Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

It's Halloween and my kids, husband and I are all thrilled. My husband, who was supposed to work today, even took off to not disrupt our yearly tradition of taking the kids trick-or-treating together. What's better as a child than playing dress up and getting seemingly endless amounts of candy? Being the parents of two trick-or-treaters who are allergic to peanuts, my husband and I get our own stash of Butterfingers, Snickers, Reece's and any other peanut or peanut butter candy dropped in our children's buckets. It's a win-win holiday for all and my husband has been planning our attack for days of what neighborhoods and church's trunk-or-treats we will hit in our candy collecting conquest.

This year Little Miss Sweetness is going as a She-Werewolf wearing an outfit that fits her punky black and pink taste. The Drama Queen is dressing as Cleopatra outfitted with flowing fabric hanging from the sleeves that she can move back and forth in her ever so dramatized fashion. They are both as cute as can be and moving from year after year of Cinderella and Snow White costumes, I am completely happy with a change in their character choices. I think back to my childhood and can only remember two of my own outfits: a bunny and a chimney sweep. I know there were more and I'm sure my mom could recall all the costumes in between, but all I muster up the memory of are a bunny and a broom-toting chimney sweep trying to mimic by grandparent's Scottish accent.

While the costumes have escaped my memory, the yearly traditions haven't. I remember trick-or-treating with my neighborhood friends, Sadye and Sam. We would go door to door of our own neighborhood where almost all the houses would be lit up and welcoming of costume clad kids. Ending the night at their house, we would dump our plunder out onto their living room floor to take inventory of our success and then barter and trade the unwanteds with each other. As I think back, I see the early hints of my self-diagnosed OCD, as I recall my severely straight rows of perfectly organized candy.

I also remember the Halloween party in the basement of my church every year. Yes, it was a Halloween party, not a trunk-or-treat or fall fest. Apparently this was in the days of churches still being able to call it Halloween without creating their own fear of offending it's members who think anything Halloween related is evil and anti-Christian. No, I'm not here for a religious debate, if you choose not to dress up your kids or give out candy, that's up to you. I personally don't think it demeans my Christianity to dress up my kids for trick-or-treating, but would more violate the terms of being selfish and greedy. But like I said, I'm not debating here, just sharing a memory, so back to the Halloween party. I remember each classroom of our basement being set up with different games and activities; a cake walk, bobbing for apples, sticking your hand in a bowl of unknown or describable contents and more. It was always a fun-filled time and added more loot to the night's plunder.

Now, we create different memories for our children. The streets are darker now with more unlit, unwelcoming houses than there are candy giving ones, so we opt for the trunk-or-treats at our area churches. We will make our way down the main highway in town going from church to church where cars are lined up with trunks decorated in a variety of themes. There are a few neighborhoods that we have gotten to know over the years that are kid friendly where we will walk door to door and run in to several of our family friends and children's school mates. I will spend the evening reminding my girls of their "thank you's" and getting my hand squeezed a little tighter when a scary costume crosses our path. Then we will go back to our home and dump the plunder out on our own living room floor, separate the peanut and peanut butter candy into mom and dad's own stash and let the kids work out the details of their own trades. The night will end with more "pleases" and begging to eat more candy before bed, which as tradition goes we will allow a little more than normal, because "it is Halloween".

So whether you are the parent accompanying your little costumed ones, the trunk decorating, candy giving fairy at the local trunk-or-treat or the door opening neighbor dropping candy into buckets and bags tonight, remember you are creating a memory for all the little ones you encounter tonight. This parent thanks you for being a part of the Halloween tradition and wishes you a Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Boating License

