Kids These Days

I’ve been despairing my son’s sense of responsibility. I’ve yet to get final word from the school but I’m pretty sure he’s flunked his English class this year.

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Last summer he finally got his first job at Panera. I say finally because he was almost 17 and digging in his heels to do it his way, which he’s done as long as I’ve known him. Anyway, he enjoyed the work at Panera, for the most part. Nights spent as a dish dog were his least favorite. As the months went on and school started back up, he kept working, but often complained about working Friday and Saturday nights.

“I never get to see my friends!” He told me.

Well, duh, welcome to the work force, I thought, as I scrolled through my Facebook feed.

A month or so later, I noticed he was attending Friday night football games pretty regularly. I questioned him about it.

He told me, “I asked for it off.”

Having spent time managing a restaurant, I may have looked just a bit skeptical.

“What?” He shrugged on his leather jacket, shuffling my writing assignments around on the table as he looked for the car keys. I’d dropped them in the catch-all box on the bookshelf when I cleaned earlier. I’ve only told him about it every day since I bought it.

“Have you seen my-?”

Looking over the rim of my glasses, I silently point at the box.

“Anyway, my manager said he’d cover it.” Fishing his keys out of the box, he was out the door before I could begin to articulate to him my personal teenage work experiences, all of which were grounded in denying myself pleasure.

At fifteen I started working at a local hotel cleaning rooms on the weekends. My mom told me I couldn’t work on Sunday, and I didn’t, for a little while. But as the school year turned to summer and tourist season hit, I turned sixteen and worked every of my available 20 hours. Then I went home and worked every other moment of daylight. I had five younger siblings to watch, meals to cook, laundry to hang on the line, floors to vacuum, beds to make, dishes to do, linoleum to mop, windows to wash, dusting, practice the piano, pick peas, beans, strawberries, raspberries, water the greenhouses, mow the lawn and rows of trees covering 8 acres of land. In short, I had a lot of work to do. As I sweat my way through summer after summer, I swore to myself that one day my life would be different.

Now as a new summer blooms under my bare toes, I’m happy with my prospects. Some time spent with extended family, a road trip, sunshine and lazy days. I’ve scheduled reading, daydreaming, and the perfect time of day to write. I’ve  also scattered in a few trips to the reservoir and a stack of books to read the girls. But before I lose my shoes and join the frivolities of kids these days, I had one more parental thing to do. shutterstock_309845069

I spoke with the school counselor, signed the boy up for a summer English class. He’s found a new job he loves at a local restaurant that has less demanding hours. He has a sweet little project car to sweat over. I’m told it just threw a rod. Joy of joys. porsche_924_front_20071231

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Surrender

I’m reading the book Let Me Out by Peter Himmelman. I’m cheating. I just finished Chapter 8, and I haven’t completed any of the activities the author has requested. Partially because I’ve done similar activities when reading a different book, mostly because I just want to read until I get that Ah-hah! moment. When I read that sentence and remember why I love writing. The exercise at the end of Chapter 7 piqued my curiosity, The Two Minute Drill. It asks you to take exactly two minutes and write down all of the things you’d like to do in your life right now.

Here goes, no erasing, stream of two-minute consciousness.

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(Wait, getting some tunes on, can’t dance naked without the tunes.) Hm, I wonder how much mileage a therapist would get out of my choice of song?

go to Scotland

Live my “Pleasure”

see my kids being happy adults

lift my siblings from where we’ve been left

body confidence

recognize my life from the vision in my head

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ability to care for myself

write what I want

 meet those people who touch me so incredibly on the net

that house on a few acres with trees, gardens, a john deere and the prairie

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Two minutes are fast!

Okay, this post isn’t about that list. LMAO Though, some scarily interesting things showed up there. Whew.

As for the song…I made a new wish list a couple of weeks ago, and purchased one of the songs right then. The Voice ’16’s runner-up Billy Gilman (I know, I recognized him before Miley did, oi) I Surrender. This is the first time The Voice has sent me to Itunes to purchase a song. The only other show to do it, American Idol and Adam Lambert’s version of Mad World. FYI, I don’t watch either show regularly, and just happen to come upon these pieces in other ways. So, no, I don’t know who was gypped, I don’t know who was better, and yes, I’m a little surprised that a guy named Sundance Head who reminds me of ZZ Top was the big winner.

