Fire the Judge-Hire the Witness

I may be able to do anything, but I can't do everything.

Weathering Windocalypse — March 13, 2017

Weathering Windocalypse

If you live in the southeastern Michigan area, you just survived Windocalypse (wind-OC-uh-lips)2017.  I’ve lived through other extended power outages in my life.  Some have been during the dead of winter and some during the heat of summer.  But this was the first one that revealed a few insights.  Or maybe this is just the first one in which I’ve had a blog and a reason to capture them.

Insight #1–I’m toast in the actual event of apocalyptic proportions.  I had no kind of backup food, water, power.  Dinner on Wednesday was literally Sour Cream and Cheddar Ruffles and Triscuits.  I could only find two flashlights, even though I’m sure I own 15.  The two I found had corroded batteries inside.  But that didn’t even matter, because even if the insides hadn’t been corroded, I didn’t have any D batteries, because who needs D batteries?  My child has grown into the AA and AAA toy stage.  C and D batteries were SO 3 years ago.

So, no food.  No flashlights.  No batteries.    I was a survivalist disgrace.  Now I understand why people have bunkers with crank radios and shelves of non-perishable food.

Insight #2–Unpreparedness does not equal a death wish. Even though I wasn’t prepared in any way immediately,  I was able to round up my resources after a while.  Luckily, I had wisely procrastinated putting away the White Barn candles that I’d received as Christmas gifts.  Lucky me, they were right there on the kitchen table.  Procrastination 1, Immediate Putting-Awaying 0.

Even though I couldn’t find a working flashlight, I remembered that I had a camping lantern in the garage.

The garage that had an electric door.

The garage that had an electric door BUT also a side door.

The garage that had an electric door but a side door that had two recliners, a dresser, and a gas grill pushed against it on the inside.

But I wasn’t going to allow the mountainous obstacle to stop me from that lantern.   Because dammit, that lantern was the only thing I could use to prove I could be prepared for a night without power.  Candles were okay; the camping lantern was excellent.

Inch by inch I was able to push that stuff enough to squeeze inside.  And low and behold, the lantern worked.  Victory was mine.  Maybe I could survive if Canada ever attacked or a zombie virus infection plagued Downriver.

Insight #3–Ask for help and then accept the help.  I wasn’t shy about putting out there that I was not in the mood to suffer in silence and watch my thermostat dip to miserable levels.  I was touched that an offer of help came on the morning of Day 2.  The offers continued throughout the 54 hours my home was electricless.  I also wasn’t shy about accepting help.  Thank you to my fabulous friends who gave us a resting spot, a meal, a beer, a shower, or a distraction.  I may not have been prepared with materials, but I was prepared by relationships.  And 7 seasons of The Walking Dead have taught me, you want to align yourself with people who will take you along with them and share their resources.  Just watch out for men who have a wall of aquariums or carry baseball bats named Lucille.

Insight #4–Know your surrounding areas.   Rick Grimes and Company had Alexandria; I had Wyandotte. (Sorry for the second Walking Dead reference.)  If you know your surrounding area, you can take advantage of the creature comforts that are available.  For me, those were easily obtained in Wyandotte.  As daylight was dwindling on Day 1, and I realized that Ruffles and Triscuits weren’t going to cut it as a substantial meal, and the desperate phone calls to nearby restaurants only revealed that they, too, were without power, I turned my attention to finding a location that was unharmed by the hurricane force winds.  And then I remembered that Wyandotte had its own electric company.  DTE might be suffering the worst weather-related outage in its history, but Wyandotte might be okay.

So in true adventure style, the boy and I found ourselves navigating side streets to avoid the voluminous 4-way stop intersections from dark Southgate into the well-lit, traffic-light-abundant mecca of Wyandotte.  Wyandotte establishments were our source for dinner Wednesday night and breakfast Thursday morning.  A Wyandotte mom-and-pop hardware store had an impressive assortment of flashlights.  By the way, flashlights have come a long way since my last purchase.  RIP Maglite.  Your corroded, 3 D battery requiring, super heavy ass was replaced by an ultra light, 2 AA battery requiring, room-illuminating, sleek upgrade, that also has a magnetic base.  A magnetic base.  Do you know what that means?  It is now stuck to the side of my bed frame so if the power goes out in the middle of the night, I won’t need to fumble through a drawer or search in a closet. It’s made by Nebo and the model name is Big Larry, which I find hysterically funny. Thank you, Hood’s Do-It Best Hardware for featuring the modern advancements in the flashlight industry.  47a7dd30b3127cce9854804bd8210000001010wAcOHLVy4ZtmbUQ.jpg

Finally, Wyandotte also offered a way to pass the time.  After our bellies were full and our flashlight mission complete, we still had a few hours to occupy so we mosied into Pottery Creations.  Tommy and I had the studio to ourselves as we painted glaze onto our ceramic choices, an ice cream cone for Tommy and a decorative plate for me.  We talked and sang along to the radio that the owner had turned on and painted with abandon.

Ultimately, though, Wyandotte didn’t just offer a way to get supplies, find nourishment, and pass the time.  It also offered a way to empty my bank account.  Just like on the Walking Dead (sorry!) whenever a community with comfort was discovered, it always came with a cost for  Rick’s group.  I had to get out of Wyandotte before the cost was greater than the need.

Insight #5–Technology is still my friend.  One of the hardest things about the power outage is that I didn’t have access to the technology that is ingrained into the fabric of my daily life.  Well, that and not having heat.  Losing heat was awful too.  But losing technology hurt worse than heat.  (I realize that as I write this, I didn’t really suffer in the cold either.  I’m confident that after a longer amount of time, losing heat would have trumped losing technology.)   Some might use Windocalypse as a vehicle to disengage and become less dependent.  Not me.  I was on my phone even more.  I downloaded the DTE app and checked the outage updates endlessly.  I read and reread Facebook posts and joined a group that proved to be the best source for updates.  Sorry DTE app, you couldn’t keep up with the quick pace of the frustrated members of the Southgate Neighborhood Watch Facebook group.  I knew within seconds that my power had been restored.  Your app notified me 7 hours after.  Zuckerberg 1, DTE app 0.47a7dd30b3127cce9854804a59100000001010wAcOHLVy4ZtmbUQ

Insight #6–Laura Ingalls Wilder can keep her pioneer style.  Between the ages of 9 and 12, my favorite TV show and book series was Little House on the Prairie.  If time machines were real, I would have jumped in one and traveled back to 1870’s and lived the pioneer life.  Part of the fascination for me was the way of life.  I don’t know why, but I thought it was amazing that they had to do everything for themselves to survive.  If they wanted butter, they had to churn it.  If they wanted a dress, they had to sew one.  Vegetables?  They’d better grow some.  Chicken for supper?  Corner a pullet.  Thirsty?  Go to the well.  I also loved how the Ingalls family endured the hardships they faced, but the real fascination came from what they had to do day-to-day just to have the necessities of life.  It seemed romantic to a tweenage girl living during the Gag Me With a Spoon era.

