We need to create more Grateful Moments!

The bus was late. I was stressed. We were going to be late for the first gymnastics class. I parked the car across from the bus stop and waited. After they tumbled off, I hustled the boys over to the car and yelled, “Jump in! Get buckled!” As the bus was trying to make its busu-turn and I was clearly blocking its progress, I moved the car forward to the other side of the street. Super Tall Guy yelled out, “Mr. Ornery’s not in the car” (well, he used the middle kid’s real name, to be truthful). I stopped immediately, opened the car door and looked back about 20 feet behind me. My vision of Mr. Ornery in his bright orange shirt was blocked by an unknown car who had stopped right in front of him and the driver had jumped out to videotape or photograph my moment of stupidity.

And that’s what it was. A moment. Maybe 20 seconds. A moment when a hurried mother made a mistake. But thanks to the stranger, a police officer showed up at my door at 9:00 o’clock that night to interrupt bed-time routine and inform me of my stupidity. Fortunately, it was one of those awkward “warnings” about a “chaotic bus pick up?” and I agreed with him that yes, I was wrong. It was a lapse of judgement. But no one was hurt and I had not gone anywhere. My boys were safe and they were not traumatized. We had talked about the situation. All was fine.

Except my heart. My heart was sad that in this world, my first thought was – great! Some stranger is videotaping me and I’ll either “go viral” on social media or have a police citation.

My question is – why didn’t the stranger instead think to help. Maybe instead of blocking my view of my son, she might have taken my son’s hand and walked him to my car. We all would have said thank you and moved on with the day. It could have been a “grateful” moment.

Just five days before this, on the second day of school, a little 7-year-old got off the school bus with my boys. There was no parent waiting for him. I walked him to his house and we knocked on the door. No answer. Knocked on windows. Nothing. I called the management office of the community and they called the parents and tracked them down. I waited with this little boy for 10 minutes until his parents arrived. They thought he had gotten on the bus to day care rather than the bus home. It was a mistake.  A moment. I did not call and report the parents to the police. I helped.

Oh how I wish we could all be more helpful.

This week an elderly patient sat in my office. She wasn’t sure she wanted to return in two weeks to get her blood pressure rechecked because transportation was too difficult for her. And she didn’t have any one around to help her. She looked at me with eyes of sadness. “People tend to disappear once you get older or have a cane,” she lamented. “Nobody wants to help anyone anymore. Nobody cares anymore in this world. Everyone is just worried about their own self.”

A generalization yes, but also a reminder to me.

Let’s be more kind.

Let’s be more helpful.

Let’s think about what others might be going through and what we might do to help.

Let’s be a good neighbor and a loving friend.

Let’s create more grateful moments.

Love matters.

An Adventure to Kinzua Bridge

I chose the road less traveled by and it made all the difference.

Some weeks, the storms rage and the responsibilities at work and at home coalesce into endless days and sleepless nights. Last week I was simultaneously preparing to give a talk to fifty elementary school kids interested in service and a roomful of primary care providers at their annual conference. In the midst of powerpoint slides, I was aggregating data into dreary Excel sheets of numbers. I felt sorry I wasn’t spending much “quality” time with the boys and yet by Thursday afternoon, I was solo and heading northeast to the middle of the state.

An evening of quiet, an entertaining exchange over breakfast with the bed and breakfast owner, an energizing presentation and I was headed south again. On a whim, I set my GPS course for the Kinzua Bride State Park after flipping through the coffee table book the night before.

The road less traveled by. I do not regret the stop.

In 1882, over the course of 94 days, a bridge 301.5 feet high and 2053 feet long was constructed over the Kinzua Valley. kinzuabridge1Forty workers were paid 2-3 dollars a day as they constructed 20 towers made of iron to support a railroad track which would move the state’s natural goods.

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Just 18 years later, however, the locomotive engines were heavier and the iron tower had to be replaced by steel. Again the feat was accomplished in a short period of about four months but given the high winds in the area and the weight of the engine and cars, the trains were restricted to 5 miles an hour.

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Considered at one time to be the Eighth Wonder of the world, people came from miles around to see this amazing bridge. It was used regularly for commercial purposes until 1959 when alternative routes were used and the land was sold to the state to become a park. Excursion trips were then available; but in 2003 a tornado ripped through the valley and sent almost two-thirds of the structure crashing to the ground. There it remains as a tribute to the ingenuity of man and the power of nature.

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And there I stood at the end of the observation deck, letting the breeze blow over me, basking in the warmth of the sun, and resting in the quiet of the early afternoon. Glancing down, I saw people far below and knew at that moment that it would be just a little bit longer before I returned to my boys.