Okay, moving on to the reason I’m sitting at my computer, before the music completely takes me away. The next chapter. This is how much I’ve read.

Chapter 9

Futurevision

HOW IMAGINING THE SPECIFICS OF A PERFECT FUTURE ENSURES PROPER ACTION IN THE PRESENT. There’s an expression I used to hear a lot as a kid, “Think good and it will be good.”

~Peter Himmelman

Reading that, I was immediately transported to a little parking lot in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. It’s oppressively hot and humid, thunderstorms today, for certain. I get of out the car and feed the meter eight quarters. It only takes quarters. I’ve added the stop at a laundromat now, just to be sure I have enough. I click the button on my key fob one more time before I walk into the alley, hearing the comforting honk of my horn saying ‘jeez woman! You’ve locked me three times now!’. The Boston Market on the corner is making my mouth water as I step out of the shadows and onto the busy sidewalk. A few steps, a nondescript door with the number 6A, a flight of creaking uneven stairs. Pushing open the door, I sit down as close to the dripping air conditioner as I can. At 2:00pm the door opens, and she walks out. Dark glasses today,  a scarf around her head, business suit and heels. She’s been crying. I busy myself tucking my phone in my purse.

“Carly, it’s good to see you.”

His quiet voice, I briefly meet his eyes before slipping past him into the room beyond. I have a question today, one that’s been bothering me. It will take all of my fifty minutes to figure out where to slip it in. He’s a sweet, patient man. It should be simple.

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Finally, with only about five minutes left, I manage to ask my question. “Is it weird that I go away to places in my head sometimes?”

He doesn’t look up from his scribbling on the yellow legal pad. “Does it worry you?”

He does look up when I don’t answer.

I didn’t know how to answer that, then. He assured me I was a functioning adult. I had successful relationships, a well cared for child, I did things that needed to be done, did things I wanted to do. If I needed to go somewhere in my head for a time as a break, it was nothing to worry about. Time was up.

All these years later, I know the answer to the question, for myself. After having spent months, not needing to go anywhere in my head because where I was…was so wonderful I couldn’t imagine ever leaving. I know the answer to that question.

I just wanted to write that down before I read the chapter. Before his opinion on living an alternate reality in your head changes or tweaks my own, I wanted to write down my truth.

Now, let’s see what he can add to my vision.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Writing Process

And other ways to beat the hell out of yourself.

Thanks Kristin, I really did need this!

 

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.Since the boom of the digital age, would-be writers have been practically coming out of the woodwork. Everyone wants to be a writer and hey, I can’t blame them. Sweet gig if you can score it. Yet, many of these eager folks are ill-prepared for the reality of…

via The Writing Process…It Ain’t No Unicorn Hug — Kristen Lamb

Busy, not Happy

Today was a wonderful day.

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Don’t bother checking your calendar, it’s still Monday.

Today for the first time in a long time, I’m home being mom to a kid. I’m not trying to focus anyone’s attention on Math.

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I’m not trying to keep an eye on a couple hundred students on  a playground. I’m not planning tomorrow’s game, running errands for teachers, or struggling over how to word that end of year email I don’t want to send about the lunchroom.

I did dishes this morning. I cleaned a bathroom. I fixed lunch for two. I did some quiet reading. I daydreamed. I wrote some naughty stuff.

Today, I’m not busy.

I’m happy.

I think a lot of people are confused about that bit, obsessed with busy, not happy.

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The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word busy is my parents. I’ve never known busier people. They moved at a dead run from 5 am until they hit the showers at 945pm, lights out at 1030 pm right after the local news.

I hate being busy, certainly because my childhood was filled to the brim with it. Mom and dad made it very clear that everyone worked. If you sat down in the middle of the day during summer break, you better be sick or picking raspberries off the bottom branches. They were so proud of how busy they were. Still, it persists. My dad, who will be 77 this fall, made a four hour drive to come support my sister when her daughter died. The next day he drove back home, four hours, because he had a gardening class to teach. He has to keep busy. There’s always something else to be doing. And his maddening obsession seems to have infected the rest of the world.

