Monday, December 17, 2012

May God Bless

It's a dreary day here - the sky is gray, and it's a little chilly. It's just dark enough outside to justify turning on the lights on the Christmas tree. I've spent the day doing volunteer work, and soon I'll head to the high school to get my two teenagers. In another time, this would be a boring start to a blog, but the idea of school and children has a resonance now after last Friday.

We spent the weekend with family in Tennessee. It was arranged well in advance of the horror of Friday. Our weekend meant we spent hours upon hours in the car together - Mom, Dad, two teenage sons. And it was rare that my thoughts did not turn towards Connecticut. We discussed music, and I thought of how blessed I was to have my children safely with me. And later we talked about movies, and I would think how blessed I was to have my children with me. And later yet when we talked about football, I would think how blessed I was to have my children with me. Each time a prayer would head to heaven for the families who have lost their little ones, and for the families who have lost their loved ones - the teachers and administrators who were true heroines that day. But my thoughts also turned towards the gunman and his family. And I said a prayer for him and his family also.

When my oldest son was six, he wanted to be a fireman. When my younger son was six, he wanted to be a soldier. At sixteen, my oldest son is learning Chinese, and has found Accounting to be an easy course. He's interested in how he could combine learning both. At fourteen, my younger son is still deciding, and anyone who has been a teenager knows they both could change their minds a dozen times before settling into a career. Each child that was lost was a loss to each of us. Their potential gone before it could happen.

The word evil is used so much when these horrors happen. Certainly what happened is an illustration of an evil act. Nothing can justify such an act. But my heart breaks as a mother for all who were lost, and that does include the gunman. Raising a child to be an upstanding person is simply the hardest act I've ever attempted. Sometimes a child is born broken. If you have not read this article by a mother of a broken child, please do - "I am Adam Lanza's Mother" . We do not know the circumstances, and nothing can justify the act, but my heart cries out also for someone who at 20 somehow thought this was something to do. Why may not ever be answered. I do know that there is never a simple easy answer. Mental illness needs to be a part of the conversation. But simply throwing out a diagnosis such as autism is using too broad a brush - a brush which paints those who don't deserve it.

All I can offer is prayer - for each of the victims, their families, for the first responders, for the gunman, and his family, and each person affected by the horror. May God bless and provide healing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

One Man’s Miracle Cure for Menopause!

One beautiful sunny morning during the summer of 2011, my then doctor shoved me, metaphorically of course, into my very own Twilight Zone and since that day I have been fighting to escape it. I wasn't going to go down without a fight, I had no intention of being hurled into the abyss, and aged before my time. No, this intrepid explorer of hormones was on an expedition to find my way out and nothing was going to stop me. Like many women (I am absolutely 100% sure about this) I was not going to take the news that I was post-menopause lightly. For heaven's sake, I wasn't even 45, had only missed one period, and this news implied that I was ultimately over the hill, dried up like a shriveled prune, no longer of service to the reproducing human race. As you can tell from my descriptions I wasn't too happy about the news, but you can't argue with blood tests and a sarcastic YOUNG nurse now can you!. 

I cried for days, checking in the mirror sporadically just in case the excess water loss from my tears was making my parched state even worse, I couldn't afford to lose any more body bits! All I could think of was Samantha in the movie, "Sex in the City 2." I had always dreamed I would grow old like her; disgracefully running around enjoying being sexy, wise, and beautiful (yes, I get top marks for having a vivid imagination). For God's Sake, I did not even get a chance to use hormone creams, pop placebo pills, or eat humongous amounts of Hummus due to its medicinal properties. I felt cheated, I wanted to stamp my feet, and scream loud at everybody. The only problem was I was too embarrassed. It felt like I had menopause engraved on my forehead, I didn't want to go out or communicate with people.

I started to notice things too, changes on my body. I was convinced my boobs were sagging, my waist was disappearing, my stomach was growing flabby, and yes the ultimate blow, I saw the dimples appearing like chicken pox on my thighs. What a nightmare. I spend hundreds on the strongest-you-can-buy skin creams, applying a thick layer each night, which quite ironically make me look like a zombie according to my husband. Obviously, I was hoping by the morning my cheeks wouldn't have dropped into large jowls and my neck wouldn't resemble the turkey we serve at Christmas. My Twilight Zone was a living hell, but what made it worse was that each month I was having pre-menstrual symptoms. My weight would increase by at least seven pounds, my hunger was out of the universe, my boobs became swollen, which of course delighted me as they didn't sag as much, and I got the occasional pimple or two. On top of all this my under-active thyroid symptoms steadily got worse. My thyroxin pill strength was increased every four to five months, but to no avail. I began to feel like a physical wreck!

