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Random thoughts from a woman in love

I am sitting with my dad in CVICU after his (thankfully successful) quadruple bypass. The curtain to his room is closed, and the sounds from outside his room float into his room, muffled by the curtain. It sounds like a symphony. Monotone, hushed voices from the room next door as a family receives bad news is mixed with laughter from the workstation as nurses banter back and forth; The movement of equipment and the chatter of nurses and patients down the hall are the bass line, tapping a slow beat. Lovely and so sad at the same time. Some patients, like my dad, will be going home; some will not. Their families sit with red, tearful eyes as they figure out how to say goodbye and worry over ‘final’ details. Some have never talked about death decisions and are at a loss as to what to do. As if not discussing death will prevent it’s arrival. *sigh* Denial is not a shield, it’s a ticking time bomb.

Before you go out to enjoy this 3-day weekend, I bring you this PSA to remind you why we have a 3-day weekend.

The last Monday of May has been set aside by our government as a day to recognize/honor/remember the fallen men and women of our military who died to protect our basic freedoms and inalienable rights and to try to secure those same rights and freedoms for people in other countries.

Whether or not you “believe” in war, believe the reasons why we have gone to war in the past, or support current military efforts, each and every one of us who owes a debt of gratitude to these men and women and their families for stepping up and giving their lives for “us”. Take a minute, or 2 or 5, to reflect on that this weekend and remember these men and women and their families who have given so much.

I have many friends with children in the military – some are so very blessed to have their babies back home safely (finally) after anywhere from 2 to 8 tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, a few have had to bury their boys and receive that very special, heart-breaking folded flag –  Little comfort for losing a child, but these women stand strong and keep going in honor of their boys.

To all of them, I say THANK YOU. You will not be forgotten.

It’s been a while since I last posted. I have been busy, busy, busy with work, school and my dog. Work is exciting these days – we launched a new medical device in the U.K. and it’s taking off quite well. School has been…dull…I thought it would be more interesting since I’m studying Environmental Science, but I’m a bit bored with the class. The professor isn’t very enthusiastic about the course. Oh well – finals next week, and on to the next class.

As for my puppy – he managed to have a stroke a little over a week ago. *sigh* He was out doing his one-mile run with Steve and had a seizure (5 of them, actually). Scared the crap out of Steve. After a multitude of tests, an MRI and $3,000 spent at the emergency room, B is doing much better. He has partial paralysis on the left side of his face and is a bit slower and quieter than normal. Other than that, you’d never know anything happened. No more running for him. He’ll be moving at my speed from now on, not Steve’s, as soon as I get cleared for exercising again (damn back injury…) So, along with his liver and kidney problems caused by abuse from his previous owner, my dog now has dain bramage.  On the bright side, the cats have suddenly become very friendly towards him. They must sense he’s not well.  Good kitties!

It’s been a challenge to think creatively – I am giving myself one more week to recover from the craziness that has been my life lately, and then I MUST get back to writing. Crack that whip!

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So after a few hours of “break time” from the video game/parenting argument, I told Steve that I would appreciate it if he would try a different approach with the kidlet because of concerns that his relationship with Jamie is headed in the wrong direction.  His approach to the problem would solve nothing and only lead to pouting and more resentment.

Steve started to get all huffy-puffy defensive about the subject and tried to put his foot down, but one question from me stopped him in his tracks. I asked, “Do you agree I did a good job of raising my son?”  Ooooh!  Left jab to the solar plexus! I knew the answer he would give – “Yes.”

He made excuses, “But Jamie is spoiled.  He doesn’t respect me and he lies.”  I bobbed out-of-the-way of that one and took a right jab at him. “Yep, you’re right. He learned that behavior from a lazy mother who won’t discipline him and from a part-time father who parents by yelling all the time.  We are here to teach him better behavior. ”

After 10 more minutes of jabs and counter jabs, Steve finally told me, with tears in his eyes, “I don’t know what to do.  He hates me.” I did what no boxer in her right mind would do – I dropped my guard, hugged him tight and asked him to trust me.  I proceeded to lay out the plan, and he agreed to try it.  Round Two was over and I had won!

Jamie’s mother, God bless her, dropped of Jamie’s stuff the next morning.  Included in the “stuff” was the dreaded X-box, despite the fact we asked her to not bring it.  Ok – so we have some issues THERE, but we’ll address those another time.

When Jamie arrived later in the day, Steve very calmly explained to Jamie why he didn’t like the video games.  He then told Jamie that we have a new rule in the house, effective immediately:  Jamie would only be allowed to play video games for one hour each day, after homework and chores.  The game controller would be locked away when not in use.  Jamie angrily demanded that he be taken home because the rule was “stupid” and “not fair”.  We explained there would be no negotiating this rule and he would not be taken home.  He had a choice – one hour of games each day or none.  Calling his father or me names or throwing a temper tantrum would only result in no video games for the day; trying to negotiate a longer play time would result in no video play time for the weekend.  He quit his arguing and stomped off to his room to pout.

