Cool Grass Moments

green grassIt’s been an eventful week. My stepson was in a major car accident (thankfully walking away with only minor injuries), my older brother’s health is declining (again), and my husband just lost his job.  On a scale of 1 – 10 for good days, these rank somewhere in the negative numbers. And somewhere wedged in between all of this activity, I was away at a work conference for two days. As I drove home through busy traffic today, I had an overwhelming desire to do one simple thing when I got home…

As soon as I got to my house, I dropped off my bags in the hallway and went out to my backyard and laid down on the cool green grass to look up at the puffy clouds. I realize there are plenty of other people who would choose to relax with a different kind of grass, but this is what I craved at that moment. My dog followed me out, giddy with fur-kid excitement that a) I was home and b) that I was reclining on his level. My son then also followed to chat and catch up and feel some reassurance that everything will work out ok in our lives. Bless him, he didn’t even raise an eyebrow or ask why I was laying in the grass. After all, mom does some pretty weird things.

It felt great, my cool grass moment — it was just what I needed… and as I lay there, I came to a few conclusions:

  • For once being older is a good thing. The younger me of years past would be freaking out at any of the issues of the past few days. Granted, my brain has been going at about 100 mph and my stomach is in knots, but otherwise, I’m not in full-on anxiety mode – for two reasons. First, flying off the handle is no help whatsoever, and second, because I just don’t have the energy. I will admit I have moments of internal panic, but for the most part the more mature me is choosing to believe that everything will work out fine somehow. The older I get, the more I cling to Faith, Hope, Love, and Strength, and focus on taking one day at a time. Besides, God has been remarkably good to me for 52 years, and I don’t think I’ve done anything lately to make piss Him off so He’d change His mind and no longer give me guidance on the right paths to take.
  • Be Kind, and Unwind. I am by no means the only one who’s had a kind of crappy week. I can immediately think of several other Real Women who have a lot of challenges in their lives at this very moment: elderly & sick parents, work pressures, challenges with children, family in the military during unsettled times, loss of beloved pets, their own health worries… you name it, we all are carrying around a load of problems. And some are carrying around far more serious issues than what I’ve just listed. You never can tell what someone may be dealing with, because we are all pretty darn good at keeping things inside. So let’s be nice to each other. In a world that currently seems to be running low on kindness, let’s try to change that, one person at a time. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, but can have a remarkable effect of unwinding some of the tightness so many of us are carrying on our shoulders or around our hearts.
  • Life is All About Balance.   Yes, shit happens. Sometimes it seems like it happens a lot. But the universe has a funny habit of giving us some good to balance out the not good.   My stepson miraculously will be fine, even though his new-to-him car was totaled. My brother is in a safe, pleasant facility full of people to take care of him. My husband is healthy, smart and talented, and we will find a way to make ends meet somehow until we figure out this next chapter in life. I was stopped in several traffic jams on my way home today, but it was a sunny dry day, I opened my windows, turned up my music playlist, and got home safely. I’ve had a challenging week, but ironically my girlfriends had already planned to visit this weekend and apparently are now planning to force me into relaxation and de-stress mode.

Therein lies our solution, I believe, to being able to handle the challenging times in life. We have to cling to faith and hope, be kind, and look for balance. And we need to recognize when we need that moment — a time out, really — to breathe and find clarity, and gather our strength for what is to come. On a grander scale, there’s a lot of scariness and hatred in the news right now; but even on that level, we can still reach for balance in our own lives… like when the need arises, find a comforting spot of cool green grass to lay on.

 

 

Posted in achievements, age, communication, family, friends, Health, Helping others, home, Kids, life phases, men, pet, Relationships, routines, self care, stress, travel, Uncategorized, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Pause Earned

happy little meAfter three years and approximately 108,000 words, I have a very very rough draft of my first novel done. It will likely take another two+ years and much re-work, editing, adding, subtracting, and re-writing to get it even close to a point where it would be appropriate for any other eyes to read it. But I have the skeleton – or rather, a messy collection of bones – done. The base work is complete. And before I dive right back in to start the next phase of hard work to make something of it, I’m taking a moment.

