Archive for May, 2012
I may possibly be on the brink of insanity (again). Today after lo, so many years, I’m returning to college. This isn’t the first time, but I certainly hope it’s the last.
I started college while I was in high school …I went there in the morning for classes and then headed back to my high school in the afternoon for my “regular” schoolwork Originally, I had hoped to earn a degree in journalism — the whole idea sounded quite exciting and glamorous. I had no problem envisioning myself covering news stories like heated political protests in the midst of a crowded city street or crouched beneath a whirling tornado in the middle of a cornfield somewhere. Like any 19 year old, I was an immortal risk taker and was all for a little excitement. But when I told people of my hopes and dreams the typical response was, “Ohh…that’s such a competitive field. Do you really think you do it? And aren’t you worried about getting hurt?”
Yeah. As I got older, I actually did having concerns about errant Molotov cocktails or a couple of cornstalks getting embedded in my forehead. Plus I was a wimp. If the job market for journalism was competitive, it was much easier to give up before I even tried so eventually I dropped the idea.
But not to worry! I was able to land a fabulous 5 dollar an hour job working at an optical lab located in the moldy basement of a strip mall. From there I went on to work in sales support for a bunch of perverted men at a booming computer manufacturer, and eventually I was employed as an account service representative at a medical instrument company located near the Mississippi River.
After Stella and Noah were born, I quit my job and began working from home so Ron and I could forego putting our kids in daycare. I figured out how to do all kinds groovy things on my own like web design, graphics, and freelance writing. I even took a few college classes in web programming but ultimately figured out that really wasn’t my bag, either.
So now, 7 years after that last college stint (now that I’m practically at retirement age…), I’ve decided to dive back into the whole college thing and get the English degree I should have gotten decades ago. I cannot even tell you how many times I have wanted to kick myself for not doing this earlier (and by the way– I’ve learned that it’s actually super hard to kick yourself).
One thing I have been able to take away from my initial mistakes and fears is wisdom. I have learned that my kids need to get a degree. Any kind of degree — even if it’s a BA in Peanut Butter Sandwich Making. They need to do it because it does open doors. It will make difference in what an employer will pay. It can make the difference between getting a job in a moldy optical lab in the basement of a strip mall or landing work in a clean, spore-free environment.
So, wish me luck today as I head out the door with my sharpened pencils, spiral notebooks, brand new Hello Kitty backpack, and the used textbook in “good” condition I scored from Amazon for a mere $20. In a few days, I’ll let you know how my first day went.
I’m kind of taking a mini vacation from blogging this week. I know you’re dying to know why…. Well, not only am I changing jobs, I’m preparing to go back to school next week (gulp). Reentering the wide world of college education is nothing new to me. I’ve done it a few times before but this time, I hope to make it all the way to the finish line. With the amount of credits currently showing on my transcript I should have already crossed it, but since I ran down the wrong lane a couple times around the track, I have had to get back into the starting block to regroup.
I do have a few stories to share with you from the past week or so. We almost adopted another dog, we lost a pet, and my son actually made it to the 8th grade dance (with just one hair emergency). But in the mean time, here is a repost from last fall. Today I decided to “wash” my washing machine so I felt it rather befitting for the occasion.
Sometimes We Stink
About a year ago, Ron and I were perusing a local building supply store when we happened to stroll past a stunning washer and dryer pair staring directly at us from the main aisle. They were a lovely couple, standing together all shiny and white, adorned with all sorts of buttons, knobs and settings that I had heard about in ads but had never actually seen face to panel.
“Oooh…” I said in awe, longingly opening the lid and doors to the units. I never wanted a high efficiency washer because I had heard that they were all front loaders. These machines frightened me because I envisioned myself hunched over day after day, loading millions of pounds of laundry into a front loader and developing into a poster child for osteoporosis. But the front loader thing was obviously lore because this exquisite unit was a high efficiency top loading washing machine.
I never had a new washer and dryer except ones my husband purchased after we bought our first house about 20 years ago… and those didn’t count. I had a sneaking suspicion that the only reason he bought those was because he saw them on clearance in the doll accessory aisle at Toys R Us. They were child-sized machines that labored to wash a small washcloth or single sock. They didn’t last long. And all of the other washers and dryers I had gotten over the years were repairables that my husband, a former appliance repairman, had rescued from the trash at customers’ houses or the unit that had been discarded next to the dumpster at an appliance store after falling victim to a lint fire.
“You really need a new washer and dryer,” my husband said. He was pretending to eye the units up but I’m pretty sure he was dreaming about finally having some clean clothes to wear. “These are really nice and I don’t think we’ll ever find anything cheaper.”
My eyes lit up. I was currently using the haunted washer and dryer that came with our house. They were small, scary, and loathsome. Sometimes when I’d load one pair of jeans too many into the washer, it’d rattle angrily out of the laundry room and into the hallway near our family room to hunt me down. They hated me as much as I hated them.
