Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Santa's Sweet Reprieve

Santa has been given a reprieve.  It came at the last minute, unexpectedly. 

My son has been full of doubts.  Word on the playground is that there is no Santa Claus.  Just parents pretending.  It's been a struggle for my boy, navigating these strange waters between childhood and adolescence, deciding what gets left behind.  Santa seemed like a sure bet this year. 
     "Mommy," he begins, "I know what I want for Christmas.  The Lego Star Wars Death Star.  It costs $400. online."
     "$400?!  Absolutely not."
     "Why not?"
     "Your dad and I are not spending $400 on a Lego toy.  It's small plastic pieces.  Which will end up scattered through out the house by the next day."
     "So, let me get this straight."  He begins, pacing back and forth in front of me.  Like a well trained defense attorney cross examining a hostile witness.
     "You are saying that there is no Santa.  That it's only you and Daddy."
     "What?  How do you get that from me saying 'No' to the Death Star?"
     "You could have told me to ask Santa.  But, you didn't.  You just said no right away.  Basically, you are telling me there is no Santa.  Isn't that right?"

I want to sit on my hands so that he doesn't see me twisting them nervously about.  What to say?  There is a glint in the boy's eye.  It could go either way.  Do I officially kill off Santa?  Immediately, denial clogs my throat.  I want one more year of believing.  One more year of childhood.

     "Well, what do you think?  Do you think Santa is real?", I ask taking the chicken way out.  My little barrister to be shakes his head and walks away, ending the cross examination.  He asked a few pointed questions.  I squirmed on the seat.  Clearly, I have something to hide, but this round he is unable to pull it out of me.

As December days fly off the calender I am sure that I'll not get my one more year.  My son doesn't ask to go see Santa.  No letters addressed to the North Pole are mailed.  He's not even asking when he can hang the stockings and put up the tree.  We are sure he doesn't believe, but is hesitant to confirm it for us.  Probably thinks the gifts will dry up.  And, for me, the season's festivities seem a little less festive.  We knew this day would come, but it's difficult for my husband and I to get in the spirit.  The economy has affected most everyone we know and is hitting us here in our home.  It's not our turn to host the holiday, so I don't feel like decorating.  And, by that I mean I don't feel like leaning out the window and shouting, 'Be careful' at my husband as he scurries around our roof, stringing lights.  No surprise, he's fine with foregoing the light display. 

Just when I was about to turn green, staple an antler on my dog's head and take to a cave, something snapped me out of it.  Maybe, it was those kids on Glee singing the Who's from Whoville song.  Maybe, it was the first snowfall.  Whatever the reason, one night I found a Christmas movie on T.V., made some hot cocoa and snuggled on the couch with my boy.  As we watch a new Santa struggle to master the chimneys, my son turns to me and says,  "That's the thing about movies.  They can't make the magic work for the chimneys like if it was the real Santa."  He states this matter-of-fact.  My heart takes a leap.
"Is that what you think makes Santa able to get down chimneys?  Magic Dust or something?"
"Must be.  But, like, if you're making a movie you can't get it.  Only the real Santa has it."
"So, you do believe in Santa Claus?"  I ask.  Hopefully.
His eyes wonder to the side and his face turns thoughtful.  He is seriously thinking about my question.  Finally, he nods.
"I know some people say magic isn't real.  And Santa's magic.  But, I think it's o.k. if I want to believe in him.  Because, they don't know.  Maybe, there is somethings that are real magic."

I smile.  Maybe, tomorrow another kid will spill the beans.  Maybe, my son will come home and accuse me of being a liar.  Like I did with my mom years ago.  Maybe, maybe not.  For now, I have marshmallows melting in my cocoa, Vince Vaughn on the T.V., and a little boy who believes magic exists in the world.  Looking in his eyes, I believe it too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Life Cycle Of A Mom

The life cycle of a Mom is relatively short.  During those sleepless nights with a newborn, or the tempestuous toddler through teen years it may not seem like that's true.  But, trust me, it is.  Take my own mother. 

Looking back, it may not seem to her that long ago she was a new mother.  The beginning stage, where she met my every need and want.  In fact, she did it so well that I refused to let anyone else near me.   I know she found it trying.  Apparently, I could be difficult at times.  If she is to be believed.

Once, I entered my teen years everything flipped on us.  My own mother became the difficult one.  Demanding of information like, where was I going and who was I going with.  Top secret data that I wasn't at liberty to disclose.  She was not understanding.  Worst yet, was that when I turned thirteen my mom lost all of her smarts.  She became the lady who knew nothing, asked a lot of nosy questions and spoke dire warnings of "the long term" and "your future".  It's a wonder I survived her at all. 

Then, miracle of miracles, my mother's intelligence was completely restored!  In fact she somehow comes close to oracle level now.   Luckily, it happened on the day I gave birth.  Talk about timing!  It's a good thing too.  Who else would I trust to give my son his first bath, or assure me that he only had colic and wasn't dying of some strange, exotic condition that has yet to be recognized in the medical journals?

My mother's life is coming full circle.  The children she raised and set out upon the world have come back to her in multiples.  Four kids are now eight.  The grandchildren, of which two are officially adults, keep adding up.  Somehow, she keeps track of most of our names. 

Recently, my mom celebrated a birthday.  Three generations of moms, in various stages and of various ages, were in attendance that night.  Know one really knows how long a particular mother's life cycle will be.  Some are short and some are long.  Scientists can study the life cycle of almost any animal known to man and come away with an understanding of how it starts, progresses and ends.  A mom defies all scientific logic.  The only thing one can say for sure, is that a mom's life cycle may end, but it never truly disappears.  It echoes down through the all the generations.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Second Chance Tails

Life comes with no guarantees. Few things are promised to us in this lifetime. Sometimes, the most we can hope for is a “do-over”. A second chance to redeem ourselves. A second chance to gather a little knowledge, store up some confidence and show the world what we’re made of. That is the premise behind Prison Tails, a program born of Mixed Up Mutts.

What began a decade ago when Chris and Sarah Stevens made a visit to Best Friends Animal Society has turned into an animal rescue mission that has the AKC singing their praises. Although Chris and Sarah Stevens didn’t know it at the time of the trip to Best Friends, their “spark was ignited” and saving animals was soon to be their future. A local shelter tried to discourage the pair, telling them that they were “hobbyists and to leave the rescuing to the professionals.”  Thankfully, they didn’t listen and instead began their endeavor, Mixed Up Mutts, an animal rescue that in the past ten years in responsible for some two thousand successful adoptions of animals into loving homes!

With Mixed Up Mutts off and running in the spring of 2004 a new idea was conceived. To save dogs that would otherwise be euthanized due to overcrowding at shelters, and aid in the rehabilitation of inmates at the Westville Correctional Facility at the same time. Prison Tails had their first class in October of the same year.

Inmates are given the position of dog handler. Entrance into the program is coveted and the handlers must match a certain criteria.  They must have at least 18 months left on their sentence, as the program lasts for one year. They must hold either a GED or diploma;  a good conduct record and can have no history of domestic violence or animal abuse. As for the dogs, they are chosen from about eight different shelters that Prison Tails works with. The dogs, chosen with help from the staff of the shelters, are given basic temperament tests and health check ups. If all is clear the dogs are entered into the Prison Tails program. Typically, the program has around 100 dogs enrolled in it during a year’s time and 25-35 dogs at any given time.

A handler is assigned to a dog. An experienced handler may have two or three dogs. The dogs live with the handler 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The handler becomes responsible for everything for the dog, from grooming, to obedience classes and, most importantly love and affection. For some of the handlers this is the first time that they have ever had to be responsible for another living creature or to have unconditional love heaped upon them. It may be the first time in years that they have been able to pet a dog. While teaching the dogs simple commands the handlers are learning valuable life skills that they can in turn take with them to the outside world.

