I started drying my fork, and then I noticed part of my lunch was clinging, viciously, to the tines. In that moment, I was transported back to when I was a preteen, staying with my uncle and aunt for a month during the summer.
Here, in the present day, the work dishwasher is on the fritz. While we’re waiting for parts to arrive, we now have to wash and put away our own dishes lest the kitchen sanity spiral out of control. A colleague put a few signs up on Monday when they walked into a complete disaster of a kitchen – dishes piled everywhere. We all have important jobs to do, but no one wears the title of janitor or maid, so cleanup really has to happen per your own incidents. I’m reminded of the adage, “Your mother doesn’t work here; clean up after your own mess.”
So, I’m scrubbing away at my semi-curry stained lunch (I made cheesy noodles last night for dinner, loaded with turmeric because the family can’t tell the difference, and I think it’s a fun way to sneak in an anti-inflammatory and whatever other great things turmeric does for you). And, I am transported to this warm summer where I was washing dishes with my aunt’s nephew. I suppose that’d make him my cousin once or twice removed (I’m not sure of the count).
My cousin didn’t clean a dish thoroughly. He left a spot. I was trained to return dirty dishes to the washer so they learned how to was dishes properly. And, as I did this, my aunt interjected. She said, “No, not in this house,” and with a flick of her finger, she knocked off the spot, rinsed the dish, and handed it to me for drying.
I think my aunt was trying to teach me about teamwork. Many hands make light work. We all make mistakes, but if we have the organizational goal in mind, we’ll get there. We’ll be kind, rather than right.
So, today is World Kindness Day. How have you contributed to our greater societal good? How were you kind today?
My husband was kind to me. He poured me a big glass of wine. I read Levi three books at bedtime, and he read me one. He read nearly every single word of 8 Silly Monkeys. I offered our back porch for a friend to store some things while she’s getting ready to move.
So, thank you flick of curry for reminding me that it is better to be kind, than to be right, on this World Kindness Day.
We are on tooth three. Levi has, now, lost three teeth. It seems like the first two teeth were over a year ago – but I think it was really just last spring.
I have a problem. That is, I forget to be the tooth fairy. I remember all the way up until bedtime, and then, somehow I forget.
So, we did a few things wrong this time. First, I forgot to be the tooth fairy. Second, I had previously instructed Levi to put the tooth in a bag. I was helping the Tooth Fairy – so she wouldn’t have to dig around under a pillow for the tiniest tooth you have ever seen. Rather, the Tooth Fairy simply has to fumble around for a bag, replace with the agreed upon trade ($1), and be on her merry way.
Levi was so excited about this tooth. In fact, he thought he lost it before he actually did because it was so wiggly, it wiggled to one side of his mouth over another that the gap left was enough for a tooth! It took another week for the tooth to actually leave his mouth, dangling by a thread the whole time. He even pulled it out this time. I did the last one – and that was awful, it made a noise. I think my son is more sensitive in the gums than I was.
Finally, the tooth leaves his mouth. It is a Sunday. he is thrilled to no end. The whole day goes by with references to what might be. He even sneaks it under his pillow before I could prep the whole bag scheme!
And, 9pm rolls around and I get into my nighttime routine. Then I go to bed. Then, I wake up, first with the husband leaving for work, and second with the small boy shrieking in terror, “The Tooth Fairy forgot to come! My tooth is still there!”
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Parent fail. Danger, Will Robinson.
“Oh, no,” I reply. “I bet she got really busy. I bet if you put the tooth under your pillow one more night she’ll come back.”
“Okay,” replies my skeptical son.
That night, I forgot again, to instruct him to put the tooth in the bag. But, I had a reminder on my phone. I would not forget! Bedtime comes, and goes. An hour goes by. My alarm goes off. Must be tooth fairy.
