Category Archives: Relationships

All By Myself

 

Last weekend as we drove through the small Bavarian-themed  mountain town of Leavenworth, Washington, I was reminded of an incident that took place more than twenty years ago. I was in town for the weekend to celebrate my sister-in-law’s upcoming wedding. All of the bridesmaids had rented a large room in a seedy motel, and we went out for dinner, drinks, and eventually, karaoke.

When six females in their early 20’s go out on the town in a tiny place like Leavenworth, it’s hard to miss. We got a ton of attention, mostly in the form of free alcohol. By the time we got to the karaoke bar, we were all a little (or a lot) tipsy. (Don’t worry, we were on foot, not in a car.)

I have limited recollection of the evening, but I do remember participating in a rousing rendition of “Summer Loving.” Then , unexpectedly, one of the girls wasn’t feeling well, and all of them followed her to the bathroom. I didn’t react quite as quickly, so I was sitting alone at the table when I was handed a microphone, and the song one of the girl’s had previously selected began playing.

The song was, “All By Myself,” by Eric Carmen (later Celine Dion).

And I sat there, by myself, forlornly singing about being all by myself.

It’s kind of how I have been feeling a lot lately.

I’m a Christian. And I’m a political moderate.  I used to be further to the right, but my deepening faith and understanding of Biblical principals have pushed me left to the center. On some issues I’m over the line on the left, on some, I’m over the line on the right.

It used to be that I felt like I had a lot of company in the middle; that when push came to shove, most people didn’t hold extreme positions. The parties they voted for would produce a platform, but only the hardcore dems and republicans actually subscribed to the entire checklist of ideologies.

It was easier, then, to have spirited, but civil debate about issues.

It’s not that way anymore. The extremists on both sides have managed to pull in a lot more people, all the while pushing others to the opposite side. Those who once considered themselves moderate liberals and conservatives, now feel the need to take a stand on one side or the other.

In the past few years I’ve watched people I had previously considered to be moderates move further and further towards the ends of the spectrum. They’ve stopped listening to the other side and listen only to viewpoints that feed their extremism. They have used the behaviors and words of the other side to justify the unjustifiable.

Just this week I have been sickened to see loving, caring people make excuses for horrific behavior in the name of politics, in the name of balance. There’s been a raging competition to prove whose party is guilty of the most abhorrent actions and words.

The actions of the opposition have been used to justify things that I simply cannot believe. Since when did we start operating tit-for-tat  on a societal level?  We seem to have thrown out the basic rules of public decorum.

Do not confuse moderation with not having strong passionate views on things. My views are just as deeply engrained in me as those who are on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

I passionately believe that humanity requires us to take care of each other. Even if it’s not a religious value for you, I’m certain that, presented with circumstances requiring action to save the life of another person, most would do what they could. However, your ideology doesn’t always represent that.

That’s the problem with ideology: it doesn’t take into account what real human beings do and feel in any given situation.  Most pro-choice people say they would never personally get an abortion, and definitely wouldn’t be comfortable performing one. Most people who angrily rejected Obamacare wouldn’t shrug their shoulders at a dying child who can’t afford medical care and were thrown off their insurance and say, “That sucks for you, but in this country we believe in self-sufficiency.”

And yet… the middle is becoming a very lonely place.

Last week, I got called a cynic by a conservative (who doesn’t personally know me) because I made a critical observation of the president. Me, a cynic. The person who always believes things will work out in the end, who wants the bad news first so I can move on to the good news, who has been called naïve on multiple occasions for taking people at their word and assuming the best about them.

It’s nearly impossible to make a values-based claim without it being criticized as a political statement. For example, I have great concerns about the health and well-being of our planet. Does that make me a liberal? Because the way I see it, God mandated Adam and Eve and their descendants to care for this earth. That isn’t a political agenda, it’s a moral imperative.

I think violence or threat of violence, or portrayal of violence against another human being, whether or not you disagree with them or are angry with their actions, is unacceptable. Period. For me, this is as black and white an area as you can get. It’s not okay for either side of an ideological disagreement to incite or perpetrate violence against the opposition. THIS SHOULD NOT EVEN BE UP FOR DEBATE OR DISCUSSION.

Every day the extremists get angrier and louder. Every day they demand that those who have approached these conversations with caution to “stop the fence sitting.” I am told “there is no room for compromise. Compromise means validation of their actions or views.” I am told that not going all in on one side makes me complicit with the other.

And I reject that. I reject that I don’t get to decide, issue by issue, person by person, how I feel about something and what I want to do about it.

I reject the idea that because much of the Christian church has been co-opted by the political agenda of Ayn Rand and her subscribers, I must be ashamed of my faith and stand silent as every believer is painted with the same broad brush.

I reject the idea that because I have great compassion for immigrants, refugees, and those who are persecuted for their race, ethnicity or religion, I am a snowflake who doesn’t love my country.

I reject the idea that finding common ground makes me a co-conspirator responsible for the bad actions of the party of those I have chosen not to condemn because of who they voted for.

I reject the idea that common decency, courtesy, concern for our fellow man and the planet on which we reside are political fodder, and that one side owns the rights to call themselves good while the other is evil.

I will name the evil when I see it, but I will strive for grace and mercy in my interactions because that’s what has been modeled to me by my God.

The evil I see today is hatred. I see name-calling. I see avocation of violence. I see condescension and disrespect.

You can stand up for your values without denigrating those who disagree. You can stand up for your values while continually dialoging with those from a counter-perspective. You can stand up for your values, name bad behavior, use your voice to create movement and change without sinking to the levels I have seen recently.

We are all hypocrites. We just are. We justify our own side’s bad behavior while condemning the other for the exact same offenses. And instead of owning that, we dig in our heels and double down. And then we wonder why we feel so icky all the time. Why we feel so agitated, easily offended, angry, sad. Misunderstood.

Come back to the middle. The water is fine (lukewarm, actually.) Help me be a better person by challenging me with questions that make me think, not insults that make me want to push you away (or over a cliff.) Help me see the heart behind your statements, and let me help you see the heart behind mine. I really believe it’s not too late.

(Would a cynic say that? No, so take that, Patrick!) Yeah, I know, I have a long way to go on the grace and mercy stuff.

 

We Can’t Always Choose The Music Life Plays For Us, But We Can Choose How We Dance To It

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Once Upon a time (365 days ago to be precise) we all stood together on the precipice of a new year. We sipped champagne and shared midnight kisses,  cheered and threw confetti, talked excitedly about future plans and resolutions.

I’m not sure 2016 turned out the way any of us anticipated, and it’s likely to go down as a year many would like to forget. 2016 is the Voldemort of years- the one of which we shall never speak again. When someone attempts to  begin a sentence, “Do you remember back in 2016 when-” we will all shush their mouths as quickly and gently as possible.

I’m turning 45 in 2017. I’ve seen some years. I have never seen a year like this one. Between democalypse 2016 (we miss you, Jon Stewart), increases in race-related conflict, police brutality and police under attack, increases in hate crimes, reduction of interpersonal civility, global unrest, terrorism, and humanitarian crises, this year was already a stinker. Add in a larger than normal amount of iconic celebrity deaths and it was a cesspool of ugly.

But it wasn’t just that stuff that made this year so hard. I lost 2 people significant to me and to people I care about to cancer this year. I attended the funeral of my friend Jason on a Saturday and 6 days later I was comforting my sister and her children over the unexpected passing of her long time significant other John, my nephew Luke’s father.

All year the people I love struggled through loss and grief of various types, fought to keep their heads above water, as one said to me, “I’m operating in 15 minute increments, putting one foot in front of the other.”

This year was just plain hard. Was it harder than other years? Can we statistically prove that? Who knows, but that doesn’t really matter. With a few exceptions, most of my friends and family are ready to be done with 2016.

However, it’s not in me to leave it there. The Pollyanna in me wants to know that there was beauty in the pain, lessons learned, strength gained.

So, in order to not let this shitastrophic year get the best of me, here, in no particular order, are the joyful moments that in some way managed to redeem the rest:

 

In January I went on a three week Facebook fast, which I will be repeating this year . I started a Bible study on gratitude and spent every day looking for beauty around me. I focused on my family, my writing, my spiritual development. I had lunch dates and coffee dates and was present in my life. I connected with those I love.

In March I was able to celebrate my sister Shannon’s 50th birthday with her by going to visit our sister Colleen In Southern Cal. We sat on the beach in Laguna and talked and laughed. We surprised my niece as she performed for the last time at her high school cheerleading expo. We went out to Palm Springs and sat by the pool and connected.

