Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Be You

You want to know something?

The world can suck.  It can be filled with people who are nasty and jealous and mean-spirited and cruel. In general, I don't really think that most people are evil.  We're all just built a little selfish, and when we walk out that selfishness, it manifests itself in all of those things. They don't MEAN to be nasty, they just don't think about how what they're doing might affect others, or they justify it with other reasons.  But, when it's directed at you, it's hard to keep your head and tell yourself that it's just because of their hurts and their insecurities.  It's hard to not feel hurt.  It's hard to keep yourself from pulling the blanket over your head and hiding away from it.  It's hard, too, to not fight back with barbs grown out of your own hurts and selfishness.

But do you want to know something else?

It's not them you're fighting.  It's you.

Who cares if they think you're hard-hearted or too flighty?  Are you?  Answer the question honestly...  under it all, are you who they think you are?

What would happen if you threw off the cloak that you use to protect yourself and you made a decision to be fully and wonderfully you?  I'm not talking all sunshine and rainbows here, but what would happen if you chose to be you, unapologetically?  What would happen if you embraced every delightful quality that lies inside of you (and believe me, my friend, there are LEGIONS of them) and chose to live out each of those qualities without worrying about what "they" would say?

They can't stop you from being you. Only YOU can stop you from being you, and don't you dare let "them" be the reason that you hold back anymore.  You are wonderful, every last bit of you.  You have so much to offer. So much kindness and generosity, so much friendship and good humor, so much wisdom and love.

Be you and be you with great pride.  I would like to know you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Smartest Woman Alive

My mom is, quite simply, the smartest woman alive.

"Oh! What happened to your smoke alarm?" I asked my mom the other day.  It was gone.

She has a living room with very high vaulted ceilings, and for some reason, there is a smoke alarm WAAAAAAY up at the top.  This seems like a great place to detect smoke, I admit. But, for heavens sake, how is anyone supposed to change the battery?

Actually, this smoke alarm gave me great fits several years ago.  I was home visiting with my then-very-young children.  It was evening and they were asleep in the guest bedroom.  This part is important.  THEY WERE ASLEEP.  And when you have three small children, you very much appreciate this time of the day.  After they were sleeping, I was cooking some steak for our adult-dinner.  I don't really remember what happened.  Did I forget I was cooking?  I don't know.  But, for some reason, there were significant quantities of smoke coming from the oven, which caused the smoke alarm to go off.  Apparently, the smoke alarms in my mom's house are all linked together, so EVERY smoke alarm in the house started going off, including the one in my children's room.  Screaming.  Screaming. Screaming.  (Not from me.)  And I can't get the darned things to go off because I can't wave the smoke away from that one in the living room.  It was terrible.  And my kids were afraid of the bedroom for three YEARS.

In any case, the smoke alarm was now gone, which was curious.  My mom has some significant mobility and balance issues, so if SHE was the one responsible for it not being attached to the wall anymore, then we were going to have some serious talking to do.  But no...  She's far smarter than that.

"Well... it was beeping because it needed its batteries changed, but I couldn't do it.  So I called the fire department to see if they knew someone I could call, because surely they would know.  And they said to me, 'Are you unable to do it?' And I told them yes, that if I got on a ladder, I would fall OFF of a ladder and kill myself. And 10 minutes later, a FIRE TRUCK pulled up in front of the house and three of them came in with their ladder."

"Wait, wait, wait," I interrupted.  "You had three firemen in your house?"

"Yes."

"Were they good-looking?"

She looked at me as if I was an idiot.  Which, granted, it was probably a stupid question.  "They were FIREMEN.  Of course they were good-looking."

"And they just came over, like that?"

"Yes."

"Ok, go on."

"So they came in and climbed on their ladders and went about fixing all the smoke alarms in the house and gave me stern looks when I told them that ALL of the smoke alarms were out of batteries.  And the one up there," she gestured to the ceiling, "is apparently broken, so I have to go buy a new one and call them and then they'll come back and fix it."

"Alright, let me get this straight.  You just called the fire department and they sent you three good looking young men in UNIFORM.  And all you needed was broken smoke alarms?"

"Yes."

I'm taking a sledge hammer to ours when I get home.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Car Repair and Male Chivalry

The last time my headlight went out, I was determined to "do it myself."  Joel was going to be so proud of me!  I went to the auto parts store and bought the headlight.  I came home and searched up the directions.  I went into the garage and found all the tools I needed and I set to work. 

headlight
But there was this one part where you're supposed to stick a screwdriver in this little hole and PRY the entire headlight section away from the car.  I'm sure this works.  I'm sure this works and that it goes back together the way it's supposed to.  But, I got to this part and thought, "I don't know what I'm doing.  I am going to break my car and then Joel is going to be really mad at me!"

So I chickened out.  I put the bolts back on, and I drove to Les Schwab (where they are always super nice to me even when my descriptions of what is wrong with my car make me sound like a crackpot).  I took the headlight in with me and in my best "I am so helpless" demeanor, I proceeded to tell the whole story to the nice man ending with "And if I break my car, my husband is going to be NOT HAPPY."

