Friday, September 13, 2013

Think Globally, Act Locally...VERY Locally

A few years ago while volunteering for Earthfest I was approached by a pair of students from one of the area high schools. One held a video camera, the other a microphone. They were asking attendees if they would be willing to answer one question in front of their camera for a project.

"What is the most important question?"

Perhaps it was because I was in the middle of working my tail end off for an event that has become a massive labor of love, but in that moment the answer was simple. "What can I do to make the world around me a better place?" I further explained, "I am responsible for the community around me, the community that my children will be raised in, and for the environment generations to come will have to live in. So what can I do to create the best possible results?"

Up until being approached for this school project, I had never thought of it in these terms. I mean, that's just what you do, right? Be a good person, do the right thing, work hard, all that jazz? I long ago established that I am responsible for what happens to me, the good, the bad and the ugly. It isn't some pissed off god dumping his wrath on me. It isn't that the world is just a shitty place, and I better buck up and deal with it. Things happen because of me, not to me. And when the bad and the ugly hit, I believe that it is an opportunity to learn a lesson.

I am currently raising three children, ages 5, 12 and 15. The two older were primarily raised in a different home with blatantly different rules, ethics, and lessons being taught. Any stepparent will tell you this is not an easy position to be in.

Without going on an unnecessary tirade, I will say this much. The other home did not do much to instill the concept of responsibility or self-accountability. One of the adults raising the children in that home has yet to understand those concepts, so how on earth would the children have a chance to follow suit? It has been nearly a year since they have been primarily under this roof, and from day one we have set some clear guidelines and rules. Mistakes were made with the appropriate adjustments, but we are at a pretty steady pace today.

Alas, there is still much work to be done. We have a list of chores, and each kid must choose one a day before going to TV, computer, etc. I'm assuming we're pretty run-of-the-mill when it comes to after-school routine. As the routine sinks in each week, things do get a little better. But there's an elephant in the room that isn't as clear-cut as some issues. Even as I write this blog, I'm having a tough time articulating what it is. So here goes.

The two older children don't seem to see a bigger picture in anything they do. I guess the simple way to say it is that they don't pay attention to their surroundings. I am also attempting to teach the idea that if the way you are completing a task isn't working, change it up so it works better.

As an example that touches all of these; we own a portable machine dishwasher. In order to hook it up to the kitchen sink, you must turn it 90 degrees for the hose to reach. When it's turned and you open the door, it blocks the bottom of the stairway to the second floor. The other night, the 15 year old chose the dishes as his chore. It did not occur to him to check to see if the dishes in there were clean or not (they were), so he ran them again. Afterwords he started putting them away. It was later in the evening, everyone was home, so the traffic up and down the stairs was pretty heavy. He kept getting frustrated at the fact that he would have to close the dishwasher door to let people through.

Now, none of the above offenses are dire, by any means. But do you see the lessons that could be taught here? It is neither difficult nor mentally demanding to check on the state of the dishes or to turn the dishwasher so the path to the stairs would be cleared. It seems to me that deviating from the basic and primitive plan (I must clean the dishes) requires some "outside the box" thinking that he has simply not been taught. I see similar examples every day. If there's a shoe in the middle of the floor that everyone keeps tripping on, no one thinks to pick it up and put it away. They're content with the fact that it's there and it's now just a part of life to trip over it. (UGH! Why did someone put this shoe here?! Why do I keep tripping?? The world sucks, and clearly I'm just a clutz!)Exaggeration? Maybe. Maybe not.

There was once a commercial that showed a small queue of well-dressed people on the sidewalk, staring at a piece of litter two feet away from a trash can. They are all just looking at it, discussing how horrible it is that someone would be so lazy as to not just put it in the trash. Some kid in flannel and a backwards hat comes along, sees it, picks it up, and throws it in the garbage can with a pause and a smile to the others, and is quietly on his way.

