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.