Duct tape discipline?

I assumed newly patterned duct tape was intended for art projects, but it seems some parents, teachers, and caregivers are using it as a time-out option.  To be perfectly clear, I do not find the act of duct taping a toddler to a wall or taping close a teenager’s constantly running mouth facetious.  It is yet another example of how any immature imbecile can have kids and prove themselves worthy of my immature name calling by posting Facebook pics of duct taped-kid handiwork.  The absurdity is what makes me laugh, just like when I watch the dumb criminals show on TV.  Teachers and daycare workers who are trained and paid to curb child behavior must have lost some of their minds to believe kids deserve to be duct taped.  I imagine all those perspectives change dramatically when the police show up to let them know in crystal-clear fashion that they do not see the humor, nor find it justifiable.  In 2011 parents received 30 to 36 months in jail for duct taping their kids and last week a daycare worker in Kentucky was charged with first degree child abuse and is facing up to ten years for taping a toddler to the floor during nap time.  Toddlers are chocked full of energy and curiosity and they lack impulse control, traits that they will also exhibit as teenagers when it’s even harder to assert one’s authority over the independent hellions.  I do not often judge other parents.  I had my turn and made hundreds of mistakes.  I defended the Mom who admitted to drinking wine the night that her baby was stolen from her home because Moms get blamed for everything.  It isn’t as if she was breast-feeding.  Wine and parenting are frequent partners, Continue reading

Final Goodbyes

Although how we say goodbye to the dead has evolved and varies from culture to culture, the need is as old as time, as is the belief that there is an afterlife.  Even Neanderthals placed flowers in the hands of the dead before they sealed the bodies in caves 300,000 years ago.  Memories rush in, clouded by love and grief, and although it is past too late, we appreciate them more when they are out of our reach forever.  Honoring the ones we’ve lost cauterizes our wound, and we accept that the ceremony is for us, the living.  It sets us on the path to healing, our cries resembling a release valve on an overflowing well of hurt.  Living there for a few hours reminds us that death is the great equalizer and for a time we hold our living loves closer, sometimes afraid of the randomness of death, oftentimes aware of how brief even a long life is.

The days of public displays of the dead are waning, thank God, replaced by memorial services and “celebrations of life”.  We turn to God, even if it is the only time we do so, for comfort and hope that our loved ones live on.  You may shy away from reading this, grief being among the hardest emotions and certainly one we want to avoid.  It is also common ground for every person that was ever born.  January is to me what April was to T.S. Elliot.  Time dulls the edges, but I hold tight to my deepest grief because it is all I have left of my son.  It is mine and this public declaration is unusual to say the least.  I know death makes people uncomfortable and talk of it is to be avoided, especially when we are years away from a tragedy.  One of the changes I’ve experienced in this decade is that I am becoming increasingly transparent and immune to other’s expectations.

We attended a memorial service last week for Dale, an uncommon character and dear friend of my parents’.  I was moved when the preacher said that Dale loved to tease, or as his wife Sue put it, “agitate”.  It seems more respectful to remember him as he was.  Dale’s agitation came with rewards, however, such as his outlandish stories about inventing the computer, the internet, and a multitude of other modern conveniences.  He was a Navy Seal deep diver (for real) when decompression was unheard of and his heart paid the price.  Only Dale would consider his chainsaw as a remedy for the dozens of  situations he employed it for.  He made us laugh and was an overly generous man.  We received a thank-you card from his wife yesterday that asked us to remember our good times with Dale.  We will.

When the phone rings

I feel like a teenager waiting by the phone for a boy to call after a friend told him I thought he was cute and slipped him my number.  Just like the boys in high school, there are few jobs that I share a mutual attraction with, but once in a great while there is one that shines brighter than the others, one that has the potential to fit into my life perfectly.  After six months of unemployment some may think I should be enthused about any job prospect, just as some boys thought an average-looking flat-chested girl should be thrilled that anyone asked her out.  Unemployment has done it’s best to chip away at my self-esteem and confidence, but when I review my work history and recommendation letters I am reminded that a lack of responses is not indicative of my worth, but of the competitive job market.  Despite such disinterest from most of my potential employers, it goes against my nature to accept that I cannot have that unique best-fit-for-me job.

