Friday, August 30, 2013

Yosemite Fire and the Shifting Wind

A shift in the wind has found us breathing in the smoke from the Yosemite Rim Fire. We live less than 60 miles from the gates of Yosemite and the Rim Fire is miles beyond that. Even with the miles between us our sky is gray and the stench of smoke is thick. The devastation of such a beautiful area is heart-wrenching.

Displaced animals are scurry about seeking shelter and water.They are disoriented and confused. People are wondering if they will have homes to go back to when the fire is extinguished. Some of nature's most striking beauty is charred black and covered in ash. 

In California we get used to hearing about fires but we never get used to their destruction. I guess sometimes things must burn to make way for new growth and new hope. 

In the wake of the fire we will learn of the survivors. The surviving animals, people, and nature. The things that survived but will be forever changed. The resilience of life is amazing. Whether plant or is magnificently strong.

My friend compared life to a forest fire. Sometimes we go through painful devastation and complete destruction. But, after the initial damage has swept through life slowly begins anew. We access the situation. We repair and rebuild. And, new sprigs of life and hope appear in our lives. Sometimes a complete burn is a good thing because it makes a fresh start not only possible but necessary. 

Just like with life, it is hard to imagine the beauty of Yosemite ever returning to this scorched area. But it will. It will take significant time but life will come back. Habitats will be restored and animal life will populate the area as surviving trees grip the soil and hold it all together. Nature is awesome and extreme; just like life. I image that is just the way God planned it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My "Not for Smart People" Major

I am doing classroom presentations this week for biology at one of the colleges I call on. I am letting the students know what materials will be required for the class and what their purchasing options are. I am trying to help them realize they need the materials to pass the class and find options to acquire them without breaking their budgets.

As I moved from class to class yesterday I was accompanied by a awkwardly high-strung sophomore who was informing students about weekly peer instruction sessions to help them learn the course's more difficult material.

I am not a rockstar presenter. I'll admit that I attempted to be early in my career. I learned quickly that the students would rather listen to just about anything else but me so I try to get in and give them the facts as succinctly as possible. My bubbly counterpart at yesterday's sessions had not learned this yet.

When she realized we were following the same scheduled she introduced herself and asked if I went to college.

"Yes. In fact, I graduated from this very college." I replied

She was very wide-eyed at that thought. Perhaps envisioning me hopping off my horse with a bonnet on my head and a slate board under my arm.

She asked me what I majored in and I said journalism.

"OH MY GOSH! I was valedictorian at my school and I came here on a communication scholarship. I started out in that program, but they told me 'Girl, get out! You have too much going for you to stay here!' So I moved over to biology where I am totally challenged. I mean the classes in communication are all easy and fun but now I have to really buckle down. I am going to be a doctor! I scored 110% in this class last year so I am going to guide these students to better grades. I am going to be their leader!"

She said all if this in about 3 seconds. I just stared at her. She had no idea she just slammed me and my "not for smart people" major. But, I did admire her determination and her spunk. I have no doubt she will take her impossible percentage and go on to become a doctor of all that is awesome. 

As the day wore on her exuberance faded not one bit. I was so intrigued because I remember being so excited and manic when I started college. The possibilities were endless. I went from pre-vet to marine biologist to psychologist to journalist. In the end, I majored in what I knew. I had big plans when I started college. I think those big plans are so important even as reality sets in.

I never made it to veterinary school and the psychology option lost me when I found out about all the animal testing. So I didn't land a career that gets me the big bucks and a superstar on my door. But, I do have a solid job and I get to help others reach their dreams. I may not have majored in smartness but I think I did okay.

The truth is that I love to write. Some days I write better than others but it is an outlet I enjoy. It relieves my stress. It helps me think clearly. It is my best form of communication. I enjoyed everything about journalism except the deadlines. Once one was met another one was glaring. I didn't want that in a career. I didn't want a life governed by deadlines. We all have deadlines to met but hard deadlines day after day was the deal breaker for me. 

Though I don't wax on poetically in my career now I do have opportunities to hone my skills. And, I am surrounded by the written word which is a total perk. So, I am definitely not the smartest person in the world but I am smart enough. Smart enough to know that life is good. Life is good indeed.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Some things I know...