The dogs are in classes for about eight weeks. At the end of the term the dog is graded by the same guidelines that the AKC uses for its aide dogs. They are tested on temperament, obedience, ability to get along with other animals and people. If, the dog passes then he or she is ready for adoption. Families wanting to adopt a dog must fill out an online application and place a deposit down. Families that are approved for adoption then get to go to the facility to meet the dogs. Until the adoption is final the dog continues to live with his handler. At the end of the year in the program a handler becomes certified as a dog trainer and groomer and has new career to enter into upon release. One such veteran handler, Steve, has taken his new skills with him on the outside, and with his credentials in hand is already building a clientele list.

Many handlers say that the chance to give back to society is one of the best parts of the program. Parenting the dogs in this environment is exposing the handlers to a side of themselves that they may not have known existed and teaching them how much patience and love they have to give.

With a mission statement of “people helping pets helping people helping pets” Prison Tails has become an award-wining program. They absorb the total cost of feeding and caring for the dogs, and that includes veterinarian bills. Their goal remains the same as it was in the beginning. Save animals. They have added saving people along the way.

To find out how to adopt a dog, make a donation or any additional information, please check out their website at or email questions to

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dance Steps

The world is a buzz with wedding news this week, as the British are broadcasting a real life fairy tale for the ages.  The heir to the throne has asked a commoner to be his queen.  In the words of my local DJ, "Everyone loves a love story". 

This is true.  My family is living it's own love story.  This weekend, as people rejoice over Prince William's engagement news, my family will be rejoicing at my cousin's bridal shower.  Much like the royal couple across the sea, my cousin and his intended are of an appropriate age, intelligent, good looking, and have been dating for a few years now.  They certainly don't need any one's advice.  And, they haven't come to me for any.  Shockingly, neither have the Prince and his lady.  Of course, that's not going to stop me from offering up a seasoned pro's tips on how to achieve marital bliss.  Or, something close to it, anyways.

Very similar to a magic show is the wedding ceremony.  First, a person dressed in robes, much like a wizard, waves a hand, speaks a few words aloud and, Presto! an eruption of applause follows.  Only, instead of the appearing to cut someone in half and then putting them back together, he has taken two and made one.  The trick is in making it last.

In the midst of the tears, the applause, and the sounds of two hundred people taking to their feet, a song begins.  It is for the bride and groom and it is their cue.  Time to begin the dance that is married life. 

It's a very difficult thing to do, this marriage dance.  The steps are intricate.  It requires someone who is willing to get in there and learn the dance moves.  Missteps will occur.  Toes will get stepped on.  Someone will twirl when they should have dipped.  One of you will cha cha to the right when the other is stepping to the left.  At some point during the dance you will say to yourself, "I don't even like this type of music.  Can't we stop the song?"   

Keep those toes tapping as the music plays.  You will find the rhythm once more.  If you've stepped on your partner's foot, apologize.  Don't let a slip or stumble halt you in your tracks.  Move forward onto the next step.  Find a way to laugh at the little mess ups.  Come together and then fall back every once in awhile so your partner gets to perform their solo.  We all need our moment in the spotlight.  But, know that if you keep your partner waiting in the shadows too long they may spin right out of your reach.

A dance speaks a language all it's own.  Communication need not always be about words.  Sometimes, it's the eye to eye connection.  Sharing a smile.  The beckoning hand.  An arm around your back lending support and strength for the next move. 

A dance is exhilarating, breath taking, complicated and fun.  It requires a brave heart to step out onto the dance floor.  Keep your feet moving in the same direction and may you have the dance of your life.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Say What?! Part 2

Last month was confession time with the post Say What?!  This week, following a conversation with my son, I knew it was time to write Say What?!  Part 2.  The words that come out of that kid's mouth leaves me shaking my head,  bewildered, smiling and sometimes doubled over in laughter.  Here are just a few of his gems.

"Mommy,  today at school was really, really good!  I actually paid attention to my teacher and the day went fast.  Tomorrow I'm probably going try to pay attention again."

Finally!  The secret to school revealed!  It involves paying attention to the teacher when she talks.  

"Night is boring.  All you do is sleep."

Boring sounds so nice right about now.

"When I grow up I'm going to be a nice parent.  And if my kid wants to go to the zoo and touch something that says "Do Not Touch" I'm going to let him.  Unlike some people."    (hostile glare in my direction)

Many years from now I plan on taking my son and grandchild to the zoo just to see what happens.  (No Manatee skeletons were harmed in this trip to the zoo)

"Can I go to the store with you?  I promise, I might behave."

On that note, maybe he should just stay home with Daddy.

"When I grow up I want to be the President of the United States.  That way I can have a house with a bowling alley and movie theater."

I'm sure that's why all the Presidents signed on for the job.  

"I think Echo (the dog) is mad at me.  All I did was try to dress him in some of your clothes."

How bad of a dresser am I, when even the dog turns up his nose at my outfits? 

And finally,  upon hearing that what he wanted for Christmas was more than his dad and I spend on him,

"That's o.k.  I'll just ask Santa!"

Now, what do I say to that?


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The All American Road Trip

Technology killed the family road trip
Technology killed the family road trip

If you know that this should be sung to, "Video Killed The Radio Star" then, you my friend, are old enough to remember the age of the All American Road Trip.  Back before GPS, portable DVD players and MP3 players.   Back when families hit the open road in the pitch black, wee hours of night, hoping against hope that the kids would sleep through most of the trip. 

Nowadays, minivan ads broadcast a different version of the road trip.  Parents are smiling happily, their offspring buckled into their own row of seats, watching their own DVD movies, earplugs firmly in place.  Peace and quiet, the commercial promise.  I can only assume that the person who wrote this spot is a mother.  A survivor of her own family's road trip.  Perhaps, my own mom.

Growing up, our vacations usually began in the middle of the night.   My mom and dad would carry sleeping kids out to the car, toss us in the backseat and drive off.  I'm pretty sure that the proper usage of seat belts was never involved.  Five minutes later someone would wake up and announce that they had to use the bathroom.  So much for peace and quiet.  We once made a trip from Ohio to Florida with a kid blaring, "His foot is invading my space.  His foot is invading my space.  HIS FOOT IS INVADING MY SPACE!" on a continuous loop.  Sometime around Georgia my mom threatened to drop us all off on the side of the highway.

Recently, my nephew came to visit.  He never once asked what there was to do or where a good restaurant was.  His trusty GPS held all that information for him.  We never had GPS.  My folks had me.  It was my duty to read the AAA trip book, shouting out data for hotels and restaurants as we sped past.  If a AAA discount wasn't offered we kept going.  No idea what was up ahead.  No idea how long til the next gas station.  We lived dangerously. 

Like the time my mom decided that she had been driving long enough.  So sure that our destination was closer to the state line than it actually was, she stopped frequently waving down total strangers on the street, asking how much further.  We drove around aimlessly trying to remember if the person had said turn left at the McDonald's, or right at Burger King.   When we finally pulled up to the rental, almost a day later than originally planned,  my aunt greeted us at the door full of worry and concern.   My mom blamed the state  for being so long and full of people who don't know how to give directions.

Somehow, through all the miles, through all those "she's looking at me", through all the "who can spot the most out of state license plates" contests, we built memories that we're still laughing over twenty years later.  And that's the real purpose of road trips, I suspect.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Mother-In-Law vs. A Root Canal

Did you hear the joke about the lady who would rather have a root canal than spend some time with her mother-in-law?  Only it's not a joke. a website for women conducted a poll, in honor of National Mother-In-Law Day on Sunday.   Turns out that 51% of women would rather spend the day cleaning their house than visiting with the mother-in-law.  28% would prefer a root canal over spending time with dear old mom-in-law.  Sounds pretty harsh, right?  Apparently not. 

 28% of women (the same dentist lovers, I suspect) label their relationship with their mother-in-law as "terrible".  As ridiculous as it sounds, 76% of women would never turn to their mothers-in-law for child rearing advice.  Only 64% of women would trust their children with their husband's mom.  I can only assume that the lady must know something about bringing up baby.  After all, you fell in love with the product of her experience, so she must have done something right.  Or, did you fell in love with a monster?  The kind of person you would never want your child to be?  Doesn't make sense to me.