This worked.  He installed my headlight.  He didn't even charge me.  Everyone's happy.

So, my other headlight needed to be replaced.  I was leaving to go out of town that evening, before Joel was going to get home from work, so I really needed to take care of it myself. But, having failed the attempt to do it myself before, I decided to just skip to the "act like a helpless woman" part and get it over with more quickly.

I betook myself to the auto parts store, as before.  But, this time, I played the "I don't know what I'm doing" role for the guy at the counter in the hopes he would take pity on me and offer to do it for me. 

"Well...  good luck."

That was not the response I was looking, folks.

So, I went home and emailed  my husband, who knew this was my plan.  I told him that the auto parts store had not behaved as was appropriate and then inquired if Joel (my husband) had any time in his afternoon schedule for a 15 minute minute appointment for Joel's Auto Repair Service.

tapioca tea
He said yes, "bring a socket wrench to remove the bolts and a long screwdriver... it'll cost you a Thai Boba Tea."  So, off I went with the appropriate tools.  While waiting for our boba teas to be prepared, the school called.  My youngest was complaining of tummy troubles and had a low fever, so I promised to come pick her up as soon as I was done with this super-quick car repair I was in the middle of.

I picked up Joel, we found an emptyish parking lot, and he went to work.  And worked... and worked... and then worked some more.

"Did you bring any pliers?" he asked me.

"Umm...  no.  PLIERS WERE NOT ON THE LIST."  Long story slightly shorter, he couldn't do the repair without the pliers that I did not bring BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT ON THE LIST, so I said I'd just go to Les Schwab.  Please note these are the people who did it for me last time.

But I had to go get Sick Child from school... so I drove back to the school, picked up Alicia, took her home and made her a bed on the couch, and left run down to Les Schwab.

Again, the most pitiful "I don't know what I'm doing" story ever. And the response?

"Sorry, we don't do headlights."

Seriously, what IS it with the non-chivalry?  Men of the world, you have failed me!!

I'm counting on my father-in-law.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Just Rip It Off

How do you take off your band-aids?  Do you do it one agonizing millimeter at a time?  Or do you grit your teeth and wrench the whole thing off in one agonizing swipe?

ripping off the bandaid
When it comes to my emotional band-aids, I'm a "millimeter at a time" kind of girl.  The full in-your-face pains are hard and I want to avoid them at all costs, so I take a bazillion passes at the band-aid.  I peel it off little-by-little, sometimes patting it back down in the process.  Part of me thinks this is to avoid the pain that comes with taking it off.  But, part of me thinks that it's also to prolong it.  It's strange, but there is something provocative and comforting about staying wrapped up in the little bits of hurt and pain and struggle.  We come to know it. It becomes comfortable.  What comes AFTER the pain starts to be the thing that we're unsure of.

But, sometimes, it's a good thing to just do the savage ripping.  A few months ago, on one of my weekly bookstore outings, I sat down and wrote something.  It wasn't something I ever posted here, far too personal and honest.  But I forced myself to examine what the truth of a situation is, and the truth was brutal and hurtful. It was like happening upon a fatal car crash.  It's grisly and ugly and every single cell in your body wants to look away because it's just too much to take in. But this time, someone held my head, refusing to let me look away, and said "NO.  This time, you look and you look hard. You see what it is."

It was good.  It was good to do this.

I happened upon it again the other day. I have roughly a gazillion writing notebooks going at one time, as I tend to leave them places constantly...  the car, upstairs, downstairs, the garage, desk drawers.  I never know WHERE I'm going to find something I've written. But I ran across it and re-read it. The first thought I had was, "Geez, that was harsh."  And it was.  It WAS harsh.  But it was also needed.

Sometimes you need to slap yourself in the face with truth and just get ON with it already.  Rip off the band-aid and deal with it.  DEAL. WITH. IT.  And then be done.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Let Go of Your Yesterday

Let go.

Do you have hatreds filling up your heart?
letting go
Let them go.

Do you hold onto anger at someone just because it feels good to be able to feel something toward them?

Let it go.

Do you miss someone so much that it hurts?

Let that go.

Do you play conversations over and over in your head, wondering how things could have gone differently?

Let them go.

Do you have grudges that won't let you see goodness, insecurities that won't let you grow inner strength, pain that masks progress?

Let them all go.

There are emotions we keep on a string, resentment we refuse to retire.  We choose to let those things fester in our hearts and create unrest when we could cut the strings, let those feelings float into the wind, and meet the day anew.

I used to quote the Anne of Green Gables line that says that each day is brand new with no mistakes in it.  It brought the promise of a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to make something good when yesterday had much to improve on.  But, that only works if you stop bringing yesterday's shortcomings into today's morning. Let yesterday be yesterday.  Today is not yesterday, and if we want things to be better, we need to stop treating today like it's simply an offshoot of our yesterday.