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In an effort to simplify, I let go of some of my “have-to’s” and focused instead on my “want-to’s.” Turned out I didn’t have to do most of my have-to’s, they were simply burdens I needlessly placed on myself. Holidays had less pressure, and I was able to just be with my people, and we connected.

We spent our spring break at beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene. We rode four wheelers and got dirty and explored and we connected.

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Parker rode on a camel at the fair, Zoe played a dwarf in her school production of “Shrek,” and an unusually warm spring meant lots of days enjoying Lake Washington and the stunning place we live.

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Sydney and I sung together for the mother’s day tea, Parker bet on the ponies at Emerald Downs, We celebrated Papa Ted’s 90th birthday,  and my birthday surprise was a giant poster Parker unfurled at the school concert.

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Jeff and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary in St Pete Beach, Florida and missed the hurricane by 12 hours.

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Nathan graduated from high school and became a freshman at Washington State University.

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Zoe, Parker and I went to Harrison Hot Springs, Canada to go in search of Bigfoot

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(We didn’t find him)

We saw Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie in concert, Zoe got to go to Disneyland, Nathan took a graduation road trip with his friends and we spent much of the summer on the sidelines of a soccer field.

In the fall Jeff and I got to celebrate our friend and neighbor Brian’s 50th birthday in Las Vegas and then just a few days later I was making the rounds in Socal, seeing my sister and her family, old friends, newer friends and spending time with my extended family at our reunion.

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In all of these moments the priority was connection.

Zoe added volleyball to her schedule which, as an indoor sport, is a nice change. Nathan leaving for college was hard, but watching him thrive on his own is amazing.

Birthday week was a 6 day extravaganza of celebrating Zoe’s 13th, Parker’s 11th and Sydney’s 22nd.

We spent Thanksgiving with Shannon and her family in Spokane, celebrated the holidays with friends and family at various events, culminating in Christmukkah at our house.

And now, as I sit here typing this, my kids are gathered ’round the table. It’s snowing outside. And we are connecting.

So as it turns out, the reason 2016 can’t beat us is because we are stronger together than anything it tried to send our way. In the midst of pain was blessing. In the midst of struggle was joy and growth.

I’m not sorry to see this year come to an end, there’s no doubt. However, the reason I’m most looking forward to 2017 is not because 2016 didn’t have its moments. It’s because this year Sydney will embark on a new career path. It’s because Parker will finish elementary school and enter middle school. It’s because Nathan is making plans for moving into an apartment with his friends for his sophomore year of college, one step closer to the rest of his life. It’s because Zoe will have my calendar filled with activities as she lives each moment to its fullest.

Jeff and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage this year. This is our 24th New Year’s Eve together, and we have all sorts of plans for the future.

Even if none of those plans come to fruition, there’s one thing that will matter in 2017… how we connect. If I have a resolution, it’s to be better at connecting, to be in the moment, to find the beauty in simplicity of sitting face to face with someone in our shared humanity.

So here’s to fresh starts… and real connection. Like the quote above says, we can’t always choose the music life plays for us, but we can choose how we dance to it. May 2017 be a year of dancing.

Cheers!

(I picked this photo to end my last post of 2016 because somehow an Alan Alda quote with a typo superimposed over a dolphin seemed to fit exactly right. )

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Tripping Over Family Tree Roots

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The other day on my way home from walking Parker to school, I got distracted by a passing baby in a stroller and tripped over this tree root. I knew the root was there, as I walk past it (around it if I’m paying attention) every day. Twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon.

It’s not a normal root. This root has evil intentions. It’s somehow sticking out and up at an angle, causing it to be 6-8 inches into the sidewalk and 3-4 inches off the ground. This root has stopped serving any purpose to the tree and now simply lies in wait for victims.

This time the root got me pretty good. I stubbed my toe, flew forward a couple feet, but managed to keep my balance by making some wonky maneuver that left my back feeling pretty tweaked.

I thought to myself, “Someone should do something about that.”

I decided it should be the city, but when I called, no one answered the phone.  I was annoyed that duties were being shirked.

The next day as I walked past the root, I glanced over at it and felt a twinge in my lower back. It was a reminder that I needed to do something about it.

I didn’t.

A few days after that, my lower back was still in pain, and since I had been compensating for a sore back, my neck was beginning to hurt. My hips were beginning to hurt. I was an achy mess.

Every time I walked past the root, I was more irritated. I didn’t plant the tree. This sidewalk is walked by many every day, and no one had done anything about it. Someone could get hurt. Someone DID get hurt! (Me)

I called the city. The first woman I spoke with said I needed to talk to the lady who would decide whose responsibility the tree root was. Then she would determine who I needed to talk to about getting the root removed. She transferred me to the planning department, but alas that woman was out of the office for the president’s day weekend and wouldn’t be back in the office until Tuesday.

I sat and pondered my options. The reality was, I could sit and try to get someone to take accountability for the root, but there was a pretty good chance that since the city expects us to keep those trees alive by watering them, they would expect us to maintain them in other ways, such as malicious root growth.

After all, even though the tree grew on the street side of the sidewalk, it was parallel to my back yard.

If someone gets hurt because of something I know has the potential to cause injury, it doesn’t really matter who’s responsible for the root. I will have neglected to do what I could have done to prevent it. And as time goes on, as the tree grows larger and older, that root is going to become more of a liability.

Such is the case with our family trees and family legacies. In our family trees we have heroes and villains, and we have regular men and women who lived average lives and then became vaguely familiar faces in faded photographs to the generations to come.

But names and dates and black and white photos don’t tell the whole story.

When I first started genealogy research 13 years ago, I had two quests: find the famous connections and go back as far as I could go.

However in the past year and a half, my research has been dovetailing with my own personal growth path which includes spiritual studies, therapy and a complete overhaul of my thought patterns and behavioral habits that haven’t always put me where i want to be.

As a result, I find myself focusing in more closely on the stories of the people from whom I descend. As I have done that, details have emerged that explain generational family cycles that have been unwittingly passed down.

The stories I had been told as a child highlighted the best of my family history, but they don’t paint a complete picture.

Sometimes we are aware of the legacies of dysfunction, but feel like it’s in our DNA, it’s who we are because it’s who they were. We feel powerless to break the cycle.

Sometimes we are living our own frustrating cycles of behavior and have no idea why we do the things that we do. It leaves us feeling broken, and a little crazy.

But I have good news!

We are not powerless against those errant tree roots that mar our family trees and threaten to bring us down. It doesn’t matter whether we planted the tree; Once we have recognized the danger, it’s up to us to get out our metaphorical hack saws and cut that nasty root out of our lives, out of our families, preserving a healthier tree for our children and grandchildren to inherit.

“I’m a yeller.”

No, you’re not. You’re someone for whom yelling was a modeled behavior, and that behavior was modeled to them, and so on. All it takes is one person to break the cycle. That person can be you if you choose!

“I don’t know why I feel so insecure.”

Well, probably because your parent had insecurity and abandonment issues. Or their parent did. My grandfather was abandoned by his mother at 18 months old, by his father shortly after, and left to be raised by his Irish grandfather and haughty German step-grandmother. His way of handling that was to be an emotionally distant workaholic. That doesn’t breed security in your children or your marriage. It leaves scars on that family tree, and on the people who come along afterwards.

” I’m dumb with men.”

Maybe. There’s probably a reason for that too. I learned this past year that my great great grandmother was married multiple times and wanted her grandchildren to call her “Aunt Fanny” instead of grandmother. Her daughter got married at 16, was divorced a short time later, and had a baby with a man (by the appearances of the records) she never married. By the time she married my great grandfather, she was a woman with a past and baggage, probably a boatload of  shame,  who desperately wanted to be loved and cared for. That longing for love and attention caused her to be openly flirtatious in letters we found to her daughter’s fiance. She loved her husband dearly, but the vacancy inside her couldn’t only be filled by him. Honestly.  It couldn’t be filled by any man.

My own family tree is overflowing with great men and women. It’s also riddled with alcoholism, drug addiction, codependency, perfectionism, emotional disconnection, divorce, and abandonment.

So what do we do with the information that who we are isn’t only the choices we’ve made, but also the things we’ve learned to be as a result of generational brokenness?

First, we understand that knowledge is a gift, even when it’s of the ugly that lurks in our family. Knowledge and awareness creates opportunities for personal growth. We take accountability for our own choices. We recognize the role our family history has played in shaping us, and we chop off that damn root completely. For ourselves, and for our kids. And for their kids.