My mother-in-law has held her position for the past thirteen years.  I could be wrong, but I wouldn't describe our relationship as terrible.  Mothers and Daughters-in-law have to navigate some unfamiliar waters at times, that's true.  We share a love for the same people and that forms a bridge. 

To be honest, I've never considered myself in competition with her.  She's accomplished what I most want to.  The lady took a baby boy, survived those temper tantrums (I've seen his elementary school report cards) and somehow churned out a man that has all the qualities I desire for my son.  If I don't turn to her for advice she never offers it unsolicited.  Which is the second best gift she has given to me, after her son.  Oh, and the dimples my son flashes; those came from her.  I love those.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday Is The Best Day

We meet again, Friday.  

How I love to see you coming.  What can be better than knowing that the work week is over and the weekend is looming large?  What can be better than two days of nothingness?  No need to set the alarm clock.  No need to get dressed until noon.  It's the best.  Here in my blog world it's Pay It Forward Friday.  We all know what paying it forward is right?  One person helps out three people.  Those three go on to help three more.  And so on and so on.  Before you know it, the world is a better place.  Here are the three for this week. 

The other day at a very busy intersection an elderly man was trying to cross the street.  Hanging onto his walker, he was halfway to the other side when it broke.  Literally, it broke into pieces.  Two of the legs and wheels came off.  Stranded in the middle of the crosswalk he needed help.  Enter a young man in a van.  This gentleman hopped out of his vehicle, grabbed the walker and pieces in one hand, loaned his arm to the older man, and got them all across.  Then he fixed the walker.  Once all was well with the senior citizen the good Samaritan hopped in his van and sped off. 

To the National Guard man who helped me during my son's school field trip, I say, "Thank you."  Eight rowdy kids and I were in search of a herd of buffalo.  Someone told us where to walk to catch a shuttle to the viewing area.  They were wrong.  If you've ever tried to herd a group of kids,  you understand why I didn't relish the idea of more walking.  The National Guard officer standing nearby overheard some of the children moaning.  He told us to stay put and he ran all the way back to where the shuttle was.  Then he convinced the shuttle driver to come to us.  Thank you, sir.  For your service to our country.  For your service to my tired feet and aching knees.  For your willingness to jump in and help a stranger out, even though you were on leave and could have kept your head turned the other way.

Finally, I was a guest at a luncheon honoring a special lady.  She's a 95 year old trail blazer.  During an era when women were encouraged to grow up to become wives and mothers she chose a different path, earning her masters degree from a college in Washington, DC.  With education in hand she returned to the small town she was raised in, married and had several children.  Not one to rest on her laurels,  she single-handily raised the funds to build and open a residential home for the county's abused and neglected children.  Even painted the walls herself when there wasn't enough money to pay the contractors.  She brought the Head Start Program to her town and all the small towns bordering.  She has done about a hundred other things for the children in her hometown, promoting education and safe environments for the smallest residents.  Over the past sixty plus years she has saved countless children and made her town a better place to live.  When her name was announced the grand dame received a standing ovation.  With the help of a granddaughter she took the mic and said,  "Thank you.  But, I only do what you're supposed to.  I love my town and I try to make it a good place to live."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Love At First Sight

Label me jaded, call me a fool, but I've always thought of love at first sight as something better left to the poets and dreamers.  Real love, true love, the sticking around forever kind of love takes time to develop.  Requires time to grow.  Needs to weather life's ups and downs to prove it's truth.

Then, ten years ago I feasted my eyes upon this beautiful sight.

Love at first sight and I've been head over heels ever since.  Happy birthday to my boy!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Living The Fashion Life


There is a method I employ when shopping for clothes.
     Is it available in my size/style/color?  Nope, but it's only $5.  I'll take it!

Today, while buying myself a new shirt at the grocery store it occurred to me that I don't really dress myself the way I would like.  Partly, it is due to the fact that any extra money in the clothing fund gets spent on my son.  He's growing like a weed and needs a new wardrobe every couple of months.  Also, there's the fact that I'm a cheapskate.  Paying retail makes me cringe. 

Last year for my birthday I was given a few gift cards for a store that doesn't sell toilet paper in aisle four.  It took me two hours of walking around with a sweater in my hand before I worked up the courage to buy it.  I loved the sweater as soon as I laid eyes on it.  It was actually in the current style.  The color worked really well with my eyes.  It wasn't on sale.  Still, I threw caution to the wind and paid full price for it.  And, promptly wore it the very next day.  I don't mind admitting that I did a fair bit of strutting around.  Finally!  I wasn't dressing like my mother!  A couple of weeks later I was back in the store with a friend looking for a new outfit for a special occasion.  I grabbed the same sweater but in a different color.  As soon as I stepped out of the changing room she looked me over and said, "Oh, no.  You can't wear that, it makes you look shapeless."  How nice for me. 

So, today as I picked out a striped shirt on clearance for only $7.50 (what a deal, I'll learn to stop hating horizontal stripes) I thought that if I could afford to I would be dressing so much better.   Well, that and if I could borrow a better body, then I'd be set!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pay It Forward Done Up Kid Style

Today's Pay It Forward Friday is brought to you by the letter K for kids.  

Kids.  They're every where you look.  For as small as they are they sure take up a lot of room and make a lot of noise.  But, you gotta love them.  Nature made sure of that by giving them those big eyes,  round bellies and chubby cheeks.   Sometimes the kid even does something to warrant their parents devotion.   No to mention the respect of everyone that hears their story.   This is the story of children who decided to pay it forward.

As everyone knows, pay it forward is doing something nice for someone and then that person goes and does a nice thing for 3 people.  On and on it goes until the world is a nicer place to call  home.  Every once in awhile someone comes along that thinks bigger. 

Jonas Corona runs his own charitable organization, set up a website for it, wrote his company's mission statement and designed the logo to go along with it.  He gives public speeches.  Organizes city wide fund drives by working with local libraries, high schools and other organizations.   All this and he's only six years old, people!  A first grader!  Jonas created and runs the organization called Love In The Mirror.  The idea came to him at the ripe old age of 5.  His mom took the boy to a homeless shelter to help pass out cookies to the residents.  To his complete dismay five children close to his age were in line.  Jonas didn't understand what kids were doing there.  Once his mom explained that anyone of any age can be homeless the precocious five year old decided to quit taking his loving home filled with family and friends for granted.  He asked his mom for help.  She obliged by helping Jonas set up the website.  The mission statement and logo he did on his own.  When his mom gave him his own set of business cards the tyke was off and running.  On his own he approached a librarian at the local branch.  She offered her assistance.   To date Love In The Mirror has held sock drives, a toiletry drive, clothing and book drives.  Over four truckloads of supplies have been given to The Long Beach Rescue Mission.  Easter baskets to a school for homeless children called Precious Lamb Preschool and His Nesting Place.  The kid has just begun.  You can find Love In The Mirror on face book and the website is  if you want to contact Jonas to find out how you can help him.