This girl has grown up.  The romance is over.  Little House will always be a treasure from my youth.  Now, I still admire the work the pioneers had to do.  But I do not wish I could be a part of it.  I’ll stick with my modern comforts.  I’m fortunate I live where they are so easily available.

Insight #7–Windocalypse was an opportunity for thankfulness.  Hopefully, if you live near me, you were able to weather Windocalypse and you didn’t lose too much patience or too much from your freezer.  Perhaps you were able to gather a few insights.  Perhaps there was an opportunity to see or appreciate something that you’ve always taken for granted (stoplights).  Perhaps the next time you see on the news that somewhere there are thousands of people without power, there is a little more compassion felt, and a silent prayer is whispered.  I know that’s how I will feel.

I might have more to say…but The Walking Dead is on soon.

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Muscle Training — February 26, 2017

Muscle Training

What a week.  It began with a quick trip from Michigan to Florida to visit my parents and grandparents.  It was especially important to see my grandparents as my Grandpa Crisp is 97 and my Grandma Crisp is 93.  Every opportunity to see them is precious.  I was happy to see that although they aren’t physically the same as they once were, their spirits were.  Right down to the 5:00 Manhattan cocktail that my grandfather has every day, and the jello salad that my grandmother always serves as a side dish at dinner.47a7dc04b3127cce98548040ae950000001010wacohlvy4ztmbuq

My week ended with a short work-week.  Two days.  Anybody can work a two day week.  But boy, oh boy, Life decided to pack a series of unfortunate events in those two days.   And not just Work Life.  Home Life teamed up with Work Life on Thursday and Friday.   A clogged shower drain.  SoonToBe’s lawyer sent me his counterclaims in our divorce proceedings.  (“SoonToBe” is what I have decided to call my “soon-to-be-ex-husband”.  See my last post, “Nevertheless, She Persisted“, for more clarification.) A call from my son’s principal that he was making an inappropriate gesture at kids in the hallway.  Sinuses throwing a party and inviting a migraine to raise the roof in my head.  It was so stressful that at times I stopped to look if there were hidden cameras somewhere and Ashton Kutcher was going to jump out and tell me I was being Punk’d.

Alas, no hidden cameras.  No Ashton Kutcher.  Just Life.  And to get through it, I began to do the thing I do best when Life gets tough.  I start to flex my Worry Muscle.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I engage the Worry Muscle it gets strong quickly.  1 or 2 reps and it overpowers my underdeveloped Trust Muscle.  Let me tell you, if Arnold Schwarzenegger saw my Worry Muscle, he would ask me what my training schedule is.  I could have an Infomercial with Before and After pictures–“No pills!  No diet!  No long hours in the gym!  You can get results like this in 2 short days!  Act now and we’ll double the offer, just pay separate shipping and handling.”

I know I am not alone in the persistent practice of training the Worry Muscle.  “I’m just worried about,” is a common phrase used in conversations.  And I get it.  When things are out of our control, how can we not focus on the problems and the what-could-happens? How can we not envision the worst-case-scenarios and lament about how that could actually come to pass?  I think we engage in that practice so that we can partly be prepared for it.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  There’s nothing wrong with being prepared for the worst.

Unless that’s all we focus on.

If the only things we can see are the mountains of problems and the what-ifs, we strangle the Trust Muscle.  It weakens.  It emaciates.  It is put on life support and the outlook is bleak.

Bleak, but not fatal.  Fortunately, there is a path of recovery for the Trust Muscle.  Mine is already stronger one day later.  And, just like the Worry Muscle, once you begin to train it, it quickly responds.

For me, the moment it was taken off life support happened in church.  I was kneeling in prayer before Mass.  I was thinking about the end of my week and how hard it was and these words spontaneously came forth, “Please, God, take the worry from my heart.  Please, God, take the worry from my heart.”  As soon as I expressed them, I felt instantly better.  A wave of calm and trust came over me.

It doesn’t end there.

The Gospel reading featured a portion of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount.  I got goosebumps when these words were read:  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear…Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”  My Trust Muscle perked up a little more.

It doesn’t end there.

As the priest delivered his homily (the Catholic word for a sermon), he spoke about how, of course, we need food and clothing and other things in our lives.  But those things cannot be the objects of our focus.  When those things take over, we lose sight of what truly is important.  Although Father Dominic spoke about focusing on money and addictions, I silently put worry in that category.

I also believe The Judge uses the Worry Muscle to weaken us.   To weaken our Trust Muscle so that hoping and having faith seem pointless.  To isolate us from the Witnesses who will be there to coach our Trust Muscle into believing in possiblities rather than lamenting in problems.

So, to strengthen my Trust Muscle, I am going to return to how I began last week.  I am going to return to Grandma Crisp but with a memory this time.  She has a favorite quote from the Bible, which I have also adopted as a favorite and a support when I am worried.  I even had it printed on a pillow as a Christmas gift. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)  47a7dc07b3127cce9854804f06760000001010wacohlvy4ztmbuq

It’s not the “quick-fix” training plan that the Worry Muscle boasts.  In fact, it’s downright difficult.  However, the results are worth it.  My prayer for you is that you find what you need to strengthen your Trust Muscle too.

 

Nevertheless, She Persisted — February 12, 2017

Nevertheless, She Persisted

 

47a7dc33b3127cce985482dd7c000000003010wacohlvy4ztmbuqIf you followed the political stage this week, you’re familiar with the phrase,  “Nevertheless, she persisted,” that has been trending, hashtagging and meming into infamy.  This quickly happened after Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced by Senator Mitch McConnell during Warren’s speech in which she was criticizing Jeff Sessions, 45’s nomination for the Cabinet position of Attorney General.  (Yes, I’m referring to the current president as “45,” as recommended by Bernice King, MLK’s daughter).  McConnell cited a rule that senators could not criticize another senator, and then stated, “She was warned.  She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted.”

And that, dear ones, is how a battle cry is born.

In the short time since the birth of that phrase, it has inspired me and strengthened me when my spirit has been low.  And boy, oh boy, I’ve had some LOW moments this week.

One low moment is pretty typical for a single parent of a six-year-old.  To sum up my parenting problem, Tommy knows EV-ER-EE-THING and he’s right and everyone else is wrong.  Forehead palm slap.  Adding salt to this wound, he is having a little trouble reining himself in at school.  Once again, very typical.  He won’t stop talking at school.  He doesn’t always follow directions.  He is convinced he’s doing the right thing all of the time.  Honestly, compared with the issues that other kids have, Tommy’s are no big deal.  But I’m not those kids’ mom.  I’m his mother, and I still believe in the sage wisdom of, “If you get into trouble at school, you’re going to get in even bigger trouble at home.”

But when you’re the only one handing out the consequences, it gets tough.  Especially when he didn’t learn from his mistake.  Especially when three out of five days, there was a negative report.  Especially when you know that part of his mistake was that he’s six and it takes more than one misstep to learn.  Especially when the consequence is that his tablet is taken away and that is also a form of punishment for you too.    Nevertheless, she persisted.

