Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Paranoia Part 2: The Principal's Office

For some reason, it doesn’t seem to matter how benign the circumstances, sitting down in the office of a school  principal gives me a bad case of gastrointestinal distress.

Maybe that’s because most of my life, I’ve been a smidge shy of  being totally innocent.

And maybe it has something to do with the fact that there have been way too many visits in a principal’s office over my lifetime that have left me attempting to swallow my heart and my stomach out of my throat and back into their correct anatomical positions.

So when #2 gorgeous model birthed of my loins called me on Monday saying I had to go right that second to meet with the high school principal about her dropping a dual credit math class, it was all I could do to remove the vise grip from around my chest. It didn’t help matters when she threw in a spare comment about him having something else to visit with me about.

Crap.

The voices inside my head went something like this:

“What else would he have to visit with me about? Maybe my bad habit of ending a sentence with a preposition? Nope. This new guy’s a math teacher, not an English teacher. Uh-oh. What if he is less than impressed with my blogging about his coaches?”

Double crap.

“I bet that’s it. I bet he wants me to lay off the blogging where his staff is concerned. I bet he didn’t like something I said. I bet…”

“Or maybe that isn’t it at all. Maybe it’s something else. What did I do? Think, Angie. What stupid, well-intentioned act did you undertake that’s got you in the hot seat with someone for whom you don’t even work?”

“Stop it. You don’t really know that there’s anything wrong. Just go take care of the little meeting so your kid can get out of dual credit hell and quit making it into something worse.”

“Yeah, but she said there was something ELSE.”

Meanwhile, I took off walking toward the school (it’s only a block away, and after all, I AM attempting to be a little bit green) carrying 3 dozen eggs to be delivered to a customer who had planned to come by and pick them up during the time that I was now spending in the principal’s office.

I handed off eggs to #2 daughter to deliver. “That’s for making me come over here.”

He very graciously greeted me, invited me into “the office” and proceeded to offer me a chair in front of the desk behind which he was about to be seated.

I hate that position.

It’s so freakin’ intimidating.

And if it freaks me out, how freaked out are parents who haven’t spent 18 years in and out of that office.

He was very nice. Just making sure I understood that she was wanting to  drop the college credit part of the class, which I did, and had in fact encouraged after watching her have a psychotic meltdown the first week of school.

I’ve seen dual credit math induced psychotic meltdowns before.

They aren’t pretty.

It’s really disturbing for a parent to watch a child have an academically self-induced meltdown that can’t be helped with medication or sleep.

So there I was acknowledging that I had in fact attempted to discourage the whole dual credit thing in the first place.

He had kind words for my #2 progeny. He even chuckled a bit about her honesty when he had asked her if she had given it her very best shot and received a response of “probably not.” I think he appreciated her straightforwardness. At least someone does. I find it rather annoying at times.

Especially when she is telling me what she really thinks….about me.

And for the record, at no time during this little meeting did my heart and stomach ever remove themselves from my throat.

When he indicated the conversation was over, I asked him if there was something else he wanted to talk to me about. After all, the kid had said there was. That had been a significant part of my stomach/heart-in-throat syndrome.

He looked at me funny saying, “No. I don’t think so.” And I left.

No grievances filed.

No parents threatening to sue me.

No fear of losing my job because I had ticked off the school board.

No documentation in my permanent record.

I just walked out.

And the voices inside my head said, “You dope. You stressed out over nothing.”

To which I replied, “ANYTIME a principal’s office is involved, I will stress out. It’s never ‘nothing’.”

(Should I be worried that I actually answered the voices inside my head?)

Just thinking about it makes me wonder if I need to go see a cardiologist….

…or just invest in a white jacket and some wall padding.

….or tell the principal to lose the desk and office next time he wants to talk to me about something.

That’s it. Next time I receive a principal summons, I’m going to insist on a neutral meeting place with no furniture.  Maybe then my heart and stomach will stay in their proper anatomical positions.

And that’s all I have to say ’bout that.

Hair-Trigger Paranoia Switch

Yesterday was highly productive. I accomplished nothing other than taking a nice long trip down the road to paranoia. In other words, I wasted my whole day worrying about something that wasn’t even a problem, and in the process, probably created a few that didn’t previously exist.