I enter his room. The light is low, as we’ve been keeping it on for 6-year-old fears. He is sound asleep. I slowly put my hand under his pillows, there are three. He doesn’t move. He is very sound asleep – out to the world. I pat around under his pillow. I cannot feel the tooth. I pat more, reaching further, towards the wall. I cannot feel the tooth.
I cannot feel the tooth! And, I remember, I didn’t have him put it in a bag! Argh! Night two of this? Seriously?
He has scooted down, so I gently remove a pillow, and another, and another. Pillows strewn about his room, there is still no tooth on his bed! Now, I start to remove covers. I cannot believe he’s not waking up. I still can’t find the tooth!
There is something miraculous about this stage of boy – sound asleep to the world, thankfully not wetting the bed, but awake at 6am, every day. After about 5 minutes of pawing and patting in his room. I give up and devise backup plan. I gently put this pillows back. I gently put the boy back. I gently put the covers over his snuggled body. He stops shivering, and cuddles his rabbit further in the covers.
I tip toe out the room. I go to the back room, grab a sticky, go to the kitchen, nab a pen, grab a plastic bag.
I construct my note.
I know you lost your tooth. But I cannot find it. Here is 50 cents. Please leave your tooth in the bag tonight, and I will come back one more night.
The Tooth Fairy
I sneak back into his room, and I gently push the bag and note and acquired fifty cents under his pillow.
In the morning, the small boy looked under his pillow, but he didn’t understand what he had. I had to explain it to him a few times before he got it. Bottom line, kiddo, the tooth fairy couldn’t find your tooth, BUT, she knew you lost it so she is giving you half the value. Find your tooth, put it back under your pillow (hey, how about in this bag she left?), and then you’ll get a dollar.
I had told him that he needed to find the tooth after school, but how can you do that when that’s the only thing on your mind? So, he found the tooth before school. I still don’t remember where he said it was.
That night, I remind Levi about the instructions. After an entire day has gone by, he unfortunately forgot. So, I had him get the note, and I reread it to him, and I reexplained it to him. He got the gravity of the situation: NO TOOTH, NO CASH. So, together, we put the bag under his pillow, and this time, the retrieval is much easier. I go in his room, with a new note that reads:
Thank you for following my instructions. I am sorry I couldn’t come the first night. Here is your dollar for your tooth.
The Tooth Fairy
P.S. Keep this bag for the next tooth.
The next morning, he forgot to look under his pillow! So, I remind him, and then he’s not excited about the dollar.
Right, the kiddo still doesn’t get money. He still thinks it grows on trees, or at least mommy and daddy. And, we’re trying to incorporate a value of work by charging for odd and regularly needed jobs around the house. But, mommy and daddy aren’t consistent enough for the message to stick.
So, the dollar sits by my bed stand for over a week. Until tonight.
Today is Veteran’s Day, and Levi and I had the day off. So, we had the whole day, together, alone. A few times today, I had Levi demonstrate how wiggly his other front tooth is. I even had him twist it back and forth like a soda can top, loosening it just bit by bit, as much as he could stand.
Until. Until he asked for something more to eat and the brown bananas weren’t good enough. He asksd, then, for an apple. He asked for it to be cut up.
“No. Eat it the way it is,” I demanded.
“Okay,” he agreeably agreed.
So, he sat next to me on the couch. Chomp. Crunch. Chomp. Crunch. Suddenly, he is searching for something. I thought he dropped a piece of apple.
“Mommy! Look! It came out and I didn’t even feel it!”
We had to write two notes to the tooth fairy. It is now 9:00 pm. I am going to wait another 20 or 30 minutes before I go in there to deposit the next dollar. Hopefully it will be more appreciated than the first.
“Don’t do that,” I scolded Levi as he tried to crash into me with one of his attack hugs.
“Why not?” he asked.
“Because, I’m all topsy-turvy.”
“What do you mean, ‘topsy-turvy’?” he queried.
“I mean I can’t stand up straight. I can’t balance.”