 

Scampering down the pebbly path as a mountain goat, I thought of how much the boys would enjoy the hike. Rounding a hairpin turn in the path, I slowed down to meet Barb and ponder with her the best way to reach the bottom. We ambled along together, her regaling me with stories of her husband slicing off the tip of his thumb this week with a crossbow and therefore she was descending alone. I shared my newfound knowledge of miscellaneous facts gathered from the coffee table book. We wondered if my sons and her grandchildren actually would want to scamper down and HIKE back up.

Her husband Terry did eventually join her and we enjoyed the start of the return journey together. When they stopped to catch their breaths and waved me along, I agreed to send down the search party if they didn’t return shortly (and they did make it).

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The road less traveled.

It made all the difference to me that day.

An hour of quiet reflection.

An adventure with new “friends.”

A chance to reconnect with nature and see the beauty of the changing seasons.

A new discovery to share with my family one day and a moment of peace.

Sometimes, you have to choose the other road and enjoy the adventure.road-large

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The Start-up of M.O.C.K

 

A few years ago, I celebrated my birthday with my family – my three very young boys,

Trying a magic trick

Trying a magic trick

my sister and her two young sons and my wonderful parents. The only thing I remember from that evening is vowing to never again have dinner at home on my birthday. From then on, I was not going to eat cold take-out Thai food, yell at kids and wipe up dog poop from under the table. It’s my birthday – I shall go out with friends. Now I delightedly savor warm bites of my favorite food and enjoy my favorite adult drinks in the company of some of my favorite adult friends. Delightful.

However, apparently once a year is not enough for me.

Anyone want to clean that up?

Anyone want to clean that up?

Because not all of my favorite adult friends are available on one particular day. Not all of my favorite food and drink can be consumed in one sitting (without some serious consequences afterwards). And that really, for me to survive this “best job of all” – parenting kids – I’m going to need a lot more support than dinner once a year.

We all do. We need fellowship with people in order to keep ourselves grounded and sane. We need to vent, we need to share, we need to laugh. We need friends of various walks of life to offer us perspective and experience. We need friends of various “ages and stages” of life to mentor us through our current stage and prep us for the next. We need people! And while in today’s world it’s pretty easy to connect through texting and Facebook and email, we cannot let ourselves be satisfied there. The body language, eye contact, and spontaneity which flows in gathering together is vital to us.

Typical evening pencil battle

Typical evening pencil battle

So my resolution this year (year being the “academic school year” since it is September after all, and therefore convenient to label it so), is to spend more time in the presence of friends (or about-to-be friends). And because I work for organizations with silly acronyms, I think an adult gathering should have a silly acronym as well. And because I’m all about inclusion and I have friends from so many different phases of my life and different situations, I want to make sure all are invited.

I’ve decided I need a M.O.C.K group – Mother Of Crazy Kids. (Or M.O.C.C. – see below).

If you have any children in your life, be they 50 years old, 22, 15 or 5 months of age, they are crazy by definition. They pick up gum from pathways in Kennywood Amusement Park and eat it before you can scream No! They color on walls. They flush things down the toilet.

Is this your hiding place?

Is this your hiding place?

They are crazy because they are curious and they are curious because they are kids. So, if you have kids (or someone in your life who acts like a kid), you have crazy kids.

Or, you could be the Mother of Crazy Kittens or Crazy Canines or some other kind of Critter (including general pests within the house). It’s M.O.C.C.!  If you have kids and critters, bless you. We should talk about that sometime.

Of course, you could also be the Mother of Crazy Concepts. Some of my friends specialize in wild and wacky ideas for which I love them. These thinkers-outside-any-box are essential to a gathering!

You just going to leave that there?

You just going to leave that there?

My thought is to have a regular gathering night and I’ll be there (unless I can’t) and others can just show up (unless they can’t). And if no one shows up, I’ll read a book for a couple hours and consider it a perfect night. And if anyone shows up, I’ll consider it a perfect night. The absolute key thing will be to stay out late enough that the babysitter has the boys asleep (and not just “in bed” – they’ve tricked me with that before!) before I get home!

Because kids are crazy and crazy is fine, but sometimes it’s just nice to not put the crazies to bed and to have a few moments in the company of others.

 

 

 

Moving Day

“Okay, go!” I said to Super Tall Guy as we backed out of the driveway of the townhouse. “3 minutes, 21 seconds and 59 milliseconds,” he said as we pulled into the driveway of my sister’s new house.

One weekend. Two moves. Two sets of movers. Countless loads of boxes via theboxes2 minivans. Strong cousin. Saintly mother. Spackling father. Lamps. TV. Shoes. Books. Headache. Couches. Beds. Clothes. Numerous trips to Target. But no toothbrushes. No toothpaste. No toiletries. None. The boys rejoiced!

It’s been twelve years in an old Victorian house with stained glass windows, built-in wooden bookcases, three floors, and a hidden back staircase. It’s been the only home the boys have known. It’s been the place everyone called “home” until we moved for school and the extended family split up a bit to diminish the chaos and to stretch out a little.