So how can I say it was highly productive?

Because I now have about two weeks worth of writing material for explaining to the world why I lost my already fragile sanity, its effects and related trauma, and how things could have been different.

The right-brained version of the story is as follows:

My middle girls came home saying the coaches told them no parent could talk to the coaches about anything unless the girls had talked to the coaches about it first. I freaked, thinking an email question I had sent caused this reaction, and immediately wanted to talk to the coaches about it so I could fix it.

That’s what I do…I fix things.

But I couldn’t, because the girls said if I did, they’d be punished. And I typically try my best to follow rules, especially if not doing so could harm my girls. I mean, I won’t even take more Tylenol than the bottle says because I’m afraid I might die if I do.

Now for the gory details…

The email I sent to one of the coaches had gone unanswered for three days. I, being the ultimate gauge of and highly sensitive to everyone else’s feelings, was already becoming slightly paranoid that I had somehow violated the parent-coach boundary that each coach draws for themselves when they arrive at a new place.

I mentioned to #3 daughter that I had emailed the coach about ankle braces yet hadn’t received a reply, to which she responded, “So you’re the reason they gave us that speech today.” And proceeded to explain what the discussion had been and which coach had given it.

<GULP>

It was the sweet lady head coach whom I consider a good friend. Someone I can sit and talk to for hours on end when the timing is right. But she had changed jobs since we had one of those good talks. She now has a new role in my family’s life, and I wasn’t quite sure yet what her boundary looked like.

And now I couldn’t even contact her to ask her, because MY GIRLS SAID doing so would result in physical punishment and loss of playing time.

Someone explain to me why I would suddenly start listening to my girls and actually abiding by their wishes? That’s never been a real problem for me before.

So rather than go find my friend/coach and ask, “What the crap?….” I just stewed. And nursed some growing resentment. How dare someone tell me I can’t talk to my kids’ teachers?

I couldn’t go talk to her. My kids SWORE life as they knew it would end if I did.

And then the passive aggressive in me kicked in.

And the “encouraging” posts on Facebook to all my educator friends kicked in….you know…the ones that said crap like, “…build communication bridges with parents……not intimidation….” and “….do kids and parents feel safe talking to you or do they perceive you as a threat…”?

What can I say? I’m a positive passive aggressive.

And a bit of a jerk.

And a little more than slightly paranoid.

But my hands were tied, because I THOUGHT I couldn’t go ask my friend what was up even though everything inside of me wanted to march right straight into her classroom and ask, “What the heck?”

So finally, I emailed her. Subject line: Amnesty. I begged for her not to punish my girls for my intrusion into her coaching life, then proceeded to spill my paranoid guts to her.

And I waited.

And I got no response.

Of course it was after lunch when I sent it, but surely she’d had a chance to see it before leaving her classroom, and since she didn’t respond with her characteristic, “…you dork! Of course you can talk to me!”, it could only mean one horrible, terrible thing…..she….wasn’t….speaking…..to…..me!!!!!

After all….it was the new law.

After wallering in this most of the day, shedding some tears of frustration (yes, I even cried over this little incident), making a butt-head of myself on Facebook, and second guessing myself the whole time, I finally noticed her “arrival” on Facebook chat.

I clicked on her name.

Then I closed it.

Then I clicked on it again.

Then I couldn’t think of a way to non-chalantly start a conversation without being one of “THOSE” parents.

Finally I had a brilliant opening line.

Me: “Hey, Girl! How are you? I miss coming to your rescue when you have a technology question.”

Her: “I miss you, too!”

A few other pleasantries.

And then she asked if she was the mean coach being referenced in my conversation on FB.

Crap! I tried to delete that comment before anyone saw it. I had tried not to use the words coach or athletics anywhere in my stuff yesterday, but one of my commenters knew and it slipped.

Then I confessed to my dilema.

And my emotional roller coaster.

And how stupidly paranoid I was being.

And how much time and energy I had wasted worrying, stressing, and being mad over it all.

And I don’t know if she laughed, or felt betrayed that I didn’t trust her.

But she made everything okay.

And she explained the “context” of the conversation with the girls and what her purpose was in insisting the girls talk to her about any team problems before allowing a parent to get involved.

