Month: July 2012

The Most Patient People Are The Ones With Lots Of Practice

Barely hanging in there

I’m on the light rail train waiting for the doors to close so we can travel back to the Mineral Station where we parked before heading downtown to the Rockies baseball game. As I sit here, my ears are being assaulted by the whines and whimpers of two obnoxious kids who apparently don’t understand what it means to wait. They can’t sit still. They keep pestering their parents with inane questions about when the train will leave and how long it will be until they get home. They’re driving me crazy. I’m thinking about going over and asking their parents to quiet them down. I should totally do that. But, wait. I can’t. They’re mine. Dammit. I hate it when that happens.

Patience has never been my strong suit. My mother berated me repeatedly for my inability to wait for something. I remember once I was so annoyed with her for hounding me about my lack of patience that I told her I was going to pray for it. I thought that would placate her and keep her from bothering me about it for a bit. Instead, she told me that when you pray for patience God merely gives you more opportunity to practice it. That’s right about the time I became much more selective with my prayer requests.

But, my mom was right. The only way to learn patience is to practice it. So, as much as the boys are driving me crazy with their antics and questions, this situation is exactly what they need. And, in putting up with their impatience, I am given the opportunity to practice my own. For every minute I go without smacking them, I am becoming a better, more peaceful person. At least, that is what I am telling myself. I 100% believe that I ended up with these two impatient little monkeys because I once was silly enough to pray for patience. Remember, sometimes when God wants to punish you he answers your prayers. The plus side is that at this current rate of practice, I might end up somewhere on the zen scale between Yoda and Gandhi. That would almost make moments like this one worthwhile.

No Rainbow Without The Rain

This evening’s rainbow

On the way to the water park today, Joe worried about the increasingly darkening sky. He watched out his car window, anticipating lightning. We had hoped to meet our friends earlier to avoid the usual afternoon thunderstorms that ruin a swim outing, but things simply didn’t go as planned. Life got in the way. When we got to the park, it was 2 p.m. The skies directly west of us appeared threatening. I talked to my friend about the weather, and we reworked our plans. I told the boys.

“Looks like we’re going to ditch out on the water park and head out to their pool. They have a membership so we can get in free. Then, if it rains and we can’t swim for very long, we’ll have saved our money to come back here later this week when we can get here earlier before the afternoon storms,” I explained.

“I was really looking forward to this,” Joe complained.

“I know. I was too. But, plans change,” I told him. “Who knows? Maybe we will have even more fun at their pool where it’s less crowded.”

Though he appeared less than convinced by my suggestion, Joe hopped back into the car and tried to suck it up. Sure enough. We made it to our friends’ pool before the rain started. The boys had about 15 minutes to swim before the thunder that had followed us made its presence known, and the lifeguards whistled everyone out of the pools for a 20 minute waiting period. We sent the boys to the park on the other side of the fence from the pool. The played at the park for a while as it intermittently rained lightly. They came back, the sun emerged, and the lifeguards’ whistles blew. They were back into the water. Everyone else had left, there were only 8 kids to fill the entire pool. They had no lines for the water slide or diving board. No one to fight for the swim noodles. They were having a blast. The rest of the storms caught up with us, though, and the lifeguards ushered everyone out again. Celeste and I called it pointless and decided we’d head to a new, nearby park instead. A lesson in flexibility and rolling with the punches, I figured.

When we arrived at the park, it was raining lightly. The kids, still wet from the pool, didn’t care. There was a flash in the distance. I told Celeste that hubby would not be amused that I was letting them run around out in the rain and lightning, but the boys were content and I shrugged it off. So, the four boys played while Celeste and I sat under a covered spot and watched them and caught up with each other. The skies finally lightened, the water features in the park turned back on, and they had even more fun splashing. Afterwards, we drove to Red Robin for dinner with our wet sons.

On the way home, I asked Joe if he had managed to have fun despite the fact that the afternoon hadn’t unfolded quite the way he had hoped it would. Turns out he had a wonderful time. He loved the pool and jumping off the diving board and sliding down the twisty slide. He told me we would have to go back to the park because it was “awesome.” I was glad that he was able to see how sometimes the things we think are ruined by change are actually improved by the adjustment and not, in fact, marred at all.

