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No Do Overs


She kept repeating herself, as I tried to watch the game.

“There are no do-overs.”

Mmm, I nodded. She’s right.

“There are no do-overs. They get one teacher per year, every year. One school, then another. There are no-do-overs.”

Mmm, as realization sinks.

“There are no do-overs.”

And, I look upon the field. I’m not sure what I was thinking when she first said it. But, I got it then.

There are no do-overs.

We have one Levi. He has one mommy and one daddy. He has one teacher per year, generally all different. He has one principal per school. He has friends that come and go.

We have one of him, every year.

There are no do-overs.

My husband and I have and continue to make very conscious choices to not parent like our parents parented. Sure, we recognize that we’ll screw up in our own right, and maybe that will send Levi to a therapist one of these days to discuss the crushing ways in which Mommy and Daddy inhibited his creative being. I generally accept that, while recognizing he needs to be given the room to be all that he can be.

Why? Because…

There are no do-overs.

Our son is curious, kind, considerate, and he likes to play. He’s a pretty “normal” five year old. And, he’s having trouble in school. Literally.

My beautiful, kind, sweet boy has been sent to the principal’s office no less than 3 times this year. All for hitting. Two occasions happened on one day. I believe we have it figured out that he is acting out on some unknown-to-adults frustration, without using his words, and instead choosing the more immediate action of hitting. Unfortunately, he’s chosen to hit his classmates.

I don’t think we’re endanger of him being thrown out of school. He’s quite cognizant of the repercussions of these choices. He understand why it wasn’t a “good” choice. He tells us when he does something wrong, and when he didn’t.

They seem more aware at this school. That is, they seem more willing to engage in dialogue and discuss the whys. The kindergarten teacher is sweet, though young. And, I often wonder if they expect Angels in the Classroom rather than rough-and-tumble five year old boys, some of whom are in disequilibreum.

I’m not sure how this behavior will pan out. My son is perfectly reasonable to me when I help him understand how he’s feeling. So, what about this classroom setting is causing this angst? What can we do to help mitigate these frustrations and help them be dealt with healthily?

Coincidentally, my chiropractor heard me discussing this as I was paying. She’s referred us to a behaviorist she knows. We’ll see her on Wednesday. I kind of feel like this is “consult the experts” to prove our kid is “normal’.

But, there are no do-overs. And, we want our kid to have the best experience we can afford.


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The End of Summer

It’s Labor Day weekend. Next week school starts. We haven’t registered Levi yet. I was told before the end of the last school year, that for our neighborhood school – we could wait until the day before school. That’s September 4th. The day after Labor Day. Then, on the next day school starts. Then, on Friday – soccer starts. I am thankful events have been cancelled at my work.

Too much has been changing, to the point I am not comfortable writing about it all. I do not desire to host a professional and a personal blog. I tried that before, and it became too difficult to maintain while life trips over itself into one big … balancing act.

Some themes from the year:

  • Struggling organizations find themselves prey to lack of vision, leadership, and facilitation (among other things).
  • If delegating, embrace “Doers Discretion” or Do It Yourself.
  • Acknowledge that we all struggle with communicating our intent and to be understood. Understand that it is not often that we don’t share similar goals: to do decently for the organization.

Hopefully more writing to come later.

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From the Cloud: Communication


Playtime (Photo credit: alexis22578)

My husband looked outside. He saw a plethora of blueberries. He quietly, calmly came into the house and enquired, “Are there any for us?” I responded that no, none of the blueberries were for us. He pouted. I was in the middle of doing something. I had been in the middle of doing something. All my husband was saying was that he was sad we didn’t have fresh blueberries, not the barrage of inadequate accusations I heard in my head.

After being gone for two weeks, I see the innocence in the expressions. I see the trepidation, newly formed?, in asking requests of the beleaguered others. I see the desire for change. I see the inability to see how they are part of the problem. That is, they cannot see how they are causing angst despite their best intentions.

We are reminded that we are judged upon our actions, not our intentions.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team indicates that a malfunctioning team malfunctions primarily because they don’t trust (ending with lack of accountability). Lencioni argues that we define trust wrongly, assuming it means outcomes when trust should mean intentions. So, when someone performs badly, we say that we can’t trust them even though they might have performed well before. Then, he connects that most people have good intentions.