Some things I know to be true. Houses will burn down, water wells will go dry, people will surprise us, people will disappoint us, families will feud, friends will come, and friends will go. Sometimes things are our fault. Sometimes things catch us completely unaware. Sometimes we shake our heads and crumple to our knees and wonder how we will make it through. But make it through is what we do. It is the grace we muster after the initial blow that determines our character. It is the ability to fight when we must and walk away when it is best that sets the standard for our future. 

No one is perfect and no on can truly claim to be. We all make mistakes but it is what we learn from them matters. Do we own up to them? Do we cover them up and hope no one will find out? Do we commit ourselves to never err in that way again? Do we take someone's blunder and use it for our own good not caring what grief we bring the other person?

Time heals but sometimes the wound is so deep it leaves a scar. Just like a broken plate can be glued back together, a relationship can be repaired but it will never be the same. Even though glued, a broken plate still shows the cracks and chips of the initial damage. It is no small feat to forgive and almost an impossible task to forgot. The cracks and chips are constant reminders of the hurt someone caused.

I know some other things to be true. The sun will rise and the sun will set. God is good and has a plan. What is important are the three people I share my home with who call me wife and mom. And I know that this too I shall overcome because it is what we do and I am just to stubborn to let someone foolish take me down. I was once described as a loyal friend and a fierce enemy. I sense that is true. That is probably why my parents nicknamed me "The Bulldog."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Checking Account Drama

My checking account was compromised! Someone created fake checks using my account info and went shopping. They got free goods and I got a mess on my hands. I understand that times are tough but theft is just plain wrong. It is not acceptable. It is bad. It begets bad juju!

I have never been "robbed." This is my first go-around. Once someone attempted to steal my car. Sadly, it did not start for them either. That was a pain also but this is having a ripple effect. No checking account means I have to re-route my paychecks, my mortgage payment, my insurance payments, my expense checks. I have to pull funds from other accounts to cover the delinquency in the compromised account. I will get the money back but it all takes time. 

I have to wonder what possessed someone to take my check and use the information? Seriously? I wonder if they felt the slightest guilt as they shopped? I wonder if they give two cents about the mess I am forced to deal with because of their actions? I wonder if they lie awake at night in the coziness of sheets and pjs bought by others and feel a tinge of discomfort. I am thinking probably not.

The person that stole my info was so crafty they have probably done it before. Perhaps they feel entitled because times are hard and they needed the money. Perhaps they felt that I would just resolve the issue and move on easily. Whatever they felt I am certain they seriously misgauged my frustration. They clearly did not consider my time lost from work and the plain aggravation it takes to deal with this drama. 

Just think...there is someone out there chatting it up and have a Monday like the rest of us that stole my checking info. That is so beyond my realm of normal! A thief is among us - actually many, many thieves are out there. I could totally go the route of the paranoid curmudgeon but I will stick with annoyed grumpasaurus - it sounds a smidgen perkier!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Travel Snafu

So I spent a few days in SoCal. I went "down south" as we NorCal folks say. My job required us to convene in Huntington Beach to kick-off the start of the new school year. Fall is a big deal for us and no amount of preparation can be enough.

I enjoy Southern California. Our hotel sat across the street from the beach and you can't get any nicer than that. I loved running along the beachfront each morning and watching the surfers get their game on before the work day started. The whole atmosphere of Huntington Beach is a way of life. Work hard; play hard. 

As beautiful as the SoCal beaches are I am still partial to the beaches of the Central California coastline. I grew up going to Pismo Beach and it feels like home now. Even my kids vibrate with excitement when we cross the pass and see the first glimpse of the ocean on our central coastline. Nothing quite compares.

Beautiful locale aside, I am not sure what it is about our bi-annual sales conferences but I can never travel without a snafu of some sort. This time I was determined to avoid flight delays and lost luggage. I drove. Easy enough right? One would think.

The drive to SoCal had me delayed because I had a nail in my tire. Not good. I was going over the Grapevine and you can't have an impaired tire crossing that beast. The Grapevine is the set of mountains you cross to get out of the valley and into the greater Los Angeles area. The Grapevine is daunting but it is the quickest way to drop into Southern California. Checking road conditions on this pass is a necessity. It can have weather delays; road construction delays; runaway truck delays. They actually have sand ramps for vehicles that lose their brakes on this route. I have only seen one freight truck sunk into one of these but once is plenty! I also once saw a freight truck jack-knifed with its cab see-sawing on the ledge. Again, one time too many!