I ventured out to others for help. I was desperate. By this summer (2012), I knew something was not right. I had done my homework and had, on two occasions, a little light breakthrough. I saw an Endocrinologist who told me in not so many differing words to these, "Get used to it. You have gone through menopause, you can expect to put on five pounds of weight approximately each year, and no, you are not too young for this. Sorry you have wasted your money coming to see me." Nice lady (can you hear the sarcasm?) She is definitely not on my recommendation list of doctors. I also went to see a Chinese doctor. She took me off wheat, introduced me to coconut oil, and gave me instruction to hold an incense candle to my ankles twice each day for five minutes at a time. In addition, once a week I would go and have at least 20 needles placed in certain parts of my limbs and torso to alleviate my symptoms and to improve my circulation. To be fair, this was at the time, the best result. I did lose a little weight, I did feel a little better, and I wasn't so 'hormonally disturbed'. But, I have to admit, I love wheat, and this was diet was not sustainable. Naturally, I failed and this added to my post-menopausal feeling of uselessness.

My road to redemption started quite unexpectedly at my once-a-year ladies check up. The doctor, a different one this time, but very nice all the same, innocently asked me how I was feeling. That was her mistake, fourteen months of frustration, anger, and humiliation let rip. After about 45 minutes, she sat there with a look on her face that said "Looney" and to appease me, she sent me on a referral to another Endocrinologist. Four weeks later, I was sitting in his office.

Now, for a moment, let me take you on a visual journey. Close your eyes and imagine Mr. Magoo, with yellowy wax like skin, and a creepy smile of a serial killer. Got it? Yep, I was ready to run. I found myself quite suddenly accepting of my situation. But, would you believe it, I wasn't quick enough to escape. Obviously old age had slowed me down, and I was there, stuck in the room face to face with THE DOCTOR! 

I was somewhat distracted but managed to relay my story to him. I got a bit, well actually a lot, creeped out when he stood behind me massaging the front of my throat with both hands. I gulped literally and he told me to relax. Instinctively, I pulled away and he chuckled asking me if I liked being choked. Um, hello? The room instantly just got smaller; I was with a psycho, trapped and convinced I was going to end my life as a not-wanna-be-post-menopausal victim of a modern day Dr. Jekyll. As it turns out, he was a good listener, wrote many notes, and looked at my book of blood tests that I had  brought with me. He explained he had seen many cases just like me, and that he would perform some tests (an ultrasound and blood work), but he felt sure the problem was with my medication. He explained that if you are on a generic medication, especially of thyroid replacement, there can be a 20% swing in strength from one supplier to the other. Therefore, if your pharmacist is in the habit of switching suppliers your medication can be unbalanced. Five days later, after my results were in, I switched to a slightly higher dosage of the brand named drug. 

At first, there was no change in my condition and it seemed Dr. Jekyll had failed, but after ten days, I began to feel nausea, a bit like morning sickness. This went on for some time but I knew I couldn't be pregnant, after all I was post menopause. I made an appointment at the doctor, but soon cancelled it as I found my answer to my problem. My period had arrived, and then four weeks later another period, and today four weeks after the second, another. My cycle has returned, normal and healthy. 

What I have not told you is that two weeks after initially seeing Dr. Jekyll, a blood test was re-performed to confirm my hormonal state of play at my original doctor's surgery. Funnily, I got a call from that surgery during my second period. The nurse, nicer this time, was ecstatic, she was proud to announce I was not menopausal at all. In fact, it didn't look as if I had started the process. I told her I sort of figured that one out on my own, but thanked her for her information. Oh, I was so proud of myself for not losing my religion with her. I mean, seriously, had my husband not had a vasectomy years ago I could have been, once again, barefoot and pregnant, rendering me an eternal slave to the kitchen and washing machine into my old age. Oddly enough, I now recognize that I don't want another baby and now miss my non-period days. 


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sister Act

“How old is that range top?”  Regina, the middle sister of the three of us looked over at me this past Tuesday evening, “That range top was here when Mama and Daddy built on the kitchen to this house. What year was that?”