When we are small children, every accomplishment, no matter how trivial, is cause for celebration. Our first steps are greeted with cheers and hurray’s. The first time we feed ourselves, the first time we put on our own clothes, the first time we scribble with a crayon, the first time we go potty (not in our pants), deserves a prideful “look what I did” moment. I remember years ago, standing in the shallow waters of the lake we grew up near, calling over and over “Mom! Mom! Look! Mom! Watch me! Mom!” so I could show her that for 3 seconds I was brave enough to put my face in the water. From there I moved on to putting my whole body into the water, then doing really bad, unbalanced handstands in the water. Each time I called out to mom with that “look at what I can do” pride.

As we get older we still have accomplishments to be proud and happy about, but they are generally in recognition of bigger milestones and achievements. Graduations, marriages, births, divorces, major promotions, running a marathon (for those crazies of you who do that) – all well-deserved reasons to celebrate.

But what of the small things? What happened to recognizing all of those minor “yay” moments? As we get older and busier, our “smaller” accomplishments become assumed. We put more pressure on ourselves and actually are more apt to beat ourselves up for not reaching goals rather than taking a moment to feel any pride in the ones we do meet. What about the moments when we complete a complex report for work, or come under budget or beat a deadline? What about the days when we’ve run all over the place to chauffer the kids, gotten the groceries, taken the pet to the Vet, nursed a child’s skinned knee, and still managed to get three loads of wash done and make dinner? What about when we lose five pounds, even if we have 20 more to go? Or we tried a new recipe that came out well? What if we finally make ourselves go to an appointment we’ve been putting off?   For that matter, what about going for an annual mammogram?  Sure, we’ve moved beyond the “look at me” need, and often would rather not have that kind of attention. We don’t seek pats on the back and “woo hoo’s” from others simply for using enough coupons to get $20 off our grocery bill.   But think about yourself as that little girl, who has managed to put her shoes on her feet all by herself (even if they are on the wrong feet), and that feeling when she stops and just looks at her feet, beaming with a smile and a sense of pride and accomplishment, remembering all those times she had tried before and now finally did it. THOSE are the moments we are missing.

All we need to do is push the pause button, even if for just a quick moment in time, sit back, take a breath, and be proud of ourselves for our accomplishments, even if they seem small. I urge us all to find something in every day, or every week, that we can use as our reason for a small “yay” moment.

As I look at the pages and pages of words in front of me, I know it is like putting my shoes on the wrong feet, or like I’ve got 30 more pounds to lose, or like I still have to frost a huge and messy cake, or figure out where all the bones of the skeleton connect… I’ve got a long way to go until I’ve accomplished even a second draft. And, typical of all real women, my instinct is to dive right back in, to not accept that I’ve come any distance yet, to keep plugging away immediately. And I will, I’ll get neck deep in it. But I’ve decided to take just a moment and think about how I got this far. I will think about all the times I thought about stopping, because it was just “too hard” to find time to write in my busy life. Or to throw it away after re-reading a section that is awful or disjointed. Or to give up because there are already so many other authors and great books out there, how could I ever compete? Then I will also think about how I’ve created characters with whom I’ve grown personally and emotionally attached, and actually think about them even when I’m not writing. I will think about how even if this goes nowhere, doesn’t get any better, and never sees the light of day, it has still provided me with an escape, and the joy (and sometimes torture!) of writing. It has taught me that yes, there IS a way to find time to do what you want to do. And I’ve set an example for my son about commitment, about extra hours even when one is tired, to follow a passion and have a goal. Just for those few moments, I will hit the pause button. I will breathe. I will allow myself the chance to feel that pride I felt when I stuck my face in the water while mom watched (even if she wasn’t watching and I thought she was). For just a moment, I’ll say to myself: “Look what I did.”

Then I’ll sit up and get back at it.

Posted in achievements, celebrations, Chores, family, Kids, life phases, moods, Pride, Professions, real women, routines, skills, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Homecoming

homecoming flowerI had to travel for work last week. Which meant that for six days, the guys of my household (husband, son and Labrador) were on their own at home. This is certainly not the first time I’ve been away from home, and I will say that all three of them survive just fine when I’m not there.