It only takes one person to change the dynamic of the whole family for generations to come.

We don’t have to chop the whole tree down, just the root that is giving us trouble. Then, come spring, that tree will be blossoming because it will no longer be sending its energy to that nasty root.

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PS: If you are interesting in “rooting out” your family tree, visit my website http://familyresearch.strikingly.com/ to learn about the genealogy research packages I am currently offering at 50% off!

It’s Just A Little Pee; A Perspective Piece

Today’s lesson on compassion and spotlight on my own internal ugly came to me courtesy a Pekingese-chihuahua wearing a cotton candy pink jacket.

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(Not the actual dog. For visual reference only)
I’m sitting in the dealership waiting room while my car is being serviced, when in comes an older woman with a bad dye job, a smoker’s cough, and a tiny dog on a long leash.

I’m  writing on my laptop, attempting to block out the Fox News blaring, and trying to pretend they hadn’t come in . I think that it’s not so much that I’m not a dog person, as that I’m not a dog person person. Dogs are dogs, and I take them for who they are. Their owners present a greater challenge for me.

The woman says, ” I’m gonna get her a boyfriend when she grows up,” to no one in particular.

The very pregnant woman a few seats to the right of me makes some sort of sound akin to an assent combined with a slight obligatory chuckle.

The dog is on an expandable leash, and begins roaming the waiting room. She makes her way to the pregnant woman, who bends down to give her a quick pet.

My animal telepathy signals are strong, and she goes back to her owner without coming my way.

The woman makes foo-foo conversation with the dog, and then says, “When is your baby due?”

I must be feeling self-conscious, because my hackles rise in indignation before I remember the woman next to me with the large, round belly. She’s not speaking to me, thank goodness.

“The beginning of March,” the pregnant woman responds.

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

“it’s a boy. Our first.”

“Oh , a boy. Boys are fun.”

“Do you have boys?”

“No. But I have this little girl to dress up,” she nods towards the dog.

I choke a bit on my own phlegm.

The dog starts heading my way and I do a quick mental debate on what my response will be. At first I continue typing, but then a tiny face peeks around my laptop. I look at her and she yips at me, eliciting a pleased coo from her owner. She puts her paws on my leg.

It’s an adorable little face, and I cannot resist giving her a gentle pat.

“She has to get to know everyone,” says the person on the other end of what, at the moment, is a 20 foot leash.

The dog (For this purpose I’m wishing I had asked her name) left me to greet the elderly man who was coming in.

“She has to check everyone out!” shrills Pinkie’s (not her real name) owner giddily.

The man looks around and heads back out into the lobby.

A conversation between Pinkie’s owner and the pregnant woman begins, and I concentrate on the book I’m writing. (Juvenile fiction- work in progress)

Pinkie comes around near me again and out of the corner of my eye, I see she has paused. I know that look. Sure enough, a tiny stream of urine starts making its way toward me.

“Oh!” I gasp. “Um!” And I look at Pinkie’s owner. She looks at me and I look down at the puddle on the floor.

“Oh my!” She jumps up and picks up the dog and runs around in a couple circles before heading out into the lobby. She comes back with a hand towel and drops it at my feet.

I’m sure my face belies my internal dialogue. I’m making every attempt to appear passive and disinterested, however I’m feeling a combination of annoyance, disgust and misguided responsibility for the mess on the carpet in front of me.

She taps her foot on top of the cloth and then leans down to pick it up. She rushes out in the hall and I hear a man tell her, “No, that’s okay. Let’s just throw it away.”

She comes back in, appearing flustered with Pinkie in her arms. Pinkie has seemed somewhat flustered since I first laid eyes on her, as most tiny dogs are prone to be a little jittery.

But just as irritation is settling in my soul and converting to a general disdain for this woman and her dog, another somewhat  older  woman comes in to the waiting room and sits on the couch next to them.

“She’s so adorable!” The new woman crows.

Pinkie’s owner beams. “Thank you!”

I glance up at her face and in an instant I recognize the human being to whom I was up until this point completely oblivious . In her face I see pride, and significance. I glimpse gratitude at being SEEN. I sense someone who has gained purpose through this tiny critter in a pink coat.

“It’s nice to have the company I’ll bet,” says the new woman.

“Yes,” smiles Pinkie’s mom. ” Especially being alone.”

And there it is. The knife in my heart. The crack in her voice as she says it leaves me feeling both gutted and grateful. Gutted in the knowledge that my judgmental heart had resented this clear source of joy for this woman, of whose story and life I have no knowledge beyond this one moment.

And grateful for Pinkie. Grateful that these two have found each other. They need each other. Pinkie provides companionship and unconditional love. Pinkie’s mom takes care of her, and has plans to get her a boyfriend. Maybe a couple babies.

One of my greatest personal challenges is looking beyond my own self to empathize with others and imagine a walk in their shoes. I love situations like these because they are uncomfortable and they challenge me to stop being so self-focused and connect with the people around me, even for a moment. I truly believe one of the greatest cures for my innate selfishness and hard-heartedness is taking the time to look a stranger in the eye and see past the external to the person inside.

So thanks, Pinkie. Thanks for being a tiny, unexpected, yippy,  piddling life lesson bundled in a tiny pink jacket.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Lost In The Moment

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Have you ever seen the Saturday Night Live skit “The Californians”? (see video link above) For those unfamiliar with Southern Cal, it may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but having lived there for a quarter of my life, and just returning from a weekend there, I can assure you it’s more accurate than you might suspect.

Friday night I was making my way back from LA to my hotel in Orange County on the 405 South when I came upon signs that indicated the freeway ahead was closed and all lanes consolidated before being forced to exit at the 605 North.

Although I lived only 15 minutes south just 6 years ago, this was an area with which I was not too familiar. When I lived there, I made every effort possible to avoid the labyrinth of the SoCal freeway system. Even those with limited sense of direction can probably understand that when you’re headed south and then suddenly find yourself on a northbound freeway, you’re going the wrong way.

Earlier in the day I had already had the experience of getting on the 405 north when I had intended to go south leaving the airport, so while I wasn’t thrilled, it was not an unfamiliar feeling. Some people I know would find this situation completely unnerving. For me, though, I’ve always had this deep sense that no matter how many wrong turns I take I will ultimately find my way.

Eventually I did find my way to my hotel. I’d be lying if I said that after passing through several unfamiliar intersections and not recognizing any of the roads, and a gut feeling that I was indeed still headed the wrong direction, I pulled out my phone and entered my hotel into Google maps.

The first word out of male Siri’s ( I replaced the female because I thought she was a bit condescending) “mouth”were:

“Make a u-turn if possible.”

I’m pretty sure that 99% of the directions he has given me include that phrase.

Saturday morning I checked out of my hotel and headed to my sister Colleen’s house in Irvine to pick her up for our weekend in Palm Springs.

I entered the destination for the resort into my GPS. My sister, who has lived in the area for several years said, “I don’t understand why it’s taking us this way. Somehow this doesn’t seem right.”

However, I continued to follow the directions given to me by the man in my phone (Let’s call him Fritz). Sometimes he didn’t give me very much warning before telling me where to turn, and I would miss it. When that occurred he would do one of two things: readjust the course or utter the frequent and all-too-familiar, “Make a u-turn if possible.”

Soon we discovered that the route he had chosen required getting on to a toll road. Since I was driving a rental car with no transponder, the resulting fine would have been exorbitant.

We got off at the next available exit and made our way onto I-5 north, then onto the 55 , then the 91 east, to the I-215 to the 60 to the 10.

See? I told you “The Californians” wasn’t an exaggeration.

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Somewhere after we got onto the 91, we ran into a large traffic jam. Saturday traffic jams in SoCal are not unusual, but are typically inexplicable. The back-up was likely the reason my GPS had tried to divert us onto a toll road. Either that, or because the toll roads are actually the most direct routes. Direct routes are only for the wealthy, apparently.

We sat in traffic, but neither of us minded because we had great conversation. I’m not even sure how long it took us to reach our actual destination, but that was the beauty of this trip; we had  planned to have no plans. Our only goal was to connect, spend time together and take each moment as it came.

Taking each moment as it comes and not trying to control my vacations is a new experience for me and not something at which I typically excel. I’m a work in progress.

After checking in  at the resort, we spent the afternoon poolside. The forecast predicted a rainy sunday, so we decided to take advantage of the sun while we had it.