Elizabeth, our eldest sister, and I started to back track the years. I was only four when we moved out of that house, the first place that I knew as a home. I told them it had to be before (aw poo, I’m giving away my age here) 1964 when we moved. Regina asked if that was after Kennedy was shot, and Elizabeth said it was.

I told them I remembered where the TV console stood in the room and how I recalled Daddy watching the news, shaking his head, saying he knew it would happen while my Mama cried. Elizabeth and Regina nodded saying it was just that way, and then they told me that I was only a little thing, on my knees, crying in front of the TV. From that we figured the old kitchen range had been in that house, working hard, plucking away since 1963 or before. We sat at the kitchen table in that same house, now my sister’s home, plucking away together, reminiscing.

My sister Regina looked around at us and said, “This is good.”

“What is?” Elizabeth asked.

“This.” Regina gestured around at the three of us, together, talking, being sisters.

Families are weird. We get along, we don’t. We bash each other, but if an outsider tried, watch out. I can’t count the times I got on Regina’s nerves growing up. There were countless when times I stole her make-up and denied it. She knew I had, you couldn’t miss the lipstick stains on a six-year-old’s shirt collar. Elizabeth was always the other Mama, taking care of us, lending a hand, singing me to sleep. I wouldn’t trade all the ups and downs, the arguments, the sibling rivalry for anything. Not even the saddest moments. They are my family, my history, my present, and God willing, a part of my future.

It’s funny that something so innocent as sitting around a kitchen table can make you aware of what is important. I hope I hang on to it, appreciate it, and realize, just like my sister said, this is good.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Suffering From Failure to Launch?

Forget the clock and just give me a white flag to hoist up the pole. I can’t seem to do anything in a timely manner at home. I’ll have keys in hand and be ready to hit the door only to have my son remind me that I was supposed to do something, or that I really should stay home and do the night-night routine. I’ll run up the stairs to get my glasses only to pick up the discarded shoes, socks and the new roll of toilet paper that didn't make it up the stairs in the first place, and put them away. Half an hour later I still won’t have my glasses and I’ll be in the laundry room loading the dryer. I suffer from failure to launch what I need to launch, when I need to launch it.

I come by it honestly. At some point after age 60 my mother stopped worrying about when the Christmas decorations went up, and when they came down. One year when my Aunt Magdalene was visiting my mother, she called their sister, my Aunt Kathleen, and told her it was so beautiful being at my mother’s house. Everything was always so beautiful to Aunt Magdalene. Her rich European accent would have you spell bound, believing that even the New Jersey Turnpike was a thing of beauty. The conversation between them went something like this:

Aunt Magdalene: “Oh ya! It is all so lovely.”

Aunt Kathleen: “Are the flowers still in bloom there?”

Aunt Magdalene: “Oh ya, ya, and the Christmas tree is so beautiful!”

Aunt Kathleen: “Christmas Tree? What are you talking about? It’s JULY!”

Yes, it was July and Mama had decided enough was enough. She kept the eight foot tall, fake, flocked, Christmas tree up all year that year; occasionally dusting around it. She didn't care what anyone thought. When the heat of the summer seemed to stifle all the spirit out of you, she’d light the tree. Fake as it was, it pulled you back to where the days were crisp and the warm glow of home prevailed.

Maybe I need a fake, flocked Christmas tree. At this point I’m willing to try anything to get things off the ground, or to have some semblance of a schedule. I should be in bed around ten every evening, but I usually hit the sheets around 11:30 or later. I wash a dish, or fold a load of clothes, or see a chin hair or two that needs plucking, or a button that needs to be sewn on. Making my way to bed becomes an obstacle course of things that I didn't get to in the day. Mornings are worse. It’s all the above, done in a breathless rush between hugs, and goodbyes, and where the hell are my glasses! I make it into work by the skin of my teeth, panting and disheveled. It’s a frightening sight.

Now that Christmas is just around the corner, I’m struggling with boxes full of decorations. My five-year-old son is full of enthusiasm, wanting every decoration out for the entire world to see. I try to be upbeat and smile, well, it looks more like a grimace or maybe it looks more like someone who got hit up with too much Botox, but I try. Maybe I’ll take the decorations down this year, and maybe I won’t, but first I’d like to get them all up, after I find my glasses.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

21 Down...59 To Go

So Friday is Black Friday, and if you read my earlier blog, you already know that I'm not participating. You might have noticed that I'm more interested in the ECU football game that day. What I didn't mention is that Friday is also our 21st wedding anniversary. And yes, we are celebrating by attending a football game. There won't be any romantic little boxes waiting for me. That's really not our thing. But, I bet I can talk him into buying me a new sweatshirt.