My stepsons, and many others, are the queue of onlookers. What's worse, they're not even complaining about the trash. There's this blase feeling combined with a lack of accountability that I just can't wrap my head around. Being pro-active seems to have become an "outside the box" thinking concept. Call this a stretch, but I must ask, if a person is incapable of going out of their way to resolve some little household cleaning issue, how on earth can they go on solve greater issues in the world outside of our four walls?

Are there bigger fish to fry? Of course! There are starving people in [insert third-world country here], war in the middle east, homelessness, violence against women, the list goes on. And it gets to be overwhelming, even depressing just watching the nightly news. I've often said to members of the community, "You can only do what you can only do." What that means is, you will not single-handedly cure cancer, create world peace, feed the hungry masses, etc. What you can do is, donate to the food pantry, smile at a random stranger, and yes, even pick up that piece of trash.

But kids, I beg of you, start with your own rooms. And maybe the kitchen if you wish to eat. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Busting at the Seams

I was once told that I missed my calling, after having written some lovely bits on Facebook about random people who sent me a number privately, then posting their number with how I feel about them publicly. I'm thinking about doing that again. It's interesting to see who responds.

There is a multitude of ways that I am "busting at the seams," as it were. First, ugh, my weight. I started two new jobs at the beginning of this year (I shall get to that later,) and the new schedule through my eating habits into a whirlwind. After an undisclosed number of pounds later, I said enough is enough. I got my gym membership back, and I've been paying closer attention to my food intake. I was calorie counting, but I've stopped for the moment.

I've become borderline addicted to running. I think it's because there is an infinite number of goals to create for oneself. Last summer I planned to run a 5K for charity. Between school and finances, that goal fell by the wayside. I'm back at it. My 5K interval run/walk is at about 42 minutes right now. Considering I've been at this for about 6 weeks, with a one week spring break hiatus, I'm thinking that's pretty damn good. Tonight I ran a mile straight through, a feat I couldn't even pull off in high school. My biggest battle is not getting bored with the treadmill. According to the calendar, it's April 4th. Mother nature feels it is February 4th. Running in the real world will, hopefully, be more interesting.

So, as previously mentioned, I started two new jobs at the beginning of the year. Firstly, I found a fantastic space to massage out Oostburg. I swore I would never go back save for visiting family. I had a client tell me the other day that Oostburg isn't what it used to be, referring to children who come to school with inadequately warm clothing in the winter, obvious signs of neglect and things of the like. It's like everyone thought Oostburg was immune to such things, and real life is finally settling in. The town still drives me batshit crazy, but I've been fortunate in having some amazing clients come out of the area. As for our budget, everything I make doing massage is "extra," and I feel blessed that a pretty fair amount has been coming in.

The other job just landed in front of me at the right time. I now work in the office of Theater for Young Audiences. I litterally got the call from Deb saying that I was hired for the job the same week I signed the contract for my massage office space. 2013 greeted me with quite a smile.

Not a day goes by that I don't think of how blessed I am. It's truly hard not to brag. In both jobs, I'm fairly in control of my own schedule, with the flexability to be there for the kids when and if the need arises. Not only that, but I have this altogether unique sense of self. OK, sure I take my pentacle necklace off for most massage clients. But let's face it, I'm doing what I went to school for, and LOVE IT. It rarely feels like work.

TYA is a horse of a different color. Much of it is traditional office work; book keeping, paying the bills, responding to emails, etc. But I will never forget the morning after my husbands grandmother passed away, when Deb comes in, needing to learn how to juggle scarves for the upcoming show. She had a bag of sheer scarves, I did some YouTube searches, and next thing you know, I'm juggling scarves in the office. What better way to get out of a funk.

Oh, and this freedom to do things, like attend discussions, go to the gym, hang with friends without praying $5 will be enough. That, without a doubt, is the most alien feelign to me.