I read this book almost five years ago, and for awhile I believed it – this newly construed definition of trust. But, then the question begs: how do you interpret intention? I’ve had a lot of meetings recently where everyone had the same intentions, but try as you might you couldn’t convince them that their conclusions were wrong! Intentions didn’t matter because there were other barriers to trust. Then, a friend posted this:

Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold – but so does a hard-boiled egg. ~Author Unknown

Intentions don’t matter. Another:

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Intention doesn’t matter.

My husband intended to convey simple sadness with a lack of fresh blueberries. This other intends to share his industrial wisdom. For my husband, I heard something entirely different, overlooking his intentions entirely. For this other, colleagues hear the accusations of doing wrong instead of seeing the innocence in how he wants to help.

We are letting our egos get in the way of communicating. We are selfishly expecting the conversation to be about us instead of simply about blueberries.

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From the Cloud

75 secondes de pose. Lightnings. Exposure time...
75 secondes de pose. Lightnings. Exposure time : 75 seconds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You have your experience. You walk in. You survey. You hear some stories, but don’t listen to the on the ground stories. You assume you have the whole picture. You collect your posse. You survey, once more. Your posse validates your view, yet you still do not examine the on-the-ground picture. The on-the-ground recognizes they need help, yet they are sceptical of the help you offer. Your help isn’t really helping. Your help assumes you are the trusted expert who knows all. You assume your limited view has given you all you need in the world though you juxtapose it with the statement recognizing you don’t know everything. The on-the-ground is frustrated, concerned, and unsure if this change is really for the better.

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We’re Getting Old: I’m Getting Old

Salmon Dinner

Our dinner consisted of 1 of the last 2-2 lb salmon fillets from Ilamna, fresh roasted asparagus from ProFarm, and Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend.

This realization does not come lightly. I have consistently resisted this thought. I’ve fought against it. I’ve argued it. I’ve stated that age is a state of mind. I continue to believe that life must be celebrated, not dreaded. But, slowly, in my 34th year, the realization has set: I am getting old.

There is something about 34 that rings differently to me. It’s one step closer to 35. Something about 35 is so close to 40. Those I know who have crept past 35 show their age in different ways. Some show it in their eyes. Some show it in their calm demeanor. Some show it in their resignation. Something about getting close to 40 that sets the perspective wheels in motion.

Today, it was technology that set off the thought. This thought has percolated since my birthday. I segment my 30s in threes. Between 30 and 33 it’s the first bit, the early thirties. 34 to 36 is the mid thirties. This is followed by the latter thirties with the age range 37-39. And, after 39 is 40. And, shouldn’t we have it all figured out at 40? I’m nearing half way through my 34th year. It’s another year of introspection, and today I was considering technology.

I don’t want to learn anymore technology. (More or less says the gal with the iPhone who covets a new Retina Macbook Pro and wants to integrate her house on the cloud with a dream kitchen of touch screen recipes perhaps sequenced into the stove.) I’ve mastered countless databases. I’ve learned expert levels of Word and Excel. I could navigate any Windows system (XP and earlier) like counting freckles on the back of my hand. I could trouble shoot any system to the awe of the computer frightened, walking in like the Savior to rescue a mis-saved document.

But now, my speech stutters to find the right terms. I’m tired of how it changes all the time. I don’t care about learning the new Windows (7), the new version of Ubuntu, or where the print icons in Mac are and how they differ. I just want it to stay the same. I want it to all be stagnate for a while.

But now, my speech stutters to find the right terms. I’m tired of how it changes all the time. I don’t care about learning the new Windows (7), the new version of Ubuntu, or where the print icons in Mac are and how they differ. I just want it to stay the same. I want it to all be stagnate for a while.

And, while I was considering this, with whatever technological gizmo that set off the thought, it occurred to me that I am old. I’m tired of the fast pace whizzing by. I am tired, and I can’t keep up. I want routines (4p dinner anyone?) and consistency so I can just work on what I want to work on. No longer do I care about the next new thing. No longer am I impressed with how fast our cloud-based app world moves. I am complaining about the speed of life, like an old person, so that must mean I am old.