Dinner was an easy choice; We both love Mexican food. I yelped Mexican restaurants in the vicinity and found one not too far away named Huerta’s on Jackson St that had a 4 1/2 star rating.

Once again I turned to “Fritz” for guidance. The area of Palm Springs/Palm Desert/Indio is a lot more sparse and spread out than one might think, and a lot of the roads are not well-lit at night.

I followed the directions given me by Fritz, and having visited the area a few years prior, I had a general understanding of where I was. Turn right on Hwy 111. Turn left onto Jackson. We passed a sign that welcomed us to Indian Wells.

Fritz said something about turning left that I couldn’t quite hear. Then he named a different road on which to turn left , as if he’d  changed his mind. I turned left at the next light and Fritz gave another street name on which to turn left, but I couldn’t see the street he named, and it certainly didn’t look like an area where a restaurant might be.

Colleen picked up my phone and said, “It says we just passed the turn.”

We were once again directed to take a left at the next light. After turning I said, “Why do I have the feeling we are going in one giant circle?”

My sister responded, “I believe we may be.”

Sure enough, we got to the next intersection and I noticed on my left was the giant sign for Indian Wells that we had passed earlier. We were back at Jackson Street. Fritz had indeed taken us in one giant circle.

Colleen looked at my phone again and said, “It looks like we are headed right for it. It’s on this street. Oh wait. It says we just passed it again.”

I looked to my left  and saw nothing but a dark residential neighborhood. There weren’t even street lights.

“I’m starting to think Huerta’s is really just someone’s house where they make a good chile relleno and someone thought it would be funny to put them on yelp just to make tourists go insane trying to find it.”

I drove in the darkness for a bit and finally made my way to a gas station so I could pull in and find another restaurant.

My sister said, “Why don’t we ask someone where we can find good Mexican food?”

I looked over at the monster truck that had pulled into the parking space next to me,  and at the man who leered at me as he got out.

“Uh. You’re welcome to. I think I’ll take my chances with Yelp.”

We looked over the other restaurants and realized a couple of the higher rated ones were listed as being on the road we had been approaching before pulling in to the station.

I said, “What about this El Mexicali Café?”

She said, “I was just looking at that. It says there are two of them, so they must be good.”

“It also says people prefer the one by the railroad tracks.”

(Possibly the only time I have uttered those words.)

We pulled back onto the road and kept our eyes peeled for a building showing some signs of life.

And then it appeared, like a literal oasis in the desert. An oasis near the railroad tracks that serves margaritas.

There were people outside but I couldn’t tell if they were waiting or just hanging around. Inside it was pretty small, and as we walked in we witnessed a scene that could only be described as festive. There were two mariachis (mariachi?) playing guitar and singing under a flatscreen  TV that was showing a basketball game. There was a small bar with stools where two older couples were laughing and eating. Every table and booth was filled with lively conversation except one small table for two that sat empty. Two men and three women were waiting in the entrance, and three waitresses were moving quickly between the kitchen, the bar, and the various tables and booths.

One of them, an older woman, came rushing up to us and asked in a heavily accented voice, “How many?”

We told her there were two of us, and she began scanning the restaurant. She went over to one of the waiting men and said, “You wait, yes? I give the ladies this table.”

The men seemed to grudgingly agree, but after waving us over to the not-yet wiped down table, another of the waitresses started yelling at her in Spanish from across the noisy room. My one year of high school Spanish told me that the plan had been to push the table with a table for 4 to seat the party waiting.

Our waitress hurried over to the other one, and there was much debate, complete with gestures and waving hands. Our waitress came back and said, “Sorry. Sorry. You wait a bit more.”

We got up and moved back to the entry and she said, “You want margarita. What kind? Strawberry? Mango?”

We ordered Cadillac margaritas, which she brought over to us while we waited. We people-watched and listened to the music. Neither of us was annoyed by the wait, because the room was electric and interesting. Occasionally the whole place would rumble as the train passed by. When we were finally seated we ended up at our original table, as the larger party had been put in the back once another group had left.

Our waitress returned and shouted at me, “You want peppers!” and pointed on the menu at a picture of what appeared to be some sort of stuffed peppers. My recent obsession with jalapeno poppers led me to agree. She rushed off before I realized the peppers were stuffed with shrimp, which I don’t eat, but I was able to flag her down and cancel the order.

It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere in this restaurant. The employees somehow managed to make every customer feel like a part of one big extended family. When the mariachis (mariachi) began playing “la Bamba” the whole place broke out into song. One of the waitresses would randomly grab a diner from their seat into the only open space and begin salsa dancing with them. Those who were waiting danced in place and clapped along. When certain songs came on, the entire staff would start trilling.

Besides the food being seriously delicious, that may have been the most fun I’ve ever had at a restaurant.

During dinner we mused about getting lost and yet somehow finding our way to this amazing, unexpected place and experience. We ended up exactly where we were supposed to be, even though we hadn’t meant to go there.

And here, finally, is my point in telling you all of this:

Life can be that way a lot of the time. We have agendas and expectations, and yet still we sometimes get lost.

Sometimes we get detoured.

Sometimes those we trust or allow to guide us take us in the wrong direction.

Being lost can be terrifying, unnerving. It can make you question everything you think you know.

But sometimes we discover that in the midst of being lost, we find something remarkable;

We find extra time to connect that we wouldn’t have had if we’d gone the direct route.

We find treasures or experiences we would have missed out on had we ended up where we intended.

We learn more about ourselves while lost and searching than we ever do when we stay on the path.

I’ve felt a little lost lately. As I said earlier, typically when I find myself lost while driving I feel certain that I’ll eventually arrive at my destination.

However when I feel spiritually or emotionally lost, I don’t always have that same confidence.

It’s so important in those moments to cling to what we are sure of, and to take inventory of who and what we truly value. Many times it’s not the destination that matters, but who we take along for the journey, and being fully present with them in those moments.

Someone recently told me that whenever I feel anxious, unsure, disconnected, or simply trying to control a moment instead of experiencing it, often it takes only to stop and get my bearings through the use of the 5 senses.

What do I smell?

What do I hear?

What do I feel?

What do I taste?

And what do I see right in front of me?

This past weekend I got lost more times than I could count. Our drive back from the desert included a 15 mile jaunt in the wrong direction of the 215 freeway (10 to the 60 to the 215, to the 91 to the 55 to the 5 to the 405). Fritz’s tone sounded a bit  offended when I finally gave in and pulled him up on my phone. I had thought I could figure it out on my own. He directed me off the southbound and back onto the northbound 215. I guess there are times when you’re lost that you have to be willing to take advice and guidance.

In all of my “lost-ness” though, I had a fantastic weekend of being in the moment with my sister; maybe not in spite of being lost, but because of it.

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Please Hear What I’m Not saying

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Last night was a brutal night on social media. Even more so, it was brutal on the streets of Ferguson , MO and major cities throughout the United States.

From the outset, let me make it clear that this post is NOT about my opinion of the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. Not to say I don’t have an opinion, but that’s not what I want to talk about today.

I had quite an extraordinary opportunity last night when I witnessed the interaction on my posts regarding the breaking news between several people that I know, none of whom know each other.

As I watched the conversation become tense, I saw that people I know and care about were perceiving each other in negative ways and I found myself crying “Arugula! Aruugula!” ( Arugula is my safe word on Facebook http://kbjackson.com/i-think-my-brain-just-broke/)

I found myself wanting to explain to each one of my friends  who the others are, what I know about them, and where they are coming from.  It was an eye-opening experience. I kept thinking, “If they knew about each other what I know, they wouldn’t assume what’s in their heart.”

One friend chose not to engage because they realized their contributions might add fuel to the already stoked fire. Another deleted many of the comments they wish they hadn’t made. I know this was out of respect for me and I appreciate it greatly.

 

Every sentence that was pounced upon came from someone who has a unique perspective based on their own life experiences. Everyone who pounced upon a sentence brought their own life experiences to the conversation.

Two of my friends who commented on the post currently live in the South, and have for some time. Living in the South brings the concept of race relations to a whole other level.

One of my friends who commented is a former police officer who has dealt with having to defend his actions while on duty in a court of law.

One, my husband, comes from a family of police officers.

One is a pastor’s wife who helped create an organization to help local low-income mothers and children in need.

One is a pastor (not married to the wife above) who runs an organization dedicated to helping those in need, with a strong focus on serving the people of Haiti.

One is Haitian-born.

One is born and raised in Los Angeles and grew up seeing crack destroy the families of his surrounding community.

Two are teachers.