Just one!  How many parents have heard that from their children?  Be it one more cookie or one more cartoon or one more bedtime story, "just one"  is common refrain in a child's repretoire.   But, Sarah Dewitz a fifth grader from Florida took it to a whole new level when she created, Just 1 Book.  The idea is simple.  If every child from her school brings one book from home that they have read and are finished with then Sarah would take the books (almost 800 in total) to a nearby community center that was in desperate need.  The Family Center is located in a neighborhood of less fortunate and had only one bookshelf for books.  When Sarah was shown a newspaper article about how families from this community were struggling in today's economy she started thinking about how she would feel if her parents couldn't afford to go to a bookstore and buy her and her brother a book or two.  A fourth grader at the time, she set up and ran a school wide book drive.  She asked for each student to bring in a book from home.  She hoped for around 700 books to donate.   The response was overwhelming.  Four months after she begun the drive Sarah has collected over 9,000 books!  There are now drop boxes in three schools, a face book page with over 400 followers and a booth at a local Farmer's Market.  She also has taken it mobile by hitting the road and setting up at local parks, community events and gives speeches at other schools.  Some in different cities.  Sarah runs everything herself, although Mom and Dad do help with the paperwork end and face book.  But, the fifth grader isn't finished yet.  She's in talks with the school superintendent to take the program countywide and would like to set up a bookmobile that would travel.  To send your gently used books click on the link.   Just 1 Book

Bikes and kids.  They go together don't they?  They do for Joseph Machado, a thirteen year old boy from California and his Biking For America.  When a sports injury sidelined the boy and kept him bound to a wheelchair for several months it gave him an appreciation for his life.   Joseph wanted to help out disadvantaged kids.  So, he rode his bike across the country in the hopes of raising donations and awareness.  Yep.  He set out in Rancho Cucamongo, California and 39 days later finished up in Washington D.C.  His three goals for his trip:  Raise money for charities.   Give hope to kids across America.  Encourage other children to help out in their own communities.  To date he has raised $30,000 in donations and donated services.  As for the other two.  Well, what do you think?  Mission accomplished.  To view his website click on the link.  Biking For America.

Everyone knows that saying about a child leading.  Leading by their example.  It all started at home for these kids.  Continued with the support of the community.  Let's hope it never ends.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Speaking Of My Sister

Card given to my sister on her birthday:

"You have me for a sister, what more could you want?" 

What more, indeed?  Maybe her own bedroom growing up.  From the moment of her birth (many, many years ago) she began her role as my unwanted, unappreciated sidekick.  Watson to my Sherlock Holmes.  Neither of us were given the chance to pick our roles.  Separated by only a year we were treated more like twins.  Same toys every Christmas.  Same yellow rompers.  Shared bedroom.  A bedroom that I used to force her to clean while I 'supervised' from my spot on my bed.  

The bedroom where we used to lay in the darkness and whisper our secrets to each other.   The bedroom that became our sound stage every time the Holly Hobby Record Player was put into action with the Grease Soundtrack blaring from the box.  We spent many hours singing into our hairbrushes and prancing about the floor in a horrible imitation of "Beauty School Drop Out". 

Years later my sister became a beauty school graduate.  And I was there to watch her graduate.  We've been a part of all our biggest moments in life.  When I married my husband it was with my sister standing at my side.  The first one to congratulate me.  When I had news of a baby to broadcast she was the second person we told.  My mom was first.  Three years later when I became ill and had to have my gall bladder removed she was the one we dropped my son off to on the way to the hospital.  We didn't even have to call and warn her.  I knew that no matter what she would be there for me when I needed her. 

Life has made us sisters.  First friends.  Also best friends.  And mortal enemies.  Co-conspirators.  Staunchest allies.   Within the same day, usually.  I don't have to see her face to know when she's smiling in her home 20 miles away.  It's something felt over the phone wire.  She's the only one that I can complain about our mother to and know that she gets everything I am saying.   I love her children as if they were my own.  And yet, when my family brought her young daughter with us white water rafting, and my niece fell out of the kayak into the raging waters my first thought was for my sister.  As in, "OH MY GOD!!  I HAVE JUST KILLED MY SISTER'S ONLY DAUGHTER!!  SHE IS NEVER GOING TO FORGIVE ME FOR THIS!!"  Happily my little niece was scooped up by a river guide and given a 50 person cheer.  My sister did yell at me when she found out.  But, the next year she let me take both her son and daughter on another trip so all was forgiven.

Between sisters all is always forgiven.  Though it's usually drudged up every holiday and used over the dinner table for fodder.  We can laugh now about those things.  We're sisters and we share a language all our own.  So that's why I can end this with these words:

"Quit doing the turtle.  This one's for you.  May all your green bean dreams be sweet, Rockin' Robin"

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Good-bye Week That Was

Small towns have a way about them.   Everyone knows everyone else.  People know you, your parents, grandparents and the original color that your house once was.  Having become a part of a small community several years ago I can tell you that when it comes to paying it forward, no one does it like small town folks do.  What is pay it forward you ask?  Pretty simple.  You do something nice for three people.  Those three people pay it forward by doing something nice for three more people.  Simple, right?  Right.  This Pay It Forward Friday is for a town full of people paying it forward.  Unfortunately.  Bad news piles on top of bad news which piles on top of more bad news.  And a town is left reeling.

It began with a mom, young son, toddler daughter, and grandma.  During a visit with Grandma the women stood out in the front yard gabbing, as women are wont to do. The children played tag at their feet.  Then, as small children are wont to do, the young boy swerved sharply and darted into the street.  Into the path of an oncoming truck.  The tiny boy with the blond hair and dimpled smile was killed instantly. 

It was followed up later in the week with a husband and father of three.  A former airline pilot he lost his job in the crunch of the economy.  Times are hard.  Not many people are hiring.  Worries about providing for his wife and three school age kids began weighing heavily on his mind.  One morning he drove to a public park and put a gun to his head.  The man I once sat next to on a couch and chatted with about Florida family vacations was gone in a second.

The week ended in the middle of the night with an eighteen year old college freshman.  A bright boy, he once dated the class valedictorian and graduated from high school with honors.  The middle child of a close family.  Newly acquired heroin addiction.   A drug deal in the middle of the night took a deadly turn.  The police are asking for help in finding his killer or killers.  The teenager who once showed so much promise has had his voice silenced forever.

Lots of people out there know what it's like to suddenly, shockingly, suffer the loss of a loved one.  Fortunately, these people are rallying around the three families.  A group of mothers who have lost children are reaching out to the newest members of the club no one wants to belong to.  Dinners are being cooked for the families.  Donation jars are springing up all over town.  Charts and graphs are being created in school and church basements.  Charts that detail the time and day volunteers will pay their visits, take care of chores and entertain the young children who don't comprehend everything going on around them.  It's pay it forward in reverse.  Instead of one doing for three, it's many doing for three families.

Nobody makes it through without some heartbreak and heartache.  Whoever you are, where ever you are, look at the person next to you.  They have been there, done that.  Or they soon will get their chance.  We're all in this together.  You will get the chance to repay a kindness that was shown to you.  Please, don't let that opportunity pass you by. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Say What?!

As children, didn't we all make a list of things we would never say when we grew up to become parents?  Things like, "Because I said so."  Well, I had a list.  And I may have kept to some of those things, but over the years I have found myself saying all kinds of crazy things that I could never have imagined coming up in normal conversation.  Things like:

Quit eating money.  We save pennies,  we don't swallow them!

I had thought that went without saying.  I was wrong. 

The toilet plunger is not a microphone.

But, if you almost close your eyes and let your eyesight blur, it does kind of resemble one.

Awesome.  I can sound just like Max AND Ruby!

After endless hours of watching Max and Ruby on Nick Jr. I found out that I could do a really good imitation of the little rabbits when reading aloud their Easter book to my son.

Please, don't pee on Grandma's head!

To long a story to get into.  I do have a picture of my naked baby boy sitting on my mom's shoulders, though.  She is laughing, but it all could have turned ugly in an instant.

The dingo took your koala bear.

O.k.  Not a dingo.  Just our dog and a stuffed animal.

And this is just a few years in.  Can't wait to see what crazy sayings the coming years bring!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The One Hundred Million Dollar Pay It Forward

Can you believe it's Friday already?  Seems like the week just started and here we are at the weekend!  Not that I'm complaining.  This week I spent some serious time on the look out for people paying it forward.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about then here's a nice little video with a nice little soundtrack to explain it all.

Pay It Forward Video

O.k. last week I got off track a little bit with what seems more like random acts of kindness.  Either way, people are being nice to each other and who can find fault with that?  But, this week I'm back to the paying it forward.  Only I don't have my usual list of suspects.  Just one guy this week.

