Friday, February 5, 2016

A World Imperfect

I really need to sign up for a poetry class. And escape to a beach with no news feed.

A world broken
War and refugees 
Poverty and disease
Rape and murder
Men and domination
Never ending
Lessons learned, not really

A world confused
Wealth and power
Land and borders
Religion and G-d
Sex and force
Never ending
History repeating, over and over

A world intolerant
Women and skin
Special and different
Poor and uneducated
Beliefs and cultures
Never ending
Closed minds, always a battle

A world political
Lies and deceit
Corruption and money
Deals and alliances
Selfish and self-absorbed
Never ending
False leaders, getting worse and worse

A world of children
Abandoned and orphaned
Pressured and stressed
Abused and forgotten
Sold and subjected
Never ending
Empty promises, the cycle repeating
Our Children (Youngest Son & Nephew). Simple Beauty. (@ DMA)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Teen Boy Mismanagement of Clothing - Part 2

This Morning as Oldest Son Walks into Upper School

Me thinking "Those jeans look huge and so short ... hmmmm. Does he have on Youngest Son's jeans?"
(Youngest Son now outweighs his brother but is still shorter.)
    

This Afternoon when Oldest Son Returns Home

I say quizzically to Oldest Son "Uhm ... those jeans are huge and too short. Let me look at them."
(Oldest Son takes off his BELT and hands the jeans to me.)

I am stunned. Oldest Son has been wearing Commuter Husband's jeans ALL DAY. Let us put this in perspective:
  • Oldest Son: Who requires a belt with his 28 x 32/33 jeans for his slim, runner's frame
  • Commuter Husband: Who has very cute but short legs for his 33 x 30 jeans
How the heck did he NOT notice? This says much about my unassuming Oldest Son and his priorities. Love Him. 

Recall the boys are doing their own laundry and putting away their clothes with a primary objective being that they will keep up with their own items of clothing better. Obviously that goal is not going quite as I had hoped. However, we did get a much needed good laugh today!
Thank goodness Oldest Son had a belt! Commuter Husband will be getting these back now ...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Teen Boys Mismanagement of Clothing


Oldest Son's laundry receptacle. He does pretty good job getting dirty clothes actually into the container versus the floor.
PROBLEM

"I'm Done." Mommy with Commuter Husband (me) said with finality.

The topic prompting the declaration (this time) was "Teen Boys Mismanagement of Clothing." The offenses took on several variations and include but are not limited to:
  • Usual and customary is the lost clothing item which is typically a jacket but could be other things too.  
  • Missing clothing that we KNOW is in our house but cannot find when needed. Of course, this is frequently some vital sports accessory so we are sent into a search frenzy ten minutes before walking out the door to the targeted sports event.
  • More often than not, I find an article of clothing belonging to one of the boys in their school's embarrassingly huge pile of abandoned clothing put into parent view on conference days.
  • And there is the random bag find which means we have found clothing in some backpack or suitcase that was left there since goodness knows when!
  • A recent development is that the four people in our house wear similar sizes in certain types of clothing. Thus our closets and drawers often contain misplaced apparel. The weekly housekeeper, that we are fortunate to employ, tries to determine the right person but she cannot possibly know. Commuter Husband also seems challenged in figuring out what belongs to whom. My pleas to the boys to return items to the proper owner when found go ignored.
  • One teen, not to be specifically identified, seems to wear three times as many clothes as the rest of us creating surplus washing.

SOLUTION

For years and years and years .... we have utilized financial consequences as well as rewards to encourage or punishments to ... well ... punish.

At this point, it was clear that a different approach was required.

Oldest Son and Youngest Son are now doing their own laundry every weekend. They first gather then separate into colors followed by spraying the stains. The washing stage includes detergent and fabric softener and bleach if needed. Drying requires determining what to hang dry (almost everything!) and what goes in the dryer (not much.) The final step is putting away their own clothes in the appropriate places in their rooms.
Youngest Son's laundry basket number one. So why is his stinky soccer uniform on the tile floor two feet away?!??
Youngest Son's laundry basket number two (yes he has two.) Similar results in that dirty clothes are all about ...

