Monthly Archives: September 2016

Accidentally Succeeded in Not Getting the Job

In other words, they looked at my skills and found me wanting. And can I just say how relieved I am.
Every so often, I get the idea that I should get a job where I have to go to a job site and do job related tasks. That impulse led to the cool transcribing job earlier this year, although I worked at home. And then just last week, I applied for a couple of jobs and actually got a phone interview for one of them.

The job I applied for was part-time, working in a call center for a large retailer. Miraculously, I got a phone interview, which I felt pretty good about, considering that my resume’s work section is unconventional and contains large gaps between jobs where I go somewhere else on someone else’s schedule and do tasks someone else wants me to do.

I was even more optimistic when they set up an in-person interview. I wasn’t nervous at all. I know I’m a good worker. But there was a little nagging voice asking me if I was sure I wanted to commit to a job (were it to be offered to me) that would require me to go somewhere five days of every seven to do job things on someone else’s schedule. Well, I figured, interviewing couldn’t hurt.

The interview went ok. I hadn’t been interviewed for a long time, and afterwards I knew there were a few things I definitely should not have said. They said they’d be giving an answer within seven days. I immediately began to figure out how I would structure my life with this new job.

Two of my kids work in retail and they have been clear about the problems that exist where companies are overly concerned with keeping customers, pretty much at all costs, so each of them has been on the receiving end of some very unpleasant interactions with customers who have been taught that the customer is ALWAYS right, even when the customer is most definitely wrong.

As the days went by, I came to realize that a job like this one might actually be mentally fatiguing for me, and I was concerned about using my brain power to do a part-time job that was for a purpose no higher than helping a company sell more products. 

My second realization was that I find it very difficult to understand people with non-native accents on the phone. And I would surely be taking calls from plenty of folks with accents. 

That second realization came to me about thirty minutes before I got the rejection email. 

Perfect timing, I’d say. 

Grieving the High School Years

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It’s Homecoming this week. Not that I care too much about that, particularly. I went to the local schools from K-10, but spent the last two years at a private high school. But it’s a big deal in my town, from the pre-school to the high school, and there have been many fun events this week. Plus, I have a student who is a senior in high school, so Homecoming matters!

I notice when I am at the events at the high school these days, what I am very aware of is my own high school experience. While I was running today, I was reflecting on the idea that one shouldn’t compare one’s insides to someone else’s outsides. So, there’s that.

But when I was in high school, I simply was not free. I wasn’t free to be myself. Of course, there are millions upon millions of teens who also do not feel free to be themselves, regardless of how they act. For me, that lack of freedom translated into a terribly overdeveloped sense of responsibility and self-consciousness and fear.

Last night at the high school, I observed the male cheerleaders (for Homecoming week, only, so they were goofy and having fun) as they did flips, jumped around, led the students in cheers, and had a good time. What I would give to have been able to just leap into the air and do a flip when I was a teen.

Maybe it’s crazy to grieve those years. But they were the years where my whole life was in front of me. All the possibilities still existed. College was yet to come. Long-term relationships, parenting, responsibility were all in the future. I, however, adopted the mindset of being responsible for the world while I was very young, so I felt extremely responsible, even though I wasn’t responsible for anyone but myself.

Why is youth wasted on the young? Not an original question of mine, but definitely a good one. Why are the young women so convinced that their bodies are not enough of something or too much of something else, when the vast majority of them are perfect just the way they are? Why are the students pressured so heavily to figure out majors and college plans and future career goals while they are still kids?

More to my point; why was I so convinced that my body was not thin enough and too hairy and not tall enough and too loud? I suppose it’s just a developmental stage in life — to craft a workable self-image and act on it. Not something we really get done when we are 16-18. What in the world made me so sure that it would be a terrible mistake to take a risk to be myself? Where did I get the idea that acting outside of a strict set of guidelines written in a box with a 4-point black line around it was anything but a fantastic idea?

It’s a little too obvious, I suppose, to imagine that my religious upbringing might have been slightly responsible. I was the one who believed what they told me, but since I believed them, there was a really good reason for me not to “sin.” It’s just so sad to me that I thought being myself equated sinning.

There is someone in my life who believes that my deconversion is basically me acting out a teenage rebellion that I didn’t get around to as a teen. I’d say it’s high time I start rebelling against the beliefs that held me rigid and fearful and unwilling to live out my magnificence.

High school was a long, long time ago. And, shoot, I did the best I could back then, as did those who were in the position of guiding me. And we were all imperfect and made mistakes.

