Wednesday, May 27, 2009

They're Coming to Take Me Away..I hope

So here we are, exactly 2 days into summer vacation and I am already wondering what momentary lapse of reason caused me to believe that I could work from home whilst the munchkins were at large.

It's not as if my line of work requires any sort of concentration or quietude..oh, wait...that's right...I'm supposed to be writing a flippin' book!!!

I am not upset with the kids. They are just being very 12 and 10. But I am upset with my lack of discipline. The only way that this is going to work out is if I plan WAY ahead and don't allow things like this morning to upset me.

What happened this morning? What didn't happen is a better question.

After informing the children that I would be off limits for the next two hours to write, I decided to whip up some mac and cheese so that come lunch time, all they'd have to do was zap it in the microwave. After the noodles were ready, I realized that we were out of milk. 30 minutes later, I'm back from the store and ready to start my writing session. Only now, the stove suddenly isn't working. Checked the breaker box. Still not working. OK. Plan B. The noodles are done, so I'll just pop them and the "cheesey" part of the mixture in the microwave, have Hal look at the stove when he gets home, and get started on that writing.

Only now, the microwave isn't working. Checked the breaker box. Still not working.

SO, I fixed sandwiches and finally made my way back to my office to sit down and start writing. Only now, I'm so flustered that the last thing I want to write about his how to stay calm in the midst of a storm.

So, readers, I'm turning to you to vent. Thanks for listening. And if anyone knows a good appliance repairman, I'm all ears. I'll be in my office, not writing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Silenced the Lambs

So readers, this afternoon I did something so brave, so fearless, that I feel as if I could take on the world and actually win. I faced one of my biggest fears today. I looked death in the eye. I went toe to toe with a giant.

What exactly, you ask, did I do?

I cleaned out our backyard shed.

Dear readers, this shed isn't your typical backyard shed. This is the mother of all creepy sheds. I'm talking Silence of the Lambs scary. It had ivy covering the front and on more than one occasion, I saw little critters crawling out of it. It was left here by the previous owners of this house and I have only tried to open it once (in two years). When I pried open the creaky door, something fell over and I swear I saw a body part in a jar - ok, so maybe it was an old gas can, but I wasn't taking any chances. I ran for the hills and left it alone...until today.

Every day when I do dishes, I see this eyesore out of the kitchen window and every time I see it, I feel weak. Today, I decided to do something about it. I suppose all this talk about Memorial Day got to me. If all these brave men and women could fight for my freedom, I could certainly tackle this shed. So, I put on long sleeves, jeans, work gloves, and a hat. I grabbed my machete (yes, I have one...doesn't everyone?) and a lantern and headed into the abyss.

I whacked my way through the ivy like Michael Douglass in Romancing the Stone and stood in front of the shed breathing deeply. I banged on the door a few times to give whatever might be living in there a heads up and then I pried it open. The shed was packed - floor to ceiling - with the most random assortment of trash you could imagine. The first thing my eye could make out made me question my sanity.It was a huge glass jug filled with dark brown liquid that had something white floating in it. It was now or never. I went straight for it (with a stick, of course) and pulled it toward me. Bit by disgusting bit, I pulled out half empty paint cans, torn rags, broken tools, rotten seeds - you name it - this shed had it.

Surprisingly, nothing had nested in there save for a few spiders and before I knew it, I had pulled every single thing out. One good clean sweep later and I looked at my handiwork. A huge surge of pride shot through me and I felt amazing.

I put in some standing shelves, moved out lawn equipment in, and passed out from exhaustion. Why do I bother telling you this?

Because every day for the past two years, I have at some point or another, felt heavy whenever I saw this shed. I kept thinking - "Boy, I'd like to have this storage space. If only Hal could do this for me....if only we had the money to hire someone to tear it down and buy another one."

I had painted myself in a corner by thinking this way. I was waiting on some external circumstance to happen so that I could feel good about this area in my yard. TWO YEARS I felt this way. And one afternoon is all it took to feel completely different.

Not too shabby. Now, where is my heating pad?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Life Comes at You Fast

Anyone remember those Nationwide commercials where life passes in the blink of an eye? If not, here's a quick reminder...

I thought of this commercial this past Sunday when attending the Milton HS baccalaureate service. Hal was the guest speaker and I, like the supportive wife that I am, went along. It was a beautiful service and I enjoyed a little people watching as an anonymous guest. I watched the graduates hugging each other and grinning from ear to ear. I watched proud mamas and papas snapping pictures and breathing sighs of relief. And I watched my life flash before my eyes.

As Hal stood up in front of those graduates, he spoke about our high school days. And I had a minor panic attack. You see, reader, I remember sitting in those robes. I remember hugging my friends and I remember my parents snapping those photos. Where did the last (cough, cough, ahem) years go? But that's not what caused my shallow breathing and sudden dizzy spell. What brought that on was the sobering realization that my Hannah will be among this enrobed multitude before I know it.

