Deceptive Stick Figures

I’m away from home for work… again.  This time, I’m in a place completely unfamiliar to me.  At one point today, I had to do what all people who are staying adequately hydrated have to do and began to look for the facilities.  I remembered passing them on my way into the work area and headed that way.

When I got there, I looked up at the signs, verified I was entering the ladies’ room, and entered.  To my right was a urinal with the water still running as if someone had just finished using it.  I wondered first, Does it run continuously?  Seems like a waste of water.  And second, Why is it in the ladies room anyway?

At that point, I made the wise decision to step outside and check the door again.  Sure enough, it was the ladies’ room.  Maybe there didn’t used to be a ladies’ room, I thought.  It’s a semi-old building.  Maybe they converted a men’s room.  Something about that didn’t sit right with me, but, hey, I had checked the sign.

I then approached a stall door and discovered it was to a shower, not a toilet.  I tried the other and entered.  There were magazines and newspapers on the floor, which struck me as odd.  That seemed like something more likely to be found in the men’s room.  But, hey, I had checked the sign.

It occurred to me as I lowered my pants and sat down that perhaps the men in the building used both bathrooms.  Or maybe used the ladies’ room because of some deficiency in the men’s.  Then I reminded myself that plenty of women worked in the building too so surely that wouldn’t happen.

Before I was done, I heard the door open and I froze.  You just have to stay put and wait it out if it’s actually a guy… But how will I know without opening the stall door? … Ok, just wait until whoever it is leaves.  Are they still there?  I don’t hear anything.

And then the waterfall started.  I turned beet red and tried to pull my feet out of view of the stall door.  You just have to wait it out.  He doesn’t know it’s a woman in the stall.

And then it was silent.  I mean, completely silent.  I didn’t hear the person zipping his pants.  Or WASHING HIS HANDS.  Or exiting the room.  Now what? I thought to myself.  Is he still in here or not?  How long do I wait?  Was there ever anyone in here or am I just crazy?  Maybe that urinal just runs periodically.  Maybe that wasn’t urine flooding into the urinal.  Maybe it was just the flush malfunctioning.  But something told me that it had, indeed, been a man peeing.  A stealth ninja peeing.  A stealth ninja with poor hygiene peeing.  Maybe he’s standing there, waiting to catch the stupid woman he sensed was in the men’s room.  BUT IT’S NOT THE MEN’S ROOM!

I finally convinced myself that I did need to leave the stall.  It might as well be now.  I was prepared with an indignant defense about it being the ladies’ room, urinals aside, but fortunately, the room was empty.  I washed my hands and exited.

Just to confirm to myself, I checked the door again.  And did a double take.  When did the stick figure lose her skirt?  How did I make this mistake?!  I scurried down the hall, lest anyone see me anywhere near the men’s room.  And then worried as I walked back into work that my mystery man might recognize my sneakers and snicker.

In my defense, that stick figure bathroom guy had his legs spread out, instead of straight down like all the other self-respecting stick figure bathroom guys.  And when you are bleary-eyed and tired, those angled legs look a lot like the angle on the skirt of the stick figure bathroom gal.  I’m pretty sure the guy was being deliberately deceptive and pulled his legs back together after I walked away.  Jerk.

Which is Worse?

I left work early Friday afternoon and will be away all of the next week.  While I was driving home, my boss called to ask me some questions.  Later that evening, I saw I had text messages from him.  That’s strange, I thought. He’s not usually so intrusive when I’m away from work.

Then I saw the message.  It said:

You missed the excitement…

That sounded rather ominous so I asked him what he meant.

There was an electrical fire…

I responded with a shocked one pseudo-word request for more information: Whah?!

He responded with the name of my computer.  I responded as any person accustomed to teasing in the workplace would:

You are lying right now.

He then explained:

No I’m dead serious.  Power supply was smoking very badly… No flames out of the box but it was close. Fd was called.  We salvaged your hd and will work on a replacement machine.