It is probably the case that the students I see at high school events who appear to be themselves with ease also have questions and doubts and fears about themselves and the world and their future. Just because they can do a backflip from a standing position doesn’t mean that they don’t have anxiety about the difficulties that are part of being in high school, with many big decisions coming up, with the stresses that come from the ubiquity of social media, with the ever-present awareness of terrorism and gun violence and police brutality and all the other issues that come at us 24/7 these days.

I suppose the bottom line is that I have the opportunity to accept my history as it is, and allow it to be what it was, and to do my life differently in the future. As true as it is that today is all we have, our todays have come about because of all the steps we have taken on the path to get to this day. So I wonder … what is the teen backflip equivalent for my life today?

Does this post resonate at all for you? I told Greg what I was writing about and he looked pretty mystified about the idea of missing his high school years. I don’t particularly miss the literal being in high school classes and all the high school drama that occurred. I miss that time in my life when the objective circumstances of my life were such that I didn’t need to feel overly responsible about the world, my parents, my siblings, and everything else. That time in my life when it was reasonable to try risky things, to take chances, to experiment.

That time in my life didn’t happen when I was a teen, or in my twenties, or even quite awhile after that. Thanks be for the fact that I have finally discovered that I can explore what it means to be me, to try things, to take (sensible in the light of being a parent) risks, to be imperfect and to be just fine with that. I want to live a create life, not a perfect one.

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I Love Apple and also not-Love Them

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So, my go-to gal for Apple questions is my fine Apple Genius daughter. But in a case like this, since I know she already deals with a goodly number of customers who are frustrated with their phone or computer, I’ll take to the interwebz instead.

I downloaded iOS 10 the day it became available. Now, I often wait to download a new iOS until the bugs are worked out, but for some reason, I decided to go ahead this time.

Well, it’s got all kinds of new bells and whistles, but it also has made my phone extremely slow. Like my car in a traffic jam. Like my jogging pace. Like how I’m paying off my credit cards.

It’s done worse things to other phones, like make them not even work, from what I’ve seen on the web. So, maybe I shouldn’t be complaining. But, well, I am.

Because an update should actually improve things. That is my belief. It should improve things and it should most definitely not create additional problems like the phone being unable to open apps it previously opened immediately.

This is truly, truly a first world problem. It doesn’t compare to having to walk five miles to get water to use for cooking and taking care of personal needs. Water that has to be carried, and boiled before it can even be used. Yes, I have no problems at all when I look at the hardships of the people in the world who don’t have enough to eat, who don’t have water, who don’t know where the money is going to come from to pay a certain bill, who are unable to access medical care like I have literally at my fingertips.

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So, typing that paragraph helped me calm the heck down.

I think the thing that is tricky about personal communication devices is that we have to do certain maintenance things every so often but people like myself forget how to do them because there is enough time between sessions that it’s like learning it all over again. Things like how to turn off find my iPhone, or where a certain thing is in the settings app on my phone. And the only reason I have any animosity toward Apple (or any other electronic device maker) is because they often change things without there seeming to be a good reason.

Sure, there is a good reason in the eye of the designer or the programmer or the computer engineer. But for those of us at the user end of things, sometimes changing those things just makes life difficult for awhile until we get them figured out again.

And maybe this is just a thing unique to me. I understand why stores and companies change things that aren’t broken, but I don’t necessarily appreciate the changes when I am trying to adapt to them.

I am smack in the middle of trying to figure out this phone problem. I know that someone at the Apple Store, who does this every day, would have no problem whipping through the steps and getting it done. But I don’t want to drive 20 minutes to the Apple store and then wait 30 minutes to see someone. I want to be able to take care of this myself.

SOMEBODY PLEASE CALL THE WAAAMBULANCE.

I’ll get it figured out. I know I will. But darned if I’m not a little perturbed about having to figure the same things out over and over. OK. Rant over. Back to work, figuring out how to make my phone work like the excellent machine that it is.

Ok, kids, as you were. Thanks for reading.

 

“You’re Done.”

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Those words were just said to my son by the Honorable Judge C_____ B_____. 

Eli had court business in two counties. His graduation from Drug Court in August cleared him in the first county.

Today, in the second county, all the i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed, and this issue has been completely resolved.

How well I remember being here for the first time two years ago, and the slow, slow progress that was made for quite awhile.

What a contrast today when Eli signed in early enough to be first case on the docket. As ecstatic as I am for this to be over, his face, his smile — his joy is clear and wonderful to see.

So now we begin with a new slate. I believe in him. I’ve always believed in him. One day at a time, for sure, but I’m excited for him. He has completed this long and arduous portion of his journey. He has the opportunity now to follow his dreams and continue to make decisions that keep those dreams uppermost. I love him dearly, wish him well, and will do whatever I can to support his success.