He considered that for a bit and understood by replying, “Oh, you mean you’re tippy!”
Yes, I’m all topsy-turvy today. Last week, our first week of full day schedules, and I was so proud. We had our stuff together. We woke up early enough. We had enough time for breakfast. We had enough time to make lunches the night before. There is never enough play time, but we digress. And, it all sort of worked.
And, then, I woke up Friday morning. I had one of those sore throats that make me wonder if I am getting strep. It actually started the night before, Thursday night, which resulted in several throat examinations, where I stare in the mirror positioning my tongue just so I can shine a flashlight down the full length examining, past my tonsils into my throat for white spots that are likely not food. I can see some white spots where my throat is sore, so I continue to watch the right side of my throat.
The next morning, when I woke up with it even more sore, it wasn’t even red! Let alone a showing of any white spots. So, I started to chalk it up to allergies and did what I could to ease the pain. I did not go into the office lest I be tempted to torture my sandpapered throat. I got work done outside of the office on my new little white computer, instead. The head was clear, the brain was functioning. It was just a throat thing.
Until Saturday morning. At which point I woke up to a full-fledged cold. The aches. The pains. The runny nose. Oddly, the sore throat had disappeared.
This was our little hitch in the road. Because I was not feeling well all weekend, the grocery list didn’t get made. The menu didn’t get planned. And lunches didn’t get prepped (save Daddy’s) the night before. And, Monday still existed, and we still got to school on time, though not as early as I would have preferred. And, why? Because mommy was all topsy-turvy with a cold.
Well, I’m feeling better now, thankful for the leftovers re-imagined twice, equalling semi-quick and quick meals that keep on giving. And, hopeful for tomorrow and a cleaner start.
There was a time I would get really bored with the day-to-day, yearning for something else – travel, excitement, something more. There was a time that, when single and living alone, I would visit my sister every weekend. There was a time, when single, that I had enough discretionary funds that I could take a weekend trip wherever in the lower-48 and it wouldn’t break the bank.
But time has shifted, costs have shifted, and my family structure has shifted. There is an interesting thing that seems to happen when we become parents. How our focus switches to this small thing growing before our eyes, and it’s almost as if we don’t always recognize when we let our own needs aside. Suddenly, the desire for that excitement, for me, goes away. It’s more important to make sure the now six-year-old is rested before school. $250 round trip air fare is long since passed no matter that our wages and expenses haven’t really changed (that is we can afford less now than we could 8 years ago).
It struck me last night while talking to an old friend whom I hadn’t visited with in quite a long time. She was talking about saving up for her 10 year wedding anniversary. (I can’t believe it’s almost been 10 years!) We were talking about commutes (she and her hubby have long and longer commutes). And suddenly I was talking about our daily pattern: husband wakes up, goes to work, Levi and I wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, go to school, go to work, husband gets home from work, husband picks up kiddo, mommy comes home, eat dinner, prep for next day, repeat. And, that’s just our routine, and that’s okay. But, every time I vocalize that routine, I realize how boring it sounds. The same thing, every day. And, that’s okay. It doesn’t feel boring as we’re living it.
There are so many nuances that make each day different and strange and crazy and enjoyable. But, really, that’s it. We occasionally go to the ocean, but I loathe booking up every weekend. The visit a weekend I didn’t mind in my early twenties is long since gone.
Now, I know more about what I need to function. I understand better how this introverted personality and blossoming from a shy person affects how many people I want to interact with at one time and when I don’t enjoy it (loud bars where you can’t hear anything aren’t my favorite unless I can zone out to the band’s music). I prefer smaller, more intimate settings where I can learn about something cool from a few people at a time. And, I need that refresh time to keep all the stories straight, lest I forget. I need to be able to revisit the details, without chiding myself over a something that may or may not have mattered.
