Archive for December, 2011

December 19, 2011

How much is “enough”?

Yesterday my husband and I were reviewing the Christmas gifts we’ve gotten for our son.  In the past we’ve gotten him one “big” gift and a few smaller gifts.  This year there really isn’t a “big” gift, but there are a few smaller things he’s really been wanting.  As we were checking the last item off the list I said, “Is it enough?”.  We came to the conclusion that yes, it is.  In the back of my mind I continued questioning for a little while.  That was, until this afternoon.

Today I had lunch with my mom.  My mom is retired from her full-time job and now spends much of her time helping elementary school students learn to read as a tutor in one of the public schools.  This afternoon, at our lunch, she was talking about some of the children she tutors, telling stories about some of the successes and some of the struggles.  At one point she started talking about a little girl who had a really hard time focusing and was getting to the point of being nasty with her instead of reading.  Finally, my mom closed the book and asked the little girl how she was doing, what was going on with her.  The little girl confessed she was hungry.  My mom asked if she’d had breakfast before school.  She had not.  She asked her why she hadn’t eaten.  The little girl started to answer, then stopped herself.  After talking to the little girl’s teacher, she was brought down to the school nurse where she was given breakfast.  This bothered me.  Does this really happen?  I tried to recall whether there has ever been a day that my son hadn’t had something to eat before school.  Even though he has had a couple of breakfasts as he was flying out the door to catch the bus, he has never gone to school hungry.  It must have been evident by the look on my face that I was concerned about what I was hearing and questioning how this could happen, because my mom started to explain that a large percentage of kids in the school eat at school because they literally don’t have anything to eat at home.

She went on to tell me that many of these kids can’t go outside for recess either because they don’t have warm coats or snow pants or boots.  She struggles to help them with reading because many of these kids don’t have books to read at home. My heart ached.  She continued to tell stories about kids living in broken homes, parents being evicted so they are forced to move to a different community and start a new school in the middle of the school year and her concern that other schools will lose these kids in the system if the school program isn’t set-up as well as the one she’s in.  Would their records go with them?  Will they help them? Or will these kids she’s been working so hard to help learn to read, slip through the cracks?

It’s not right.  It’s not their choice.  These kids don’t have a choice as to where they came from, who their parents are, whether they have a good home, clean clothes, a coat and boots, books to read or food on the table.  These kids, some of whom are the sweetest my mom has ever worked with, have nothing and it’s not their choice.  It’s not their fault.  They’re just kids.

As my mind raced, trying to figure out what I could do to help, my mom began to tell me about a coat rack in the hallway of the school.  Early on she couldn’t figure out why it was there.  Then she realized that the coat rack is for these kids.  The kids without.  These are coats, snow pant, boots, etc. that have been donated to the school so these kids stay warm.  That’s when I realized there is something I can do.  I can donate to the school.  I can give coats and snow pants and hats and maybe even boots and definitely books.  I could make mittens.  I’m making recycled sweater mittens, maybe I could give some to the school.

And then I thought back to the conversation yesterday.   Will my son be getting “enough” for Christmas?  He has a warm home, warm clothes, a warm coat, hats, mittens, boots, snow pants, books, games and food on the table.  Yes, he’s getting enough.  More than enough.


December 14, 2011

The quest to find my inner spark

When faced with decisions in life, no matter how big or how small, it’s sometimes hard to keep perspective on what I really think.  Sometimes there is so much noise, so many incoming messages and thoughts running through my mind that impact my decisions that at the end of the day, I’m not sure whether it was really me that made the decision or the influence of those around me.

Sometimes I think too long and too hard, I analyze too much before putting things into motion.  Sometimes I’m paralyzed by the unknown and I leave myself stuck in the same spot, afraid to move forward, afraid to change lanes, constantly looking in the review mirror at where I’ve been to try to figure out how I got to where I am now.  I can remain in that paralyzed mode for hours, days, weeks, even years before doing something.

It’s that stuck spot that I don’t like.  It’s like I have a strap tethered to each shoulder, around my hips, around my ankles preventing me from moving forward no matter how hard I pull.  I’m honestly not sure though whether this is just fear of the unknown or if it’s a lack of trusting in myself, trusting my judgement, trusting that I’ll make the “right” decision.  The thing is, I wasn’t always this way, I wasn’t always this way.  I used to make a decision and go for it, I would figure out the details on the fly.  I didn’t stop long enough to analyze it to death, and you know what?  It always worked out.  When I look back on where I’ve been, I can’t think of any decisions I’ve made that have truly been bad decisions.  Each choice, each movement I made brought me to the next, which eventually brought me to where I am today.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out when it all started.  When did I stop trusting in myself?  When did I start doubting my capabilities?  Where did these messages come from and why the hell do I believe them?  (Here I go thinking again, right?)  What I’m trying to figure out is where this “stuff” came from so I can fix it and get myself back in motion.

It sounds so cliché, but right now I’m on the quest to find me.  The true me.  The girl whose dreams kept her moving forward, the girl who trusted in herself and did things because it felt right or she thought it was the right thing to do.  I’m trying to find the inner spark, re-light that flame, re-energize the spirit, the fire within me that gives me the drive, the confidence and the strength to chase my dreams without fear.