I still didn’t believe him, but he insisted it was true.  Several thoughts ran through my mind.  First was a clear memory of me standing in the doorway of my cubicle looking at my workspace as I prepared to leave, thinking, Oh, yeah.  I planned to clean up before I left.  This place looks trashed.  Oh, well.  And then walking out.  That image was now replaced with a couple of firefighters and several of my coworkers crammed into the space, seeing (and possibly commenting on?) all the mess.  And all the people who will likely stop by as news gets around – just to see if there’s anything to see.

My next thought was that I had missed out on a rare moment of excitement and by the time I return, everyone will have moved on.

The next was to wonder what my reaction would have been had I been sitting at said computer when the smoke started billowing out.  The person who reported it sits a couple of cubicles away but was likely visiting with the person across from my space.  What would have happened if he hadn’t been standing there?  Would all of those papers on my desk have helped fuel a conflagration?  My whole cubicle before it got under control?  Where are the fire extinguishers anyway?

The final thought was that it sure was convenient to happen to a person that wasn’t actually going to be there for an entire week.  Gives them time to get a new machine.  I bet the system administrator is going to be so thrilled when he returns from vacation Monday.

And, you know, it really didn’t affect my day any.  Could, indeed, have no real impact on me at all.  Unlike the poor schmuck my boss told me about next:

That was actually the second event today… earlier I walked into the bathroom and there were a pair of glasses in the first stall toilet… yep I’d leave them too if that happened to me…


A Good Laugh

I really don’t think it was the wine.

I mean, I am more prone to laughter if I’ve had something to drink and it was red wine, which is stronger than my usual sweet white… but it’d been three hours since I drank the wine and it had only been one glass.

No, I can’t blame the wine.  I blame Dave Ramsey.

I already found stuff like this a little bit funny but thanks to Dave, the timing really tickled my funny bone.  We paid off one of our vehicles last month while taking Financial Peace University.  It felt soooooo good!

Then last night, I noticed a voicemail message on my phone.  As the message began to play, I started to grin.  Then the grin became a smile.  Which became a chuckle.  Which grew into some gentle laughter.  Which grew into stronger laughter and finally became quite raucous indeed.  Until my husband was looking up, asking me what was so funny as I hung up the phone.

The call was from the credit union that had carried our loan.  She started off by congratulating us on paying off our vehicle.  Yeah, right.  Sure you are happy about that. {grin}

She then said she wanted to check in to see if there was anything else they could do for us. {smile}

“And we also wanted to let you know about our special vehicle promotion we are offering if you finance through us…” {chuckle}  I bet you are!

“…no payments for 90 days…” {gentle laughter}  Oh, Dave would love that one.

“…and $100 cash…” {strong laughter}  Do you really think that’ll work?

“…plus 2 tickets to Desperado Park…” {raucous laughter as she continued} “…on our special customer appreciation night, which is September 13th…”

Translation:  We are very disappointed that you took away our revenue by paying off your loan so early and we are desperately looking for another way to get money out of you.  Even though you paid off your loan substantially early, we still think we might be able to entice you with “90 days same as cash”.  We just won’t mention that the interest will continue to accrue.  And even though you just shelled out several thousand dollars in cash to pay off that loan, we think we might be able to get you to take out a new loan by offering you a hundred dollars.  And if that’s not enough, then surely a couple of tickets to the relatively small amusement park you frequented as a child that is now hours from your home will rope you in.  Although you’ll have to go on a particular day.  We can’t afford to be too generous.  Because, you know, some of our customers bailed early on us last month.  Like you.

I hate to sound like a Dave Ramsey sales pitch because I really do hate all the hype surrounding the man.  But, seriously.  That course has paid dividends for us!  On top of all the more obvious benefits, if you want to be amused by a sales pitch too, all it takes is some Financial Peace.  And maybe a glass of wine.


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Modeling Behavior

Is it easier to see your bad qualities in your children or your good?

Does your answer to that question say something about your personality?