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People are so proud of the breakneck speed with which they attack a weekend. It seems that for many, the five o’clock whistle on Friday is now the starting gun for weekend marathons of sports, music, play dates, competitions, church, and yard work. Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday mornings speed by in a blur of busyness. At some point on Sunday afternoon they realize their weekend is over, and it’s time to report how wonderful it was on Facebook, then there’s the stacks of homework, the last of the laundry, milk for breakfast tomorrow…how are we already out of milk?

I bet every single Monday you hear about how busy the weekend was. When was the last time you heard, “I didn’t do a damn thing. It was fucking awesome.” Hearing it from me doesn’t count.

I face every Saturday morning with the same challenge in mind, can I make it through the next two days without feeling obligated to put on my bra. If the answer is yes, all the way till Monday morning, I’ve won.

A couple of months ago there were some changes made at work, and at the following Instructional Aide meeting the principal addressed what must have been heavy on his mind. He showed us a Ted talk. After we watched the video, he spoke briefly about changes coming in education. He said things like more work with less oversight, larger classes with less help, and more flexibility required in jobs. Then he said something I haven’t stopped thinking about. “If you are not passionate about your work here, come to me, ask me, I’ll help you get into that place, that position that you are passionate about. As our end of year interviews loom closer, be thinking about your job here and how you feel about it, because I’m going to ask you, and then I’m going to tell you what I think your answer should be.”

I sat there in the semi-darkness, in the silence, looking around the conference table, and thought to myself, “Is there really someone here for more than a paycheck?”

I understand that people think they have callings in life, and in work. I get that. But, still….hm. It got me thinking. What am I going to tell him at the end of the year? I love parts of my job. I love some of the people at my job. Am I passionate about this job? Do I get up every morning, chomping at the bit, to go do my job?

Nope.

This job was me satisfying myself that my girls were in a safe environment, a good school. This job was a salve for my homeschooling hackles. This job reminded me how fun it was to have a regular paycheck. And for weeks and weeks I’ve been weighing that regular paycheck against, well, against days like today. My passion comes with a promise, an idea, an expectation, but not a regular paycheck, not yet.

Yesterday, I was reading, (another perk of passion) and came across this bit. “You are amazingly good at something you don’t even like. Imagine how good you’d be at something you love.”

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And then there was today, and that yearning, that undeniable desire to finally be passionate, satisfied, engaged, writing, and happy, not busy.

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Bound

I bought a pair of shoes in the end of February, hoping they would end all my problems and signal the commencement of peace in the Middle East.

The sales lady didn’t seem to think that was out of the realm of possibility.

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I realize they don’t look much like Cinderella’s slipper, but that’s okay. I needed a Destrier, not a Prince Charming. Imagine my dismay, these weeks later, when my butt is as sore from wearing the miracle shoes as it would be from riding the damn horse.

Finally admitting defeat, I accepted a referral to the physical therapist at my chiropractor. Turns out, you should start breaking in these shoes by wearing them 30 minutes a day for the first week, then gradually double the time, day by day, until (summer vacation is in full swing and you don’t need them anymore) you’ve grown accustomed to each other, and understand one another. This approach works equally well with gigantic, man-eating stallions.

The PT took one look at my feet and noted, “I can certainly see how bound your feet are!”

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Nowhere near this bad, but they still hurt.

I enjoyed a moment of giddy excitement about my brand-spanking new FasciaBlaster that was on the UPS truck somewhere in town about to be delivered to my house, then took another to congratulate myself on finally being on the right track. Since I’d completely missed whatever she’d said as my brain halves were congratulating each other on finally working together for my common good, I pointed out my more delicate sore spots and asked her what I could do. She managed not to laugh, asked me how long I’d broken in my shoes before wearing them all day.

Two days-ish?

Sighing, she walked me up the stairs, gave me some advice about taking it slow, and put me on a table that rubbed and rolled my spine while vibrating me from head to toe. I’ll go check back in with her on Monday to see how I’m doing, because yeah, I’d sell my own mother to get back on that machine.

The word that stayed with me through all this was Bound.

My feet are bound from the inside out, and the pain has been getting close to unbearable.