This Day in History?

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image from lovetotreasure.com

Some people like to read what happened on this date in history. I don’t usually look at that unless it happens to be a red-letter day, like today is. You see, on this day in history 82 years ago, my father was born, the youngest of seven siblings, at home, in Oakley, Ohio.

Good old Dad. What a character! From the time he used ketchup to fake some injuries in order to psych out his weekly ping-pong foe, to the time he didn’t have to use ketchup after he was thrown out of the back of a pick-up while bringing a playground sized swingset home for us; from the day of his birth, the fourth of four boys, born after an interlude of three girls, to the day he met his Maker in January of 2009, Dad made a mark on this world.

Top ten things I learned from my dad:

  1. Being there is important. He came to every one of my high school basketball, volleyball, track meets, and softball games. He was always in the stands. I do not remember a single time when he chastised me for not doing well enough.
  2. Keep on keeping on. A gregarious man, but not a natural-born businessman, Dad kept a small business open for nearly 30 years in spite of financial roadblocks from a recession, wild variations in sales from month to month, and good old Uncle Sam, who often wants more taxes than we really have available to pay. You rarely, if ever, saw him without a smile and a joke to share.
  3. You don’t dig through a trash can for an edible piece of steak. This was his philosophy about rock music. When I would protest that there was some good and decent music out there, he’d cite this belief. I didn’t completely agree with him when I was a kid, but I do see the wisdom of it now.
  4. Life is to be enjoyed. From green scrambled eggs, to endless word play, to telling (the same) jokes over and over to laughing audiences, Dad knew how to have a good time. Indeed, when I think of him now, I remember his laughter and his smile.
  5. It’s good enough for who it’s for. Now, I’ll admit, this one scandalized perfectionistic little me. But I have also come to appreciate this sentiment from the standpoint that perfectionism is overrated. Yes, sure, do my best, but don’t stress about the little stuff. And almost all of it is little stuff.
  6. To recognize my value as a person and a woman. It took me a good long while to catch on to this, but my dad’s actions showed me that he thought I was valuable. That’s a pretty great gift to give to a child.
  7. People are more important than things. He made a decision to keep the grass free of pesticides in order to provide a safe and fun place for us to play.
  8. Dollar waiting on a dime. Taught me the value of recognizing that I’m not the center of the world, not because I don’t make a lot of money, but because I’m part of a very big world with many, many people in it. I still managed to sport some pretty spiffy entitlement, but I learned eventually to let that go.
  9. Be on time. I appreciated that about my dad, that he valued the concept of being on time, or even a little early.
  10. Don’t consider myself to be above the law. Which is to say, be careful about thinking that a particular law or rule doesn’t apply to me. I can choose to break a rule or a law, but not because I am somehow special.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I hope heaven is treating you right!

The Last Straw, Man

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First, we weren’t supposed to eat butter. Eat mo margarine! Now we know that was bad advice. Some say eat margarine that has no trans fats. Others say eat butter. Still others say only butter from grass-fed cows. Ahhhh. What do we put on toast?

Well, nothing, as it turns out, because bread is not a good thing to eat either. Nope. We’ve only been growing wheat for 10,000 years, so our bodies are not designed to process grains properly. And there’s also the problem of bleaching flour, which makes our bread and pasta so nice and white. Down with white foods! Down with carbs!

Because carbs are the bad guys. Proteins are our friends. Fats are apparently our friends, even though we used to think they weren’t. But only the right fats. Not all fats. Not the real tasty ones. The ones in potato chips and twinkies. Those fats are still not our friends.

Along the way, no one has eschewed vegetables. Still allowed to eat vegetables. Help yourself to all the beets, broccoli, and onions you want. Be careful of the carrots, because sugar. Watch out for the non-organic vegetables. And for heaven’s sake, NO CORN because GMO.

And then there’s high-fructose corn syrup. Although the Corn Refiners Association has an entire advertising campaign touting HFCS’s “natural” quality, and that it’s “fine in moderation just like sugar,” there are plenty of other experts who mention the problems associated with HFCS, not the least of which is that most, if not all, foods which contain this product are not foods which will nourish you in the slightest. Empty calories, I think they’re called.

Meat! Meat bad. Too much fat, too much cholesterol, too many antibiotics, too much growth hormone, bad conditions for the animals as they are grown and slaughtered. No mo meat! OK, we’ll all be vegetarians. Oh, oops, there are some amino acids that you can only get in meat. Ok, then, meat is ok, but only grass-fed meat, and only if you are training your body to use fat for fuel.