I will also happily report that upon my return home, the house is never in a shambles. The dishes are done (although not put away), the beds are sort-of made (comforters tossed over the sheets), and there aren’t large piles of junk laying around (just small piles on table tops and counters). I am well aware that much of the clean up very likely happens just hours before I’m due home, but that’s fine. I don’t really care how it looked when I wasn’t there.

So from a broad-brush aspect, everything looked to be in order. Upon closer inspection however, it becomes clearly evident the difference between men and women when it comes to the details…. or, perhaps more appropriately stated, what men feel is important vs. unimportant.   Let me share a few examples, and you tell me if this sounds familiar.

The lawn was mowed, and looked great. The broken handle on the toilet had been repaired, which was lovely to come home to. One load of laundry (my son’s) had been started, and was living in that limbo somewhere between washed and dried. In boy world, all was good.

On the not-important-to-guys spectrum, the fruit in the fruit bowl on the counter and the veggies in the salad drawer in the fridge were rotting. Obviously fruit and veggies are not a priority during bachelor’s week. No big surprise.   Speaking of rotting, the refrigerator had several containers of leftovers that had already been a bit dated before I had left. Now they resembled science experiments, and some how had not made it out on trash day.

The bathrooms were a bit eewwww, but that is really just a weekly thing anyway. Always makes me wonder how when one had an appendage that one is able to direct, why is aim such an issue? And why are misses not noticed and wiped up? But that’s a topic perhaps for another day.

The bird feeders were empty. Luckily the finches and hummingbirds had not yet formed a gang to come knocking on the door demanding refills. The mail had been piled on the dining table – nothing had been opened or sorted.

All of these things are indeed pretty trivial. But it made me realize how much of the detail stuff falls under the umbrella of “stuff mom does”, and stuff that a woman will notice more quickly than a man might. For that matter, there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t really that necessary for basic boy survival.

Another example could be found with the dog. He had obviously been cared for – he had been fed, let outside, even played with a bit…and spent most of the week as “dude shop dog”, laying around on greasy rags keeping my husband company in his workshop. But the babying he gets from mom, including brushing, walks, and pampering, was missing. The morning after I got home, my husband said “he is like a different dog when you are home. He was mopey all week.”   It’s good to feel missed.

That morning, when I headed outside to fill the bird feeders and take the dog for a walk, I saw a bright yellow sunflower perched in a tall glass of water on our patio table. My instant reaction was “Awww, how sweet. Not sure where the guys got that, since I don’t have that kind growing in my gardens, but it is so nice of them to put that there to welcome me home.”   Later in the day, I asked my husband about it. As he strolled by he casually said “oh, Eric’s girlfriend got that for you.”

Yup. It’s a girl thing. And it’s good to be home.

 

 

 

Posted in Chores, family, Food, home, home chores, housework, men, pet, routines, travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Girl Jobs and Boy Jobs

mouse trapWe women are strong, smart, independent, and fiercely tenacious. We’ve worked hard for a lot of years to reach as close to gender equality as possible with the men of the world. Although it isn’t perfect, we have done a lot to level the playing field. Speaking of playing fields, when I was in eighth grade, I was on the first-ever girl’s soccer team at my school. Imagine that — seems kind of crazy now that women’s sports weren’t always a thing. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Gender roles have thankfully melded to a point where for the most part, what we do is not based on who, or what, we are. Household chores are shared. Men have learned how to cook and clean, women have learned automotive repair and carpentry. Guys can be “house husbands”, and at some point there will be a female President. Just ask Clair Underwood.   Finally the words from that famous song in the musical Annie Get Your Gun have come true: I can do anything you can do, better.

So in the average household, we women know how to do whatever the men do, and vice versa. The difference now is that we each choose what we prefer to do. Hence why I firmly believe that we still have Girl Jobs and Boy Jobs. Not because we aren’t capable. More because we’d rather have the other partner do them. Sure, some of those tend to be traditionally gender specific, but that’s ok.

For example, I know the basics of how to change my car’s oil. I know the basics of changing a tire. Yet, thankfully, I’ve never had to do either. Actually, I did have one day many years ago when I got a flat, started to prepare to attempt to change it, and a nice guy stopped to help me. Ya know what? I let him. Just like I let my husband do my all my oil changes now. He doesn’t mind doing it. Similarly, my husband knows how to cook (at least to some extent) and clean toilets and could probably even figure out how to iron. But he’s happy to let me do most of that, and I don’t mind. He does all of the yard work and mowing, I maintain the inside of the house.