Context is everything.

Hearing it from her was SO different than hearing it through my girls.

And while I confess to being a total complete donkey-butt, it has given me SO MUCH to think about.

…things like how easily the real message can get lost in the details of the process…

….or how quickly we can unintentionally trigger someone’s defensive fight or flight response even when we have the best of intentions…

…and how important it is to me to know that I can communicate freely with the adults that are helping to shape my kids’ lives.

But mostly, I learned that my paranoia switch has a hair trigger, and I really need to get a life.

Myths About Public Education

For 18 years, I juggled being a mom to four amazing girls with being employed in public education. In a large school district, that might not be such a big deal. In a small school district, it can be simultaneously rewarding and exceedingly frustrating.

During that time, I rode that uncomfortable picket-topped fence almost daily.

I had incredible, amazing, life-altering experiences as a teacher, and I had horrible experiences as a teacher (most of which I brought on myself in some way). I had fabulous mommy experiences and I had some really sucky mommy experiences.

Now that I’m off the fence and playing in my own yard, I still experience the frustrating tug of balancing being minimally involved in my kids education with being a protective mama bear.

There were many things I learned along the way both as a parent and as an educator. The most significant to me are the mixed signals sent by public education. Most of the mixed signals are the result of state and federal funding agency mandates handed down to districts who must then show evidence of having met those mandates, most of which were generated as a result of public outcry to politicians.

I call these the myths of public education.

Myth: Parent involvement is critical for your child’s success in education.

Truth: Schools typically prefer parents to show up for open house and similar activities a few times a year, sign a piece of paper saying they were there and thus involved, then get out of the way and leave the school alone.

Explanation: Parents who are involved many times are seen as pushy, over-protective, and prone to cause headaches for the school. An involved parent may see things that could stand a little improvement, and as a result, they create more work and cost the school district money. It’s best to leave them out of things unless absolutely necessary.

Solution: I’ve often wished we could all tuck our feelings deep down inside and simply focus on what’s best for students. Education is supposed to be a service oriented business, not a factory. As a massage therapist, I must listen and respond to my clients needs and wishes if I expect to be paid by them or have their repeat business. Really good school administrators have the ability to separate their personal feelings from the job and TRULY listen to what students and parents have to say. Sometimes outside observers see things that those in the trenches can’t see. I’ve experienced both kinds of administrators–those who really listen regardless of whether they agree with me or not, and those who won’t shut up explaining why they are right long enough to hear my concerns. Service oriented businesses listen to and respond to their customers if they wish to stay in business. A service oriented business would never insist a customer keep quiet or have their children face the consequences of parent involvement.

Myth: Special Education wants to help your special needs child have the best possible and most successful educational experience allowed by law.

Truth: Most schools are concerned with the bottom line….money.

Explanation: You need to know your rights and be prepared to face some opposition if your child’s accommodations are going to be costly. It’s not that they don’t want to help your kid, it’s just that sometimes money doesn’t go as far as they would like, and what doesn’t get spent on your kid can be spent on other things down the line. It also entirely depends on how you approach them. Being nice goes a long way, but sometimes you’ve just gotta put on your big girl panties and do what’s best for your kid. Hopefully it’s a peaceful, easy process. Sometimes it isn’t.

Solution: See the first myth above. Remember, education is not a factory. It’s a service oriented business.

Myth: Highly Qualified equals good teacher.

Truth: Most REALLY good teachers are born, not made.

Explanation: No amount of education and training can prepare a rocket scientist to teach teenagers if he’s not people-oriented in some way. Conversely, while content knowledge is important, a truly talented teacher can effectively teach almost anything, even if it means they study their gluteus maximus off to stay about one chapter ahead of the kids.

Solution: Take the parts of No Child Left Behind that are working and move forward. Throw the rest of that crap out the window. HQ is basically a good thing, yet it needs to make room for recognizing when a school is better off hiring a good teacher rather than a highly qualified teacher.

Myth: Students determine the atmosphere of a school. Some groups are just bad.

Truth: Leadership at the top determines the school climate, and positive energy flows downhill.

