Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My kids don't do your idea of normal

For years, there have been stereotypes as to what little boys and girls do in terms of playing, socializing etc. And for the last 21 years, MY kids have been doing their own version of these things. My eldest asked for a Barbie for his 7th birthday. My 3rd child wanted a toy dumptruck for her birthday. I have provided my boys with toy kitchens alongside their cars, and my daughters with Rip-Stiks alongside their dolls. Honestly, my girls have a tiny doll collection by comparison to some of my friends' daughters. I did too. And I dug in the dirt as a kid. If my dad, who abhors yardwork, had a tree I could've climbed in the yard, I would have. He bought the smallest lot on the block so he wouldn't have to do much mowing or gardening. So my tree climbing skills never blossomed.

I also was prone to hanging out with boys more often than girls, because boys didn't have the same B.S. going on than my female peers. The fact that I now have a TON of female friends is sometimes boggling to me. But, I've also gotten girlier as I've gotten older, and then this crazybaglady gig I do *is* rather girly. And my daughters are a healthy blend of girly and tomboy, and I am not doing anything to squelch it. It does pose some challenges at school because our genetic quirks make us and our children outside the herd. The herd doesn't know how to handle us right away, and the kids struggle with fitting in at school.

My 5 year old tells me with regularity that the girls in her class move away from her, and that it makes her sad because she likes them. It hurts my heart because I know what that means for her. It means that she isn't someone they relate to easily, and she's probably a bit rowdy at school (because she is at home too), so the girls don't want to get involved with a rowdy girl who would probably play better with the boys. My suggestion was to just leave the girls alone and hang with the boys. My daughter said that the girls are better than the boys and she didn't want to play with boys. I told her that sister and I were faced with the same problems as little girls, and we decided that girls were annoying and we hung out with the boys instead because they were just more fun.

It is a bittersweet realization that my daughters are SO much like I am, because I know the difficulty they have been living. My 12 year old was one of 2 girls in 5th grade who opted to go play football with the boys instead of walking around the playground gossiping. Middle school has been tough on all of us, and I truly wish more parents embraced variety and encouraged their daughters to go climb a tree, play football, go fishing, or skateboard. I wish more parents embraced their sons' softer sides a little more and let their sons play with kitchens and dolls. All of these things for each gender serves purpose, and makes them more well-rounded individuals. My oldest sons are awesome caregivers to their siblings, and can care for a home. My daughters will eventually learn the nuances of mowing the yard so my husband won't have to do it as often, and basic hardware use so they can install their own curtain rods, unclog the sink drain, or check the fluid levels in their cars.

Why do I do things this way? I do it because I don't want my sons to be a source of frustration for their partners by never helping around the house. I do it because I don't want my daughters to feel like they must settle for a partner who does this stuff, but neglects her soul or worse yet, abuses her. I want them all to appreciate what their partners do for them, because they understand what it entails. We're too weird to be your idea of normal, but we're too normal to be weird. And speaking only for myself, I am absolutely ok with that because... well, frankly I don't care if you think we're weird. I do, however, care that you teach your kids to not be jerks to mine for being slightly off center from your definition of normal.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Weddings and bridesmaid torture

There is a post elsewhere asking for pictures of people in their wedding dresses which spun off to another thread asking for pics of bridesmaids in their attire.
So, here ya go...I've been a bridesmaid twice. And I can safely say that the honor is work regardless of where in the lineup a girl is. I am insanely thankful that neither bride was a horrible witch.



Saturday, April 11, 2015

Daylight and diapers

Again, with the preference for the instant gratification of being on crackbook and the feedback I get over there.

It's been a crazy few months with taking care of my dad, then him being tired of being here and going to my sister's house. Dealing with him is more exhausting than dealing with a toddler. At least with a toddler, you can redirect and reframe things. With an elderly adult having dementia, they.are.not.budging.no.matter.what.you.try. Plus he helped install the buttons, she he can find them easier than the kids do. Mad props to anyone who works with elderly, or has a caretaker role of the kind.

The ability to breathe again has made me realize that I was whiny when I didn't want to take the kids to the store with me. I still prefer to go alone, but I don't bemoan schlepping kids as much - except when my 5 year old has been on Spring Break and not having a big enough outlet to expend energy. Taking her with me added about 45 minutes to the journey, and prompted me to get cranky.

And in my cloth diapering adventures, a product I use broke. I contacted the company about replacing it under their warranty, and was asked about using a new product. I'm certainly amenable to beta testing things. If the product can withstand my brute force crew, and our distinct lack of dainty-floweredness, then I will gladly talk about it. I have been tossing around the idea of creating another blog page specifically for product reviews anyway.