Most are college educated, at least two of whom have masters degrees.

All are hard- working and successful in their own fields.

Five were raised in my same small hometown.

One is a  sitting member of the US Dept of Commerce/NOAA Diversity and Inclusion Counsel.

One is a social worker, who has worked for Child Protective Services, rehabilitation in the prison system and Adult Protective services and has witnessed societal horrors most of us couldn’t imagine.

One has worked as an Alaska state trooper and was present in full riot gear for the tumult following the not-guilty verdict of the LA police  officers who assaulted Rodney King.

Most live in communities or near large metropolitan areas where police departments have had systemic racial investigations.

One has two white teenage sons, one has three black teenage sons.

One of those two men has to tell his sons to keep their hoods down and their hands where they can be seen.

One is dating a black man who has personally encountered racism, racial profiling and police harassment.

Two are black men who have personally encountered racism, racial profiling and police harassment.

One is a biracial woman who grew up in a nearly all-white town and is married to a black man who has personally encountered racism, racial profiling and police harassment.

Most are white, some of whom have personally witnessed racism, racial profiling and police harassment of minorities, while others have not.

All are responsible, law-abiding citizens.

All are caring, kind, loving people.

Several are Christians, whose mandate is to love others.

A couple are agnostic but believe passionately in caring for others.

Some are angry. Some are sad. Some are both.

All are my friends.

Don’t assume who is who, you could quite possibly be wrong.

My point is this: When a statement is made online to a stranger, they don’t know the heart behind it, the life experience behind it. We must “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” -Steven Covey.

So many of our contentious discussions could be mitigated if we followed this simple idea.

At the end of the day, my friendships with all of these people still stand. Do I get frustrated? Of course. Do they get frustrated with me? Absolutely. I actually got two separate messages from friends who read but did not participate in the conversation. One said “Katie, for the life of me I don’t know how you think the way you think about certain things, but I hope you and your family have a happy thanksgiving.”

The other read, “I would enjoy a friendly discussion with you at some point based on different view points.”

I consider both of those messages an encouragement that I am finally, after years of bullying my way through conversations and shoving my point of view down people’s throats, figuring out how to have healthy debates where people don’t leave despising me.

I continue to pray for peace and understanding in the midst of the anger and chaos.

 

 

 

 

 

The Title of this blog post comes from the 1966 poem by Charles  C. Finn  http://poetrybycharlescfinn.com/pages/please-hear-what-im-not-saying

Pardon Me, Do You Mind Holding My Purse While I Have A Midlife Crisis?

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Some of you may have noticed it’s been a while since I last published a blog. It’s been nearly two months, and while I have been silent, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been anything to say. I just have finally come to the point where I have the words to express what has been going on in my mind and heart.

We’ve all heard the phrase “mid-life crisis,” and most would use stereotypes to describe it:The man who dyes his hair (or gets hair plugs), buys a sports car and/or a motorcycle, and finds some young girl to feed his ego. Maybe it’s the woman who gets a boob job and starts hitting on her personal trainer.

In reality, those stereotypes do sometimes happen, but it usually is a lot more subtle; a chipping away of respect in our marriages, a dissatisfaction with our lives as they have played out, focusing on what we thought our lives would look like, and resenting the turns and twists that have led us to where we are. If we aren’t careful, a midlife crisis can undo a lifetime of good things in pursuit of unsatisfied dreams and desires. It can make us forget what we have, and ignite a search for what we think we are missing.

For me, it started with a stupid Facebook question that had me questioning everything I have ever believed about myself, about my life, my marriage, about the world I live in.

DO YOU PUMP YOUR OWN GAS?

That wasn’t the actual question, but the gist of it was, a woman was asking if it was unreasonable to expect her future husband to take care of all of her car maintenance, take her car to get the oil changed, and pump her gas for her.

My initial response was, “Pump your own gas, lady!” After all, it’s 2014, women can do for themselves. Right? I’ve never asked or expected any man to do those things for me- I’m perfectly capable of doing it.

Then I began reading the responses from men, most of whom were claiming that of course they do these things for their woman. That’s what a man is supposed to do.

Now, in my house growing up, my mom didn’t drive, so my dad took car of the car stuff because a) he’s a car nut and b) he’s the only one with a car.

But there were other things I watched my mom handle without feigning helplessness. She mowed our lawn, she de-popcorned our asbestos ceiling, she hung wallpaper,  she helped build our sunroom addition. She let my dad take on a lot of the DIY projects around the house, but there never was an expectation on her part that she would sit around protecting her manicure while my dad did all the  “man stuff.” She modeled self- sufficiency.

In my relationships, no man had ever made a fuss about opening doors for me, pumping my gas, treating me like I was a delicate flower. And I had no expectation of that. I have always taken pride in my independence, my self-reliance.  I am a “low-maintenance” kind of girl, I like sports, and I’m not afraid to squash a spider in the house. I know how to change a light bulb, solve a problem, fix what needs to be fixed and do what needs to be done.

And, I have very low expectations of everyone else. I try to make my relationships easy.

After all, who wants to be with a needy, demanding woman?

But these responses from these men had me puzzled, and a little off-kilter. I filed them away in the back of my brain and went on with my life.

A few days later, my husband invited me to lunch. I got to his office, and as we walked out I asked, “Which car do you want to take?”

He began walking to mine, and then I said, “Oh! I just remembered I’m low on gas.”

His response was to shift direction towards his car.

And in my mind I thought, “Hmmm.”

Later that night we took my car to dinner because there was a bigger group of us than would fit in his car. As we left dinner, I said, “Oh geez, I can’t believe I forgot to get gas this afternoon.”

My husband’s response was some sort of agreement that he couldn’t believe I had forgotten either.

And my mind thought, “Hmm.”

So I said, “You know, it’s funny…” And I began to relay the Facebook conversation.

He said, “Depends on how hot she is.”

He was joking, mostly. “Oh so I’m not hot enough for you to pump my gas for me?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying you never had that expectation. And this chick better be pretty hot if she’s going to be that demanding.”

He wondered if I had been testing him all day with my “I need gas” statements, and I swore I had not.

I began to ask my guy friends what they thought of this question. Some said they do it because that’s how they were raised. Some said they DON’T do it because that’s how they were raised.

And it seemed it came down to one very important distinction in my mind: Is the gas pumping issue more about the pumper or the pumpee?

One friend said that all the women he’d dated were independent, and never asked, but recently his new girlfriend had asked him to do it. He said her expectation and annoyance at his response almost felt like she was questioning his manhood. She expected him to step up, and her having that expectation made him want to live up to it. He said that older men that he knew that were on second marriages were with women who expected MORE of them, and that made them feel more needed, more wanted, more essential.

And I thought, “Have I been thinking about this all wrong my entire life?”

This one stupid gas pumping question had spurred a thousand more…

I thought having low expectations was a good thing, but do men really want someone more demanding?

Would my husband respect me more if I relied on him more?

Why hasn’t anyone wanted to pump my gas for me?

Is it the way they were raised?

Is it that I’m just not the kind of girl that makes a man want to pump her gas?

Does that mean I’m not valuable?

Is it that they don’t see me as valuable, or that I don’t see myself as valuable?

How do I know when I’m being grateful or when I’m settling for less?

If you teach people how to treat you, has my approach to having low expectations of others led to them not respecting or valuing me?

What am I modeling to my children?

What am I showing my husband? What does he think of me? How does he see me?

What DO I deserve?

Am I a woman of value?

If I AM a woman of value, how do I prove that to myself and others?

I have to admit that this one question turned my head upside down and sideways.

I won’t go into all the details of what came next. Some are private, some are painful, some are a topic for another day.

But here’s what happened: In questioning my worth and my value and my attitude, and my relationship with my husband, my children, my friends and my God, I found my answer.

I thought back to 13 year old me,  17 year old me, 21 year old me. For a moment I reconnected with each of those girls. I viewed my life at 42 through the lens of who I was back then, the one with the dreams and what I had lately been viewing as unfulfilled potential.

I was surprised to discover that 13 year old me is thrilled with the life that 42 year old me has. 13 year old me wondered if I would ever find a boyfriend, and now sees that I’ve been with the same man for 21 years. She thinks my house is big and fancy, and loves that I live close to my parents and get to see them often. She thinks it’s cool that I’ve continued to sing, and now I get to share that with my own daughter.