Ok, sure, in six years, but still... if the last (cough, cough, ahem) years went by so fast, won't the next six?

The answer is yes. Life doesn't slow down. In fact, it seems to speed up the older I get. And ultimately, I don't mind. I'm not one of those parents who wants to freeze their child and protect them from growing up. But it did make me reflect just a little how precious the time I do have with my kids is.

I somehow doubt that all of those arguments about dirty clothes and rolling eyes will matter much in May of 2015. I doubt that I'll be grateful for all of those times that instead of just enjoying her company over a magazine, I cleaned out my refrigerator. It may sound trite, but life really does come at you fast.

And while I know it's not realistic to be fully present ALL the time with your kids - heck, that is another problem all of its own - I think that I can do a little better. I can enjoy her a little more and fuss at her a little less... even when she makes it hard to do... especially when she makes that hard to do. Maybe that way, when she walks down that corridor as a high school grad, we'll both be better prepared for life apart.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dumbest Headline Ever...

So this morning, I was flipping through my routine news sites to see what was going on in the world. Apparently, it's a pretty slow news day so far. I read about 6ft. long lizards on runways, what the pope thinks about Obama's speech at ND, and this doozie of a headline.

Are you ready for it?

Why repairs in space are so hard...

Hmmm....I don't know....could it be because THEY ARE IN SPACE?????

Do you mean to tell me that this is the best some crack writer for could do? But maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe we've gotten to the point as a society where we think everything should be getting easier and easier as we get more and more sophisticated with technology.

If so, then we're headed down a dangerous path. The desire for ease and comfort is understandable. We live in a hectic and stressful world and it's nice when something doesn't take much effort. We get ourselves into trouble when we start thinking that nothing should take much effort. We want quick fixes and simple solutions and we want them NOW.

Case in point: Diet aids. How many informercials have you seen that promise you rock hard abs in less than 5 minutes a day? (For the record, I am just as guilty of buying into these lies...see my post on Tony Little's Rock N Roll Stepper) Some things in life just aren't meant to be easy - because they are also meant to teach us something. Parenting is the prime example.

Kids are messy, they don't come with instruction manuals, and they seldom make our lives easier. If you want that kind of performance, get a crock pot. (No, seriously, get one...they are amazing)

Go against the current here and recognize that some things in life, be it repairing a space station or raising a kid, are just plain hard. They take work, patience, skill, and determination. I think you'll be surprised how much easier that makes everything seem.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'm Pretty Sure...

Hannah and I went to the nail salon today, trying to squeeze in a little girl time. We have been cutting back on these little extras in days of late, but I told her that if we just got pedicures, we could go.

We usually frequent the same place near our house, although after today, I don't really know why. They are always a little on the rude side and seem annoyed when we walk in, interrupting their afternoon talk shows.

Today was no exception. We came in and told them in very clear terms that we each wanted a pedicure and nothing else. Once we sat down and got started, one of the technicians came next to me and started preparing her things to do my hands. I politely told her that I only wanted a pedicure. She looked at my nails and tried to guilt me into more services by showing me and all the ladies that work there just how ugly my cuticles were. After telling her no about 4 times, she shrugged her shoulders. I thought I was off the hook, but I was wrong.

She turned her attention to my eyebrows, arched her own, and said, "Well, you want your brows done, don't you?". When I told her no, she broke out into laughter and started talking in Vietnamese. I usually try not to be a paranoid person, but I couldn't help but think of this comedian and her take on what really happens when nail technicians speak in their native tongue...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Paging Dr. Freud

I hope everyone out there had a wonderful Mother's Day. I know that I did. For once, the cards and flowers that I sent to my significant mother figures actually arrived on time (let's hear it for margin!). I didn't cook or clean at all, I went shopping at H&M, and my kids allowed me to snuggle back into the covers an extra few minutes without sneaking in to ask when breakfast would be ready.

Not bad at all.

So, check off another nice Mother's Day and move on to the dog days of summer. But before we leave this Hallmark Holiday for good, I had to point out something that I found the other day while searching for the perfect card to send.

I was drawn to it because of the cute picture - who can resist little feet, after all? But the message inside made me cringe. On the front it says,
"Lately I feel like something has come between us."
and on the inside it reads,

"I'm cool with that. Happy Mother's Day"

Now, I'm probably reading too much into this, but I am a writer - That's what I do.
Does anyone else find this a little Oedipal? Is this what King Claudius gave Queen Gertruude on Mother's Day - a picture of little Hamlet driving a wedge between them?


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Motherly Love?

I just read in the news about a local ATL mother and daughter who were just indicted for a hit and run accident that claimed the lives of 5 people on Easter Sunday. WSB reports that the daughter was driving and caused a chain reaction which led to the deaths and then drove off in her BMW.