I recently posted a picture on Facebook of my drying rack full of diapers sunbleaching in the front of my house which faces West and gets more hours of sunlight than my well-shaded back yard. It apparently created an uproar with a neighbor. If you're a reader of my blog, you know I did not give a rip that this person took issue with it. It just means the connection with that individual got relegated to the next concentric circle away from the center of my people. I value experiences and insight from those around me. What I do NOT value is condescending opinion of how I should be doing things in my household, or opinions from others who do not take active part in my day to day living. I value people who are heart-in and hands-on with regards to our friendship. The fact that I have a better friendship with some people online elsewhere who I've never met, than I have with some of the people geographically nearest me is sad. It's not for my lack of trying. I do try to make person-to-person connection with people. The problems start with my shooting from the hip, but to put it nicely, I am authentic. Then it continues with my hybrid traditional/modern approach, because some people can not handle a blend when they want all one way or another. In short, I am too weird to be normal, but too normal to be truly weird.

I am comfortable in my own skin, and have been able to discern people fairly quickly in their motives and what kind of behavior I expect from them. I do my version of me really well, and that is what draws the kind of people to me who appreciate it. The ones who don't usually end up looking foolish in the end anyway by their own actions.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Opportunities wasted

My son has T-Mobile for his cellular service. He went to a local franchised store to get a phone, and in the course of the transaction, the associate didn't give him his ID back, and he forgot to ask for it. Crap happens, everyone is human. When he was called later to notify him that his ID was there, he said "I don't have a ride to get it, I'll be back when I can." He could have called me to help him, but he knows we're quite busy here and it would be a bit of challenge getting it for him with everything going on over here.

Getting the ID back has proved impossible, and has demonstrated this local franchisee's lax levels of customer service. I spoke to the store manager yesterday, and was given one set of information. My son was there the day before but nobody could find it, and as such, he couldn't start a new job since he needs the ID to demonstrate eligibility to work. He called again today and was told the regional manager took the IDs to the DMV "to be mailed" but they automatically get shredded due to security regulations. OK, fine, but be honest with us, and say "sorry, they get shredded". Or maybe if your store routinely has a stack of IDs, get on the ball and make sure the IDs get returned.

On the first visit, my son was told that someone may have taken his ID home even. Uh, hellooooo!!! Now we're looking at the potential for identity theft! I am beyond livid with these individuals for their slackass handling of this, plus the appearance that there is a repeated problem with failing to return IDs, and the store manager not having the keys to the safe while in the store. My son called the corporate office to find out what he can do about it, and the corporate line said he would need to handle it locally. Well, clearly after the store manager gave me a line of fluff while I was there, and then told my son the regional manager took the IDs to the DMV, we were not going to get far locally. He called the store to find out the corporate number for the franchisee owners, and was told "1800TMobile" and the person hung up the phone.

I was done. Two trips to the store to attempt to retrieve the ID, various stories given about what came of the ID, the possibility of identity theft being raised, the abrupt response and disconnect, all left me livid. I called TMobile corporate on my son's behalf. Yes, he's 21, but he's also got a snot-filled head, and coughing, and I've got some skill in dealing with customer service.

I spoke to Adrian at the corporate office, related to her what our experience was and that we're horribly frustrated, having to replace the ID, and that now personal information has been compromised, leaving us facing any number of scenarios. Then there's a week of lost income for not having the ID. Plus, the store had the opportunity to demonstrate stellar service, and instead took the crappy path. Just be honest with us if there's a problem. If we had to get a new ID because his was shredded, we could've dealt with it Tuesday, yesterday, or this afternoon between appointments for my dad instead of chasing down bad information and service, and trying to sort around other logistics tomorrow or Tuesday - both horribly busy days for the DMV. We can't do it Monday because it's a holiday. Adrian offered a partial credit toward the ID, and advised us on putting a consumer statement on the credit files (which we already knew to do). She apologized for the way things got handled, but she shouldn't have to be the one to apologize. She said she would be forwarding the complaint to the company's appropriate channels.

When tasked with serving customers, mistakes can and do happen. However, HOW the rest of the problem gets handled makes a huge difference. Owning up to the error, apologizing for it, and doing what you can to rectify it will leave a positive mark for the customer. I will say that given the entitled mindset of a huge segment of the population, some people will never be satisfied because their tush wasn't kissed enough. But if there is an opportunity to make a positive impression, do everything possible to avoid warranting a call to corporate to have me vent about the poor service. I've been on the receiving end of those kinds of complaints and they are no fun. It's not cool to have to apologize for the errors other people make. And when you have to complain about someone else, be as kind as possible to the person tasked with taking your complaint. How you lodge it could have an impact in the resolution you get from them. They're trying to make it right with you, they don't deserve being abused for the screw-up someone else caused. They are taking the opportunity the first person didn't take.