Explanation: Kids show up with a wide variety of life experiences. A few arrive from the Leave It To Beaver home, yet most do not. Awe, who am I kidding…the Leave It To Beaver moms are homeschooling these days. Most kids arrive with some sort of stress in their life (more prevalent in some groups than others), which means their energies are probably scrambled and learning will only happen once they believe they are safe.

Solution: That happens when a teacher creates a positive space that allows students to feel safe. THAT happens when teachers arrive at school to a work place that feels safe. I don’t mean full body scans and security cops sort of safe. I mean safe as in the boss respects them and empowers them to do their job. Safe as in things are consistent and predictable and make sense. Safe as in, when the teacher is scrambled and stressed to the point of fight or flight, there is someone who has the ability to help them calm that stress response and reorganize those scrambled energies.

That means the boss shows up with a positive outlook, emitting energy that supports, heals, re-directs, and simply works. It also means the boss encourages and facilitates communication between parents, teachers, and students. Bullying is never allowed, especially between adults and students. Adults are example setters, not mirrors of student behavior. Parent feedback is welcome, even when it is critical.

Parents are the customers; educating their child is the service. Schools would do well to always remember that.

What other myths exist in public education? What are the solutions?

Allowing

One of the most powerful lessons I’ve had to learn in my life is that my way isn’t necessarily the right way or the only way.

Shocker, isn’t it?

The other thing I’ve had to learn is that others can be right even when their right is different from my right.

There is usually more than one right way……

…and the world doesn’t come to an end nor do heaven’s gates slam shut just because someone uses a different right way.

On my spiritual journey, I’ve had to do a lot of allowing: Allowing myself to change my mind about what I believe, allowing myself to realize (and…gasp….ADMIT) that maybe others were right 20 years ago when I thought they were completely wrong, allowing others to remain where they are and not attempt to pull them along on MY journey, allowing them to have an opinion that is different from mine and not attempt to convince them otherwise, and on and on it goes.

It hasn’t been easy, nor all that successful. It’s certainly not in my nature. It has required a lot of patience over the years from those I care about. I can be a real wench when I’m convinced I’m right.

I’ve done a lot of “beating over the head” in my 42 years of life.

I’m pretty sure I started that favorite pastime as soon as I could mutter my first words.

And as I sit back and recognize the many recent changes that have occurred in my ways of thinking, most without my really asking for them, I realize that there is a force in the universe that leads us where each of us needs to go, be, or do at a particular time in life.

Sorting through my mother-in-law’s papers has re-opened my eyes to this. She wielded a mighty pen in the name of traditional Catholicism, right to life legislation, seat belt privacy (there’s a contradiction if I ever saw one), and no sex education in schools. I find myself wavering between a tinge (okay, a LOT) of bitterness (my views are quite different in many ways), and respect for her passions…..allowing her to be what she needed (needs) to be and respecting her own version of rightness.

That same force that I believe opened my eyes to other perspectives  is the force that led me to walk away from a church rather than try to change it. The awareness in my head said very clearly that their ways are right for them and that while I might disagree, it’s not my job to change them. They are beautiful people who do many good things in this world. Leave them alone and let them be.

And so, I did. Sorta.

Yet I have much work left to do on that whole allowing thing. Too often I find myself criticizing their beliefs, methods, procedures, and more. It makes me wonder what’s still at work inside of me if I feel the need to be so defensive about my own beliefs and critical of theirs.

I guess when the time is right, I will be ALLOWED to figure it out.

How’s that allowing thing working for you?

Magnum PI DejaVue and a Jail Break at the Farm

We had a jail break yesterday. Apparently our horses, Buddy and Shorty, both lacking anything important resembling manhood (studhood?), were quite upset when their female pasture companion for the last month had to go back to her home way out in the country.

I didn’t realize just how upset they were…..

….Until I returned from picking up HorseGirl from cheerleading camp only to find my baby girl running up and down the barditch between our farm and the football field and acting like a lunatic. Then I saw them….the big beasts that had just busted through my pathetic attempt at a horse fence. They were enjoying the munchies available on the other side of the road…..visitor’s side concession stand.

I slammed on the breaks, hollered at HorseGirl to jump out and get her horses, backed up that minivan and jumped out with her.