Perhaps you've heard of this.  It's been all over the news.  The founder of facebook has donated one hundred million dollars to the Newark, New Jersey Public Schools.  It's been suggested that he is only doing this as a publicity stunt.  It's been suggested that this is in response to a movie which depicts him in a bad light.  It's been suggested that this isn't really a move from the bottom of his heart.  All I can say, in complete ignorance and naivete is, "Who cares?"  Whatever his motive.  Whatever his reasoning, a school district in need is going to get some help.  This afternoon, on a national news broadcast I watched the reporter and the expert from the lucky school district debate the pros and cons of this windfall.  Maybe the schools shouldn't rely on private citizens to fund their budget.  Maybe the man has egocentric motives behind this.  But, these aren't the only maybes to consider.

Maybe some children are going to get some new books.  Maybe some children are going to get new computers.  Maybe some children are going to get sports, music and art programs reinstated.  Maybe some children will get a taste of hope.  Maybe some children will remember this, and when given a chance, somewhere down the line, they will pay the hope for a better tomorrow forward.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Of Red Lights, Cell Phones and Kim Kardashian

The universe is a complex and mysterious place.  Sometimes, like when I'm sitting at a red light waiting for it to turn green, I like to ponder it all.  You know, those questions that seem like there is no easy answer.  Things like:

Why is it that when I'm in a hurry I hit every single red light?


Why does my cell phone quit ringing the instant I fish it out of my purse?


Who gave the Kardashians two shows, and when can we stop trying to Keep Up With Them?

What?  You're thinking I should wonder about the more serious things in life?  Like, how to negotiate peace in the Middle East, perhaps?  Once I figure out how to get my dogs to quit barking at the neighbor's dog I'll move on to the more complex issues.   Until then, is it just me or does anyone else think that M tv shouldn't use the words Reality and Jersey Shore in the same sentence?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pay It Forward Fridays

It's Friday!  And, for the first time ever I get to do this "Pay It Forward Friday" having actually watched the movie.   One scene in particular I really liked.  The boy, can't remember his name, is in front of the class writing on the chalkboard his idea to change the world.  The pay it forward plan.  The other kids scoff at his idea.  Teacher steps forward to tell the boy that he's designed an Utopian world where people co-exist on the honor system, as if this were a bad thing.  The boy thinks for a moment and then says, "So?".

So.  Indeed.  I love words.  And I love it when one little word is used to sum up so many other words.  So, what if it is an Utopian world?  What if we all really did get through life on the honor system?  And having faith that others were as well.  What's wrong with that?  Why is that not possible?   As for me, I'm with the boy. 

 And, so today's Pay It Forward is not going to be the usual.  Normally this is the point where I embed the link to a cool video and talk about good deeds people have done.  Inspiration by the boy and the perfect one word answer, has struck.  Pay It Forward doesn't always have to be a good deed.  Sometimes, just a word or two can do the trick.

Yesterday was a bad day at work.  The kind where I cry during the drive home.  Frustrating, stressful and every hour seemed like two.  On top of that it was Curriculum Night at my son's school.  After working late, I had to call my husband and tell him that I wouldn't have time to come inside and eat dinner.  Pulling into the driveway, I would honk, my son and husband could come running out and we would just make it to school in time.   My husband and I sat, crammed into the tiny desks with our knees up to our chins, hanging on the teacher's every word.  Until, she turned away for a moment and I got the chance to riffle through my son's desk.  He had a newspaper that he was working on.  Extra, Extra Read All About Me! blared the headlines.  What caught my eye were the words, "A Hero Story" pre-printed and my son's careful lettering underneath, which read, "My Mom".  He went on to tell a story about why I was his hero.  And just like that, with a few short words my day was transformed, into a day that I would forever remember with pride and happiness. 

The Pioneer Woman writes that it wasn't even a word that touched her and made it all better for her.  It was a wink.  From a total stranger.  According to her story, her fourth child was born via emergency C-section prematurely and placed in a NICU.  With her husband and other children staying at their farm an hour away, she was left to recuperate and worry on her own.  One day, tired, in pain from her surgery and worried for her newest son, she walked slowly back to her room.  And that's when she came across him.  A man who just happened to be passing by in the hallway.  Maybe he too had had a preemie baby.  Maybe it was something on her face.  Whatever it was, the man winked at her and smiled.  And, Pioneer Woman says that was when she knew everything would be all right.  And it was.

My friend offered up this story of a shopping experience with her mom.  Out for some quality bonding time with mom, it was actually torture.  When my friend picked up a necklace she was contemplating buying her mother piped in with, "Are you getting that?  I don't think it works with your neck and face.  Your sister could wear it.  She has such dainty, pretty features."  On and on it went.  It was as they were leaning up against the railing and looking at the floor below them that my friend looked around for potential witnesses.  Perhaps no one would see if she gave her mom a little shove.  Her mother should thank God for the lady that passed by right then.  A stranger stopped my friend and asked what color and brand her lipstick was.  She loved the color, it was perfect for this season.   Which of course, was the exact opposite of what her mother had been saying.  Instant mood brightener. 

It's the unexpected compliment that means so much.  A kind word or two that makes all the difference in the world.  The moral of the story is this: if someone comes up to you and tells you that you aren't making any difference in this world, that it's as crazy and messed up as it ever was, say "So?" and then compliment them on their lipstick. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Holiday! What holiday?

Oops!  This past Sunday was a holiday and I totally overlooked it.  Grandparent's Day.  What makes it even worse; we spent Saturday afternoon with my son's one set of grandparents.  You'd think I could have managed a "Happy Grandparent's Day!"   But, I didn't.  So much for being more thoughtful and caring.  What made me remember was a fellow blogger posted a story about her grandparents and asked others to add their own.  So, I donated Ode To A Grandma and that has me thinking about my other grandparents. 

I was never given the chance to know my mom's dad.  He was killed in an accident at his job when I was just a baby.   I wish we had been given some time together.  There are enough pictures of him riding in a wagon, while my brother and cousin drove the tractor pulling him, that makes me think he was a fun guy.  He gifted family with ponies, kept trains set up all year in the living room, allowed my mom and aunt to keep a lamb and raccoon as household pets and held toy car races across the kitchen floor with a purse of a penny.  During World War 2 he fought at Iwo Jima as a Merchant Marine.  Injured when a land mine blew up, he came home to my mom and Grandma, settling into the life of a farmer.  Hence the ponies, lambs and cows that would come down to stare in the kitchen windows at dinner time.  It's been almost forty years that he's been gone, but people still talk about him with a smile on their face.

Seanchai is Irish for “storyteller” and it isn’t just something someone did, it's something someone was. That was my dad's mom.  A storyteller if ever there was one.  And like any true bard she adhered to the main rule: enlighten and entertain.  Which she did.  With a devilish twinkle in her eye.  And she never let a little thing like the truth get in the way of a great story.  My Grandma swore the cookies she kept in her jar were a secret family recipe and could only be passed down in a last will and testament.  They were Nestle Tollhouse.  How I hung on her every word, this lady who had the right to boss my father around.  She spun tales of pets, a cussing parrot that scared off a burglar and my father as a misbehaving youth (in direct conflict to his claims of being a perfect child).  Right before she got to a really good part she would lean forward, a gleam in her eye.  That was my cue to listen up.  Something good was coming.  And it always was.   When I was in sixth grade she told me that I was lucky to be growing up in this day and age.  Free to choose anything that I wanted to be.  Not like when she was a girl.  Become a doctor or lawyer, she advised.  Take advantage of all the options.  Looking back I wish I would have thought to ask her what she wanted to be when she was growing up.  But, I was young and never thought about things like that.  Now, it's to late and I'll never know that about her.  When my Grandpa, her husband of over fifty years passed away she hugged me as I cried.  There was no twinkle in her eyes that day.  Or any day there after.  Within a very short time she would join him.  Memories are all that's left.  I know she kept Nutter Butters in her house at all times.  I know she smoked Kool cigarettes, drank Sanka and always kept her fingernails long and painted.  She wore bright red lipstick, dressed to the nines and opened up her home to foster children.  Grandma hasn't been a part of a family celebration in almost twenty years and yet I see reflections of her everyday.  There hangs in my kitchen a framed print that once hung in hers.  It reads:

May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

An Irish blessing.  Which is what she was to our family.