That has been a lesson it has taken me a long time to learn, far longer than I hope it will take for Joe to grasp. It’s been my custom to go batcrap crazy when someone rips the rug out from under me. I’ve been working on my need to control outcomes and to guide situations in my favor. It’s a challenge for me to try to let things go and roll with changes. But, tonight as we were driving home from our swim day turned park day turned dinner out with friends, I saw a rainbow and it occurred to me that when we try so hard to avoid the rain we sometimes miss the beauty that comes along with it.

The Way To Imagine Dragons

This is the way I need to imagine my dragon.

For most of my life, I thought that I would eventually attempt to write something “serious,” a non-fiction book, a screenplay, a novel, something. After writing my master’s thesis and giving birth to two children, though, that idea sounded less and less appealing. The master’s thesis itself, with its research and approvals and four revisions, had soured me on the writing process and convinced me that in no way would a PhD behind my name be worth the effort. Add two small boys to the mixture and writing became a Herculean task. I didn’t have the time, energy, or interest in such a crazy dream.

As time passed, though, the memory of the hellish thesis passed, the boys grew bigger and started school, and the thought of writing something just to prove I could do it crept back into my head. To that end, on May 7th I wrote a rough draft prologue for a story that I’ve had in my head for years. I finished it. I filed it. I mostly forgot about it because summer vacation started for my boys and I had no energy for creativity while wrestling monkeys. This morning, however, I did something I haven’t done in months. I actually sat down and wrote a bit of fiction. It felt good. Even though it wasn’t part of what I started in May, it felt like progress.

It’s too easy to make excuses when it comes to writing. It’s too easy to claim you’re too busy or have writer’s block. It’s too easy to work on your blog and ignore the larger, scarier, meatier item with fangs that you know is waiting in the wings for you. But, with each passing day that fanged creature just gets bigger and more intimidating. The only way to slay that ugly beast is to face it, to chop it up piece by piece, until it’s no more than a darling little kitten that inspires you to play. I tend to bite off more than I can chew and then stare at what I’ve undertaken with trepidation. I begin to doubt that I will ever be able to accomplish what I’ve set forth for myself. I make it seem insurmountable and so I procrastinate and hide.

I know I’ve got it in me. I know I do. The difference between writers who have already published and me lies in effort. They made the commitment to themselves and to their craft. They slayed excuses and conquered their dragon. It’s time for me to sharpen my sword and go into battle. That beast won’t kill itself.

The Great Weenie War

Luke often sleep like this…just like Al Bundy.

I grew up in a house filled with girls. With me, my two sisters, and my mother to contend with, my father had no chance. He was perpetually surrounded by hair products, dolls, and florals. Oh…he tried to change things up. He bought us softball gloves and played catch with us. We were ordered to “go long” so we could catch “the bomb,” as he launched Denver-Bronco-colored orange and blue Nerf footballs at us. We never really had much interest in sports, but played along because we knew a good spiral-throwing arm might come in handy someday to impress a boy. My dad was the odd man out. His only consolation (if you could call it that) was a brown miniature poodle, which we girls had given the masculine moniker “Coco.” At least with the dog there was another male around, albeit a neutered one.

Now that I am married and the mother of two sons, I am the odd one out. In my house, I am constantly competing against testosterone and penises. This afternoon, my sons were chasing each other around the house with wooden, western-style toy rifles, shooting at each other.

“I just shot Joe’s nose off!” Luke exclaimed from his position against the wall downstairs.

“I can’t believe he got me! I had the higher ground,” Joe complained.

Hubby suggested we get more bullets for their Nerf guns so they could shoot each other “for real.” Eeesh. I was headed to Target anyway, so I picked some up for them. The minute I got home, the guns were loaded up and the battle began. As I walked around putting laundry away, I had to dodge boys and foam bullets. Luckily, I’m fairly stealthy and avoided being caught in the crossfire. Life in this house can be dangerous.

