Friday, October 31, 2008

What's It All About?

A few days ago, my son told me that he was "the most sensitive." Okay... So I asked, "Most sensitive of who?" "Of all your kids. 'Cause I'm the youngest."

Maybe he is.

This morning, before we dressed him in his combat soldier costume (because that's what a sensitive boy wears, right?) he squeeked out a question: "You know what it's all about mom?" I had to come in close for this answer. I sat next to him wrapped up in his favorite blanket and asked, "What's it all about, buddy?"




Thursday, October 30, 2008


I showed this picture off yesterday. Although I had many compliments, I had one comment that stuck with me. See the baby's eyes? The reflection of the windows are in her eyes... as well as the dot that was my flash. It's a teeny tiny dot, but it was all I could see once that comment was made. This person later said that she "loved" the photograph, but tends to be very critical in life. She also said that she's very critical of herself.

Two things happened last night. I shut down out of fear of failure. How dare I call myself a photographer?! How dare I think that anyone would care for my rubbish?! And then I had heard enough from the monster in my head and decided that I could edit out the little dot and move one. The other thing that happened was that I felt really sorry for the gal that critiqued me. Not because I yelled at her, because I didn't (in case you were wondering). I realize she was being helpful and she has never been anything but kind and pleasant. But I thought of how quickly she saw that... and I wondered how many of her own incredible images she might have criticized far too harshly.

I took my friends criticisms too personally and later got over it. But I never stopped to think about why this person was critiquing... or what her reasons were for being, what she called, very self critical. Wouldn't it be great if we could all wave a wand and get rid of all of our fears and insecurities. I wonder how many of us are strangled by our own perceived limitations.

This isn't really making any sense... I just wanted to think about this out loud... and I'm still not sure that wand waving would be the best idea...


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wordless Wednesday 10/29/08

Monday, October 27, 2008

Six Things

I was zapped by my pal, Spooky Girl for this meme. Since I'm sure she has aliens on her side, I thought it best to answer the question:

What are Six Little Known Things About You?

I kept trying to think about the things that I have not shared, because Lord knows, I have shared a TON of personal information. So this challenge really was just that... a challenge! However, I was able to pull out some nuggets that might help clear up a few things and also may bring on some serious ass ridicule.

Here goes:

1 - English is my second language. I spoke Spanish until I was five. When I entered Kindergarten, I remember knowing what all the kids were saying and knowing how to respond because of lots of TV. Until I entered school, I never had to speak it. I continued to speak only Spanish at home until one day, around the third grade, I asked my parents and grandmother if it was okay that I answer in English. I think that was a sad day for them. They all spoke English at work. Spanish was somehow sacred at home.

2 - My first album was Barry Manilow's Even Now. I am so incredibly jealous that Shannon from Rocks In My Dryer has a husband that would not only buy her tickets to see Mr. Manilow in Vegas, but would actually go and watch the show with her. I would never expect The Pilot to sit through the silky sounds of Barry's voice. But, honey... if you are reading this... you don't have to go with me... just buy me the tickets and I'll find an equally dorky friend to watch the show with me.

3 - I have two Dads. Sometimes, I refer to the biological donor of sperm as my Dad. Other times, I refer to the sullen and moody second husband of my mother as my Dad. Neither of them were real chummy, as it were. They did provide for me, one in life, the other in death. Too much to explain here. Just know that if I refer to my Dad being dead one day and then being alive another, it's because I'm referring to two different guys.

4 - My first kiss was on April 16th, 1982. I was just shy of my 12th birthday. I kept my eyes wide open and kept my tongue in my own mouth, thank you very much. The boy I was kissing was confused by this... so he pulled back to explain. I was like, "Eeewww!!! I don't think so!" It was all very romantic.

5 - I cry when I hear the National Anthem. I've cried every time that song has played since I was six years old. That was the year our country celebrated it's Bicentennial. I remember having to learn all about how our country won it's liberty and I remember feeling gut-wrenchingly thankful to the people that spilled blood so that I could live in freedom. I cry just as much for church songs for the same reason, except that those are for one man... Jesus.