To my delight, we ended up purchasing the new appliances that very day and within a week, the delivery men had installed our snazzy new machines, wrestled the old ones into their truck, and drove away.
I knew the moment they disappeared from sight that all of my troubles were behind me.
I gleefully washed clothes for the next few days and my family was pumped that they finally had something to wear again. My whites were white, my colors were bright, and after lo, so many years, our hampers were finally empty. My life was finally perfect.
A couple months later my son said, “Mom, I stink. One of my friends said I stink, too.”
Stink? My child stinks? There was a boy in the neighborhood that the other kids had nicknamed “Poopsie” because he opted to play video games for most of the day rather than bathe but I certainly didn’t think I was capable of having “Poopsie II” living under my roof. After all, he showered and everything.
“Whatdya mean, you ‘stink’?” I panicked stepping closer and sniffing his clothes very much like our dog sniffs around the yard when she’s tracking something wild like a muskrat… or a skunk.
“I stink, Mom. Can’t you smell this?” he said lifting the shoulder of his shirt to my nose. “All of the clothes you washed yesterday smell disgusting.”
But I had just washed them. How could this be? But then I smelled my shirt and I stunk too!
After pacing the kitchen floor madly for at least 35 seconds, it struck me. I’d heard rumors about fancy shmancy high efficiency washers stinking after you used them for a while — they develop a foul,musty odor. But this was my washer and dryer we were talking about. After all I had been through over the years, they wouldn’t do this to me, would they? Besides, these were top loaders. They weren’t like all of those ordinary high efficiency washers.
I sprinted to the laundry room, opened the lid of my washer, and breathed deeply. “Curse you!” I cried slamming the lid shut. “How could you do this to me?” I wailed, falling in a heap on the floor in front of the machine sobbing.
I spent the rest of the evening mourning the loss of my less than perfect laundry world but the next day, I shook off my pain and began my quest to rehabilitate these two. After a bit of online research, I discovered that I could purchase something called “washing machine cleaner” and that was supposed to take care of my problem.
But wait a minute,.. I need to buy special soap to wash my washing machine? Isn’t the point of a washing machine to wash? So, why wasn’t my laundry soap washing my washing machine while it washed my clothes? This was making no sense to me but despite my skepticism, I purchased some Stench Be Gone, dropped it into the machine, and started it up. Lo and behold, after the cycle was complete, I shoved my head inside and the machine smelled Mountain Wildflower Springtime Fresh, just like the label promised.
Now, I try to wash my washer about once a month and if I forget, I always know it’s time when Poopsie II shows up again after laundry day.
Do you have a high efficiency washing machine? Do you have tips for preventing the stinky problem? Have any of you switched from high efficiency back to the “old style” washer because of the “smell-factor?” Please comment!
When my kids were smaller, I dreaded having their friends over. They were usually obnoxious, messy, and always hungry. Really hungry. The girls always wanted to start “craft projects” or make cookies (which promised that my house would be subsequently trashed) while the boys seemed to gravitate toward things I labeled as “dangerous” such as climbing trees, backyard Airsoft wars, or riding bikes to faraway lands (i.e. the convenience store down the road to buy candy). But as they grew older, things got weird for me. Sure, the friends were still hungry and made messes, but I actually began enjoying their visits.
While some people find teenagers worrisome, bothersome, or even threatening, I find them funny and interesting. Even the ones some parents in our community label as “troublemakers.” I do have a low tolerance for certain behaviors, but for the most part, I find these young people highly entertaining and enjoyable to be around.
Most of the kids that have come over grew up in stable homes – they have a decent family, were held accountable for their occasional idiotic behavior, and lived a pretty “average” American life. But others have come from troubled families and a normal life for them involves an alcoholic parent, emotional or physical abuse, the death of a family member, an incarcerated parent, tragic accidents, with horrific injuries, a painful divorce, and the list goes on…
I sniff this stuff out pretty quickly. Maybe I ask too many questions. Maybe I hear things from other parents. Maybe I just key in on worriesome behavior. Regardless the situation or how these kids have been labeled, I have always tried to make them feel welcome in our home (except one kid that was banned from my house after what I will call a few too many “incidents” that crossed my tolerance threshold).
Since Stella’s friends have always been mostly boys, we’ve had a lot of them coming and going from our home. At first, my husband, Ron, and I had very different ideas about how these kids should be handled. Ron had received advice from a friend that the boys that visited our daughter, Stella, should be “scared” a little bit with some unfriendly behavior from ”Dad” when they came to our home – even if the boy was simply her buddy. The intended goal for this action was to frighten the boy so much that he’d be to nervous to “try” any funny business on our precious girl. The advice-giving fellow even went to far as to say that whenever a boy knocked on his front door looking for his daughter, he made sure he was holding a shotgun.
