Saturday, March 2, 2019

Meet Larry

Larry was a nice guy.  A quiet man who worked hard and lived for his career.  Accounting. 

Larry was a CPA, hopeful that his hard work and long hours would soon lead to him becoming partner in his accounting firm in Des Moines.  Although Larry could be labeled "the nice guy," he suffered in the fact that he was alone.  Desperately alone.  No wife.  No kids.  No girlfriend.  No boyfriend.  No real friends to speak of.  He did have a calico cat named Sammy that didn't really care for him either. 
So when Larry got the flyer in his mail slot at the office, to say he was excited was an understatement.

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Larry writhed with excitement!  He hadn't been out of town for a convention in a long time!  And New Orleans?  He'd always wanted to go but never had the nerve.  But not today.  Not this time.  

This time, he was going to Carpe Diem!  He sorted out all the details on his commute home.  He could easily take the whole week off since the office was closed for the 1st and 2nd anyways.  He had plenty of vacation days banked due to the fact that, up to this point, he had led a lonely and dull life.  He had worked for the CPA firm for nearly 20 years and could count on one hand how many times he had taken an actual vacation.   

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Little Silent Girl

*Little Silent Girl was originally published in Bluffs Literary Magazine Volume IV, 2019.

As I slowed my car to a stop for the red light, I noticed the car next to me.  The older sedan had noticeable dents and rust. The rear bumper wore several sticker trophies of various bands and concerts. The back seat was piled high on the driver side with laundry baskets full of dirty clothes.  Crumpled linens, wrinkled t-shirts, and lonely socks hanging on for dear life to the basket, risking certain death of hitting the wet, rainy ground as the breeze from the open window flapped them back and forth.  On the other side of the piles of dirty clothes sat a little girl, probably around three years old.  A little silent girl.

She had a tiny face with mousy brown hair that was pulled back into a messy braid.  Her gentle features were so dainty and yet that wasn't what struck me.  It was her forlorn demeanor.  Her silent, withdrawn demeanor.  As she stared blankly out the window, watching the rain hit the window, I noted her eyes that seemed to stare past the window, beyond the intersection and into another world.  A world in her own mind.  Maybe an escape from something else.  Her mouth was drawn into a tight, tiny frown that gave away her secret. 

I could read her like a book.  She was not a happy girl. In the few, lonely minutes that I sat next to her car at the red light, I had her figured out.  I watched her in awe, waiting for her to make a facial expression, to laugh at the giant clown sign that hung over the ice cream store on the other side of my car, in which direction she was staring. 


I waited for her to say something to her mother that was looking blankly ahead, waiting for the light to change. 


I waited and waited until finally she looked at me and we made eye contact.  I gave her a sympathetic, kind smile.  And she returned with Nothing.  Not a smirk, a giggle or raise of an eyebrow.  Just the continual frown that made her little face look longer that it should be for a child.  As she broke our uncomfortable glance and then looked down at her lap, I thought of my own children.

In the amount of time that it takes for a light to change, this little girl mesmerized my soul and captivated my every thought.  I wondered what she was thinking. Feeling.

I created scenarios in my mind about what could have possibly happened to make such an innocent child sit and stare so blankly on a silent ride in the car.  I thought of the conversations that may have transpired and led to her silence in the back seat.

I compared her to my own children in my thoughts, about how a car ride is a constant conversation and question upon question is delivered.  I thought about how my own five year old daughter, just a few years older than this silent girl, would have laughed, giggled and sang in the car, marveling at the rainy day, how the clown's face delivered a silly grin and how the rain sang as it hit the car window.  I wondered how they could be so different.  How could this little silent girl have such a spirit of a crushed soul?  The loneliest being I ever never met. 

How, at such a tender age and being, she could possess such a sadness, as if she were an 80 year old woman who had watched her life pass before her, as she watched the love of her life slip away.

As the light changed and they drove away, I felt my heart shrink.  I wished I could help her.  Understand her.  Talk to her. Console her. 