6 - I prayed for Jon Belushi when he died. I was 12 and used to watch the old SNL on my tiny black and white TV in my room. I remember watching the news one night to find out that this wacky guy that always made me laugh was dead. I think that might have had more of an impact on me than any after school special or anti-drug campaign.

(For you geniuses still doing the math in your head, I'm 38.)

So now I get to pass this get-to-know-you bug on to the next people:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cleared for Take Off

Nine years ago, when I first started dating The Pilot, I took my first flying lesson. I had lived through watching a ton of air disasters on the news, but got in the plane anyway. He put me in the left seat, so I was “driving” while he gave me instructions from the right seat. Before I knew it, I was pulling back on the stick and we were floating. It was great! Until, of course, I looked over at my then boyfriend and saw his hands no where near any of the controls. I was flying the plane. ALONE!

I freaked out!

By the time we flew to Tahoe to get married, I was fairly comfortable with the bumps and wiggles that a small airplane takes when flying over mountains and through wind. In our first year of marriage, we took several local trips to Catalina Island or Vegas. I always flew from the right seat, helping with the transponder following our location and reading the sectionals charts, sometimes even taking control of the stick. Although I was still a bit nervous up in the air, I was technically ready for ground school at that point.

Then we had our first baby.

You know it goes when real life starts coming at you. It got a little trickier to travel. Then the second baby came and it got nearly impossible to fly for fun. If we did go up together it was for the purpose of getting to a family gathering, not just for pleasure or training.

Poor spoiled baby, right?

But it really was a bummer for me. I first went up in a little tin can airplane when I was fifteen. I was on vacation in Baja with my dad and his family. We met a dad and daughter while there. Heather was exactly my age. Exactly! We were born on the same exact day and merely hours apart. We hit it off just great and ended up spending endless days by the pool together while our boring dads and my step mom played cards. We’re in the middle of Baja and they’re playing cards. Whatever. Anyway, Heather and her dad had arrived in a little Cessna. They offered to take me up for a joy ride. I begged and begged my dad to go up. He finally relented.

And I was in love!

It’s amazing what you can see from a low altitude over the ocean. And in such a small vehicle, you kinda get the feeling that YOU are flying. I couldn’t stop giggling and squealing for quite some time after I landed. I was too young to think of all the horrible things that could have happened to me. I was just enjoying myself. I have never forgotten that. Later… much much later… I worked near an airport in North San Diego. My eyes would drift off mid sentence sometimes as I watched the planes coming in the traffic pattern to land. I remembered the day so many years before that I had floated above the turquoise waters and I couldn’t help but smile.

And then I landed The Pilot!

Being married to a pilot has some perks, but not the ones people usually think of. I don’t have a stack of tickets at my desk to jet off to some faraway destination any time I want. I usually have to drive to his destination with the kids and all of our bags. It’s less hassle than flying commercial, and besides, most of The Pilot’s destination are nowhere near a big airport that I could buy a ticket into. The drives usually aren’t so bad. But I beat myself up thinking how much sooner I could be somewhere if I would just get my license. There just always seemed to be something else to do.

But now, nine years later, everything is falling into place. I am so close to answering yes to the annoying question, “Do you fly, too?” I’m a little nervous, but I just can’t stop giggling as I do my ground school lessons. I keep thinking back to that joy ride in Baja. And that feeling of flying.

And I just can’t help smiling!


That’s me at fifteen just before take off in a single engine Cessna.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Small (adverb): softly; in a low voice; without strength or force; weakly; into little pieces

Sometimes, I feel small and scared. Like I'm vulnerable to any harm that might come my way. I become insecure in my insignificance. As though I have no protection against the world. I think of my babies... the moment I first held them... knowing that it was my responsibility to take care of them and keep them from harm. It was an awesome responsibility. One that I wasn't always successful at. One that, in my brokenness and anger, I screwed up more than I care to admit.

And I wonder if I deserve to feel anything but small...

Sometimes when I sit on the beach, I'm aware of my insignificant role in the world. I'm dwarfed by the horizon layed out in front of me, so vast that my vision bends at the corners. On the edge of the world, I am still very aware that I am loved. And I try so hard not to project my human frailties and mistakes on the God of the Universe. Instead, I try to let the horizon comfort me. The waves always sound like the hearty laughter of a proud father. The sun always feels like a tender kiss on my forehead. In that place, where I am so small, I feel so wonderfully significant.

