Tag Archives: family

The Old Lighter Under the Shirt Trick

30 Jun

Reading  another blog  reminded me of something that happened in my little world recently and made me think about my first impressions of people…

One weekend, my husband and I had agreed to take a drive to help my mechanical-minded father-in-law pick up an old Jeep he was purchasing from a random seller (online). We drove him there to get the car.

Actually, first we waited for Jeepman to call back to arrange a time.

A time was set and we arrived and waited for Jeepman to return from fishing. There was a boat; there were children; there was chatting.

There was an enthusiastic pit bull that wagged her tail so hard it was like having our legs beaten with a very happy stick. Honestly, it hurt. It may have left bruises, I forgot to check.

The purchase was made. We were to follow in case the Jeep broke down.

And it did break down. About five minutes down the road.

A large pickup truck pulled up beside us, and there was an offer to tow the Jeep out of the intersection. We were towed away from traffic by the pickup guys.

I thought that was kind.

Then, the pickup guys parked and one of them got out and started trying to help fix the car so it would drive.

There was looking under the hood, there was tinkering… there was lying on the pavement underneath the back of the Jeep.

This was some real Good Samaritan stuff. Beyond kind.

I was truly surprised —  and I probably should not have been — not only because the guys took so much time to help out some complete strangers, but because the first guy I saw get out of the truck looked kind of scruffy, like a television version of a drug addict.

Stringy hair past his shoulders, missing teeth, tattoos, cigarette, worn clothes. His t-shirt had a design that seemed to blend into the tattoos on his arms.

He saw me watching him from inside our car. He grinned and waved at me. His hair was blowing everywhere. I should note that I stayed in the car because I thought it would not take long. I was wrong.

I watched as Scruffyman searched the ground after his fresh cigarette blew out of his grip. He picked it up from the sidewalk at the edge of the grass, put it in his mouth and pulled his shirt over the lower half of his face. Then he stuck his other arm under the shirt. His face emerged with a lit cigarette.

I had never seen this before.

I thought maybe he should have a hairband if he was in the habit of smoking with long hair on windy days. Seemed risky.

The Jeep got started again as I reflected on the kindness of Scruffyman.

We went a few miles before the Jeep stopped again.

This time, the Jeep was pushed by hand, and a tow service was called. We sat in my car with the windows open and the radio on. It was windy, hot, boring.

There was a deer across the street running inside an enclosed fence. It disappeared into the tall foliage as if it had never been there at all.

We waited. Sometimes the deer’s head popped up to look at us. We stared back. Sometimes we saw a bit of brown between the leaves, but mostly we saw nothing.

After about two hours of waiting, with assurances that the tow truck driver was “almost there”, we went to pick up my father-in-law’s big truck to tow the Jeep ourselves.

The day was long, but I felt my hope for humanity restored by Scruffyman and his generosity of spirit.

It was a reminder that our outsides do not reflect our insides.

 

 

 

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Nothing More Than Feelings

24 Feb

This animal is expressing some feelings about my camera.

We are still talking about guns. The discussion on guns misses the point entirely, in my opinion.

I read about murders and assaults in the news nearly every day. Outside of war, most of them involve only one or two people. The police always check out family, friends, and business partners first. What does that tell you?

Why do people kill each other? Why do they assault each other?

There are a few reasons — including greed — but mostly it comes down to strong feelings that people don’t know how to handle.

I have been reading the stories for as long as I can remember…

A young woman was killed because she turned down a marriage proposal.

A girl’s hair was set on fire by a peer who was not invited to a party.

A man set his son on fire because of a divorce/custody dispute.

The stories are different but they are all the same.

People who cannot accept emotional pain. People who cannot live with having been wronged. People who judge others, who blame others, who want to punish others.

These are the people who commit violence on a daily basis.

Gun regulation is easier to accomplish than emotional regulation.

But…emotional regulation is the only solution.

Teach your children how to process their feelings. Teach them that they are stronger than they think. Show them examples of those who have overcome adversity, those who are happy in spite of all that has gone wrong with their lives, those who are loved when they thought they were unloveable.

Teach them the meaning of the word NO.

Teach them to work through their disappointment, shame, or humiliation.

Teach them that pain is temporary, just like joy.

Teach them that others are vulnerable, just as they are.

Teach them that anger can be productive or destructive.

Teach them that negative emotions are part of life and must be recognized and managed.

I Need Advance Notice About Spontaneity

18 Nov

It has recently come to my attention that I am not the most spontaneous person in the world.

I thought I was spontaneous, but then my husband suggested an activity in the afternoon and I had to ask questions before considering the activity. He gave up fairly quickly.