HorseGirl hollered at my baby to go get halters. Meanwhile HorseGirl and I did everything in our power to keep the nutless wonders contained and calm. Belly scratching was working pretty well…until Buddy decided to move and my sandal clad foot decided to be under his 25 year old hoof.

Forgive me Father…I know not what I said, but I’m pretty sure it probably wouldn’t be suitable in church…..if I ever went.

Pretty sure my mom wouldn’t approve either.

Halters arrived, horses were under control, and HorseGirl led them both back to their jail…er…uh….pasture. A little feed, and our adventure was over….I thought.

A few minutes later, my hubby calls and asks if the horses are out. I told him, “Not anymore.” He said he was listening to the police talking about horses being out and trying to find them.

I looked out the window and saw no less than two cop cars driving by. HorseGirl was trying her best to hide until they drove away. I figured they were trying desperately to find the “loose” horses and in an attempt to relieve their desperate search, I walked out to give them the scoop.

The first police car had already driven off, but the second one, unmarked yet obviously a police package car (I know this from my years of being a sheriff’s daughter—valuable and important information for life), was still driving slowly. I waved. He rolled down his window. I didn’t recognize him. Strange– because I know almost everyone of any authority around here. It makes me feel important.

I gave him the whole ugly story, including the part about the agonizing pain on the top of my foot, then stuck my hand out towards him and introduced myself. He obviously needed to know me. Had he been bald and wrinkled, I might have been less forthcoming, but this older dude was still sporting a good amount of hair that was actually still on his head, plus he had a thick salt and pepper colored ‘stache on his top lip.

Since I consider myself quite a connoisseur of attractive older men, I had dubbed him worthy of knowing me. He reciprocated the introduction, handed me his card, and we parted ways.

Five minutes later as I looked at the name on the card, I had a serious dejavue moment.

Serious dejavue.

Flashback to 1980. I was about 12. We had a fun lady coach for junior high athletics. She always commented how her husband looked like Tom Selleck/Magnum, PI. He came to a few of our trackmeets, and most of us agreed. At the ripe old age of twelve, we all helped her admire the deliciousness that was her man.

Time passed. Thirty years to be exact. As the CSI photo enhancing computer in my head did its amazing aging work, I stood there realizing that I had just had a personal encounter with Magnum. Him. That man who was once the spouse of my coach.

Poor sucker.

Next time I see him, I have to tell him. HAVE TO. It’s a desperate obsession.

Am I weird or what? Do any of the rest of you remember this?

So yeah….crazy horses and a huge dose of dejavue. Turned out to be a good day, I’d say.

A Tale of Many Paradoxes

Things have continued to progress this week as I sort through the many artifacts and memoirs found in my in-law’s home. Also continuing are the a-ha moments and the reminders of my mother-in-law’s many passions.

…and the paradox of contradiction so many of her passions hold.

It fascinates me that a woman who is so passionate about the right to life movement is also very anti-government regulation when it came to seatbelt laws. Even late into her seventies she would sit across the street from the local Planned Parenthood office with her right to life poster. She sent letters to every Catholic congressman scolding them for their Democrat views on abortion. And yet, a couple of days ago when I took her back to her house to pack a few more things, she gave me that look of disgust when I reached for the seatbelt to buckle her in.

It fascinates me that someone who was such an avid co-producer and preserver (with my f-i-l) of locally grown food was quite the cheerleader for the proposed nuclear waste dump site near our community. (Thank God we were deprived of that one.)

It’s both a fascinating and fortunate-for-me paradox that this beautiful lady who carried no less than eight babies, delivered six live births, and saw five of the most handsome men on the planet into adulthood is very outspoken against anything that resembles sex education in the schools.

And the one that strikes me as most ironic and yet which links us in so many ways…..

This amazingly passionate woman so fiercely believed in maintaining all of the traditional Catholic ways. She wrote letters to priests and bishops. She stood up strongly and with great conviction in the face of people who weren’t very nice to her, and eventually walked away from her church home because it didn’t seem right to continue participating in something that didn’t align with her conscience.