Hot on the tail of that little gem was the realization that despite all my efforts over the past three years, my feet aren’t the only part of me still bound.

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Last week I spent much of my time and energy arguing with myself. Generally, it is safe to say I avoid conflict. In fact, the lengths to which I will go to avoid confrontation are embarrassing, self-mutilating even. My own brain has no such compunctions when it comes to its battling halves. This week, the left brain lost, possibly for the first time ever.

Triumphantly, my right brain took her seat Sunday night at the Magic Men Live show. She absolutely refuses to feel contrite in the face of well-meaning criticism. She yelled and danced, and did a few other things that will stay at the Magic Men Live show.

I knew I wanted to go. I knew I’d be angry with myself if I woke up on Monday morning wondering how the show was. What I didn’t know, was how Bound I still am, by my past.

Last September, after the first show, I immediately promised myself that if they ever came back I’d go again. I had no inkling how difficult it would be to allow myself a few joyful moments. And not just those I need to be an adult to attend! Even the smallest things that fill me with contentment are hard-won battles. Breakfast from Panera with the youngest on the way to school because we’re lazy  we have thirty minutes till the bell rings and it is damn cold out there this morning. She’s says some crazy stuff when it’s just us in the car. Sunday morning and no one else home except the cats because I’m skipping church like a heathen deserving of a couple of hours to myself and my bulletproof tea. Spending the day with best friend, eating and swearing like a sailor eating out with my best friend and swearing if I blankety blank blank feel like it! I actually can’t bring myself to strike out one I enjoy so much.

This week, I am forced to admit that I am the biggest obstacle in the search for my authentic self. A part of me stands always ready to shatter my new-found joys with the very stick I carved so meticulously at my parents feet. Engraved with the angels and demons of my childhood. My worst nightmares, and moments of childhood joy are interlaced upon it along with the teachings and admonishings of two people.

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My parents, the people whom I’ve come to realize I don’t care to emulate in almost any way. Their lifestyle was theirs, and holds no appeal to me. Their beliefs and practices, daily, fractured the delicate footings of the family they worked so hard to construct.

Now I know, my battle is almost exclusively with myself. My mother is gone, my father as good as, with his new wife and family.

I have only me to defend myself from.

The Hottest Night of the Year!

And in Bismarck, North Dakota, in April, that’s saying something.

That’s right, the black bus came back to town, with another black bus following along. I mean there are TWO buses this year, bringing all the wonder of Magic Men Live back to town!

If they come to your town, and you haven’t gone….

Actually, I shouldn’t complain. We are a small venue, something short of 600 seats, I estimate. We weren’t quite sold out tonight (I blame it on Sunday). Add to that some changes in the show, and this is what I was left with!

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I’d like to complain, however, I can’t stop smiling and form the words.

I was hands-on with my three favorites, but they were there, and then gone in a flash. Literally, hundreds of women were screaming their names!

In previous shows they’ve set up personal dances on the stage, and had guys up there gettin’ their love while the rest of the men work the audience. I almost like that better than their new Hot Seat segment, mostly because, divide and conquer all those crazy screaming women!

They have added new material this year, and there are some gems you won’t want to miss!

Ashton – His Netflix and Chill just gets more dorkalicious every year. It was awesome to see him working the crowd tonight. My friend got the up close and personal treatment from him, and after she quit shaking, she kept saying, “I’ve never had my hands on anything like that!” He has an easy manner, asked us if this was our first show. We told him we’d come last year, and he asked what we thought of the changes. He was sweet, and friendly, and most importantly let us feel like he didn’t have another thing to do besides stand, and visit (mixed with a bit of hugging and dancing) with us. Nice to see him dancing more.

Valentino– I’m only going to say, the new bit is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I can’t say more without giving away delightful things that you should go see for yourself. Regret? Tonight when he clasped my hand, I should have pulled him over and the women in front of me be damned. One of the bills was for him! I was so shell-shocked last year, and didn’t have a clue what was going on, this year I was ready but too slow! Grrrrrr.