RESULTS (So Far)

We are about one month into this paradigm.

"I hate doing laundry!" has been heard to echo through the house once or twice. Who doesn't?

Even so, we are pleased with the outcomes so far. Some of the household work distribution has shifted from parent to child - whoop! The boys are doing a great job and willingly accomplishing their laundry tasks each week. Nothing has been ruined in the laundry ... yet. There has been almost zero confusion about where clothes are or are not. And Oldest Son and Youngest Son are learning a valuable life skill.
The dreaded Laundry Room.
I am a total weirdo about hanging clothes to dry. Oldest Son and Youngest Son are stuck doing it my way ... for now. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Flawed


The artist of this painting is my friend Susan Sanders. I love it and it speaks to me.

I am not a poet ... just a person with words ...

Flawed. I feel flawed.
All the time. Well lots of the time.
Churning and moving
The thoughts never stop.

Self-inflicted. It is almost funny.
Escapes routes are devised. None really real, so it seems.
Fleeting and hopeful
The attempts never end.

Tortured. Not really the adjective that comes to mind.
Few see under the outside. We are really good at that.
Hidden and in full view
Every day life is the obstacle.

Love. And there is that.
It saves the day. It is always there.
Encompassing and ever-present
This word is the safety net.

Unconditional. Thank you for it.
Some have the gift. Eventually it appears to be the only one that matters.
Admirable and precious
The fortunate to give and to receive.



Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Small House in Garland

The corner of Winell Drive. We parked and walked up the street.
Today Commuter Husband, Oldest Son, Youngest Son and I went into the community of Garland. A place where certain streets were devastated by the tornadoes after Christmas. The story today is one of simple connections ....

Belongings ruined by the storms line the street. The City will start hauling away tomorrow.
I saw a Facebook posting yesterday by our friend and the program director of our Temple describing their day providing help. A few private messages later and she had given us an address in Garland of an elderly couple needing help this afternoon.

We arrived to a street lined with debris and tree branches. The houses were speckled with blue tarps on roofs and giant gaps in walls. We walked to the appointed address and encountered Mr. Owner on his front lawn with a Chik-fil-a bag in hand. We introduced ourselves and I let him know we were there to pack up his garage. He greeted us warmly offering food and fumbled for the piece of paper with a number for the contact who was organizing the effort at his home. I called the number and was told that a truck would arrive later to haul belongings to a storage facility and where we could get boxes and supplies if needed.

We approached the front door where a red piece of paper taped to the doorframe indicated the home was unsafe. We walked through the empty, damaged home in which the electricity had been shut off. The garage was completely full of discarded furniture, tools, yard implements, cleaning supplies and treasured keepsakes. It was clearly the garage of a gentlemen who loved to tinker and fix things. Fortunately there were boxes and tape for us to start our efforts for packing up the contents.

We spoke with Mr. Owner to sort through what to keep and what to throw away but most was intended for the keep pile. A local church member stopped by to see if Mr. Owner needed anything. We made introductions and when asked what organization we were with, we replied none really.
The pastor from Oasis Church arrived next. Again, he just wanted to see if Mr. Owner needed anything and made sure Mr. Owner knew where he could get food and help. Sadly, Oasis Church was hit hard by the tornado as well. The kind pastor thanked us for being there to help.

Mrs. Owner arrived and she began to help organize what to box up from the garage. She let us know the attic was full but it was too dangerous for anyone to go up there so whatever was in the attic is "lost." As we worked through items, Youngest Son was often amazed at the cool old stuff. However, Youngest Son also found a gun and some knives. Mrs. Owner expressed sincere relief that these weapons were found and she quickly removed them from the garage.

Shortly thereafter, two women, two men and a boy arrived with trucks to move the items we had been stacking in the driveway. We loaded as much as possible but not all could be sent in one trip. Another woman, In Charge Woman, stayed behind and helped us to finish packing up. When the truck crew determined that the storage facility was locked and they could not get in, In Charge Woman scrambled to solve the problem. After some confusion, Mrs. Owner produced a key. By this time, we had completed packing and Youngest Son was getting antsy.