I read this article yesterday on the ABC news site - John and Ann Betar Celebrate 80th Wedding Anniversary. It's a wonderful story about love and staying in love, and it's a story I see when I visit my parents, and one I get to experience every day in my own life. I've been blessed by having this man in my life. After 21 years, I can say that I am married to my best friend, and my life is better with him than it ever would have been without him. I'm not sure why I've been so blessed. I know better people than me who are alone, and I know better people than me who have had horrible marriages. We've definitely had our ups and downs, and we've experienced the loss of loved ones, job loss, moves, mean people, health scares - in other words - life. But we've always managed to pull together as a team.

Now, I don't want to completely sugar coat it. There are times that the immortal words of that wonderful bard, Pink, have come to mind:
"Go away, 
 Give me a chance to miss you,
 Say goodbye,
 It'll make me want to kiss you." 
"Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)" - "I'm Not Dead" album

I mean, let's get real. I bet Cinderella started getting irritated by Prince Charming's inability hang up his sash and medals not long after the wedding. And I'm sure her inability to keep from losing expensive shoes was a bummer. Marriage is hard. Compromise, negotiations, snoring, bills, mouthwash....

But at the end of the day to be able to laugh with someone you love, whether over today or over the awful photographer at your wedding, it makes it all worth while. I'm not much of one to give unsolicited advice except to my teenagers, and they don't usually hear me anyway, but if I were to give one piece of advice it isn't to never go to bed angry. Nope, my one piece of advice would be to find a way to laugh at it. A good sense of humor - now that REALLY helps in staying married.

Daddy and Momma have been married for 57 years. His memory is fading, but he still can laugh and he can still make Momma laugh. She was complaining about someone who was voting for the "wrong" candidate. Daddy asked how old this person was. When Momma answered, "90." He quickly replied, "Don't worry about it. She doesn't have many more elections to go against you. You're younger."

Yep, laughter...I can live with that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Black Friday???

"Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more." The Grinch

BLACK FRIDAY!!! As an accountant I get why it's called black. When I first started learning accounting it was literally at the knee of my father. And back in the dark ages, we used these things called ledgers, and pencils (pens if you were very, very good at numbers), and scratch pads. If the number was a loss, you used red so it stood out. But if the number was a gain or a profit - BLACK, baby.

Now I have nothing against a company making money. I'm rather partial to it since they tend to lay off fewer of us when they are profitable. But I'm rather disgusted by the spectacle that the holidays have become, and that the stores believe they should open on THANKSGIVING DAY!

I tried Black Friday, but like a reformed smoker, I abhor it. Getting up early wasn't a problem, but the crowds, the pushing, the shoving, the meanness - the person I became as my natural competitiveness was sparked - uh, no, not for me. And now, they want to open on Thanksgiving Day. 

So we can't even give it the one day waiting period?? I understand the need to show others our love and appreciation. I sorta want some of that directed my way, too. But the bigger, better, more...the cheaper, quicker, gotta just doesn't seem to be the way these holidays were intended to be. At Thanksgiving, we should give thanks - for love, for health, for family, for friends - not for beating down someone to the last blue light special. And the employees made to give up their day - maybe they'd like to give thanks at home, too.

My Thanksgiving Day will be spent muttering over how the men don't help in the kitchen enough, and then realizing how much I love every one of those incompetent, err unaware in the kitchen, guys (must point out that my older brother will be the exception here). My Black Friday will be spent in PURPLE since my beloved ECU has a home football game, and we're all going together. So the only numbers involved will be on the backs of jerseys and on the scoreboard. My early gift will be just that - together with family, and maybe a new ECU shirt along the way. Maybe it's just me...but no thank you, I don't want more. Well, maybe more touchdowns...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Parenting and The Hallelujah Chorus

By the time I was seven, I was an Aunt. By the time I was 21, I was the Aunt of ten. When I married at 26, there were two more miracles of fun-loving, spirit-lifting blessings added into the mix of nieces and nephews. I didn’t have little brothers and sisters, but I had the best of my sisters and my brother around me at one point or another through my life. They taught me patience, they taught me wonder, but most of all they taught me that I was a fool if I believed that you can control every single minute of a child’s behavior. Of course, nothing compares with having children of your own.

