in their 40's going off the deep end is correct. They surveyed 2 million people to discover that the midlife crisis occurs in your 40's and people are at their most depressed when 44 years old.

I don't like the number 3. I'm glad to be the Double Four. I've even got this great "Double Four" nickname for this year. I'm going to have an even better year than usual just to prove everyone wrong. Then maybe I'll be depressed.