So my big accomplishment for the week is getting my boating license. It's not a big accomplishment, but it is something crossed off my list of things to do, so that's an accomplishment within itself. I grew up driving our 32 foot Chris Craft cabin cruiser that had not one, but two engines in it, and finally at 34 years of age I took my certification test and got "Vessel" added to my driver's license. I didn't need one as a kid learning and driving under the supervision of my dad's co-piloting, or co-captaining I should say. Here in Alabama, it wasn't a law to need a license when I was an early teenager operating my own jet-ski. But now it is and so it's been one of those things I have been meaning to do but continuously slips my mind in the everyday shuffle in life. Truth is, I haven't really spent near as much time on the river in a boat as I would like to until this summer. This summer I have spent nearly every weekend on the river and at a little island that fellow river-rats congregate to. Needless to say, it was a great summer and one that reminded me so much of my childhood as I watched my own children experience being on the river, driving the boat under Paw Paw's guidance and spending endless sun filled hours digging in the sand.

My earliest boating memories are on an old brown fishing boat with my dad and his fishing buddy Minor Jones. Though I didn't get to go often, being just a little runt of a child, I remember the treat of spending the day fishing, eating packed lunches of sandwiches and even enjoying the outdoor nature necessity of hanging my tail end off the side of the boat when a little girl had to pee. Now, as a mom of little girls myself, I can imagine what a selfless act this was of my dad to take me as I imagine I was just as busy as my own kids. I probably got on his and Minor's nerves just a bit and scared more fish away than helped to draw them in with not being near as quiet as anyone would have liked. Still, my favorite memory from the fishing boat adventures was that of the day I caught a pretty sizable fish and my dad and Minor got "skunked" as they say in the fishing world.

Our second boat was the 32 foot Chris Craft Cabin Cruiser I mentioned earlier. A beautiful wood boat from I believe 1963. However, when we purchased it, it was nothing but beautiful, but full of potential. You see before it became a part of our family it had been sunk, probably intentionally, but sunk nonetheless and in desperate need of continuous TLC. We spent the winter with it hoisted in the air on industrial cranes at my dad's employer's warehouse and give it all the tender loving care it needed replacing transoms, wood, vinyl and applying countless elbow grease in sanding and applying endless coats of polyurethane. At the end of the winter a friend came to hand paint the name "For Play" not for reasons that would be a continual joke around the river harbor of the name of our boat, but because my family were true bred woworkaholics and this boat was strictly for playtime.

This is the boat I grew up on every summer. I had all my spend the night birthday parties on, experienced loss when burglars targeting it a few times, experienced great pride in having what was on our city's Cedar River the biggest boat in the harbor and by it's make, history and beauty, one with unparalleled class. This is the boat I learned to drive at a young age, probably not the easiest one as it was powered by not one, but two car engines, but I didn't know the difference. You don't just push on one throttle, you drive controlling two. Both forward for regular forward, and learning to use one in different directions for turning. I remember the pride I felt as I could embark, drive and dock this massive creature with the skill of any experienced adult boat driver and now as an adult, I have learned my dad had the same pride in my capabilities as well.

After moving down to Alabama, for the sole purpose of being in a warmer climate where we could have our boat in the water year round, life got busy with building a home and less time was spent on the Chris Craft. However, I was shocked when I came home one day and had my very own jet ski on it's own hand cranked hoist under an upper deck of our pier. The next couple summers were fun filled as I spent my own time driving my own personal water craft. The only down side was the accident where a friend driving his own jet ski ran up the side, knocking me off and causing a little fiberglass repair my Kawasaki. As years went by I spent less time on the river and more time on the road and ending up selling the jet ski to help pay for my first car purchase.

Since then, my river ventures have been about one or two times a year and I honestly forgot how much I missed it. I forgot how much a part of me the entire river experience was, until this summer where I feel I re-found one of my first loves. The river, the waves, the hum of an engine, the riveting airborn feel of riding on a faster boat that seems to hover over the water rather than cut through it, the people you meet of all backgrounds, all professions, all different walks of life but are all connected on the level playing field by the bond of the river life. And in this summer I found that some things can only be explained through the peace felt sitting on the dock with the breeze on your skin, listening to the waves slap the hull of a boat. In that I found some much needed and forgotten peace, a solitude that was necessary to my sanity.