Another moment arrived in the moment of professional crisis.  It was Wednesday night, and I had just survived a truly, truly awful day.  8 teachers were out and I only had 2 substitutes to cover.   Plus my cook and a lunch monitor were also absent and it was Pizza Day.  Not to mention, I had a doctor appointment to make sure the armpit pain I was having was not some kind of lymphatic infection, or cat-scratch fever (thank you Web MD).   And that evil hormonal monthly curse transformed me into an emotional, exhausted, migraine-infused mess.  So by 8 pm, all I wanted was to admit defeat to Wednesday and crawl into bed.

Silly principal, don’t you remember?  You are in charge of Professional Development tomorrow.  You have 20 teachers counting on you to make sure that every drop of time is used well.  Sure, there’s a powerpoint presentation that another principal shared with you that you can use, but you can’t go in blind.  You need to practice it and refine it and ensure that it accomplishes the goals of the district and the needs of the teachers.  Plus, you don’t want to look like a dumbass.  So no matter how tired, and broken, and utterly bitchy you feel, you cannot give up.

I didn’t give up.  By 9:00 Powerpoint slides were rearranged.  Activities were inserted.  A plan was in place.  Nevertheless, she persisted.

Finally, to end my week, the conversation with the estranged husband happened. (Sidenote–I wish there was a word to describe your soon-to-be-ex-spouse.  There is a word for soon-to-be-spouse, fiance’.  Why can’t there be one for the opposite?  To be accurate, I don’t want to say, “ex-husband,” because that’s not true, yet.  But soon-to-be-ex isn’t efficient.  Estranged is weird to me too.  It sounds like he ran away and no one knows where he is. I definitely don’t want to refer to him as “husband” either, even if legally that is still true.)

Anyway, the Estranged Husband Incident was a telephone conversation that started about who was going to take Tommy to see the Batman Lego movie.  It quickly morphed into a huge debate about child support, alimony, and the division of assets.  Amazingly, throughout the conversation, I felt strong while talking to him.   I was calm.  I stuck to truth and facts.  I diverted attempts to ensnare me with the age old songs of ” Why Can’t We Work This Out,” and “I’ll Always Love You,” and the number one hit, “Just Give Me One More Chance.”  Save those tunes for someone else’s jukebox buddy.  I’m singing a new song now.  Neverthelessshe persisted.

My life moments pale in comparison to Elizabeth Warren’s.  They are nothing in comparison to Coretta Scott King, the words in which Warren was quoting and then silenced.  There are millions of women who face problems bigger than mine.  But trivializing my problems won’t help me get past them.  The only thing that will get me through the problems is to look them dead in the face and say, “I might be tired.  I might be weak.  But I’m stronger than you.  I’m smarter than you.  Now go away.”

Unfortunately, problems are stubborn and don’t simply go away.  They are like illegal squatters; they move in and refuse to get out.  The only way to get rid of them is to be more stubborn.  Persevere.  Persist.

So, to my son, you will lose your tablet if you don’t listen to your teacher.  To my profession, you might kick the crap out of me some days, but I’m still going to do what I need for my students and my staff.  To my soon-to-be-ex-husband (see–it’s too long), I want to remind you the words I said yesterday, “We can talk.  We can compromise.  But I will be sticking up for myself.  I will not be agreeing to anything just to make your life easier.  It’s time for me to put my needs first.”  Nevertheless, she persisted.

P.S.  The artwork for this week’s post was created by Tina Doepker.  She’s an amazing artist, an awesome elementary art teacher, and a fellow Nasty Woman.   Thank you for your permission to use your artwork to illustrate this week’s post, Tina.

You are My Sunshine — February 5, 2017

You are My Sunshine

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-10-38-42-am Isn’t impossible to read the title of this post without singing the beloved lullaby?  Of course, I sang it to my son when he was a baby.  We enjoyed reading the lyrics in one of his board books, on pages bursting with thick shiny golden rays behind an adorable teddy bear.  We read that book often.  One of the reasons,  among many, was that I loved the feeling I got after I was done reading it with my sweet boy.

Tommy would be snuggled on my lap, while I sat in a comfy rocking glider in his bedroom.  He would be cozily dressed in a blanket sleeper adorned with firetrucks or monkeys or puppies.  I would lean my head into his, so I could lovingly smell his damp, Johnson & Johnson baby shampooed hair.  We would read 3 or 4 books every night, but You Are My Sunshine had transformative properties over me.  I could have just endured a truly awful shitshow of a day, but after I read that book to Tommy, I would take a deep breath and release a long sigh of relief.    Somehow those 60 seconds transformed my bleak perspective to a more optimistic one.  Somehow I felt better.  Somehow my gray sky was now sunny.

Recently, a friend had posted on Facebook an image with a quote from Lisa Currie, “Be a ray of sunshine in someone’s cloudy day.”    There are other variations of this sentiment, such as, “Be someone else’s sunshine.  Be the reason someone smiles today,” source unknown, and my favorite, “Sometimes we get to be the sunshine on someone’s cloudy day,” by Katrina Mayer.  I love the last one because it uses the verb “get” which implies it is a not only a choice but a privilege.  No matter the variation, they all contain the same theme. They all push one in the direction of selflessness.  Not too difficult, right?  The Judge often finds a way to make it hard.

A common way that the Judge makes it difficult is that he will try to convince me to abandon a sunshine opportunity.  Recently, I almost missed the chance to spread sunshine to a friend.  Before I explain the almost-missed opportunity, I must describe my small obsession with the mermaid sequined pillow. I had been stalking them on Facebook for a while.  Not only were they pretty and sparkly, but they also seemed to offer a therapeutic sense of calm.  The best way I can describe it is, Pet the pretty pillow and all your troubles will drift away.  I wanted one, but I didn’t take any real steps to buying one.  Then my nephews surprised me with one as a birthday gift.  I LITERALLY jumped up and down and clapped because it was something that I wanted, but didn’t tell anyone, and somehow they knew.  Moreover, all the Facebook advertisement promises were true.  I loved it.  There was a sense of soothing distraction that it provided.  It was like a diva inspired calming jar.

After I had my pillow for a few days, I thought how it could help a friend.  I thought of how having a pillow like this would distract her while she is going through a horrifically, painful time.   It’s so hard to know what to do when one of your witnesses is in a crisis.  Sometimes we fear we’ll do the wrong thing, so we do nothing.  I think it’s The Judge who influences that Do Nothing part.  I had the idea to get her the pillow for a few days before I acted on it.  I delayed buying one because I listened to the Judge.  He told me it was stupid, and weird, and what the hell is she going to do with a cast-off from the Mariah Carey home decorating collection.  Then I listened to The Witness.  She assured me that it was thoughtful and might be just what my friend needed.  So I took a leap of faith and gave my friend a mermaid pillow.  The result?  She loved it.  She had never seen one and instantly began to fixate on stroking the sequins back and forth, changing colors in a hypnotizing way.  My end result?  My witness was right.  That little bit of sunshine was the right thing to do.