I felt guilty when I saw how easily he gave up. Obviously he had been down that road before and knew it wouldn’t lead anywhere.

I thought to myself, ‘I want to be spontaneous…I just need advance notice first — you know, so I can plan ahead.’

I noticed the contradiction. Plan ahead to be spontaneous?

I know I used to be more spontaneous when I was younger. When I was eighteen, a guy told me he liked the fact that he could call me up and invite me out and I would be ready in ten minutes. Now I need to know what is going on, how long it is going to take, and what the weather will be like.

Is it maturity? Is it anxiety? Am I just no fun any more?

I blame children. I see the results of their spontaneity. Chaos, everywhere I look.

Once, a neighbor boy pulled the fire alarm in my apartment building. I think it was the loudest thing I have ever heard in my life, aside from monster trucks driven indoors. We all milled around outside at sundown, children without coats, a woman with a towel wrapped around her hair, waiting for someone to end the horrifying noise.

Another time, a different boy in our apartment complex found a large sheet of glass and broke it. I don’t know where the glass came from, but I know where it ended up: everywhere. In the parking lot where all the kids play Nerf gun wars. In the grassy area where people walk their dogs. Endless shards and shards and shards of glass.

I called out to the boy, ” Don’t you know any better than to play with broken glass?” and he dropped what was left and ran off. I spent the next hour or so sweeping up, filling half a bucket with glass fragments, abandoning the unfinished load of laundry and the boneless chicken breasts baking in the oven. My husband had to come out and ask me what all the timers were for.

Hey, maybe I am spontaneous after all.

Just not in a fun way.

I’ll have work on it.

Surprise! I Moved Halfway Across the Country

21 Jan

This week, my husband and I and our two children moved from the West Coast to the middle of the country. Goodbye California coastline, hello cows and corn!

We packed in one day.

We drove our two vehicle caravan through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Nebraska for the next four days.

On the first day of driving, we made an unscheduled restroom stop at a gas station in the Truckee area. My husband climbed out of the 16 foot truck and noticed this:

This is NOT the way you want your tires to look when you are driving thousands of miles through freezing temperatures and mountain roads.

Unfortunately, the nearest roadside assistance was over an hour away.

However, our long delay actually turned out better than we could have expected.

"Where the Hell is Truckee?"

We were lucky, not only because we noticed the tire problem before we had a blowout on the road, but also because there was a restaurant next to the gas station. Donner Pass Pizza, owned and operated by a native of our home area, kept us warm and made us feel at home while we waited nearly two hours for our tire to be changed.

The owner's sports memorabilia. There was a 49ers game playing as we ate.

We enjoyed pizza, minestrone soup, sourdough bread sticks, and some of the most delicious homemade french fries I have ever tasted. I would have taken a photograph of the fries but they disappeared pretty quickly and I didn’t get nearly enough of them.

There was a pool table, which saved our children from getting too bored. We even saw some of our first snow there.

There may have been some cheating...

STAY OFF

Thank you, Donner Pass Pizza!

Gingerbread House 101, For Those Who Have Experienced Gingerbread House Collapse

17 Dec

Candy decorations courtesy of my eleven year old.

There is one absolutely crucial fact you need to know to prevent structural collapse in your gingerbread home.

It is all about the icing.

If you want your walls and roof to stay where you want them, you MUST get the consistency of the icing right.

Sometimes the directions on the kit will tell you the icing should have the consistency of toothpaste.

Please note: Either they are deliberately lying to you, or else they are brushing with some seriously thick toothpaste! Don’t listen to them.

First of all, don’t even think of it as icing. Think of it as mortar. This will give you a more accurate idea of how thick it should be.

Be very stingy with your water. Make the icing so thick it will bend a spoon. Make it so thick it is like dough, and almost rolls into a ball. Use plenty of it. If you get it thick enough, there is virtually no “drying time”. This best if you have children. Kids like gingerbread houses but they do not like waiting. Waiting is boring. Ask any kid.

Remember that the roof sections of the house will need to fight gravity, unlike the walls. You may need to hold the roof for a few moments, until it sets, to prevent sliding.

When your house is firmly together, you can add very miniscule amounts of water to the remaining icing until it is thickly spreadable, but not at all drippy. Decorate the sides of the house before icing the roof, because it adds weight. The softened icing will allow you to do a little piping (with the bag and nozzle) and ice the roof.

A few other tips:

If your roof has a gap at the top, use more thick frosting and then cover with large gumdrops. No problem.

If you are piping (squeezing with the bag and nozzle) and your icing gets too soft from the warmth of your hands, pop the piping bag into the freezer for a few moments and it will harden up. Just don’t forget it is in there.