Monday, February 2, 2015

My welcome? Wha?

When I re-start my search for a job, my resume will include "FIRM grasp of the English language and grammar, including appropriate punctuation, contractions, and spelling"
This is just one of the bazillion I've seen already in the course of dealing with the people tasked with the administrative segment of dad's care.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Birthday gifts

It's been a while since I posted anything, which is not uncommon for me to do around here. Like a lot of people, I thrive on the instantaneous potential for feedback over on crackbook. As those folks over there know, I've recently been tasked with my father's care. He had a stroke, or multiple strokes, over the Christmas holidays. It is coming to light exactly the small missteps others made that led us to where we are today. It has only been a week, and like God tells us, "we know not the hour" of the culmination of this leg of the journey. I have high hopes to tolerate it for the long haul, with the rocky crags, the beautiful sunrises, the smooth terrain, and the potholes along the way.

As my readers know, I couch virtually everything in humor, whether it's truly an amusing situation, a heart rending one, or something that has drawn my ire. My father has a certain wit about him, and he instilled it in me. He is also the genetic source of my debaucherous side. He also taught us many other lessons. He is a living message of "preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary." He has always given his time and talent where he could. He has served as church sexton, usher at Mass, and bread slinger at a food mission. The bosses at the bread mission expressed concern over a man of a certain age who was heaving stacks of full bread trays, 5 at a time. My father quite handily put their concerns aside with his feisty wit and determination, outslinging "the young bucks"  as he calls them, and finishing the prep work for his station in less time than it took for the younger volunteers to even get their product to their stations.  Telling him no means he is even more determined to prove the naysayer wrong.

And this stroke has slapped him with a big fat NO. No, sir, you can't drive anymore, because you are blind in the right half of both eyes (hemianopsia). No sir, you can't be alone anymore because not only can you not see half your world, but you will now start seeing things nobody else can, your depth perception is skewed, and your idea of slow is still too fast for your safety. No, sir, your dementia has been made worse by the stroke, and life as we know it has changed. No, sir, you must use that walker because the vision loss is going to affect your balance. No, sir, it is no longer your time to give and do for others, but it is your time to receive. And he quite simply does not know how to sit back and accept others serving him.

For a man who has always given, always done for himself and others, this is a huge blow. It is a slow painful death to a man to not be needed. And as I just typed that, I realized that in my insistence on serving him, I have inadvertently caused him to not be needed. My oldest sister suggested I have him help with small tasks that he can do, like folding the baby's diapers for me. This is a lesson to me as well, because like my father, I have a need to do things for myself. I need to loosen the reins on the small tasks so I can focus on where my purpose currently lies. That purpose is to manage my father's care and keeping, that of my household, and to work on growing my business. And my other purpose is to serve as my dad's protector - from himself, the pitfalls of his environment, and people who would take advantage of him.

Dad has always taught us to never expect anything from anyone, but should someone give you something, you are to be damn grateful for it. It has a link to his upbringing during the 1930s, with parents who, to be polite, were difficult. For whatever reason, Dad feels unworthy. He's always felt that way, but it is truly showing itself as an impediment at the moment. He feels unworthy of being served in his old age. I know how that feels. It's exactly how I felt when I attended a retreat at church, and these women refused to let me lift a finger to do anything except tuck myself into bed, dress myself, and use the bathroom. To a mom who did so much for her family on a daily basis, it was truly FOREIGN to have someone else take care of her. Right now, I've been speaking a horrible foreign language to Dad, and he can't translate.

So, here's this aged man, who has been forced out of his world, and into ours. His presence in our home was my birthday present. He was discharged from the rehab hospital the day after my birthday. I was joking the week prior, and still do, "Happy Birthday! Here's the care and keeping of your father!" It's a very important task, and it's not rainbows and sparkly fairy unicorn farts by any stretch of the imagination. But humor is how I handle things. Despite the snark of the outward appearance of that statement, I am finally getting the opportunity to see a part of my father he hid from the world. His vulnerability calls for my strengths to be put into action. The life experiences I've collected along the way with Devildog have been training grounds for this stretch of the journey.

Having a dad who was 49 when I was born, I always had an appreciation and respect for the elderly. They've been there, done that, got a thousand t-shirts to show for it. Just this week alone, I have seen beautiful things about him, about my oldest sister, and about my husband and children. And that is a gift that can't be taken lightly.











Saturday, December 6, 2014

Life matters, no matter the packaging.