I've been called to the Principal’s Office as an adult on a couple of occasions, and while I felt every bit as guilty as a fifth grader caught shooting a spit ball, there were instances that I laughed…hard. My children are not perfect, but they are perfectly mine, and while I cringe at the rolling eyes and innuendo that I’m dumber than dirt, or the spontaneous combustion of behavior that is my five-year-old son, I am so graced to be their Mama. That’s why I crack up at some of the childless who are on their way into parenthood.

I can’t begin to count the times I've heard “I would never let my child do that,” or “How can you laugh at what your child just did?” Hate to tell ya, but children will do a ton of things that will make us question our sanity and strain our patience. I had a call two weeks ago from THE Principal while I was elbow deep in paper work at my job. My cherub faced boy had eluded the teachers at bathroom break, turned off the lights, and hid in one of the stalls. He was, of course, sent to the office where the principal told me, “Mrs. Carman, I think he had way too much fun just talking with me. As soon as he said he was sorry, he wanted to talk about my day.” That’s my boy.

When I questioned him about what he did, he had an open-eyed look on his face as he told me in a confidential whisper, “Mama, they called my name a couple of times, and you know what? I didn't answer them!” I had to leave the room and straighten my face. When I had “Stern Mommy” firmly in place, I explained that he should always be with his class, that what he did wasn't safe, and that even though he thought it would be fun, it disrupted class time for his classmates. He understood, and told me he was sorry, but in the same breath he told me he just wanted to see what would happen.

When my daughter was three, she witnessed a baptism at church. She was fascinated, and asked more questions than an interrogator at Gitmo. The next day she had a bucket of sand that she carried from one landscape area to another, sprinkling each one with sand and saying in a tone way too serious for her years, “I baptize you in the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.” Then the bucket of sand fell over and I heard her exclaim, “Oh shit!” I was on her quicker than she could blink, telling her how wrong it was to say that word, and then asking her where she heard it. When she named another adult in the neighborhood I felt righteous indignation, until she added, “and you, Mama.”

Our children teach us about how beautifully messy life is, and how we can only control what we do as individuals, more than any self-help book out on the market. They remind us of all that is hopeful and innocent, even in the midst of their acting out. Parenting is full of extremes within extremes. Parenthood is laughter, tears, hopes, fears and all of the yearning to keep our children safe and innocent for as long as possible. Whatever my children do, whether I would “let” them do it or not, they have taught me, as I hope to teach them. One moment the bottom falls out, and the next you hear the Hallelujah Chorus, and I wouldn't know what to do if life were any other way.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Therapy of Driving...

Ok, I've never pretended to like taking my kids to school. Even they know it's something I really don't enjoy. Yeah, I know I should've been less vocal. But this way the therapist will have something to talk to them about.

"Why do you think your mother hated taking you to school? Do you think it was because she would miss you terribly while you were away?"

"Nope. I think she just thought people drove like they had their head up their @ss."

Hmm, therapy might not cost so much after all.

I am not the world's best driver, despite my constant lectures to the sixteen year old about what is and what isn't proper driving. I can say that I have been ticket and accident free for quite some time (knock on wood). But I've got to give some credit to my guardian angel, and some to the fact that I do not find my iPhone to NEED my constant care and feeding.

The count this morning on the way to the high school:

One broken down car in the middle lane (bless their heart, we've all been there).

One wreck in the middle lane (bless their heart, we've all been there). Though I do wonder - was someone looking too long at the broken down car, and didn't stop in time? I remind the boys - look at the road, not at the scenery.

One car straddled two lanes until I honked my horn (Something I try not to do frequently. Never know how pissed off it might make somebody). Then she decided on my lane. Oh, joy.

One car that at every light would swerve when he started off. How do I know? I was behind him at several. See there are TEN lights between our home and the high school plus a bridge over a major interstate. You get to share a lot of together time with some other drivers. I suspect he was surfing his phone at every light and when the light changed, it was a little difficult to put down the phone, and drive off in your own lane. To his credit once he got going he seemed fine. Until the next light...

And that's not an all encompassing list.