I was hopeful that my travel delays were done when I left the tire repair shop with new tracks on my back wheel. And, all was well for the few days my car spent in underground parking. Then came the drive home.

I agreed to drop two colleagues at LAX because it was sort of on my way. It was not a total inconvenience to shuttle them and who am I to say no - it is a company car so I do what the company needs. As we closed in on LAX one of my colleagues gets a text message that his flight is cancelled. He can't get another flight out of LAX but he can get one out of Bob Hope airport in Burbank. OK. Not terrible. A little less on my way but I can still make this happen. So we drop off Colleague A and creep with traffic over to Burbank. Colleague B is super grateful so I am not too bitter. I have been delayed an hour at the most.

Then I hop on "the 5" - that is what we call Interstate 5 which is the main vein that slices through California. I zip along the 5 with precision. I am in a lane; over a lane; bypassing those not even hitting the speed limit. I am in the zone! I am cruising and then I come to a grinding halt. Traffic is wretched. As far as I can see cars are inching along. An accident I think...a grisly one. As I get sucked further and further into the snarl I realize it is construction. Major construction. Construction to the point of covering a single mile in about 20 minutes. Construction I didn't know about because I forgot to check road conditions. Shame on me! I know better.

I think about crying; what's the point? I try to call my hubs; I have no signal. So I sit. I find a lollipop in my glove box - score! I turn on my tunes and proceed to get sun-burned sitting in my car as it crawls over the Grapevine. 

So my 4 hour trip was closer to 7 hours. That isn't has bad as it could have been. I have slept on airport floors below so 3 hours behind schedule is easy-peasy. I did learned that we will all converge on Chicago in January. My first thought was - I don't even own clothes for weather that severe! My second thought was "Oy! Maybe I should rent a mule and start on the journey now?!"

Friday, August 9, 2013


I have been thinking a lot about friendships lately. There are so many types of friendships that we find ourselves engaged in. We have our best friends, our pals, our acquaintances, and, let's face it, those friendships that drain us.

I take my friendships seriously. A good friend is golden. Someone you can pour your soul out to and never worry that she will use it against you later. A good friend is the one you shop with because she will honestly tell you when the jeans are not flattering and the top is too tight. A good friend is the one that tells you about the chive in your teeth BEFORE you chat it up with your nemesis that you happen to run into.

I am so blessed to have good, solid friendships. I do not have many friendships from childhood because we moved away before high school and I do not have many friendships from high school because high school was just not among my happiest times. My best friendships have been formed in the last 15 years or so.

I love friends I can laugh with and joke with. I love friends that get my sarcasm. And, I love the sarcasm of my wittiest pals. I learn from my friends...I learn how to parent better, how to laugh at myself, how to move up in the business world, how to take better care of myself and my family, and how to get the best deals on everything needed to clothe, bathe, feed, and educate my children. Good friends are golden for so many reasons.

I have cried with my friends and laughed until my sides hurt. I have been crushed by friends who really were not truly friends at all. And, I have had to end friendships that were toxic to the point of impacting my relationships with others. That's so hard. When you really want to be a good friend but you realize that person's negativity flows beyond you to your family. It is never easy to let go even when it is the best thing to do.

A good friend buys you a fire extinguisher and hot sauce when your house burns down. They take the wicks out of candles until you earn them back by not having anymore house fires for a year. They honor your 40th birthday with denture cream and Beano. They laugh until they almost pass out when you trip over your own feet. They meet you before the sun rises to squeeze a run into an already packed day. They enjoy hanging out with you even though you are an enormous goofball. At least this is what my friends do...all two of them! Just kidding, I have at least three!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This is me

We women are so hard on ourselves. We fret over weight and zits and bad hair. I never see my husband scrutinize himself in the mirror. He never pulls on jeans and looks to his reflection to see what they look like. He never plucks stray eyebrow hairs or globs make-up over a zit. He is just him with no frills.

Me? I get so close to the mirror I could crawl into it. I examine every pore and every hair follicle. I primp and fluff and I still dodge cameras. I never seem to be truly content with what I see in the mirror despite looking at that same person for 40 years.

Women worry about weight; whether we are too thin or have a little chub. We think our hair is too thick or too fine; too short or too long. We get highlights and low lights. We extract zits and conceal lines. We tug at our clothes and tie up our hair. It is a wonder we get out of the house at all sometimes.