Days after I turned sixteen I had to say goodbye to the only Grandpa I ever knew.  He never talked much.  My grandma did the talking for them both.  Once, during a game of pool, he beat me in less than five minutes flat.  You might have thought he would go easy on his young granddaughter.  Especially since it was Christmas Eve.  Nope.  If I wanted to beat him I had to do it because I could do it.  When I was a girl scout and trying to earn a badge he let me help him out at the grocery store.   I was supposed to push the cart for him and help lug groceries.  Instead I spent more time throwing in candy for myself and treats for my dog, Brownie.  He indulged my every whim that shopping trip.  The only time I spent some one on one time with my Grandpa.  That memory is a treasure.  My grandpa was a slick dresser.  He wore fedoras where ever he went, paired with a long trench coat.  He was one of eleven, and when his dad died suddenly he had to take over as head of the household.  Taught that family was everything he remained close to his many brothers and sisters and as a child I spent a lot of time at family reunions and picnics.  His youngest sister was my godmother.  I have lived more years without him then I have with him.  And yet, he remains part of my life.  I have a picture of him in my office.  He's sitting at the kitchen table, smiling at me and my new camera.  As long as I am alive I will remember him that way.  From that day.   When the end was closing in on us, though we had no idea.  When we knew no better, so we were just happy. 

All grandparents are important to their grandchildren.  They are the ones that get to do the spoiling.  Their parenting days are behind them.  They have only to worry about loving, not imparting life's lessons.  Still, both are accomplished.  Long after a grandparent is gone, their echo is heard through the years.  In the smiles, the look in an eye, the stories that are shared by and with their grandchildren.  They are one of the strongest links in the chain that is family. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pay It Forward Fridays

Of all the words in the English language that are so wonderful to hear, it's those three little words that can lift my spirit and send it soaring:

     It's the weekend!

Last weekend I was stuck working.  This weekend I will be doing nothing but hanging with the family.  Good times. 

There is another good time going on in La Jolla, California.  A group of people with the Life Rolls On Foundation are paying it forward in a big way.  Life Rolls On is for children to young adults who have spinal cord injuries and are wheelchair bound.  The foundation is a way for them to come together and join in some camaraderie with other kids that know what they are going through.  Today in La Jolla they will spend the day at the beach for the "They Will Surf Again" event.  Everyone will be given the opportunity to leave their wheelchairs sitting empty on the sand while they take to the waves!  Yes, they will surf in the ocean.  Some will be given a chance to surf for the first time since their accident.  Some will be surfing for the first time ever.  Besides surfing there will also be food, and entertainment. For every one surfer it takes 7 volunteers to make it happen.  That's a whole lot of people paying it forward.

The lawnmower man rides again!  My neighbor is back with his trusty lawnmower.  This time it wasn't the family with newborns.  It wasn't even some one that lives on our street.  The house's backyard backs into our neighbor's yard.  The people that own the yard don't bother to cut their grass.  They can't see that part through their trees.  It grows to about three feet tall in the summer.  So, rather than start a turf war, lawnmower man went out there and cut it himself.  Now, all my neighbors that face the wild prairie grass don't have to look at ugly weeds taller than their kids.  Thank you, lawnmower man. 

My sister-in-law must be psychic.  I have started a new job, running a website called Macaroni Kid Cincinnati, but I still have my regular full time job.  On the day when I was ready to throw in the towel and declare myself a quitter I received an email from my sis-in-law.  She had no way of knowing but her email made my day!  She offered her help with the website.  Any way she could help and no payment, please.  Just an honest offer to assist me, because she thinks it sounds like fun.  So, my newest in-law is either:

     A.  A really nice person.
     B.  A person with a warped sense of what fun is.
     C.  All of the above.

Just kidding.  She a nice person and I'm grateful. 

Did you know that if one person helped three people, and then those three people helped three more people, and so on and so on, then just one person turns into 31,381,059,609 people helped.  It's inspiring, don't you think?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tumbling Walls

"You're lucky to be alive." 

These are words no one wants to hear.  But, if it's said by a neurologist and she is staring at a MRA of your head, then it's enough to strike fear in your heart.  And change the way you look at the world around you.  This past winter I faced a health scare.  Concluding with said visit to neurologist.  One specialist and some more testing later I had a diagnosis I could live with.  Less grim.  More perspective.  As the good doctor said, "Are you lucky to be alive?  Well, isn't everyone when you think about it?"

Yes.  But, to be honest, I hadn't devoted much thought to it lately.  Much to busy.  Busy juggling work, family, the house and a million other things.  Lots of balls in the air.  About the only thing I hadn't been handling or dealing with on a daily basis was myself.  What little time I had left at the end of the day seemed to valuable to be squandered on myself.  So, I lost myself.  Forgot myself.  Forgot the person I once was.  Until I got that wake up call.

Time to wake up and remember certain things.  And discover new facets to my personality.   The girl I used to be loved to have fun and adventures.  The girl I used to be kept her walls up, firmly in place and backed up with another set of walls.  No one was getting through them.  Until someone did.  A couple of people.  Their names are husband and son.  The world gave me a wake up call and I responded. 

This past summer my family and I went rappelling and rock climbing.  I was terrified.  And not just your garden variety terrified.  The guide had to tell me several times to look at him and breath.  Hyperventilating.  Once I made it to the ground I collapsed.  My husband had to tell me that I was on the ground, I didn't even realize I was sitting on soil.  Next came the rock climbing.  Equally terrifying.  But, I did it.  And now every Wednesday I go to the gym and climb their rock wall.  So far, I haven't made it to the top of their wall.  To scary without Paul, the guide, cheering me on.  Just a teenager that would rather be doing something else.  One day I'll make it. 

In the meantime I live life a little better than I did before.  At the end of the day, I'm thankful to be here.  Thankful for my family.  I'm tearing walls down.  Letting people in.  Letting people know me.  That's why I write this blog.  I tell these stories and occasionally get a comment from someone that has read one and connected to it on some level, whether it's a tale of parenting my newborn, paying it forward or talking to the dogs.  I feel like I've accomplished what I've always wanted to do.  I'm writing, sharing it with people and having it inspire a reaction.  

The other day my husband loaded our bikes on the back of the car and met up during my lunch hour.  Where as once we may have said, "It's only an hour.  Not worth the trouble.", we no longer think those things.  We biked a path that runs along the river, starting in one town and finishing in a neighboring one.  At one point, gathering some speed as we raced down a hill, the wind blowing across my face,  I felt an insane urge to lift up my face and shout, "I'm back, baby!"   Which I did not do.  This is real life, not a scene out of Eat Pray Love, after all.  A life that I am getting around to living again.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Pay It Forward Fridays

This week I am paying it forward on Saturday instead of Friday.  No, it won't be changing.  Just this past week has been a little crazy around my house.  New job, still keeping other job = two jobs, plus a hurt dog.  It's never ending.  One thing I have found out in doing this every Friday is just how much I love it. 

10 Out Of 10 Drs. Agree Pay It Forward Can Change The World

This is a new video I found on youtube.  There is a nine second ad in the beginning but after that watch the bit by Katie Couric.  Interesting.

Pay It Forward Fridays has changed the way I look at the world around me.  In looking around trying to find good people doing good things it has made me aware of just how much good there is.  I see it like never before.  For that I am very grateful.  I'd like to take a moment and thank the people who were kind to me this week.

To the lady at the library who got the door for me when my arms were full of books, I thank you.

To the boys at the 50th wedding anniversary who lugged around wooden benches for me so that I could line a family up for pictures, I appreciate it.

To the UPS delivery man who came into my work singing, complimented me on the color of my blouse and then told me to have a great day, you made me smile and I'm grateful for that.