The practice of giving moments of sunshine is addicting.  Once you begin to shine for others, you begin to shine for yourself.  When you give moments of light to others, it prompts them to continue that beam of light to those in their circle.  Another outcome is that it demonstrates that we are all in this game of life together.  There are no solitary problems.  There are no solitary solutions.  Giving sunshine doesn’t have to be as elaborate as a mermaid pillow.  More often, they take form in the act of texts or phone calls.  “I’m thinking about you today,” are powerful words.

When looking for sunshine opportunities, be sure to seek those who are difficult to find at times.  If you’re surrounded by strong women like I am, you often assume that they are able to handle their life loads independently.  Not so.  I believe that when a crisis, big or small, hits a strong woman, it’s even more important for her witnesses to step in and say that she doesn’t have to tackle it alone.  She can rely on help and she needs to accept it because that’s what we do for each other.  We shine with each other on sunny days, and break through the clouds together on gray days.

Shining together is even more important during our current times.  National and state events are prompting division.  Political arguments and differing opinions are threatening relationships.  It’s hard to find the sunshine when your Facebook Newsfeed is flooded with stories and opinions that make you question and fear the condition of the world we are living in.  I can’t thrive in that kind of world.  I do believe it’s imperative to stay informed, to seek out the truth, and to act as I think appropriate.  But I also believe we have to put Facebook, and the media, and the news aside and look at our immediate world.  Who needs a smile?  Who needs to hear that they aren’t alone?  Who needs to be acknowledged that life is hard and they are conquering it like a boss and you see that?  Who needs to hear that they are strong, even when they feel like they are weak?  They need some sunshine.  They need a text, an email, a phone call, a card in the mail, or even a smile that genuinely communicates that you see them.  You love them.  You are in awe of them.

Finally, I am reminded of how this idea was advertised in a different way in an unlikely place, several years ago.  I was at an auto body shop, picking up my husband’s car after it needed some kind of repair.  It was a local, run-down kind of operation, but did good work for a reasonable price.  The “office” had grimy walls, a beat-up desk, and one cracked vinyl chair.  Needless to say, I stood while I waited for The Guy to find the keys and take my payment.  While waiting, I noticed a sign printed on copy paper, and had been laminated at some point, but the rough environment caused the lamination to peel away and curl at the corners.  Beyond those visually unappealing conditions, this message was printed:  The time to be happy is now.  The place to be happy is here.  The way to be happy is to help someone else.

The juxtaposition of the message to the environment caught me off-guard.  It was unexpected.  But it was true.  May you find ways to shine for someone.  May you allow others to shine for you.  May we all make our gray, cloudy days a little bit sunnier together.

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Not Your Average Top 10 — January 30, 2017

Not Your Average Top 10

I have some heavier topics floating around my head, that I’m not quite ready to write about so I’m going to borrow an idea from Jen Hatmaker and post about the quirkiness of me.   I’m also curious how many people will respond with: “OMG, I’m the SAME way.”    So here goes:47a7df08b3127cce985482df1d940000003010wacohlvy4ztmbuq

  1.  Every morning, when I wake up, I have a song playing in my head.  This morning, it was “Lost Boy” by Ruth B.  On any given day it can range from a line of a church hymn (And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings) to a commercial jingle (Your Metro Detroit Ford dealers…think Ford first!) to a current pop hit (Just like fire, burning out the way).  Until a few years ago, I thought that this earworm condition was true for everyone. My brother and sister looked at me like I was crazy when I started a conversation with, “You know how you wake up every day with a song in your head?” Most of the time I like this little quirk about me.   Unless it’s a Justin Bieber song.  Then it’s torture.
  2. Speaking of songs, if I like a song, I must learn all the lyrics.  ALL of them.  This obsession was once much harder.  I remember when I would buy a cassette and be thrilled that the case insert contained the lyrics instead of just the credits.  The same was true when CDs replaced cassettes.  Then, when the Internet came along, it blessed me with the ability to look up any song and BAM!  Instant lyrics.  Knowing all the lyrics also requires replaying a song over and over until I have it down.  Maybe that’s why there’s always a song in my head.
  3. Another music related quirk is that I love countdowns.  Music countdowns, video countdowns, movie countdowns, I love them all.  Perhaps it began with Casey Kasem.  I remember listening to the radio on Sunday mornings to hear what the top 40 songs were for the week.  I recall fondly the “Long-Distance Dedications”.  Then when MTV actually had videos there was the weekly top 10 videos countdown.  I was a dedicated viewer till MTV swapped videos for reality programming.  Later, in the first years of the new millennium, the American Film Institute would release a yearly movie countdown:  AFI’s Top 1oo Movies of All Time,  AFI’s Top Movie Songs of All Time,  AFI’s Top Movie Heroes of All Time, and so on.  CBS broadcasted the countdown every June for about ten years and it included clips of the movies, interviews with stars, directors, and writers, and revealed nuggets of trivia that I loved.  I watched every time.  Now I feed my countdown craving through Sirius satellite radio.  Their 80’s channel has a weekly countdown that features the top 40 songs for that week during one of the 80’s years.   Let me tell you, after years of listening, I’m declaring that the some of the best music of all time occurred during early November of 1983.  That countdown included all of these prolific artists and bands:  Prince, Billy Joel, Pat Benatar, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Journey, Huey Lewis and the News, Culture Club, Lionel Ritchie, just to name a few.    And when the Number One song is “Islands in the Stream,” you know it was a week to remember.
  4. This next one is going to shock some.  Brace yourselves.  Pizza could drop off the face of the earth and it wouldn’t bother me one bit.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like bread.  I like melty cheese.  I like spicy meat like pepperoni and sausage.  I just don’t care for all of it put together.  Moreover, it doesn’t help how often pizza is the go-to meal.  “Come over, we’ll order pizza,”  and “Free staff lunch:  pizza.”  I get it.  It’s a cost-effective way to feed a lot of people.  But I’ve had my fill.  As recently as two days ago, someone told me that they couldn’t live without pizza.  I could.
  5. I could live without pizza, but I would be devastated if soup left my life.  I could eat soup every single day.  It can be 98 degrees outside and I’ll still heat up a bowl.  I love to make soup.  I love to eat soup.  I love most kinds of soup.  (Except Minestrone.  Minestrone can take a hike with pizza.)  I love that soup is comforting and flavorful and has the potential to make any ingredient the star.  My favorite episode of Seinfeld was the one featuring the infamous Soup Nazi.  I even shared my love of soup with co-workers by hosting BYOB (Bring Your Own Bowl) Mondays and bringing in some of my favorites like clam chowder, beef mushroom, and the classic chicken noodle.  If I ever had my own restaurant it would be a soup cafe’.  Or a soup truck.
  6. My final food quirk is that I am not a fan of “Brinner.”  I prefer my eggs and pancakes and hashbrowns to remain as a breakfast food only.  Restaurants that serve breakfast all day aren’t scoring any points with me.  When McDonald’s decided to adjust its menu so customers weren’t locked into that McMuffin before 10 a.m. rule, this chica wasn’t impressed.  I like my breakfast food where it is.  In the morning.  The way God and short order cooks and Tony the Tiger intended.
  7. This next quirk is extremely petty.  I will never, ever, understand Hello Kitty.  Why is she popular with girls, teens and even adult women?  I should take the “to each their own” on this one.  I should, but I won’t.  There is one HUGE problem that I have with her.  Hello Kitty has no mouth.  I repeat, SHE HAS NO MOUTH.  It’s creepy.  It’s wrong.  Why doesn’t she have one?  I Googled the question and, apparently, the creator decided that leaving her mouthless would allow the viewer to decide what emotion Hello Kitty was expressing.  If the viewer was sad, Hello Kitty would seem sad.  The same for happy.  Whatever.  Knowing that doesn’t make me like her.    Honestly, I’m pretty committed to my Hello Kitty stance.  Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to be petty.  And this is a pretty harmless pettiness, so I’m going to hang on to it.
  8. Another quirky pet peeve of mine is inaccurate clocks.  I can’t stand when a clock is even one minute off.  I used to be in the Set Your Clock Ahead a Few Minutes Club.  Then I figured out that being in the club didn’t really help me.  All it did was force me to do clock math.  I knew if a clock was set 6 or 9 or 13 minutes fast.  So I would have to pause to figure out the real time.  Why do that step?  Just set all of your clocks for the right time and eliminate a step.  Once again, with modern technology through smartphones and computers and atomic clocks and even cable TV, we know what the real time is.  I’m not going to try to trick myself into thinking I have more time than I do.  There’s a lot of math in life anyway.  I don’t need to determine X-9=the real time.
  9. My last quirk is that  I fall asleep with the TV on and have to have it remain on all night long.  I know it’s a waste of electricity.  I understand that according to experts sleeping with the TV on could prevent me from reaching optimum deep sleep.  I don’t care.  I’m going to hold on to this behavior, sleep experts and DTE energy analysts be damned. I can identify the exact cause for this behavior–a nightmare I had when I was 14 years old.  Without going into details it was extremely realistic and involved an ax.  I couldn’t sleep for weeks after that horrific dream.  My only respite was to lay on the couch in our basement and watch Nick at Night reruns of The Patty Duke Show, My Three Sons and Green Acres.  They would lull me to sleep and if I woke up in a panic, they distracted me from replaying the nightmare over and over in my head.  Well, we know what happens when a habit becomes a crutch.  Maybe someday I will wean myself off of the TV.  Maybe.

