Never be just one thing in life

Over the years I’ve mentioned my husband quite a few times, but this week he showed off one my favorite things that he does, his willingness to constantly learn knew things.

Sometime this week, I noticed that some of the shingles on our home were missing. Neither my husband nor I had ever shingled a roof but I wasn’t worried. My husband watched some videos on how to thread new shingles back in with the old ones and “whaalaa” he’s ready to take a crack at it.

He has learned to do all kinds of things, from laying cement to taking appliances apart to figure out what is wrong with them. And that’s not even his day job. He has saved us countless expenses over the years, but what he’s doing is even more important than that. The person that never stops gaining knew skills, no matter how remedial one might think they are, keeps themselves mentally sharp and more valuable to society in general. So never box yourself in with thinking some skills are beneath you. You might just find yourself shocked at how handy and indispensable you can become.

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Blow my lid

My husband came home one day this week to a very angry wife. He hadn’t done anything personally; he’d been working the whole day. And to be honest, it wasn’t any one particular person or event that had set me off–it was a build up of multiple events and interactions until a domino of pure rage came flowing out of me. After my husband took the brunt of my sudden explosion, I felt bad once I calmed down.

It got me to thinking about all the moments of overreaction I had witnessed over the years by others: in parking lots, grocery stores, restaurants. Maybe those unreasonable reactions to simple problems wasn’t what the explosion was about, but a drip of frustration that had built up over time. Just like me. And maybe, just like me, they felt just as silly in the aftermath. And once I master how to direct my anger at the correct people and the appropriate time, I’ll be sure to fill you in on that secret to the universe.

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Almost Prom-mageddon

My daughter’s date to the prom this year entered a romantic relationship with another girl a few weeks ago. That was fine with my daughter since they had only ever been friends, and they would only be attending the dance as friends. But he came to her this week and told her he wanted to go to the dance with this new girlfriend.

Disgusted, my daughter reminded him that he had agreed to go to the dance with her several months ago. She had already purchased a dress, which every woman out there knows wasn’t cheap.

“But I want to go with the person I have romantic feelings for,” was his response.

My daughter didn’t come home crying, she came home pissed. All those months of having a date to only be dropped two weeks before the big day was very shallow and selfish of him.

“It’s not your fault, and you can still go stag,” I said, trying to give her options.

“I don’t want to go stag! That’s why I worked so hard to find a date.”

“Then, do you know of somebody else that would be willing to step in on short notice?”

After racking her brain she came up with a past coworker that had moved an hour away, closer to the city. This young man graciously agreed to help, and I’ve even offered to let the boy sleep in my house following the dance so he won’t have to drive home so late at night.

There is a big part of me that hopes Karma smacks her original date in the face and he finds himself without a date at all. Romantic relationships seldom ever last in high school. I witnessed it when I was in high school, and my daughter has seen the same thing with her generation. A very stupid, untrustworthy young man, indeed.

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Nail-biting test results

This past week my family and I finally got to go a vacation we had put off for more than two years. (Stupid COVID) Anyway, we had to have our entire family tested before we would be allowed to go and the testing place didn’t have any rapid test available so we had to wait 1-3 days for our results to come in. Ugh, I had a hard time pushing the rising nerves that came with every hour that past away. If any of us tested positive our trip would be over before it had even begun.

Late the evening I received the email we had been waiting for, but for some reason I struggled to open it right away. Even though none of us seemed sick, I’d heard stories of people testing positive with no symptoms. I wasn’t sure if my heart could take it if the unthinkable happened here. Each result required a corresponding birthday to open so I took several minutes before we all knew whether our trip was a go or no-go, and of course my name ended up being last. I look back on it now and laugh over how hard my heart was beating in that moment. It really wasn’t life or death, but it sure felt like it. Everyone coming back negative is what I imagine winning the lottery feels like.

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Some things a mom can’t do better

My daughter is graduating this year from high school, so we went out with a photographer to get some headshots to put on her announcements. She has very little confidence in her appearance so to say she wasn’t thrilled about getting her picture taken is an understatement. It doesn’t matter that every day I tell her she’s pretty, she thinks I’m mom so I have to say that.