See the thing about taking them to school, is the traffic. If the other cars would just stay home, it wouldn't be so bad. Or I could homeschool them. Now THAT would really pay a therapist well. Wonder if they give a discount to mothers? Oh, well. At least it's Friday...wait, they're in the marching band. That means I get to take them and pick them up on Saturday, too. Sigh...I love those kids. Obviously.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bully Pulpit

Hubby and I will spend next Sunday morning taking our turn at teaching youth Sunday School. It's always an interesting experience. Sitting with a room full of teenagers is like staring into an abyss. You don't know what's out there, but you're pretty sure there is something. Some of the teens will speak up, others, like the two that we've been raised by, will sit silently and stare.

Yet, we're excited. It's always interesting to see where the discussion will lead, and this one will be particularly poignant to me. It's national anti-bullying month so the youth group leaders, and I have come up with a program which we hope will spark some discussions or at least linger in their minds. I'm collecting quotes from celebrities who felt bullied - we'll let them see if they can match them up. I'm also collecting quotes from fellow church members and leaders. I think it's helpful to see that people you respect and know personally have been through similar tough experiences. I remember as a teenager I thought all adults had it so together. Us adults know that ain't so. 

Trying to discuss bullying is hard for me. I've been bullied, and I know how it feels. Frankly my teen years give way too much fodder for discussion in regards to bullies. I think if you have empathy then when something occurs that hits close to home with one of your own experiences, the memories can almost overwhelm you. Recently there was a story about a girl in Michigan (Whitney Kropp) who was "jokingly" placed on the homecoming court. The (not so) cool kids thought it would be "funny". @$%^^&!!! I instantly was transported to the teen girl who was invited to a party at one of the cool kids houses. Ohhh, I was so delighted. I remember vividly the new outfit - cream colored velour lace up the front bell bottoms (don't hate me - it was the '70's and I was skinny), with a blue top and a silver ankh necklace. I was prepared to become cool. But becoming cool isn't possible if you've been invited to an event just to be the court jester. I also vividly remember how it felt when someone purposely tripped me, and the entire crowd laughed hysterically at me sprawled on the floor. Still I was a little dense, and stayed on. At least I stayed until I overheard some of the girls. The words used to describe me will not be used here. But I knew then that it was time to leave. So I called my parents. When Daddy came to pick me up, I started crying and the poor man didn't know what to do. He gave comfort as best he could. But it's hard to be a teenager discovering who you are when others are so quick to tell you who you aren't, and can't possibly ever become.

Now this may sound like one small instance. One bad memory that I should "just get over". But I have years of examples of name calling, and ridicule, humiliation and hurt. And I have to say that I feel sorry for the bullies, too. I wonder now just what was so hard in their lives that they needed to feel this power and superiority at my expense. Of course, having sympathy for them is made easier by having a wonderful marriage, and two kids I adore, and close friends who love me - regardless of my outfits. Somehow I was blessed with the ability to get up and walk away from the bullies. It doesn't mean it didn't affect who I am. Do NOT put me in a room full of women and expect the real me. I revert. I don't mean to, and I try not to, but I am overwhelmed at the prospect. I wrote "A Kind Place to Sit" over a year ago. I still look for someone kind in the room. And even at my age, sometimes they aren't there. Some of the young bullies just grow up to be more finessed bullies. That's where mercy, empathy, faith, compassion, and forgiveness can all play a part. Maybe they won't change. But how we react, and what we accept as reasonable behavior can change. We can each show others a level of respect and mercy whether it is shown to us or not. And we can teach our children to do that through our examples. I've had a few of my former bullies become my friends on Facebook. Most of them (not all) seem to have grown up and changed their ways. As our pastor pointed out yesterday in his sermon (Happiness Happens to Those Who Are Brokers of Second Chances) - second chances are important. I think they may be more important to us than to them. Second chances allow us to grow and change. I pray that the bullies change, and may the bullied have the strength to walk away and forgive them.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fear of Writing

Fear's a funny thing. It can paralyze you or it can set you free. Yesterday, Dawn and I sat together for a few hours, and in between the laughter, and the concern over our fathers and their health, we loaded up a year's worth of 4Gaby essays on to the Amazon Kindle format (buy here - no need to pretend we don't want you to, of course we want you to) as a book.