Christian- There’s an old hymn, something along the line of Lord, Lord, Lord. Usually it brings a smile to my face because of Ralphie May–until tonight, that is. Christian has upped his game… He was the show stopping favorite last year, this year he left me speechless. Trust me when I say, if you love Cowboy Christian, get your tickets now before some show in Vegas snaps him up and we’re no longer spoiled by him coming to where we are.

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A couple of shout outs tonight, DJ, wow, the dancing was spectacular!

Myles, I missed you! I know you’re doing a new thing, but your absence on stage was noticed! I love the way you strut your stuff between acts. I like having you out there doing what you do best with that mouth of yours. You’re the glue, I wanted more of that quick wit, and wink, wink!

Travis, yes, you and that belt certainly caught my eye. There is something about a man who moves like you, and is that comfortable with a leather strap in his hand. I expect exciting things from you.

It’s not too late ladies, check out their tour dates and buy your tickets!

I saved the best for last. I wouldn’t even have known about this except I follow Magic Men Live on Snapchat  they are doing meet and greets after the shows! If you’re a ticket holder, you can purchase a meet and greet pass. I didn’t and I’m kicking myself! Only a limited number of passes are sold and all the Men show up!

Something else for me to look forward to, next time….

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Unworthy

As a young child I often heard my parents say “You don’t understand how lucky you are.” The comments weren’t always directed at me, sometimes toward my brothers, sometimes my sister, sometimes a random foster child that was staying with us. There was also, “We took you when no one else would”, and another perennial favorite, “If it weren’t for us, you’d have nothing.”

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Unworthy.

In my brain it looks like this.

A who’s who of  the things I’ve wanted, but felt woefully unworthy.

I don’t know all the psychological ins and outs, but I know it has been as long as I have. Some might argue that I wasn’t born that way, but having given birth to three distinctly different children, I know we arrive with some characteristics intact.

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And so, as a child, I listened. I memorized. I pondered. My little mind scrambled to give meaning to every word they said. After all, my survival depended on their continued good will. If there was anything my seven-year old brain knew for certain, it was that without them, I had nothing.

I understood. I was unworthy.

I was sure I could fix that. I could do everything right. I could make myself worthy of their sacrifice. I could make them so happy they’d never think twice about their choice. There was just one problem. Okay, there were a whole host of problems, none of which a seven-year old could fix, let alone fathom. I just didn’t know that yet. Hell, I wouldn’t know it for forty years.

In retrospect, I can be thankful for the lessons I’ve learned. I’m thankful for the million ways they’ve changed me for the better. The ways I continue to change. If it weren’t for this feeling of unworthiness, I never would have hidden in my own mind as a child. My imagination wouldn’t have been my closest friend, and my characters would have never grown to accompany me.

I can honestly say, if it weren’t for my lack of worthiness, I wouldn’t be in North Dakota, and happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve found my home. I’ve found my people. Those kindred spirits that take your hand, and suddenly you’re treading water as a lifetime of loneliness drains away. The sun comes out, and for the first time in your life you realize you aren’t alone. At first, it’s terrifying. I mean, these people are just like you. Ewwwww? But then, you see yourself in them, and you start to feel more comfortable allowing others to see you. You have a tribe. Homecoming. Acceptance. Love. Worthiness.

I’ve thought a lot about how much I’ve moved, about the trips to visit family that never felt like going home. I’ve felt guilty that my children don’t spend days with their cousins and sleep over every weekend with their grandparents. Then I realized that there’s a chance I gave them something even more valuable. I’ve given them the opportunity to grow up without comparison; no aunts or uncles, cousins or grandparents leveraging their expectations on defenseless kids; no family requirements of cooperation or attendance. I’ve gifted them with a head-start in finding their own tribes, not assumed they will always want to be in mine. Through the years of school, they’ve become adept at finding those who love and accept them. A fortunate by-product of having only your parents to hang out with?

Tonight I’ll snuggle under my quilt of a gazillion stitches and feel only thankfulness. Appreciation that mom spent so many of her last hours sewing a quilt for me. Content that I’ve found joy in a gift that, at one time, puzzled me. The blanket is a hug from her. She wasn’t perfect, but she wanted to be. She wanted things from me that I couldn’t give her. Despite our differences, and after half a lifetime of misunderstandings, I’ve realized what she was saying to me in her own language.

You were worth it.

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