Does seeing your bad qualities in them make you a better person?

If it makes you a better person, is it worth it?

These are some of the questions I’ve been pondering lately.  And for the record, as I’m sure you’ll see in this post, my answer to the first is that it’s easier for me to see my bad qualities in them than my good.  The stuff I admire in them almost always reminds me of their dad.  And, yes, I think that says a lot about my personality.  I’m without a doubt my harshest critic.  So keep that in mind as I talk about all the bad stuff here.

Anyway… onto my observations… My family is kind of explosive and quick to react.  The kids immediately assume when something bad happens that someone did it to them on purpose.  They yell.  And when they disagree with each other, it ratchets up at an alarmingly rapid pace, with each getting more indignant.  The are hard on each other when one makes a mistake or is slow to figure something out or says something stupid.  They have no patience with each other.  They hold grudges.  They over-analyze each other.

It’s exhausting.

It’s me.

I’ve become increasingly tired of all the negative energy.  Especially as I’ve watched it blossom in the youngest.  I’ve been asking myself: Why are they like this?  Where did they learn it?  Is it me?  Am I a terrible mother?  Have we failed them?

Children model what they see.  So while I’m willing to accept that I am not actually a terrible mother, I do know where they learned it.  Yes, they learned it from their parents.  From us.  They’ve learned plenty of good things from us too, but it’s the bad traits that I’m talking about today.

I’ve been watching them.  I’ve been saddened by them.  I’ve been learning from them.

I’m reading a book called The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter L. Scazzero.  In one chapter, he talks about the importance of understanding how our family background impacts who we are now and how we interact with others.  He encourages his readers to constantly look back at their childhood and family to see what positive and negative reactions they have that are automatic because of their upbringing.  He believes this will help inform you about the hidden motivations behind your decisions and thus allow you to make changes.

I’m applying something similar as I watch my kids.  When I see them react, I look at how I might have modeled that behavior for them.  I think about times I’ve behaved the same way toward them.  I face the fact that they can only repeat what they know.  I try to find compassion for the poor children who don’t even understand why they are acting the way they are.  But I know.  It’s how I’ve shown them to act.

I think I’ve passed through the grief stage of this analysis.  I’ve tried to deny it.  I’ve gone through despair.  I’m moving through acceptance and into a place where I can attempt to model different behavior.

And this.  This decision to behave differently for the sake of my children.  This decision is the silver lining on this dark cloud.  It’s the bright spot in my disappointment in self.  I’m slowly becoming a better person – a better wife – a better mother.  I’m doing it for my children.  I don’t want them to be 40 with impatient, volatile children, slowly figuring out what they are doing wrong.  Or, worse, not figuring it out.  I want to get it right.  And I want it to rub off on them.  So when they are 40, they can work on the problems on the next tier down.

I hope I’m not too late.  But then that gets me to that last question.  Even if it’s too late to modify them, if it makes me a better person to have seen it in them, was it worth it?  If I’m better than I was and they are no worse than I was… did the world still get better?

I don’t know the answer.  All I do know is that I am doing the best I can.  And that best is getting just a little bit better every day.  And if I’ve modeled a boatload of bad behavior over the years, at least they are seeing me model the ability to change.  Or, at least, I hope they are seeing it – because it’s certainly there.

The Summer of 1989

I didn’t plan on posting anything today, and indeed there will be thousands upon thousands of blogs about Robin Williams today.  If there were not already thousands before I even roused from bed this morning.  I don’t have anything profound or significant to say about him or depression or suicide or even life.  I have no expectation to rise anywhere near the top or even any level of significance in the mass mourning of a great man.

What I do have is a fond memory from my pre-driving teenage years and since this memory involved him and resurfaced because of his death and because this blog is called mybrightspots and the memory is definitely a bright spot in my life, I will share that tale.