The last few years have had their rough patches. I've lost a number of loved ones, and encountered other life changing issues along the way. But all that fear, and anxiety, and worry really has caused me to refocus my life. I no longer fret over the little stuff, and I don't really worry so much. The treasures of life come along, sometimes in the midst of the pain, and encountering the pain helps us realize the treasures when they happen. It has been a treasure to develop and deepen friendships with Dawn, Sheilah, and Mary. It has been a treasure to write and share.

I always had a secret fantasy of writing. Now, let's not confuse my idea of writing, and the word fantasy. Unlike Ah-nold, I don't think my children need to read about my sex life or my failings, and I have no secret children. Plus the only maid around here is me. And I have no 50 Shades of fantasies twisting along in my mind. Chains should have gold and diamonds and not be used for unusual, umm - never mind. But I love the idea of writing as a way of sharing the world, and Mary, Dawn, and Sheilah are so incredibly talented that it's an honor to share it with them. 

Along the way, I've found that fear no longer paralyzes me. You can't fail unless you try, so here's our book - On the Road With 4Gaby (linked again, just in case you missed the first begging, err, request), and our blog continues, and so does life. We thank each and every one of you for taking the time to read. Life loses fear when friendship is there, and no road is hard when friendship travels with you. Thank you, dear ones.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Diary of a Winning Kid

By Sheilah

I was so anxious about starting our last year at elementary school. Dylan said he felt like an outcast last year, and he had two kids go all toddler on him—one by biting, that’s right, at 9 years old, and one by scratching. Worse than that, he felt out of the loop. Fourth grade was the second year he was in the same class of kids that had been together in third as well. The kids treated each other like brother and sister, the looping-up teacher said. Not necessarily a bad thing for an only child, but still. Some silly game they had begun in third carried over to fourth and Dylan refused to join in, or wasn’t asked to. Last year the first week of school I knew something was wrong, and it continued most of the year. “I’m not a part of the popular group. Why does there have to be one popular kid? Not fair.” That was last year’s refrain. He somehow reconciled himself to life on life’s terms and the teacher eventually got the bullies under control.

He got into the advanced class this year, and got the class award for reading. So by the end of the year he was pleased with himself, which is what counts I tell him. So this year I was glad to see he was assigned to the new male teacher’s fifth grade class, with a lot of different kids. He still didn’t make it into his best buddy’s class, but he had two friends in the class and only one old bully. So at the open house, two days before class was to start, I was surprised to see the obnoxious kid who bit his leg last year was in his class. The principal had told me that would not happen.

We decided Dylan could handle the little twerp by avoidance, and the teacher would be briefed on the kid’s thick record. We liked the new teacher. I mentioned the issue to the principal at open house (there I go, interfering again). Then, at 7:30 a.m. on the first day of school, a cover-my-legal-arse call from the principal: Dylan can move to x or x class if he wants to, to avoid the biter. Ugh. Seriously, you’re throwing this choice at us the day school begins, after we’ve already made peace with it? We made a quick pros vs. cons list over breakfast. Dylan was overwhelmed. I tell him there’s no right or wrong choice, that he’ll be fine either way. He decides to stick his head in the other classes, one of which he best buddy is in, to see how they look. Then he decided to stay where he was assigned, obnoxious biter be damned. I’m surprised he chose not to move to his best buddy’s class, but glad, too. And after the first day, I could see he was happy. No hugely popular kid everyone fawns over. A good teacher. Another smart kid to challenge him.

The night before he was given the choice, he had said to me, “You don’t get it. The first day is huge. It’s your first impression. It can make or break you.” I guess he made it, and his choice made him. I’m proud that he chose a good teacher over his best friend, chose to stay in a class with a kid who had bit him, chose not to run away. That’s a lot of choices to put on a 9-year-old the first day of school after the year he had last year. I’m so happy that he rose to the occasion. I think it bodes well for him—he’s no victim who needs a lifeline—he stands tall in the face of a twerp, without a best buddy to have his back. He stands tall knowing he’s smart and capable and strong and likeable, not needing the praise of over-popularity donned in Under Armour clothing from head to sock (although there might be something to that to stop the bite). I’d have to say he knows the value of a good education over a good friend, and a good education may be worth a good fight. I hope all kids are impressed with themselves and not worried about impressing others. Now don’t get me started on what next year in middle school will bring. Today is enough. 

Update: For his birthday at the end of September, guess who moves to another school? The biter. Glad we didn’t switch classes just because of him. Major life lesson under our belt.