The Chris Craft of my childhood is now sold, the jet ski is gone, but there is now a relaxing pontoon that has replaced them with much less upkeep required of an antique wooden boat. So this summer I decided I was getting my boating license and would begin driving and mastering the pontoon boat that is available to me to learn on once again. No, I don't have a boat, but I will someday. Until then I will continue to spend as many summer days on the river as I can. Now, at least, I have the license that allows me to take control, have me ready when I do come across the boat that will someday be mine, and know that I have crossed something off my list of things to do and reconnected with my first love.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My name is Nica and I am a People Pleaser

Yes, as the title reads, "My name is Nica and I am a People Pleaser!" Yuck, I never considered myself a people pleaser, when did that happen? I bet my dad wishes I were trying to please him more before I've decided on a new tattoo and added more permanent ink to my skin...sorry dad. Yes, I took a long look in the mirror and came to the conclusion that somewhere along the path in my life I had developed into a people pleaser. Just realizing it was a huge step, admitting to it still puts a bad taste in my mouth. "I don't care what others think," that's what I thought anyway, because I am a little more on the vocal side of the human spectrum. I'm one that will say what I think, even if it's not the popular opinion. Well, not everything I think, but more than the average person would share. Some would disagree right there thinking that I do share everything on my mind and don't bite my tongue when I need to. Truth is I bite my tongue plenty and hold back much more than people think...that's just how dangerous my thoughts can be.

Anyway, while I didn't think I was a people pleaser, my actions spoke differently. When I took this long look at myself, I found that I was saying yes a lot. Saying "yes" to others before considering the time, energy and resources it would take to fulfill those "yeses". I found I was saying these yeses to others much more than I ever say yes to myself. In that I have found I had lost a lot of myself being what others expected instead of who I really am. I don't say this to give an excuse to not give of yourself, it is very important to serve others and is quite a rewarding experience. But it is completely possible to be so selfless a person that you lose yourself, you lose your own identification, or at least that's where I found myself. Not that I am putting myself on any type of pedestal of selflessness, I am no Mother Teresa, but I was definitely had my "yeses" out of balance. In that, I found myself completely exhausted, in a constant race against the clock to achieve all my obligations and was quickly running out of hope and happiness. I realized that there was something wrong with me when I could easily understand the women in news reports who had run away. You know the ones I am talking about, they are missing for days, missing posters and alerts are all over the media, the FBI is on a manhunt and then they suddenly turn up out of the blue only to ashamedly admit they left and had not told anyone where they were going because they did not want to be found. Yeah, I got to this point where I understood this behavior and in that realized that something had to change.

For some, change is hard, for me it was necessary. I had to change my habitual people pleasing ways or I was sure to become an example of spontaneous human combustion. Now, I have begun to train myself to not come out with a yes to something just because I am asked. I have stopped allowing myself to agree out of obligation, flattery of consideration, or just because I can and have the know-how to accomplish the action. Now I have to stop myself and ask myself if I am saying yes because I WANT to, instead of because others want me to. This has caused me to say "no" a lot lately and probably have a few people irritated or disappointed in me who think I am "pulling back" or "disengaging." I am confident they will get over this in time, if not, their motives were obviously not right in the first place. I have had to learn to say no to others so I could say yes to myself and to the people closest to me. This will make me not only a better person, but a better wife, mother, child, sister and friend to the people that matter most in my life and that I matter to more than the person just looking for another yes.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong"

Dirty Dancing, it's not only one of my favorite all time movies, it's also the first movie I ever watched at home on our first new VCR in about 1987-1988. Since then I have seen it a million times. Well, not a million, but 50 plus times would be a more accurate count and I am not in the least bit ashamed to admit it. What girl, well woman, my age didn't watch it, fall in love with Johnny and want to be taught to dance by Patrick Swayze in a way that would have him taking you to the forest to tight-rope walk fallen trees and practice lifts in the lake? Yes, it's still a favorite and I can quote most of the movie word for word when I watch it and it never gets old. Okay, I did have a thought to convey here, but the Dirty Dancing Patrick Swayze thought kinda got me sidetracked.

