Uncharted

uncharteredLast week, as I drove through a neighboring town, I noticed a man walking his dog out of a ballpark area. I remembered that I had heard from someone that there were walking trails somewhere behind that ballpark, yet I had never taken the time to investigate. So the next day, I put my pup in the car, and headed over. I wasn’t sure what to expect, or really even where to go. I parked near a couple of other cars, and quickly found what looked to be a trail entrance. Off we went on our mini adventure. What we discovered was wonderful. I let my woofie off his leash, and we had a great time exploring a variety of walking trails, some in meadows, others wooded. There’s even a trail that winds all the way around a pretty pond. Since it was getting hot out, we decided to save the pond trail for another day. I stopped and had a short conversation with a woman who brings her dog there “all the time.” As we headed out, I felt kind of foolish. This little gem has been within 15 minutes of our home for nearly 15 years, yet I had never taken the time to stop and find out what was there.

It made me consider, how often do any of us take the time to explore uncharted territory? When do we dare take even a short break from our normal routines? I know a gentleman who includes one line item on his daily To Do List that will make him uncomfortable. So every day, he makes himself to do one thing that may be new, or different, or may just be an activity that pushes him beyond his comfort zone. No one forces him to do this; he just knows that he will be better for having done it.

I am on the verge of a fairly daunting dose of unfamiliar territory. After twelve years, I have decided to leave my current place of employment and have accepted a new job in a new (to me) industry. In the grand scheme of life, this is not an astounding feat of accomplishment. I am not climbing Mount Everest, I am not packing up and moving half way around the world, I am not giving everything up to be a Missionary in a Third World Country. But I am moving my cheese. And, in doing so, I am moving the cheese of those I have worked with. I am excited, nervous, and anxious to start my new chapter and discover new opportunities. Yet the departure from my comfort zone of where I’ve been for a dozen years is proving to be harder than I imagined. The realization that I will no longer see my current co-workers and friends every day and that I will no longer have that well-known comforting daily routine is harder, and more emotionally draining, than I thought it would be. But without venturing down new trails, without pushing ourselves to try new things and accept new challenges, we don’t grow and become stronger. At any age.

This week my son has been taking his Driver Education classroom training.   Yesterday I dropped him off at Starbucks on my way to work, where each morning this week he goes in to get some sweet flavor of iced coffee, relaxes for about half an hour, then walks down the street to his classroom. To learn how to drive. As I watched him get out of the car and stroll confidently away, I had two contradictory images flash into my head. One was the realization that very soon, he will be striding off to college, or off to a job, all grown up and on his own. The other image was a flashback to when he was just a little boy, and I wouldn’t let him out of my sight for a second when we were shopping in a store. And here I was, dropping him off to spend the whole day away from me, doing mature grown up things. Did this make me uncomfortable? You bet. In that instant I felt pride, fear, sadness, and a yearning for the old days when that little boy would run up to hug me, climb in my lap to read a story, hold my hand, and fall asleep on me.   In life, however, we don’t move backwards. We move forward. As I watch him grow and head into his own uncharted territories, I realize in many ways he’s forcing me to do the same. I have to let him become a man, to create his life, to choose his new trails to explore. And I need to learn how to let go enough for that to happen.

Braving those first steps down an unknown trail is simple, really. All it takes is courage, faith, several deep breaths, and a willingness to be a little uncomfortable. Then we can all check that item off our daily to do list. And be better for having done it.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in family, pet, Professions, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Seasonal Abyss

child_addicted_to_video_gamesAhh….summer… school’s out. A time for warm breezes, playtime and bbq’s. Everything seems sunnier and we dream of days off with family and friends. Life is easier. And moms everywhere are stressed and worried. Wait, whut?