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It is bothersome to me that there are nine quirks and not ten.  Ten is a nice round number. Nine seems open-ended.  Perhaps that’s what I should embrace.  I should leave myself open to finding something else quirky but makes me, me.

Celebrating quirks also celebrates one’s individuality.   When we value our own uniqueness, as well as the uniqueness of others, we add value to our humanity.  Right now, that is an especially important task we should all undertake.

Hair Wars — January 22, 2017

Hair Wars

On my 45th birthday, I had a heart attack.

And by a heart attack, I mean I got a new hairstyle.

And by got a new hairstyle, I mean I had 3 inches cut off and went in a totally different direction. I told my hairstylist I loved it, but 20 minutes later, I was sobbing on my bathroom floor.  I was sure I had made a terrible mistake.  Yay!  Happy birthday to me! Next year I think I’ll get a Pap Smear and then a mammogram.

The good news is that within 66 hours, I loved my new do. (and I know it was 66 hours because I just did that clock math thing where you look at a clock and make a circle motion and talk to yourself as you calculate the elapsed time–24, 48, 60…66)

I’m confident that this journey of  First Comes Hate, Then Comes Love is fairly common with most women when they change hairstyles.  Join me, ladies, as I describe the stages that I went through.  Perhaps you go through some of them too.

Stage One–Decision and Preparation.

The first stage I go through is pretty easy.   For whatever reason, I decide that it’s time to make a change.  Maybe I’m bored with my hairstyle.  Maybe there’s a new trend that I want to try.  Maybe my current style takes too long to do.  The reason behind the decision isn’t important as the second part of the stage.

The second part of Stage One is Preparation.  This stage was once much harder than it is now. You see, in olden times, when a Gen Xer wanted a new style, she only had a few options for ideas.  She didn’t have the fancy-schmancy Pinterest and Internet to peruse endlessly for the perfect new hairstyle.  Oh, no, no, no, no, no.  She only had two options to consult when she felt the urge to change.  The first was to thumb through Hairstyle or Celebrity Hairstyles while waiting for her stylist to finish a client.  These handy-dandy magazines were conveniently arranged into SHORT, MEDIUM, LONG sections, with 2-inch square thumbnail photos featuring all the possible styles.  Sounds primitive now, right?

Or she could just simply pay attention.  What style was in for celebrities?  What was being mimicked by society?  What hairstyle eventually had its own name?  Raise your hand if you had one:  The Dorothy Hamill, The Farrah Fawcett,  The Rachel.  I tried to find the source of the late 80’s trainwreck style that featured at least two of the following:  shoulder length or longer hair, some kind of perm, forward curled bangs, a mane that is teased and sprayed with Aqua Net forming a protective helmet.  The closest I found was a hybrid of Morgan Fairchild, Heather Locklear, and Elizabeth Berkley but if I were any of those ladies, I’d deny any connection.  Chances are you had at least one of the Namesake styles.  If your age is anywhere near mine, this is especially true for Aqua Net Helmet.

Nowadays, we have Pinterest and Google to help us prepare.  We can refine our searches to include details such as, “Medium Hairstyles,””Round Faces,” and “Styles for Women over 40”.  Thank goodness.

Stage Two–Consultation and Deliberation

Whether it’s the old-fashioned, magazine photo, or an image pinned to my “I Feel Pretty” board on Pinterest, the next stage begins with Consultation.  I show the photo of my possible new look to my hairstylist, Jen.  She nods and explains the necessary steps to match the photo.  “You can have that but we’ll need to cut 5 inches off the back and add layers, and your face frame will have to grow out a little bit and it looks like there are highlights there too so let’s add a few foils. But that would look good on you.”  Feeling overwhelmed, and unprepared to make this life-changing decision (I choose a new vehicle faster than I choose a hairstyle), I tell Jen that I need more time, so “Just a trim today.”

Before my next appointment, I engage in Deliberation.  I casually consult a few Witnesses for advice.  Regardless of who the Witness is, she understands my predicament. We usually share survival stories of Hairstyles of the Past.  We commiserate in wayward hair decisions–the bangs we trimmed ourselves, the home perms our mothers (or in my case, my babysitter) inflicted on us, the hombres, and the scrunchies. Most of the time, though, I table the decision until I see the white of Jen’s eyes again.  Ultimately, it is a Don’t-think-just-go-with-your-gut decision.