A few years ago, I had an encounter with a friend where I apologized for misjudging her. In our conversation, I apologized to her and said "When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong." I didn't realize until I walked away that I just apologized with Jerry Orbach's line in the movie Dirty Dancing. My realization kinda made the apology feel cheap as I just quoted from a "chic flick", but I did say what I meant and the apology was completely legitimate and heartfelt. Movie quotes aside, that person is now one of my closest and dearest friends, and I am glad that we were both willing to admit our failures and look at each other in true honesty to have the friendship we have today.

That said, I am becoming extremely irritated with those that can't admit when they are wrong and do something as simple as apologize for their actions when they do treat others wrongly. It is apparently demeaning to some to use the words "I'm sorry" like it's going to physically hurt them to treat someone with respect every now and again. I was raised to take responsibility for my actions and in that comes apologizing when I'm wrong. But maybe my parents raised me different than others, maybe they read the wrong parenting book, maybe it's just another example of a social epidemic that no one takes responsibilities for their own actions anymore. What I do know, is that when we fail to apologize for our actions when we are wrong to others, we in turn say that we do not respect that person or care about their feelings. Ignoring it, or sweeping it under the rug, does not make these things go away, it just makes the issue worse and continues to degrade the other person.

I in no way am saying I am always right or never hurt others. I know that I have unintentionally offended people time after time, and for that I am sorry. I can't apologize, nor can others, when we don't know that what we have done has offended or hurt someone. What we can do is take ownership when we do know that we have done wrong and take all measures to make it right.

I have also been on the hurt end. The end that takes the disrespect and attacks from others without ever hearing that apology. I know it's just words, but words mean a lot and actions speak volumes too. It's quite ironic to me that the same people who do this are usually the ones who avoid you until they need something and then they act like nothing ever happened in the past. I try to "let it go", get past the hurt, get past the pain, but usually find myself setting myself up for another disappointment. Because of this I have been trying to implement something called "boundaries" in my life. We are the only person that can give another person the ability to ruin our day, right? So, boundaries it is. Not unforgiveness, but self protection and boundaries as to how I will allow myself to be treated by others. It's very similar to that phrase "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." I am open to others, open to relationships and all they offer and there are times I know I will be hurt. But instead of giving all of myself to those who have thrown me to the wayside, I am going to create some boundaries and proceed with caution.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

You Time is Limited: Don't Waste It Living Someone Else's Life

Facebook has been inundated by pictures with sayings, both sarcastic and encouraging. I really enjoy the humor of the sarcastic ones, being that I have been questionably blessed with an overflowing gift of sarcasm, but I really enjoy the thought provoking motivational ones too. This particular one posted after the Apple inventing Steve Jobs' death is one that really got me thinking. Short, simple and to the point, I saved it on my desktop and look at it each day: "Your time is limited, don't waste it living someone else's life." It's quite challenging to me. Am I living the life that I should be, or am I living the life of meeting everyone's expectations of me, better yet, am I achieving my expectations? The scary thing is that I know that I am in many ways not living the life that is destined or possible for me. To do this would force me to make a jump out of another box that life situations has placed me in of trying to be "safe" than take the risks of jumping out on a limb and risking the fact that the limb might not keep me up. The limb could break and there would be an awful fall leaving me laying flat on the ground, breath knocked out of me and possible breaks and scars that would forever remind me that I didn't achieve.  

I used to be the risk taker, the girl who didn't think twice about being at the top of a ski pyramid when I was 14, bungee jumping when I was 16 or testing and conquering limits when they were given to me just to prove a point. Just this past summer, I was in Nashville and spent a while watching others ride a mechanical bull. I have always wanted to ride a mechanical bull. Don't ask me why, just one of those small items on my bucket list I guess, another way of testing myself just to see if I could do it. Well, I finally mustered up the courage to try, but felt a panic attack coming on as I waited in line and chickened out. Ugh, I chickened out? I am not the person that chickens out to ride something completely under matted with an inflatable cushion so you can't get hurt anyway. Who is this person and what did she do with my risk-taking predecessor? I don't know, but I can say I am still a little mad at her.  Apparently I have been wasting my time living someone else's life, because the person I am would have jumped on the bull, thrown my hand up in the air and tried my hardest to beat out the best score.