Stupid, dumb advice …
For a while, Ron tried the rough, gruff, and unfriendly act on Stella’s male friends but he didn’t wear it well. And I knew where a lot of these kids came from and what kinds of lives they had been subjected to. I certainly didn’t think they needed more of what had become their version of “status quo” when they came over here.
“I really think we need to serve as examples to these kids and maybe…just maybe our house can be a place where Stella’s friends can feel safe,” I told Ron. It took a little bit of doing, but eventually I retrained him and he became a kinder, gentler dad toward Stella’s buddies.
Me? I always wanted to treat these kids with respect and really strived to talk to them just as a friend would. When they were here, I tried not to judge them (although I have always doled out generous helpings of advice). Many called me “Mom” (and one even called me “Grandma”…but we won’t talk about him) and a few even came to me for help with rides, family problems, or when they needed help with a issues at school – mostly because they had no one else to turn to. Our house became a hangout of sorts…and it was fun!
When Stella graduated last year, a lot of the kids disappeared. She grew away from many of the ones she hung with throughout high school — kids that I loved and worried about so much. I wonder where many of them are today. What are they doing now? Are they staying out of trouble? Continuing their education? For the ones that never graduated from high school, will they work toward their GED? Have they realized how special they are and how much potential they have in their young lives? Are they okay? There were so many kids I never wanted to give up on and I wished I could just sweep them into our family and give them a loving, stable home. A safe haven. But honestly, I sincerely wondered if what we did or how we acted actually impacted one of these kids.
That is, until a few weeks ago.
One of Stella’s friends returned. He was a boy that caused a lot of heartache for Stella – and for the rest of our family. And like many of the others, he’d had a difficult childhood. He was the product of an alcoholic father and parents that had divorce and remarried. This boy had a habit of lying — something he probably mastered from his own father — and would flee a confrontation or emotional situation rather than face it head on.
We hadn’t seen Brad for almost a year and I figured we’d never see him again (and quite frankly, I was okay with that). But that night a few weeks back when he came to our home, he apologized for the pain he’d caused us over that last few years and thanked us for showing him how a family “should” be. Over the course of a few hours, because of some recent circumstances, there were tears and hugs –and even though my heart was still extremely guarded because of the countless disappointments this boy had caused us in the past, I was touched.
I know Brad’s got a long way to go, I know he has much to overcome, and I know he’s got a lot of learning ahead of him…but what his visit taught me was that maybe, just maybe we had made a tiny difference in someone’s life, just by treating them with kindness rather than rejection.
Since I will always be a mom to my kids, whether they like it or not, I will never stop parenting them. And this weekend as I celebrate the Hallmark holiday we call “Mother’s Day,” I will remember to not only be a mom to my own children, but will continue to embrace their friends – regardless of what they look like or what their life circumstances may be. Because who knows if I may be truly making a difference in a young life.
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The Eighth Grade semi-formal dance is taking place at Noah’s school on Friday evening. Over the past few weeks I’ve observed him nonchalantly preparing for the dance — discreetly (yet meticulously) planning so that he can put his best dancing foot forward for this fabulous middle school gala. He’s been pretending he’s not excited for the event but because I’m his keen-eyed, ultra sensitive mom (with top secret super hero powers) I can tell that he really is.
I think Noah’s mental planning for the event has gone something like this:
Pre-Dance Checklist for an Eighth Grade Boy
Haircut must be “sick” enough for longboarding while also being snazzy enough for the middle school dance. A “faux hawk” will work out nicely. And no…the price of a new haircut doesn’t matter cause Mom is paying for it anyway.
Have mom buy a new vat of coconut-scented hair pomade for the occasion, even though the old one is still half full.
New Shirt. Nothing too fancy. A reasonably-priced button down is fine especially since it will most likely hang in a dark closet rotting after the dance, never to be worn again.
Dress pants? No. Black jeans. Yes. (even though Mom was the one who picked them out). Pants should hang strategically below the beltline so plaid Fruit of the Looms are visible. Ignore Mom’s command to pull my pants up.
Shave pesky fuzz off upper lip.
Practice dance moves when no one is looking. *
Feign deafness when Mom says you can have friends over before the dance for “snacks” and “refreshments.” Mom serving food to you and your friends would be mortifying. Better to go hungry and thirsty then let others know she actually exists. She’s embarrassing.
Be prepared to hide if a camera appears prior to the dance. There should be no record of the occasion. Period.
*There was no proof that this event actually occurred but I’m suspicious…
If I can be sneaky with the camera, I promise I’ll share a picture or two of the event. Getting photos may require donning a disguise or discreetly trailing him on the dance floor but I’ll do my best.
Wish me luck…
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