10.29.2013

WTF?




I kind of like the expression "WTF?"

I don't curse. I think it's ugly. Okay, sometimes it sounds both appropriate and comical from certain people, I admit. But I am not one of those people, and I would never actually say the words that WTF stands for. I do however find myself typing the acronym occasionally. Sometimes, it's just succinctly appropriate.

The other day I opened the mailbox to a $500 bill for one of the chemo infusions I received - in 2010, nearly THREE years ago. This, my friends, just might be an occasion for WTF.

I only recently have stopped holding my breath as I open the mailbox. The constant flow of medical bills blissfully subsided some time ago now. As our lives normalized so too did our financial obligations. So I was caught a bit off-guard by a fairly hefty bill from an era of indebtedness I thought to now be long-closed.

Who takes three years to send a bill? Why is that even legal?

I let the drastically tardy bill sit on my desk for a month. I see it many times over the 4 weeks it collects dust next to my stapler and cup of pens. I'll eventually call and make the payment; it just doesn't feel right to do so right away. The billing office took roughly 30 months to send it to me; I figure they can wait a few weeks while I stew over the injustice of their inefficiency.

Then, like clockwork, I receive another bill the following month, this one now states, "Your account is past due." Really? I want to call and tell them my payment is hanging out with their competency; they should let me know if they find either one.

WTF?

10.23.2013

Trash Digging




Among my (many) poor qualities, pridefulness does not rank high.

I have never owned a fancy or even a brand new car, and I do not aspire to. Until recently, I held out with a dinosaur of a cell phone that flipped open and was anything but smart. I *might* have worn the same yoga pants 3 times this week. Oh, and I occasionally bring home other people’s trash.

Yes, that's right, trash - straight from the curb on trash day, carted back to my nice, clean home.

What can I say... other than that I take a lot of walks, so I see stuff. Plus I do live in a rather affluent area; people throw away some pretty nice things here. Wait, hold on, that’s not a very good excuse; when I lived among people poorer than myself, I still brought home trash.

In our mid-twenties, my husband and I rented a house on campus from the university where he did his doctorate. Our charming little white house was surrounded by apartments of undergrads, and I might have brought home their trash once or twice too: drunken-mid-western-teenager's trash.

I recall a so-procured office chair (that was pretty uncomfortable) and, my favorite: a desk that I dragged from the side of a dumpster into our backyard. Before I could get out to purchase a proper dog house for our newly adopted puppy, I gave the DIY/(very) recycled method a go. That cheap desk, only slightly transformed, with a straw bed inside, served our pup well in the first weeks.

Originally, I had plastic stapled to the roof of said-desk to help with warping from rain/snow. Not a week later, a huge storm ripped through town and left building debris and roof shingles scattered across the roads. Imagine my euphoria: I needed some roof shingles to cover the top of my dog’s desk, er, house, and then, like mana from heaven, roof shingles came raining down.

I would go so far as to say this dog house was preordained by God himself. Can’t you just tell by looking at it?

(pre-roof shingles)
Right, so in addition to the desk/dog-house, I’ve picked up a few other things here and there, curbside. While I am a far cry from a hoarder - I give, sell, or throw away anything my household is not putting to use sometimes, well, we can put other people’s trash to use.
While vacationing in New England, I once walked past this fantastic old painted tray. I was sure to make some room in my suitcase so that treasure of a souvenir could make it home with me.

And lately, here among my working-wealthy-urbinite neighbors, my repertoire of acquisitions includes: a mini basketball hoop, a plastic teeter-totter, a couple of spare chairs, a hideous framed painting that was great for recovering with fabric, a half-dead tree that came back to life… and probably some other stuff I don't remember.

Why let them go to the landfill if I can rescue them back into use?
 
I think this sporadic hobby of mine generally mortifies my husband; if I have to enlist his help in carrying the article home, he is none too happy to walk up to someone’s trash at the curb and walk away carrying something. I can understand that.

It does make me feel a little hillbilly-ish, strolling down PCH, past the mansions, with a piece of furniture hanging out of my stroller… stopping the flow of Mercedes and BMW’s, in my grubby exercise clothes, so I can cross the street yielding a large piece of “garbage.”

But my hilarious and humiliating jaunts are worth it for me - to sacrifice how I look for that moment for what I get out of it that’s lasting.