Dinner was a very, very quiet event.  After dinner, Steve handed Jamie the game controller, and told Jamie he would come get it back in one hour.  Steve also reminded him of the consequences of trying to negotiate a longer play time.  I was so proud of Steve – he did not raise his voice and remained very neutral as he restated the rules.  Woohoo!  As Jamie shut his bedroom door, Steve turned to me and said, “That felt good.  He seemed to listen to me.”  Yes, he did.

After the longest hour on record, Steve went upstairs, opened Jamie’s door and asked for the game controller.  Jamie sighed and rolled his eyes, told his online friends he had to go, and handed over the controller.  Oh my God! There was no argument (there was attitude, as we expected).  Steve thanked Jamie.

After he put away the controller, Steve invited Jamie to come downstairs to play Monopoly or Scrabble with us.  “Oh man! You are so going to be toast, dad!” Jamie yelled as he raced downstairs to get the Monopoly game board. We had a happy, laughter-filled competitive game of Speed-Monopoly, and Steve was “toast” at the end of the game.

As Jamie performed his victory dance around the kitchen, I had to smile and dance a little in my head.  Both the father and son had learned a lesson that day.  Thankfully, the rest of the weekend went the same way.  No arguments, no yelling and lots more fun than we had together in a long time.  Steve controlled his temper and Jamie responded so perfectly, it was like he was a new kid.  Boundaries do work, folks – for the parent AND the child.  I’m sure things won’t always go so smoothly, but we’ll keep working on those boxing…ummm…parenting skills and see how things go.  I think I won this match.

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Oh boy.  Our household has finally experienced a first – an argument between Steve and me.  After over a year of bliss, we are arguing about parenting, of all things.  The love of my life is the father of a 13 year old boy who now spends 4 days with us on every other weekend.

The aforementioned 13 year old boy is addicted to video games. Yes, addicted, and I believe it’s an addiction that can be managed through…parenting.  Gasp! What?  Parent the child? Heaven forbid! (I know, I know – my sarcasm is showing.)  Steve prefers the “enforcer” approach: demand at a deafening decibel that the video game system never make its way back into our home. It remains at the mother’s home. No ifs, ands or buts!  Disobedience would result in no more bi-weekly visitations. That got my Irish up.  Threatening a child with withholding of affection or security is wrong on so many levels. *sigh*

Remember when parenting meant setting boundaries to teach children how to manage themselves? I do.  My parents set very clear boundaries.  Respecting boundaries resulted in increased privileges and expanded boundaries.  Infractions resulted in swift, appropriate and as-promised punishment.

I once had my bicycle taken from me for a whole month one summer because I got caught riding it in the street, not once but TWICE!  I was 7.   My red Schwinn with white streamers on the handles sat locked up in the garage where I would gaze at it longingly every day for 30 very, very long days.  I loved that bike.  I learned a lesson from that transgression, and won’t do it again (ok – I’m 47 now and am allowed to ride my bike in the street, but I don’t ride against traffic…) Actions result in consequences – this is a lesson every child needs to be taught.

I learned a lot from my wonderful parental units.  For such young parents, they were so amazing.  They raised 4 daughters with love and patience, and, on the very rare occasion, a smack on the behind.  Steve’s parents were not so great (the stories I have heard from him and his siblings would curl your hair).  Actions from anger were the norm.  Fear was the parenting tool of choice.  Unfortunately, Steve is doing that “repeating history” thing.  It’s time he learned a different approach.

Normally, I will step out of the ring when he is parenting HIS son, but this time I am off the ropes, have my gloves on and am bobbing and weaving (pops taught us all how to box, can you tell?)  I am in this one until the ref calls Steve out on a TKO.  Now I just need to figure out how to teach parenting skills to a man who 1) feels like a failure as a parent and feels it’s too late to fix things; and 2) is more stubborn than a Scotsman.  It’s not too late.  This should be an interesting weekend.  Excuse me – gotta go.  I just heard the bell for ROUND ONE…

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I have failed as a parent.  I raised my son on my own from the time I was 5 months pregnant, and somewhere during that adventure, I screwed up.  Granted – he’s a great kid (can one still call a 23-year old a “kid”?)  He is an average student (lazy, forgetful about homework – you know, typical kid), hilariously funny, sloppy,  frugal just to the edge of miserly, and all of that Eagle Scout stuff – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, yada yada yada.  Even so, I have failed as a parent.

