Looking Panicked

People crowding, touching, talking
Air heavy, stale and warm
Now into my hair they’re coughing
In my face like bees they swarm
Can I escape? I start walking
Anywhere but here and fast
The exit path is blocked
Toward the door unlocked
Air is thick I gulp and gasp
Credible excuse concoct
Keep away, I’m free at last

I don’t often panic. I have a “cool as a cucumber” exterior – most of the time. (Except when spiders are involved.) However I’ve been finding that I am having dreams where I wake myself in a state of panic. My heart is pounding and I’m sweating. I can barely catch my breath. The worst part is that I don’t remember what the dream was. There is no spider or tragic event. I am just afraid. I know people who have anxiety in situations that lead them to have panic attacks. I’ve never counted myself susceptible to that particular problem, until now. So far I’ve only experienced it at night, in my bed, and I KNOW there is nothing happening that should induce the panic. But now I’m starting to be concerned that these episodes might find their way into my daytime and work hours. I’m pretty sure this is all connected to problems that exist in my little world. And I’m confident that everything will work out in the end. It is just that getting from here to there is a pretty rocky road.

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Looking at the Decision

The Amber Alert and an overheard conversation has triggered some deep thinking. I turned over these events in my head and came to the following conclusion: There are two ways to go when having a child. You can either carry on with your life without making any alterations to your priorities/taking any responsibility. Or you can put the child first and make their well-being and safety your primary goal in life. And I’ve seen and met both types of parents.

The self-centered parent often sees the child as an impediment to enjoying life. The parents’ needs and especially wants come first. This is evident in choices made – buy diapers or cigarettes, groceries or beer, shoes or methamphetamine… Those of course are the extremes. It is the same when the parent prefers to surf the internet instead of taking the child to the bathroom, or is in conversation with another adult and ignores the child standing up in the shopping cart. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t use the smart phone or look away from the child ever. But children need our attention. They need our help and our protection, not only from bad people and dangerous things but also from themselves. They have to be taught that fire is hot and will burn so that they don’t put their hand on a hot stove. They have to learn that streets are busy and they can be injured or killed by cars so that they don’t walk into speeding traffic. The parent who wants to go out to party getting so drunk that they come home and pass out is definitely putting themselves first.

The other type is focused entirely on the child. As with the neglectful parent, there are also extremes with this type of parenting. I’ve seen children so “managed” that they’ve never felt sand sift through their fingers because mommy doesn’t want them to get dirty and then there is the possibility that there are germs in the sand that would harm their delicate child (who lives in a virtual bubble). There are helicopter parents who attempt to insulate their children from any negative experience or consequence. These children have never gotten an average grade mostly because mom/dad will argue the grade with the teacher and more often than not get it changed in the student’s favor. Although well meaning these parents are setting their children up for failure in the “real” world. The kids never learned how to deal with disappointment, how to lose gracefully, and how to stand up for themselves. They had every advantage growing up but there comes a time when parents can’t step in and “fix” things. It doesn’t go over very well if your parents want to argue with the boss about your work load or your vacation schedule or a tiff with a coworker.

I’m not sure which child has it better, the bubble wrapped child or the child raised by wolves. Having a healthy balance is best for everyone. Yes it is OK to have some “me” time with the caveat that even when taking time to nourish your adult side you are still responsible for your child. And it is good to allow the child to develop coping strategies for disappointment. Remember not every child is a gifted artist, not every child is a star quarterback. It is OK to be average in some subjects as long as the child is doing their personal best and putting effort into the work. Being responsible for the welfare of the child does not mean having training wheels on the bicycle until the age of 12! Being an advocate for your child does not mean their team always has to win, they must get 1st place in the science fair, have the lead in the school play, or be the most popular student in the school – especially if it is achieved through your personal intervention in their life!! As for the child that is left to their own devices, if they survive, they will probably be that kid that spends almost every day at your house looking for structure, security and a sense of belonging. If you become that substitute parent, they just might stay in school and out of jail.

OK. I’m done. We return to the regularly scheduled program…

Looking Alert

I have the Amber Alert notification enabled on my phone. Usually they come in from far away locations – New York, California, even Florida. On August 29th my phone made lots of noise about an Amber Alert from Sturgis, MI (not so far away). The first alert was that 3 children were missing. Shortly after that the notification was that 3 children had been abducted. And within a half hour it was amended to say the 3 children were abducted and the suspect was armed and dangerous. The story has a happy ending. The children were recovered unharmed (at least physically) and the father of the youngest is in custody. Seems the mother had a restraining order. The father disregarded the piece of paper, assaulted the mother, kidnapped all 3 kids, and threatened to kill them and himself. The father is in custody. The children are reunited with their mother. Which leads me to ask why this happened.

I thought about it long and hard. It niggled at my brain and burrowed in my subconscious. I’ve determined that it comes down to conceitedness and an egocentric attitude. This man put his wants before that of any of the other people in the story. If he couldn’t have the ex girl friend then no one could! He took not only his child but 2 others. He treated them as if they were inanimate objects. It wasn’t about hurting them – it was that through them he hoped to manipulate their mother, cause her pain and ultimately punish her for leaving him. He thought about what she held most dear and then stole it. In this case it was her children. I suspect he will be spending a good long time in jail. I doubt (yet there is always hope) that he will be able to step outside his own wants and place that of others first.