Here's the kicker...her mother helped her conceal the crash and repair the car. Now, they are both being charged by the authorities.

This is an extreme case of what we warn parents against. No one likes to see their kids go through something difficult. When they are small, they make small mistakes. They may break a glass window, forget their homework, or hurt a friend's feelings. Those mistakes carry consequences with them. If we protect our kids from those natural consequences, we rob them the ability to learn from their mistakes.

As kids get bigger, their issues and problems grow right along with them. It's our job to prepare them for that growth. While we all want our children to be good decision makers, especially as their decisions carry more weight, we don't really like the idea of them becoming decision makers. That is not easy. And it's not supposed to be.

I feel for this mother, I really do. I know she was scared for her daughter and thought she was helping. That's exactly why we at ScreamFree do what we do. We want to help people see that sometimes, the very thing that you do to help your kids just may end up crippling them in the long run.

Don't be afraid to allow consequences, both natural and those set by you, to do the screaming around your house. Remind yourself that it is better to learn hard lessons early in life when the ramifications of mistakes aren't as severe. A little pain now just may save a lot of heartache later on.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Teen's Take on Cell Phone Checks

This was sent in to me by a ScreamFree certified facilitator. It is a letter written by a seventeen year old discussing the pros and cons of parents instituting cell phone checks. Here is her answer as it appears (poor grammar and all)...

If you're going to look in my phone, you'll find things you don't like. period.

if you went through my cell phone right now here's what you would find you wouldn't like: i use profanity. alot. i'm up way past my bedtime. several innuendos with my boyfriend. i failed my chem test. my best friend was drunk last weekend. my guy friends have sex. my friend drove me home from school last weekend even though I'm not supposed to get in the car with new drivers.

there's probably plenty of material to get me grounded in there.
but here's the thing to think about.
a. what puts me in danger? and b. what can you actually change?

keep all this in mind. I'm an ap and honors student. I'm at the top of my class. I participate in extracurriculars. teachers love me. I have conversations instead of grunting at the dinner table (WOAH WE CAN TALK!)

So whether or not you choose to take action about these things, I caution you against taking the hardline "i'm not your friend" approach.
yes. you're not my friend. its pretty clear. i promise. my worst enemy tells me that less.
but just because were not friends doesn't mean you can't be friendly.
my teacher may not be my friend but that doesn't mean she approaches me wielding my cell phone like an ax and yelling were not friends. well, most teachers don't. in this situation, who's the irrational one, you or your teen?

if you decide to take issue with these things, do it by TALKING to me.
ask me why I'm up so late. ask me why I felt I needed a ride home from a friend. talk to me about why it concerns you.

in the process you might discover that I've been such an irrational human being lately because my boyfriend cheated on me and I don't know how to handle it.
I might have failed the chemistry test because its HARD.
most of my behavior has an explanation.

get a good relationship with your kids. they're people too. think of it more as mentor-mentee rather than tyrant-serf :)
I kindof branched off (sorry!, as a teen I reacted strongly)
but my answer to the question: (finally!)

if youre the parent whos going to demand cell checks; your teen just won't text anything they don't mind you reading. or they'll delete it. they'll also constantly complain about you to their friends and want to go to college very far away.
most teens delete their texts/passcode lock anyway. (not necessarily because were hiding something but because surprise: we think you're as irrational as you think we are)

PICK YOUR BATTLES. focus on winning the long term not the short term fights.

Pretty fascinating stuff. I love that she uses the mentor/mentee analogy to parents and their teens. As our kids get older, our job changes from one who protects to one who prepares.

That's the topic of the Hal Edward show tomorrow. Tune in to from 2-4 EST to hear the conversation and call in with your two cents.

I actually think she's pretty articulate and reasonable...although if I were her parent, I'd ground her for abusing the English language.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Yo' Mama

I am currently working on an article for Mother's Day. I'm toying around with the notion that Mothers are excellent at taking care of everyone except themselves. I know that's not a completely new idea, but I'm really fascinated with exploring it deeper.

So, I've been brainstorming and trolling the internet for inspiration. That's when I came across this little gem. It's one in the series of videos that Mr. T put out in the early 80s. I think I remember seeing it long ago, something about those short camo shorts is burned in my memory.

Check it out just for kicks and pay attention to the following:

1. The mother on the far left is proof that most white people have no rhythm.
2. Apparently in Mr. T's world, it is perfectly normal to not only wear 800 lbs of gold, but also to rhyme the words "groan" and "born".
3. The background dancers get a little carried away at 1:18 and decide to become solo artists.
4. The 80s really were the worst fashion decade ever.

So, if you're lucky enough to have a mother, treat her right. If you ARE a mother, treat yourself right as well.

I pity the fool who don't.