There's a hashtag floating around, #blacklivesmatter and for some reason it has been a bit of a craw in my side and I couldn't figure out why. I think part of it is because the racism running rampant in our country angers me. But I also think that if there are going to be protests over things like police officers overstepping or using excessive force, then there should be protests over the neighborhood thugs doing the same. There should be protests over the incredibly low breastfeeding rates among black mothers, when it's a well-documented fact that breastfeeding a baby generally contributes to healthier children overall. There should be protests over the incredibly high abortion rates among black women versus other races. If black lives matter, then ALL black lives should matter from conception to natural death. If black lives matter, why is abortion so acceptable when it's involving an unborn baby whose heart starts beating right about the time a woman realizes she's late for her menstrual cycle, but it's unacceptable to cause enough harm to make that same heart stop beating once the person is born?
Page 6 of this report from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene breaks down the numbers by age, borough, race, and pregnancy outcome. It's eye-opening. This is JUST in New York City.
Where is the outrage over the loss of life at the hands of others across the board? Why are only the police vilified when every single day across this nation, not one person stands up on behalf of their neighbors who are killed at the hands of other citizens, often the same race as the victim? What makes the lives of the born more valuable than the unborn?

If you want to be one of the voices crying out that black lives matter, lets make sure there's an accounting for ALL black lives lost, born or unborn. Let's make sure we're calling into question everyone who is ending the heartbeats of other black lives regardless of the job title they hold. Let's go one step beyond that, and declare that ALL lives matter regardless of the outer package containing that life.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tenants, landlords, farmers, and parents

I love my pastor's homilies. He shoots from the hip and minces no words. His message came from today's Gospel reading that as parents we are the tenants who must produce good fruit (Matthew 21:33-43). He commented that the kids are wanting to serve, but parents are preventing it. "Parents, they can not drive." He commented that when we fail to tend our gardens properly, they yield bitter fruit. Likewise, when we fail to teach kids the things they need to learn, our own children also become bitter fruit (aka brats). Sometimes, weeds overtake the garden and our kids choose their own path that we wouldn't have chosen for them.

Twice last week, it was suggested to me to use the cry room on both Saturday at the vigil Mass, and then Wednesday when I went to Mass because I was seeking some time of peace on a difficult day. The message was not received well, and I physically bit my tongue to avoid making more problems for myself. I was angry, hurt, frustrated, and felt unwelcome in my own home. So, today, I brought it to my pastor's attention after church, wishing I could have caught up to him before Mass because this would have been related to his homily today.

I feel like a bit of a tattle tale, but honestly, the pastor needed to know this was happening. If the two individuals said it to me when my family has served as liturgical ministers, they were going to say it to others. The first is unfamiliar with my family since it was a different Mass than we normally attend. He was polite and I want to believe he was well-intended, but the second being familiar with us may not have been. They are also older, from the generation that was raised to be seen and not heard. There is a time and place for children to be seen only, but it's a short list.

As I suspected, the pastor did not disagree with me. He even said "how else will they learn?" My kids get louder, more disruptive, and more distracted by the other unchecked kids running around in the cry room. Plus it has a tile floor, making the noise reverberate. No thank you, my kids have my permission fidget all they need to, so long as they're quiet and not getting overly disruptive to the prayers of those around them. I will not be taking them to the noisy room, but instead, will continue to remind them to be respectful of those around them, be quiet in the presence of God in church, and set the example for other parents in teaching their children. If I have to take them out of church, there are consequences for junior, and then - this is key - WE GO BACK IN THERE.

This goes back to my beliefs as a parent that we are raising our children in preparation for the adult world. When my kids are somewhere with me, they must behave appropriately even when they are bored, don't want to be there, or don't like the place. There is also time and place for children's fear to be addressed, but in this instance, my youngest 3 kids have been coming to Mass with me since birth after I learned the hard lesson with the oldest 2 with regards to church. It's not an unfamiliar or unsafe place that would merit a freak-out from my neurotypical children. After what feels like a million years, the kids start figuring out how to participate in the Mass, how their actions impact others, how to adapt to their surroundings, and how to deal with things they may not like.

Perhaps my kids being difficult is divine intervention to get that person behind us to get out of their own heads for a minute and pray for peace to come to the frustrated mother who can't seem to get the pre-Kindergartener to stop doing obnoxious things in an attempt to get mom's goad, or the baby who's figured out his voice carries very well given the acoustical design of the sanctuary to not be quite so loud till he's back outdoors, or for the older sister who is being annoyed by the pre-Kindergartener because button-pushing is a favorite activity. Perhaps, the bouncing kids are supposed to be a reminder to the estranged grandparents that it's time to reach out again to their child in an attempt to mend the fence. What ever the reason behind the lessons presented, they are being presented because that annoyance is supposed to teach something. Instead of clucking or ostracizing, pause a minute, and listen to God's whisper, and find out what message you are supposed to be receiving.