Recently, on my way home from an afternoon walk, I passed a little brown desk, set out to the curb in the rain. I kept walking. Turned around. Did a second walk past. Yes, that has potential. I picked it up and ambled awkwardly down the sidewalk for the remaining 25 yards until I got home.


I don’t need a desk. But I brought it home anyway. I cleaned it up and applied a coat of hip paint and a little bit of sanding. Voila. It was a useful stand for party-favors at a soiree that weekend and the following week I sold it on Craigslist. $50, thank you very much.

And what did it cost me? Just a little bit of elbow-grease and an ounce of pride.

I'm just saying, sometimes when you swallow your pride, you burp up a treasure. Or $50.


May my trash digging escapades inspire you to consider what you would bring home, or do differently, or not buy if it weren't for your pride.


10.16.2013

Pink Out: 5 Ways to Show Support for the Cause





Need I tell you that October is breast cancer awareness month? This might be inspiring. Or it might make you want to throw something at the next pink ribbon you see.
Breast cancer awareness has taken off in the last couple of decades, hugely in part to the efforts of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Today, we see pink ribbons on everything from our yogurt to NFL player’s uniforms.

A lead breast cancer researcher in the Los Angeles area once explained to me that the funds and attention are behind breast cancer research because, unlike other cancers, it widely spans age-groups and outcomes. So, in short, all kinds of research can be conducted within the breast cancer field. The key to curing all cancers will probably first come from a breast cancer cure.
This makes me feel better. At least there is good reason for all the attention.

After doing a guest post at TheMomIWantToBe.com on ways to show support this month, I was inspired to compile a Top 5. If you too want to show your support for breast cancer awareness and the quest for a cure, the below are this survivor’s top suggestions:


1.) Join Army of Women
You can actually participate in studies to help eradicate the disease. All types of women, with/without cancer, all parts of the country can join and be a part of the research.


2.) Go 1-on-1 with Your Support
There are millions of women with breast cancer. Chances are you will know someone who is diagnosed at some point. As you should toward anyone undergoing a tragedy, have enough compassion to go out of your way to help them meet their everyday demands during an overwhelming time. And expect nothing in return.


3.) Give
Research takes money. Give to a reputable organization you can trust. Definitely check them out first; there are a lot of marketing gimmicks out there that actually give so little of your spending dollars to breast cancer research that they are not worth your time or money.

For example, if you’re buying Yoplait yogurt (which, before public outcry, was made with dairy stimulated by the hormone rBGH) and mailing in your lids so that 1 cent per lid will be donated (and paying 46 cents for a stamp), perhaps your efforts would be better directed elsewhere.

Really, countless causes and organizations are vying for our attention, support, sympathy, and of course, money. Within breast cancer research or breast cancer awareness alone, there are thousands upon thousands of organizations claiming their utility. Like everything in life, we have a responsibility to sift through the information available to us and make smart choices.

Here’s a helpful article on vetting nonprofits in general: Make Sure Your Donation Counts.


4.) Promote awareness

I want to say we all know there is such a thing as breast cancer. But reminders why you should be checking yourself, getting recommended mammograms, and seeing a doctor if you feel something unusual never seem to be unproductive.

Wearing your support for the cause is an easy way to do this. Plus, on a personal level, there is something really moving about someone making a statement on your behalf with a shirt, a bracelet, whatever it is that says, “I love this person enough to wear this pink thing, thinking of them.”


5.) Walk

Komen and Revlon and whoever else is doing walks these days are great. I like that people physically push themselves and therein are taking a measure to be healthier themselves. I like that money is raised. I like that hurting people have a constructive place to go and DO something in the name of their hurt (e.g., “I walk in honor of…”).


 
I feel a little like a minority being asked a question in which the answer is supposed to represent an entire race’s views. But I think most would agree these are some basic, constructive suggestions.
 
Happy October. Here's to finding the cure.



10.09.2013

Faith




I have the honor of writing a weekly newsletter to subscribing members of my church. One of the recent topics was on our pastor's sermon, “Great Faith Gets Rewarded.” This really got me thinking about faith - actually, as I often do.

See, I believe there is a God. Most of the time.

Like, really-really most of the time. But the imperfection of my faith is massive.

