Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Close Call

Day 276
From out of my driver’s side window I see the grocery cart pick up speed and barrel towards the unsuspecting Camry. 

“Holy smokes!” I yell and jump out of my own car to grab the cart before it hits the sedan. 

A woman watching the action screams and motions wildly to me. “Your car!” I turn to see my own SUV rolling backwards in the parking lot.  In my rush, I forgot to throw it into park. 

“Ahhh!” I scream and dive into the car, simultaneously hitting the brake and shifting gears.  On my stomach, sprawled across the front seat, I look up to see the shopping cart bounce off the front panel of the Camry. 

“What happened?” I. asks.  He’s been in the back seat of my car the whole time, engrossed in Harry Potter, and misses my colossal panic at the cart, then at my rolling car. 

“Give me a second,” I say, panting, heart-racing.

When my breathing calms enough to speak, I turn with a shaky smile and say, “An attempted random act of kindness that nearly led to a three-car pile up.” 

He shrugs and returns to reading.  

A Lesson from Katy Perry

Write ON!
Day 275
I spend the day listening to bubble gum pop, songs sung by teenage girls who wear glittery leggings.  I listen carefully to the lyrics, searching for clues.  What do girls care about today?  What angst plagues their lives? 

In a few weeks, I’ll lead a writing circle for third and fourth grade girls as part of a six-week after school enrichment program at my boys’ school.  My hope is Write ON! will empower girls to find their “groove” through their own words.  The bubble gum pop?  I’ll use popular song lyrics as writing prompts in hopes of getting girls to journal honestly about their lives. 

“Why girls?” I. asks.  “Why not boys?”  He’s asking for himself.  He wants to join the circle. 

How do I explain to a 9-year-old that girls are more complicated creatures than boys?  Boys toss a football in the yard while girls fret about what someone said or who wasn’t invited to what party.  Girls need empowering.  How else can they navigate into the teen years feeling strong, confident and heard? 

I find a song message that I love.  Katy Perry knows her stuff. 

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag,
Drifting through the wind
Wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards,
One blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep?
6 feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there's still a chance for you
'Cause there's a spark in you

You just gotta ignite the light, and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause baby you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"
You're gonna leave 'em all in "awe, awe, awe"

“Maybe we can do a boys circle in the spring,” I tell I.  He smiles and runs to get a notebook to share a story with me he’s written. 

“What’s the story about?” I yell to his retreating back. 

“About you and me and our trip to New York,” he yells, his voice quieter as he turns and heads up the stairs. 

Seems to me he’s already finding his voice and I’m in awe, awe, awe of this little boy.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I Am Woman Hear Me Roar

Day 274
I have a little baking business I initially started to raise money for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk.  Three years and two walks later, business is booming.  Let Them Eat Cake’s grown to include parties, classes, weddings and specialty cakes, cupcakes and cookies.  A portion of all profits continues to go to charity. 

Today’s random act isn’t random to anyone who knows me.  A friend calls to ask if I can bake something for Volley for A Cure, a volleyball tournament and auction to benefit breast cancer research.  I don’t hesitate for a minute. 

A neighbor once asked me what motivated me to raise money for breast cancer.  “Does it run in your family?” she asks, thinking this will explain my commitment to this particular cause in a world full of wonderful causes. 

No, I answer.  It runs in women. 

Whether it be raising money for breast cancer research, offering to watch a child so a mom can go alone to the grocery store or lifting another woman up with kind words, the outcome is the same: we girls need to stick together.  

Women have always been the stronger sex.  Think what we can do if we band together.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Airport Security

Day 273
I know some complain about airport security but I don’t mind.  For as infrequently as I fly, I’m OK with the extra minutes TSA workers insist on to ensure my safety.  Ultimately, the measures protect us all.

When the planes hit the World Trade Center towers, I worked for the Ohio Lt. Governor as her speechwriter.  Which meant I joined a handful of state employees huddled underground in a bunker after the towers fell while the majority of state employees scurried home to be with family. 

It was a scary and confusing 36-hours in the bunker.  An errant plane entered Cleveland airspace.  Would it turn?  Where was it headed?  Why didn’t the pilot respond? Each hour, representatives from all of the state agencies reported any changes or concerns.  Communication staff listened intently for things that may need to be released or answers to anticipated reporter’s question.  The chaos of the day made everyone overly cautious.

We watched and waited and joined the rest of the country in thinking, “What next?”

Talking on the phone to Chaz who watched the events unfold from our home television, I felt isolated in the bunker and disconnected to the events happened outside our concrete temporary shelter. 

A flash of a photograph on CNN snapped me back.  It was of a woman I knew (socially from my husband and I’s DC days) who was in the plane that hit the Pentagon.  That’s when it became personal.  For me, that’s when it became real.        