I feel like a precious daughter.

I don't know that I've ever been so concerned about the world in my entire life. I don't know that I've ever felt this vulnerable before. I don't know that I have ever been at a place where I can't choose a leader. When I didn't know that everything would be okay. And as scary as that is to me, I realize that I should never put so much trust in one fallible man. There is more... and we are more... and life is more... and God is so big...

And I am small... and vulnerable... and still precious.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

What’s that smell?

You know when you wake up and you wonder why in your dream the elevator started to go sideways and what was it the pirate was trying to tell you and how could you wear pink socks to a concert or why in the world had you packed so much stuff into that suitcase that followed you throughout the entire lucid tour of your subconscious?

No, Sugar… just you…

Do you ever look around the house for *that smell* not quite figuring out where it was coming from or why it was in every room… that you were in… following you… almost like it was emanating from, um… you? And then you look down and see that you’ve been wearing the same sweats for four days straight and no amount of showering is going to unsmell the over use of one item of clothing?

Still just me?

Sometimes we arrive at a place in life when we take a look around at all that is happening and ask the question:

What the hell???

In my enthusiasm for all that was coming at me, I chased down way too many butterflies. I wanted to do that 365 Project, but couldn't keep up with the kind of pictures I wanted to share. I wanted to keep doing my happy polls, but with all that was going on in the world, I couldn't quite get myself to think happy thoughts. I wanted to do so many other things but then I realized that I was doing all of those things to avoid the real stuff.

I am falling way behind in my real jobs, like photography for families that pay me... or my daughters composition work... or flying lesson… or laundry. So I'm pulling the photo project and the Ask Sugar poll and some other things from my life. I’ve got to refocus and move forward on some of the real things. Including my real blog home... Living In Theory.

So if you were looking for pretty pictures or happy polls but got sucked into my reality, sorry. It's pretty and happy here, too.


PS: If you're into dreams and their meanings, you can check out That's where I found out that the elevator, luggage, and pirate were trying to tell me to get rid of the junk and get back on track...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Girls Night Out Goes South

There are Blog Friends and there are Non-Blog Friends.

Within the circle of blog friends, there are Tweeters and non-Tweeters.

Within that spectrum of bloggers who tweet are Web 2.0 royals like Gwen Bell and Dave Taylor and Guy Kawasaki and Neenz and the 11 Moms...

And sometimes, the Tweets, royals and regulars alike, throw some parties otherwise known as Live Feeds. One popular Live Feed is the GNO:

Girls Night Out.

Last night was GNO. I was all ready to go. I had my wine. I had my cookie dough. I had my new 8 1/2 screen Dell. But guess what? I was asked to hang out with a bunch of "real" moms in the neighborhood. I was like, "But I'm going to Tweet with a bunch of cool girls that I've never met!" And they were like, "Put that itsy bitsy computer down and come have a glass of wine with real people." And since my Tweet GNO party was not supplying free wine... well... you know how it is...

And everything was really cool. A bunch of girls experiencing marital issues, some separated, some divorced, some in limbo, all with kids that hang out and play together in the alley. And just like in the movies, that one chick shows up just to throw the whole night off course.

I don't know that I would throw her in the pool with all the other Mean Girls. She's more like a wounded fawn. But damn it if she wasn't going to instigate some sort of emotional upheaval and leave me holding the ball going, What? What did I do?

I'm not a Mean Girl. I do, however, have my very strong opinions and I'm effective at speaking my peace. Now, when I share those opinions with you, there's really no effect to the person I anonymously throw under the proverbial bus. You don't know them. You don't live near them. And chances are, you will never think twice about them except maybe in reference to a story you heard once... But if I were to defame a person who lived in your community, within spitting distance of your front door, without giving that person the opportunity to defend them self...

Well, that's just bull shit.

Blondie shows up and, from the moment she opened her mouth, had a negative remark for each of us. But not like the obvious zingers. No, these were wrapped in a tiny blanket of innocent smiles and empty compliments. She pointed out the scuffs in the floor of the home of the gal next door. She remarked that the wine being served was the kind her alcoholic mom would drink because she didn't care about quality, she just wanted quantity. Then, she made a gal cry because she called down to the boyfriend something that was said just between the girls. I was like, WHAT? Did she really just do all that?