There are people who are so filled with faith in God that they never wonder if they are wrong; they just seem to know they are right. I admire this kind of unblinking faith. Actually, I am totally in awe of it. But I do not posses it. I wonder about everything; I believe in God, even when I'm wondering if it's possible there is no God.

That's difficult for me to admit. Almost embarrassing.

But this is for anyone else who wonders, for anyone else who has ever been afraid their faith is not as real as the person next to them.

My faith does not sway based on my life circumstances. Rather, I'm saying I think it's okay to still have unanswered questions. To wonder. To contemplate. Yes, I would prefer child-like faith so strong it is unquestioning. But the trouble is, I remember wondering how things could be true as a child. How is there no beginning to God? How much does God interact in our lives? Why does a loving God make good people go to hell? And of course, why does so much bad happen in the world?

In the end, there is no explanation, fact, or data that will satisfactorily answer all metaphysical questions. We each must make a choice about what we believe and who we believe in. (Choosing not to think about it or to remain agnostic is still a choice.)

And so in the end, even though I wonder at times, I choose God. I choose faith that my life is not about me. That there is purpose to existence. I choose hope.

I figure, you don't have to have all the answers after that - and you don't have to pretend that you don't still have questions. You just have to make a choice.




10.02.2013

Hello. My Name is Frazzled. (But You Can Call Me Mom.)

I was just telling a friend my kids had me particularly frazzled today and she expressed surprise. "So you are like the rest of us," she said with what I will infer to be a relieved chuckle. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? How I have hidden my parenting ineptitude from her for so long I do not know. 

Well, this one is for her, and for every other mama out there having a rough kid-day.


Some days I call them the Tag Team of Terror. My husband calls them Terrorists. They are our children. And whatever unflattering T-word you want to use, they seem to have both reached a pinnacle age for difficulty. ...Well actually, probably not, as we're only 5 years into this parenting thing and I fear we have a whole lot of difficult phases ahead. But regardless, those little T's are pretty darn difficult in tandem right now.

Should I admit that it's feels a tad cathartic calling them little T's? It's almost like I'm cussing at them, but not. Maybe that's how I should start expressing anger: call things by their first letter in accusatory tones. Stub my toe on the door and shout at said-door, "You D!" When my husband is upsetting me, "Stop being a B!" ...wait, that one doesn't work so well.

But back to my little T's. They got the best of me today, I'm afraid.

They fought. One screamed - a whole lot - like it was her only means of communicating. One argued - a whole lot - like he had suddenly acquired wisdom. They were loud, difficult, full of complaints and seemed to need the same toy/piece of food/pen/EVERYTHING at the same moment in a repeating round of bickering.

Why?!? (Picture arms outstretched to the sky, beseeching God.)

From the moment my daughter woke up and started screaming demands to be rescued from her crib...(Yes, she's nearly 2 and still in a crib; I like to keep them trapped as long as possible.)... and my son came sauntering out of bed complaining about the day of the week - it's been nonstop.

Unfortunately, to top-off the chaos of their combined-75-lbs of self-centered childishness + grumpy x2, I took them to the store in this state.

Short of sharing that unsavory experience, let me just say that there were a number of times I wanted to look around indignantly, like I might be thinking someone is playing a trick on me. (God?) But I didn't because then I might have had to meet the stares of the unfortunate shoppers in the store at the same time as us.

I take that back, those shoppers were not unfortunate. They were the opposite of unfortunate because they were not me. They got to watch/listen and get a free little pop of gratitude for their own lives.

I, on the other hand, came home from the arena for complaints and bickering, aka Fresh & Easy, looking like a haggardly old lady. Not that I had time to glance in a mirror to actually know what I looked like, but I could just feel it, feel the haggardly sticking right onto my forehead crease lines, unshaven legs, and Mom Jeans.

Are you kidding me? I only have two kids. 2! Why are they besting me?

How is it that two little humans, that I actually love so abundantly, can challenge my sanity so
completely? Can exhaust me so thoroughly? Can frustrate me so adeptly?

Little T's.




I feel I should balance my pretend-cursing at my kids with a more loving reminder on the joy and beauty of parenthood, but I don't want to. Not today anyway. Today I am simply commiserating with every other parent out there that, yes, raising little people is a ridiculously difficult, humbling job.


For some encouraging, uplifting parenting reminders,
you can check out my pal's post here.