It was the summer of 1989.  I would be heading into tenth grade in the fall.  My best friend invited my mother and I to join her and her mother to watch Dead Poets Society at the theater.  I asked my mother if she wanted to go and was befuddled by her response.  There was no “Oh, I’d love to, but…”, no hesitation nor consideration.  Just a strange look on her face followed by, “No, that’s ok.  You guys have fun.”

My mother loved this friend and loved the friend’s mother as well.  She loved Robin Williams.  I couldn’t interpret the look on her face.  I couldn’t understand why she wanted to spend that Saturday afternoon cleaning house and doing laundry instead of watching this movie with these people.  I shrugged.  Oh, well.

I don’t recall if we went on opening day or if we just arrived late or what.  All I know is that when we walked into the theater, it was immediately obvious that we would not be sitting together.  I have never been in a more full theater in my life.  We found two seats near the back and I think my friend’s mother had my friend and I sit there before she wandered off to find her own seat.  I have a faint memory of guilt that mother and daughter did not sit together but relief that I was not cast out on my own.  I also remember thinking maybe it was best my mother hadn’t come.  Where would she have sat?

The movie was incredible.  Inspiring.  Moving.  Heart-breaking.  To this day, it remains one of my favorites.  And it’s at the top of my list of Robin Williams movies I want Jane to see this week.  My husband and I were up late last night, cruising IMDB and to bring to mind all of his works that we loved.  I have this deep desire to show my children this wonderful actor, to help them understand what the world has lost.  Popeye for Hal.  Jumanji and Mrs. Doubtfire for Daryl.  Dead Poets Society and maybe Good Will Hunting for Jane. Maybe not The World According To Garp just yet. It feels important.  This honoring and remembering and educating.

Back to 1989, though.  I came home on an adrenaline rush.  I could barely contain my excitement as I burst into the house.  “Mom!” I exclaimed.  “Man, you should have been there!  That was awesome!”

The strange expression on her face from earlier was back but intensified.  “I’m glad you enjoyed it,” she said, in a mildly disconnected and certainly not enthusiastic way.

“You’ve got to go see it, mom!  That was the best movie ever!  Robin Williams was wonderful!”

“It was a movie?” she asked.

Now it was my turn to be confused.

“Um… yeeeessss…?  What did you think it was?”

“I thought you were going to some group that was going to sit around and listen to people read poems written by dead guys.  I couldn’t figure out why you wanted to go, but more power to you.”

It took awhile for the laughter to die down.

And even though Robin Williams is gone, it’ll take awhile for the laughter he left me with to die down.  If it ever does.

Rest in Peace, you talented, flawed, and wonderful man.

Elite Family Laundry Club

We were away from home for nine days and got back home about midnight Saturday night.  Even though I had done 2 loads of laundry while at my mother-in-law’s house, there was still more to be done when we got home.  So I started a load Sunday afternoon.

And then I joined the elite family laundry club.

I was sitting at the dining room table playing Candy Crush while Hal watched Max Steel, Daddy (our primary driver the day before) took a nap, and the older two hung out at friends’ (that didn’t take long, did it?).  I heard water that didn’t match the tone of the show Hal was watching.  Daddy must be using the hall bathroom, I thought.  The water stopped.  Then it started again.

“Hal? What are you doing?” I asked.

“Watching Max Steel.”

The water stopped.

The water started again.

I got up to investigate and realized the sound was coming from the opposite end of the house.  As I tracked the sound toward the laundry room, it suddenly hit me what I’d done.  I rushed into the room and punched the pause button so the water would stop pumping out of the drain tube onto the window sill and floor.

Yes, I had followed in the illustrious footsteps of my daughter and husband.  Of course, I had a good excuse.  I had spent the last week doing laundry somewhere that I didn’t have to snake a drain hose out a window first.  Then again, they had good excuses too.  The husband rarely does the laundry – that’s my chore.  The daughter rarely does laundry either.  She should do it more often… but she doesn’t.