I am keenly aware my kids are disturbing the peace. I live with them. Peace comes about midnight when they're all drooling on the pillow, and even then there is no guarantee it will remain till sunrise. As a mother of an interfaith marriage who wrangles her children at church solo, I want nothing more than my children to be quiet and not disrupt your time at Mass. Because when they do that for you, they also avail it to me. And by the time my nest is empty, someone near me will have a full one, and the shoe will be on the other foot. I hope I can remember the challenge, and offer prayers for peace for them, and not cluck at them.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Seize the day, before something seizes you

I have a group of online friends who all had babies around the time Blur was born. My friend Lauren is among this group, and is also on my Thirty-One team. Her oldest son has been in the hospital all week after having a seizure at school, and many more seizures after that. Please keep this family in your prayers. Someone from another online group has set up a fundraiser as well, to help the family cover living expenses while their son is in the hospital and mom is camped out at the hospital. Whether you're only able to offer prayers, or you can help this family, anything you can do will be appreciated.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The gift of a wardrobe

There was a post in my crackbook feed several months ago, proffering the contents of a closet being culled as the owner worked her muscles into compact form and these fell off her. I'd just had a baby, and faced the potential of a wardrobe challenge over the coming year. With each subsequent baby, my body takes its sweet time to go back to something smaller. Here, the heavens were opening up before me, and someone was blessing me with something I needed so very much. I took what I could use and passed along the rest to someone else.

I was going to be traveling through multiple seasons with a not-pre-baby-size body, and I trusted that it would be a short lived transitional wardrobe. I would be ok with being the size I am now, because I know I'd be more in line with an "average" size, and it might actually be easier to find things that fit me. Somehow clothiers think my pre-baby size equals twig, not scenic tour with curved roads. I wasn't willing to buy a whole new wardrobe at retail for potentially one season. I wasn't willing to buy out of season on clearance hedging bets on what size and shape I would be for that future season. I still don't know where my body is going to land, so I still can't hedge bets for later.  My luck, I'd buy a size down and my butt would refuse to go any smaller. There are some things that no self-respecting mother should ever allow her clothes to do to her.

This gift was an answer to a whispered prayer for future need. That future is the current moment and season. I have been wearing the 3 pair shorts from that bundle so much that I've killed the hems and have to re-hem them all. They are my "uniform", and literally get worn daily. Today was just below Hell Hot, and I could wear a pair of the pants. Like usual, I have ghetto bootie gap because of my curves. I've killed my belt with that issue. As I was changing into my pajamas tonight, I was feeling extraordinarily grateful for pants that fit, albeit a smidge loose. Far better they are loose than too snug! Between the pants from that bundle, and a seriously awesome pair of shoes from another friend, plus the shirt I found on clearance while I was still pregnant (that was a safe bet to make, pants not so much), I looked pulled together at church today. I felt like a grownup, and not a schlub. As a liturgical minister on hiatus, I am seen and known at church, whether I know everyone or not. Therefore, I am an example to others. As such, I should be the good example, not the horrible warning. As a business woman, my appearance does matter to those who may eventually do business with me. If I look like a bag of butt, people will treat me as such.

It may seem like a simple thing to the giver. She was just clearing out the stuff that was too big. But to the recipient, it has been a literal God-send. I am able to pull together outfits, and dress professionally where needed. I can take kids to appointments or school functions and not embarrass my offspring or myself. I can wear shorts that aren't cotton elastic gym clothes because that was my only other option short of consignment shopping, which is always a crap shoot regardless.

And thanks to another generous friend with big feet and excellent taste in shoes, I have some seriously cute shoes that go with almost everything. Pregnancy changed my feet too, and I killed some shoes, but my feet have followed the same path my hips have. So several pairs of my shoes still don't fit me, or they are no longer comfortable to wear. This will come as sacrilege to some, but there are only so many occasions that flip-flops can be worn.

Anyone who has that one outfit that makes them feel super, powerful, or gives a new posture, knows how important it is to feel good in the fabric dressing your person. So when you're clearing the closet, and passing it on, you really ARE blessing someone else in more ways than you might imagine. In short, I don't just have clothes and shoes. I really do have a functional wardrobe. If you knew me 15 or 20 years ago, you know how monumental this is. And if you know me at all, you know how swollen with gratitude my heart is that I have this gift, and that people shared it with me.