My son has admitted that I’m old on a few occasions now. So, that gives further credibility to the claim.

And, then tonight, my friend pontificates over dinner the difference between smoking and Facebook. That’s right, she argued that Facebook has supplanted smoking in after-dinner routines (as I uploaded my dinner pictures to Facebook). She queried, “What? Are we so bored with our friends that we must look to our technological gadgets to entertain us?” Certainly not a new argument. I enjoyed the cigarette comparison where we are giving our idle hands something to do. But, “No,” I eventually countered. I think it’s just that we’re getting old. (My Facebook upload aside.) We are older so we can sit longer and be quiet longer. It’s these young kids (the person in question is 26) who need constant entertainment to grab them. They have not been thoroughly, or properly, introduced to quiet mediations and the importance of silence in conversation.

Yes, I think it is simply that we are getting old. And, you know, I’m finally okay with it.

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Room for Pontification

I really do want people to make up their own minds.

I should appreciate the time to think while scratching my husband’s head or rubbing Levi’s back.

I am very thankful for the friends I have. I am, amazingly, building a circle of people who are calm, deliberate, and slow to judge. I love you all. I hope you know who you are.

My husband said, the other day, “So, you should have bought that $500 Macbook Pro a few months ago, eh? You would have stopped complaining about not having a computer that works.” “Yes, dear,” was basically my reply.

As such, I am now watching some auctions on EBay.

Thinking consistent, habit forming thoughts, please. On the road to better health.

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“Say It Ain’t So Wisco” or in the news today “That’s Not Fair”

The complaints sound like this:

They get paid more than me! That’s not fair!

They get better benefits than me! That’s not fair!

They get better hours than me! That’s not fair!

We should cut their pay to make it fair!

We should cut their benefits so they have the same crappy benefits I have. That will make it fair!

We should make them work the same crappy hours I work! That will make it fair!

I have to drive far to work, so should they! That would make it fair!

I have to scrounge to find child care! They should too! They should quit complaining about how good they have it and suck it up like the rest of us!

They should stop whining! They don’t know what it’s like being a real American having to work for crappy pay, in crappy hours, with a crappy commute! I want them to suffer just like me!

The cause seems to be with these many feelings of unfairness, that the only way to level the playing field is to, quite simply, vote against ones own interests. Or, rather, just enough people believe that the playing field needs to be leveled in this way that the whole votes against their own interests.

What do I mean, you ask?

2012 National Housing Wage is $18.25 per hour.
The 2012 National Housing Wage is $18.25 per hour. (source: The National Low Income Housing Coalition)

It is not in everyone’s best interest to live below a livable housing wage ($18.25 per hour).

It is not in everyone’s best interest to have families working 2.5 jobs or 101 hours per week to maintain stable housing. That type of work week, in itself, is not stable.

It is as if we’ve forgotten that one part of the American Dream is to allow everyone to achieve their own dreams, however they may conceive them to be. Jack’s dream might be to be a hair stylist, Judy’s dream a truck driver, Joe’s dream a school teacher, and Jane’s dream might be to become the 10th Female President of the United States (I’m hoping for a more Progressive U S of A in the coming years).

But, collectively, we think that smokestacking the good social programs away is the path to fairness. We misconstrue the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” idiom for a deluded version of equity.  We opt to choose “equity of outcome” and not “equity in opportunity.” And, instead of choosing an outcome that puts everyone in a state where food, shelter, clothing, education, and health are taken care of – we are choosing an outcome where no one is taken care of.

No one.

Except the 1%.

All for the hope that one day, we too will figure out investment banking and other quick rich schemes to have golden parachutes and swan sculptures for birthday parties. For that faint hope, we vote against our own interests.

By voting against our own interests, we vote against our grandparents. We vote against our parents. We vote against our aunts, our uncles, our cousins. We vote against our sisters. We vote against our brothers. We vote against our children.

For the vain hope that we can be the next Mitt Romney, we sacrifice our children’s future. We sacrifice our kids’ health. We sacrifice our kids’ education. We sacrifice our kids’ housing.

When we sacrifice our basic needs for a whim, we sacrifice our lives.