Looking Older

I was once young. Time moves and my younger self slides further away. I glance over my shoulder and can barely make out the color of my hair. So here I am. One moment I was limber and strong and carefree. Now I find my body does not cooperate as easily. There is dissonance between will and ability. I must cajole the present me into doing what the past me did without a second thought. My 10 year old self is impatient. My 16 year old self is disgusted. My 30 year old self is disappointed. My 45 year old is resigned. But it is my 60 year old self that is angst ridden. I wring my hands and wonder how this has happened. But I know the answer. I am still alive. And that is a wonderful thing. I was once young and it was marvelous. Now I’m much older and life is different but still superb!

Above is my prose poem about aging. I was talking with my sister in law and she was saying that her significant other was doing some modeling. He is making lots of money posing for advertisements. The company is looking for additional models. Specifically older women with grey hair that are slender and active. Seems that here are a dearth of older women willing to look their age. Go figure. I noticed a company was hawking a drug for erectile dysfunction and the man in the ad was silver haired and obviously in his 70s but his “wife” looked like she was a 30 year old that had been made-up to look older. It just didn’t look right….

Looking Resilient

Life consists of a series of events. Like pearls on a string each is part of who we are. There are times when we actively slide a pearl onto the string – we make choices. There are other moments where choices are made for us for better or worse. Whether you are actively navigating through life or passively allowing life to sweep you along, you will encounter difficulties. Things happen. The key to living well is being resilient. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; a toughness. That is not to deny that bad things have happened. It doesn’t mean suppressing emotions. What it does mean is that when troubles come you don’t let those bad things change who you want to be, how you love, when you pray. You acknowledge the problems. You grieve, cry, perhaps even let loose with come choice 4-letter words but you step forward and move away from the difficulty toward possibilities. Let that pearl sit there because it is now a part of your history but don’t let it be the last pearl on the necklace of your life.

Resilience is hard to master. Some folks never get the hang of it. It is more than placing one foot ahead of the other. It is an attitude mixed with some courage. It is believing that you are worthy of love. It is saying that your life is your own and your capacity to love is infinite. If you need to be reminded, print this and read it before you go to bed and before you get up in the morning. It is said that if we hear something often enough we will come to believe it. This works for negative as well as positive words. Listen for the positive!

Looking Over the Top of My Glasses

I got an email from my ophthalmologist reminding me that it is time for my annual eye exam. Last year I had an exam that indicated I didn’t need to change my prescription. As far as I can tell, my eyes haven’t changed. I still can type on the computer better without my glasses, I can still thread a needle, and I can still read an ear tag without resorting to a magnifying glass. I wear prescription safety glasses at work (~9 hours a day). These are a slightly different shape than my regular glasses and because the lenses are bigger I don’t have to look over the top (not that I could anyway). For some reason the very top and bottom are the equivalent of looking over or under my other pair. Supposedly they are the same prescription! It is a mystery. My current quandary is whether or not to make an eye appointment. I know that it will cost about $200 for the exam. I also don’t want to put off eye care just because you don’t mess around with your eyesight. Still I’m not having any problems…

Hindsight
Foresight
Second sight
Do your glasses help or hinder?
Near vision
Far vision
Night vision
Do your glasses clarity render?
Starlight
Twilight
Midnight
Will your glasses magic engender?

Just a little poem in 2 rhyming sounds… I’d pay the $200 plus some to get glasses that made it possible to visualize magic. Perhaps all we need to see magic is the right frame of mind!

Looking at the Demolition

I started talking about redoing the bathroom close to 4 years ago. Last year we got quotes from several places. The lowest price was just shy of $10,000! It is a tiny bathroom by most standards. It is small and utilitarian – not a space for entertaining. At Christmas Sparky’s parents had their bathroom remodeled by “Derrick” and it only cost them $1,800.00! What a bargain! So we called Derrick for an estimate. He obliged. It would cost ~$3000.00 and we said yes. The catch was that we needed to purchase the supplies. So we set to buying all the items we figured we would need. We contacted Derrick to let him know we were ready. That was late January. Sparky called every week through February and left phone messages. He never returned the calls. We persisted and after May came and went we finally threw in the towel. I had a bunch of stuff in the guest room gathering dust with no hope of moving it into the bathroom. At the end of July Sparky and I went to a garage sale in the little neighborhood adjacent to ours. The home owner was selling lots of tools and we chatted. She explained that her father did remodeling work with her brother but they had too many tools and were getting rid of a lot of the older ones. Within minutes Sparky was examining the remodel of her bathroom and then got to see the bathroom he did in the house across the street. We left with a business card and phone number. We got the quote of $2800. We sealed the deal and within a week we had a start date. The demolition was on Saturday Aug. 25th. It was loud and messy and glorious! At long last the main bathroom is being remodeled.
They ripped out the bulkhead and ceiling over the tub then decided to remove all the ceiling drywall because it would be easier than trying to seam and match the texture.  The tub and shower were on giant piece that had been installed during the original construction. The only way to get it out was to saw it into 6 pieces. This picture shows the partial tub remaining and a chunk of the tub being dragged out the door.
The medicine cabinet was not over the sink but to the side making it difficult to open. We opted to remove it completely. This shows the wall paper that was up when we moved in. The bathroom was originally light blue but the previous owners had a thing for wallpaper and nearly every room was wallpapered. The only exception was the garage!
This was the tub drain. Note that the pipe has threads on the end. It is supposed to be screwed into the tub drain. It wasn’t. The mystery of the leak in the kitchen ceiling has now been solved and most importantly corrected!
This last photo is the old toilet. It was still in great condition so we are keeping it. It is sitting in the garage awaiting a re-homing to Son#1 and #2’s house to replace their ancient and rather grody toilet.