Stage 3–Taking the Plunge

When my gut tells me it’s time, I reveal the Big News to Jen.  It’s like Christmas morning to her.  Jen gets all chipper and excited and tells me how much I’m going to love it as I sit and wonder at what point is it too late to change my mind.  “Too late,” the scissors snip back at me as tendrils of hair fall to the floor.

Stage 4–False Bravado and Desperate Attempts

When Jen finishes, she hands me a mirror so I can examine all the angles.  I take a deep breath, look in the mirrors and wait for my verdict.  The Judge pounces.  The Witness hides.  I hate every angle.   Side, front, back.   It didn’t look like the sassy style in the Pinterest picture.  It was a shaggy mess.  The Judge says, “Told you so.”  The Witness timidly squeaks, “It’ll grow back.”

But, to be fair, my hair had only been cut.  Not dried.  Not styled.  Jen and I have an unspoken agreement.  She colors and cuts my hair.  I dry and style it. I can never replicate what she or any other stylist does, so I wait to style it myself at home, with my own products, and my own tools.

Of course, I told Jen that I loved it.   I made the decision; she gave me what I asked for.  The fact that I didn’t like it wasn’t her fault.  So I told her I loved it and prayed that I would find a way to make that true.

Later that day, I made my first attempt at styling.  Cue the flat-iron to create a sleek silhouette that brushed against my shoulders.  The results?  I was underwhelmed.  It wasn’t what I wanted.

The next day, I tried a different styling tactic. Still the flat-iron, bu47a7df03b3127cce985482d270d40000003810wacohlvy4ztmbuqt use it to create a curl. Nope.  Closer, but still, nope.  I had a picture in my mind, and I wasn’t getting what I wanted.  My six-year-old, Tommy, told me my hair looked pretty, and then said, “You look like the mom on The Goldbergs.”  Face palm.   The sad part is, Tommy wasn’t wrong.  I was rapidly descending into a pit of despair.

On Day 3 of New Hairdo, I went on the offensive.  My attempts to style weren’t getting me what I wanted.   So I did what most people in the 21st century do, I turned to YouTube.  I Youtube’d “How to Get Beach Waves” and watched three different tutorials of Millenials using heating tools like straighteners and curling wands and styling products like dry shampoo, curl definers, Moroccan oil, root volumizer, and texturizer, just to name a few.  They demonstrated how to get the look I wanted and what I needed.  So with a Chai Latte in hand, I searched the aisles of Target for a curling wand–when did it stop being a curling iron?–curl definer, Moroccan oil, and mousse.   Armed with new products and with the guidance of the YouTube experts, I was ready.

Day 4 of New Hairdo and victory is mine.  Using the techniques demonstrated in the videos, I create the look that I wanted.  It’s sassy.  It’s cute.  It took FOR-EV-ER, but it was 47a7df03b3127cce985482d5f1e30000003810wacohlvy4ztmbuqworth it.  I loved it.  I was happy with it.  And now, the real test.  The big reveal to the world.

 

Stage 5 Acceptance

Since I was pretty pleased with my new look, I was confident that I was going to get a positive response.  I was right.  One of the benefits of working in an elementary school is that kids are fast and free with compliments.  Co-workers and friends also offered words of praise.  Phew! I found a way to love my new look.  I made it happen.  And it has a high approval rating.

So there you have it.  My 5 Stages of a New Hairstyle.  Perhaps you don’t follow the same journey.  Perhaps you’re reading this and shaking your head at all of the crazy up in here.  Or perhaps, you’re nodding and saying, “Me, too!”

I believe New Hairstyles fall into the same category as Trying On Bras, Trying On Jeans, TRYING ON SWIM SUITS, Menstruation, and Childbirth.  I haven’t named the category yet, but I’ve considered “LIFE AS A WOMAN,” “THINGS MEN WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND,” and “THINGS THAT SUCK COMPLETELY”.

But a win is a win.  I fought the Hair War, and I won.  Totally worth the journey.

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44th Ride Around the Sun — January 16, 2017

44th Ride Around the Sun

47a7df37b3127cce985482d70a340000003010wacohlvy4ztmbuqI celebrated my 45th birthday this past weekend.  Since my birthday occurs so soon after New Year’s, a few years ago, I began the tradition of making Birthday Resolutions rather than New Year’s Resolutions.  As I think about what kind of resolutions I’d like to make, I reflected on how far I’ve come in the last 12 months of my life.  So, before I make my Birthday Resolutions, I want to celebrate ME by acknowledging a few milestones.

Cutting Bait

Since my 44th birthday, I fortified my decision to separate from my husband by legally filing for divorce.  It won’t be final until at least summer 2017, but filing was a huge step.  The only thing that was bigger than filing, was my actual separation, which happened July 2015.  I knew I wasn’t going to ever reconcile with him.  I had to make the real, final, forever decision to end our marriage legally.  It had been dead for years, but I was missing the Death Certificate.  At some point, I’ll share my Unlove Story, because even in all the hurt and pain and emotional exhaustion there were moments of magic.  Moments that need to be captured and shared.  Moments that help me heal as I think of them now.  But that’s a blog for another day.

Adventure Bug

Since my 44th birthday, I have traveled all over my home state of Michigan with my son.  We’ve gone on adventures to the Upper Peninsula and our beloved city of Detroit.  We hiked trails as well as navigated city streets.  We ate lunches in the middle of a National Park and in museums and renowned cafes.  We dipped our toes in the Great Lakes, snapped pictures of the Motor City from 740 feet, and climbed into a tree house.   For most of these adventures, we had no itinerary, no plans, no agenda, just a desire to go.  Just experience.  Just enjoy.

Finding My Witnesses

Since my 44th birthday, I have fortified my group of Witnesses.  Jen Hatmaker calls her people her Tribe.  Others refer to their group of people their Village.  Mine are my Witnesses.  They are the group of people who make me stronger when my own Witness is weak and the Judge is strong.  I’m not sure why, but since my 44th birthday, it feels like my group has gotten bigger and stronger.  Actually, that’s not true.  I do know why.  When I broke free from my unhealthy marriage, I stopped trying to cultivate a dying relationship.  I started investing time and attention towards people and relationships that I enjoyed and benefited me.  I found more of my people.  My people rescued me.  And more importantly, I let them rescue me.  Thank you for being my Witnesses.

Rediscovery

Since my 44th birthday, I have been in a process of rediscovering who I am.  I found a new grace with myself.  I have forgiven myself for past mistakes.  I am embracing new mistakes and missteps to reveal to me what I really stand for.  I am protecting myself in ways that allow me to stay strong or be vulnerable appropriately.  I no longer cry for what might be but isn’t.  I am excited about my new possibilities, and looking at barriers with a new found courage.  I can’t wait to find out where my new me will take me.  I am recognizing that The Judge doesn’t have the power.  I have the power, and with the strength of my Witness inside me, and the Witnesses all around me, I don’t have to hold back any longer.

