Solid… like a cement wall

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Solid… like a cement wall

Today is my 8th wedding anniversary and sadly, due to work I’m spending it without my husband.  He’s been sent to Arkansas for the week.  It is kind of annoying that his travel fell on this week specifically, but at the same time neither of us are the hopeless romantic type so I’m okay with it.  We’ve never had any major plans on our anniversary, especially after having kids.  Both of us work full-time jobs and have a very hard time sacrificing “family” time for “us” time.  So while I’m sad to be celebrating alone tonight, I also look forward to his return and our family celebration dinner this weekend.

As I think about our relationship, I can’t help but laugh.  We truly are a case of opposites attract.  He likes Chinese food, I prefer Mexican.  I love hard rock and heavy metal, he likes pop and country.  I am consistently cold and he’s always overly warm.  How we ended up together and stayed together, I will never know.  🙂 Especially when he’s made comments like these:

  • Before we were married ~ “Honey, you’re not fragile like a flower, but solid… like a cement wall.”
  • One night back in college, he and his friends had a bit much to drink.  We’d all gone out for dinner to a Chinese food buffet and about midway through he decides to start calling people names.  He’s calling this guy ‘CRISPY’… in a not so quiet voice.   Needless to say, I left him there with his friends.
  • About six years after we were married – “So, at my next wedding…”
  • More recently, just to drive me crazy – “So I dropped your toothbrush in the toilet…”

Sometimes I wonder if he just spouts these things off to see my reaction.  More often than not I’m left speechless and highly entertained.  Other times, like the “Crispy” incident, I’m rather annoyed.  However, no matter how obnoxious he gets, he’s always there to deal with my crazy.

If you’ve read my about page, you know that my neurosis has gotten increasingly bad over the years.  When my husband and I first started dating it wasn’t nearly as evident.  As time went by he witnessed the increasing severity and STILL married me.  🙂 I quite honestly don’t know what I would do without him.  He deals with me locking the door four times before bed, double checking the closet for any intruders and my ever changing storm of emotions.  I can’t thank him enough for dealing with the mess that I can be sometimes.  He does his best to keep me balanced and when things end up tipping, he’s there to help even me out again.

I can’t say our relationship is perfect, but who can?  We have our flaws and our battles… it wouldn’t be a marriage if we didn’t.  But we love each other dearly and as long as he’s willing to:

  • Protect me from the closet monster on the way to the bathroom at four in the morning – without making a single comment…
  • Replace my toothbrush every time it comes in contact with anything other than my mouth…
  • Check on the kids twenty times each night…
  • Keep the house stocked with hand sanitizer…
  • Ignore my crazy comments about him ‘only washing his clothes’…
  • Bring me coffee when I’m having a shitty morning…
  • Not discuss credit card charges at 5:00 AM…
  • Help me with my baking projects when I’ve taken on too much yet again…
  • Protect me from the horrible nightmares that make me cry in my sleep…
  • Take the kids to the fair so I can avoid the germs and creepy people…
  • Never… ever buy a bird… or bring one near me… like ever…
  • Help me find the things I misplace and obsess over until they are found…
  • Check under the bed for gremlins…

I think I’ll keep him.

Happy Anniversary Dear Husband.

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Musings by Miss Lulu

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Anytime we go shopping or enter a store that may possibly carry notepads, my daughter inevitably asks if she can buy one.  I swear she has probably fifteen or more notebooks and journals scattered throughout our house.  Even as a very young child she would ask for paper and pens wherever we went.  She spent hours ‘writing’ stories in her journals.  I’ll never forget watching as she told my Mom a story about vampires.  She had an entire notebook page filled with squiggly lines and ‘read’ it aloud for Mom.  I don’t remember the specifics, but it was rather fascinating to watch how her imagination worked.  She took the time to write out an entire story and then insisted on sharing that story with other people.  She told the same story three or four times.  I was amazed how few details varied with each telling.  She was a storyteller before she could even write a full word.

Now she’s entering second grade and can actually write down her stories.  Last night my sister and I were cleaning the table when we found one of my daughter’s notebooks open on the table.  The very first page read:

A thumping is my brother going back and forth by running

A thumping is
my brother going
back and forth
by running

We both smiled and finally understood why she wanted all those notebooks.  All this time she’s actually been using them for writing, not scribbling!  We paged through the notebook she had out and found so many fun little snippets of her mind. From pages about our family to some about our dog who passed away several years ago.  It was sweet to see and I am so proud of her for starting the writing process early in life.