The big day finally came, and there my daughter stood in a dress and boots (her first choice of outfits), standing the the snow with her hands clasped in front of her because she didn’t know where else to put them.

The photographer starts running around my daughter, snapping pictures like every second. After a few minutes of this the photographer drops her camera and looks my daughter in the eye.

“You have the most beautiful skin I’ve ever seen,” she says.

And she really does. She wears no makeup but has a flawless complexion with naturally rosy cheeks and dark eyelashes and eyebrows. I would kill to be able to get out of bed and see features without having to paint them on every day, but blonde eyelashes and eyebrows are my lot in life.

You could see my daughter’s shoulders rise just a little bit at the complement. And she stopped clasping her hands with such force it made her knuckles white. It took a few more minutes of complements before my daughter started to really get into it. She transformed before my eyes, her expression blossoming with pleasure. And lucky for me, someone was there to capture it on film.

I wish it wasn’t true but it does make sense that a mother’s praise is never as potent as a strangers, especially for a teenager.

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Being honest can be harder than it looks

I believe it is often easier to be honest with others over being honest with ourselves. Now I’m not talking about being critical, that is usually the other way around. We are far too critical with ourselves rather than others, but it can have a similar detriment in our lives.

I’ll ask my kids all the time when they are not getting an A in a class, “Are you really trying your hardest in that subject?”

Invariably, they tell me, “Oh yes, I’m doing my best.”

I’ll cock my head and stare them down but in the end I can’t exactly call them a liar, it’s a personal internal assessment that they have to make. There really is no way for me to really know if they’re being honest with themselves. But the biggest tragedy, if they’re not being honest they are only sacrificing their full potential.

Another aspect of being honest also means understanding our limitations. Nobody is good at everything, and that’s okay. Often times we set ourselves up for our greatest strives when we not only refuse to really look at our abilities but don’t seek out others to help us who might be stronger in certain areas where we are weak.

Learn to be honest with yourself, really honest with yourself, and I can assure you, you will avoid so much unnecessary heartache.

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Just Finish

At every wrestling duel or tournament I’ve been to this year the National Anthem has been sung, and this week was no different. Unfortunately, I knew the teenage girl was in trouble the moment she started. Her first note was way higher than it needed to be. I stood there with my hand over heart hoping she had a much higher range than most. She had a decent sound as she move through the first part of the song until she got to the “rocket’s red glare.” Her strained voice cracked on the final high note of that measure, and the extended silence that followed in the gym was palpable. I heard a shuddering breath over the microphone and wished I could send her the strength to keep going. If she quit and ran away now, the mistake would haunt her forever.

“Just finish,” I whispered even though I was too far away for her to hear me. “It’ll be okay.”

Thankfully, she did start again. Through welling tears, she pushed on all the way to end. I’m sure with every note she sung she wished she could take it all back and start over again, but some of the most invaluable lesson we learn happen when things don’t go perfect. That’s also when you find out how strong you really are. One day, I hope this young lady tries again to put herself out there, maybe even take another crack at the National Anthem. And like she showed all of us that evening, I hope she keeps having the courage to finish everything she starts.

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Teenage Relationships

As a Young Adult writer I spend a lot of time observing the ins and outs of teenage relationships. Yes, that means I’m a stalker—in a non-threatening way of course—but still a stalker. Don’t feel bad, I even listen in on my own my adolescent kids, gleaning ideas for my novels.