I have done a lot of self analyzing and had a lot of realizations since the bull.  A close friend and confidant gave me the questions "Why am I doing what I am doing today? Is it because I did it yesterday or because I want to?" I think as adults we easily get caught up in the routine of life: family, work, responsibilities and etc. and can forget who we are, what our passions are, what our dreams are. We let our routines, our position, and all the pronouns of the jobs we do define us instead of the using the adjectives that describe who we really are. We waste our time living someone else's life instead of the one we dreamed of having. Steve Jobs defied the times from his garage and from that defined the age of technology we live in now. What would have happened if he was too afraid of jumping out on that limb? Where would we be today? Now turn it around, make it personal...Where am I now? What would happen if I jump out on the limb? I don't have all the answers, but I am going to take a few more jumps in the future, begin living the life I want instead of the one others expect of me and when I happen across another mechanical bull in my future...I will be on it, hand raised and trying my hardest to beat out the best time.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Enjoying the Prepositions of Life

I've been having one of those incredibly busy weeks where it seems as though I am caught in this whirlwind of problems, complaints, and unnecessary drama. Yes, it's been one of those weeks of feeling like I can't win, despite my best efforts, and there are too few hours in the day to accomplish everything on my list to please anyone, including myself.

It's one of those times where I want to give in and raise a white flag of surrender to all the forces that seem to be defeating me, but I can't find a flag anywhere and there's no one in Walmart to direct me to the white flag aisle. And then I think about this blog and what I might write about and I have nothing.

Well I could write about something but it would probably cause more problems, complaints, and unnecessary drama and as much as I like those things (that was sarcasm) my quota is full and overflowing. So I thought I would pass on writing something fresh and instead utilize the right click button of my mouse and "copy and paste" an old excerpt from a blog I wrote in a couple of years ago for our church women's ministry. I pull up the website and read my own words from two years ago:  

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
This morning on my way to work, I began thinking about prepositions.  Don’t ask me how prepositions come to a person’s thought process in car line at 7:20 in the morning, but for some reason they did.  If you recall from middle school, prepositions are a linking word that relates the words in a sentence to each other.  Teachers always helped us remember what they were by thinking of a log, “anything you can do to a log is a preposition”.  They are the words like; above, below, in, off, over, through, under and upon.  Being a driven and goal oriented person, I have always defined milestones with accomplishments and reached goals.  I began thinking how in my life, I have always focused on the log, as an obstacle or event.  I have been so caught up with getting past the “logs”, that I have failed to enjoy the prepositions.  I have failed to enjoy the moments under the log or going through the log, when these are the moments that have been the key times of shaping, growing and learning in my life.  In reality, these prepositional times have been the actual milestones of God making me the person I am now.  While goals are great at keeping us focused on moving ahead, I think I am going to take a few extra moments along the way to stop complaining about the time, effort, and hardships and to really reflect on what the preposition is there for.  Maybe there is a sifting inside of me, a lesson to be learned, or a relationship along the way that He wants to work on.  Let me encourage you, as I encourage myself, when you see a log in front of you, enjoy the preposition.

Wow, did you just hear that? I think I just experienced the sci-fi theory of time travel and slapped myself in the face from two years ago. I'm currently going through things that I want to be through with and then I read my words reminding me to "enjoy the preposition"? I am not enjoying my "log" moment here. Honestly, I want to cut the log up into a bunch of pieces, set it on fire and roast marshmallows over it knowing the log is over and done with and I will never have to see the log again. At least in that scenario I could enjoy the rich chocolate and gooey marshmallow of a 'smore or two provided by the fire of the said log.