There is a part of me that misses the whimsy of my twenties. A part of me that misses the ability to throw some clothes into a bag, buy a quick plane ticket and go… But, there is a larger part of me that takes solace in the routine of everyday. A larger part of me that more or less doesn’t mind it. Perhaps it’s because i have too many obligations right now and balancing the “must get done” is hard to do with the “what I said I’d do”.
So, yes, I’ll take my boring life as we continue to learn how to raise our son. I’ll take the monotony of the weeks as we establish and re-establish our routines. And, I’ll be curious what I think of this post in a year.
Sometimes Levi gets a hold of my phone, when it’s locked. He used hit number after number, locking it up further with wrong combinations. Now, he’s realized that he can at least play with the camera. And, so he does, until I come along.
So, today, I bring you a few photos taken by Levi and me of the last few days and weeks.
So tired! The first week of school is so exhausting! We’ve survived day two. This year, we are doing a new system to help manage behaviors. This year, the teacher has more than 20 years experience. This year, we have three years of schooling, one at the same school, under our belts. This year, we finally acknowledge the need to honor transitions. This year, we had the uniforms and school picked out before the first day. This year, we have a jump on getting up and getting prepped.
The door was always open. We would be sitting around the kitchen table, drinking coffee, and someone would walk in. There no strangers – just friends and family keeping us updated on their lives. It might be my aunt. It might be a neighbor. They might stay for an hour, a meal, or only a minute. But, the door was always open. I’m not entirely sure how my grandmother created her own boundaries to get what she needed – but the common trend was that she made her house there for others.
Always being there. Always being generous with food. Always being generous with listening. This was my grandmother, and this is what I will miss most. But, unbeknownst to me, she has wildly affected how I live. My husband sometimes complains (while stating the perplexing catch-22) of my generosity. Together, we keep our home open for friends in need. And, together, we try to be there for our family and our community.
I never thought about defining community in a specific way, until I went to Portland State. In one of the first community development classes I took, we discussed, “What is community?” A few students were arguing with my ad hoc view – they felt that people coming together under a common banner: school, a club, etc., was too narrow a view of community. They also didn’t seem satisfied with a neighborhood definition. I was lost in their academia of specifics, and chose not to argue.
So, what is community then? My grandmother took care of her community of family and friends. I volunteer about the causes I think are most important. My husband offers his handy skills to friends and family in need of mechanical handy skills. We are teaching Levi to pick up after himself to the point that if we don’t pick up litter on the street, he chides us. We take our skills, our abilities, our responsibilities, and we try to model them in the world at large. That’s community.
A friend posted on a local moms’ board about the need of another mom. That is Terri posted about a need that Rhonda had. Rhonda was in the hospital for an undisclosed period of time. Rhonda had a 6 month old baby. Rhonda and her family highly valued breast milk, but was unable to feed her daughter whilst in the hospital. So, Terri, broached the request for breast milk from the mom’s list. The question was answered and the wee babe was fed through shared breast milk from other nursing moms. That’s community.
That’s community, despite the likelihood that all are coming together around a shared topic: support of breastfeeding. I think this breastfeeding example shows the need for shared interests to be included in our definition of community, especially as we consider how we want to create communities in our neighborhoods or workplaces.
We need our communities to be strong so we can take care of one another. My grandmother understood that. She was a natural nurturer, making sure people’s basics needs were met. My friend understands that, she made sure that Rhonda’s need of feeding her child were taken care of so she could get well. We create a bond, strengthening our communities, when we come together over those shared interests and extrapolate beyond. Those shared interests – whether it be the street we live, the knitting circle we share, the blood ties that bind, or whole food values – bring us together to have first conversations. Then, over music, and food, we talk. We listen. We share stories. We share our own human condition with another and hopefully have more understanding to the needs of another. We mature, and we realize that we need to be there for one another in a broad sense to create the bonds that do not come apart.
I begged, pleaded, “Can I please have one more?” My grandmother acquiesced, and gave me three, instead of two, hand crocheted dish cloths. I wanted them for a few reasons. Namely, my grandmother had earlier admitted that she was ready to die. She was tired, and she had a full life. She didn’t need anything more.