Change the subject... change the subject... TWEET... change the subject.

She had little barbs for everyone, but I think we were all just happy to have a bit of wine and some friendly conversation with the other girls. I, unfortunately, am an obsessive observer and could not help but hear the hurtful words. And then, in her big mistake of the night,

she turned on me...

I met her toe to toe and she just kept on coming... with a sweet little smile... all innocent in her insecurity. And that was fine... except that I was getting tired and annoyed. She kept throwing those insults dressed as compliments. "I just can't imagine having raised two children, why you would go through it all over again. I just admire that. I would never do that again." And then: "I just think getting pedicures is so strange with those women practically enslaved touching you. Don't you feel awful about it?" And my personal favorite: "You're husband seems so much older than you. I don't mean like your father, but like an old guy that would be fun to date."

Oh no she didn't! She did NOT just rattle the cage! Didn't I just do this?

I held my ground and finished all of my sentences clearly and concisely. I got up several times to check on the cookies I was baking for us all. She happily waited for me to come back to start up again. The other girls were just happy bappy having their own conversations and I was like... HELP ME! I told the other girls later that I felt like she had hit Level Ten and I just couldn't hold back any longer. Because she made me do something I never thought I'd do...

I defended a girl I really don't like.

The girl I defended lives right across the way. She seems sweet and conscientious and whatever... but she's kind of snotty. Still, I smile and wave, or shut my blinds when I don't want to. But I don't go ripping her a new one just because she's pretty, which is what Blondie was doing. I don't rip anyone because of their looks. Their obnoxious behavior? Sure. But even then, I try to do so with them in the picture... like grown ups... except sometimes when I'm feeling pissy... but still. So there this gal was, complaining that the Girl Across the Way was too pretty and skinny for just having her second child right after the first and that it was weird and blah blah blah.

I had to break in and say my peace.

"If you think she's a bitch or if she's done something to offend you, okay, I get it. But you're tearing this girl apart because her parents happened to pass on to her the genes that cause her to look a certain way?" The gal answered with, "Well, it's intimidating!" And just to make sure that everyone knew I was no longer a people pleaser, I said, in my clearest voice,

"That's YOUR problem."

And then she hugged a pillow and cried and I was now playing the part of the Mean Girl. She got up and left and the rest of the gals and I finished our conversation. We had an intelligent discourse and agreed that we all had very valid points and that maybe Blondie was just tired... whatever...

What a Tuesday!

Why is it that these insecure women rub there crap all over you when you're just trying to have a little fun? Why is it that it's okay to tear a girl down because of her beauty? Why is it okay to tear her down at all without her presence so that she might defend herself?

Tomorrow, I plan on leaving them all Hope Notes on their doors. The girls that had to feel the discomfort of the beautifully wrapped barbs will get a nice note about love in the face of challenges. The girl that felt the need to tear someone else apart because of the beauty her parents passed on to her will probably get a verse about Real Beauty that comes from being a compassionate human. And the Girl Across the Way will probably get a plant...

And me? I just remembered that sometimes, the friends you don't see... the friend in your head... the ones that you've never met... they might really be the safest...

Pray for me. I'll be nursing the hangover that comes from drinking far too much jug wine with cooked cookie dough...


Twitter GNO was created and is hosted by none other than Carissa of Good and Crazy People. You can follow her at

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Frog Bling

So, I have this thing for frogs. I don't know why. Ever since I was a little girl, I loved the sound of frogs at night. We lived in the cement suburbs of LA, so any sound of nature was like a miracle to me. I have little frogs all over the place. Not all in your face… just some subtle amphibian-izing of the decor at the Sugar Shack.

Imagine how excited I was when I saw this:


With all the craziness in the world that was going on last week, I still found time to treat myself to a little bobble from Lucid New York. I had to do something to take my mind off of all the bad news… and quite frankly, I could come up with any reason for needing to have the froggy bling. I almost went nuts when I saw the rest of Anna’s designs. The intricacy of the petals that wrap around the center stones are just so whimsical and fun.