For all the running I do, I am not overly thin. I have a passion for food. I really love it...a lot. I eat ridiculous amounts. I could probably drop the 10 pounds I complain about if I would just pare down my servings. I really need to do that. But this is me. I am athletic in build. I am built like a board. Seriously. Belts look ridiculous on me because I have no curves; no booty; no shape. It is like wrapping a bow around a two-by-four. 

My hair is fine and thin. I would love at least a few more strands so I can get over my worry that I will go bald someday. Wind, fog, a light summer breeze...all wreck havoc on my hair. I spray and fluff and back-comb and then I step outside and need a hat to cover the mop on my head. But this is me. This is the hair God gave me and God doesn't make mistakes.

At 40 I still have acne. I was once told by a nurse, "Oh, you are so lucky! Your skin is so oily you won't get wrinkles!" Well, yay. I get to be the 80 year old with blemishes. I scrub my skin and tone it and moisturizer it and protect it from the sun. My reward is zits. Thankfully, not near what I experienced as a teenager but enough to want to scream, "Enough!" But this is me. I come with a loud guffaw of a laugh and zits.

My teeth! I thought I had an overbite but the dentist told me it was an "over-jet." What the heck? He referred me to an orthodontist. The referral slip is still pinned to the cork board. Do I really want midlife braces? What if he wants to bust my jaw to reshape my face and wire me back together? Did my parents not know of orthodontics when I was a child? Sigh. This is me. I come with beaver teeth.

I know what I will find when I look in the mirror. It is no shock. I never think, "Well, hello missy! You are looking smashing!" I don't think I am a troll but I wouldn't classify myself as a beauty queen. I am just me. All of us women are just us. It is so hard to accept what we find when we see ourselves in the mirror. We forget that magazines are air-brushed and even our most beautiful friends have their own demons to battle. We forget that we are witty, compassionate, loving, and strong. We look in the mirror and focus on a zit when we should focus on the soul. We pluck the eyebrows when we should look into the eyes. We are all amazingly beautiful creations created by a God who loves us beyond measure and doesn't make mistakes. Embrace who you are inside and out. 

Today I will try to be kinder to myself and I wish the same for all the beautiful women in the world. Now, I have to go brush my beaver teeth.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

So Very Different

My husband and I are raising both our children in basically the same manner. They have the same bedtimes, the same routine, the same breakfast options. But, for how much they are occupying the same home and abiding by the same rules, our children are starkly different from one another.

I don't know why I find this so intriguing. My brother and I are polar opposites. He is two years old than me and he is a creative genius . He can create amazing art and he is musically gifted. Me? I draw stick figures poorly and cause my children to ask, "What's that sound?" when I sing out loud in the car.

My son is 9 and almost exactly two years older than my daughter. He is much
Then - 2006
more mellow than she is. He has big emotions for such a little guy. He ponders things and asks big, thoughtful questions that have me running to Google almost daily. He is oblivious to the girls tripping over one another to sit by him at lunch though he says one day he will probably have a wife and some kids. At the moment, girls are not his thing. He just wants to hang out with his buddies and have good times.

At 7 my daughter is all vim and vigor. Her voice reaches tones that unsettle the canine world. She tests her boundaries daily. I have told my husband that I don't want to break her spirit but I would like to reign it in a little. She is feisty! She is realizing that she is no longer a baby and she doesn't like it. In moments of calm she will still climb into my lap to cuddle. She is a tiny thing but I know these  moments will become more infrequent.

And Now
What is odd is that at school my son becomes an extrovert and my daughter is immensely shy. In looking back at my own childhood I recognize that I was very much like my daughter.  I was outgoing at home and painfully shy out in the world. I work with my daughter on her confidence because I would not wish my level of shyness on my worst enemy let alone one of my most precious gifts.

For all their differences my kids are great friends. They do fight like siblings but their love for one another is apparent. They are very protective of each other, except when they are trying to poke each others eyes out. They follow the thought that says, "I can be mean to my sibling, but you better back off!"

My brother and I have become great friends as we have gotten older and I hope my kids maintain their friendship. I hope they always appreciate the differences between them and also the similarities. I hope they will have each others backs out in the world. And, I hope they remember their childhood fondly. My wish is that they look back and reminisce, "remember when Mom used to sing in the car? That was painful right?" Ah, good times. Good times.