Then a few years later, she acquired me into her family: Staunch Church of Christ and anti-Catholic, right-to-lifer who prefers women have freedom of choice (no legislating morality for me), total seat belt advocate (hey, it’s a safety issue, not a morality issue), health educator who participated in teaching the sex ed classes at school, grateful user of non-hormone birth control methods (yes, I really did use something–if I hadn’t, there might be 15 instead of just four!), and the real kicker……

A daughter-in-law who ultimately left “The Church” because of it’s refusal to change at a rate with which I was comfortable. Or maybe it was because I changed and the church couldn’t, wouldn’t, or wasn’t supposed to keep up with me. Either way, it seems sort of funny that both of us walked away from a church, yet for reasons that are so polar opposite .

So many conversations have gone unspoken or unheard (if they were spoken) because it has always been easier to ignore the differences than to engage in a passionate hurtful debate. We have instead simply chosen to love (or sometimes tolerate) one another. Our common link is a gorgeous hunk of a man whom she birthed, I caught, and we both adore.

And for the record, I was, of course, ALWAYS right. ;-)

A Week of Emotional Challenges Topped Off with Some Religious Extortion

It’s been a busy and somewhat emotional week. My in-laws are now more-or-less settled into their new home at what I have known my entire life as the nursing home. It was always a very scary and uncomfortable place to me. Smelly, disheveled old wrinkled faces, wheel-chair-bound-droopy-headed nappers, bony hands reaching out to touch anything that resembled youth….most waiting and hoping to die quickly. That has long been my image of this particular place. I even have a phobia of wheel chairs.

My in-laws don’t belong in a place like that.

I guess it’s a good thing that this particular place has changed a lot over the years. Yes, there are still a few sites and sounds that an unprepared and even shallow person might not handle well, and yet there are many more sites of older people who still have lots of life left to live, who simply can’t handle all of the day to day chores of staying in and maintaining a household, and whose extended families aren’t equipped to handle the job for two households. For these people, I prefer to think of this as more of an assisted living situation. They have actually been set free from the prison that their house had become with its steps and chores and bathtubs and navigation obstacles and social isolation.

With them settling in fairly well comes the chore of cleaning out and sorting through decades of stuff. With that task comes even more emotional stress. It’s not like they are dead, yet we know they won’t be living at that house again. What do I throw out? How many people must I consult before getting rid of something? How do I distribute mementos? What if I hurt someone’s feelings?

I am paranoid that I’ll hurt someone’s feelings.

That solution has been easier than I thought it might be. Every family represented by one of the boys has their “stack”. In some cases the stacks are tubs. Anything that represents one of those boys or their families goes into their tub. If it is strictly representative of the in-laws, it goes in the in-laws tub for the boys to decide amongst themselves at some point. If it is plastic (almost without exception), it goes to the dumpster. I’m not dealing with plastic, and yes, I know I could have a garage sale or donate it or recycle it, but that stuff isn’t good for us anyway.

I am also sorting through decades worth of mail, most of which is saved Catholic newspapers, articles, donation requests, donation thank yous, and more. If my “faith” in religion hadn’t already been shot to what I perceive as a non-existent hell before, it is pretty much sitting in the middle of it now.

I found response and affirmation letters where my mother-in-law had dutifully sent a donation of God only knows how much to some place (where people have nothing to do but pray and clean and read church law) begging them to pray for the repose of her son’s soul.

It really pissed me off that religion terrorizes people into believing that their loved one might not be at peace and then extorts money from them to pray him into heaven.

Even worse is that they do it in the name of a spiritual man who taught against that kind of crap.

My own religion did that, minus the extortion thing. It just terrorized people while they were living into fearing they wouldn’t be quite good enough to get into heaven so that their final days were full of worry instead of excitement. It also terrorized families whose deceased children hadn’t been following (their version of) “The Way” into spending their entire lives dreading the judgment day when daughter Susie would go the way of the goats while hopefully mommy and daddy went with the sheep.

In all fairness to the convent sisters and monastery dudes their letters of response were quite sweet.

What the heck is repose of the soul anyway?

Oh yeah…I have the internet. According to NewAdvent.org, “[We define] likewise, that if the truly penitent die in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for their sins of commission and omission, their souls are purified by purgatorial pains after death; and that for relief from these pains they are benefitted by the suffrages of the faithful in this life, that is, by Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and by the other offices of piety usually performed by the faithful for one another according to the practice [instituta] of the Church” (ibid., n. 588)….”