I’m not one to completely ignore reality. But I do like reminders nearby that pull the reigns back on my anxieties and bring a smile to my face. I mean, how can you not smile with that cute little frog looking up at you?


One other neat thing about frogs that I picked up since the days of hearing their songs from the cement riverbeds? The acronym that I apply to my precious little amphibians now is Fully Rely On God. That helps me even more when I start to worry about the things I can not change. This little bobble has been a fun reminder to pray for wisdom, patience, and serenity.

I bet Anna never knew she was bringing a little prayer to my heart with her beautiful creation…

Check out all of Lucid Anna’s designs: You can also follow her at for her latest showings and designs… plus some fun NY night life tweets!


Sunday, October 12, 2008


There are people who face their fears and accomplish great things. From a pulling in the heart for the love of another, amazing things can happen to change their corner of the world and beyond. These people hear the sound of conventional wisdom and ignore it.

I am not one of those people.

Fortunately, I am still growing. I am still becoming the woman I would like to one day look back on and admire. It's a daily challenge to step out of my fear. To drag myself out of my funk. To look around at my life and say, "This IS lovely" without wanting something else that might have also been lovely. I seek guidance through prayer and meditation and through the counsel of those that have done the difficult work I still must do. When I read stories about people that have pushed past fear and worry and have walked towards something they didn't really know was there, I'm inspired to do the same. It's easy to surround myself in gloom. There's enough of it in this world. It takes effort to push past that and to live in inspiration.

And every now and then, God sends inspiration into my life through Angels. I don't mean that Gail is "my" angel. She is merely human. But in her human kindness, she has accomplished some amazing things. Here's where the Big Leap of Faith part of her story starts:

Financially as a single mom, things were tight at times, even though I had real estate assets. Knowing how rare her talent was and believing wholeheartedly in her commitment, I sold my dream piece of real estate, Dreaming Bear Ranch, in Montana, to fund my daughter’s music career. I started working as her manager and formed a record label in Nashville to promote her, called Dreaming Bear Music. Billboard Magazine wrote a story where they talked about the Goodwin family literally “bet the farm”, or in this case the ranch, on Carly’s success.

Would I have bet the farm? Would I have woken up and listened? Would I have responded to the call to give "mom hugs" in Iraq without fear?

Maybe... I hope so.

Gail had the inner strength to do what she did because she chose to surround herself in inspiration rather than to be defeated by fear. And now, she shares that inspiration. There's so much more to this story... including the "mom hugs" part. Please go read it in it's entirety. I'd love to have you come back and comment, but if you linger and get lost over there, that's okay. I completely understand.


About Inspire Me Today

Inspire Me Today™ is here to help you remember that you, and you alone, have the power to do, be or create anything in your life that you desire. Anything. Your power is unlimited. Your wildest dreams are attainable. There is magic in belief, promise in faith and delivery in action. We believe you were born to fly, and all you need is a little inspiration. Let us help you put on your wings each morning, for when you’re inspired, the magic of the entire Universe kicks into full gear to work on your behalf. Your dream life is waiting for you. So, what are you waiting for?


What, indeed...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mean Girls

I'm getting tired of the Mean Girls.

Ask any woman and she can tell you a story about Mean Girls. They were the girls who could make you feel small because you wore the wrong shoes or caught the attention of one of "their" boys. They were the ones that always had angry eyebrows and wicked smiles. They came in little nasty clusters of Mean.

A friend told me of a time that a group of Mean Girls threatened to flush her head down the toilet at school so she hid in fear. Another bubbly friend had a story of having Mean Girls in her college dorm set fire to her door posters. Her room mate told her she had been targeted because the other girls thought she was phony and they were all sick of it. Then there's the girl who had to hide in the library for fear of being beaten up because she had made the mistake of becoming a certain boy's girlfriend.

Some Mean Girls have morphed into Mean Moms... Momzillas.

My Twitter buddy, Morningside Mom was sharing about her experiences with Momzillas. The ones that have to make other moms feel less than good about themselves. The ones that critique you indirectly by one-upping every time you bring anything up. Snacks. Bed times. Schools. Vacations. Good Lord, you just don't want to talk to those ladies! Morningside Mom said she just finds reasons to break up with them like time constraints. But what if that mom is on the other end of the couple? For instance, your husband's friend's wife? Uuughhh... I had to deal with that last weekend. You know what? It sucks! I felt like I was on the defensive from the moment we walked in the door. I answered her questions about homeschool and my long trip and having a twenty-year-old at my age very carefully and politely. She softened up a bit when I over-complimented her kids and old mis-matched furniture... (there, now I feel a little better).

