“JK”: Things I wish I would have known at fifteen

The Disney movie Tangled illustrates to perfection one of my biggest pet peeves—the words “just kidding.”  It’s rampant in every social setting I can think of.  We’ve even shortened it to “JK” for the texting savvy generation.  But let’s face it, if you have to qualify something you’ve said or wrote with “just kidding”, all you’re doing is attempting to soften the insult you’ve just flung.

For example: Wow! Your mother made you that sweater.  I’d tell her not to next time.  JK 🙂

See, it’s like trying to coat crap in a candy shell, but guess what, IT’S STILL CRAP INSIDE.  Would you want to eat it? Yet, you expect the person to ingest your cruelty of words without feeling any residual hurt. Or to, “Stop taking everything so seriously.”

Tempering bad habits is not an easy thing to do, but trust me, for the sake of your now and future relationships, cut the “just kidding” phrase out of your word bank.  It’s not fooling anyone.

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The writer’s plight in this day and age

My latest foreign film obsession comes from South Korea. It’s Okay Not To Be Okay is a Netflix original series that dares to tackle some pretty taboo issues on mental health, all while the two main characters are trying to figure out if love is worth fighting for.

The acting has been so top notch, I actually went to the IMDb website to find out more about the people playing the characters. But many of the reviews I read saddened me. Far too many people complained that some of the characters actions weren’t politically correct for this day and age. Insert my eye roll here.

If the writers only focused on checking the boxes of PC culture, they would lose the authenticity of the characters. People aren’t perfect, so as a writer, neither should my characters be perfect. They should be as messy and complex as people in real life. That means they might say and do things that aren’t PC, but as long as it’s true to the character that shouldn’t bother anybody.

The push to make everything fit some arbitrary utopia, that doesn’t even exist in real life, is killing our arts. Films are losing their honesty. Books, especially fiction, are becoming a checklist of predicable, right down to the cast of characters.

Stop being offended by the ugly and imperfect side of life. It’s real and inescapable, and that’s okay. No one appreciates the bliss of overcoming more than those who have trudged through the ugly to get there.

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No such thing as a good lie

Yep, I’m blogging about the motorcycle again, but at the rate my son is going, I’m afraid this will be become a staple of examples of what not to do.

My son had first real crash on his motorcycle this week, though, at first, he didn’t admit it when he walked in the door.

He hadn’t been gone that long, which surprised me. “Was it too hot to ride?” I said.

“Yeah. I’m gonna go take a shower, my arm is bothering me.”

With such a weird respond I pressed him further. “Your arm is bothering you? Did you wreck on the bike?”

“No, my arm is just hurting.” He took off his shirt and turned away from me to put it in the hamper.

One look at the scratches on his back and I knew he was lying. “Son, I grew up around motorcycles. I know what road rash looks like. You wrecked on the bike.” Even at this point, I still managed to keep my calm, but after eighteen years of raising kids I’ve gotten pretty good at glaring in such a way it puts the fear of what I might say to their dad in them.

“Yes.” He burst into tears. “Please don’t take the bike away.”

“Son, I’m not going to take the bike away. Why do you think I bought you the helmet and riding gloves, and ask that you wear solid shoes and pants every time you ride? I knew you would dump the bike.” I haven’t even put the new grips for the bike on yet for this very reason. “Everyone who has ever learned to ride a motorcycle has crashed at least once. Now, be honest with me, what were you doing?”

He sniffled, his words hiccuped and choppy. “Trying to jump.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose. “You mean the jump your older brother told you about?”

His nod made me sigh. “Son, you have been riding for less than two weeks. You don’t even know what you should be doing in the air to land safely from a jump. We talked about this. That kind of overconfidence can cost you your life. Please tell me you, at least, realize this?”

He nodded some more.

“And never lie about this kind of stuff again, especially when it’s about the motorcycle. Because it’s easy to chalk up any ache you experience at your age to growing pains, but being involved in a motorcycle crash and your arm hurts now warrants a doctor visit and an x-ray.”

Thankfully, the x-ray showed no broken bones and his arm is feeling better every day, but this experience highlights one of the worst frailties of the human condition–the thinking that a lie will somehow help you escape punishment. Even if you manage to benefit, for a time, from a lie. In the end, lies only end up hurting you more. Imagine if his arm had been broken, but I had believed his initial lie. I wouldn’t have considered seeking help for his pain for who knows how many days later. And in the end, the truth would have come out anyway–like it always does. So, no matter the consequences, telling the truth is always better. Just start there and let the chips fall where they may.