Over the years, my husband and I have developed unspoken rules for our division of labor. We know each other well enough that we just step up to handle certain things that the other one doesn’t want to do.   In my world, Girl Jobs generally involve making things look better, smell better, and feel better. Cleaning, repairing, cooking, gardening, nursing, shopping – all mostly mine. As for the Boy Jobs, well, those include anything that is gross, yucky, or really dirty. I get the heeby-jeebies just thinking about having to clean out the shower drain, so that’s a Boy Job. Checking the pool skimmer basket for bugs or critters, that’s his too. Getting on a ladder to clean the gutters, yup, that’s gross. Boy Job.   Yet the guidelines of yucky stuff are not always clear-cut. Unpleasant duties with the dog or our human child fall to me, like cleaning the dogs ears, treating the sores on his feet, and cleaning up vomit.  Insect killing, that goes to whichever of us is either closer or feeling braver at the moment.

Doing the dishes, that’s a toss up as to who’s got the energy to tackle them. Emptying trash, that’s a joint effort.

I will admit that there are times when there’s no compromising or sharing, and a line is drawn – usually by me – and I have no qualms about deeming something to be a Boy Job. A few days ago I discovered that a rodent had taken up residence in my car.   I didn’t see the little beast, but I saw the mess he had made of a roll of paper towels in my trunk. I parked the car in the garage, reported my findings to my husband, then told him I would not be driving that car again until it was rodent free. He obtained a couple of traps, set them, and sure enough, caught the mouse and disposed of it. I did feel badly that the poor little thing had to meet its demise that way… if I had been alone, I probably would have purchased a Have-a-Heart Trap and hoped for the best. But my husband’s process was more efficient and productive. And I didn’t have to see it or do anything about it. Hubby even has plans next week to see if he can find and clean out whatever nest Mr. Jingles likely made in my wheel wells. See? Dirty Yucky Job = Boy Job.

There’s plenty of equality in my household.  There’s a lot I could do on my own if I had to, but luckily, like any good partnership, neither of us has to carry the full burden. We respect each other’s abilities, and my husband would never consider me to be in any way weak or incapable. We real women are smart, independent, brave and don’t “need” a man to save us.

Unless there’s a rodent trapped in the trunk.

mouse car

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Assistance, please?

prada assistantIt was just another average R.W. kinda morning.  Similar, I’m sure, to most of your mornings. While I was getting myself ready for work, I was multi-tasking other activities. Folded a load of laundry, did some dishes. Gave the dog his medicine, left a note for my son. Took care of a few emails, paid a bill online. Jotted down a couple reminders on post-it notes. Tidied up the living room and cleared off the kitchen table. Got on the phone to try to follow up on a doctor’s appointment for my handicapped brother. Along about the time I was giving the dog his good-bye treat, holding the door open with my foot while balancing my work bag and purse over my shoulder, one hand holding the phone to my ear listening to the Doctor’s Office scheduler describe how they didn’t have updated contact information and needed to reschedule his appointment while I was bending over to pick up the small bag of trash I had dropped and needed to deposit in the can at the bottom of the driveway (in the rain) – it hit me. “Damn. I could really use an Assistant.”

Those of us who are in our mid-life years, and have spent much of our working lives in office environments, likely at some point early on held the position of secretary or assistant. Even just 25 – 30 years ago, those were common roles held by women in male-dominated settings. We did things like filing, note-taking, transcribing, typing (yes, on typewriters), spent lots of time on the phone, set meetings, rescheduled meetings, did deliveries, made coffee, and felt fabulously futuristic and efficient when we used fax machines. Thankfully, times have changed. Technology has made many of those duties quicker, easier, and automated. Women moved into leadership roles. And men learned how to do some things for themselves. Now “support” positions are far beyond what they used to be – now they are more about office management, project and event coordination, bookkeeping and more – and held by both men and women. The “assistant” of the old days is no longer needed.