Why did she have to rattle my cage so hard???

Did I tell you about the fur flying after BlogHer? Yeah, I know I was on a cloud when I wrote about it on my return. I sort of hinted to one situation. I peeked in on another. But who knew? Okay, so Dooce... I'm a fan. I've found that y'all fall into two camps: Love Her or Hate Her. So, a couple of weeks after we got back, another gal that I was a fan of wrote about her Dooce experience. Apparently, upon being introduced, she was pretty much blown off by Heather. I remembered my Dooce experience and was like, are we talking about the same Heather? Well the blown off fan made it a really big deal eliciting sympathy-for-her-slams-for-Heather comments. I stayed out of it. I didn't really want to pick sides and decided to remain fans of both. But then, for the last couple of months, I've been reading some more of the blown off blogger's stuff. I started seeing a lot of posts that are really just, well... snarky and mean. Her targets have been unschoolers and stay-at-home-dads as well as a poor "friend" that just isn't that into her anymore. She harshly criticizes moms in her neighborhood and in the public eye while she posts pictures of her kids dressed in undies on her blog. Um... Kettle!

So I had to take her off the list.

If you're going to click out of here, I'd prefer it be to give money to Nie Nie or to read about a rockin' mama or to be delighted by a bubbly mom in a pink feather boa.

Why do you think Mean Girls or Momzillas are the way they are? What do you think? Are they jealous? Insecure? Or just born mean? Did their daddies not love them enough or did they learn this behavior from their Momzillas? How did you (or do you) deal with Mean Girls as kids, teens, or co-workers & moms today.

And even though Heather is an Obama fan, Dooce stays on the Blog Roll.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Football Widow

I used to love watching football. Every Sunday, I'd grab a handful of dollars and meet my friends at Patsy's in Huntington Beach for mimosas, greasy snacks, and mini-bets. It was always fun to get lost in the games with friends for a couple of hours. So you can imagine how excited my boyfriend was to hear that I loved watching football. "She's a keeper," he panted!

Fast forward to today.

Today, that doting boyfriend is my estranged husband. He is the reason I am now a long suffering and fully annoyed Football Widow. I suppose I could go watch the games with him, except that I don't really care for his football buddies. They're a bunch of boorish, annoying, space wasting bachelors who sit with a perpetual drink in their hands and watch six to ten hours of football. You know the type... the bartendars know their names and the current state of their financial woes as well as the latest lies. These guys? They actually had name plates on their bar stools. In between plays, they complain about everything that the world has done to them that week and debate politics (repeat everything Rush Limbaugh said like mindless drones) with bloodshot eyes. Yup. Those are the men my husband chooses over me three nights a week.

Great for the ego.

Every year, I cry at the hint of Pre-Season. I pray that this would be the year that we hook up with other families for parties and barbecues and fun, but I know that's probably not going to happen. I watch the calendar as, box by box, the real season gets closer. And then, like a plague of locusts, it arrives. It devours any sense of couple-dom that I might have with a man that is traveling half the month. And while I like to watch some games, I can't sit for endless hours in front of a TV. I enjoy watching games when they include my favorites: Steelers, Chargers, Raiders (God help me), and the Jets (Favre Fan). And I always check in on the teams I hate, too. Always fun to watch them go down! (I won't go into who they are right now... not looking to lose my three readers.) So you get that I'm not a football hater, right? I just hate being abandoned for three nights a week, seven months a year. But this isn't really about football. And you probably were already thinking that, weren't you?

And that just sucks.

I wish this was about football. I wish I could just laugh and jest about being a Football Widow. Honestly, I just like having a reason for being married and alone. The other five months of the year, I don't have an easy reason for being alone. Well, there's the traveling. Still, I hate to think that I'm being put second or third or fourth to beer, football, and losers. I guess my expectations are still far too high for this man. I mean, how dare I ask that he spend some time with us. That's just so controlling. And so is asking that he not drink so much. It's crazy the way I make him go home if he's slurring his words. I'm such a Witch, huh?