In other words, your loved one is in a quasi-hell right now and you can shorten their stay in that bad place if you give the church money to perform a mass for him, and the more you give and the more masses we perform, the sooner he gets to get out of hell. So if you are really rich and donate lots of cash-ola, your evil Uncle can get to heaven fairly quickly, while this poor mama who is barely eeking by goes without many of life’s luxuries in hopes of someday getting her tragically-taken offspring into the pearly gates of heaven.

Don’t get me wrong. I think giving is a good thing. I know that by giving, we release something inside that allows more to flow into us. It’s that whole flowing river vs. stagnant Dead Sea thing. But seriously? Extortion of someone who is in deep emotional pain to financially benefit the church? Guess they need the money to pay off all the sex scandal victims.

So yeah….I enjoyed throwing most of that crap in the dumpster.

It’s been an emotional week.


Bittersweet Changes Hitting Us All At Once

A couple of years ago, my sweet hubby and I set our sites on a piece of land near the edge of town. It’s a place where horses and chickens can roam without bothering anyone, yet where we can have access to everything except a mailbox. It’s a place where kids can roam and feel like they are in the country, yet walk a block to school.

It’s a pretty cool space.

In a way, tragedy brought us the first piece of the puzzle. My hubby’s younger brother had a dream to build a small golf course on part of the land. He did a fabulous job in so many ways. He poured his heart and soul into it. Then on Thanksgiving Day 2001….after being called up for duty in support of the 9/11 operations, at age 38, he went to bed and never woke up.

Seven years later, as my kids began to fall in love with animals….larger than are allowable or practical in our “citified” back yard….we began to discuss the possibilities of the almost-wide-open-space that remained unused, unenjoyed for so long.

And in a ceremony of tears and symbolic letting go of the past, our sister-in-law graciously handed it over to us. It was and continues to be Cox’s Acres.

And as we looked around Cox’s Acre’s, we dreamed of moving in a house so we could live on the almost 9 acres full time.

Then some of my truth-telling made that appear to be an unwise decision, so we shifted the focus a bit towards a reality we could believe.

And a few years later we bought a small two bedroom house near the property and next door to my hubby’s elderly parents….mostly to protect them from what could be.

And we considered the possibility of eventually living on the properties we’d come to see as our refuge…our summer retreat.

Then thought occurred to us that his parents were not likely to be able to stay in the house forever and if we built our own, there would eventually be an extra house on the property that would require upkeep. We began to discuss the possibility of postponing our dream until the inevitable time that no one wants to discuss.

It sucks to think of his parents not being there.

It sucks more to feel like a vulture just waiting for life to take its course.

Then, in the midst of my own personal change (career, income, etc.), it happened. The time came. Quite suddenly, it seemed. Another health setback. Another fall. Another scare of what could have happened. Much discussion of the advantages of living in a space where the beds help lift a person up, the hallways are clear, doorways wide, breakfast, lunch, and dinner served on schedule with someone else doing the cooking and the cleaning 24/7. Where weekly beauty shop time meets wheel chairs and silver streaks of aged wisdom. Where there is more to do than sit in front of a TV 16 hours a day watching the mind-numbing crap on Fox News.

Where there once was fear, there is acceptance, recognition of a safer environment, and possibilities for a few more happy years.

And there’s a house. A part of our dream. A bittersweet moment when the generations pass the torch and there is both sadness for what was before and anticipation of what lies ahead. I’m not sure yet how it will all work out, and yet things are shifting.

It’s definitely been a summer of bittersweet changes. Releasing the security of a long-held job, writing about and releasing my spiritual baggage, sending my oldest across the ocean and soon to another state for school, and now this. All tinged with sadness, yet all pointing toward the next great adventure.

It makes me wonder what lies in store for next week.

Lessons Learned from a Wild and Crazy Week

This week has been full of enlightenment. Several lessons have come about as a result of my adventures.

1. Religious beliefs can really mess with a person’s ability to accept new ideas for personal improvement.

2. My home is perfect even though Martha Stewart would be appalled.

3. My children are fabulous entertainment for company. I believe the term “reality television” was used more than once this week.