I remove my shoes and wait barefooted to be ushered into the full body scan machine. 

“You’re doing a great job,” I tell the TSA worker at National Airport in Washington, DC.

He looks angry, like I’m mocking him, until he sees from my earnest smile that I mean every word I’m saying. 

“Ugh,” he stutters, “thank you.” 

No, thank you.  Thank you.    

Sunday, September 16, 2012

La Madeleine

Day 272
The selection of pastries at La Madeleine in Alexandria, Virginia makes me happy that I never diet on vacation.

“Would you like to donate a dollar to fight children’s hunger?” the clerk asks as I check out. 

“Sure,” I nod.  How can I so no to one dollar when I’m getting ready to dig into a delicious quiche? 

“You get a cookie with your donation,” she tells me after I agree to the donation. 

“Can you give the cookie to the next person in line?”  I may not be dieting but there’s no reason to be reckless.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lordy Be

Day 271
I possess an uncanny gift of getting complete strangers to share interesting and sometimes wildly inappropriate details about their life.  Give me ten minutes with a stranger and I can tell you their middle name and birth story of their firstborn.  Sit him next to me at 30,000 feet with three hours and I could write a book. 

It’s good to know I’ve still got it. 

Chaz and I spend the weekend cleaning out our master closet.  I load the car with coats, dresses, dress shirts, belts, pants and shoes and drive to the FreeStore in Over-the Rhine to drop it off. 

I pull off Liberty and into the building circular drive where a middle-aged African American man wearing a FreeStore t-shirt greets me.

“Did you have a nice weekend?” I ask the volunteer through my open window before I pop the trunk and jump out to help him unload.   

“Well, if my woman didn’t make me get up on the roof!  And me having had all those strokes.  Lordy be.” 

Even if I hadn’t been trained as a reporter, there’s no way that opener didn’t scream “follow up question.” 

“Wow!  The roof?  You didn’t get hurt?” 

“You see, it’s like this.  My wife and I have different life philosophies.  She wants me to work physically.  I focus of the spiritual.”  He explains. 

“We’ve got one shot.  One shot,” he emphases this again for my benefit.  “And I want to make the most of it.  How can I do that if I’m spending the weekend on a ladder cleaning leaves from the gutter?” 

I nod my head for him to continue.  He’s got a point.  How much time do I spend doing chores when the important things I should be doing is right smack in front of me?  Playing a board game with the boys (when they still want to play with me) instead of folding the laundry, or returning a friend’s call instead of watching a DVR-ed episode of Project Runway. 

I listen to him share how he cherishes his “one shot” and I vow to take his advice to heart.      

Chaz laughs when I tell him about the man and mine’s exchange.  “How do you always do that?” he asks. 

No secret, I tell him.  I genuinely am interested in listening to people’s stories.  It’s fun to hear about someone else’s crazy, or wildly successful idea, or life dream.  It puts my own life back in focus and opens me up to seeing a new possibility.    

Brothers Stick Together

Day 270
“Honey, just go where you went last night when we met your teacher.”

“But what if I forget,” A. cries as tears threaten to fall.  It’s the start of school and the beginning of a new routine.  New bus schedule.  New teacher.  Homework.  It’s a lot for a six-year-old.     

“Maybe one of your brothers can help you?” I smile encouragingly to F. and I. 

“No way,” F. replies. 
“He can find it just fine,” I. replies.

“But I can’t,” A. cries.  “I don’t remember!” 

I could threaten, yell and scream, and/or bribe the bigger boys to walk him to his classroom but I know that once they get on the bus all bets are off.  Also, I want them to want to help.  A girl can dream, can’t she.  Instead I offer another solution. 

“Can you walk with a friend?” I ask.  The screech of bus tires drowns out A.’s answer.  The bus doors open and the three climb onboard to a chorus of “I love you!” and “Have a great day!” from the bus stop moms. 

I’m anxious most of the day worrying whether my little one made it to class and wait impatiently in the yard as the bus rolls up Jolain Avenue and towards our house.   

“Did you find your classroom?” I ask A. as he bounces off the bus at the end of the day. 

“Yep,” he grins.  “I. walked me the whole way there.” 

“He did, did he?” I ask locking eyes with my oldest son.  “Wasn’t that nice?”  I. scoots quickly past and into the house, a proud grin spread across his face.   

Monday, September 10, 2012

Apple for the Teacher

Day 269
It’s impossible to hide my own glee.  In fact, I’m trying to rein it in so the boys don’t suspect anything.  These last few weeks have been brutal with the boys inventing new daily ways to torment and torture each other.  We’re all ready for summer vacation to end and the schedule of school to start. 

“School starts tomorrow!  Aren’t you excited?”

“I’ve still got a lot to do,” F. answers. 