 

 

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Never a stupid question

A thirst for knowledge is always a good thing. The older I get the more I realize there probably isn’t an area or field of expertise that I might end up needing to know something about, so I always pay attention to the goings on around me. And I ask a lot of questions, to the point that I’m sure some people think I’m stupid, but I don’t care. All those questions and observations have served me many times over the years.

My youngest son recently was given his first dirt bike for his thirteenth birthday. It’s a used bike, but it runs well. It’s a little easier not to get mad when he dings the thing up while learning when it already came with a few dings. However, it had a few issues that needed fixing. The slow leak in the back tire being one of them. My husband did it but I watched, again asking all those silly questions I’m prone to do.

The next day, my son took it out for another joy ride on the many dirt trails around the place we live. I got a phone call not long after. Like a good boy, he’d taken his cell phone like I’d asked him to always do.

“The bike died and won’t start.”

I squelched my sigh and asked where he was. It took quiet of bit of maneuvering in the mud to get my truck up to where he waited. I got on his bike, but it wouldn’t roll.

“You’re not in neutral.” I told him and stomped the lever at my foot several times then up once, but it still wouldn’t move and it still wouldn’t start. Great! We were far from home and we couldn’t even get the bike to roll so we could push it.

I get off and bend down to look at the engine, though I really don’t have any idea what to look for, when I realize the chain isn’t sitting over the sprocket teeth that are attached the rear wheel. I tried to move the chain around but it’s stuck tight.

While my husband had changed the back tire the day before I asked him why he messed with a particular threaded post and nut. To me it didn’t look like it attached to anything that would help him get the tire off.

“This loosens and tightens the chain,” he said.

That random question and answer gave me a good idea of where to start to fix the problem. I rode home through the mud to get some tools. I ended up taking my husband’s entire tool kit, because I didn’t know exactly what I would need.

Back at the bike, I figured out the size of wrench I needed and started turning. It only took a couple of turns for me to realize I needed to tighten the nut on the thread to loosen the chain. It was opposite of what I initially thought, but by watching the chain I quickly learned. It took only a few minutes to get the chain back on the teeth, and because I asked my husband what he was doing when he marked the calibration of the tire I was able align the sprocket back in it’s correct position. Once fixed, the bike started right back up.

“I can’t believe you knew what to do,” my son said in amazement.

“It’s because I pay attention to the things happening around me and ask why. Hopefully, you’ll remember this and do the same.”

 

 

 

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Oh I’ve got frosting and I’m not afraid to use it

Ah…birthday cakes. I’ve made many over the years, but no matter what I do, some part of the cake always sticks to the pan. The holes and crumbling edges are ghastly to look at until I apply an ample amount of frosting. Frosting does for cakes what mud and tape do for sheet rock walls–it hides the mistakes so well. Maybe my frosting ends up being a little thick in some areas, but from the outside it looks…okay still not perfect, but much better. I’m not awesome at the visual aesthetics of baking but surprisingly they always taste good, especially considering I don’t often follow recipes. What can I say, all it takes is one little “what if” in my brain and I go off the rails, throwing weird flavors together.

My youngest son turns thirteen over the weekend, so here’s hoping that whatever ugly cake I end up making will taste far better than it looks.

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Polar opposite paths–choose wisely

I truly believe the measure of somebody’s character is what they do when nobody’s looking. Are you thoughtful when nobody is around to recognize your good deed? Are you honest, even if there’s nobody there to catch you stealing?

Maybe you think choosing to do the right thing all the time takes a massive amount of integrity. It does–at the beginning–but not forever. The longer you live by integrity, the temptation to cheat, steal, lie lessens. Over time, it can become so ingrained in you, you almost don’t even think of doing anything else but the right thing.

The contrary is true, also. It’s hard to cheat, lie, or steal the first time you do it. The light we all have within ourselves recognizes and grieves when we do wrong. But, if we continue to do those things, the sorrow we have for such actions will diminish until we almost feel nothing at all. Often, people have many excuses for choosing such behavior, but I should warn you. Once someone reaches this point where doing wrong no longer bothers them, it’s difficult, almost impossible, to free oneself out of the mired misery they’ve created.

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Dirt bag dirt bike owner

I’ve been looking for weeks at classified ads, trying to find a suitable starter dirt bike for my son’s thirteenth birthday. If I could buy a new one it would be so much easier, but, where I live, people have lost their minds and there are waiting lists for smaller bikes for months out.

I seemed to be a step behind with every ad I called.

“Sorry, the bike was sold this morning,” or even the night before I called. Then I finally got a hit. “Yep, it’s still for sale.”

I was so thrilled, I immediately asked to see it.

“I’m not available until tomorrow morning at 8 am.”

The bike wasn’t close. It took us an hour to get there, but I didn’t care I’d finally found a bike. At least, that’s what I thought.