17 year old me sees that certain struggles with my self-esteem have never gone away, but she’s amazed that I have such great supportive friendships, and loves that I have remained connected to those who were so integral to my spiritual growth in high school. She is impressed that I’ve figured out a way to live with straight hair instead of constantly perming it. Oh and she likes my boots.  She is proud that I’m a part of a great church, and sees that I am finding ways to use my gifts to serve others. She also likes that my husband still thinks I’m hot.

21 year old me reminds me that when I got pregnant with my oldest daughter, I wasn’t sure what the future held. Unmarried, uncertain, frightened, but determined to make a family where there was none. And I did it. She likes that we’ve filled our home with tons of kids- our own and all of their friends. And she heard my husband say, “If I had known then what I know now, I would have married you sooner,” and she knows it all turns out okay.

The best part of a midlife crisis is the realization that for every mistake that you’ve made, you still  have an entire half of your life to do better. For every unfulfilled dream, there is an unexpected blessing. For all the unfulfilled potential, there are opportunities. For every poor choice, there is wisdom gained.

A midlife crisis doesn’t have to destroy what you have been building for the first half of your life in order for your second half to be even better. A midlife crisis can remind you of what’s truly important. And it can be a fresh start without upending your family and your marriage.

My husband DID get a motorcycle, which is totally fine with me. I’m starting a new venture myself, a way to fulfill all the potential I believe I have within me, but it’s not going to look quite like what I thought. Turns out that God has a different idea of how he wants me to use all of that untapped potential than what I ever would have come up with on my own. I’m excited about this new “Second-half” phase of my life because I have all of my favorite people with me as I embark on this new journey.

You’ll have to stay tuned to find out what it will be…

Oh, and by the way, I’m still pumping my own gas. And I’m totally cool with that. I’ll save my requests for things that really matter.

 

 

 

 

 

Ricky Schroeder, Ebola And Clint Dempsey’s Sweat

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Recently my husband finally cried “uncle” and made an appointment to see a sleep specialist. Lack of sleep has the tendency to wear down even the most stubborn. I’m not sure he’s had a decent night sleep since 2007. I, on the other hand, sleep very well, almost too well, a fact that he resents greatly.

As a result of the ACA, before doing an overnight in-patient sleep study, doctors first have to have the patients perform a home sleep study. This requires wearing headgear that records, well, we aren’t exactly sure what it records, but whatever it is, any data collected will be used to determine a sleep apnea diagnosis.

First, let me back up a bit to explain the context for the following incident. Recently, for throwback Thursday, I posted the following photo of myself and a former classmate with the caption: You know, if someone would have told me 30 years ago I’d be taking my daughter to a soccer tournament wearing a jersey with this boy as a sponsor, I wouldn’t have believed it.

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After a couple of comments like “what a great thing that he’s giving back to the community” and ” Go Zoe!” another former classmate commented,

“The boy in yellow?”

to which my husband responded,

“He’s the taller boy. Not sure who the boy in yellow is. Looks like Ricky Schroeder.”

And then-

“Yep, it is.”

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Flash forward to the first night of my husband’s home sleep study. As he drifts off to sleep, he murmurs, “I love you Ricky Schroeder.”

A couple of minutes went by and then he said, “Do you think they’re recording what I’m saying?”

To which I responded, “I certainly hope so.”

We have yet to receive the test results. I have a feeling the technicians analyzing his kit are going to put that one in their “greatest hits” collection.

*World Issues With Zoe And Parker*

The following are actual conversations from the car ride after Zoe’s last soccer tournament.

Zoe: Do you know what’s going around?

(Simultaneously)

Me:Ebola

Jeff: OMgosh

Zoe: Dad’s right. What are YOU talking about?!

Jeff: She’s talking about a disease. She forgot she was talking to a 10 year old.

Me: (Muttering) She asked what was going around. Ebola is going around.

 

Me: Zoe I’m really proud of how well you played, even with your hurt arm.

Jeff: It’s not like she could whimper about a sore arm when the girl on the other team was missing an arm.

 

Me: I had a weird dream last night. It involved a bear. I was really scared when it came in the house, but it turned out to be a nice bear who just wanted me to cuddle it. I also had a dream you were randomly holding other women’s hands.

Jeff: You won’t even let me go to the boobie espresso.

Parker: In Nepal you can hold anyone’s hand. You don’t have to be married or boyfriend/girlfriend. You can hold anyone’s hand.

Jeff: Not me, according to your mother.

Parker: In Nepal you can.

Jeff: Not even my Nepalese friends.

Parker: (giggling) Nepalese.

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Nathan turned 16th this past weekend. I asked him several times what he wanted to do. “It’s a big deal!” I said. He said, “Only for girls.” Apparently he was right, because the only non pink, non-sparkly 16th birthday decorations was a package of napkins in rainbow colors with the number 16. No matching plates, no balloons, nothing. I had to buy generic decorations and add “16” stickers to them.

We were planning on just a family barbeque, and then asked if he wanted to see the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. He said no. The morning of his birthday Jeff said that they should go to the gym. Suddenly Nathan wanted to see the movie after all.

We decided rather than fighting the crowds we would go to the IPIC theater. IPIC used to only serve adults over 21, but recently started allowing kids. I have a feeling we are really going to regret taking our kids there. They will never be satisfied with a regular theater experience again.

Recliners, blankets, pillows. I came back from the bathroom and Parker had buncha crunch candies being delivered- in a martini glass. He prefers his chocolate shaken, not stirred. He didn’t make a sound during the entire movie other than a few blissful sighs.

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The look on Zoe’s face when she opened the menu and realized she could order food was priceless. Cost of soft pretzels sticks with two gourmet dipping sauces? $10.

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Happy 16th birthday Nathan!

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Last year’s school clothes shopping ordeal… http://kbjackson.com/jesus-wouldnt-have-rice-in-his-beard-and-other-tales-of-back-to-school-shopping/

should have been enough to dissuade me from attempting to take more than one child school clothes shopping at a time. Alas, my “let’s get it all done in one painful trip” instincts won out over common sense. Also not a good use of common sense? Allowing Parker to wear his Heely’s.

I took Zoe into Justice and Parker let out a cry of, “Please not this place again!”

Nathan went next door to Aeropostale (The pronunciation of which remains a point of contention in our house). He had a gift card and instructions to buy larger jeans than the ones he currently owns. That should be an easy task for a 16 year old, right?

Zoe meandered through the glitterized world of Justice in hopes of finding something she’d be willing to wear.

Parker said, “Mom, there’s something you should know about clothes.”

“What’s that?”

“Anything that says the word cool on it is NOT cool!”

“Duly noted.”

Nathan came back with a bag in about 15 minutes. My instinct said that wasn’t nearly enough time to try stuff on.

“What size did you get?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you try them on?”

“Yes.”

I looked in the bag. “These are 27/28’s. Last year, before you grew 4 inches, we bought you 28/30’s. Either you didn’t notice that these jeans are way too short, or you didn’t try them on.”

“They seemed fine.”

“Go back. Go back and get at least the same size you have now, but preferably longer.”

After he made the exchange and Zoe found enough sparkle- less clothes to fill a bag (40% plus an additional 20% off) we made our way to H &M.

“Would you wear this?” I asked.

“A Sweater?!?” He responded with the ferocity one might reserve for such outlandish suggestions as eating your own feces.

I had no idea sweaters were so offensive.

We managed to leave the mall 3 hours later with not a single item for Parker. I did fend off requests from him for a “Guardians of the Galaxy” Starlord mask and gun set, along with an xbox 360 game.

Parker may end up wearing the same outfit on the first day of 3rd grade that he wore on the last day of 2nd grade. It’s not like he grows very fast anyways.

sounders

Last winter, Jeff and I attended an auction to raise money for Zoe’s soccer club. If you’ll recall, I was the only one dressed in 20’s themed costume and managed to inhale and choke on a piece of coleslaw. http://kbjackson.com/i-aint-the-bees-knees-and-other-things-i-discovered-at-a-roaring-20s-fundraiser/

Well, this past Friday we were finally able to use what we had bid on and won at the auction- a behind-the-scenes Seattle Sounders experience.

Zoe, Parker and I, escorted by  pre-MLS Sounder alumni player-turned- Rush Coach Doug, were able to watch an entire practice, meet the players, and get autographs and photos.

Just before we were supposed to meet the man in charge (Chris Henderson) at the gate in front of the practice field, Parker decided he had to use the bathroom. We had just been up at the main building 10 minutes prior for Zoe and I, but he had chosen to Heely around the floor instead of going to the bathroom.