Except now perhaps, in our personal lives. As we cram more and more into our daily lives, and spend more energy and time at work, it is the “stuff” in our personal lives that gets more difficult to accomplish on our own. Celebrities figured this out a long time ago, and the role of Celebrity Personal Assistant came to be.   They “have people” to do any variety of tasks like walk their dog, do their dry cleaning, do the grocery shopping, make their meals, do their gift shopping, and manage mail, phone calls, and even their social media accounts. All so the celebrity can focus on being fabulous and wealthy.

Well what about us average, regular, hard working Real Women? Wouldn’t it be a slice of heaven to have someone there to take care of those same things for us?   I wouldn’t ask them to really do a lot. It would be a part-time gig. Like I’d still do most of my own cooking and walking my dog. But how amazing would it be to have someone do my grocery shopping? To take care of the phone calls I just can’t get to, like rescheduling with the doctor, calling about insurance payments, and making a hair cut appointment. Heck, to even open the door for me so I can get all my stuff into the car without tripping or dropping something. To run to the post office when I’m out of stamps, or to get to the bank with a deposit before my checks bounce – or oooh, I know, go put gas in my car when it runs low! (Seriously, I’m currently on E.)

Who is there for us so we can focus on being fabulous and less stressed?

The problem, of course, is finding anyone who would WANT to be a Personal Assistant unless you are famous, talented, and beautiful. Oh, and wealthy. Because no one is going to do it for free. And, in reality, wouldn’t we be subject to some sort of ridicule in the eyes of our fellow R.W.’s?   Can you imagine telling friends and co-workers that you have a Personal Assistant?  The natural responses would be something like “What’s wrong with you, can’t you do it all yourself like everyone else does?   Who died and made YOU Queen? When did you get too good to do menial chores?” Ah, yes, there is a stigma and a bit of martyrdom we each carry with us as we try to manage it ALL.

So unless I suddenly turn into Meryl Streep or Lady Gaga, I guess I’m on my own with finding the time and energy to take care of my own sh-t.   Or keep trying to train my son and my dog to carry some of the weight.  Not likely, as my son would rather have a real job that pays, and my dog… well, his desire is there. He’s just not good with the phone.

Dog on the phone

 

 

 

Posted in age, assisting, celebrities, Chores, communication, convenience, doctors, Helping others, home chores, housework, Kids, meals, pet, Professions, real style, real women, routines, self care, shopping, simplifying, skills, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stay!

stayRelaxing is not always easy for real women. We get so wound up about everything we “gotta do”, and all the people we have to take care of, that we rarely clock out, go off duty, and slow down. Usually we only feel like we can really take time “off” by scheduling an actual vacation – for a day, a weekend, a week, it doesn’t matter the amount of time. We just have to physically remove ourselves from our usual daily activities and responsibilities. Although even going on vacation does not guarantee our time off, especially for any of us who travel with young children, or elderly parents. But we make the valiant effort, with images dancing in our heads of napping on a beach, rocking in a porch chair or even curled up someplace peaceful with a good book.

I have always felt like the only way to really unwind and be off-duty is to travel. To leave work, home, and extended family all behind. Usually this works, and after the first 24 hours, I slip into a slower, more relaxed version of myself. When I’m home, I’m not able to distance myself from my “gotta do’s” .

This summer, we have no plans for any big vacation, or time away, other than a few weekends here and there. We are saving our budget and time for a big trip next year. So for the most part, we will be “Staycationing.” Ah, such a cute term. To make those of us who decide to stay home – whether for monetary, work, or family reasons – feel like we can still have a vacation without having to leave our immediate vicinity. Wait. Really?   Stay home? In the land of responsibility? Oh dear.

I’ve read about, or heard about, women who successfully Staycation with their families. They come up with fun activities or adventures literally in their own backyards, or find a way to kick back and chill without having to venture far afield – posting joyful images and stories on Instagram and Facebook, or sharing elaborate projects they’ve accomplished with their thoroughly engaged and brilliant children on Pinterest. Then there are those who use a Staycation to knock out impressive projects like building furniture, painting the house or take chef-lead cooking classes. Like everything on social media, it all seems so attainable. I can do this.