A sample dinner when I was growing up: beef stroganoff, rice, green beans, dinner rolls, celery sticks stuffed with cream cheese. Now if I’m going to follow all the “rules,” that dinner becomes: grass-fed beef with organic mushrooms and organic beef broth, no rice, organic green beans, no rolls, and organic celery stuffed with organic cream cheese from grass-fed cows. And you wonder why I don’t want to cook.

But the final straw. THE FINAL STRAW. The final straw is that now fruit is frowned upon because it has a high sugar content and can make you fat.

Some of the most refreshing, satisfying snacks I have ever had consist of fruit. Frozen grapes, frozen cherries, fresh peaches, an apple a day keeping the doctor away, strawberries and blackberries picked fresh off the plant. And now I’m not supposed to eat any fruit either? Or just eat it before noon?

Is the stress about what’s good for us to eat making us crazy? Burger offerings that include six or eight foods that are normally eaten alone — bleu cheese, bacon, avocado, a fried egg, sautéed onions, fried foods? Sandwiches which feature donuts as the “bread.” French fries dipped in whipped cream? Are we insane?

So what do? I have no idea. Too much stress to eat. No more eating. That’s a good idea. That way, I won’t eat anything that’s bad for me. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just stop eating? Like the alcoholic can do when she wants to stop using alcohol? Just stay away from it altogether. But the eater must eat to live. It’s a dilemma, for sure.

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I Run and I Write

Sometimes I will come to my desk and open my laptop, ready to write, and the words just flow. Other times, I will look at my screen and nothing will happen. When that happens, I often go out for a walk or a run. Something about the concussive effects of my feet coming into contact with the earth seems to jar loose ideas that are tucked up in the cobwebs of my mind.

To wit:

When the builders built our little houses on this street, they naturally planted trees to adorn the yards. Considering that the houses were built in the late 1950’s, the trees have had a good long time to grow, whereas the houses have stayed the same size. As I walked today, I noticed the trees in my neighbors’ front yards. Some are nice, but we are not the only ones who have a mostly clear front yard.

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NOT OUR HOUSE, NOT OUR TREE

Can trees be clutter?

Since we moved into this home 17 years ago yesterday, we have had at least 8 trees taken down. A couple were damaged by lightning or wind, one was threatening to damage the driveway with its roots, and others just seemed to dwarf the house and I wanted some space.

The summer sun pours down on us now, without the break which used to come from the shade of those towering trees. Sometimes I miss the trees, and wonder why I was so anxious to remove them. Maybe it was just a function of having so much on my plate, with thinking I had to be all things to all people for several years, homeschooling, answering the questions of my bright, inquisitive children, keeping the home fires burning, as it were.

We have also planted three trees since we moved in, so we have a net loss of five trees. Really six, when you include the neighbor’s oak tree which dropped a branch right on top of the first Good Egg (Previa). The neighbors were not required to pay for the damage to the car because “Act of God,” but at least they took the tree down so no more of our vehicles would get smooshed by their tree.

Most of the trees we had were deciduous, so the raking job was unbelievable. The evergreens we had threatened wires, sprouted sap, and covered a lot of space. In general, there were too many trees here. But now that they have been gone for many years, and my plate has settled down if only slightly, and my brain has mended itself and I realize it’s not up to me to solve the problems of the entire world, I can imagine that a few more well-placed, carefully chosen trees would be a nice addition here.

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Our tulip tree. We’ve had her since she was a baby seed.

Years ago, a tulip tree seed burrowed down into our backyard and grew. And grew. And grew. And now, we have this beautiful tree. And this encourages me to plant more, but I want the benefits of the tree without having to wait for it to grow! This tree is no more than 12 years old, and it grew from a seed.

And in the spirit of this meandering post, here is a poem by Ilan Shamir. Advice from a Tree:

 

Dear Friend,
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter
Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!

 

I Just Watched My First PG Movie

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Well, I mean, today wasn’t the first time I have ever seen a PG movie. Today, I re-watched the first PG movie I ever saw.

It was a summer day in 1971, and the Ross family invited me to go to the drive-in with them. How I snuck a PG-movie past my parents, I have no idea. It wasn’t really my gig to sneak things past them anyway. More likely, we maybe just all assumed the movie was some Disney thing, and didn’t ask any more questions.

I’ve established elsewhere my childhood love for the Carpenters, as in Richard and Karen. Karen Carpenter sang the title song for this movie, and the melody motif was repeated throughout as background music. Listen here: Bless the Beasts and the Children

How things have changed since 1971. The movie takes place at a summer camp, run by people who most certainly were not asked to pass a background check, and no doubt, couldn’t pass one if they had been. “Wheaties,” the cabin leader for the boys, had a trunk full of pornography, alcohol, and firearms at the foot of his bed. Hey, I get that this wasn’t a Christian camp, but still.