Today can be better if we stop dragging yesterday into it.

Let yesterday go, and let today be today.




Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A letter to my dentist

Dear Mr General Dentist,

calligraphy
Thank you for referring me to the endodontist so that I could get my root canal done and so my tooth can get closer to not making me want to hit things.  Could I possibly request something from you?

The next time you refer me to a specialist, could you just make some little notation on the referral to inform me that the person you are referring me to is really goodlooking?  You see, I overslept yesterday.  When I did, I was left with three choices:  1. Take my shower AFTER taking the kids to school, but that would steal an extra hour from my schedule.  2. Just get my hair wet... not quite as clean as a shower, but at least my hair would be pretty.  or 3. Scrub the whole thing and go with a ponytail and minimal makeup.

My plans for the day included "clean the house" and "get root canal," so there seemed little pressing NEED to do either 1 or 2.  So I went with Choice 3.

HAD I KNOWN that Mr Endodontist was astonishingly handsome, I probably could have convinced myself to go with Choice 1.  I would have gotten less done, but...

Just, you know, for future reference....  so warning would have been appreciated.

Thank You,
Me

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Defeated? Not today.

Defeat.

No one likes to encounter it.  Personally, I like to admit it even less than I like encountering it.  There is something about admitting that I've lost or failed that grates on every single nerve in my body and soul.  Admitting that I wasn't good enough is a hard thing to do.  It hurts my self-esteem, my confidence, and my pride (which is, perhaps, not always a bad thing).  But, I'm not sure it's possible to get through life without encountering a defeat or two or hundred.  It's part of life.   They say it's the hard things that build our character and help us become bigger, stronger people.

Last year, two of my daughters were in track for school.  The eldest of my two participants wasn't the fastest person in track.  Just entering her preteen years, she was very cognizant and self-conscious of this fact.  We'd already had a couple meets that she placed near the end to tears of embarrassment.  There was much talk of just doing her best and trying hard, all the good maternal peptalks you're supposed to have.

It was the 75-meter dash.   The other 4th graders were all lined up.  I was at the finish line, waiting with an appropriately-proud smile.  The gun sounded and the children were off.  I don't know the cause.  Was her shoe too big?  Did she forget to tie it?  Whatever the case, about halfway down the length of the track, her shoe came off and she fell.  That spring inside my heart tightened as she watched the crowd of racers speed off down the track without her, knowing full well that there was no way she could catch them.

She did something I didn't expect.  She stood up.  She slipped her shoe back on.  She ran the rest of the race.  She KNEW there was no way she would win.  She knew she would encounter defeat, but she got up and she finished the race.

I learned something that day.  I learned that defeat isn't really defeat if we refuse to let it defeat us.  She didn't win the race that day.  But she didn't let that defeat KEEP her down.  She got up. She finished the race.  I like to think that, even if my girl didn't win what she had intended and hoped to win, she found something more important to take from that day than a ribbon.

On the same day, my younger daughter ran the 50-meter dash.  She's actually pretty good for being rather leprechaun-sized.  I have to work to keep up with her when we race, and it wasn't uncommon for her to come away from her races with several ribbons.  But, not this day.  (Seriously, the track gods had it out for us that sunny afternoon.)  On this day, another girl in her class, we'll call her Rachel, had apparently had just a little too much of my daughter winning the race.  Apparently determined for that not to happen this time, Rachel pushed Alicia down shortly after the race began, sending her sprawling into the dirt... hard enough to keep her limping for the next three days.  (Momma not happy.)

She didn't get up and finish the race.  Her coach led her off the track and into my arms, and we sat on a curb while she nursed her tears ("I'm okay, Mom.... I'm just disappointed I couldn't finish") and her older sister finished the events she was signed up for.  Lots of Alicia's friends hovered around us, wanting to make sure she was okay, as they waited for their races as well.  I don't remember which ones they were, but I will always remember one little girl.  She came over and sat next to Alicia.  After a few minutes, she put something into Alicia's hands and said, "Here...  I want you to have one of mine."

It was one of the ribbons she had won during the day, and I was really glad I was wearing sunglasses that day.  It's sort of embarrassing to cry in front of 10-year-olds.  But, I couldn't help it.  It was such a sweet thing to do, and it was my second lesson on defeat for the day.  Conquering defeat doesn't mean that we have to conquer it on our own.  I'm a constant "I can do it myself"-er, so this was a big thing for me to see.  Sometimes, people come alongside us.  For a time, they are our rocks, they are our strengths.  They lend us their courage and their kindness so that we can summon the strength to look Defeat in the face and say "Today is not your day."

We will encounter defeat, each one of us.  But encountering it doesn't mean that we have to let it win.  Get back up.  Gather those that love you around and draw from their love and courage until you can stand upright, look squarely in the eyes of Defeat, and live to fight another day.

Encountering defeat and BEING defeated are not the same thing.  The former we can hardly avoid, but the latter is something we can fight.

Fight it.
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