Ok, I thought. I need to do something about this.  We can’t keep mopping up water with towels and running fans all night.  The real solution would be to fix the drain line for the washing machine.  But I don’t realistically see that happening anytime soon.

So I came up with a solution.2014-08-10 23.27.26

The solution was simple enough: covering the power button with a contraption built from a milk jug cap and some duct tape.  In Sharpee, I drew a red stop sign and wrote “Drain Out Window!”  You can lift the bottom of the button cover to push the button.  The assumption is that this action will be enough of a reminder to check the hose.

I’d like to think I went all MacGyver on this, showing my ingenuity and ability to use materials on hand to solve a problem.  Unfortunately, I think it may be more along the lines of “You may be a redneck if…”

Oh, well.  At least no one is likely to pump the laundry room full of water again.

Time For A Change

I have straight, thick, dark brown hair which has been long for most of my life.  A couple of times over the past few years, I’ve cut it off into a bob, donating the hair to Locks of Love.  I’ve always immediately started growing it out again.  Not because I’m a diehard supporter of wigs for kids fighting cancer, as noble as that would be.  No, it’s because I’m too lazy to make it back in to a hair salon on any sort of schedule.

I’ve also never been eager to do anything to my hair except brush it.  I often don’t even dry it – it takes entirely too long!  And forget putting any sort of “product” in it or *gasp* using a curling or flat iron.  I just don’t spend a lot of time on my appearance, hair included.

But here lately… I’ve grown tired of my hair.  I’ve started to find it plain and stringy looking.  It’d probably look better if I dried it, but… like I said… that takes too long.  And it gets in my face during yoga and, well, just about everything else I do.  I have to keep pony tail holders on hand.  It falls in my food.  It’s hot.

Well, I’m not sure how it came up, but we found ourselves talking about haircuts this week while visiting family in Denver.  To my surprise, my husband, who has always loved my long hair, expressed an interest in me getting a pixie cut.  My hair has never been that short before, but it’s along the lines of what I had been thinking about doing.

After some internet research and a lot of hesitation, I called a Denver hair salon named Pacesetters.  A woman answered the phone and I could tell I got booked with her.  That made me a bit nervous.  Surely if she was any good, she’d be busy cutting hair?

Anyway, I went in the next day for my haircut with Monica.  It cost more than I’m accustomed to and took an hour and a half, but Monica did an excellent job.  Turns out, she just moved to Colorado from California and despite having an impressive resume and 23 years experience, she’s yet to build up a clientele.  Lucky me.

My hair is now maybe an inch and a half long in the back, even shorter around my ears, spiky on the top back, and not quite to my eyebrows.  It is shockingly different.  I love it.  I wasn’t too sure at first, but it’s been a day and a half now and I’m loving it more and more as time goes on.  I haven’t once reached behind me in discomfort at my hair being gone.  I love it being completely out of my way.  I like touching it and I like my husband touching it.  I like how the wind lifts it.  I like how I look in the mirror.  It’s great.

Of course, the true test for any parent who radically changes his or her appearance is the kid test.  Jane smiled and said she loved it, that I was beautiful.  This was better than when her daddy shaved his long beard and she cried.

Daryl was coming up the stairs at my mother-in-law’s house when he saw me.  His smile turned into a massive open-mouthed expression of shock.  He said I looked weird.  He asked if I was becoming one of those “boy women” (you know, women with short hair).

Hal took the cake by far.  When he saw me, he turned away and buried his face.  He refused to look up at all or approach me.  And then he called out from under his arms, “Mommy!  I’m never going to look at you again.  You are going to have to wear a hat for now on.”

Fortunately for both of us, he didn’t stick to that insistence.  I went hatless the next day and he survived just fine.  His unhappiness did remind me, with a little pang in my mother heart, that especially when he was littler, he’d grab hold of my hair while I held him.  It was so tender that just for a brief moment, I regretted the haircut.  But just for a moment.  I couldn’t be happier with the change and that, quite frankly, surprised me.  Guess I need to find a hair stylist at home now.