But she was gone, speeding down the road with the pile of dirty laundry stacked to the ceiling, teetering towards her.  It made me dirty was the laundry in that little silent girl's life?

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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Friendship and Snacks

I'm not really a sports person.  I don't watch or follow sports.  My husband doesn't watch sports.

We're not a sports family.  So when it's Super Bowl Sunday, it's just like any other Sunday at our house.

But in the off-chance that we do go to a Super Bowl party, please note, I'm only there for the friends and the snacks.

Which got me thinking today...
You can pretty much size-up what type of friend someone is based on what snacks they bring to the party.  Allow me to elaborate.

The Stale Chip Friend
This friend is about the lowest on the ladder because they don't put any effort into the snacks.  They are probably running late and showed up with a bag of stale chips.  They might even have a chip-clip on them already.  This just says "I didn't care enough about this event to go to the store and find something.  I just grabbed these half-eaten chips from my cabinet and drove over."  The fact that they didn't put any effort into the snack probably means they won't put much effort into your friendship either.  Steer clear of Stale Chip friends.  You don't need them in your life.

The Shows-Up-Empty-Handed Friend
More than likely, this person isn't really a friend.  Maybe an acquaintance or co-worker?  They might have just found out about the party and wasn't sure of the snack etiquette.  Either way, this friend probably won't be playing a vital role in your life, so I would just not worry about them and move on.

The Store Bought Snacks Friend
This friend is a little more stable in their loyalty as a friend.  They made the effort to run to the store for some fresh chips, salsa, a meat and cheese tray or some bakery cookies. This friend is someone you can count on.  Bonus points if this friend asked ahead of time what you needed for the party.  This friend is thoughtful and practical.  You should definitely keep the Store Bought Snack Friend.

The Healthy Snack Friend
This friend has the best intentions and is really trying to be a good friend.  More than likely, they are currently on some kind of eating plan and they might secretly want to recruit you into their eating habits.  Or maybe they are just worried that they won't find anything that they can eat at your party so why not bring their own snacks?  Or maybe they are thinking about all the unhealthy snacks that will likely be at the party and they are being sensible by bringing something healthy. Either way, this friend is also worth keeping, as long as they aren't getting on your nerves about you joining their paleo/keto/fasting/Whole whatever diet.

The Crockpot Friend
A word of advice...if you find a Crockpot Friend, never let them go!  They are a rare find and worth having as a good friend.  I would venture to say, a BEST FRIEND.  The Crockpot Friend not only planned a snack (or meal) ahead of time, but probably spent a significant amount of time going to the store to gather ingredients, preparing the food, and letting it cook all day.  Not to mention, the time and effort to lug a damn crockpot out the door, in the car, and to a party.  The Crockpot friend values your friendship and will stick by your side through thick and thin.  They are willing to put in extra effort in your friendship and go out of their way to help a friend. Not only do they make a nice food display at your party but the Crockpot friends are also the friends that more than likely stay and help you clean up after the party.  They are the last ones to leave and make sure that all the dishes are done and garbage taken out before everyone leaves.  I'll say it again, NEVER LET A CROCKPOT FRIEND GO!  

There you have it...the different types of friends based on what snacks they bring to the party.  Are there any that you would add?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Tidying Up for Busy Parents

I am not much of a TV viewer.  In a given week, I may only spend an hour or two watching TV, usually a single movie or a few episodes of something on Netflix.  But overall, I'm not one to sit in front of the TV for long periods of time, mostly because I just can't sit still or I start thinking of all the other things I could be doing.

I've been hearing a lot about the show on Netflix, Tidying Up, with Marie Kondo.  A few years ago, I actually started reading the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  I didn't finish it because, while it sounds completely cathartic to get things in order and tidy, it just didn't apply to my home and lifestyle.  Not that my house is in complete disarray and disgusting, but that we actually already have purging and tidying routines in place at our house.