I dragged Parker back up to the building, and when he was done we started walking back down towards the field. From the back entrance of the main building a tall man in a Sounders shirt and cleats emerged and began walking towards us.

I knew he must be a player, but my knowledge of soccer players is pretty limited. I didn’t know his name, and he didn’t give it. He started a conversation, and was so friendly and casual that I started to wonder how he could possibly be a professional athlete. There was no “do you know who I am” or “Aren’t you lucky that I’m talking to you” vibe coming from him at all. He was pretty impressed with Parker’s Heely ability, and Parker didn’t seem to realize he was talking to one of the players. We walked down the entire pathway talking as if it was no big deal.

And that was pretty much our experience with every single player on that team. They went out of their way to talk to my kids, ask if they wanted autographs, gave high fives and fist bumps and I never saw even an ounce of attitude. I became a bigger fan of the team than I already was, just because I was able to see first hand what great guys these are.

Clint Dempsey was the first to leave practice, and Zoe went over to have him sign her shirt and Parker had him sign his hat. They both came back with sweat stains on their stuff (and a little on them). I explained to them that there were a lot of people who would be thrilled for the opportunity to have Clint Dempsey sweat on them.

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Clint Dempsey appears to be giving Zoe a back rub

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Marcus Hahneman was on two world cup teams and played over in the Premier league in the UK. He spent quite a bit of time talking with us and our escort. Nice to see someone of my age still playing the game.

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Lamar Neagle is a local boy who has been with the Sounders since their re-inception as an MLS team.

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Djimi! He also played in the Championship League in Europe

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My buddy Chad Marshall who walked down to the field with Parker and I

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Parker had Obafemi Martins sign both his hat and his shirt. Following the practice, Parker got pizza sauce all over the signature.

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Quite possibly our favorite person of the day, announcer Ross Fletcher. He said to Zoe, “Sorry about my accent,” to which she replied, “It’s beautiful.”

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Autographs!

We had such a great time that we decided we wanted to go to Sunday’s game. It was a bit surprising to see our escort from Friday, Doug, being honored amongst other alumni players in a pre-game ceremony.

Parker seemed a little underwhelmed by the whole experience, but then he puked up his pizza on the floor outside the bathroom and he started perking up. His favorite part of the game was when the crowd started heckling and booing the officiating.

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I think we may have some pretty serious soccer fans on our hands.

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Go Sounders!

walletgate

Update- day 17. Still no sign of the wallet. I am beginning to think there may be a black hole in our closet. It will require further investigation to determine. If you don’t hear from me for a while, I have fallen in the black hole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When The Mice Are Away The Cats Will Play/Dude, Where’s My Wallet?

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*When The Mice Are Away, The Cats Like To Play… And Sleep*

This week my mother-in-law Toni took Zoe and Parker, along with Toni’s niece and nephew, camping on the Oregon Coast. Last week she took Zoe, Parker and Nathan to Victoria for 3 days. I’ve been looking forward to this week ever since she told me of the summer trips she had booked this past spring.

Sunday she arrived around 10AM with a U-Haul trailer towing behind her minivan. Parker chose that moment to start looking for the plastic suction cup arrows that go with his slingshot. (Not an item I had purchased.) I asked him what he thought he was going to shoot with the arrows, but never got a straight answer. I told him to give up the hunt, and he got in the car, but still brought the slingshot.

“What are you going to slingshot without the arrows?” I asked, not sure I wanted to know the answer.

Zoe piped up from the far back seat, “You could use rocks.”

“No. Listen to me. You may not sling shot rocks. Pinecones MAYBE. No rocks.”

The look on his face told me it had never occurred to him before that very minute that he could use anything other than the arrows that came with the slingshot.

I’m sure for many parents, this would be the moment that they tearfully said goodbyes to their children, running alongside the car waving as they drove off.

I am not that parent.

I turned and waved over my shoulder without looking and said, “See ya! Have fun!” I think that’s the difference between the average parent and me, who has kids coming out of my ears, and  who has been parenting for 20 years.

I walked in the door and said out loud to no one in particular, “Oops, I forgot to send her with  a consent note in case of emergency. Oh well. I’m sure it will be fine.”

I wandered the kitchen and living room, processing that unfamiliar feeling of sudden freedom without any idea what to do with it.

Jeff came in and said, “You wanna go to the auto parts store with me?”

I weighed my options. I was about to say no, when he informed me that he was unable to locate his wallet (story to follow) so I had to go with him to pay.

Just what every mom who has found herself with kid-free time wants to do: Hang out in an auto parts store.

Being the smart man he is, he suggested we go out to lunch afterwards.

We decided to try the new Chinese restaurant that just opened in the town center near our house. It used to be a Calico Corners fabric store. I have a feeling it will be more successful as a Chinese restaurant.

The restaurant has a very chic, urban vibe- no calico in sight as far as I could see. After getting seated at a table outside, Jeff looked around and said, “they have a good hiring plan.”

That’s code for “the waitresses are attractive.” He had said that at dinner the night before as well.

“But not a single person in here is Asian,” I said. “You don’t find that odd?”

“What about the kid who brought us our water?”

“He’s not Asian. He’s Hispanic.”

I’m not saying you have to be Chinese to own and operate a Chinese restaurant. I mean, I can cook spaghetti even though I’m not Italian, but I wouldn’t open an Olive Garden, that’s all. Well, maybe Olive Garden is a poor example.

Monday I took full advantage of my open schedule to make a coffee date with my friend Lisa. We like to go to a place called “The Spotted Cow” which is like the “Central Perk” for people who go to our church. Really, it’s more like the “Cheers” of our church, because pretty much everybody knows your name, but with lattes and gelato instead of beer.

(I think Lisa is Rachel, so I suppose that would mean I’m  Monica Gellar or Cliff Claven. I’d probably have to go with Cliff, because I too have a brain filled with all sorts of useless facts that no one really wants to hear.)

We went to the counter to place our order and the young man working the register looked at Lisa and said, “Looks like trouble just showed up.”

Have I mentioned how much I adore my friend Lisa?

I ordered my coffee in a to-go cup, which means I missed out on the latte art, but probably saved myself the grief of spilling on myself. I ordered the oatmeal, and Lisa said, “Make it two.”

He said, “Do you want everything on that? Fruit? Brown Sugar? Almonds?”

“Yes please.”

“Raisins?”

“Eww. No. Who wants raisins with fresh fruit?” I scowled.

Lisa nodded in agreement. “Nobody wants raisins. Nobody.”

He said, “Nobody wants raisins- except those who do.”

Two hours of laughter and great conversation, mixed with occasional breaks to greet other church members who had sauntered in, we headed out.

I drove to my parents’ house to pick up my mom and go see the new Michael Douglas/Diane Keaton movie, “And so it goes.”

I enjoyed the movie. It was poignant and funny. I didn’t particularly enjoy the woman a few rows back to our left who cackled uproariously at nearly every line of the movie, as if it were the funniest thing she had ever heard. EVER. Sometimes she’d laugh at something that wasn’t really even funny, but more sardonic.

I kept reminding myself not to resent someone finding unmitigated delight in this film, even if it was a little annoying. There aren’t a lot of people these days who have given themselves permission to so completely enjoy life.

After the movie I dropped my mom at home and went down the street to meet some old high school friends for dinner. What I had anticipated being only an hour or so turned into 4. What a gift to be able to reconnect and laugh with these amazing women. We can go months or years without seeing each other, and it’s always as if no time has passed at all. We can be real with each other because we’ve got history.

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Why no, that’s not a Bartles and James wine cooler in my 18 year old hand. I think it must be some sort of fancy ginger ale. Or something.

This morning I slept in. I had no place to be and nothing to do. My husband came in around 830 and said, “The sun’s coming up, but I don’t see cakes on the griddle.”

I pretended not to hear him and went back to sleep for another 30 minutes.

My mice come back tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll be happy to see them, but I have had a great time playing without them.

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As mentioned earlier, my husband lost his wallet. As of this moment, it has yet to be located.

While it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that he has lost his wallet… again… we are now in day 5 of the hunt with no end in sight. This is unusual, even for him.

Last Saturday night, as a thank you for volunteering at the Richard Sherman celebrity softball charity game pre- and post game events, we were invited to go bowling at Lucky Strike.

Because my mom had also volunteered, she brought along my dad, who showed up with his 60 year old antique bowling ball in a paper grocery sack. The funny thing is, I think I have not ever seen my parents bowl in my lifetime.