I tell my son quite frequently that it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to fall down, it’s what you do afterward that matters. You need to pick yourself up, look at what happened and figure out a way to do it differently, then try again.  It’s time for me to listen to my own advice.  To teach by example.

Do people change?  Sure.  But I think deep down inside regardless of the changes that have taken place over time, we’re all that young person with an invincible spirit.  And I’ll tell you what, she’s still in there.  I can feel her.  And she’s trying damned hard to get out, to break the shell that’s been holding her back.  Friends have seen her, family has seen her.   Every once in a while I see her. And when I do its amazing.  It’s like meeting an old friend you haven’t seen in years.  It’s like looking in a mirror that can’t see age. But she’s not out yet, not all the way.  She’s not quite ready.  She’s telling me I’m not ready.  She said I still have some work to do.  And I do.  I know I do. But I also know that when the time is right, she’ll emerge.  And I can’t wait to hug her, hold her hand, talk to her, get to know her again.  And as I do, take off on new adventures and go wherever our path may lead us.


December 8, 2011

Well, that was embarassing.

Have you ever made a meal so good you dream about it, drool when you think about it, crave it so much that you think you could eat it every day of your life?  Tonight was one of those meals for me.

Today was my anti-procrastination day.  I had a laundry list of things to-do that I haven’t had time for, haven’t felt like doing or have put off for some other reason.  This afternoon I made a list, pulled everything together, threw it in the car and starting running.  I went to the local Post Office, which is still from the era of only one or two desk clerks and a long line to wait in.  Thankfully that trip went pretty smoothly.  From there I ran to various stores making returns for about 10 things that didn’t work out.  In most of these stores there were more lines.  If you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of lines, but I am willing to put up with them for a little extra cash in my pocket. 🙂

Mid-way through my errands I swung home, grabbed my son off the bus and took him with me.  Our first stop was the gas station for air in a low tire.  The air compressor was out-of-order.  I had to laugh.  What makes and air compressor be “out-of-order”?  Did it run out of air?  We bookmarked the air for a later stop.  From there we darted from store to store.  Mostly returns, but grabbing a couple of necessities when needed, then moving on.  One of our final stops was the grocery store.  After running all day I didn’t feel much like cooking up a big dinner, but then remembered one of my favorite recipes: Chicken with Walnuts.  It’s a recipe my mom has been making since I was in high school.  When I moved out that was one of the “must have” recipes from my mom.  I love that stuff!  I’ve made that recipe so much that I know the ingredients by heart so I knew exactly what to grab at the store so we could get home.

I think I actually started drooling in the car.  I could practically taste it. The ginger, the chicken, the crisp-tender green peppers and the toasty walnuts…  There is one thing about making this recipe though, since it’s a stir-fry it tends to be a titch smokey when it’s cooking.   Actually, that’s an understatement.  It’s always been a bit of a joke in my family.  When it’s smokey and you cough a little while it’s cooking but it tastes amazing when you eat it, we call it “a good do”.   Because of this, I always take precautions when I make this recipe.  The exhaust fan absolutely  has to be on  high before even starting and it’s best to keep windows and doors easily accessible (especially since I live in an old house so the exhaust fan really only recirculates the air.)  Usually I’ll close the kitchen door leading to the living room as well to prevent the smoke from wafting to the smoke detector.  Tonight, I didn’t.  The two dogs are just starting to hang out in the house together again since Darby’s back surgery and need to be supervised, so I left the door open.   So as I stir fried, transferred and stir fried some more, getting caught up in the smell and anxious for a bite, I lost track of the smoke that was building up in the kitchen… and the rest of the house.  It wasn’t until I was about a minute from finishing that my son said, “Wow!  There’s a lot of steam, Mom.”  I took a step back, looked up and saw the haze. “Uh, oh” I thought.  Seconds later the fire alarm went off.  I’m not talking a little battery operated smoke detector, but the full-blown fire alarm.  We have a security system in our house, which has the fire alarm wired into it, so when I say fire alarm I mean a sound blaring so loud you can’t hear yourself think.  Plus, the keypad for the alarm was blaring.  I dashed from the stove.. to the keypad.. to the detector (where I fanned wildly)…  to the keypad… to the stove… to the detector, again fanning wildly.. and back to the keypad.  Silence.  Whew!  My son and I started laughing.  That was close.

A couple of minutes later we heard sirens.  My son and I joked,  “Good thing that’s not for us!”.  But as I was putting food on our plates (keep in mind NOTHING burned, all the smoke was caused by the intense heat, oil and stir frying action in my cast iron pan) my son said, “Mom, that is for us.”  “No,” I thought, “it can’t be.”  (We live next to a busy street so we hear sirens all the time.)  That’s when I turned to look out the front window and saw flashing red lights bouncing off the windows of the house across the street.  My denial stopped.  That was for us.  A great big fire engine was now parked right in front of our house and more sirens could be heard in the distance.  As all the blood in my body rushed to my face I ran out to the fire engine and told them there was no fire. Just dinner.

Long story short, one of the fire fighters had to come in to confirm that we weren’t going to die from smoke inhalation.  Once we had all alarms reset and he confirmed I was just insane, he left.  Just after the fireman walked out our door and climbed back into the engine my son turned to me and said, “Well, that was embarrassing.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Dear Santa,

I wish for a commercial kitchen ventilation system with an external exhaust fan.

I’ll leave cookies and milk, but no stir fry.