Monday, January 31, 2011


I've been making some observations lately.  It seems that more and more I am finding instances of a new condition.  I'm not sure if it's a virus, syndrome or disease, but this condition causes people to be completely unaware and unresponsive to their environment.  They operate as if they live in their own little worlds, navigating as though their actions and behaviors have no impact on any one else.  I call this condition obliviosity.

Examples of this condition include:
  • The lady driving her car who decides to take a left turn from the right lane by way of cutting across two lanes and almost getting smashed by the city bus (traveling in the left lane and clearly planning on going straight).
  • The guy who takes two steps off the escalator only to come to a complete halt, to check his phone.
  • The snowboarders who sit in a line across the top of the trail to strap in thereby creating an obstacle course for anyone who'd like to actually go down the trail.
  • The able-bodied people who choose to sit in the handicapped spots on BART immersed in their {book|phone|kindle|iPod} failing to notice much less move when someone who deserves the seat enters the train.
  • And, of course, the woman at the grocery store who parks her cart in the middle of the aisle, completely blocking your ability to get by.  She is likely chatting on her phone, comparing prices and/or distracted by her kids.  (Based on this observation, I think I might be infected too!)
Have you seen this condition lately?  Is it on the rise?  Do you think it's a virus, syndrome or disease?  Is there any cure?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

what do you do?

Volunteering and service organizations have been in my blood since I was a little kid.  I was raised in a small town and that's just what people did.  We didn't have a big city life full of options and volunteering felt more like helping out your family and neighbors more than anything else.

As a kid I helped my dad in the Lion's Club truck selling cheesesteak sandwiches.  I also did the Girl Scout thing.  My family was (is) a big Masonic family and I was a Rainbow girl, too.  All of these service organizations required a lot of time and commitment, but those were the values I was taught and it was the norm for me.

As an adult and parent, I did the parent's club thing until the politics and attitudes made me want to wretch.  However, I also did a stint on the board of my local city non-profit for many years.  Our organization ran the town paper and I had the opportunity to have the title "editor" with my own column, all for no good reason except I volunteered to take the job.

I found my favorite article the other day and I thought it was pretty good advice - especially for myself given the gloomy recent news. 

"How To Make Your Community a Better Place (and save your sanity)".

Life these days seems to go by at an extraordinary pace and often we are left feeling stressed out, cranky and tired.  All the cliches apply - "It's a dog eat dog world" - "Life is a rat race" - "The nice guy always finishes last".  That all may be true, but I keep a little quote on my desk to help me keep things in perspective.  It says, "Remember, even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat."  When I feel like the world is out to get me, I try to remember a few simply things to keep me nice and on an even keel.  I also realize that if everyone would do these things too, it would in turn, make the community a nicer place.

First, I try to remember to smile.  No matter what is going on and how distressed I may feel, when I walk down the hall at work, across the blacktop at my children's school or anywhere really, when I make eye contact with someone, I try to remember to smile.  No one I chance to meet needs to come under the little cloud hovering over my day.  The added benefit is that it can often lift up my mood when that person returns the smile.

Something else I try to do is not assume the worst.  It's easy to sit and think that the person that cut you off did it intentionally, but more likely they just didn't see you because they were in too much of a hurry also.  Or maybe that person didn't return your phone call because they never got the message and, instead, isn't being rude.  Either way, getting upset isn't going to change anything except your own mood.

Along that same thought, I try to remember my own faults.  No one is perfect and we all make mistakes.  So when I come around the corner with my shopping cart and run into someone, I immediately say I'm sorry.  I try to remember to apologize and not just for situations where I am obviously at fault, but even those times when it could be argued that the other person was in the wrong.  It is a simple way to diffuse a potential bad experience and what should be an insignificant "bump" in your day.  People may not be happy if you do something to inconvenience them, but they will be hard-pressed to find fault with you if you apologize for the error.

Lastly, to keep myself grounded, I try to remember that there are people much worse off tham I am - no matter how bad my day is.  It is for this reason that I try to give something back to my community.  I keep my name on the Cerebral Palsy list so they call me regularly to see if I have any donations.  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't, but I don't ask them to put me on their "do not call" list because I know that things worthless to me can be truly helpful to someone in need.  And, of course, I volunteer my time for {my local community organization}.  It may add some more time commitments on my already busy schedule, but it makes me feel good knowing that I am helping out in some small way.

In looking back, all these things do have something in common.  When you do something nice for someone else, it will make you feel better too.

I re-read this every now and again.  It's dorky but I like it.  It helps me remember how I want to be.  It reminds me to think of others.  It reminds me that life could be worse.  And my life is not bad, quite the contrary.

What do you do to keep your spirits up when you are down?  Do you volunteer?  What are your favorite organizations in need?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

in sickness and in health

My wedding vows are playing in my head right now.  ...for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health...  There have been a few reminders recently. 

Within the past week...
An old high school friend passed away.  One day shy of the two year anniversary of her cervical cancer diagnosis.  Her husband and children at her side.  Until death did they part.

My grandmother called to let us know that my grandfather is not doing well.  His health has been failing for years, but seems to be on a slippery slope.  She has been the caretaker even through her own health's ups and downs.  For better and for worse, for richer, for poorer.

My good friends, husband and wife, are struggling financially and physically.  Though they are young, their bodies have not been kind to them.  Two full hip replacements and an injured back requiring surgery between the two of them.  He in the automotive industry with successive layoffs.  She in the mortgage industry for a company that does not treat her well, but has few options given the economy.  For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

My own husband, injured this weekend.  Skiing and fun turned unpleasant with one single fall.  Emergency rooms, doctors' visits, MRIs and waiting to hear on surgery.  In sickness and in health.