First they took out the vanity, then the toilet. Next they had to saw the bathtub into 6 sections to get it out. I had to remove all my clothes from the closet so they could access the attic (to move insulation). Then they pulled the ceiling down and ripped the dry wall off the studs in the shower area. The medicine cabinet was ripped out of the wall. They inspected for insects, mold, water damage, leaks, etc. They made a giant opening from the attic to the rest of the house. They took the door off the bathroom leaving the house exposed to the attic. Fortunately there weren’t any bats that decided to come visit and explore!
These are the photos of the destruction/demolition of the bathroom. I wanted to get a before photo but these guys (Nolan, his dad Nate, and nephew Nick) were fast! They didn’t use a sledge hammer but instead did make use of a regular claw hammer (see the holes in the ceiling in the 2nd photo).

I will update as progress is made. So far I still have all my clothes in a giant pile in the computer room and hope I can move them back very soon… It is making my OCD act up a tad.

Looking Inside the Cookie

I was dumb-founded. All I could think was “what in the world is going on?” You are probably wondering what event seriously rocked my world. It was my dinner. Sparky and I had Chinese carry-out, specifically bourbon chicken, pot-stickers, and fortune cookies. Everything we normal until we opened the cookies.

It appears that even the fortune cookie company has “sold out” to Big Business! I mean really. What is happening that now you can’t even get a fortune cookie fortune without an annoying advertisement? It is like Google has branched out to fill every space with ads and infomercials. There are ads on the McDonald’s french fry pouch, the beverage cup at Burger King, and too many cars, trucks and buses! And now the fortune cookie had succumbed. Next it will be printed on the toilet paper!

Manipulated
Placed in the visual field
Subtle messages
Ubiquitous yet unseen
Infiltrates our consciousness

A little Tanka for your reading pleasure! (A Tanka is syllabic forms containing 5 lines with the syllable count of 5-7-5-7-7).

Looking Through Water

I never liked opening my eyes under water. Mostly it was the sting of the chlorine that kept my eyelids clamped shut. The few times I did open them under water, everything was blurry and had a distortion that confused me. Here I sit typing away at the computer. I have to concede that everything appears to be underwater. It is that same wavy focus imbued with uncertainty and hesitation. But it isn’t caused by eyestrain or not wearing my glasses. It is an astigmatism of my heart and mind caused by the chaos I’m viewing… And to put my mother at ease, I am not having any crisis in my marriage. This is simply a result of not being able to write about what is really bothering me at work. Pretend this is not the rejection of a lover and instead use your imagination.

The world as seen through wavy glass
Or is it water streaming from my eyes
Distorting joy and hope and summers past
When surprise announces love’s demise

The shock that radiates from the soul
A sudden gasp and tearful cry
When the world crushes every goal
And shows all the tokens and words a lie

Tears bitter and salty wash my face
Cleans my mind and scrubs my heart
Removes doubts and love’s last trace
I’m made pure for life’s new start

Looking Snubbed

I really didn’t enjoy 8th grade. I didn’t think 9th or 10th grades were much better. Somehow I am caught in some sort of weird time vortex where the worst part of middle school and early high school is playing out in my life once again. I guess I need to explain and give you all a little context:
I was very shy. I was studious and although I had friends they consisted of a group of outcasts. I was not part of the popular crowd. I was nearly invisible. The important part is the word “nearly” because I was seen and heard. At least to a degree that resulted in some of the popular girls snubbing me. I wasn’t usually blatant although there were a few instances where there was no mistaking their intentions. I would take the slights personally thus setting myself up for anguish.

Fast forward 50 years. I am a recovering introvert. That means that time and experience have brought me out of myself. I’ve realized that the opinions of others as regards my being reflect more on who they are than who I am. I have learned that I am in charge of my own happiness. And I don’t have to have everyone like me. It is really freeing! In the next breath I have to say that the juvenile behavior of some people is really annoying. I want to shake them and shout “Grow-up!”

This last week saw a person from another department refuse to answer my email inquiries. When I approached her to get my question answered, she literally turned her back to me. It was very childish. I had to make the decision to engage or walk away. I walked. But I do not forget. There will be a time in the not so distant future when she will need me to provide her with information. I will eventually fulfill her request… I’m tempted however to play the same game. Not that I would but it is a enjoyable fantasy to give tit for tat.