Then I remember: I don’t relax well. Nor am I able to focus on one thing at a time. If I am in or around my house, I instantly want to take advantage of any spare time I have to knock out chores or home maintenance projects. On weekends I run an average of an hour behind schedule because I’m trying to pack too much in. So how am I to turn a blind eye to what I could be doing, and do vacationy things instead? Just like a puppy trying to learn the “Stay” command, I understand the importance of doing it, yet I find it ever so hard to focus and sit still.

I had my first trial run of Staycationing over the July 4th holiday weekend. I was fortunate that my office was closed on Monday the 3rd, so I had the gift of four days off in a row. On Friday evening, those four days stretched out ahead of me like some kind of soothing coastal highway, where I could just casually cruise along at my own speed, wind in my hair, not a care in the world. I had images of lazing by the pool all day, or lounging in a comfy chair doing my writing…. and heck, since I had all that time off, I could knock out a couple projects or two as well. Like cleaning out the garage – that should only take a couple hours, right? And organizing my desk and catching up on filing… and gee, maybe I could take down the curtains and drapes to wash them…. after all, I had been given the gift of time, I shouldn’t squander it, should I?

Well, yes, actually… I’m learning slowly that one of the core benefits of an appropriate Staycation is to not fill every moment of the time we have with non-fun stuff. Our goal should be to achieve that gone-away-relaxation mode without actually going away. Sounds simple, but for some of us multi-taskers, it is apparently not easy. Even my husband exasperatedly said to me “Can’t you stop planning and just go with the flow?”   Yes, darn it, I can. If I can do it on a beach or on a cruise ship or even in a camping tent, I can do it at home. I can have fun! Yet I also had to be realistic. Instead of an adorable four year old in pigtails who wanted to do crafts and outings with mommy, I have a teenager who appears out of his cave for meals or to go hang with friends. I still have groceries to buy, a sick relative to check in on, and bills to pay. So I decided on a compromise with myself. Chores and responsibilities each morning, play and relax time every afternoon. Time with friends and family every evening. And you know what? It kind of worked. The garage got cleaned out, but I also spent time out on my bike. My filing got done, but I also got in pool time. The curtains never got washed, but I sat and browsed through magazines and picked out new recipes to try. Three out of the four nights were spent having great times with friends, and one night we watched a movie. Somehow, in spite of myself, I seemingly succeeded in having a short Staycation. At least for a few hours at a time.

My method may not be Pinterest-worthy, and there will be many other RW’s out there who will always be better at relaxing and getting refreshed and renewed than I.   But I believe that this summer, without traveling to escape my responsibilities, I’ll be able to master the art of some down time.

Who knows, maybe before summer is done, I’ll learn how to sit ‘n stay for a whole day. Imagine that.

 

Posted in Chores, Entertainment, family, friends, Health, Holidays, home, home chores, Kids, moods, routines, Seasons, self care, simplifying, travel, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Violation

ThiefWhen I was a young girl, our house was broken into and robbed. Actually, “broken into” isn’t really accurate. Back then, we lived out in the country, in a lovely little town, and we didn’t lock our doors. I know, sounds crazy now, right? It was a different world then. My mom had taken my brother to a weekly appointment, and while they were gone we figure the thieves had been watching her regular schedule and knew they had some time to let themselves in and do some free shopping.

This was many years ago and I was young, so the details in my memory bank are sketchy at best. My older siblings probably remember it better. I do remember that we thought perhaps mom had scared them off when she arrived back home. One of our oriental rugs was rolled up and waiting by the back door. We found one of our trash cans in the woods behind the house, which was likely the carry-all for what they took. I don’t honestly remember what we lost that day, other than some jewelry from my parents. Whoever it was had gone through our rooms too, but clearly had no desire for kids stuff.

By the time I got home that day, most of the initial panic was over. The police had come, and mom and dad were doing their best to get things back to normal. What I recall though, is that scary spooky feeling that someone we didn’t know had been in our house going through our things. We had been violated.

It wasn’t until years later that I thought about what that had to have been like for my mom. It’s funny how we women don’t necessarily think about everything our mothers did, and went through, until we are adults and moms ourselves. For some of us, unfortunately, by the time we are at that stage in life, it is too late to ask mom what it was like for her. When she arrived home that day, my mom was alone with her blind son. She had to have quickly seen what had happened, and had to have determined if anyone was still in the house. She had to have called dad, and the police. She had to have done a report, gone through the house, done insurance claims. Did she cry? I don’t know. Did she scream and yell in anger? I don’t know. Was she scared from then on every time she left the house or was alone? I don’t know. I know I would have done all of the above. But for us, she put on her in-control-brave-mom face.