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Memorial Day Weekend

We now close another holiday weekend. Three days off, where the work email was also turned off. We had a fairly busy weekend, and unfortunately bread wasn’t made.

First, we had dinner with our friends, and we dined at the local taqueira. Cheap, yummy, Mexican food. Levi even ate a cheese quesidilla! For the rest of the weekend, that’s all he’s wanted for his meals.

“What’s that word again?” he’s asked, completely out of context of any meal conversation. So, it leaves me wondering what the heck he’s talking about. We make our way around to food and food options, and suddenly it becomes clear. The irony of it all is, although eh’s enjoyed these homemade quesidillas – he doesn’t really eat them. He eats maybe half of one-eighth!

Ensuring the arm has the right protection.
Ensuring the arm has the right protection.

Saturday, we found ourselves playing at a park and seeing a play. A friend is getting ready to embark on an exciting adventure. So, she and her fiance put together a tour of the neighborhood to celebrate with loved ones their new adventure. We met them at the park. Levi was able to play for about an hour, and then we headed off to the play.

But, not before one of the party-goers pulled out their remote control cars. (Expensive remote control cars that are also quite fast.)

More remote control car.
More remote control car.

Next we visited the Northwest Children’s Theater and School to see a wild performance of El Zorrito, The Legend of the Boy Zorro. I told Levi Friday night what our plans were. He didn’t really understand “seeing a play”, so I began to describe the show to him explaining the boy uses a sword. I explained he was kind of like a super hero. Levi was a little concerned about the use of a sword, but then he linked it, “He only uses his sword on bad guys, right?” “Yes! On bad guys!” I exclaimed.

Parts of the show were quite exciting, to the point I’m not sure Levi was ready for it. And, naturally, his body needed to potty just before intermission or the end of the show. Although we missed some parts of the play, we were first in line for the bathroom. And, despite not having cash for the cupcakes, which caused a severe few moments of emotional distress … Levi had a great time. He was absolutely star struck over this Boy Zorro. (“Mom, what’s his name again?”)

El Zorrito, signing his autograph.
El Zorrito, signing his autograph.

Now, on Friday, we experienced a thunderstorm, from the quiet of our house, after returning from King Burrito. We were able to give our children one of the first lessons in counting how close a storm is and tracking as it leaves with the seconds between lightening and thunder. With four adults and two kids getting excited over it, it was hard for the kiddos to be afraid.

Saturday night, however, Levi and I did not fair quite so well. When the play was over, we approached the back exit as the front was much too crowded. Like a good theater, we didn’t have access to light or any cues of what was happening outside. So, we were quite suprised to see torrential rain pouring out of the sky as we approached the exit. We decided to go back to the crowd to get another peak at El Zorrito. And, then, back to the exit to wait out the rain. Levi refused to walk out in the rain. We watched three groups of people courageously venture out into the downpour, and suddenly, Levi was ready.

We charged out teh door, held hands, and we ran. The puddles were immense! Rain, thunder, lightening, and it was only a block and a half to the car! The front tires were covered 12-18 inches in water, and the corner curbs were submerged in this mini flood. We got soaked. Our heads were soaked. Our shirts and sweaters were soaked. And, our pants were soaked mid-calf.

I suppose it’s no wonder we kept our tasks for Sunday and Monday to a dull roar. I’m not sure we have had such an adventurous Saturday, well not at least for a long time.

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Wednesday, May 23

I feel compelled to write. I really want this habit to reform. I really want this method of reflection to just be a part of my day. But, here I sit stuck again. Today was simply a day. It was neither too eventful nor too boring. It was a sort of “just right” sort of day.

So, why am I stuck? I guess I hope I can be a witty, thoughtful writer who has something poignant and quotable to say every day. (Maybe the American Psychiatric Association is right, everyone is a narcissist.)

how to get unstuck? I figured it out, at least temporarily, last year. Just write. It doesn’t matter what I write. i don’t have to be witty. I don’t have to make my 750 or 300 word dreams. I just have to write.

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Tuesday, May 22nd

Birthday Cupcake Ideology (Photo credit: alexis22578)

I have moved the computer to the kitchen. One light bulb is out, and the orange glow in our soon to be outlawed incandescent lights is disturbing my visual field. The dishes need to be put in the dishwasher. The floor still needs to be mopped. We have grocery bags that don’t have a great home, scattered among the chairs. Levi is in bed, whining for his squeezy bottle.