Jeff came to visit me last night while I was watching a repeat of yesterday’s Giants vs. Oakland A’s game (it was a good game – my boys won).  My lovely child, the one who I allowed to live after he colored his closet doors with black and purple crayons, blurted out, “Geez, how can you watch that? Baseball is so boring!”

The room began to spin as the remote fell from my hand and a loud ringing in my ears drowned out all other sound.  I could feel my heart pounding furiously as I tried to register what he had just said.  Keep breathing, keep breathing, I told myself.  I thought I was having a stroke.  Words failed me. The ringing in my ears would not stop. Baseball – boring? What was he talking about? Perhaps the stroke was causing me to misunderstand the boy. And then the ringing faded enough for me to hear his next words: “I hate baseball. It’s like watching paint dry.”  OH! MY! GOD!  I directed my shocked expression towards Steve – he would understand the look in my eyes meant “Call 911.  I am having a stroke!”

Steve handed me his tequila. “Here babes, take a sip. You are looking a little pale.”  I slammed that puppy like a college student slams a kamikaze.  The room slowly stopped spinning, and the ringing in my ears subsided. Heart rate slowed to normal.  I finally felt I could speak without slurring (well…maybe a little slur thanks to the tequila).  I turned to Steve.  “Is there a 12-step program we can put him in? Can Dr. Drew help him? Is it drugs? Alcohol? How do we do an intervention?”

“Geez, Mom – calm down!   I only said that I don’t like…” I raised my hand to stop him.  Another word from him would put me in a tailspin and might kill me.  Steve poured Jeff a Guinness and told him to sit down (and shut up).  He sat in silence for the next 6 innings, ignoring the game but not daring to say another word.  I sat curled on the couch wrapped in my quilt trying to figure out where I went wrong.  My heart was no longer in the game (although I did cheer when Burris hit a single to right field to win the game in the 11th inning).  My son hated baseball.  Where did I go wrong?  I have failed him as a parent.

I need Dr. Drew’s phone number…

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I listened patiently the other night while a mother complained to me that her 12-year old son “made” her take him to the skateboard park.  He apparently threatened to throw a temper tantrum if she didn’t.  Excuse me? A 12-year old boy THREATENED to throw a temper tantrum? Oohhhohohoho – BRRRRRRING IT!  I just heard a bell go off somewhere (the kind they use to mark the beginning or end to a round of boxing).

She asked me what I would have done.  Silly woman – I know she already knew that answer.  She’s heard me speak on parenting many times before:  If that were my son (and it would never have been my son, because he knew better…), I would have told him, “Wait! Let me sit down for this, I don’t want to miss a thing.  When you are done, it’s my turn.  My tantrums involve voluntary spasms of my hand and result in smacks against 12-year old butts.”

Now, I don’t condone random spanking, but there are times in a child’s life where a spanking is definitely in order.  When your 5-year old pulls her hand from yours, defiantly marches out into traffic and nearly gets hit by a car in the process, she deserves a spanking.  When you 12-year old son threatens social terrorism to get his way, he deserves a spanking.   When your 16-year old daughter cusses you out in front of her friends (or in private – matters not which), she deserves a public spanking.

I have been a parent for 23 years now.  And I have been a pretty good parent (per my son and his friends).  Not once have I caved to social terrorism.  To make a point, I once mimicked my son’s tantrum in the middle of a shopping mall – embarrassed the hell out of him.  He hasn’t thrown a tantrum in the 18 years since that incident.

Parents – please remember:  You are the parent.  You make and enforce the rules.  If you make a rule and don’t enforce it, you become…the government.  Not good.  If you say “no”, mean it.  If you say “yes”, own it.

We like to blame others for our children’s habits, attitudes or behaviors.  Stop that!  If your child isn’t physically fit, it’s yours and your child’s fault – not the fault of McDonalds, Pizza Hut or Cold Stone.  If your child back-talks you, it’s because you let him.  If she behaves like a spoiled rotten princess, you taught her to do so (or let her hang out with friends who taught her to do so).  Step up and parent, or get out of the way because your kids are going to run all over you.

*sigh* That 12-year old boy needed a “Come to Momma” meeting (actually, so did the mother – I am so disappointed in her for caving in and taking that child to the park). My “Come to Momma” meetings are also known as “Come to Jesus” meetings.  Listen to me, follow my rules, or else…there will be blood. Or no video games for a month. Whichever is less messy?

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So – there I was, ready to go.  A mug of coffee in each hand, books tucked under my arm, shoes nowhere in site when my dog asked me, “Wanna race?”  I looked him up and down.  He wriggled his ears and grinned at me.  “I know I can beat you. Only,  it’s not fair of you to tell me to ‘wait’ at the top of the stairs.  You know I can’t resist the ‘wait’ command.  It’s so…hypnotizing.” he said.   I shrugged my shoulders.  “Okay.  I’ll be fair.  Ready…set…go!”