So when the phone rings and caller id announces that company, the one I want to work for most, I let it ring a couple of times while I try to collect myself.  And invariably, just as when the cute boy finally called, my voice cracks when I answer despite my attempt to sound cool.  The last thing I want is to sound desperate or overly excited, even though I am.  I want to convey enough competence and likability to generate an interview invitation, yet still be authentic enough that they are not surprised later when I talk too much or propose different processes for meeting goals.  I have had my fill of “who does she think she is” managers who believe the only good ideas are theirs or introduce something I proposed as an innovative approach they just thought of.  That is not to say that I expect to avoid those inherent managerial traits, just that I would like to work for a team-oriented company that is not as hierarchical as my last employer.  A girl can dream.

The first phone call is a prescreening and so far I have not warranted a second call inviting me to get dolled-up for a date, I mean an interview.  Yesterday’s prescreen phone call went exceptionally well after my high-pitched “hello”.  I did not stumble or hesitate when asked how much I want to be paid and if I can work flexible hours and the human resource manager sounded enthused despite my unwillingness to work for free any hours between 24/7.  Now I wait for the second call, the invitation.  Not having received such a call yet, I am unsure if I can be as cool as I was during the prescreen, but if they are truly seeking a cool employee I am probably not the best fit anyway.  On the other hand, if they are looking for a somewhat dorky, not very hip, but always professional human resource assistant, I’m the gal.

Winter’s Gifts

Typically more than 30 inches of snow has fallen in the Great Lakes by mid-January and most of the  lakes have accumulated enough ice to hold crowds of fishermen and ice hockey leagues.  Usually there are ice bridges on the Great Lakes so snow mobiles can travel to and from the islands.  Normally I am bemoaning the frigid temperatures and tell anyone who will listen that January is really the cruelest month.  But, due to this year’s weirdly mild temps I feel the awe and excitement brought on by our first cumulative snowfall…in January.  It is the epitome of wanting what you cannot have and absence making the heart grow fonder.  I was getting a bit disgusted as I watched the mildew patches in my garden widen every week and the spring bulbs sprouting.  Although we saved a bit on our heating bill and did not have to shovel the driveway, snowmen were absent, holiday lights were not as splendid as when they reflect off the snow, and when I took my nieces to the park across the road during Christmas break they got muddy.  

Snow is caught on every branch and a cotton-like puffy blanket covers our village.  Finally, my garden is tucked in and the ground is freezing.  People are skiing and sledding for the first time this season and the die-hard haters have begun their “I hate winter” chants in the shops and online forums.  This feels familiar and right.  What is the point of having four-wheel drive without an icy, snowy winter?  State funds for dredging have almost dried up, so what is the point of having a boat if the water is too low to put it in?  What is the point of my husband’s ice auger if there isn’t any lake ice to drill through?  The companions to an essential Great Lakes winter have arrived and given me hope, just in the nick of time.  Funny how hope does that.

The rise of the twisty light bulb

As of January 1 the 100 watt incandescent bulbs that I grew up with are banned with lower wattage incandescent bulbs phasing out over the next two years, a truly expensive ideology for the Average Joe considering that the old bulbs cost about 43 cents.  I am environmentally conscious and invested in a couple of twisty high-efficiency light bulbs that cost a bit more than $4 per bulb and give off a bright bluish light that most women, especially those over 40, try to avoid.  A softer golden light can be found with the more costly LED bulbs.  I myself am opting for candlelight in the bedroom where I undress.  At the top of the chain are the super-long-lasting LED diode light bulbs which cost between 25 and 50 dollars apiece.  If I replace 7 incandescent bulbs with twisty CFL bulbs we will have monthly energy savings of $5 and should break even in 6 months.  If I replace 7 bulbs with $25 LED diode bulbs we will break even in 2 and a half years with an energy savings of approximately $6 per month; double that to 5 years if we buy the softer $50 bulbs, which every woman needs in the room where she applies makeup.  If you have ever gotten dolled up in fluorescent lighting you know that once you walk outdoors it looks like clown face paint because fluorescent light washes out color.  Considering fluorescent lighting will be prevalent in all indoor environments, you may want to ignore the stares in lieu of looking good once you step inside.  Consumer Reports cites a 37% increase this year alone for the twisty bulbs, due in large part to China’s control of rare earth resources, namely europium oxide.  The arguably good news is that a mining company has discovered a supply of rare earth elements buried beneath 500 feet of overlying rock right here in Elk Creek, Nebraska, population 112.