The six boys were all misfits, or “dings,” as they were called by Wheaties. In a particularly hurtful address, Wheaties said, “You’re dings! You know what a ding is? That’s something that don’t fit anywhere, anytime, anything, any place. It uses up space, but it’s useless. Nobody wants it or knows what to do with it. So it’s got no use for living.”

Near the camp was a buffalo “reservation” where hunters, of whom Wheaties was one, were able to buy a ticket and shoot a corralled buffalo. At the time this film was made, buffalo were nearly an endangered species. In the film, the boys couldn’t bear to see these beautiful animals killed, as the killing was just for the heck of it.

When Wheaties dressed them down for being dings, he added, “Like those buffalo.” The dramatic arc in the film was about the boys leaving camp in the night and making their way to the buffalo preserve so as to let the buffalo go free. In an unforeseen twist, the buffalo ran out of the corral but then stayed close by to graze. Cotton, the young, angry, troubled camper who intended to join the Marines as soon as he turned 17, jumped in the jeep and took off after the buffalo to drive them away. The hunters had shown up by this time and in their attempts to shoot out the wheels of the jeep, they instead shot and killed Cotton.

I remember that moment, sitting in the Ross’s car, watching this film. Cotton was so passionate. It was almost more than I could take to see him falling out the door of the jeep, dead. I think I was just at the perfect age to have my emotions played like a guitar by the underdog nature of the group of boys, the cruelty of the other campers and the camp director, the desire for and capacity to carry out a big adventure, and the passion showed by these young men.

Best insult from the film happened when the boys were walking along a road, and a box truck roared by them, narrowly missing them. “Hippies! Hippies!” the boys yelled as the truck drove past.

Best inspirational poem from the film was attributed to a former camper, for dramatic purposes, but was written by one Walter Wintle.

“It’s All In A State Of Mind”

If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t,
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It’s almost a “cinch” you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost,
For out in the world you find
Success begins with a [person’s] will;
It’s all in the state of mind.

Full many a race is lost
Ere ever a step is run;
And many a coward fails
Ere ever his work’s begun.
Think big and your deeds will grow,
Think small and you’ll fall behind,
Think that you can and you will;
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you’re outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later, the [one] who wins,
Is the [person] who thinks he can.

-Walter D. Wintle

Do bless the beasts and the children today.

What was your first PG movie?

 

Grocery Shopping with my Twelve Children

And by twelve children, I of course mean one child who asks for twelve children’s worth of attention and energy! And by one child, I of course mean Kepler.

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We have the benefit of the most amazing resource; an agency full of angels social workers who help families with all sorts of issues related to special needs. They have been working with us for several months on food and eating, and we have branched out to some community outings to deal with issues that arise in such settings.

One of the challenges of parenting this child is that he generally is not ready to leave a place when it’s time to go. I have tried using a timer, acting like I didn’t care if we left, speaking sternly, begging, pleading, groveling, and collapsing on the floor in a heap of despair. That last one REALLY doesn’t work.

The social workers from Envision encouraged me to write a short list of tasks for him to do when we go somewhere. Here is an example from a recent grocery store trip:

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In the past, we might have had a three-minute tussle just getting through the foyer because he would disagree with my cart choice. It has been a complete godsend to begin using a list with him. The tasks are about as basic as they come, but he loves checking them off, and especially saying “ok,” as that means that he is obeying.

Simple tasks:

  1. Get a cart.
  2. Hold on to the cart.
  3. Remind me.
  4. Check with Mom first.

I daresay this might even work with typical children. I think children really love having a job to do, something specific to focus on, rather than just being the tail of a kite that is flying through a store and having to follow without giving any input.

This method also works when we are taking a walk. Greg had recently reminded me that at Toyota, they measure very small increments of things before reflecting on the failure or success of something. I had been taking Kepler for walks, but he would resist as soon as he figured out that the arc of the circle was now leading back home. Not sure if he thought we were just going to walk infinitely?

walking-mapWhenever he and I take a walk, I have the path, duration, direction, and intention set before we even start, but I haven’t ever thought to share any of that with him. I just figured, I lead, you follow, the end. However, when I take the time to draw the map, show him the route, give him the job of stopping at each intersection and saying OK about which way we are going to turn, the walk becomes a joy all the way to the end, not just until the point where he says, “HEY WAIT A MINUTE WE ARE HEADING HOME.”

Sometimes the most basic things are the most profound. Making a short, written list makes all the difference in the world to how easy it is to make transitions from one place to another. (Thank you, Emilie and Yolanda, my angels social worker guides.)