Off we ran with me in the lead as we exited the bedroom and turned left towards the stairs.  He was gaining on me as I reached the first step, but I knew how to slow him down:  I stopped mid-step.  He stopped.  He was confused. Were we or weren’t we going downstairs?  He turned back toward the bedroom thinking, “She must have forgotten something…again.  Her age is definitely showing.”  I hopped on down the stairs.  I heard his feet slide on the hardwood floor as he realized he’d been duped and turned on his heel.

He barked and raced down the stairs after me, gaining ground quickly.  With just 5 steps to go, he was at my side.  He body-checked me into the banister, and leaped past me for the win.  He skidded at the base of the stairs and slammed into the front door, but he didn’t care.  He had won!  Victory was finally his!

Meanwhile, back on the stairs, I couldn’t regain my balance after that vicious body-check.  I raised my arms out to my sides to help, fully forgetting that I had several books under my arm and two mugs of lukewarm coffee in my hands.  The books bounced unceremoniously down the stairs as coffee painted a lovely abstract image on my cream-colored walls.  I dropped the coffee mugs in a desperate attempt to stave the fall, but my bare feet suddenly slipped out from beneath me. I fell butt-first on the 4th step, bounced without a bit of grace down the remaining steps, and landed on the oak floor with a loud bang.

And that, dear reader, is how I managed to herniate my L3, L4, L5 and S1 discs last week.  Do you know any good taxidermists? One that works with the canine species?

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My son, Jeff, is an Eagle Scout and an Assistant Scout Leader for his troop now that he is 23 years old.  I am extremely proud of him, not only for his accomplishments as a scout, but also for the man he has become and his general approach to life and his friends and family.  As I saw an elderly man panhandle at a traffic light the other night,  I flashed back to one of those moments where my son completely and absolutely amazed me to the point of tears.

At the wise old age of 16, Jeff asked me to stop at Safeway to get a snack for him and his friend Chris before they headed off to Castle Rock to go rock climbing.  He had his allowance burning a hole in his pocket.  I stopped at the store, and watched as the boys walked through the parking lot.  They passed a man who was sitting on the curb in front of the store holding a sign that said “Homeless and hungry. Can you help?”  The boys greeted him with a nod as they walked by.

I noticed that most people passing this man on the curb ignored him. Oh, how I hate that.  I thought, “At least acknowledge his existence, even if you can’t or won’t help him.”  Everyone should be treated with dignity, regardless of their circumstance.

As I began to search my cavernous purse for the Safeway gift card I had won at work, the boys came back out of the store.  Jeff stopped next to the man on the curb, handed him the bag of groceries he was carrying and then shook his hand.  What Jeff said to the man, I will never know, but it resulted in a smile and a laugh from the man as he said to Jeff, “God bless you. God bless you.”  I know my son said, “Thank you.  He already has!”  That’s his standard response when someone says that to him.  He and Chris returned to the car, empty-handed but smiling.

Jeff said, “That was cool.” as he dropped into the front seat.  I asked him what happened.  He said he didn’t feel right getting “junk food” after seeing the guy sitting at the curb, so he got a whole cooked chicken and some fruits and vegetables to give him  “I can wait until dinner, mom.  He looked like he hasn’t had a good dinner for a while.” Then, because I was getting teary eyed, he frowned at me and muttered, “It was the right thing to do, okay?  Can we go now?”  And that was it.  I let it go because Jeff didn’t want to talk about it anymore.  So on to Castle Rock we drove, listening to alt rock at a decibel that sent shock waves through my system and nearly made my ears bleed, but I didn’t care.  My son was becoming a good man with a kind heart.  I could suffer a little loud music for him that day.

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As I work toward rekindling the creativity I once had, I am reading others writings, looking for inspiration. So many writers offer inspiration in unexpected ways. The fact that one woman wrote a blog about not having an excuse for not writing her blog was inspiring. (Huh? Read it again – it’ll make sense eventually.)  She kept on going despite her lack of (desire, energy, inspiration?) to do so. That “Never give up, never surrender” attitude is inspiring and encouraging to me.

One of my favorite bloggers wrote today about how he fuels his inspiration to write, and another wrote about writing a journal as a way to improve your writing skills. Both were well-written essays that made me think about what inspires me, and helped to brush some of the cob webs from the right side of my brain. Somewhere underneath all that dust and clutter is a creative ember glowing and waiting to spark. I just need to apply the right fuel to feed the ember. *sigh* Is chocolate a combustible?

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