I tried to capture a photo of the boys during their battle so I could share it with a blog I was tentatively entitling Nerf Wars, but in every single shot I took one of the boys had one hand on his gun and the other hand on his penis. Are you kidding me? I had to delete every photo I took. I was trying to get a shot of the actual gunfight. Instead, my iPhone only held shots of hands on crotches. A man’s fixation with his penis starts at birth and never abates.

“What is this? The Great Weenie War?” I yelled over their sound effects.

They stopped and looked at me. Then they both cracked up. I had inadvertently coined the newest, most fun phrase in our house. For the next half hour, they ran around shooting at each other while yelling “Weenie War!” I just rolled my eyes, went to my bedroom for solace, and quietly closed the door. What else could I do? If this house is under siege during the Great Weenie War, I’m clearly outgunned. I looked at the only other female in this house, our border collie Ruby, hunkered down on her dog bed trying to ignore the fighting. For the first time, I truly understood how my father felt while I was growing up and I appreciated his bond with our male family pet. Ruby and I sat there staring at each other as the sounds of imaginary gunfire erupted again in the hallway. I swear she rolled her eyes too. When you’re outnumbered in battle, all you can do is take cover and hope you don’t have to hoist the white flag.

Someday the hormone balance in our home will return. The boys will leave home (hopefully to go to college) and things will level out again. Honestly, though, I don’t mind being being the only female in this house. Sure, I have to put up with farting contests and super heroes and a constant barrage of imaginary gunfire. But, when it’s all said and done, every penis-packing person here knows I carry the biggest gun. And, that’s all that matters.

I’ve Been Downgraded To Type A-

My sponsors generously provided the clothing  that will make my trip to the Galapagos a comfortable, fun experience.

A week from today at this time I will be sitting in the Miami airport waiting for our flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador en route to the Galapagos Islands. Today I planned to be putting together packing lists for said trip. Instead, I’ve spent at least an hour researching the Blood Type Diet and realizing that there is no food in my house that I’m allowed to eat for my O-type health. I’ve spent about an hour looking online at the Boden fall clothing collection and realizing that I need a much better paying job than my current position so I can purchase the Emma dress and the Contrast Mary Janes. I’ve also run a couple errands, texted with my pal Heather, and played a ridiculous number of games of Words With Friends, Dice With Buddies, and Mind Feud on my iPhone. The one thing I have not done is figure out even one item I am packing. Oops.

This makes no sense. I’m a Type A person. I’ve been a Type A person since I emerged from the womb, two days beyond my due date when I felt it was appropriate. I’ve always been independent. I’m organized, meticulous, and determined. I multi-task with ease. I’m proactive. As a rule, I don’t procrastinate. But, today I can’t bring myself to complete the task at hand. I figure there are two ways I can go with this. I can either Type A it by digging really deep, finding some inclination to step away from the computer, and doing this job the right way and getting ‘er done. Or, I can Type B it by realizing that as long as I have at least one outfit to wear it will all be fine. Then I can go watch a movie with Ryan Gosling in it (which is, by any estimation, a much better way to spend a rainy day).

Wait a minute. I guess there is a third way I can go with this. I could meet myself somewhere in the middle. I can get off my avoiding, lazy butt and do a little planning to assuage my Type A mind that will be annoyed when I realize while on vacation that my Type B behavior landed me with not one swimsuit to wear during my island vacation. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to go stand in front of my closet and stare into it for a while to determine some options. I could always scrawl a few notes on some paper for later. Maybe I could set aside a few items I’m sure I don’t want to leave behind. No harm in that, right?

I’m starting to wonder about my lifelong membership in the Type A club. In my quest to become more zen, I’ve relaxed a bit and come a little more towards Type B-ishness. Apparently, I’m not quite the rabid Type-A personality I once was. I’m not really comfortable at Type B either, though. So, for now I will suggest that I’ve been downgraded from Type A to Type A-. I think that is a fine devolution for me. I’ll get packed eventually. There’s no way that I’m missing that flight a week from now.