Birthday Resolutions

Looking back at my 44th year, and the milestones I’ve accomplished, I want this year to continue to be a year of growth.  So here goes…

By January 14, 2018, I will:

  1.  Write 45 new blog posts.  That’s one/week, with 7 weeks of hiatus if needed.  Shoot, I’m counting this one as the 1st one, so it’s really 44.
  2. Eliminate the Time Suckers.  Game Apps, Facebook marathon sessions, repeated reruns of Modern Family, HGTV, and Big Bang Theory (to name a few).  Replace with reading books, writing, or just simply going to bed a little earlier.
  3. Lower the volume of The Judge even more.  Raise the roof for The Witness.
  4. Pay attention for opportunities.  Embrace them.  Take advantage of them.  Transform an opportunity into a memory.
  5. Capture the moments by writing them down and storing in the Thanks-living Jar that was given to me by my best friend as a birthday gift.
  6. I’d really, really love to read 45 books this year, but that one scares me.  That’s a lot of books.  And I mean real books.    Not Sandra Brown or Janet Evanovich books.  Books that challenge me. But sometimes the goal that scares you is the goal that you should do.
  7. Cut bait on the “I want to lose XX pounds this year.”  That’s a Judge Resolution.  I’m going to be like Elsa and “Let It Go.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for losing a few.  But in the end, I want to be happy with myself no matter what the scale says.
  8. Update each of these resolutions on April 14, July 14 and October 14.  I have to have checkpoints along the way or else they’ll get lost in the minutiae of daily life.  Plus that will be 3 other blog posts that are already planned for me!

 

Thank you for being a part of my amazing 44th year.  The creation of this blog as an outlet and a way to share my thoughts has also helped to transform me.  I’m honored whenever anyone reads my thoughts and ramblings.  Please join me on my 45th ride around the sun.

 

Proceed with Caution — December 18, 2016

Proceed with Caution

This week’s post will not be very long.  Physically, I am having a hard time sitting in front of the computer.  Yesterday, I fell on my front porch that was glazed with a deceiving layer of ice.  Actually, “fell” isn’t a strong enough description.  When I replay the fall, I see my legs slip out with such force that they were higher than my head and the top of my rear end slams down on the edge of the concrete step.  I roll over, screaming in pain, tears come to my eyes.  A neighbor who was outside shoveling rushes over and helps me up.  He salts the sidewalk for me and tells me to ask for help if I need anything.

Unbelievably, this happened 2 hours after I bought new Holiday Nights tickets from a Facebook friend who couldn’t attend.  (If you hadn’t read last week’s post, “Dealing With It,” go do it now, I’ll wait.)

Remember, Holiday Nights was the event we couldn’t go to due to the huge snowstorm that pounded the entire southern portion of Michigan last Sunday.  The event was sold out for this weekend, so when the opportunity to buy tickets presented itself, Tommy and I were ecstatic.  Adding to our anticipation, the temperature was supposed to be not too cold, and with our recent days of snow, the event would be festive.

And then I fell.  I fell and my immediate response, besides the literal pain-in-the-butt, was that this injury was going to prevent us from attending Holiday Nights AGAIN.

Not this time.  Last time, the roadblock was Mother Nature.  Last time, the control was out of my hands.  This time I was in control.   I wasn’t going to let an injury roadblock stop us.  I COULD walk, slowly.  I COULD sit, gingerly.  I COULD climb steps, barely.  So we bundled up and off we went.

And there wasn’t a moment in the entire evening when I regretted the decision.  We were on our feet for most of the 4-hour event.  There were times when we had to navigate slick spots, walk through snow covered paths, and climb steep steps.  There were times I had to remind my excited son,  “Mommy can’t walk fast right now.”

But the whole point of going to Holiday Nights was realized.  We toured the historic homes of George Washington Carver, Noah Webster, Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers, among others.  We enjoyed seeing the holiday decorations and customs from long ago.  We squeezed into a one-room schoolhouse where Tommy wrote a message to Santa on a Christmas postcard. We trudged through the snow to the post office procured from Connecticut so Tommy could place his postcard in the red “Letters to Santa” mailbox.

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We joined the crowd that gathered around a house where Santa and his elf stood on a widow’s walk.  Santa was announcing names on the Naughty and Nice lists and saying hello to all.  I was able to see the wonder in my son’s eyes as Santa announced, “And Tommy is here and he’s on the Nice List.”

So, yes another potential roadblock occurred yesterday.  And sometimes a roadblock IS a roadblock.  You can’t go around it.  You can’t detour.  You just have to deal with it.

But sometimes what appears to be a roadblock, is really a speed bump.  Sometimes you just need to slow down, proceed with care, and then continue on your route.

Dealing with It — December 11, 2016

Dealing with It

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I am in Day 3 of Flu Recovery and finally feel about 95% better.  I am able to drink my morning cup of coffee without my stomach wrenching.  The body aches seem to be gone.  There are no traces of a headache lingering.  There’s the good news.  I feel better.

Also this morning, I am looking out my front window at the steady snowfall that the weathermen all predicted.  So far, their timing has been accurate, as well as the amount.  This indicates that the heavier snowfall will arrive later today and remain until late evening.  The possibility of a Snow Day tomorrow is likely a probability.  That’s also good news for this mama and educator who would benefit from one more day of respite.

However, even though I feel better and even though an extra day off of work is imminent, I am overwhelmingly disappointed this weekend.  This weekend I had something special planned to do with my boy every day.  It’s been a while since we had any fun outings and this weekend’s events presented themselves as perfect opportunities.  On Friday we were going to go to a Harry Potter themed event at Barnes and Noble.  Saturday we were going to walk through a living nativity scene sponsored by a local church and then head to a family birthday party.  And Sunday?  That was the grand finale.  We were going to attend  Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village.  This was an event I’ve wanted to do for several years but money and time never allowed.  But 2016 was going to be the year.  And then Mother Nature said, “Nope.”

So all weekend long I have been battling Disappointment.  This is a tough emotion to handle.  When Disappointment takes control I picture my inner self on the floor kicking and crying and screaming, “It’s not fair!  It’s not fair!”  The mature side of me stands in judgment of toddler me, arms crossed, shaking her head.  “Stop crying.  People get sick.  Snowstorms happen.  There’s always next time.  You’ll live.”  And you know what?  The Toddler Me wants to punch the Mature Me in the throat.

As a mother, and a teacher, and a principal, I’ve had a lot of experience with children and disappointment.  The thing I’ve come to realize is that kids don’t want to hear “the bright side”.  Case in point, this week, I walked into a classroom and a student was crying because he didn’t have enough stamps (students earn stamps daily for positive behavior) to buy a mini-slinky from the school store.  The school store volunteer mom felt bad for him, and wanted to give it to him anyway.  I told her no, that’s not how we handle disappointment.  Thankfully, he was out of earshot of this, and I went to take him for a walk.