Pulling into the neighborhood of the address I’d been given, I watched the truck ahead of us stop at the same address. We both got out and looked at each other.

“Are you here for the bike?” the guy asked.

“Uh…yeah. Are you the homeowner?”

“No. I’m here for the bike too.”

What? I didn’t have a chance to say anything else before the homeowner sauntered out. Of course, he wasn’t surprised there was more than one of us here for his bike.

“Sorry. You know, you’ll get a hundred calls but no one shows up,” he said. His apology really lacked an important part – actual regret in the tone of his voice.

“We came a long way to look at this bike,” I said.

The other guy who pulled up right before inserted himself, “Yeah, well, I got here first.”

I looked at the homeowner again. He had his arms crossed with a smug smile on his face. Did he think he could pit us against each other to bid up the price? He had another thing coming. I’d done my homework and knew the bike was already at the top of its price range. My husband and I turned and left.

Yep, we’re still dirt bike-less. And maybe that means my son won’t be getting one for his birthday, but the world will keep spinning. It’s not like I won’t keep looking, but now I know to ask one more question before I drive anywhere and waste more gas. “Are you giving me an exclusive chance to buy your bike?”

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Driving Miss Goobaa

My daughter finally received her driver’s licence this week. She’s a good driver when it comes to an automatic, but the car she will be driving around is a manual, which is a much different driving experience. For anyone who’s ever driven a clutch you know what I mean.

Having taught my oldest to drive a clutch, I knew we needed an empty space for her practice. I took her to an empty parking lot, explained the mechanics of what she needed to do with her feet then told her to start the car and try it. Of course she let off the clutch too fast and killed it. I smiled as we jerked forward. This happened with my oldest son too.

“It’s okay. You need to let off the clutch slower and give it more gas.”

Of course, the next time she kept the clutch engaged too long and put her foot down on the gas too hard, revving the engine far too high. The sound scares her and she jerks off the clutch and gas and the car jerks forward an dies. I chuckled.

“Give it a little less gas and start to come off the clutch just a hair faster.”

She was successful getting the car into motion this time, though is was a bumpy start. We circled around the parking lot, going from first to second gear to stopping and making her do it all over again. I laughed most of the time, but within an hour I knew she now needed to take the car on an actual road to finish her training.

At the very first stop sign, a truck pulled up behind her. I had told her to take her time and make sure the other direction was clear before pulling onto the road. Just in case she killed the car, I didn’t want her doing that right in front of oncoming traffic. So she didn’t shoot the first gap that came along, she deemed the next car too close. I didn’t disagree with her, but the truck behind us started laying on his horn. It only stressed her out more.

“Ignore him. After this next vehicle it will be safe for you to go.”

Her start is supper slow, but she doesn’t kill it. The truck behind us swings wide around us and flips us off. I rolled my eyes at his lack of patience.

“It’s okay. You’re doing just fine.”

After a rough start and major hit to her confidence, she actually started to get the hang of it. We drove all over town, her stops and starts growing smoother like a seasoned clutch driver. She got honked at only two more times. Always for slow starts.

“And now you see why,” I told her, “they put “student driver” all over the cars you guys do your driving tests in. People aren’t very patient or kind without it.” Sadly, sometimes other vehicles aren’t even patient and kind with it, but my patience level has definitely risen with teaching the second child to drive. I was far less freaked out and ended up laughing more than anything. She has no idea how lucky she was not to be first.

 

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Family unite!

This week was one of the most labor intensive for the ongoing saga of finishing the landscape around our home. Forty-five yards of cement needed to be poured to finish off the side of our house. The immense driveway took my husband and I countless hours throughout the past weeks to prep the space, but I knew I wouldn’t have the physical strength to be of much help with the actual pours. This is where family is such an amazing blessing.

My husband’s brothers, a brother-in-law, and my father descended on our home in a two day blitz that helped us conquer five truck loads of cement. A feat my husband and I couldn’t have accomplished on our own. Even my sisters came! Yeah, they weren’t any physical help either, but I loved having them for moral support. Just another example of why you should take extra care of your siblings when growing up. Beyond the free labor they provide, they can be a priceless support system that will always be there for you.

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Worth the read: The Gone Series by Michael Grant

The first book in the Gone series by Michael Grant has been out for over a decade but, if you have a young boy who struggles to love reading, I always point parents to these books.

Told from a young man’s perspective, the story is incredibly engaging from page one. It’s like watching episodes of survivor, but everyone over the age of fifteen is gone. Fractions form from the kids left behind but there is a solid dome barrier keeping them inside, even those too young to help themselves. They all must learn to work together or they all will die. Every book in this series is fast paced. It will keep you on the edge of your seat. Click on the link below to be directed to the first six book box set on Amazon.

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