Sadly, there will be no bonfires today. Some logs are just harder than others. Instead of going through or over them, sometimes I feel like I am the preposition beneath the log and straining to get out from under it's weight.  Sometimes when we get through the log we find a couple of evidential splinters that take even more time and effort to remove and protect ourselves from impending infection. 

With the sting of the slap of my words still in my mind, I am going to try to enjoy my preposition. I'm not happy about it, I still want the log gone, but I am hopeful. Knowing that I'm going to be a better person because of it is much more inspiring that thinking the problems will never end, right? So it's all about the focus of my vision and I'm going to try to see the "shaping, growing and learning" that is happening to me during this preposition. So now, as I arm myself with tweezers and a few band aids in preparation for any splinters, I encourage you as I continually have to encourage myself to "enjoy the preposition."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Table For One

As a busy wife, mom, employee and ecetera, my spare time it extremely limited and I find that which I call "spare" dwindles everyday. I find it is hard to make time for others, and even harder to realized the time we need to make for ourselves. It has been in the past year that I have hit the "bottom" so to speak of the "barrel" of what I can give out and was forced to realize my own needs and the necessity to take time out for me, by myself, not doing, not going, not accomplishing...but just being still, quiet, and alone.

One of my favorite places to do this is on the pier at my parent's house. Just sitting or laying there, eyes closed, feeling my skin absorb the warmth of the sun's rays. A gentle breeze in the air and a methodical slapping of waves against the pier or the hull of their boat. It is a peace like no other and I can just let my mind rest and it seems as if the sound of the water can speak to me and allow me to meditate on the the weights in my mind and give me a clarity that can't be found by any friend's advice, motivational quote or bumper sticker. As much as I love these moments on the dock, they are very few and far between as it's hard for me to relax when there is so much to do.

I have found that the easiest time I can make for myself is in an hour lunch break during my Monday-Friday work week. I am used to carving this time out for lunch dates with friends to foster those relationships, but have not until recently realized how much my inner person needed me to set a few of these lunch dates aside for myself, without a companion, without a project, errand, facebook status update or a computer in front of me. Up until this past year, I did not understand the person sitting at a table alone, nor would I ever be the one walking into a restaurant by myself to be that person. I used to look at others sitting alone and feel sympathy for them not having anyone to sit and share a conversation with as they ate their meal. If I was eating alone, I was perfectly content opting for the drive thru lane and taking my to-go bag back to my desk. It wasn't until recently that I pushed through the self concious nervousness of sitting alone in public. Yes, it's stupid, but true. I would get nervous to sit by myself, so much in fact that I would have panic attacks that would force me out out of the restaurant with the all too common to-go bag once again. 

Well, somehow I learned to get past the attacks, the nervousness, and the rule in my head that said you couldn't dine alone unless you had no friends or were infected with a contagious disease. I'm kidding about the disease part, but you get the idea. I had this "loser" mentality created in my head about eating alone. I'm really not sure where it came from, but would guess it was probably derived from the unspoken rules of the common school lunchroom mentality we learn as children. No one wants to sit alone and you always want to be sitting at the "right" table with the "right" kids. Well, finally in my thirties, I am able to deconstruct that childhood lie and realize that the table I am sitting at by myself is "right" in every way possible. I have come to realize that lunch by myself can be a luxury of disconnection from everything else around me and reconnection with my own thoughts, a luxury I have mistakenly cheated myself out of for all these years. I'm on my lunch break, off work, the kids are at school, my husband is at work, and for this one hour I can throw off all weights of responsibility to everyone but myself. My phone is normally quiet because it's lunch time and people are busy eating, not texting and calling. In the rare instance that it trys to distract me, I have found this rarely used button that surprisingly turns the phone off so even it can't interrupt this all too important time. I am for this one hour able to slice myself out of the world and have some time to not have to give to anyone or anything but myself and my thoughts. I have found that these alone times are just as necessary to my mind as the food I am eating is to my stomach. I have found solitude, serenity and refreshment sitting at a table for one.