So this weekend our area got hit with a huge snowstorm and we got something like 12 inches of snow in a 24 hour period.  After doing all our normal weekend errands (in 12 inches of snow) and chores, I had a few free minutes.  I decided to check out the Tidying Up show.  I watched just the first episode and it was ok.  I learned a few new ideas that Marie Kondo suggests, like how modeling tidying behaviors in front of the children and having them take part in the tidying can get them into a good habit.  I also learned how to fold and organize items in upright position so that you can see your things in, what I called it, a catalog fashion.

Many of the steps, we already follow, loosely, but we try.  So I was thinking about how parents with  children can carve out time and energy to tidy and organize WITH the children.  Here's what I came up with:

Purge the Clothes
This the first step in Marie's process.  She suggests clearing out an area: closet, dresser, etc. so that all the items are out and in a big pile.  Then start sorting out what, as she calls it, sparks joy in you.  Those items you keep.  Those items that don't, you get rid of.  Seems pretty easy, right?  But what if you are trying to wrestle small children while purging a closet?

Here's MY suggestion: once every 6 months, go through the closet and dresser items.  Pile up what doesn't fit, isn't seasonably appropriate, or no longer brings joy.  Everything else can stay.

When my kids were little, we cleaned out clothes every 3-4 months or with the changing of seasons.  I would sometimes purge clothes as I did their laundry.  Those pants looked a little tight when my daughter wore them the other day? That shirt looked a little short?  Those pants starting to look a little more like capris? Toss them in the "donate box." Oh, that leads me to another good point.

Donate Box
We always have a donate box going in our house.  Sometimes we keep it in the bottom of the coat closet, sometimes by the front door, sometimes it's smack in the middle of the hallway.

My kids have gotten used to just adding items to the donate box as they come across clothes that are still in good condition but no longer fit.  We have been doing this for so long that it is just second nature to them.  Once every couple months, we take our items to a local shelter or organization. I recently found a local shelter that not only accepts gently used clothes, but also unused toiletries, household items, towels, blankets, etc.  It's like a great big one-stop drop off for our purging!

Linen Closet/Bathroom
I usually clear out the linen closet and bathroom closet about once a year.  I just did this over Christmas break.  I did the bathroom closet in about 30 minutes.  I went through all the towels, washcloths, hand towels, etc. and sorted out all the ones that needed replaced.  I cleared out and organized all the toiletries and added some unused items to the donate box.

Likewise, I usually clear out the linen closet once a year and purge out all the sheets that need replaced, match all the bedding together, and sort out all the blankets and such that we no longer use.  Those items usually go in the donate box, unless they are torn or too worn to donate.  In that case, they go in the trash.

I admit that the pantry is the one that gets the least amount of attention.  I, admittedly, only clear out the pantry items about once a year.  Sure, I shuffle things around and rotate food items on a weekly basis.  But going through each individual item on a regular basis? No, I'm guilty of letting that one go.

I did do this one over Christmas break too.  I took me about 15 minutes.  I threw out a handful of outdated items and found a few things that I forgot we three partially used bags of white rice in ziploc bags.  They were still good though, but I had forgotten that we already had opened ones in the pantry.  So it was good to sort it all out, toss, and organize.

Change the Way You Do Laundry

This was the biggest thing that really changed how we keep things from cluttering up the bedrooms.  Here's what we have found to be helpful in tackling the laundry situation.

Everyone in our house has their own hamper.  The kids each have their own in their room.  Dalai Dad and I have a 4 bin laundry sorter in our room. One for whites, one for delicates/dress cloths, and two for misc. colored clothes.

Everyone in my house does their own laundry.  I know you are probably gasping and clutching your necklace, ladies, but yes, my children do their own laundry.  And they have been since they were about 8 years old. Here's how I did it...

When they were about 4-5 years old I started it.  I convinced them that folding warm washcloths and hand towels was WAY fun.  So they learned by starting out folding small items. They also learned how to put the kitchen towels and cloths away properly.