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My parents bowling-Like spotting a unicorn

I don’t wanna brag, but… okay maybe I do. I WON THE GAME! (The first one, anyways) My husband thinks the fact that I took multiple pics of the scoreboard and posted them to Facebook and instagram makes me a poor sport. I would have to agree- if I ever won at ANYTHING! When you’re a perennial loser, you’ve gotta celebrate the wins when you can get them.

The second game didn’t go quite as well. I guess I’m a one hit wonder. Someone told me that just means I gave my all the first time. I like her take on it better.

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The bowling crew. I don’t think any of us are going on the tour any time soon.

After we left at about 1030, Jeff said that he was craving a Dairy Queen blizzard. I told him I knew where there were DQ’s near our house, but when I looked up their hours, they were already closed. We found one about 15 minutes away from where we were that was open until 11. We screamed into the drive-thru at about 1045. He got a blizzard, I got a peanut buster parfait. We ate them on the way home in case our kids were still awake when we got there.

That was the last time anyone saw his wallet.

We’ve looked in all the regular places. We’ve looked in all the places that don’t make sense, but have previously been the location of his missing wallet.

We sent a text to Grandma Toni asking if Parker knew where it might be. Her response was that he gave an indignant denial.

As a result of him having no credit cards, ID or cash, I have become his sugar momma. Of course, all the money I’m spending he earned, but every time the check comes, he shoves it towards me and says, “She’s buying.” He appears to get great pleasure out of doing this.

Last night I said, “I’ve gone over all the regular stupid places that make no sense for your wallet to be that you’ve put it in the past. No luck. I don’t even know where else to look.”

He said, “A while back I hid it and lost it for a day. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone.”

“You forgot where you hid it?”

“No. I forgot THAT I hid it. I kept trying to figure out where it could be, and then I remembered that I purposely hid it. When you have a bad memory every day is an adventure.”

“You shouldn’t do stuff like that.”

“When you have a bad memory, you can’t remember that you shouldn’t do stuff like that.”

The ironic thing is that his memory issues don’t extend to numbers. He can still tell you his own childhood phone number, many of his childhood friends’ numbers, and even the amount he spent on airfare for our honeymoon to Cabo. In 1997.

This morning he said, “I know you’ve hidden it. You can tell me where it is now.”

I responded, “Right. Because I wanted to spend my kid-free week ferrying you around and running errands for you instead of sitting in the sun reading a book.”

The truth is we are too old and senile to be clever when it comes to putting things away. We need to be obvious, or we will spend 3/4 of our days hunting down necessities like car keys and wallets.

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Apparently the entire 8% deficiency is  his propensity for losing his wallet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balls, Brits and Country Music

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Welcome to the official first edition of Burnt Ends! In case you missed yesterday’s post, http://kbjackson.com/welcome-to-burnt-ends/, I am trying out a new format for my blog that will hopefully be a little more reader-friendly ( and also writer-friendly.)

Let’s get down to it!

balls in the air

This past week has left me seriously fried- in the brain, on my skin, and as you probably read yesterday, down to my eyeballs. I had envisioned lazy summer days, sleeping in, drinking ice tea, reading a book on a lawn chair while the kids gleefully jumped through the sprinklers.

The days of early alarms, yelling at kids to eat breakfast, brush their teeth and throw their shoes on were to go away as soon as the last bell rang in June, right?

Nope.

Reality set in last week when Nathan started tennis camp and got even more real when Parker started soccer camp this week.

Alarm going off an hour and 15 minutes earlier than during the school year, dragging Nathan and Parker out of bed, yelling for them to eat brush their teeth, get their shoes (cleats) on…

Nathan’s camp is at my old high school, my old stomping grounds.  It’s a 15- 20 minute drive down the hill into my hometown. His instructor, Andy,  grew up two blocks down the street from me. His dad was and is the tennis coach at my high school, and Andy is a tennis pro at a club in another town.

Parker’s camp is closer to our house, but starts at the same time as Nathan’s camp, so I have to drop Nathan off early to get Parker there on time.  The courts will be empty for another 20 minutes.

This morning I noticed a large group of pretty girls standing not too far from the courts.

“Look! pretty girls! I wonder if they are cheerleaders.”

“They are,  they were here yesterday. ”

“Oooh good. you can look at the pretty girls while you wait for everyone to show up!”

“I’m not going to watch them like some creeper! Seriously. You are creepier than any guy I know!”

Those were his parting words as he got out of the car.

Parker’s soccer camp is run by a bunch of players flown in from the UK for the summer, whose accents and flat out adorableness require me to put in a little more effort getting ready than I might normally make. I have, in the past, been known to roll directly from my bed to the car when having to do early morning drops-offs. Not the case this week, I can assure you.

Parker’s coach is Declan, a young lad from Scotland who can’t be more than 21. His brogue is so thick that I do a lot of smiling and nodding and hope he’s not actually asking me a question I’m supposed to answer. Have you noticed those UK accents always sound like they are asking questions even if they aren’t?

I had anticipated hearing that Parker spent the entire time grilling him on the Loch Ness Monster, but so far he has restrained himself. I asked him if he wanted to wear his Union Jack shirt to camp (You know, the Benedict Arnold shirt he wore to our 4th of July celebration?)

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He declined, and then stuck his tongue out at me for even suggesting it. He did tell me that he’s learning to “speak Scottish,” which I assume to mean he’s starting to be able to understand Declan’s instructions.

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Meanwhile, Zoe’s new obsession has arrived via UPS in the world largest box. (Someone needs to explain to me how Amazon can give free shipping on a box that would cost me a thousand dollars to mail. )

She’s been asking for a guitar for months, and finally last week her “Adam Levine acoustic guitar” arrived. Parker immediately took off with the giant box and turned it into his new home.

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At one point he was using the flap as a table for his tv remote and a cup of water.

Zoe’s never taken lessons, but that doesn’t stop her from strumming and singing at the top of her lungs.

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She told me she wants to be the female Justin Bieber, to which I replied, horrified, “No! You don’t want to be like Justin Bieber!”

She reassured me that she only meant in the way that he was discovered. Unfortunately that means posting videos on YouTube, which I find concerning in itself.

farmers and country music

I tend to be one of those people who lives my life in phases.  Earlier this year I ate a lot of pineapple and listened to Reggae in order to escape the winter doldrums. Last year I went through an “All Motown all the time” phase.  This year, in addition to binge-watching “Hart of Dixie,” crushing on Farmer Chris on “The Bachelorette,” and spending a whole lot of time in my hometown full of small town charm and attractive people selling things at the farmer’s market, it has become the summer of country music.

Nathan is not happy about this development, especially since he’s been spending about an hour a day in the car with me coming and going from tennis camp. There’s something about driving through the valley into town- the hay bales dotting the fields, the tractors hoeing the rows, the corn that’s already as tall as my waist- that makes me want to listen to country music right now. I can’t explain it.

Yesterday he was heckling me about the music.

I said, “Zoe’s been listening to it more than you, and she’s finding songs she likes,”

He responded, ” Yeah, well if you dive in a dumpster for an hour, you’re likely to find something that’s not complete trash. But you’re still in a dumpster.”

As you might imagine, I had a difficult time coming up with a rebuttal for that one.

Last Saturday night I made homemade minestrone and roasted redneck garlic bread using mostly vegetables I had bought at the farmer’s market.

My husband has inferred that a simple observation of attractive organic fruit and vegetable purveyors has influenced my organic fruit and vegetable purchases of late.

I argue that it’s merely love and care for my family that motivates me to hit the market each week. I think I should be offended by his inference. Don’t you?

After trying the soup, he smirked and said, “It tastes extra hunky.”

 

white noise

 

Jeff got a white noise machine last week to help him sleep. I was totally okay with the idea, until that night at 10 pm when he turned it on.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to sleep.”

“But I’m watching TV and now all I can hear is ‘shhhhhhh.'”

“I need it to help me sleep.”

I stared incredulously at him for a moment, and then a moment or two longer.

He stared back.

We had a stare-off.

“Does it at least have another setting other than ‘10,000 shushing librarians?’ Waterfall? Rain maybe?”

“Blame it on the rain,” He sang.

He reached over, but instead of turning off the machine like I hoped, I began to hear the opening melody of “Blame it on the rain,” by Milli Vanilli streaming out of his phone.

“No.” I said.

He giggled. “Blame it on the rain. Blame it on the rain.”

“This is NOT okay,”

“Blame it on the rain! Blame it on the rain!” He sang.

I gave up, turned off the TV and rolled over to the sounds of Milli Vanilli and the 10,000 librarians.

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