We decided it would be best for our family to drive the key to the storage facility. In Charge Woman was so nice and had lots of positive energy. She grabbed Youngest Son and me for a selfie as we headed out! We set up a text message to communicate as we worked to finish our tasks.

As we were leaving the street, another woman and man pulled up and offered us hot pizza and water. She said she was from Alvarado and was there to hand out food to volunteers, residents, whoever was on the street and needed it. I took some food for Youngest Son and expressed our gratitude. We made our way to the storage facility, unlocked it and helped unload the trucks.

We made one final trip back to return the key to Mr. and Mrs. Owner. By this time, the streets were dark with the streetlights extinguished. However, families and volunteers were still diligently working since tomorrow the city starts hauling away trash and closing streets. Fortunately, In Charge Woman has arranged for another volunteer to come back in the morning to take the rest of Mr. and Mrs. Owner's belongings to the storage unit.

This older couple has lived in their modest home for seven years and they have no mortgage on it - completely paid for! They were in their home when the tornado hit!! They are now living in a motel. The insurance adjuster has STILL not arrived but they are hoping to meet with the insurance reps tomorrow. Mr. Owner was quite talkative and made jokes about the situation. A sense of humor is always good in times of hardship. Mrs. Owner expressed genuine appreciation to all. I was humbled by this lovely couple and what they are going through to put their lives back together.

There were many simple connections today. People helping people. 

In Charge Woman, me and Youngest Son as the sun sets on the ravished street and we head out. Smiles were good today. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Days 8-10: TexMex Road Trip 2015 is a Wrap!

Day 8 - Getting Out No matter What!

Monday morning in Artesia showed bright sunny skies but with lots of snow on the ground. The New Mexico (NM) road map showed every single route out of NM as CLOSED. Brother is a tenacious sort and was determined to find a way to Texas. Oldest Son and Brother did a scouting trip in the Creepy White Van at 11am and we concluded that attempting escape was reasonable.

The drive south to Carlsbad was not great but doable. We first tried Hwy 285 SW and it had a roadblock set up. We then went south on 180 but quickly hit a dead stop in a long line of vehicles as the police were stopping travelers. We doubled back to Hwy 285 SW and luckily, the roadblock was moved and traffic flowing through to West Texas. We were nervous until we hit Pecos, TX but we actually got there with little trouble.

We arrived in Fredericksburg at 9:20pm just in time to eat a hearty German meal at Der Lindenbaum.
So nice ... the wait staff welcomed our weary and hungry party of eight 10 minutes before closing time!
Oh Yeah!
Day 9 - The Perfect Texas Day

Tuesday was filled with lots of Texas fun! Brother rose early to wash the dirt off the Creepy White Van and we were ready to head to breakfast by 9am. We waited in a short line to eat at the Old German Bakery and to purchase chocolate croissants for down the road.
We feasted on eggs, bacon, German pancakes, potato pancakes, hash browns and hot coffee!
For the next few hours our group split. Commuter Husband, Oldest Son and I went to the National Museum of the Pacific War. The rest shopped and strolled the art galleries of Main Street of Fredericksburg, TX.
Spectacular art
Two hours was not enough time in the National Museum of the Pacific War. 
National Museum of the Pacific War had two full size WWII planes. This museum was engaging and a must see for anyone with interest in the topic. I will be returning to spend another couple hours!

Our next stop was Enchanted Rock. With the continuing theme of the road trip, we found ourselves stopped in a line of cars about 1/2 mile from Enchanted Rock entrance. It was clear we were going no where any time soon. SO ... we decided that Commuter Husband would stay in the Creepy White Van to wait in line while the rest of us hoofed it to the trail head. It was a cool and perfect day to climb to the Enchanted Rock Summit!
Our Loves: Youngest Niece (age 11), Nephew (age 18), Oldest Son (age 15), Oldest Niece (age 14), Youngest Son (age 13)
Add Aunt/Mommy/Sister and Uncle/Dad/Brother and some goofiness at the top of Enchanted Rock!

It took us about 1.5 hours to go up and then back down. JUST as we came down Commuter Husband was arriving at the entrance to the Enchanted Rock park in the Creepy White Van - oh my gosh!

