Thursday, February 28, 2019

God Just Called to Say He Loves Me

As a kid, I remember reading "Murphy's Law" and thinking it hilarious.  Now, I realize, it was a warning.   For the uninitiated, Murphy's Law states. "Anything that can go wrong, will." 

I'll wait while all who read that scroll through their memories for perfect examples of this reality. 

Like when...

You're filling out the tax forms and under stress and seven phone calls hitting both the land line and the cell interrupt the process, with the final perfect joy moment coming when the fourteen year old cooking hamburgers sets off the smoke detector. 


You're getting dressed for work and in a hurry and decide to wear the gold earrings.  One hoop falls from your fingers and drops beneath the dresser, rolling back to the far back such that you have to lie down on the ground to reach. When you arise, earring in hand, you note, it's covered in fuzz.  You look down at your outfit.  It matches your earring. 

Both of these events happened today. 

However certain dust bunnies and taxes may be, I know one thing more certain, the needs of adolescents for things out in the world, when Mom is stressed.   Tomorrow is Dr. Seus day at school, and she needed a shirt that said Thing 2.   I had one or two thoughts about things but thought better of voicing them. 

Driving over, I found myself in a hard mood.  I didn't want to hear talking, or to listen. I found everything tiresome.  I knew it wasn't good, and clamped down on myself, hoping simply allowing her to talk would satisfy.  She asked me if she could turn on the radio, and happily sang along with the tunes. 

Even parking proved difficult, and I still found myself struggling in the store.  It all felt just like extra and it was, but it should have been joyful extra and I knew it.  We got the necessary costume accessories, both for her and her two younger sisters and I stopped at the grocery store for some milk and other stuff.  She talked about singing and recalled the Black History Museum her class staged in the gym that morning, asking me what I knew about various figures and who we'd gone to see.  She asked if I'd seen her friend giving a report on Stevie Wonder.  I hadn't. 

She'd fallen in love with his music at a choir concert earlier in the year and began trying for the words.  Checking out of the store, and half listening, the part of me that's a good parent told the rest of myself, "You're missing this."  She sensed my frustration and thought it was her.  I apologized, explaining, I wasn't myself, or rather, I was too preoccupied to be good company.  She patted me on the shoulder as we loaded the groceries.  "That's okay." and asked me, "Why don't they play more of Stevie Wonder's music?" I admitted, I didn't know, other than it wasn't recent.  Perhaps just admitting my frustration proved sufficient humility, because up until then, I'd fought even discussing my own predisposition. She asked me for my favorite Stevie Wonder song, and I told her it was the first I owned, Sir Duke.  She said, "They should play more. I wish they would."

We got in the car and "Isn't She Lovely," immediately came on the radio.  "It's like God heard me saying I wanted that song."  and we sang along the lyrics we could remember.   The mood lifted, though I thought God was more telling me to look at my daughter, and see her.  "Isn't she Special.  Isn't she wonderful?"  and I thought, "Thanks God," for stupid things like songs on the radio, they make up for lint covered earrings and smoke alarms. 

And yes, I never thought through love we'd be 
Making one as lovely as she 
But isn't she lovely made from love,

Thanks Rita!   P.S. This is the piece from the concert she loved. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Over at the Register Today

I know, it's been a while.  Writing time these days comes at the cost of sleep, and I'm honestly frustrated with my lack of production.  However, here's a piece I wrote two weeks ago, in thinking about the upcoming summit of the Bishops to discuss policy going forth for the Church as a whole, when dealing with sexual abuse/misconduct by her princes and administrators. 

To me, the reality is simple.  People who profess something, must live it.  People in positions of authority must live it all the more, because they've chosen this life.  The pains of not living out a vow are self evident. The reality for all of us as we wrestle with this hurt, is what we must do.  Hence:  As we Forgive Those who Trespass Against Us.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tips for Living with 13 Year Olds

10) Take up kick boxing, roller derby or demolition duty for a local construction company. Why? Because you'll need to exercise out some of that aggression you spend 24-7 repressing for the next eleven years.

9) Yes, I said you have a decade plus one year to go. The human brain doesn't stop growing until then, and it's better to err on the side of this taking a while. it's why other self medications like alcohol and excessive amounts of chocolate aren't recommended. Sedating frustration only prolongs the agony. Keep a journal. When they turn 24, hold a bonfire. Some things shouldn't be recorded for posterity.

8) Find a photo of yourself at thirteen, or even better, a diary from that golden age of misery. Post it on your mirror as reminder, your parents survived you.

7) If you don't like something they like, the surest way to kill it as a fad, is to act overly enthusiastic about it to the point of instilling fear, you'll fanboy them into social awkwardness.

6) Talk about how cute they were as a baby with the other moms, bring up toddler stories, especially in the parking lot or at sporting events. They can't argue with you about it, and every parent gets to remember a time when it was easier to potty training.