Our Son, The Science Experiment…Part Deux

Joe and Me

Two months ago, hubby and I decided to take our son who has ADHD off his medication for the summer. We did this to see if he would eat more, sleep better, and perhaps experience a growth spurt and to see if he was, after three years on the medication, any more capable of working on his own to control some of his impulse and attention issues than he was when he was 8. In short, we turned our son into a science experiment. We were so concerned about our decision that I even blogged about it, which is how we arrive at Part Deux. Joe’s first week without his Concerta medication was rough for the entire family. We vowed that the second week we would try harder to remember Joe’s struggles, to cut him more slack, and to be more patient.

It hasn’t been easy, but over the course of the last eight weeks we’ve definitely seen some changes. Joe eats a lot more now than he does when he’s on his medication, and he sleeps later and more restfully too. Although we haven’t weighed him, he does seem to have filled out a bit, which is encouraging. We’ve found that he is now more capable of self-regulation. If something upsets him, rather than the time- and energy-intensive histrionics of the past, he is able to calm himself more quickly. The medication has given Joe a baseline understanding of how his brain is different, and the knowledge he’s not a bad kid but instead merely one whose brain just doesn’t give him enough help with attention and short-term memory. If he’d never been on the medication, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience what is “normal” to other people. Without that crucial piece of information, he’d still feel lost about how to achieve what society expected of him. Now that he understands how it feels to be in control, he can work towards achieving those results both with and without the medication. This is huge for him.

I’m not exactly sure how this experiment will end. If I could write my own ending, though, Joe will have grown a few inches and packed on a few pounds over the summer. He will realize that he’s not a bad kid but that he has some unique challenges. He will understand that the medication helps daily life run more smoothly for him, but that it doesn’t define him and that he’s still a wonderful person without it. As for the rest of us? We will have earned a much greater appreciation for how difficult things can be for Joe and have more patience to help him get to where he needs to be in his life. Two months ago, I was hoping this would be the right decision for our family. Today, I’d be willing to place bets that this experiment will be a great success.

A Better Life

Our incredibly fortunate American family on a fjord in Norway in 2009.

Today, while ironing of course, I watched a film I’ve wanted to see ever since the lead actor was nominated for an Academy Award this past winter. I’d never heard of it until the nominations came out, but when a quiet film finds its way into the hearts of the Academy voters I usually pay attention. The movie is called A Better Life. The story revolves around a father, who happens to be a Mexican illegal living and working in the U.S., and his 14 year old son who is a U.S. citizen. The son edges closer and closer to the East LA gang scene and his father worries about him. It is an honest story about a hard-working man whose only desire in life is to give his son a better life than he has had, hence the title.

I loved the movie because it made me think. It forced me to face some of my own prejudices and misconceptions. I can’t tell you where exactly I stand on the issue of illegal immigration because, being a grey person not prone to black and white absolutism, I’m not sure. I can clearly see and understand both sides of the issue. We have laws in this country about citizenship, and I do see the importance of upholding them. On the other hand, though, both sets of my great grandparents came here from Poland on a boat circa 1917, landed at Ellis Island speaking no English, and were able to give their own children a better life than the one they had. I wouldn’t be here if the United States hadn’t let them in nearly 100 years ago.

As Americans, it’s too easy to forget how blessed we are. We may talk about how proud we are of our nation, but most of us have done nothing to earn our citizenship other than to have been born here. Let’s face it. We didn’t have a say in that matter anyway. When you think about how most people on this planet live, we are unbelievably fortunate by virtue of dumb luck. So, it’s fairly easy to sit on our lofty hill and tell others that we’re all full up at the inn. After all, we’re here and our kids will have the benefit of education and health care, so what do we care?

What today’s Ironing Matinee reminded me is that when we talk about “illegals” we’re conveniently labeling others in a way that helps us to forget they’re human beings. As “illegals,” they’re not people, families, fathers, mothers, children. They’re criminals, burdens, statistics, scourges. It’s our apathy about these immigrants’ humanity that troubles me. If you get a chance, watch A Better Life. No matter where you stand on the issue of illegal immigration, it might give you some insight into how hard life is for our neighbors south of the border and how hard it is for them still while they’re living here illegally trying to do the best they can for their families. It might remind you that at our core we’re all the same. We want what is best for our children, and that notion can’t be contained by laws or even by borders.