This event has been on my mind today because – flash forward about 40 years – this weekend I happened to go online to do some banking and bill paying, and quickly determined that someone had gotten my debit card number and pin number and had stolen a substantial amount of money out of two of my bank accounts. My first reaction was disbelief. My husband and I both looked again at the activity online, then the panic started. We tried calling the number indicated to report a stolen card, and because it was a Saturday night, got stuck on hold forever. In the meantime, luckily I found a way to deactivate my debit cards online. Once that was done, the panic of having lost money crept in, along with the worry about being able to pay the bills. We started trying to analyze how it could have happened. Whoever it was had used an ATM machine on Madison Avenue in NYC to deduct large sums – apparently knowing that those ATMs must allow larger withdrawals than most. We determined that I must have been a victim of a skimmer, and started trying to think about where and when it could have happened. And that old yucky familiar feeling crept back in. We had been violated.

The next day, as I shared my story on Facebook, it was amazing the number of people who chimed in with a similar “that happened to me too” story. Credit cards, bank accounts, debit cards – all compromised at some point. I wonder now if it is like cancer – where one in eight women have been somehow affected by this issue in their lifetime. Everyone you know has a story to tell about being robbed in a related way. It is as if this is the modern version of that home robbery. Sure, unfortunately, physical robberies still happen – but this evil and sneaky form seems more prevalent in our modern world. Yet no matter how much we try to virtually lock our doors with passwords, pin numbers, and being careful of our locations, we still aren’t safe.

The difference now, thankfully, is generally the resolution is speedier and easier. I went to the bank Monday morning, got my cards cancelled, new ones issued, and a report filed. An investigation has begun, and I was assured that within 10 days, our funds will be replaced. My mom and dad weren’t so lucky. I’m sure the whole process of a report and investigation was much lengthier back then, and I know the items they lost were never returned. Their feelings of ickiness, sadness, and anger I’m sure lingered for a long time.

My sadness and panic switched over to anger pretty quickly. When the woman at the bank asked me if they ever caught the person(s) who took my money, would I be willing to prosecute, I said “darn right I would.”   I’d feel better about a destitute person on the street pick-pocketing me because I’d at least understand that they were desperate and in need. But this? Whoever did this has the brains enough to pull off a skimming racket and get to NYC to withdraw the money and spend it. If they are that smart, they should have a job and have to work hard for the money like I did.   Part of me wants to know what happened next. Way back in my childhood home, what did the thieves do with what they took? Did they keep the stuff? Sell it? Give it as gifts?   What did these modern day crooks do with my money? What did they buy? Electronics? Designer clothes? Drugs? We’ll never know.

What I do know is that in an odd cycle-of-life kind of way, after this experience we will be reverting to older habits. We will no longer be using our debit cards. The people at the bank will be seeing us in person more often because we’ll be there to take cash out from the counter, not the ATM. We will carry cash more rather than use our debit cards. We will use our credit cards, because at least if (no, when) those get compromised it isn’t our money that gets tied up, and things get resolved relatively quickly. I will go back to writing checks more often. Heck, I may become that little old lady at the grocery store tying up the checkout line because I’m writing a check.   The bummer is in this world of speed and convenience, we have to purposefully go back to the less convenient way of doing things just to stay safe. We have to use multiple locks and security systems on our homes, cars, and offices. We have to constantly be on the look-out for suspicious behavior, both in person and online. And we can’t trust machines.

Sadly, there will always be maliciousness in the world, and sneaky jerks will always try to take advantage of others. There will always be the risk of violation. But I still choose to believe that good will win out over evil and we can always rebuild, even if it takes some time…and karma will take care of the bad guys eventually. Like maybe after getting my money out of that ATM, they turned and got run over by a street sweeper. Ok, perhaps that’s a bit harsh. But God willing, they will be caught before they do it to someone else.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to channel my mother, make sure everything in the house is secure, kiss my son goodnight, and possibly go stuff my money under my mattress.

Be careful out there.

 

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