5) Let the kids know, you've planned a group chat online or set up live feed on Facebook, because nothing kills their love of social media like parents using it. Don't forget to include the grandparents.

4) Shout louder than everyone at the sporting event. Applaud. Be their number one fanmom/fandad. Bring pom poms and wear school colors. Be there for every game, play, etc. Bonus if you do face make up in team colors too. Bonus bonus if you get their siblings to follow suit.

3) Make sure you crank the tunes when you pick up at carpool, especially if it's Broadway music or Disney. Sing along if you've been made to wait more than five minutes.

2) Invite your teen's friend's parents over for dinner. Play cards with them. Tell your teen they're on the list of acceptable potential in-laws. It should cure dating for years.

1) If your child proposes to do something dangerous, stupid, inappropriate, etc. and pulls the line, "I'm almost an adult...or I'm legally an adult," stand by with your FAFSA and say, "Do tell." Immediately plan your vacation with the funds that would have gone to parent plus loans. If he or she complains, tell them they were the inspiration. You felt honor bound to treat them as the independent souls they professed themselves to be, and the way to guarantee their independence, was to make your own self unavailable...and nothing says not available like a vacation in Hawaii. It's even better than years of Kickboxing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Blow for Humanity, inspired by Lucy Van Pelt

Nothing makes me more frustrated than the creation of systems supposedly designed to make life easier but which wind up making life hard.  Take for example, on line forms.  I thought, great, I'll never lose a form again.  The problem with on line forms is, I can't run out the clock on things I don't want to sign people up for, because they know, the form is right there online.  Parental dodges become a thing of the past, along side rotary phones, VHS and conversations in public places owing to the down time waiting for whatever it is to happen. 

I tried to sign up my son for track, but he for some reason is not linked to my account.  It's like he's independent in the mind of the computer and the school system. For a moment, he remains free from all of us, and I must ponder whether affiliation with me is a net plus for him.   Still, if he wants to do track, he needs me to sign forms and get them submitted, but the form is locked, and only available to the family of the student which for some reason, the system doesn't recognize me as being.  So I send emails and fill out the forms trying to prove what already is a reality to a non-reality machine that wants independent proof of what I already know.  If it were a hard copy form, I could have finished it and sent it off.   If it were a down loadable form, I could have printed it and sent it off.   Because it only exists in cyber space, the regulations to protect against abuse of said forms, now prevent actual use of said forms to allow for a flesh and blood person to do a flesh and blood thing. 

His track form is hard on my health.  I also need a form printed up, brought over to the Dr.s, which I must then allow three days time to pass for them to print up a copy of the form with the right signatures and dates on it, and then return to pick it up so he can sign the forms saying he's in good health, proven by the forms the dr. signed, and thus sign up for track, while I sign up a form saying, he's in good health and even if he gets hurt while trying to improve his health via track, I won't sue.

Add to that, the obligatory phone tree to get to the gatekeeper for everything from checking your balance to scheduling a hair appointment and it's enough to make me search for all things Amish when it comes to the service industry.  Never mind the "service fee" for the convenience of being given the exclusive opportunity to do my work without help, the "service fee" now comes because the service exists at all, and not for energies expended or actions rendered by those who take the money.  I'm thinking, it's time to strike back at all these obligatory online formats for everything. 

I'm introducing my own personal service fee. I feel my time and efforts and energies in the service of everything that society throws at us, are undervalued.  As such, I'm now providing a "service fee" to any and all industries that demand I use a phone tree rather than talk to a person to schedule an appointment.  Likewise, I will have a convenience fee when appointments to deal with ordinary tasks require additional trips and/or waiting time.  Out of respect for everyone's time, I'll use paypal so no one need pay a fee to Visa/Mastercard, or worry about pesky checks being returned.   I'll tack a fifteen percent gratuity for extra services rendered when I deem it's warranted.  Yes, I think if everyone adopted this method of tip for trips, we might find ourselves with far fewer errands, far less nit-picky stuff to manage, or if not, we'd find it more bearable as a result of the compensation.

Just my little way to brighten the world. Such good ought to be worth more than just my two cent's worth of thinking...

Five cents please. 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

February 9

It began with attending a concert.  My daughter's school participated in a junior high school music festival, and my husband and I and the next youngest daughter attended.  They sang beautifully, all of the choirs, and for a moment, you wanted it to go on and on and on and on, because each song revealed new beautiful voices.  It was a joy in part because we'd gone out of duty and found great pleasure. 

After the show, we stopped at 5 guys for some dinner and I asked the younger daughter (who is always hesitant to get into a group or perform), what she might consider doing to stretch herself when she got to high school.  We ran through some of the choices her siblings made in their high school careers.  She settled on art, but before we'd finished, the question turned. 