We then went 20 miles north to Llano for Texas BBQ at Coopers - best in the state - yep.
Big ole glass of sweet ice tea!
Chicken and beef for our family of four! Oldest Son and Youngest Son appreciate their meat and lots of it!

The Grand Finale for the day and for TexMex Road Trip 2015 was ... ready for it ... Willie Nelson at Austin City Limits!!!!! The entire show was enjoyable and memorable. I loved the whole evening.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real opened with several songs. Lukas Nelson is Willie's 27 year old son and he is a fantastic musician and song writer. Then Willie Nelson's two daughters sang and played hilarious original songs. The lyrics from several of the songs from both groups were adult rated thus the teens in our family thought this was humorous.

The official opening act was Kacey Musgraves. She is a talented singer and song writer from Golden, Texas. Her set was flashy, she was friendly with the crowd and she brought her rescue dog into the act. Our tweener was especially taken by this young entertainer; I think the dog and her final song being "These Boots are Made for Walking" with lit up boots sealed that deal!

Willie Nelson then took the stage with both his sons as part of the Family band. I feel privileged to have seen Willie Nelson. He is an inspiration on so many fronts.

Limited Edition numbered poster. Purchased.
Willie Nelson, age 82. Phenomenal.
Willie Nelson signed autographs at end of show. His sons, Lukas and Micah, are next to him on guitars.
And at 11:30pm on Day 9 we load up in Austin and head back to Stephenville, TX. Brother and family are dropped off at 2am on what is now Day 10.

While making the final two hour drive to Dallas at 3am this morning, we see flashing red and blue lights behind us. We are pulled over by the police. I swear it was because of the Creepy White Van!!

And to sum up the trip: Oldest Son jokingly described me as "stupidly optimistic" at the concert. I will take that as a total compliment ...

The End.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Days 5 - 7: Family Chaos

On the road yesterday we were playing the Personalogy Game. One of the cards gave options for naming the reality show best describing your life. One of the choices was "Family Mayhem" which was chosen with good humor by some ... well Mayhem may be a strong word but Family Chaos does seem to apply ...

Day 5 – A White Out Christmas
Christmas stockings among the ski coats and pants ... 
We started the morning with Stockings that Santa hung from Ski Hooks – where else? We ate our last hot breakfast served up by Commuter Husband. And we were out the door to a very snowy ski day.

I have long accepted that as a Texas Skier, we ski no matter what the conditions. It was cold, windy and very close to a white out but we were not discouraged. We skied all day and most of our crew were taking their last run down after 4pm having caught the last lift of the day up the mountain.

Throughout the week, we did a superb job serving all meals out of the condo with Commuter Husband in charge of the kitchen. However, we had also planned to eat dinner out on our last night in Taos as a final hurrah. What we did NOT consider was that our last night was Christmas Day and NO restaurants were open on the evening of December 25th. At 4:15pm, we were desperately brainstorming options for feeding our group dinner. Finally, Commuter Husband trudged through the snow to Taos Ski Village, he found a ski base restaurant that was about to close but agreed to restart the grill and package up eight hamburgers and fries. Thus with bags tied together with twine, Commuter Husband returned with Christmas dinner! And no one seemed to miss the usual turkey and fixings.

Youngest Son and I did take the teenage roller coaster down but we were able to recover and go back up. Thus, the rest of the evening we busied ourselves will packing for the next destination of TexMex Road Trip 2015.
Eggs, fruit, biscuits, turkey sausage, OJ, milk ... fueling up for the slopes!
A different kind of fuel for the end of the ski day!
Youngest Son in his Chanukah PJs as we play Apples to Apples and The Logo Board Game.
Youngest Niece with her stocking and Christmas footie PJs.
Stockings revealed ...
Day 6 – Taos to Artesia, NM