I sat down and talked to her briefly about how I would like to post some of these pages on my blog.  The conversation went like this:

Me: So Miss Lulu, you know I have my blog I write online right.
Miss Lulu: Yeah
Me: I found your notebook and I would like to post some of your stuff on my blog.  Is that alright?
Miss Lulu:  Sure, but not from the Tinkerbell journal.  There’s nothing in there to show.  It’s all messy.  I was little then… like kindergarten.

Little… like kindergarten.  I had to laugh.  I think second grade is little too, but don’t tell her that!  She’d stomp her foot and demand that second graders are NOT little, they are big kids.

Going forward I am going to post tidbits of her writing.  I’ll mark each of them with the Musings by Miss Lulu category.  I totally get that this is an ‘I’m being a proud parent’ thing and you all may not want to read them… So don’t. ♥ I promise not to be offended.  I do ask that regardless of your opinion of her writing, you keep any comments kind.  Please keep in mind she is only 7 years old and we want to encourage creativity, not squash it.

I did say I wanted to try new things…

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I did say I wanted to try new things…

Well at the beginning of this year I mentioned my goal was to try something new each month.  So far I’ve managed to pull that off quite well.  I’ve auditioned and acted in a play, baked wedding cupcakes, grown my own garden, created new recipes, started letting my husband run through the nightly security check on his own (Only on sometimes.  I still find myself occasionally going behind him to make sure he’s locked the door…). Okay okay, so those of you who know me know that not all these are exactly new.  I’ve grown gardens before and created new recipes, but not often on my own.  In this case, I’ve done them without any ‘adult supervision’.  My sister and I grew our garden with no guidance from our parents or grandpa.  We’ve created our own recipes without Mom pointing out what is wrong with it, so that counts.

It’s August now – time for another ‘new’ thing to add to my list.  You’ll never guess what it is this round.  I’ll give you a few seconds to think about it…….

….

….

….

No, I haven’t decided to give up sleeping with a nightlight.  I said something new, not plain crazy!  We’re far from that step in life.  That’s a lifelong partnership I’m just not sure I’m ready to give up yet.  Now if you said ‘oh you’re building a house of course’ – you were very right!  Yep.  My family and I have taken the giant step to building a house.  Yes family, not just husband and I, because this truly is a family endeavor.  It impacts each of us in my household.  It’s been a long time planning and jumping through hoops but we’ve gotten to the groundbreaking and I have to say we couldn’t be happier.  I realize it’s not always going to be easy and there may be times I want to drop an anvil on my husband, but it’s exciting none the less.  The kids will have their own rooms, which my daughter is oh so excited about.  My two-year old son will love the new backyard.  We’ll have a bigger kitchen!  Both my sister and I are excited for that.  It’ll be nice filling cake orders and actually having the counter space to stack boxes.  Best of all?  We’ll be back out-of-town again!  I cannot wait to be outside of city limits and in an area with less people.  I miss living in the country.  It’s one of the best memories of my childhood.

I did say I wanted to try new things… I think this is a perfect ‘new’ thing to do this year.

Zero Tolerance…

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Zero Tolerance…

At the beginning of this school year I made the decision to transfer my daughter to another school.  There were multiple reasons for this but mostly she was just unhappy in her previous school.  The first three days of school this year Lexi came home in tears.  My husband and I decided that no kid should hate 1st grade that much.  A few phone calls later and she was enrolled at one of our rural schools.  I have to say, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  She has flourished both academically and socially.  She has friends and adores her teachers.  She is always very positive when she talks about school.  The entire experience is 100% better than her previous school.

Recently my friend Christina confided in me the problems she is having with Lexi’s previous school district.  Christina’s daughter Anne has been struggling with a bully in her school.   Hearing Christina recount the situation just reinforced my decision to move Lexi. When I signed my daughter up for kindergarten at the previous school, the staff informed me that the school district had a zero tolerance policy on bullying and/or harassment.  This concept made complete sense and quite honestly I felt better about sending my daughter to this specific school.  However, we all know that even the best policies fail if they are not enforced correctly.

Here we are two years later and Christina is battling with the principal over what to do about the boy bullying her daughter.  This boy has been nothing but horrible to Anne any time they have encountered each other.  He has evidently been out of the school for a while and has recently returned.  Last week he threatened to punch her in the face.  Christina’s husband treks over to the school to discuss the situation with the principal where he finds out not only did the kid threaten to punch Anne in the face, but also threatened to or mentioned he wanted to kill her.  The response by the school?  Anne instigated it by telling this bully he was standing in the wrong spot.