I’ve noticed a reoccurring theme in the world of teenage dating—those relationships don’t last very long. Like my daughters says, ‘they’re holding hands when the first bell rings but end up hating each other by the time school’s out.’ You might be wondering how is that possible. How can someone you found so attractive one moment, suddenly be the vilest thing you ever met? When you’re young, you think it’s so complicated, but it really isn’t. Love and hate are two sides of the same coin. Love makes hate possible. And right about now maybe you’re thinking I’ve completely lost my mind, but stay with me. If you had no feelings at all about the person you were loathing, then what they said or did would have very little effect on you. That’s often why the angst of teenage love and hate don’t generally last very long. The emotions between them aren’t often much deeper than the initial sparks of interest. And this is not me making light of those turbulent years you’re going through. Connections take time to deepen and develop, so basically the longer you are together, the harder, and often uglier, the breakup will be if it happens. My advice is not to avoid those relationships all together, but take it slow. Nowhere does it say you have to kiss every toad you meet to find your prince.

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My youngest son and his ridiculous abs

Yes, I have another wrestling story. I’m sorry these are back to back but this one is so funny I have to share.

While at our team’s latest tournament, about five high school girls wandered in and sat near me. They knew nothing about wrestling but the school day was over so I they were passing time and chatting like all groups of girls tend to do. I wasn’t paying them much attention since my son was on the mat wrestling. He went all three rounds with the kid, but ended up losing in the final moments. It was such a good match, I still gave him a loud cheer.

After speaking with the coaches, he runs up into the stands to see me. And I’m holding the sweatshirt he left with me so he could wrestle. He is absolutely beaming about what he accomplished and is talking a mile a minute while he pulls the straps of his singlet off his shoulders and exposes his chest. The young girls near me who had been quite talkative themselves the entire time went noticeably quiet. I glanced over and all their eyes were wide and staring at my son’s defined chest. He had just gone almost six minutes of strenuous wrestling so his muscles were popping even more than normal, and the kid has the pleasure of having very little body fat. But the best part, he was completely oblivious to their ogling.

I start laughing. I didn’t want to embarrass them nor my son, but I couldn’t help it.

“What?” he says.

“Nothing. Put your shirt on.”

“Oh, okay.” He yanks it on in one swift motion and leaves me to go join the team–still oblivious.

Those girls didn’t stay for much longer, and I felt bad. But I didn’t know to fix the awkward elephant in the room. I guess I could have told them my son was a freshman and girls still weren’t on his radar yet, but I think that would have made it worse.

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No good deed goes unpunished

This week I found myself at another wrestling tournament. ‘Tis the season!

I stood behind the table help waiting for my daughter to wrestle. During the match before my daughter’s, the referee had to stop the match several times to fix the clock. A young boy was running the computer so I look over his shoulder to see what was going on and I realized he hadn’t been given any training on how to run the system properly. When my kids were smaller, I was a USA certified para, which means I was trained on how to run the trackwrestling system really well. I lean over and show the young man a more effective way to stop and start the clock without using the mouse. It’s just the down arrow button, but being able to keep your finger on it the entire time ensures that the time will always stop and start with the whistle of the ref. Trust me, in pressure cooker matches, the clock means almost as much as the points.

As he is finishing out the match, I realize he also is not properly recording the events that are taking place, he is just marking out many points were scored. This could become a huge problem if a coach starts to complain about a call, but I waited until the match finished to show him how to do this and why it was important. The girl that was supposed to wrestle my daughter hadn’t showed up yet, so I knelt beside him and broke down the process more thoroughly so he would be more self assured on what to do.

The referee came over and barked at me, telling me to stop being a distraction while he is trying to run the mat. I look at the ref like he had lost his mind.

“You don’t have a match going on right now, and I’m just helping this kid better understand what he needs to do. You just stopped the previous match several times because of table problems. Don’t you want it to run smoother?”

The man bristle like a fool, because he was still waiting for the other wrestler to show up for the next match to start. “I still don’t want to see you here during the match.”

I smiled and shook my head. “I wasn’t planning on it. That’s my daughter wrestling, I’m here to watch her. I just don’t like to see people floundering when a little bit of instruction can fix the problem.”

He grumbled back to the center of the mat rather than thank me. And true to my word, I stepped away from the table once the other girl showed up and surprise, surprise my daughter’s match wasn’t put on hold a bunch of times. But even then, as I helped my daughter gather her things, that grumpy ref couldn’t say thank you.

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