Rest assured I paid it all forward.  How about you?  Any kindness shown your way this week?  Pay It Forward.  Please.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Things I Do When No One Else Is Around

Things I do when no one else is around to see me:

Today, at work I dropped a big glob of yogurt on my shirt.  No one was around so I sucked my blouse into my mouth and licked the yogurt off.  Please, don't judge me.  It was strawberry shortcake flavored and I couldn't help myself.  So delicious.

When I'm driving in my car I often feel invisible to the rest of the world.  That is why whenever "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus or "Kissin U" by Miranda Cosgrove come on the radio I not only turn the volume up to maximum, but will dance in my seat.  I know, I know.  They are teeny boppers and I am a mature woman.  I shouldn't be a fan.  But those darn little twinkies and their catchy beats get me every time. 

On the rare occasion that I have the house all to myself I often resort to talking to my two dogs.  That in itself isn't terrible or embarrassing.  It's the fact that I pretend they've voiced a reply and then answer them, that borders on the ridiculous. 

Sadly, I could go on and on.  But, then doesn't everyone try to smell their own breath by breathing into their cupped hands.  I can't be the only one.  And if I am then I guess it's time I quit announcing it to the world.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pay It Forward Fridays

Are you ready for the weekend?  Dumb question, right?  Whoever said, "No.  I want just a couple more days of work."  Not me.  I love Fridays.  It's Pay It Forward Fridays again.  Here is a video you can watch that will describe it all to you.  It's only a couple of minutes and at the end, when it tells you just how many one can turn into is simply amazing.

Pay It Forward

All right here are the three for this week:

This past week I spent the afternoons and evenings down at a park doing photos for a youth football league.  Every single coach needs to be mentioned.  These men are volunteers, they do not get paid for all their time and effort they put into coaching these teams.  Their paycheck is a sunburn on a balding head.  Payment for all the hours spent standing in the sunlight.   Only they're not just coaching boys.  They are dispersing pats on the backs, laughing at pathetic knock knock jokes, helping boys tuck jerseys in, lacing up shoulder pads and clapping endlessly as small boys stagger by in a get up that weighs more than they do.  They are showing young boys what a powerful role model in the community looks like.  Thank you Coaches, for loving the game and the kids that play it.

My rheumotologist is located in a big building in the heart of a college town.  Inside this building is security officer who performed a kind deed.  A patient apparently finished their appointment only to go outside and find a flat tire.  What's a sick lady to do?  She never had a chance to find out.  The security noticed the flat tire and gladly changed the tire for her.

Lastly, my mom is getting her house ready to be put up for sale.  She has hired a man named Keith to do work on two bathrooms, the kitchen and paint all the rooms.  Keith has added another job to the list.  Apparently, he noticed that on my mom's street the garbage is picked up on Friday mornings.  Every Thursday at quitting time he drags her garbage and recycling bin out to her curb and every Friday morning he stashes the empty cans back at the side of her house.  And no, he isn't putting it on his bill.  Just doing a nice thing for a lady that doesn't get around so well anymore. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Scenes From A Marriage

     Wife:  "Hey honey, don't forget we have that family reunion on Saturday."
    Husband:  "O.k."

     Wife:  "Dinner will be ready in five minutes.  Don't forget about Saturday.  Family reunion starts at two."
     Husband:  "What's for dinner?"

     Wife:  "Aliens have abducted our son out of the backyard.  I hope they send home in time for the family reunion.  It's Saturday at two."
     Husband:  "Uh huh."

    Wife:  "Going to the grocery store.  Need to get some picnic supplies.  For the family reunion on Saturday."
     Husband:  "All right.  Have fun."

     Wife:  "Tomorrow we should leave about one.  For. The. Family. Reunion."
    Husband:  "Leave.  Are you going somewhere?  Will you please remember to fill up the gas tank this time?"

     Wife:  "Everyone in the car.  Time to go."
    Husband:  "Go.  Go where?"
    Wife:  "Family Reunion."
    Husband:  "Family reunion?  What family reunion?  Why am I just now hearing about it?"


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pay It Forward Fridays

Whoo hooo, it's Friday!  The second best day of the week.  Saturday takes top prize of course.  So, everyone knows the bit by now. 

On Fridays I highlight people who are out there in the world making it better by paying it forward.  Here's an interesting little video you can watch if you so desire to.

Pay It Forward Fridays

Normally, I would take three separate instances of people paying it forward and brag about them.  This week I am going to do it a little differently.  Near my house there is a park that is a family favorite.  Fishing lakes, playgrounds, soccer fields, Frisbee golf and miles of miles trails back in the woods.  My husband is a fan of the trails, since he likes to play Lance Armstrong in the afternoons.  This week my Lance wanna be took a vacation day from work, and got up extra early to join a large group of people that were hitting the trails.  Not to have fun.  But to do so much needed trail repair and park clean up.  It was hot.  The supposed food supply never materialised but our park received some much needed tender loving care.  Thank you everyone!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

School Of What If

They're baaaaack! 

Rumbling through the neighborhood, with little faces pressed against the glass and tiny hands waving good-byes, the school bus is back.  Must be the first day of school.  And, oh what a day it is.  One day with weeks of preparation and hype leading up to it.  Lots of money spent in honor of it.  It's Christmas without any presents. 

This morning I joined the throng of minivans and sedans outside my son's elementary school.  Time to give him over to another lady for eight hours of every weekday.  I've met the teacher and I like her a lot.  Still, the good-bye is bittersweet.  I send him off.  A small warrior clad in T-shirt, shorts and sneakers with a backpack hanging off skinny shoulders.  Marching in to battle the What Ifs.

What if I can't find anyone to sit next to at lunch?

What if no one will play with me at recess?

What if the teacher calls on me and I don't know the answer?

What if, what if, what if. 

Yet, it's hopeful a day too.  Anything could happen today.  Best friends could meet for the first time.  New games discovered.  New lessons learned.  These days are the days that I both love and hate as a mom.  I love to see him grow and learn as a human being.  I hate to see him nervous.  How I wish I could just go into his class and demand that these children love and accept my child.  How I hate to say good-bye to one more summer.  Most especially, I hate to say good-bye to another first day of school.  Each one only brings us closer to the time there will be no more first days of school.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Of Books, Bird and Poison Ivy

Dear Baby Bird Killer,
This entry is dedicated to you.  There are some damaged people walking around this world and on Friday a baby bird and I, but mostly the baby bird, had the misfortune of crossing paths with one. 

At work, as I was going about my morning ritual of unlocking doors and beginning the day, I found a tiny baby bird sitting in front of the storefront.  The poor little fellow had fallen from his nest atop our building's ledge and hit the pavement right in front of the door.  He was hurt and crying for his momma. I placed a call to Red Wolf Sanctuary and Raptor Rehabilitation Center.  Following their advice I moved the baby bird into our window alcove to give him some shade from the sun, placed a tray of water at his feet and left him alone.  As the day wore on I was able to keep an eye on him since my desk sits feet from the window.  Sure enough, his momma found him and I watched as she twice fed him worms from her beak.  Confident the little guy would be all right I was unprepared for the blond, teenage girl that came along near closing time.  I watched as she stopped and gently ran one finger over baby bird's back petting him gently.  Suddenly, shockingly, she grabbed him in her fist squeezing until I heard him squawking through the glass.  Then, as if she were a major league pitcher going for a strike out, she threw baby bird head first into a parked car.  Baby bird didn't make it.  The impact was to much for his tiny skull.  Worst of all, was the look on that girl's face.  Such a look of menace and pleasure, all on one with baby fat in the cheeks still.  Not only that, but I rushed outside in time to see her give me a smile.  A SMILE!  She found pleasure in killing that bird and in seeing my distress at her action.  In fact she almost skipped along the sidewalk with her pink, fuzzy backpack bouncing behind her.  My first inclination was to give chase and squeeze her until she squawked.  But, I saw the house she went into and if the girl comes from the place I think she does, then life will extract it's own revenge.  And probably already has. 