On our walk around the school, I listened to him lament about how he wanted the slinky and it wasn’t fair and he should get it anyway.  Finally, he declared, “I just hate this school so much!”  I told him, “I’m going to let you hate school.  You hate it as much as you want right now.”  He looked at me like I was crazy.  But he also got quiet.  His lamentations stopped.  I gave him permission to feel what he was feeling.  The adult in me knew he wouldn’t feel this way forever.  He would, in fact, like school again.  But he didn’t want to hear that.  He didn’t want to hear “the bright side.”  I believe the first step he needed towards coping was to ACKNOWLEDGE it.  The next important step, was the gift of being ALLOWED to FEEL disappointed.

Fast forward 36 hours and I was in the same disappointed place as my young student.  All of the plans that I had made for a memory-filled weekend were quickly being erased by sickness and weather.  All of my sense of control of my weekend destiny were eroding by forces out of my reach. And I was disappointed.  I didn’t want to look at “the bright side”.  Pardon me, (sorry Grandma if you’re reading), but fuck the bright side.

I feel like “the bright side” is used to quickly.  The bright side is our quick response to feel better in a moment that really requires another remedy.  Why aren’t we given permission to feel sad?  Why do we quickly have to feel better about something that disappoints us?  Is it because when someone else feels sad or is disappointed it makes us uncomfortable?  Are we scared that if we acknowledge another’s discomfort, we too shall feel that same discomfort?  What if, we do feel some of that same discomfort?  What would that do?

I believe that if we even attempted to share it, then the owner of the discomfort would begin to feel relief.  Someone has acknowledged my pain and now I can deal.  Now I can say it’s okay to feel and now I can look for a way to manage.  Now I can cope.

Learning to cope with disappointment is one of the hardest skills we have to do as humans.  It’s hard to do for ourselves.  It’s even harder to watch our kids’ disappointment.  We want to fix that feeling of disappointment quickly.  Maybe that’s why participation trophies became popular.  Maybe that’s why replacement rewards are given when something doesn’t go our way.  Maybe that’s why our kids have become expert negotiators at young ages, rather than just handling, “No.”

As a result, we end up with another reason to be entitled.  We pave a way for ourselves and our children to handle our feelings with inappropriate responses rather than just dealing with the feelings.  And to me, that’s more dangerous than disappointment.  It’s unrealistic.  It’s expensive.  It’s inappropriate.

My charge will be to help myself, my son, and all in my care to first acknowledge and then to cope.  Every person will be different as far as coping.  I’m proud to say that in helping my son handle disappointment, he’s learned pretty quickly.  Sometimes there’s a small tantrum.  Sometimes there’s a brief moment of silence and then acquiesce.  In both kinds of moments my response is the same.  Calm silence.  Let him feel it.  Let him know it’s okay to feel it.  And then praise the victory over it.

For myself, I am over missing the Harry Potter event, the living nativity scene and the family birthday celebration.  There will be others.  I’m still bitter about The Holiday Nights that I was really looking forward to, but that may be more to the non-transferable, no-refunds-for-inclement-weather ticket cost.  We’ll eventually attend the event, and when we do, we’ll remember our first attempt at going and say, “Remember that first time we tried to go and it snowed so much we couldn’t even go down our driveway.”  We’ll remember the disappointment and we’ll remember we survived, just like we always do.

As we approach the heart of the holiday season, disappointments are inevitable.  If it comes knocking on your door, I hope you’re able to recognize it and cope with it and then celebrate when you survive it.

Eat the Frog — November 27, 2016

Eat the Frog

Recently I was having a conversation with a colleague, and the topic of procrastination came up.  At one point of our dialogue, I used the phrase, “Eat the frog” as a way to battle procrastination.  My colleague was unfamiliar with the term, so I explained.  Eat the frog is the idea that if you were given the task that you had to eat a live frog, it’s better to just do it and get it over with.  If you wait to eat the frog, then all day the task will loom over you.  But if you do it first, then it’s done, and you don’t have to think about it anymore.  This idea originated from Mark Twain, who stated, “Eat a live frog first in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

I learned of this advice by Mr. Twain a few years ago and let me tell you, it was life-changing.  You see, I used to be the Queen of Procrastination.  In my professional and personal life, I delayed tasks that I didn’t want to do as long as I could.  I met deadlines, but it was usually by the skin of my teeth.  Whether it was a bill to be paid, or a report I had to turn in, or a dentist appointment I had to schedule before my insurance ran out, the “Have-To-Do” tasks never seemed to take priority.  I welcomed outside interruptions and allowed other trivial, less than urgent jobs to take precedence.  As I said, I always got them done.  However, it was at a cost.  The price for procrastinating was peace of mind.  There were also hidden charges such as stress, self-doubt, and impatience.

I now realize that procrastination was another weapon that The Judge uses.  Those hidden charges of stress, self-doubt, and impatience, compounded with the up-front cost of reduced peace of mind, allows The Judge to control me.  When I tried to do a job earlier than I needed to, The Judge would block me.  He convinced me that waiting to the last minute was the way to go.  The Judge would say, “That’s going to be hard.  You don’t want to do that now.  You have time.  Do it tomorrow.”

Do it tomorrow.  That is a masterful manipulation.  Do it tomorrow implies that I can’t handle it today.  Today I am not strong enough, or smart enough, or brave enough to handle the task that I don’t want to do, but has to be done.  Do it tomorrow suggests that somehow tomorrow I will have what it takes, but today I don’t.  Do it tomorrow bends the truth that tomorrow a live frog will taste better and be easier to eat, but today I won’t even be able to lift the fork.

When I decided to use the Eat the Frog method, I found a new way to fight The Judge and strengthen The Witness at the same time.  When I made the decision to do my Eat the Frog tasks, a change began.  The only way I could eat the frog was to stop listening to The Judge.  I had to listen to The Witness.

At first, The Witness was pretty weak.  It had been neglected for so long, that when I did call for help, it didn’t know what to do.  Do it tomorrow had been the modus operandi.  Somehow, though, The Witness managed to speak these words that I still use today, “What would Tomorrow Andi be happy you did today?”

Those words helped me to pick up the fork and eat the frog for the first time.  Those words help me to realize that by doing the thing that I don’t want to do, and doing it first, I could fortify The Witness’s defensive tactics.  The Witness learned how to battle fear with bravery, doubt with re assuredness,  and reluctance with determination.  The Witness told me that I DO have what it takes TODAY.  The Witness showed me how to combat the fear of the unknown with the relief of a task completed.  The Witness acknowledged the power within me to conquer the challenge of the day with confidence.

I must be honest, though.  I often let the Eat the Frog method subside.  I often allow The Judge to recover some of the battlegrounds he lost.  I often forget The Witness and regress to my Do It Tomorrow ways.

The good news though is that when I recognize that this is happening, I recommit myself to remember to Eat the Frog.  I scrutinize my tasks for the day more carefully.  I listen to The Witness and think about the Tomorrow Andi.  I look forward to the challenges that I will accomplish because I will meet them head on instead of resisting. I joyfully anticipate the victory I will feel after I conquer the Judge and crown the Witness.

I encourage you to try the Eat the Frog method too.  Your Tomorrow Self will be so happy that you did.47a6cf06b3127cce985482ea48340000003010wacohlvy4ztmbuq