I meant to get all sentimental about leaving “home” – but the stress of a quick move left the heart door closed. In fact 36 hours after dropping the last box packed for “moving day” onto the townhome floor, I actually texted my mom to say I like the space better than I thought I would. It’s small, clean and manageable (or it will be once all the boxes are emptied and flattened or donated to the lady next door who remarked she was moving soon too).

Somehow the boys seem to have forgotten to be sentimental too. They seem to be enamored by the chance to ride bikes and scooters up and down the street, bumping over the speed bump. They seem to appreciate the new neighbors — a 12-year-old and 7-year-old boy who pop out of their house the moment my car engine stops with a soccer ball in hand and eager faces! They seem to be enthralled by the closeness to “Auntie,” or maybe it’s the community pool that’s two houses away from Auntie’s house and has diving board!  Maybe they are managing this chaos better than I.

They are less excited about the New House, New Rules reality though:

  • See this – it’s a sink. Take your plate to the kitchen, rinse it in the sink, and….put it in the dishwasher!
  • These clothes? They’re yours. Sort them into three piles and each of you take them upstairs. And those things are called drawers – that’s where the clothes go! Not the floor!
  • And this new bunk bed? Yes, you may sleep on top…but the new rule is that you will stay in your own bed – all night! No more climbing into Mom’s bed between 1 and 3 am!  (Oh my goodness…3 days in and this rule is actually working!!)

There’s a whole lot of things still back at the “old” house. I had to stop there on the way to work yesterday to grab a pair of shoes for work. There’s tons of dust bunnies where the beds once sat. Empty candy wrappers line the edge of the wall having been dropped behind the couch. The closet is full of items that will move to the front yard for a yard sale in a few weeks (if it didn’t move to the town house in the first couple days as “essential,” then it actually isn’t essential!). The tall-ceiling rooms are eerily empty and echoes abound. The windows are closed. The doors are locked. But hopefully soon it will be filled again with love and joy and laughter as a new family finds their “home.”

 

 

Needing a good cry….and some duct tape.

Ever have that feeling – that if you could actually find a moment of quiet, you’d like to fill it with huge sobbing tears. But they’re all stuck inside because you just don’t have time and don’t have the “space” for it.

Yesterday morning I was the keynote speaker at a conference on healthy living. Yes, I was somewhat eloquent (or at least not too boring) as I talked about how we caregivers rarely we take care of ourselves and yet how important it is that we do. A day later when life has snow-balled upon me, I’m a hot mess of emotions and struggling to find those “coping” skills that seem so academic yesterday.

Image credit - www.steveholt.com

Image credit – http://www.steveholt.com

Here’s a few coping styles:

  1. Identify the emotion: I’m sad-mad as Oh so eloquently put it in the recent movie “Home.” I’m sad that my mother had to leave an event where I was being honored as a volunteer for my work on the crisis nursery because my babysitter had the Home-Oh-Catgall to text and say, “A minor issue at work and I’m still here. I can’t help you tonight.” Bless my mother for saving the day (after my sister already “saved” the middle child when he poked himself in the eye….since my dad who was “watching” the kids was on the couch having spent the last 20 hours in the emergency room for chest pain two days after having surgery on his fractured wrist to put the six pieces back together!). Just a bit too much for the brain to process and the sadness made me oh so mad.
  1. Release the emotion by calling a friend to complain bitterly about the lack of responsibility and commitment in my sad-mad situation, but hold in the tears as the start of the work day rapidly approaches. Being that today was a “doctoring” day, there’s no dialing down of emotions, there’s an on-off switch so that I’m present 100 percent to those seeking me for comfort.
  1. Calm some stress by texting a friend: Very important to have a pediatrician as a friend (despite the fact that I’m technically in that category too) when your kid looks in the car mirror as he climbs in on the way to school and says, “Look, Mom, there’s blood in my eye.” How did I not notice in the rush to get the three of them up and out the door this morning?!? Come to think of it – I called that pediatrician friend first thing in the morning to calm my racing brain and texted her later in the day to calm my racing brain and texted before bed too! Very important to have patient pediatrician friends. Very good coping mechanism.
  1. Run away by getting outside into the sun and letting the endorphins burn off some of the stress. It’s a temporary avoidance technique as a quick check of work email during the cool-down walk is guaranteed to start the surge right off again.
  1. Find the duct tape to put the door back together and hold the glass in becauseduct tape you can’t find a hammer (maybe it went to the sister’s new house) and you can’t call your dad to fix it because his arm’s in a cast and you can’t figure out any other quick solution as you pack the kids into the car to tire them out at the playground, hoping it will get them to sleep earlier and you to a moment of peace quicker.

Prolonged activation of the stress response system can become toxic to the body. I know that. I talk to people about that quite often. I give lectures about its effects. But sometimes it’s more than I can do to find a moment for a good cry…. The duct tape was easier to find today.