Now I understand that kids will be kids and sometimes they will argue.  Arguing is one thing but wanting to kill another person is completely different.  Yes, it is entirely possible he didn’t mean it in the manner of which Anne took it, but does it matter?  He has been a consistent threat to her ability to feel safe at school for more than just one school year.  Not to mention, I thought this school had a zero tolerance policy.  I wasn’t sure if the policy was still in effect or not because I had pulled my daughter from school.  I looked it up on the schools website.  This is what I found:

Harassment/Bullying/Intimidation/Hazing

  1.  “Harassment, intimidation, or bullying” means any act that substantially interferes with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, that takes place on or immediately adjacent to school grounds, at any school-sponsored activity, on school-provided transportation, or at any official school bus stop, or anywhere conduct may reasonably be considered a threat or an attempted intimidation of a student or staff member or an interference with school purposes or an educational function, and that has the effect of:
    1. Physically harming a student or damaging a student’s property;
    2. Knowingly placing a student in reasonable fear of physical harm to the student or damage to the student’s property;
    3. Creating a hostile educational environment.

Okay, so I would like to point out that Anne has been physically harmed by this same bully in the past.  He has pushed her into lockers along with other things.  She has been feeling a reasonable fear of physical harm since he started threatening her again.  How can all this NOT create a hostile educational environment for her?

Well, we’ve confirmed that she is being bullied, so what are the consequences for this boy?  I have discovered that the school district, or at least this specific branch of the district, no longer has a zero tolerance policy.  Here are the consequences as listed in the handbook:

Students whose behavior is found to be in violation of this policy will be subject to discipline up to and including expulsion.

THE SUBSTANTIATION OF A THREAT OF DEADLY FORCE MAY RESULT IN AN IMMEDIATE REFERRAL TO THE SCHOOL BOARD FOR EXPULSION.

Policy

Giving the benefit of the doubt to the school and this bully, we will say this was his first offense of menacing behavior.  He threatened to punch her, but didn’t.  There is his ‘warning’.  Then come to find out he wishes to kill her.  I would say that in the very least that would be a repeated offense of menacing or harassing behavior.  His parents should be involved.  Forgive me but in my experience, bullying doesn’t start at school.  More often than not I’ve noticed that it comes from a parental figure.  I may be a cynic and who knows, I could be completely wrong, but I honestly do not think calling a parent is going to accomplish much.  It may, but obviously this is not the first, second or even third time he has repeated the exact offense.  What good did it do in the past?

Previously, this same bully has physically pushed Anne into a locker more than once.  He has shoved her in the hall while making his threats to do worse.  I would say that qualifies as assault under the district guidelines – Intentional physical contact with another person which may cause physical injury.  Yet this boy, this bully is still allowed to harass Anne and possibly other students.  He has been terrorizing her for years both verbally and physically, but is still permitted on school property.  How does this even make sense?  My heart breaks for her.  She deserves better.  She should not go to school in fear of what this kid, and at least one other, may do to her.

Could her parents transfer her from this school?  Definitely.  That may happen next year.  When they addressed this possibility with the principal, the reaction they received was not what I would expect.  They were told that this boy was only there for part of the day and very well may not attend next year.  The principal did mention they didn’t understand why they were having such issues with this specific boy.  Really?!  So it’s not just Anne who has to deal with him, but someone else?  This same principal informed Anne she should not let one kid hold power over her.  Excuse me, but when you are 10 years old and have gone through all the proper channels to report the abuse and nothing has come of it, how can you not feel defeated?  Quite honestly if I were in her shoes I would have quit reporting it ages ago.  What’s the point when the principal and administration REFUSE to act?

It’s puzzling to me how a school that has pushed bully awareness and advertised a zero tolerance policy in the past can let this happen. We live in a world post Columbine.  We now have school shooting drills in our schools.  We have police officers on campus even in our small town.  Why are we willing to take these steps but not willing to resolve the issues before they get to that point?  It really makes little sense to me.  Sure the police liaison will be contacting Christina due to the mention of killing Anne.  Again, why did it get this far?  Why is it that this boy has the right to terrorize his classmates?  Why is he allowed to disrupt their lives and threaten their ability to feel safe and secure at school?