For those of us R.W.’s who are moms, or are somehow responsible for kids in our lives, the onset of summer means our planning and organizational skills have to once again kick in to overdrive. Our children are no longer in school. That means filling approximately 10 weeks of… something.   When our kids are very young, the change in schedule mostly revolves around who is taking care of them, and how to afford an increase in childcare cost. As they get a bit older, there is the rush to sign them up for camps, workshops, sports events and special activities. This planning is not unlike being an air traffic controller, tracking multiple dates, transportation needs, emergency back-up plans, packing lunches or sunscreen for each day, calming nervous bellies, wiping away possible tears, and determining how many activities our budgets will allow. Keeping our young ones busy, healthy and safe during the summer is a second or third job. But we manage. We find a way to keep them happy and active.

Then something happens. Those kids get older. And they enter the Lost Age zone. As tweens and early teens, they grow too old for camps and children’s field trips. Those who are in sports may still have some opportunities, but what if a child either doesn’t enjoy, or for some reason can’t play, sports?   They are not old enough to work or drive. They are, however, now old enough to be home alone with limited to no supervision. They no longer need babysitters. If both parents work outside the house, and the child is not within an easy walk or bike ride of any form of safe activity, they are, in affect, trapped at home.

So they enter the summertime abyss. And while our sons or daughters are home, we moms are at work or school or volunteering, or whatever takes us away from the house, worrying about them. Because guess what is calling to them from deep in the abyss?   Screens. Lots of screens. Video game systems, tvs, computers, mobile devices and smart phones. And with no supervision, we know darn well they are spending their days moving from one screen to the next. We worry that when we get home, we will be greeted by a zombie where our child used to be. This zombie has the glazed-eye look, a sullen or snippy demeanor, and moves only at a snail’s pace. Without planned activities, our child has been sucked into the Lost Age Vortex and replaced by a shell of a tween.

I have recently been commiserating with other R.W. moms in my life about this issue, and comparing notes on how creative we try to be in battling the dark chasm of inactivity. One of my friends has two boys, both tweens. Both into sports. One of her sons is very busy and active with athletic camps and sports conditioning sessions. The other son has an injured foot. This summer he can’t participate in the usual activities. Welcome to life on the sofa. Facing screens. She is trying hard to come up with things for him to do. Today she shared with me that he now finds it optional to get dressed and brush his teeth every day. Yup, he’s started the slippery slope to the sloth side.

Another R.W. mom friend has a son who is just starting to grow out of the camp years. And this summer he is “hating” camp. He wants to be home. With his screens. Getting his mind melded by high resolution graphics and sophisticated digital plots. Which leads to being hopelessly unmotivated or driven to participate in any form of activity.  We moms try to leave To Do chore lists or hobby ideas. But the pull of the abyss is too strong.

I know, because my son every day battles the lure of the summer dark side. He has not yet found a part-time job that is within walking or biking distance of home. He will soon be starting Driver Ed , so I know next year, he will be able to transport himself to a job or volunteer work or other activities. But for this year, he’s a homebody. More accurately depicted, he is a cave dweller because he rarely leaves his room. Every day I leave chore lists, and ideas for things to do, like cleaning out his closet, emptying the dishwasher, getting some exercise, doing his laundry. We have home projects we are even willing to pay him to accomplish, like staining the back deck and mowing the lawn.   Usually, one or two of the easiest items on the list are finished. The rest, not so much. Because they require much more effort than sitting in a chair with a controller in hand facing a screen.

I realize that this is likely his last summer of lots of free time. I try to rationalize the situation — he will be working for the rest of his life, so why not have one more summer to be off, to be a kid, to be a little lazy?   Why not cut our tweens and early teens some slack?   Because, as moms, we struggle with how much slack to give before it becomes detrimental.   Truth be told, there’s some guilt there as well.   When many of us were kids, we had a parent who was home, at least part of the time, during the day. We had supervision, we had someone to take us places if it was too far to bike, like to swim lessons or craft classes or to outings with friends. We felt safe playing outside all day and all evening. We had vacations with the family. Today, much of that has changed. Parents are home less, unsupervised outside activities are less safe, and in a recent article in Women’s Health magazine, it was stated that more than 40% of Americans didn’t take a single day off last year.