We have had the boys full time since last October. That has been an adventure in itself. I won't say it's been perfect, but gods knows this needed to happen. The family has had some growing pains, and the frustration of issues past are still very much here and alive. Having more control of the situation has been a blessing and a curse. It feels good that we are no longer fighting the 'one step forward, two steps back' battle we faught for years. At the same time *in my best whiny voice,* parenting is haaard! I say that tongue in cheek, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Lastly, there is Earthfest. Kathy has hung up her hat and asked me to take the reigns. I technically said yes, but I haven't done nearly the amount of work I should have at this point. At some point, I stuck my head in the sand, and it is slowly being pulled out. I will get there, as I have no other choice. I have faith that it will be OK, and that's what keeps me going.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I cannot look away...

Today is the winter solstice. The darkest day of the year in which we look forward to the light joining us once again. It is also the one week anniversary of the mass shooting in Massachusetts. Since I saw the first post on Facebook about the shooting last Friday, I have not been able to peel myself away.

Children a mere two years older than my daughter are gone from this world, for reasons we may never know. Innocent souls who just wanted to open presents from Santa next Tuesday morning will not have that chance. I see the outpouring of love from around the world, the tears, and the petty bickering all over social media as to who's to blame, and I cannot look away.

I am one of millions of mothers around the world. I was a mom before I fully became a mom. I married a man with two boys, and through some of the early struggles, I adored them from the word "go." I often note that before giving birth, I never cried for movies. I was quite numb to the violence, sadness and fear projected on the silver screen. Giving birth changed all of that. There are movies that I once loved that I can no longer bear to watch. Yet, this 24/7 reality show that is the news acts like another one of those movies, and I cannot look away.

Thanks to social media, it takes no more than a click of the mouse to blame the NRA, a lack of God in schools, lack of access to mental wellness care, and what have you for this event. Pardon my moment of lewdness, but fuck all of you. Yes, perhaps it's easier to search for blame than to feel the pain violent tragedy induces. The President was not afraid to shed a tear in front of the camera. Don't be afraid to shed one in the comfort of your monitor's glow. I promise, it's OK. It shows you're still human.

At 9:30 EST the country shared a moment of silence. Here in Wisconsin, it was 8:30 and I was walking my daughter into her school, her purple gloved hand in mine. As I type this, 9:30 CST is approaching, and I will stop and meditate on these thoughts.

I'm completely jealous of the fact that my daughter has no idea what happened last week. I had a short bit of time between appointments that day to stop at her daycare and give her a quick hug and kiss while she ate her lunch after hearing preliminary accounts of the shooting. She had no idea why I was there other than to wish her a fun time at her cousin's birthday party/sleepover that night. She wanted to come home with me right then and there, which is odd, as she loves her daycare and never wants to leave. Alas, I had to go to work, and not see her until the following morning.

I frequently work nights, and don't get home until after the kids are in bed. Every night, I go into my daughter's room and kiss her goodnight. She never wakes, but it's a ritual I've maintained since she's been able to sleep soundly enough for me to pull this off. I cannot fathom having to cease that ritual. The very thought sinks my heart into my stomach.

I know my voice is one of millions around the world who is sharing their condolences. My wish for all of the affected families is that you may go forward today, on the Winter Solstice, and welcome the light back into your world. No person can be replaced. But I hope that, in time, you will receive closure and find a way to forgive. Until such time that absolute peace can be obtained, I will not look away.

Monday, January 2, 2012

being Grateful is not Dead

And so ends another trip around the sun. Right off the bat my knee-jerk reaction is to go over the wins and losses of 2011, and there were several biggies. A handful of which would probably drive me to tears.

Instead, I think on a Tarot reading I received at Earthfest 2010. Tarot, like any other form of divination, is far from an absolute. Timelines and details end in grey areas, and you still have the freewill to change your path if you so choose. Honestly, I don't remember much from this reading, but I do remember one line spoken by the reader. "A year from now, you'll hardly recognize yourself."