Brother navigated the Creepy White Van off of the Taos mountain and we headed south. We made two stops: one in Taos for T-shirts and the other at the International UFO Museum & Research center in Roswell. We thought it interesting that it was snowing when we exited the museum (foreshadowing here. ) We arrived in Artesia, NM at the La Quinta by 5pm and went across the street to the Pizza Hut for an easy dinner.
Youngest Niece is not convinced that a UFO REALLY landed in Roswell.
Nephew is part of the UFO Museum scenery.
Merry Christmas UFO Style!
We dropped Youngest Son and Oldest Niece at hotel while Brother, Nephew and Youngest Niece made dash on foot to the hotel. Commuter Husband, Oldest Son and I then headed to the the Carmike Cinema to see Star Wars at 7pm. It was snowing pretty hard now (more foreshadowing.) When we exited the theater, we were shocked to see several inches of snow on the road. Fortunately, we were only one mile from hotel so we nervously made our way back and parked with no mishaps, thank goodness.

Day 7 – Snowstorm and Not Going Anywhere!

This morning we woke up to blizzard conditions with accumulations of 14-18 inches. Crazy as this sounds we were surprised! Brother, Commuter Husband and I had not bothered to listen or check weather forecasts before embarking on the next leg of our journey. We were supposed to head to Eldorado, Texas this morning ... uhmmmm ... not happening! Fortunately, Caverns of Sonora where we planned to do a 4 hour adventure caving excursion and X-Bar Ranch accepted our cancellations. Apparently, Southwest Texas is not much better than New Mexico right now.

So here we sit, stranded in Artesia, NM. We are not quite sure when we will be leaving. Family Chaos for sure ... 
Commuter Husband and Brother looking at map of closed highways ... we are not going anywhere :(
Clearing the snow in front of hotel ... it has not stopped snowing since last night! Wind is blowing off cars so accumulation not obvious.
After hotel provided breakfast, 42 (dominoes) it is; Oldest Son and Youngest Son versus Brother and Oldest Niece. The brightness is from white wonderland out the hotel window.
Youngest Son and Brother take an opportunity to work out. Both nieces join them too.
Commuter Husband, Oldest Son and Youngest Son pretty content to watch football today. Oldest Niece snacking on the left over food we brought with us ... not exactly sure where dinner coming from tonight!
It is 3:30pm and the blizzard is back in full force ... oh my ...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Days 2-4: The Usual Mayhem and Mishaps

TexMex Road Trip 2015 continues ...

Day 2 – On Our Way

Day 2 started at 5:22am in Stephenville, TX with eight of us loaded up in the Creepy White Van headed to Taos, New Mexico. We first had to address a fair seating arrangement. The five passengers under age 19 felt they should pick their individual seat; which would be great if they did not all call the same exact seat! The solution was a rotation schematic that triggered every two hours. While seemingly over-engineered, it actually worked beautifully.

We spent the next ten hours watching movies, playing games, sleeping and amusing ourselves with various Apple products. There were, of course, many variations of tweener/teenage road trip complaints including our refusal to allow X-box on the trip. The adults attempted to suppress the obvious “you ungrateful child” commentary but perhaps a comment or two slipped out.

Our two primary stops, other than the many bathroom stops, included Mexican food in Santa Rosa and grocery shopping in Taos. We arrived after dark in snowy Taos Ski Valley on December 22. Our two bedroom, two-bath condo exceeded expectations. It is tastefully decorated, has a well-equipped kitchen and comfortable beds. And even more importantly, we are right next to the slopes (ski in/ski out), has the biggest outdoor hot tub in Taos and a wood-burning fireplace!

Lunch in Santa Rosa and NO it was not the Best ...
Youngest Son picked this game out for Road Trip game and it turned out to be lots of fun. Although I think Commuter Family liked it better than Brother Family. We used to play Professor Noggin allot on our travels and this was similar.
Movies picked out by Youngest Niece and Nephew. Great Choices!

Day 3 – More than One Mishap For Sure

Day 3 was our first ski day! Taos has the best base (over 50 inches) for December in years. Commuter Husband made us a hot breakfast. We were ready.

The first hour included:
  • Commuter Husband getting the Creepy White Van stuck in snow and ice
  • Me going to ski shop to get help with my ski boots
  • Youngest Son’s snow board having a screw malfunction requiring him to go back to ski shop too
  • The condo office worker telling us we had too many people in the condo
  •  Nephew vomiting in the snow on the way to lift … oh no ...
Finally the seven of us (Commuter Husband does not ski) are all on Lift 1 headed up the mountain.