So how do we handle it?  How would I have handled it if I were a school official?  I would have pulled the kid out of school before things escalated this far.  Until this is resolved he should not be allowed to continue terrorizing fellow students.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Some of you may argue the other side, and that is perfectly okay.  We are all entitled to our opinions.  My hope is that this spurs a conversation.  There has to be a better way of handling the bully epidemic because I can promise that the way it is being swept under the rug is not working.  For all we know the bully is dealing with some serious home issues.  That is completely possible.  Nevertheless, how can anyone help him if we continue to ignore the behavior?  How can we help Anne if we refuse to admit that this boy is a problem?

There really is no easy answer in this case.  Nor is it in my direct power to do anything.  If it were my daughter?  She would not attend this school going forward.  I would have pulled her even with only two weeks of school remaining.  Until we demand better for our kids nothing will change.  It is our duty as their parents to provide safe environments for them.    Is that really the best solution?  No.  It would protect her from this one bully but does not solve the problem across the board.  Yes, we will all encounter bullies throughout our lives and should be equipped to deal with them.  But no one should be forced to endure like Anne.  The policies set down by a school should be enforced.  All we have shown Anne, and those in her situation, is that rules mean nothing.  They are just put on paper to look good.  Is that really something we want to teach younger generations?

Impulse Auditions

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Impulse Auditions

In early March a post on Facebook announcing open auditions for ‘The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later’ caught my eye.  I’m not an actor by any means of the word, but I found myself very interested in auditioning.  I called my sister and asked her if she would like to branch out a bit and audition with me.  Being the amazing sister she is, she jumped on board.  We knew the chances of being cast were minimal at best, but we decided to at least give it a try.  On a cold Monday evening we found ourselves completely lost trying to find the side door entrance to the theatre.  It took us three trips around the building before we discovered the unmarked door that looked as though we really shouldn’t be using it.  I can’t tell you how many times in that fifteen-minute trek I contemplated just leaving.  I had rationalized that since we couldn’t find the door the universe obviously was trying to tell us something.  But just when I was about to give up entirely we found the door and entered the green room.

We were met by the director and a few other auditionees.  Sister and I completed the audition paperwork and began looking over the material.  As we watched more people filter into the room I couldn’t help but think we were in way over our heads.  These people all knew each other and had obviously done this many times prior.  There was absolutely no way either of us would be cast.  Of course we were perfectly fine with that.  While we both would love to work on such a powerful piece, we knew it was a long shot when we decided to audition.  Then we began the readings.

Sister and I sat quietly, our attention on our fellow auditionees.  I found myself in awe of these people.  How they could pick up a piece of paper and put so much emotion into it after one reading was beyond me.  That whole self-doubt feeling snuck in as it tends to in these situations.   Suddenly my name was called.  My inner monologue went something like this:

Just breathe…
I can’t.  What in the hell have we gotten ourselves into now?!
Oh get over it.  You’re here now… breathe in and out and just read the damned piece.
Fine.
deep breath…

And the words flowed from my mouth.  I had picked a monologue from Romaine Patterson.  She was a friend of Matthew Shepard and the section I read was the closing to the play.  It struck a chord because all I could think of was ‘what if this was one of my friends’.  It was a moving section of the play.  I can’t remember if I read it perfectly or just rushed through it.  I remember taking a deep breath and then sitting back down.  I watched the remaining people read their sections, including my sister.  I can’t say enough how proud I was of her.  This was entirely out of her comfort zone and definitely all my idea.  She tagged along in support of my latest crazy whim and had to go through the whole audition process because of me.  I owe her big time for that.  She stood and read a piece for Nikki Elder.  I could tell she was nervous but she got through it beautifully.

Once readings were finished we handed back our script pieces, thanked the director and headed for home.  The cast list would be posted on Friday but neither of us expected to be cast.  I was at a going away party for a dear friend when I received the call.

Sister: So our first rehearsal is April 15 at 7.
Me: For?
Sister: Both of us.
Me: …. *blink* *blink* Are you serious?!
Sister: Yup.
Me: Oh wow… umm wow!

It was crazy!  I announced to my group and seriously needed to finish the beer I had been drinking.  It was by far one of the biggest surprises I’d had in a while.  I was certain I wouldn’t make it.  Maybe Sister would, but definitely not me.  Alas, I was totally wrong.  It was exciting and scary and I’m not entirely sure what else.  Nevertheless, it was great and I was super excited to get to work on this piece.