Did I have some life-altering "a-ha moment," as our dear friend Oprah has called it? Did I have a near-death experience or witness some massive trauma destined to change me forever? Nope. Shoot, I hardly lost the weight I was hoping to. The change was internal and gradual. Those who spend the most time with me have probably barely noticed. But that's OK. I'm not in it for the glory or pats on the back. That is a good portion of what has changed.

Sure, I appreciate a compliment or recognition for a job well done. But it's no longer what I strive for. I believe the quote goes, "Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking." I work hard at my job, certainly not for the pay or recognition, as I get little of either. It's simply the way it should be. I love talking a little extra with my customers at the door. I love chatting with the kids that shadow their mom or dad, or giving treats to the dogs. It makes people smile. Sometimes it gets me a bigger tip, and it's appreciated. Which leads me to the other transformation in my life.

I. Am. Grateful. We are taught from toddlerhood to be polite. Say "Thank you," share, and compliment a job well done. These are important lessons that I'm teaching my soon to be four-year-old every day. But we then forget to be thankful for what we already have, whether it is what we have worked for, or the Universe simply let land on our lap. We forget to find beauty in the everyday.

Gratitude has been a subject that has been popping up around me quite a bit in the past few months. I started making a habit of thanking the Universe for little things; witnessing a shooting star, a good night of making more tips than expected, staying healthy while others around me get the traditional winter sickies, etc. But it seems every time gratitude slips away, some little comment made by a friend, or a program on NPR, as it were, brings me right back.

I haven't yet decided the details, but I'm determined to participate in some kind of Gratitude Project. I know the new year frequently gets people into the rarely-successful New Year's Resolution mindset, and perhaps the Project may be a brain child of that mindset. But this is something I've loosely kicked around for a few weeks.

With school, work, and a few family situations on the horizon, I've got some bumpy roads ahead. To be certain, I am grateful for the family and community I am surrounded by that will see me through this. But I'd like to give myself some simple goal to keep the gratitude in the front of my brain. It will come. I am grateful for this change, and I trust it to keep me on my path, wherever it may take me. Namaste.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


"If you don't risk anything, you risk more." - Erica Jong (I had to Google her name. She's another author of sorts)

So, what does this mean to me? Quite honestly, it makes me think of how Autumn was brought into the world. It goes something like this:
So, Aaron and I had been married for a while, and we had long since determined that we wanted to have a child together. Certainly, Darren and Michael are joys to have in our lives, but we wanted to have just one kid we wouldn't have to share with anyone. Save for the grandparents. And aunts. And uncles. And friends... Anyway, we were both working jobs with crappy schedules and even crappier pay. There were a few, shall we call, riskier months in this timeline, and lo and behold, I found out I was to have a baby in about eight months time.

Truth be told, I simply froke out. I was working at Younkers at the time, and made the mistake of calling the Sheboygan Clinic's lab for my test results from the phone at my cash register. Thank gods the store was pretty slow that day. After the massive breakdown in the lunch room, my manager sent me home for the day. Aaron was sleeping, as he had worked a third shift the night before, and I woke him with the news. He was much more cheerful about it all than I was, though he did his damnest to hide it, given my tearful response.

From there, we both changed jobs, making a schedule where one of us would always be home, therefore not paying for daycare. Neither of us knew if we were going to make enough to make ends meet, and Aaron's job was a temp job that he wasn't very happy in from the word 'go'. But we did it. To this day, we are still making it work.

We frequently say that had we "planned" having our one child, we would have thought ourselves into a corner, and she'd probably still not be here. As Autumn approaches her fourth birthday (EEK!) I can't imagine life any other way.

We took a risk not using birth control for a time. And that's a biggie that has gotten many into, shall we say, trouble. But really, we take smaller risks each day. We drive cars, cross busy streets, drop off kids at daycare, the list goes on. We also allow people into our lives, risking judgement, heartbreak, disappointment, and downright hatred.