4. I have emotional baggage. The Samsonite version. Without wheels. Bleah.

5. It is possible to add wheels to emotional baggage and roll it right on out. Thanks, Andrea, for helping me with this.

6. Getting a kid to the airport is easy. Getting her off the ground can be a bit more challenging.

7. Hurricanes affect more than just the coastal regions. They can also ground planes and wreak havoc with connecting flights out of the country.

8. It rocks to have family who live 15 minutes from the airport where my kid is locked in a grounded plane that is stuck on the tarmac with weather and mechanical issues.

9. Delta customer service is much better than I ever anticipated. Two hours and 15 minutes after the panicked “what do I do” call, we had a plan and a new ticket.

10. Thirty-five year old single German-speaking guys who don’t have children don’t place much urgency on notifying receiving end parents that their kid-for-a-month won’t be on the plane as expected. Note to self….just make the dang call myself.

11. The guilt of knowing said parents were probably freaking out with stress because their kid-for-a-month didn’t get off the plane as expected sucks rotten lemons. Note to self….just make the dang call myself.

12. Never allow a child to experience any place more beautiful than home if you wish to see her reside in your part of the world ever again. Just don’t do it. They tend to send you messages from abroad that say things like, “It’s beautiful here. Think I’ll find a man and stay forever.” That’s okay honey. Just be sure you build the mother-in-law quarters, b/c I’ll be coming to visit. Is that really what you want??????

13. Having everything calm down and return to quasi-normal rocks. I’m going to take a nap for a few days. Don’t bother waking me.

This is Me

Summer vacation is here, and this time, it is here in a very big way. My job with the school district is over. Ended. Done. That should mean time to relax, plan, create, enjoy, and did I mention relax?

Relaxing probably isn’t going to happen at this point. The rest of the month of June is scheduled and slotted and booked with this or that,  none of which truly lend themselves to relaxing.

The day after I left what was my job for the last time, we packed up our things and headed for New Mexico to visit relatives and get my oldest to her college orientation. It was fun, but it was stressful and tiring. I worry when I visit and stay with other people.

I worry about whether I’m helping out enough. I worry about how my kids are behaving and what rules they are breaking or how they might be corrupting someone else’s nice orderly lifestyle. I worry that they might make a mess or accidentally tear something up. Even with the reassurance of the host/hostess that everything is fine, I worry about what the hostess might be thinking…about me, my kids, and how we live our lives.

It doesn’t lend itself to much relaxing.

Now back at home, I have pretty much booked my week. I’m helping with a local foods day camp. We are having a garage sale this weekend. Guests are arriving on Sunday for a class I am teaching in my house next Monday-Wednesday.

And I worry some more.

I am worried that I haven’t promoted enough. I am worried that my house isn’t clean enough and won’t be. Actually I’m not worried about that one. I’m pretty sure on that one. I am worried that the guest bed won’t be comfortable enough. I am worried that ugly six legged creatures that love living in old neighborhoods will introduce themselves to my guests and reflect on me. I am worried that there is no way to get the bathrooms in a respectable condition and keep them that way for a week. I’m worried about what they will think of me if they see the real me. It’s just not very pretty by typical middle class standards.

And then I see Ronna’s blog post about how she’s not in charge of the damn thermostat, and once again I realize that this is me and I like my life…most of it anyway. I’d like for people to feel comfortable around me, but I will probably not ever please the Martha Stewart clan with my house keeping skills and guest accommodations.

I want to have the confidence of the beautiful lady with whom we stayed over the weekend. She has her way, she has her reasons, she’s realistic in so many ways. It is what it is and everyone else can take it or leave it, but she’s fine with it. I want that.

I want to be okay with me.

I want to be okay with whatever others think of me, of my family, of my living conditions.

I want to be able to relax and enjoy my space and my life without feeling like I have to jump through hoops to be acceptable.

Yes, folks, this is how we live. It’s not elegant. It’s not even sanitary most of the time. But it’s me. Kids are always happy and content in our space. They know they can’t mess anything up.

Why can’t adults see my world that way, too?

So now it’s time to get on the stick, so to speak. Much to do this week to get ready to impress.

Ugh! This isn’t fun at all.

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