A few weeks later we found ourselves in the same green room where we auditioned.  There were 14 of us total, counting the director.  We would all be cast for multiple roles and would be on book.  There were only nine rehearsals and two performances.  Our director assigned roles and we began reading.  I was assigned Leigh Fondakowski and Romaine Patterson.  Sister was assigned multiple roles as the friend or a student throughout the play.  The first night we read through the entire play and then began the blocking for Act 1.  It was fast paced and a lot to learn for someone who had never performed at this level.  It was a wonderful challenge and definitely fulfilled my goal of trying something new.

Over the course of the next three weeks we ran through the play multiple times.  We practiced lines and blocking not only during rehearsals but at home too.  It was a long three weeks but also a lot of fun.  Sister and I enjoyed rehearsals and getting to know the cast.  Everyone was wonderful. They were so much fun to work with and I can’t imagine doing the show with different actors and/or a different director.  I learned a lot from everyone, whether or not they realized it.

This past Saturday was opening night.  It was a bit nerve-wracking but also rather exciting.  Here we were nine rehearsals under our belt and we were going to present this very moving play to a live audience.  Crazy! I was definitely worried I’d lose my place on stage or forget my lines (even though I had the script in hand).  It was one thing to mess up during rehearsal, an entirely different thing to do it in front of the audience.  But as the lights came up and I took a deep breath, I reminded myself that I knew the material.  I knew where I needed to be and when.  Also, it wasn’t about us as a cast, it was about the text.  It was about the story.  We were there to deliver a story about a tragedy in history.  That was it.  And that is exactly what we did.  There were minor flaws but nothing anyone noticed.

All in all the play was very moving for me.  The content was heartbreaking and there were moments throughout that I had to blink back tears.  It breaks my heart knowing that there are people out there so filled with hate they can brutally beat the life out of someone.  It’s horrific and I couldn’t help but think that this could happen anywhere to anyone.  Listening to my cast-mate portray Judy Shepard where she describes that she is ‘just doing what a mother does’  chokes me up no matter how many times I’ve heard it.  The entire play is a buildup of emotion from start to finish.  By the time I recited my final lines of the show, those very lines I read during auditions, I had tears streaming down my face.  I wept for Matthew’s family and friends.  I wept for the community of Laramie still struggling to deal with this tragedy.  I wept for those who face such hatred and close-mindedness daily.  I wept for those who suffer in silence alone.

As Sister and I exited the theatre last night we both felt a bit melancholy.  While I am glad to return to my daily routine and actually see my kids for more than a few minutes a day, I will miss our cast.  I will miss working with these wonderful people who were very kind to us.  I will miss the material.  Yes, it was very intense material, but it was thought provoking.  I truly hope that through our production we were able to start those tough conversations.  I hope we brought to light that hate exists in our world, big or small.  I hope that by starting these conversations we can grow as individuals, a community, as humanity to help ensure atrocities like the murder of Matthew Shepard do not continue to happen.

For More Information on ‘The Laramie Project’ or ‘The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later’ –  www.laramieproject.org

Happy 2013!!

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Wow… it’s 2013 already.  I can’t believe how quickly time passes.  I know I say that a lot, but it has been especially evident these past several months.  I haven’t even sat down to read or write since April.  I read snippets here and there, but I have yet to read a full book.  It’s just been crazy.  Between school and work and Girl Scouts and who knows what else, I feel like I’ve been running non-stop for months.

Now with the New Year comes the whole process of creating New Year’s resolutions.  I’ve never been big on that idea.  It seems like most people set these goals just because ‘it’s that time of year’.  If I set a goal, I want it to be something I truly wish to achieve and am willing to put forth the effort.  I am not one to set an expectation of myself and only attempt half assedly (yes I think I just made that word up).  I can’t honestly tell you a time I’ve made New Year’s resolutions.  It’s always just seemed kind of pointless to me, until this year.

I have come to realize that my life has been so busy, I’m missing out on some things I truly love.  That’s not acceptable.  I miss being able to sit down and read a book.  I miss my blog postings.  I also miss just being able to relax.  It seems like in the midst of chaos I’ve lost track of the things I truly enjoy.  Therefore, my new year’s resolution is to do something I love at least once a week.  Whether that is writing, reading, hanging out with my family… Just something.  I think we often get lost in our day-to-day lives that we miss out on the things we once enjoyed.  I know I have and as a result it makes me a very grumpy person.  I’m hoping that by taking some time each week to focus on the things I love, I’ll be able to avoid the terrible mood swings.  I’m sure my family would appreciate it too…

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year holiday.  I know I’m looking forward to what 2013 will bring.