When they were 5-6 years old, I taught them how to put away their own laundry.  I would wash, dry, fold and hang up their things and then I would call them to put it all away.  They quickly learned that if they crumpled up folded things in the drawer, they would be the ones to re-fold them.  (I had high expectations but it worked.)

When they were about 6-7 years old, I taught them to fold and hang up their own clothes.  So I would wash and dry their clothes, in a separate load so it was only their things, and they would fold, hang up and put their own clothes away.

At 7 years old, I taught them how to transfer their clothes from the washing machine to the dryer.  Then they were in charge of taking things out, folding and hanging, and putting away their things.

By 8 years old, I taught them all about the settings on the washer, the soap, and the do's and don'ts of washing and drying.  And they started doing the whole process by themselves.  We started out with guided support but within a few weeks they could do it themselves.

So there you have it.  We all do laundry on the weekends.  They have figured out how to coordinate the usage of the washer and dryer between the two of them.  Dalai Dad and I do all of our laundry on the weekends too.  Having everyone in charge of their own laundry is the biggest time saver in our house.

Overall, I think the one thing that I take away from Tidying Up and Marie Kondo's way of tidying is getting everyone involved.  The work load doesn't have to just fall on mom's shoulders.  Having everyone in the house tackling an area and minding their own things really makes that task less daunting.

Additionally, you don't have to make it a huge undertaking.  You can make a list of the areas that need attention and just start by doing one area.  Get that spot looking good and next week pick another spot.  You don't have to do it all in one day and no one expects you to!

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Expect the Unexpected

Over the last few months I have been trying my hardest to get back into the groove of writing, blogging, and just thinking more creatively.  Sometimes, I sit in front of the computer screen and just stare at it mulling over all the things that I want to write. What I want to say.  What I need to say.

The past two days I spent some time just going back and rereading a lot of my own work.  Sometimes I laughed at my own jokes, got teary-eyed over my own words and felt embarrassed at my failed attempts at a piece.  As I looked back I noticed that my writing has so many facets.  Sometimes I write things that are weighing on my mind, like serious stuff.  Other times I write about observations and overheard conversations I have encountered.  I've even been known to write a few procedural step-by-step guides.  As you can see, Dalai Mama is a real hodgepodge of things and if you're new here I have to warn you to expect the unexpected.

I've been writing since I was in junior high when I wrote a lot of poetry and won my first writing contest.  Imagine the excitement of a 13 year-old who wrote something that was actually acknowledged and displayed for public viewing and listening.  From that moment I learned that things that I have to say matter.  The things that I write matter.  I started this blog in 2010 when my future career was unknown.  My small business had just folded, I had a baby, and went back to school to finish my Bachelors degree all in one year.  When I graduated I wasn't sure if I would get a job right away, so I started writing.

Looking back at my older posts I can see my writing evolve.  I went through stages when I just wrote about what was going on in my life.  Then I progressed into funny posts.  Then I shifted into retrospective pieces with more emotion and real feelings. I gained the courage to submit some of my work for publication and had my first experiences with rejection, being published and public critique.

I did notice though that about 5 years ago my writing slowed down.  It was about that time that I started graduate school.  I worked on writing, but in other ways, during that time.  Scholarly work.  Lots of reading and writing and talking about the learning process, educational systems and becoming a mentor teacher.  After I finished grad school, I decided to try my talents at writing a novel.  I have been working on the same novel for a little over two years now.  It has proven to be a much more tedious task than I initially expected.

While I will continue working on the novel, I am going to make a valid effort to get back into my writing groove.  I renewed my domain address for for two years and I also purchased my pen name URL for two years, in hopes that someday when I finish my book I will have my website reserved. I put my writing notebook back in my purse.  I have found that carrying writing tools with me on the daily basis helps me generate ideas, notating thoughts and keeping track of possible blog posts.  I have reengaged my social media sites: Facebook and Twitter.  Be patient while I figure out Instagram. Here's to getting back on track in 2019, creating more, and thinking more creatively!

Please know that I appreciate the continued support from my friends, family and followers more than you would ever know! Cheers Dalai friends!  Write on!

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