I love the outdoors, but we have seen that green initiatives touted as making our world a less polluted place are typically driven by greed and laced with cronyism while the public only receives the sunny side of the story.  A perfect example is the construction of wind turbines that will destroy wildlife habitats if not strictly monitored.  Part B of the equation is Wind Capital Group, who received a 107 million dollar tax credit and later held a $25,000 per plate fundraiser for President Obama.  Such is the case with the twisty compact fluorescent lamp bulbs which contain mercury and will need to be recycled as hazardous waste.  I have not encountered anyone who knows exactly where we should dispose of the new bulbs, not even online, but I bet there is a member of Congress who has a friend…  Until I find out I’ll just keep the burned out bulbs in the garage next to the old oil and paint.

Goals trounce resolutions

The statistics kings, or as I refer to them- “they”, say that we break 65% of new year’s resolutions.  New Year’s resolutions are designed to be broken, which is why I did not make any.  I can experience failure any time I want, sometimes several times within a day, so I’ll be damned if I am going to court it.  I was not always this way.  I spent much of my 20’s and all of my 30’s on one self-help road or another striving to be better.  Better than what?  Better than me.  It took me 43 years to accept my successes, my mistakes, and the whole package that makes up who I am, taking into account how much I have learned and grown.  With my thirst for learning and new experiences why would I not continue to grow ?  I now revel in some of my imperfections, such as a raunchy sense of humor and blunt honesty.  The world does not have a surplus of those two attributes, so I feel I add something worthwhile to the mix, just as you and your imperfections do.

Year-long promises that usually involve abstaining from a desire/addiction or performing acts that we think are good for us but do not really want to do are set-ups for failure.  One slip and I get to feel like I broke a promise to myself.  No thank you.  I prefer denying myself unhealthy habits and working toward my dreams in bite-sized increments so I can savor each daily, weekly, or even hourly victory.  I was the kid that easily made a candy bar last all day because it made for a better day.  I am not going to wait all year to pat myself on the back for going to the gym 3 times this week.  I see the calorie counter on the treadmill and I earned a candy bar or even a dish of ice cream.  This strategy makes it much more likely that I will return to the gym next week.  If I bury myself in a novel in front of the fireplace instead of going to the gym, I do not let myself off the hook for the rest of the year because I failed.  My discipline frequently lags, but not living up to a goal breeds vigilance the next day.

Another reason resolutions fail is because willpower cannot fix every problem.  Trying harder often equates to increasing frustration as I try to fix things out of my control or slap a band-aid on a problem that needs a tourniquet.  If I concentrate on the short-term goals on the branches of my big dream tree, I can appreciate how all things work together.  If I go to the gym I have more energy and sleep better, improving my cognition so that I work smarter.  Also, my jiggly parts are more perky, gaining me extra spousal squeezes and increased confidence, which ultimately leads to a better love life.  When I eat greens and lean protein I feel lighter and not a bit guilty when I indulge my love of chocolate.  I proved this to myself once again over the holidays because there weren’t any Christmas salads, but there were plenty of desserts.  When I write daily I am a happier person (so my husband says), which makes me more successful in my relationships.  When I read literature, non-fiction, or contemporary fiction, it makes me a better writer.  When I perform detailed research on career options I often discover aspects I was previously oblivious to and it motivates me to spend more time writing and constructing a virtual assistant business.  If I volunteer to work with disabled veterans, I feel better about not contributing to my community with a paying job and exposure to veteran perspectives and characters enhance my writing.  If I meditate and journal today the unemployment blues abate somewhat, which makes it easier for me to take action rather than spending the day on the couch unshowered thinking of how unfair this situation is while the TV drones in the background.  It all works together.  I am not the only one thinking this way, as evidenced by an app at iTunes called Resolutions 2012 which deconstructs resolutions into bite-sized, realistic goals that encourage a person to think about what it will take to meet a wide-sweeping resolution like losing 20 pounds or quitting smoking.  I think the best resolution all of us can strive for is doing something nice for someone else every day.  If that took off I would not need to challenge myself with meditation as often, but wishing for something hardly ever makes it so.