I will never understand some things in this world.  But, this I do know.  One person can make a difference when they help three people.  And, when those three people help three people, then the world is changed for the better.

pay it forward fridays

Here are the three for this week:
My niece went through her books and donated some to a book drive.  Now, a school has some new books for their students this year.  Very nice!

In my neighborhood we have a store that is part gas station, part ice cream parlor, called UDF.  While I was waiting in line to pay for my gas a small greek tragedy was being played out over by the malt machine.  Seems two brothers had been given $2. and told to share a shake.  They couldn't agree on the flavor.  One wanted chocolate, one wanted vanilla.  To young to have mastered the art of compromise, it was at a stand still.  A man in front of me saved the day.  When paying for his purchases he handed over an extra two dollars and told the cashier to treat the brothers with a shake in each flavor.  Those kids were definitely happy!

Finally, my mom provided this story about her co-worker.  The co-worker's sister and her family were moving into a new house.  Only thing was the backyard opened up into a forest of poison ivy and weeds.  The sister and brother-in-law are very allergic to poison ivy.  So, my mom's co-worker spent her time off from work at the new house with a chainsaw, hacking out a backyard for her nieces and nephews to play in.  A great thing to do her for sister!  I only hope it doesn't give my sister any ideas.  Just kidding.  Sort of.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gone To The Dogs

Here in the Midwest we are firmly entrenched in the dog days of summer.  The heat index is soaring to over 105 degrees, typical of August.  Also there is a video sweeping the Internet starring a hero dog.  In the video a little dog trying to cross a busy highway is struck by a car.  Enter the hero dog, who bravely crosses a four lane highway, drags his doggy friend out of the way, saving his buddy's life.   Then there are the two dogs I have draped across my feet at this very moment.  All this dog speak has led me to wonder exactly what it is about dogs that leave us so enamored.  After much consideration I think it all comes down to this:

Dogs have given us their absolute all.   We are the center of their universe, we are the focus of their love, faith and trust.  They serve us in return for scraps.  It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.
                                                                              -Roger Caras

And, I think therein lies the secret behind man's best friend.  In this world, in this life, isn't it great to have at least one living creature that sees us as the conquering hero?  The deserving object of absolute devotion?  My husband and son love me, but at the end of the day, when I return home from work, it's the dogs that jump up and down, so excited to see me they can barely contain it.  If I sit in my chair then Jesse and Echo will sit there beside me, until the end of time if that's what I ask of them.  All they want in return is a good belly rub, for me to toss them a ball once in awhile and a bowl full of food.  I'm ashamed to admit that even if I forget one of the three, my dogs are still there for me.  Full of love and endless admiration.  Surely we don't deserve it, but there it is.

They sit in the window and watch until I have pulled off the street and out of sight.  When I pull in the drive they're in the same spot, watching.  My husband tells me that he always knows when I have entered our neighborhood.  No matter what the dogs are doing they will stop and walk to the window, tails wagging.  Five minutes later he'll hear the slam of my car door. 

They sleep on a rotation between our bed and our son's, ever vigilant throughout the night.  These two dogs are the first faces that greet my son when he comes home from school.  The last ones he sees before he closes his eyes at night.  They have licked away his tears, snatched his sandwich off the plate and destroyed most of his stuffed animals. 

They have given us their unconditional love.  I'd like to think that in return we have given them the same.  I know that's not always true.  We get busy.  We forget to take them for walks.  We shower them with affection when it's convenient and push them away when it's not.  We buy them a certain type of food because of the price and figure they'll learn to like it.  We've given them a house.  A roof over their heads.  They have turned the house into a home.  When I pull out of my driveway they are the faces I look for, wave at, love. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pay It Forward Fridays

Long before Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment, there was Otto, Elizabeth and their eleven children.  Pay If Forward believers before there ever was a movie.  Or this video on youtube. 

It began down by the banks of the Ohio River.  That is where one (Otto) became two when he met and fell in love with Elizabeth.  Soon, the poor immigrants were married, working hard and making their way in the world.  A nice home was soon filled with eleven babies.  The eleven children grew up and the family of thirteen had expanded to forty-four by the year 1948. 

December 24 was a big day for this family.  The heart of the family, Elizabeth, celebrated her birthday along with the typical Christmas celebrations.  The family of 44 had outgrown their home and rented a hall to host the joint birthday/Christmas celebrations.  Otto and Elizabeth never forgot the struggles they faced in the beginning.  Now, feeling blessed and wanting to give back to the community, family was asked to bring canned goods which would be donated to the needy.

After more than fifty years what began with two, now numbers close to two hundred.   In December a hall is rented and everyone comes together in memory of Otto and Elizabeth.  There is a raffle of door prizes, and all money raised is donated to local charities.  Over the years it has numbered in the thousands.

My grandpa Carl is one Otto and Elizabeth's eleven children.  What he learned at his mother's knee was put into practice when he grew up.  My grandpa and grandma, along with their two sons (my dad is their youngest) opened their home up to numerous foster children over the years.   Though both my grandparents are gone, they aren't lost to me.  I hear the echo of their voices every year when it's gift giving time.  Be it birthday, Christmas or Father's Day, if I ask my dad what he wants the answer is always the same.  He has all he needs.  Take my money and donate it to a charity.  Do something good out in the world.  One leads to two and two leads to two hundred people out there paying it forward.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Madly, Deeply, Exhaustedly

Before the mom in me was born I used to peer into strollers to ooh and aah over the little angels.  I no longer do this, because I now see the tiny, adorable fakers for who they really are. 

My own son used to do this neat trick.  He would scream his head off for hours on end.  All night long.  Straight through to the morning.  And then into the afternoon.  Non-stop screaming and crying.  But let me bundle him up and go out in public and he instantly turned angelic.  While he peacefully slept, with his tiny bow lips turned up into a sweet smile, women and their ticking, biological clocks would gather round to inhale his baby smell.  As they heaped praise upon my slumbering sweetie, I would nod and smile, ashamed to admit the truth.  That I was afraid to be home alone with my newborn.  Not afraid of what I would do to him.  I love that fellow more than life itself, but of what he could do to me.  I swear the little bugger had it in for me. 

Why else would he revolt against regulars naps, if not to see me go nuts round about four in the afternoon?  I'm pretty sure it wasn't my idea that he only sleep when either being rocked in a rocking chair, an infant swing, or by me as I walked a rut around our dining room table.  I don't even know how that habit happened.  After all,  I read all the books written by the baby experts.  Perhaps, I should have read him the books.  

The books never let me in on a lot of things.  Like how there would be nights that I cried louder than he did.  Or, in a state of new mommy delirium, I would decide to make all his baby food from scratch.  I, who had never even made mashed potatoes from scratch.  That didn't last long.  One thing the books don't instruct upon, but I learned pretty darn quick is how to do everything one handed.  Make dinner, do the laundry, wash dishes and scrub a bathtub with a baby balanced on one hip all made it into my repertoire.  Maybe not safe, but sometimes necessary, was driving with one hand on the wheel, and the other one stretched backward over the seat to locate a missing pacifier/rattle/bottle/fill in the blank with any noun. 

I learned how to carry on an entire, adult conversation with my husband while singing the itsy, bitsy spider to my smiling son at the exact same time.  I learned there's nothing I wouldn't do to bring a smile to my son's face.  And that has included standing on my head, dancing in circles to Frank Sinatra's 'Fly Me To The Moon', imitating a monkey, and acting out every word in the book 'Where The Wild Things Are'.  For hours on end if necessary. 

For while the books can't truly prepare you for those sleepless nights, crying fits that stem from no reason, nor the stresses and frustrations that being a new parent can bring, they also cannot prepare you for the changes your heart will undergo.  You may love your spouse, cherish your parents and adore your little, gray haired granny, but until you become a parent it's impossible to comprehend how deeply you can feel those things for another human being.  No book could ever teach that lesson with mere words on a page.  Parenthood is an experience that requires digging in, getting your hands dirty and your heart opened up to a whole new world.