Did you know that there are lots of guys who don't make their wives Football Widows?

I know... hard to believe, right? Well, in my small group of acquaintances, football is watched at home with kids and some neighbors. People bring food and sit around together as the kids play in the next room or swim in the pool. Women gather around the kitchen to talk about the artichoke dip while the guys high five and cheer from the couch... and rave about the artichoke dip. I tend not to go to those parties because I used to feel stupid going while my husband was with his friends. "We should be together," I thought. We should be.

There I go with the damn shoulding again.

Naomi recently commented about how no wonder I was dating The Pilot again. That I was too busy to meet anybody else. I haven't been able to get that out of my head. It's not that I want to meet anybody else. But should I really be hanging on to The Pilot? Naomi's words haunted me in my quiet time. In between the endless list of things to do, places to go, people to help... I was filling my life. I had become so busy that I didn't have time to think. Typical avoidance behavior. I tend to do that. I know that... in my thinking head. But in my other head, the squishy one that's directly connected to the stupid side of my heart... that one was being fooled into thinking everything was getting better.

Leave it to a cool chick like Naomi to kick you in the hoo-hoo and make you face reality.

So I'm thinking this season is going to be different. This season, I'm going to enjoy my friends and their artichoke dips while my kids play or swim. And I'm not going to joke about being a football widow any more. This year, I'll just be a fan again.

Go Chargers!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Personal Responsibility

"No alibi will save you from accepting the responsibility." ~Napoleon Hill

I asked some friends what their definition of personal responsibility was. I thought it was a silly question to ask, like what color is water... what color is the sky... what color is fire. My oversimplified answers to the color questions were easy: water - clear, sky - blue, fire - orange. But then, life isn't always that simple, is it? Just as water can sometimes be murky, so were some of the answers to the question of personal responsibility. Just as the sky can glow orange and flames can blaze blue, the answers to my question sometimes seemed the opposite of the simple responses I had anticipated:

"Owning my decisions and the actions, good or bad, and the outcomes of both. I learn from my mistakes and don't make them again."

"Remaining true to the deepest desire of one's heart."

"Getting yourself where you want to go."

"Recognizing that your actions impact people and things other than yourself and acting accordingly."

It's safe to say that I wanted to hit my TV with a sledge hammer several times this week. I wanted to hear the sound of a million pieces of glass shattering! Anything would have been music compared to all the finger pointing and ass-covering that is the Great American Bailout. The only thing is that I only have this one TV and if I break it, I don't just whip out a credit card and buy a new one. Now, I understand that on a macro level, our country needed for this bailout to happen. I'm going to completely ignore the the pork stinking up the bill (um, racetracks? what??) and just bring it down to a micro level.

Simple Sugar, so to speak...

Six years ago, we couldn't afford to buy in the neighborhood we really wanted to live in, so we stayed in the neighborhood that had been home for years... an old, blah neighborhood. But it was what we could afford... and just barely at that. We weren't able to travel or buy any kind of extras. When we did travel or buy extras, we would get those funny colored utility bills. You know... the kind that come when they're overdue. We weren't any different than a lot of other families just trying to get through life. We were just thankful that we had our house and with what we had.

But not really.

All around us, other families were going to Europe, buying the latest Mac, driving new Beemers. We were taking local road trips, adding memory to our big clunky computers, and driving a used mini-van. So many times, I wanted to pull equity out of our house. I wanted to be able to do all the things that others were doing... and buy all those things that others had... and experience all the things life had to offer... Still, it seemed crazy to bank on the market to continue it's meteoric rise. The Pilot and I were raised around people who had lived through the Great Depression. No matter how much we wanted to, our grandparents voices were stuck in our heads. We might overspend one month and kick ourselves (and each other) the next month, but no way were we going to gamble our house on an over-the-water bungalow in Fiji.

But, boy were we tempted.