Tonight was one of those interesting parental evenings, where the child needs some semblance of attention and is manifesting that want in ways that are not comprehensible to the parent (me).

I picked the child up from school tonight, thankful for a low traffic night in this resurgence of rain and 60 degree weather. He was waiting, coat on, backpack on. As soon as I got to the door he was there with his teacher. A far cry from the night before where I could not find them. They ran an errand just as I arrived. Mind you, I was pushing the 6:00 clock pick up with my 5:58pm arrival. (I’ve been sick; I was trying to nap.) So, tonight, arriving twenty minutes earlier, they were ready for me in more ways than one.

The child was fairly pleasant. He removed his backpack immediately upon my arrival, claiming he now needed to get his snack. (I usually let him get it out after we get settled in the truck.) This was an amusing feat, regardless, for myself and his two teachers. I signed him out, and we resettled his backpack.

All was chipper.

We were low on a few grocery items that I don’t procure from my buying club (cheddar cheese, sour cream, yogurt, pasteurized milk, deli meats), so we ventured en route to the nearest grocery store.

The child continued with his chipper, playful, obedient mood. All this, to the pleasure of his mother (me).

We have an uneventful trip at the crowded grocery store, collect our items, and a new toy, and head out. The grocery store trip was accompanied by the 5-year-old being able to ride on the cart (in ways store staff don’t always approve) most of the trip. I was comfortable with this mode of transport as it 1) let me know where the 5-year-old is always and 2) kept him occupied in a pleasant way. All tactics aid to keeping the 5-year-old chipper, avoiding meltdowns, and allowing said child to remain obedient. All these things make mother pleased.

Once we are loaded into our car, backed out of the parking light, where full-trendy-grocery store parking dances commence (the car next to us pulls out, another pulls in, we pull out, another pulls in behind us, while dancing around drivers who quickly turned to pedestrians whilst navigating said parking lot and dance), and on the road — I tell the 5-year-old what’s for dinner. It goes something like this:

“So, when we get home, we’ll have grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. Okay?”

“Ooh, and I can have gold-fish crackers too!” replies the now excited 5-year-old.

“Yes! You can have gold-fish crackers with your grilled cheese sandwich.” I assure the 5-year-old, relieved that tonight, we can forego the nightly dinner argument.

Fast forward to being home, having groceries put away, the 5-year-old watching a Barney-Thomas the Train-Bob the Builder DVD on loan from the library, me grilling the sandwiches away. (Mine is more gourmet adorned with the deli meat and swiss cheese).

Note: Our microwave broke several weeks ago, beyond repair. We are down to a puny heel of bread. I brought two, very frozen loaves up from the deep freeze. They are now (3 hours later) thawed to a usable stage.

I let his small, grilled cheese sandwich cool, cut in half, on a plate while mine finishes. I mention to the 5-year-old that his grilled cheese sandwich is nearly done. I will even let him eat in the living room. (I don’t want arguments. I want easy dinner time which should transfer to easy bedtime.)

I hear no reply and mistake (yes, mistake) that for continued acceptance of before mentioned and vetted dinner menu. The gold-fish crackers have already been consumed.

The 5-year-old walks to the kitchen. The 5-year-old notes that these are indeed grilled cheese sandwiches.

“But, I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Grilled cheese is too dirty!”

Get it? Grilled cheese is toasted, crumbly bread, after it is grilled appropriately. It makes more crumbs than a fresh loaf of bread (one that is not available due to our no-microwave-fresh-from-the-freezer-state of bread).

I insisted that this indeed for dinner. After a 10-20 minute whine-fest in his room, the 5-year-old comes out. (The rule is that the living room and kitchen are more or less “happy zones”, any other inconsolable fit must be had in his room. He is allowed to return when he is in a better mood. We have found this to be a good tactic toward self-soothing.)

He says, “I can eat the grilled cheese sandwich in the living room, right?”

Ah, the life of a parent. It’s never-ending, unpredictable roller-coaster ride of developing minds.

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