What would I do that was different, that would stretch me beyond what I already did?   I admit, I didn't like the question.  Wasn't I already doing?  I mean I write, I manage the household, I help with some classes at my job, I need to exercise, edit and read and could stand to learn a few new recipes but I didn't have a goal per se. 

However saying I didn't need to change or grow felt decidedly like a super cop out.   So I've been stewing over the question ever since.  What's needed for any goal is an object we can measure, and a will to do what is needed to reach it.   What did I want to learn? What did I need to learn? And, did I have the will and a plan to do it?

Well, let's start with piano, because it's easy an we just came from a music program.  Want to learn to play better?  Practice. 20 minutes. Every day. That's that simple and that hard.   I plinked for fifteen before my non-calloused fingers split and said, "We hate you. Please give us band-ades." which I supplied.   Maybe start with fifteen. 

What about editing.  I opened my black notebook with the printed book.  Ten pages...just do ten pages...maybe I'll exercise instead.

Okay, I know this is a humor blog but stop laughing.  No really. 

Reading.  Surely you can read Sherry.  You have three books sitting there waiting for you...need my glasses, which one to start...

I've discovered I have a lot of will not to do what I need to do.   Wondering if there's a Five Girls restaurant somewhere that serves chocolate and salads and extra doses of stick-to-it-ness. 

My son's been posting every week on his objectives for the year.  It's helped keep him on track.   It made me realize, what I haven't done, is write up goals, and thus I do not fail to will to achieve because I've opted not to pick something to push towards. 

So here are my goals that will push me.

Every week, 10 pages edited. 
Every week 1 lb. lost. 
Every week 1 book at least read from, if not finished. 
Every week, 2 articles submitted. 
Every week, plink on the piano five days a week. 

It helps.  It reminds me, what I ask of my kids, I must ask of myself.  It's a good thing to be reminded, setting goals is not easy.   It also reminds me, to stay in the stupid moment, enjoy the concert and the burgers and when your daughter says, "art," is her interest, say, "Great, let's draw." next time. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Refer to the Refs

Why does the sports industry do this to us?  After February 3rd and the Superbowl, we will enter what is known in our home as the Sports Void. There is no Splenda alternative, no understudy competition capable of covering the time span from February 4th to March Madness.  It's not that I'm a sports junkie, it's that I love the strategies and banter of my family as we debate calls, plays and coaching decisions.  It gives all my kids a way to use their desire to micro-manage someone other than themselves in an appropriate manner.   Absent sporting events, they turn to the easiest source of arm-chair quarterbacking in any household, their siblings, which leaves me in the unfortunate role of game official.

In the interest of helping to maintain a spirit of sportsmanship throughout the off season, I'm listing here the predesignated consequences for any and all infractions.

7) Off Sides:  the space within the car is limited. Failure to respect the personal space of each individual passenger shall be punishable by allowing the affected individual unrestricted access the music and atmospheric controls for the duration of the errand. 

6) Offsetting penalties:  In the event there are multiple flags, all entertainment shall be cancelled, all personal errands rescheduled, and offending members given the additional community service of folding fifteen pairs of socks each. 

5) Unintentional grounding:  I've learned, people don't get that they're not in charge even when I say, "You're not in charge."  Ergo, if someone declares themselves to be in charge, I'm handing over all the dishes for the evening, and I'm going to use extra pots and pans.

4) Holding: Everyone knows when someone extends their hand above their head clutching an item, it isn't because they're doing it to preserve peace.  They're proving they have the power to keep someone else from getting said item.   I'm of two minds on this issue.  If instant replay indicates the item was in fact involved in creating a problem for others, I will take the item. I will also put those helpful hands to use, thinking that person must volunteering for something.  Since I've already delegated laundry and dishes, I'm going to make this one an outside task, landscaping 101. 
They'll get to trim all the branches overhead.

3) False Start:  Every parent knows this tactic.  The younger kid baits the older one into attacking, the older one gets called for bad behavior, and the younger one enjoys schadenfreude.  This works until you learn the younger kid tell.   The best consequence for such behavior is servitude.  Making the younger kid bring ice cream to the older at the dinner table, acting as a waiter is oddly satisfying for all involved. (Particularly if you afterwards have everyone share the ice cream). 

2) Throwing the ball away: The opposite of baiting, is the death before dishonor tactic of destroying an item or a good to prevent another child from sharing or acquiring the good.  Replacement and remorse are the only acceptable consequences.  The nice reality is, you usually only have to enforce this penalty once. 

1) 12 Men on the field: My son sits in a chair. His older brother wants the chair as well.  A third sibling walks by and thinks, you know what this seat war needs? More people.  There are two couches and three other chairs.  This is the only one that matters.   Everyone is benched, I get the chair. 

If you're curious, when we get to March Madness, the kids resort to winner-take-all mentalities when it comes to turf battles.  Baseball season is much's a fight when I say it's a fight. 

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!