I’m sure at some point in the future, we will look back at the Abyss years and realize it was just a blip in time, and our kids survived and went on to become healthy, productive members of society, with good memories of the summers of their youth. When those days come then maybe, just maybe, we will stop worrying and stressing about the season and learn to relax and enjoy it. And we will finally feel like it is summertime, and the livin’ is easy.

 

 

 

Posted in age, family, Health, home, home chores, Kids, real women, Seasons, Technology, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pause and Observe

humingbirdsSome of us scurry our way through life, busy every moment, seemingly in high gear all the time. Others are plodders, going through life at their own pace, taking the time for thoughtful consideration in everything they do, and everything around them.

Two points to those of you who guess which category I land in. Hint: I’m riding in a car on a road trip and rather than gaze out the window, I have read two magazines, returned phone calls and am now having quality time with my laptop.

There are some misconceptions about those of us who tend to move quickly through our days. Plodders sadly shake their heads at us, concerned that we are missing too much, that we aren’t stopping to smell the roses. On the contrary… pausing long enough to take notice of certain things throughout our days is like a quick moment of fascination. While we are buzzing around, we are absorbing, observing, wondering and appreciating.

Some things we see are simple and beautiful. Others give us pause long enough to make us go “huh” and cause us to try to reason them out.

Here’s a smattering of the random things I have taken notice of this week:

  • I can no longer park my car straight. I don’t know why. I’ve had the same car for four years. I used to find it easy to dock her evenly. Yet lately, even with basic pull-in parking spaces, I notoriously have to back up and straighten out, or I think I’m fine but step out of the car to see I’m firmly on, or over, a line. Funny thing, my husband seems to have the same issue lately. Maybe it is the car. She’s a rebel, wanting to live outside the lines.
  • Mirrors lie, cameras are harsh. How is it that we can get dressed, look at ourselves in the mirror, and say “yes, this works, lookin’ good, on with my day.” Then someone snaps a photo, plops it on Facebook and you see yourself and think “good Lord, what was I thinking? This top makes me look as big as a house!” Is the mirror trying to fool us and lull us into a confident yet false sense of security? Or does Facebook add ten pounds? Darn that Mark Zuckerberg.
  • Happiness spreads. There is a gentleman who acts as a greeter at my local Costco. No matter what day or time I go, this man is there, casually checking for membership cards, and saying hello. He is in his senior years, and I’ve noticed that he now greets from a wheel chair. A couple of days ago I ran in there to get some items for a work event, and sure enough, there he is. And he was singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” With a surprisingly strong and pleasant voice. Naturally, he made me smile. Even if he’d had a horrendous voice, I would have smiled. It doesn’t matter what you do for a job, or how you spend your day. Spread happy. It works.
  • Pets are magical. Sure, we all know our dogs and cats give us unconditional love, and long after the others in the family have stopped running to greet us at the door when we come home, our pets are there for us. Wagging tail, or rubbing and purring, or smiling and panting. But pets are also the great equalizer. No matter who you are talking to, what kind of mood or attitude someone may have, or if you are trying to get to know someone knew, the topic of a pet smooths everything out and perks up a conversation. Within minutes you are swapping stories and sharing photos. Magical.
  • We are not so different from our feathered friends. Last weekend my son had a large group of friends over for a pool party. As my husband and I relaxed and watched their antics, at one point they all, en mass, exited the pool, all at the same time. It was apparently time to go play Frisbee football. The traveled as a group. I looked at my husband and said “they are like a flock of birds.”   And now, during my little family road trip today, we stopped at a Service area to stretch. My son and I treated ourselves to Coolatas. You know, those drinks that contain about a week’s worth of sugar? As I got back in the car and took a sip, I said to my husband, “want to try some of my hummingbird nectar?”

And there I found my metaphor. We hurrying scurrying types are like hummingbirds. We zip, we dodge, we do, we seem busy-busy-busy. But we really are pausing along the way to sip our nectar, to appreciate the beauty of a flower, to be thankful for the little things in life, and to ponder the things we don’t understand. You just have to be quick to notice us doing it.