That was last July, the last time my family was able to visit Michigan.
Having older grandparents, knowing the average life expectancy of humans, it’s a sort of ticking time bomb until their expiration date. Death happens. It happens too early, too late, and sometimes right on time in our human, familial standards. Once my grandmother was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, I wondered, for every call I received from my mother, I wondered if this was the one that would say, “Be on a plane, Grandma passed away.”
It didn’t happen like that, though. It happened while we were supposed to be in Michigan. My husband didn’t want to spend the money and I wasn’t feeling an obligatory family vacation this year. My boys, my husband and my son, and I haven’t been on a fun vacation in months. The last being a long weekend at the coast.
Every family visit is different. Some visits are full of bliss and remembering the good times. Some visits bring out the crabby in everyone, and this has been a crabby year – and I certainly didn’t want to spend over $1,500 (strictly on airfare, not including gas, food, lodging, etc.) to be crabby. The airfare prices never dropped below $440 each, and instead, skyrocketed to $700. So, we talked and decided to go to the redwoods instead. And, we had a fun family vacation. We had a quick adventure up the Northern California and Southern Oregon Coast – two places we’ve longed to visit since being in Portland nearly 10 years.
Really, it was the kind of trip my grandmother would have appreciated.
To adjust the three weeks vacation we were now NOT taking, I decided to work the following two weeks and take the last week of August off. Not only have family been crabby, but so have workmates, and I need a break. I need a break from bad attitudes that I’ve allowed to affect my attitude. I need a refresh, a recharge. And for me, that is best served relatively alone. So, we made our calls, we gave our apologies, and we set forth on our now revised vacation.
Post-redwoods, I see a few updates of family visiting Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa looks better, but Grandma does not. And, then, on Board Meeting Thursday, I get a call – Grandma is in the ER and she can’t breathe. With this thought ever-present in my day, I keep doing the things that need doing – notes, mail, answer phones, appointments. Until, I finally come home, later in the evening than on a normal day. And, then, I injure my foot. Maybe my posterior tendon rubs the wrong way with my plantar fascia – I’m still not sure – but the prescription is rest. The next day, just before being x-rayed, I have a detailed chat with my cousin, who was preparing for her upcoming wedding. She tells me how Grandma doesn’t want tears, how she can’t breathe, and how she can’t talk. All I really want is a Grandma hug. But, Grandma couldn’t even give me a Grandma hug last year. Tearfully I get my x-rays, and the rest of the day is spent resting.
Late Saturday night, my grandmother passed away. There was nothing I could do then, so I wrote. The next day, I awaited calls on details, and when that finally came – with all the raw emotion of a stressed situation – I made the decision – we will not be going back to Michigan to celebrate, with family, the lovely life of my grandmother.
I mentioned this to a co-worker, and she reminded me that funerals serve many purposes, and if you can’t grieve in the way you need to grieve at the funeral, it’s okay that you’re not there. I am comforted by the restated words of my cousin where Grandma asked for no tears and the reminder that she will be watching us from up above.
[NOTE: I’m reluctant to post this post. This pontification of how to manage relationships in a day, I fear might come off as manipulative. But, that is not my intent. A friend said to me once that when entering a new workforce, it’s one’s job to figure out how to communicate with all those different personalities. We all need information, so how can we get the information we need to get our jobs done? It’s from that thinking that I write this – we all have ways in which we try to get things done, and I am interested in exploring the strategies behind those ways.]
It’s amazing to me how much strategy goes into doing a thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s parenting, being a wife, a sister, a daughter, a colleague, a boss, a volunteer, a volunteer board member… All roles involve some level of strategy. As an INTJ (Introvert, Intuition, Thinking, Judging), sometimes dubbed “Mastermind”, strategy speaks to me. Regardless, I find it interesting the aresenal of strategy must one employ some days to simply get things done.