 If you are married, do you think you understood the depth of the commitment you made on your wedding day?  Do you think most people utter the "I do's" with little thought to the "sickness", "poorer" and "worse"?

*Photo from Flickr, under the Creative Commons license, by Kairos Photography.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The ties that bind

I've been really inconsistent in the blogosphere lately.  No internet access can do that to you.   And I so miss reading the blogs regularly.  And I miss being able to write.  All these thoughts scramble around my head with no outlet.  Makes me think I should invest in a notebook.

Today I only had a few minutes and popped over to a few of my regulars.  I read Jana so eloquently lament her growing pains.   I read Aidan's beautiful words about beginnings and endings, the passage of time.  And then I read Big Little Wolf's rendition of her own boys to men.  I, too, had a similar experience this weekend.  I thought this such an interesting coincidence, I must share my own. 

We kicked off our annual ski season.  We've been doing this for years.  My husband grew up skiing and it is part of his life.  I never had the experience growing up and so, when we first married and moved within driving distance to drop-dead-gorgeous-with-most-excellent-skiing South Lake Tahoe, he insisted I learn.  I cannot thank him enough.  He makes me do lots of things that I would never do on my own.  In fact, I'd probably be living in my bedroom watching re-runs on TV if it wasn't for him.

Every year we spend most weekends after the holidays up at Tahoe skiing.  The deal we always made with our boys was that once they could ski the entire mountain, they could continue on the ski team, or just ski with us.  So far, the older two have chosen us.

The two boys that ski with us have been "certified expert" skiers for years now.   They could pick their way down anything and we do all types of terrain.  Groomers, steeps, trees and powder.  In the early years, there were times when I had to feign confidence just so they would follow, pushing them and myself to new limits with each and every turn.  

This season is more of the same, but different.  Boy number three is on the ski team now, just starting to rip it up.  The two oldest are still hanging out doing runs with mom and dad.  But there aren't tears anymore.  There are races and choices of who will pick the path.  There is flicked snow off the tip of the ski at his brother, or at mom or dad.  There are races to dust each other, or mom or dad.  It is simple, pure fun with no video games, or television, or internet, or phones. 

The difference this season is that the boys can't get enough.  It's "C'mon mom, c'mon dad.  Hurry up and finish your water.  I wanna get back out there."  "Do you really need to go pee that bad?  Can't you wait til we stop for lunch?" 

The biggest punch this year is that they not only are eager, they're better.  Better, faster, stronger.  They have legs that just won't quit.  I could not keep up.  And neither could my husband.  On one run, he kept falling and they were waiting for him.  They were concerned for him.   My two oldest boys are now better skiers than my husband and me.

That fact has stuck with me all weekend.  At one point I mentioned to a friend, pouting, how they kicked our butts. And, she immediately looked at me with a huge smile and said, "Isn't that what you want?!"  It was more of an exclamation than a question.  I said, begrudgingly, "yes, of course".  But that pang, that sadness of something gone is still here with me.  And, I was reminded of it with the writings of others.  The common theme we all feel.  It is present no matter the age of your children - baby, toddler, young boy, young man.  Girls included.

I saw a sign on the wall at the resort near the ski school:  Six hours of separation can cause a lifetime of bondingI hope that is true because I never want to lose this.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome Back, and the past, present and future...

Welcome Back!
It's the first post of 2011 and I wish you all a happy new year!  I hope the holidays were manageable and the stress is now a distant memory.  As I sit here pondering my first post of the year, my head is swooning back and forth from lack of sleep keeping my thoughts out of focus but still there on the horizon.

The Past
I took a break and I needed it.  The end of 2010 was hard, incredibly hard.  We attended services for my Uncle on December 18th.  The reception was at a local saloon and he would've loved that.  It was perfect.  His step-daughter sang beautifully.  Lots of people spoke, even I spoke, and there was laughter all around.  There was a good turnout with a fantastic cross-section of people whose lives he touched.  My good friends came which meant so much to me.  The drive was long, over two and a half hours away, but they came for me and they came for Unc.  I felt strength and love all around.  It was a good day.

I felt pretty numb for our traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner.  Normally the most anticipated meal of the year, gluten-free pierogies that take days to make, I just didn't care.  They tasted as good as ever, but it was obvious that I was simply going through the motions.  Thanks to hubby for doing pretty much everything, because if it was left up to me, I would've happily laid in bed watching Criminal Minds re-runs.  It just didn't feel like Christmas.  New Year's was the same.  I was present, but something was missing from me.

The Present
This is the present.  Hubby and I marked 18 years of marriage yesterday.  Can you believe how old I am?!  It's time to focus on what's in front of me.  I need to be present.  It's back to work today after having a nice long break.  Oh, and there is so much work to do. 

At present, our internet at the house is down.  It's been down since before Christmas (which might help explain my irregular, well mostly absent, attention to your writings).  AT&T dragged us along for two weeks with promises of fixing things, but now it looks like I'll have to succumb to Comcast.   They're both evil monopolies, at least in my area where they are my only choices!  So presently I'm trying to figure out what package deal I want and need and also need to determine how to get rid of DirecTV without incurring any penalties.  It's funny how what once used to be an option simply isn't an option any more - it's a necessity.  The kids have to do their homework!

The Future
I am glad the holidays are done.  This means we are entering into ski season - my favorite time of year.  It's a new year.  Anything is possible.  But I am here right now and it's okay.
Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  And today?  Today is a gift.  That's why we call it the present.  ~Babatunde Olatunji