 

 

 

Posted in Chores, home, home chores, moods, pet, real women, Style, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s Not Alright

tumblr_m00th68iki1qfxp4vo1_500Since the news broke of the tragedy in Orlando, I haven’t known what to say. Imagine that. Me, the wordy one, at a loss.  Tributes, emotional pleas, and tirades have flowed across social media and the news. I have not added any of my own thoughts, because they are a jumble in my head. Sadness, shock, horror, anger, frustration, desperation, sympathy… it’s all there. Tears come to my eyes just thinking about it, and it certainly isn’t the first time.

Last night during dinner my family and I talked about the latest updates and developments around the story. My son had read some articles and was sharing the details he had read or heard, and adding his thoughts. He is about to turn 16. That means he was a year old when 9-11 happened. That means terror attacks have been recurring events his entire life. He has grown up hearing stories about San Bernadardino, Paris, Sandy Hook, the London Bombing, the Boston Marathon Bombing, Charleston, Fort Hood, and now Orlando… the list goes on and on. When he was younger, I used to shield him from some of the news, and would try hard to come up with the “mommy way” of explaining what was happening. Now he’s old enough to absorb events and form his own opinions.

I am thankful that my son has a passion and love for his country. I am thankful that he is compassionate and sympathetic. I am thankful that he understands right from wrong, and appreciate that he gets frustrated and feels anger when bad people do bad things. I am impressed that he tries to rationally consider the various aspects of these events, tries to reason the how, the why, and the what should we do topics. I am thankful that he still sees the good in people, still believes in God, and has managed to avoid living in fear. He is not afraid to leave the house every day to go to school, even after the Sandy Hook (which is less than two hours from where we live). He steps out into the world with as much confidence as a 16-year old can muster, even when deep down I am slightly terrified to let him out of my sight every time.

The one thing that is missing with my son is shock. Because he’s never known a time when these horrifying tragedies were not happening on a regular basis. Of course, we adults have lived through wars and other acts of violence or disaster – things have never been all rosey and easy… yet this all seems different. And while we are amazed and astonished every time we wake up to hear of another despicable act of hatred, for my son and the rest of his generation, it is just another sad, scary and ugly event.   There is no shock. It’s the state of the world he knows. And that’s not ok.

It’s just not ok.

 

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Supposed to be Easier

inboxMy son asked me the other night if life was easier and less stressful when I was a teenager than it is now?  I thought about it and told him that I didn’t think life was easier, we had our own challenges, but life was…simpler. It flowed at a different pace. Without things like mobile technology and social media, life didn’t seem quite so immediate and complicated all the time.

It’s funny that he would ask me this, because lately I’ve been ruminating about how so much of “how” we do things now is designed to make things easier, more efficient, less stressful – yet often the results are the opposite. I realize what I’m about to say makes me sound dangerously close to an old cranky grandma rocking on the front porch spouting off about how things were “done in my day”…. But, as another R.W. in my life often says, hear me out:

  • A few days ago, I was taking to heart the lessons I’ve learned in a ‘dangers of multi-tasking’ workshop and decided to set aside a chunk of my morning at work to focus only on catching up on a few projects and to-do’s from the previous couple of days. One by one, I tackled them and got them done and cleaned up. When I went back to my email inbox a couple of hours later, I saw that I had received 34 new emails. So much for feeling caught up. I wondered, before email, what would have happened here? Well, first of all, the requests, needs and questions would have been fewer – because in those days we didn’t expect immediate replies. We grouped our topics and questions and handled them either via phone, in person, or possibly via regular mail. We never would have considered the “stream of consciousness” communications that we seem to be mired in now. We planned ahead, and we waited. Urgency was the exception, not the rule.
  • One of my girlfriends is currently job hunting. She has shared with me how the job applications are all done online. One would think that would be easy and speedy. Upload your resume and cover letter with one click, done. Oh, no, not so fast. The forms to be completed and filled out (after, of course, assigning yourself a sign-on name and password) are lengthy and time consuming. She frequently has to plug in all of the information that is on her resume, into that particular company’s online form, of course duplicating her efforts. One application she came across was for a position funded by the state, so there were lots of extra questions regarding drug use and disabilities. Some of the applications have taken her a couple of hours to complete. After which she receives a generic email indicating she was successful in submitting – but don’t call us, we’ll call you.   Used to be that the longest part of the process was picking out the perfect paper on which to print our resumes, or editing our cover letters. Pop ‘em in an envelope, mail ‘em, follow up with a phone call, done. Then wait and hope. That part hasn’t changed.
  • I recently attempted to help my brother by submitting an update for his health insurance. He is in the process of moving, so we needed to update his address and phone number on the annual renewal form. A form, by the way, that was sent out in paper format by US Mail. I had three options for returning it: fax, online, or US Mail. Since I have one of the few remaining dinosaur fax machines outside my office, I figured: brilliant. quick and easy. Until three tries later, I was still getting the “NG” symbol and a notice of “poor line condition.” So, the next day I opted for choice number 2: online. Similar to my friend’s experiences with her job hunt, the first step was to, you guessed it, create an account, username, and password. Got through that and was faced with yet more information that was required. Nowhere could I find an option to only update an address and phone, I would have to go through and update all of his current status, health information, doctors, etc. Not only did I not have all of that information on hand, I did not have the time to schlog through it. So, in the end, I did what I should have done in the first place, and would have done in the old days. Sent it off in the mail. Which, had I done that as option #1, it would have already reached its destination by then.
  • My son will soon be celebrating his 16th birthday. He is inviting lots of friends over for a pool party. He is too old and too cool to give out or mail any written invitations. The preferred method now is via word of mouth, Snapchat, or Instagram.   So, being the cool mom I pretend to be, I wanted to create a graphic file with the pertinent information on it (date, time, location – you know, the things a teen boy would likely leave out) so he could just send it off to his friends. Long story short, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Any files I created and tried to text to him failed and would not send.  (He rarely uses email — that would have been too simple).  Eventually I just sent him a basic text of words, with a stock image I found online. The next morning, I had a brainstorm, went to my laptop, created the invitation the way I wanted it to look, then took a photo of it on the screen, with my iPhone, and texted it to him. Ah, success, I’m the coolest. Before he went out to catch the school bus, I told him I had resent something to him that was much better than my previous text. He said “that’s ok mom, I edited what you sent me last night and already got it out to everyone.”   I’m sure it took him about 3 minutes or less to do so.

So maybe, just maybe, my frustrations over modern inefficiencies have less to do with the technology and method, and much more to do with… well, me.

If that’s the case, I better go claim my rocking chair on the front porch and start telling my stories to the wind. No technology needed. Easy.

 

 

 

Posted in age, communication, friends, Helping others, Kids, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Can, Because They Did

FullSizeRender-16I took a real, honest-to-goodness, day off today. Like so many other real women, this is a rarity. I’m usually running around trying to play the game of beat the clock, fitting far too much into my day. (My siblings call it scurrying). Today there was none of that. I stayed in my jammies until 11am. I took a leisurely walk with my dog (I’m sure he was thrilled and shocked that mom was not rushing him). I got in an awesome bike ride, pausing to take some photos along the way. I relaxed and caught up on some magazines, gave myself a mani/pedi, and even fit in some writing time. Dinner was simple and relaxed with my family. It was a great day.

I did this day this way because I can. Because we live in an amazing country where we are free. We have free will, freedom of speech, we are free to do what we want, where we want, and say what we want (within reason, of course). I can sit in my backyard and look at the trees, listen to the birds, and just breathe…and I can feel safe doing so.

I can do all of this, or in my case today I can do “nothing”, due in large part to the men and women who dedicate themselves to protecting our country, and all of us within it. They aren’t staying in their jammies half the day, or taking the day off. They are on high alert. Those individuals in the armed services are not quite like the rest of us. Their focus, drive, determination, and bravery astonish me. I fully believe they bleed red, white and blue.