I think back on our jam-packed summer of swim team, afternoons at the pool, visits to Kings Island, a week at Family Camp and a catalogue of camps. 

“I’d hurry if I were you.  You only have twelve hours left.”  Giggle.  Giggle.    

Each year, I try to do something to make the first day of school special.  When I. started kindergarten I baked a cake in the shape of a school bus.  Last year, I crafted blackboards out of chocolate-covered graham crackers.  I like to mix it up. 

I hope the boys remember every first day of school and coming home to find a special treat waiting for them beside a glass of cold milk.  

Tada!  This is today’s treat. 

I love it so much I make extras and deliver a bunch around the neighborhood to some of my favorite kiddos. 

Now to bring cocktails to the moms to celebrate our first day of school…   

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Culprit at Costco

Day 268
I think hospitals should issue new mothers an extra set of hands upon discharge.  I’m just saying.  

As if I need more proof (more than what I’m living), I get it today at Costco. 

Struggling with her cart, the young mother attempts to shush her two giggling girls as she drags two industrial-sized boxes of diapers behind her.  I feel for her.  It wasn’t too many years ago that I was her.   

The woman in front of me also sees the mother.  She turns to me and gives a sympathetic shoulder shrug.  “What can we do?”  Her shoulders say.  “I don’t want to lose my place in line.” 

If there’s one thing I know about Costco, it’s this.  There is absolutely no risk of “losing” your place in line because none move faster than a turtle.  Plus, anyone wanting to jump the line would have to maneuver his cart around baskets full of 20 pounds of mayo and a wheelbarrow full of olive oil.

“I’ll push if you pull,” I say.  Putting my back into it, I slide the diapers across the concrete floor  while the woman pulls her cart of kids. 

I turn back to my cart.  My line hasn’t moved an inch.  I shrug my shoulders at the woman in front of me.  My shoulders say, “What else could I have done?”    

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rounding Second

Day 267
A padded white base falls from the bag but the man doesn’t notice.  He’s struggling under the weight of the black canvas bag that from the looks of it carries either a dead body or enough equipment to outfit the entire fall baseball league.

I bend over, pick up the base and chase the man as he makes his way to the parking lot. 

I can’t help but think what my husband might say when I retell this story: Me chasing down a stranger to get to first base. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bobblehead Bawling

Day 266
The giveaway rules clearly state that one bobblehead will be given for every two paid admissions.  With a family of five, three of those being kids, it doesn’t take a genius to do the math.  Someone’s going to end up crying. 

Oh, to be the youngest. 

A. howls when his brothers return to our seats each with a Bengals bobblehead in his hand.  It makes no, zero, zilch difference that A. doesn’t know who the player is or that he prefers baseball to football. 

The point is his brothers have something HE DOESN”T and life is UNFAIR.  Oh, the injustice. 

Chaz and I usually go for the “life’s unfair, get used to it” line of parenting.  Except when we’re in a crowd and our child is creating a scene that threatens to bring in the police.  In this case, we can’t help.  We don’t have another ticket. 

A’s face melts into a heartbreaking frown.  We brace ourselves for what comes next.  

Just then, a grandfather from two rows back taps Chaz on the shoulder and hands him his and his wife’s bobblehead.  I’m sure they claimed it to give to a grandchild at home. 

A. face immediately lights up. 

“What do you say?” 

He sniffles out a “thank you” and all is forgotten.  The sun shines again. 

“I think that was their random act of kindness,” I whisper. 

He nods and wipes away a tear.   I don’t add “to me.” 

Ketchup Cutie

Day 265
A. and I stand behind her waiting to drown hot dogs (the boys, not mine) in the elixir of childhood goodness, ketchup.   

She, an sweet-looking older woman in her 70s, struggles with the white, plastic pump containing the goodness for several minutes.  I watch as she nearly drops her dinner plate.  Twice.  It’s a balancing act to turn the hamburger with one hand and maneuver the stubborn pump with the other. 

“Can I pump your ketchup?”  Geez.  That sounds dirty even to me. 

The little old lady’s eyes crinkle in confusion.  I’ll admit.  It’s an odd question.  I’ll be as bold to venture it’s one never before posed to her.   

“That would be lovely,” she says after an awkward silence. I step forward and push down on the top while the lady rotates her plate.  It wasn’t her.  The thing sticks like someone attached it with superglue.    

“Here,” she points to a clean spot of the plate.  “And maybe a little here?”  She asks a bit more timidly. 
Chaz, the boys and I are at a Florence Freedom baseball game with Cub Scouts.  Every Sunday the team hosts Family Night, a fun event where after the game the kids run the bases and meet the players.

I didn’t know then that Family Night also includes helping someone else’s family but it seems appropriate.  A. tugs on the napkin dispenser and hands the woman several folded, papers before she walks back to her seat. 

Kindness with ketchup? Yeah, we play that game.