If we would have just followed our hearts, we would be in the same predicament that so many of our friends and neighbors eventually found themselves in. A few had to sell their third and fourth cars. Some had to change how they educated their children. But others unfortunately found themselves being asked to vacate as the banks took over their homes. It's sad, and I feel bad for them, but at the end of the day, nobody put a gun to their head and said BUY! BUY! BUY! I feel sorry for them because they believed that things were going to keep going the way they were going. But nobody gave them any guarantees when they signed their second and third refinance deals. They were enticed by the lifestyle that we were taught to desire... to covet. After all, we all deserve to live the American Dream... right?

But do we deserve to follow our dreams if we can't fulfill our personal responsibilities?

Does a student deserve to graduate just because they sat in a chair for twelve years but refused to come prepared for a test with even a pencil? Does an employee deserve a raise or plum parking spot just because they have been around longer than her co-workers and know where they hide the ink cartridges? Do you or I deserve to have our credit cleared just because we won't be able to survive without a $500 handbag? I know I'm oversimplifying this. But really, where did we become a nation that feels entitled to have whatever we want without taking any personal responsibility over our very actions. I wasn't raised that way. I made some really stupid mistakes in my life. Really stupid. But when you screw up really bad, you learn lessons getting yourself back on track. Eventually, you stop blaming others and start sentences with "I did..." My sister, although raised in the same house, had a very different experience than me.

And maybe this is why this whole deal just bothers me deep in my craw.

I try to teach my kids that their actions will bring about consequences, good or bad. Everything that happens during the day is directly related to what they did or did not do just moments before. It hurts me to deprive them of treats when they don't finish their dinner, but that's what you do as a parent. I hate to tell them that they can't go to a dance because they got a D in Math, but that's just how it goes. I'd rather they learn that fire burns by touching a match than by being engulfed in flames. I mentioned once that my parenting style is thinking about what my Mom would have done and then doing the exact opposite. Well, in this case, I'm split. I had a good and bad example to draw from. While she did make me responsible for my actions as I do my children, she didn't practice the same parenting on my sister. Picture two children. One works to pay for her team uniforms. The other has her uniforms paid for. One got a junkie car to borrow for getting to and from school. The other got a brand new car the day after passing her driver's exam. One bought her own school clothes. The other went to the mall with dad's credit card. (I'm not kidding, y'all... that was us...) So fast forward to today. I pay for everything cash. My sister has a bajillion credit cards that I'm pretty sure are maxed out. That's okay. It's just the way we do things.

This country is like two very different siblings when it comes to spending.

Even though I want stuff... and trust me, I'm not above wanting lots and lots of stuff... if I can't pay for it, I don't get it. If I buy something that I can't afford, I really "pay for it" the next month. So if I want something, I save for it or work for it (or sometimes ask The Pilot for it, but I "pay" for that too). Because of the "Tough Love" I got from my parents, I learned Personal Responsibility. I also (eventually) learned that I could still follow my dreams while doing so. Next test subject: Little Sister - My parents figured they'd go a little softer on her. She had some difficulty coming into this world, they made the rest of her life at home not so difficult just to make it fair. When I complained, which was often, Mom would say it was because I could do stuff myself but she needed help. The result of this unfair treatment was to create a rift between us that is barely manageable at weddings and funerals. We don't like each other much these days. My mom and dad, in all their well-meaning albeit dysfunctional parenting, pitted us against each other. And gave us two totally different views on Personal Responsibility.

Is it fair to give people the things they want just because they want it? Is it okay to bail one kid out and make the other pay? Does it make anybody any better for getting to live a dream but not having to be responsible about the reality of that dream? I know I'm oversimplifying the psychology on Main St. And it probably wasn't one $500 handbag that got us where we are. But it was a feeling that we all deserved to be happy even if that meant maxing ourselves out, living a lifestyle that we had no way of paying for. I know that on a macro level, this bailout means that your 401k will not become a 201k and employees will get paid on the fifteenth and commerce will not come to a great big nasty grinding halt. I just think that, kids will eventually learn to stand on their own...

if they are allowed to deal with the consequences of their actions.

Note: My sister was always perfectly capable of doing anything I could. And my parents weren't being corrupt or greedy. They weren't going to profit from any of their parenting. Their intentions were misguided, but pure. Nothing like the blatant lies some politicians told in order to get the kids back at home to like them more than the other party and vote for them... and Lord only knows what all else they got... a racetrack? What???