As much as I’m in awe of those who serve, I’m also terrified for them. The threat of injury, the physical, emotional and mental disabilities that plague so many is heart breaking. And, like far, far too many that we especially honor today, they paid the price, the ultimate sacrifice, all to keep the rest of us safe and free.

I suppose I can’t truly imagine what Memorial Day is like for the families who have lost a loved one due to military action. Loss of life is excruciating no matter the cause, but when it is in uniform, serving our country, I have to believe there are even more difficult mixed emotions. How do these families reconcile their anger and sadness with their pride and honor? Do they take comfort in knowing that their loved one took on a role that the majority of the rest of us could never be brave enough to attempt? Do they feel resentful seeing so many of us using this day for fun, or do they understand that their special person laid down their life so the rest of us could continue to celebrate ours?  I don’t know.

All I can do is say a prayer for them all, and most importantly, for every second of this beautiful day, I can be grateful.

I can say Thank You.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in family, Health, Helping others, home, Pride, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Perfect Storm of Perseverance

Origami-craneWe all have someone in our lives who is just a bit more unique, more challenging, and more special than most others. For me, that person is my oldest brother.

He is the Perfect Storm of health challenges and disability. When he was very young, he developed a brain tumor. In those days, medical technology was not as advanced as today and in order to remove the tumor, his optic nerve was severed. Related issues with other tumors and years of medications has led to the fact that his disability has become the least of his issues. You name it, he struggles with it – pituitary issues, diabetes, short-term memory loss, arthritis & vertigo which has decreased his mobility, severe sleep apnea and bizarre issues with his body temperature and sodium levels – truly the Perfect Storm.

About ten years ago, he moved closer to me. At the time, he was still fairly independent. As time has progressed, and his health has continued to deteriorate, I have become his primary contact, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and middle-of-the-night-phone-call-recipient.   As so many of you out there know, being the primary caregiver can be exhausting, stressful and frustrating. It is like having a second full-time job that is full of emergency deadlines, scary decisions, aggravating red tape and fear of the unknown – all for no pay. But we do it because someone needs us.

Amazingly, my brother throughout his life has found a way to laugh, to make puns, to sing, to master the art of origami, and somehow, to not give up. When he was a child, the doctors predicted he wouldn’t live past his teen years. Quite literally against all odds, and throughout some very serious episodes in which we nearly lost him, he has proven us all wrong. Today is his 60th birthday.

With a twist of bitter irony, he is celebrating his birthday in the hospital. The whole family came into town for the weekend as a surprise — we had fun activities and gifts planned, but his body had other plans. We visited with him in the hospital and we took him a few gifts, but somehow the excitement fades when one has to open a gift and hand it back to the giver to take home, and when cake and ice cream have to come off the menu. Rather than having fun today, he is a blind man sitting bored and lonely in the hospital waiting to hear if he has to get a pacemaker. Even after putting on my pretend Super Woman Cape, and waving my virtual magic wand, I couldn’t make today not suck for him. We Real Women don’t like to admit this, but some things are just plain out of our control.

I talked to him several times throughout the day, and this afternoon he apologized to me for being down, frustrated and depressed. He apologized for not being perky and happy during a crappy experience. I thought about how any of us would feel having to celebrate a milestone birthday in the hospital for any reason, let alone with his issues. And I had one of those moments when my own frustrations and exhaustion over his on-going needs seemed to pale.

Tonight I’ve been thinking about what my brother has taught me over the years. I’ve learned to never, ever take our health and abilities for granted. I’ve learned patience. A whole lot of it. I’ve learned more medical terminology than I ever thought I’d need to know. I’ve learned how to be pushy and forceful when necessary to get answers. I’ve learned to be thankful for good days. And most of all, I’ve learned that no matter how bad a day I’m having, there is always going to be someone else who’s having a harder day with much greater challenges.

I’ve promised my brother a “do-over” birthday celebration when he’s out of the hospital. It won’t be as festive as what we originally had planned, but miraculously we will once again have an extra reason to celebrate: another day on this earth.

 

 

 

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