In general, my basic tactic is this: assume curiosity, listen, and ask clarifying questions. I try to suppress whatever judgements I might have, reverse the situation and ask questions. I try to be sure I have compassion in my heart, otherwise I come off as sarcastic and rude (as evidenced in my later example). This tactic, though, works best when I plan for it.
Let’s continue with a different sort of example: raising children. I decided that I would not be (100%) my mother. I love my mother, no matter what. My mother, though, made choices based on her situation and what she knew. A lot of those things are the same: enforcing boundaries, recognizing needs, putting your kids first for many things. Some things are different like when we let our kids watch TV, when my husband and I decided to put our kid in school, how we negotiate punishments. I have been using a tactic, for example, where I respond with “asked and answered” when asked, repeatedly, the same question. “Mom, can I play Pac-Man?” No. “Why not?” Because I said so. “Mom, if you do this thing, I’ll let you play Pac-Man with me.” Asked and answered, Levi.
That’s a benign difference though. My mother had her own “asked and answered”. One point where we differ is food. I hated the food wars I had growing up. Being forced to eat spinach (canned, which to this day I despise, though freshI thoroughly enjoy), and the fight we would have over a tiny tablespoon – having to choke it down in all its sliminess. So, I don’t want to have food wars with my son… but he used to eat everything. Then we sent him to preschool, at the same time those taste buds of his started developing, more, in earnest. Suddenly, my child who used to eat everything (and is to this day commended as a “good eater” despite his pickiness!) became a very picky eater.
Suddenly, I was faced with a picky eater while working 40 hours a week, plus volunteering. Time is of the essence, and fighting over food isn’t how I want to spend the two hours we have from when we get home until bedtime. So, I started enabling the simple palette of buttered noodles, cheese, and apples. To the point that my child thinks that he can decide what’s for dinner! The audacity. As such, the tactics change. Did I give you a choice for dinner, Levi? “No.” Okay then. Steadfastly, we’ve been employing a tablespoon of everything – finish that, and then you get more. Don’t eat any of it? Then it’s served for the next (and the next if necessary) meal. I am not a short order cook; I am a mother with limited time on her hands!
Groups outside the family are notorious for strategy. I employ strategy when picking up the phone, constructing emails, choosing what to and what not to say to colleagues and supervisors. And, in one space, (at least one space) there is one individual, who I think takes joy in my screwing up. I expect him to call out my mistakes, while I imagine him gleefully rueful at his computer. So, I am prepared with strategy: THANK YOU sir for pointing out the error of my ways! Here is the corrected thing so that we may all move forward, quickly! Your guidance and mentorship (truly meant) are very helpful!
As I write this, I know how sarcastic it sounds – but I really don’t use sarcasm when it comes to these situations. A sarcastic strategy would only do a disservice. In fact, I fear for the sarcastic strategy because I think it would be more likely to backfire. I often wish sarcastic strategies would work for me, but I fear the disservice because it’s only been a disservice to me. (Maybe being sarcastic about a household chore, only to have it go undone when sarcasm was used to encourage it getting done.) So, imagine my delight when I heard on NPR this morning about how a campaign to save Troy’s Public Library from the tax cutting block worked, likely because of sarcasm!
Back in 2011, after a series of funding cuts that affected many municipalities, Troy’s library was slated to turn into a storage facility. After many repeated, unsuccessful attempts to get voters to turn out in support of funding the library – a group of citizens launched a sarcastic campaign: they called for a book burning party two days after the vote! (Read more about the Troy Book Burning Strategy.)
Not all strategies work for every situation. While I might “kill my colleague with kindness” to spite his rueful nature, I might forget where i’m not expecting it. Sometimes, when in situations, I might even choose an envelope pushing strategy, not unlike the Troy Book Burning, to call attention to a situation.
What kind of strategies do you employ? What are your most successful strategies that you use to get a job done?