On the way down the Green Whitefeather run, Nephew continues to vomit every 5 minutes. Obviously, SOMETHING is wrong. Brother goes back to condo with Youngest Niece and Nephew. Oldest Son, Youngest Son, Oldest Niece and I decide to continue skiing. Brother takes Nephew to the emergency room where Nephew has elevated white blood count, severe stomach pains and a morphine drip.

The good news for the day was Brother and Nephew were home by dinnertime and the rest of us had a wonderful day skiing. And the evening was passed pleasantly with homemade chicken soup and hot chocolate along with raucous board game playing. We did end the day with Youngest Son vomiting but it appeared to only be the repercussion of a long, active day.

Getting our skis ... Brother assessing the length of his ...
LOVE this photo. That is Youngest Son.
Oldest Niece ready to take on the next slope ...

Day 4 – Full Ski Day and Christmas Eve

We started Christmas Eve day with six of us on the slopes. Nephew stayed in today to recuperate. The day was snowy and on the cooler side thus Youngest Son and Oldest Niece got cold quickly and stopped to warm up in a mountain restaurant. Brother skied with Youngest Niece.

Thus, Oldest Son and I spent most of the day together skiing. We stayed primarily on Blues with Oldest Son kindly waiting for his slower mother. Oldest Son would choose Black runs while I would take alternative routes.  I was thrilled that my 50 year old self could still “hang.”

We ended the afternoon in the hot tub. Chatting with teens is enlightening and frustrating and entertaining all at the same time!

Commuter Husband is the “Ski Housemother” – lucky for us! He has been washing clothes, cooking food and welcoming us as will filter in and out of the condo throughout the day. And he did not disappoint tonight with a spaghetti Christmas Eve dinner with fresh green beans and salad.

I smell the Christmas Eve cookies baking for Santa and stockings are hung …

View from lunch with Oldest Son. Happy Place.
Soup and hot chocolate with Oldest Son for lunch.
Christmas Eve Dinner!

Stockings are hung ... the Jewish Star facing left is Interfaith defined.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Day 1: #CreepyWhiteVan for TexMex Road Trip 2015!


#CreepyWhiteVan
I excitedly texted a picture of the 12 passenger van Commuter Husband and I had just picked up this morning. It went to our "TexMex Road Trip 2015" group. Youngest Niece (age 11) responds with #CreepyWhiteVan. Well ... yes ... it sort of is.

We drove #CreepyWhiteVan from Dallas to Stephenville for the first leg of our 10 day TexMex Road Trip. Since we will be gone on December 25th, we did Christmas this afternoon with Brother, Oldest Niece (age 14), Nephew (age 18), Youngest Niece and My Dad. We had a nice meal provided by Brother and opened presents.

This the first time we have celebrated Christmas with My Dad in 28 years give or take a few. I have learned in the last year that relationships are truly fluid. Sometimes it is too late and then sometimes it is not. We make choices throughout our life that are right for that moment in time. It is important to recognize that circumstances change and choices can change in the new moment. When all parties can make an effort then it is not so hard.

We struggled to find a gift for My Dad who is Papa to Oldest Son and Youngest Son. Youngest Son's giving nature made an appearance through his teen veneer. Youngest Son nixed a couple of our lame ideas (I honestly do not know My Dad that well) and came up with the gift we ultimately purchased for My Dad. In addition, Youngest Son took a signed baseball from his own collection, wrapped it and presented it to his Papa. Youngest Son has raided his own treasures since he was 6 years old to give as gifts to family. He wanted his Papa to have this special baseball. A simple gift showing uncomplicated love between grandchild and grandparent.

I was excited to present my gifts to the group:

T-Shirts for all! TexMex Road Trip 2015. The artwork is by Oldest Niece.

Nephew helps Oldest Niece with Holiday PJs for all! Bear Cheeks - ha!

Oldest Son long and lean in his Bear Cheeks!

Sweet Oldest Niece

And the night ends with 42 ...

We will be up at 4:30am for the route West ...