To make your house stick to the base, add icing to the undersides of the walls or just add some icing along the bottom edge after it is assembled to prevent slipping. If it looks messy, just slap some candy over it.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun. If it were a job, someone would be paying you. Don’t get upset. It is only gingerbread, not your actual home. If all else fails, just break it apart, frost it, and call it cookies!

Back to Pencils, Books, and Dirty Looks

17 Aug

If you are a parent, or an experienced student, you know that paperwork is a key part of the back to school process.

Fortunately, most schools have the important information online, so if you misplace those important papers (or never receive them in the first place), you can still have access to much of the information you need. Later, you can even check your students’ grades online.

We never received the promised back-to-school information packet in the mail, but thanks to the internet, it all worked out.

I spent an entire morning at a middle school orientation, and it was no more pleasant for me than it was for my children. This is saying a lot, because I made them wear their uniforms for orientation day, only to find that virtually all of the other students wore their street clothes. There is nothing like standing out on your first day at a new school district where you don’t know anyone. Bless their hearts for not complaining about my error.

I made my way through crowds. Why am I waiting in line while others inexplicably step ahead?

I became flustered. What do you mean you don’t have my son’s schedule in the stack?

I ignored the standard fundraising promotions. No, I don’t want to join the PTA, can I go home now?

Frankly, I think being a middle school parent is nearly as bad as being a middle school student!

Be Yourself, But Be Reasonable

23 Apr

After reading a thought provoking blog post from Backstage Spotlight, called “Be Yourself, But Don’t Disagree with Me” regarding that elusive balance of honest expression and conversational harmony, I was inspired to extend the topic in my own way.

My idea is that you should Be Yourself, But Be Reasonable.  I honestly don’t care if you disagree with me or not, just be tactful and make some sense, for pity’s sake!

Last night I had a conversation with one of my kids that made me want to bang my head against a wall.

I saw a game controller tipped at the edge of the counter, like a car with one wheel over a cliff, and when I alerted him to the problem, the conversation went something like this…

That controller looks like it’s going to fall.

No, it didn’t.

What?

No, it didn’t.

I didn’t say that it did, I said it looked like it was going to.

Yeah, I know.

What?

What?

I don’t understand.

It didn’t fall.

(Pause) I heard you.  I am saying that I don’t understand, because your response didn’t make sense.

Yes, it did.  I said it didn’t fall.

No, what I mean is that I was talking about the future, but you were talking about the past, so it didn’t make sense.

What you just said doesn’t make sense.

Umm…I was…  The future and the past are different.

I know.

~~~

He will be in middle school next year.  Teachers, consider yourself warned!

Seriously, I want my kids to be themselves, and to feel comfortable talking to me — I want everyone to feel that way.  The tricky part is that I want the same in return.

We all have different interests and perspectives and personalities.  We have different opinions, too.  For example, Backstage Spotlight used an example conversation about The Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but I don’t have very strong feelings about those movies, so I am going to use The Sound of Music for my own examples.  I have seen that film more times than I have seen any other film.

You don’t have to agree with me.  You don’t need to like The Sound of Music just because I do.  Go ahead, express yourself.  Just be reasonable and polite about it — and, please, get your verbs straight.

If I say that I like The Sound of Music and you say that you don’t like musicals, I understand your opinion.  If you say it is an endlessly boring and stupid movie, well, then I understand that you are rude, but hey, at least you are honest.

If I say that I like The Sound of Music and you say that you like it too, then you are probably a woman.  If you say that you like doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles, then I know that you have probably seen the film as many times as I have.

If I say that I like The Sound of Music and you say “No, it didn’t“, then I understand that you and my kid should get together and play video games, because neither one of you makes any sense.

One of the biggest arguments I have ever had with anyone started up after I spent time gushing about a college class I was really enjoying at the time, and about all that I was learning from the class.  The person to whom I was speaking responded (essentially) by giving the opinion that classes similar to the one I spoke about were worthless, stupid, and a waste of time.

Now, this was, I thought, a clear and personal insult, given the fact that I had just expressed my enthusiasm for the class.  I took offense.

I would submit that a better response would have been something like, “I wouldn’t be interested in a class like that.  I  just don’t think I would get anything out of it.  I would rather take a class about —–.”  To me, that is still an honest response, just a more polite one; it is a response that supports communication instead of ending it.

In any case, I think we can be ourselves and have our own opinions and still get along.  All we need to do is to be tactful and reasonable, and know the difference between past and future verb tenses.

(with thanks to Backstage Spotlight for the inspiration!)

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