So do you really risk more by not taking risks? SURE! I mean, if you're perfectly OK with monotony, boredom, loneliness and predictability, you may disagree. You simply risk missing out. On what? Well, get out there and find out! Don't expect the love of your life to bump into you, or that winning Powerball ticket to be lying on the ground. But maybe you'll find a restaraunt that you never noticed in town, or you'll clear your head enought to remember that one grocery item you forgot to write down. Each risk, each choice, is a small gift. Sometimes it works the way you want, other times not so much. But don't worry. Tomorrow will come soon enough. Don't rush it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I'm feeling a little salty...

Random topic for today: 10 things I'm pessimistic about.

There is a good reason for this one. I work damn hard to keep a 'glass is half full' mentality. Some days are tougher than others, but I'm frequently in the room stating "it's all good," even when I just got a 56% on a quiz...not that that's happened recently. But I suppose it's healthy to purge your pessimistic thoughts every now and again. Here goes:

1. There are some people in this world who simply will not wake up and change for the better. I've just seen it too many times where people live in a "woe is me" life, and deep down they fucking love it. They love the attention and the "there, there's" they get, so to the point where they have to make up or dig up decades old problems to keep it coming. I'm sorry, but they will die still behaving this way.

2. I don't think I'm ever going to lose the weight I want to. I lose it in spurts, but something in me just doesn't have the willpower to stick to any one plan. There is nothing wrong with me pathologically speaking. I'm just overweight, but I'm just healthy enough to not get diabetes, high blood pressure, high colesterol, etc. Unless something like that happens, I will likely be overweight my whole life. It's just the way it is.

3. Environmentally speaking, the world needs to work harder at taking care of what we have, on a massive level. I don't think I'll see that in this lifetime. That saddens me. I'm blessed to be surrounded by people of a like mind as myself, but I still feel we are in a minority.

4. I doubt I'll ever get to see Europe in my lifetime. Touring the UK and other bits of the continent are definitely things on my bucket list. In reality, I just don't see it happening unless we win the lottery.

5. I want to learn to play guitar. OK, I technically know how to play a few things. But I would hardly call it something worthwhile. Especially since I've owned one for nearly a decade. I just don't see myself getting better than I am now.

6. In school, I'm learning about all these great holistic remedies, natural foods and simply better substances to be putting your body. I simply will never be able to get on such a granola level to make these things my whole life.

7. I will never be able to keep my car clean.

8. Human flaws on massive levels will never go away: The desire to go to war, greed, selfishness.

9. Humanity will never be truly equal. Whether it be categorized by race, gender, sexual preference, religion, anything. There will always be someone who looks down on you for one or more of those reasons, without speaking one word to you. I just don't get it.

10. This is kind of a biggie. So many people see me as someone who works hard for my friends, community and family. Always giving, etc. I'm a lot more selfish and lazy than you think. Yes, we all have human flaws, but I frequently feel like a fraud.

Maybe tomorrow will be the things I'm optimistic about. But that wouldn't be very random, would it?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Something New: Day 1

So, I've decided I need to find a different outlet for killing time when I'm avoiding homework, studying, cranky children, etc. Facebook, while fun, just ain't cutting it anymore. So, I'm randomly going around finding random topics to write about for just such a person as myself. I'm hoping to use this on a regular basis (whatever that means.) Allons-y!
Write a 20-line rhyming poem about something that really annoys you.

You have lost your right, don't you see?
And that right should not go to me.
But you've made up your mind,
To walk around blind,
A martyr you think you will be.

But others, they're quick to your game,
You think they are to blame.
And the children now suffer,
You think you're they're mother
My dear, it is only a name.

You prat on about doing your best,
Though the time you will not invest.
While we do your job
Even though we feel robbed,
They need a safe home to get rest.

Rest assured, we are far, far from done
And I bet you feel you have won.
We will continue to work
'Til the kids are put first
Silly girl, we've only just begun.

Not gonna lie, that one felt good.