The American lives even more for his goals, for the future, than the European. Life for him is always becoming, never being. 
-Albert Einstein

New Traditions for a New Year

This year I felt enhancements to our New Year traditions were in order.  Our ritualistic purging is commonplace; out with the old dust bunnies and unworn clothing, make room for the new year’s new dirt, new ideas, and new fashion.  2011 was anything but commonplace in the Schultz household, and I have a strong feeling that 2012 will be chocked full of more surprising, yet positive, change.  While I did not want to give up our tried and true merrymaking recipe,  I did want to add more symbolism to the mix following a more dramatic purging than in past years.

Every time I clean out the closets I spy my wedding dress languishing in plastic and think what a waste it is to have such an exquisite gown that I just cannot bring myself to use as a  zombie bride costume.  Our daughter married in 2011, giving us a new appreciation for the cost of a wedding.  So, this year my dress is in the donation pile hoping to be worn again by a happy bride on a budget.

Not purposely, I purged my job, and more importantly my paycheck in 2011.  I naïvely asserted my rights under the American with Disabilities Act, urged onward by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who assured me that it really was the right thing to do.  Not the practical thing, but the right thing.  I think some of the dressy items I wore to work will be appreciated by a woman who does not have associated bad memories attached to these blouses and jackets.  My next job is still unknown, but surely it will require a new-to-me wardrobe.  In the meantime, I received comfy clothing for Christmas that better fits my current writing persona and requires the space taken by old items reserved for annual events I will no longer attend.  Out with old, out with the old, this year’s purging may take a couple of weeks.

After cleaning and organizing much of our nest, I turned to my right-hand-man (Google) for symbolic new year traditions practiced around the world.  There is a Scottish custom called “first-footing” whereby after the stroke of midnight a young, handsome, dark-haired man brings coal, money, bread, salt, and whiskey to your door for good luck, wealth, and good cheer.  We could not adopt this tradition because good-looking dark-headed gentlemen are hard to find, while blondes and red-heads are plentiful around here, but are considered bad luck in this Scottish tradition.  As the only handsome dark-haired guy in the neighborhood, I couldn’t have my husband visiting our neighbors all evening giving away our whiskey.  The Ecuadorian tradition of burning things that you do not want in the new year sounded more promising as long as we subtracted jumping over the fire and courting an emergency room visit.  I put out the call to my Mom to print pictures of unwanted 2011 ideals and absurdities.  Throwing joblessness, disease, food lines, and fat cats in the fire pit was as cathartic and celebratory as I hoped.  If we do not wrestle with those problems in 2012 it will be even better.  A new year is a time for new hopes.  In that spirit, I alerted my family and friends to the South American tradition of wearing brightly colored underwear for good luck; red for love, and yellow for money.  Everyone agreed that if they could not find red and yellow underwear they would settle for yellow, perhaps because we are already blessed with love and those that are single figure they can easily find romance once they have loads of dough.  I anticipate how lovely it will be when all of us receive a windfall in 2012 and will let you know when the cash starts rolling in so you too, can wear yellow underwear next year.

Our older traditions of drinking, feasting, and kissing excessively were still loyally held to, a sign that not all old things need to be purged, perhaps just embellished a bit.  I hope that your 2012 is filled with new possibilities and stripped of the 2011 things you no longer want or need.  Happy New Year!