Sunday, January 29, 2017

Forget About the Oxygen Mask; Don't Neglect Your Glasses!

I'm putting myself first more often. If I don't, I could lose my eyesight.  
Broken Glasses by Teece Aronin.
Available for purchase on products at:
http://www.redbubble.com/people/phylliswalter?asc=u

Now that I've made that shameless pitch for your attention, let me add that I have the same tendency as a lot of single parents - to run the kids all over Hell's half-acre, taking care of their stuff and not attending to my own. 

I'm no martyr, believe me. It's just that their stuff always feels more pressing - and often it is - technically. But if I don't shove my smaller stuff in first more often, it's going to turn into bigger stuff, and I won't be able to see to drive my kids to their even bigger stuff. 

You might be be thinking this makes no sense, and doing a quick read-through of what I just wrote, I'm thinking you're right. But really - everything that happened, happened pretty simply - like this:

The screw holding the bow (the little stick that hooks over your ear) on my glasses fell out one day causing the bow itself to fall off. Since I can't see without my glasses, I wasn't able to glue the little male end of the bow into the little female piece mounted near the lens in hopes of holding it all together until I could get my glasses fixed the next day. 

I asked my daughter, Syd to glue them together, and this worked great - until the next day when one of the kids' doctor appointments had to be moved back into the time slot when I would have been at the optical department of a local retailer getting screwed back into functionality.

The next two weeks were a perfect storm of these kinds of scheduling conflicts complicated by my own meh attitude on those days when I might have been able to jam the errand in among the kids' stuff. 

Syd and I settled into a comfortable routine of me leaving my glasses out on my way to bed and Syd gluing them before turning in herself. It was a little like leaving your shoes outside your door at a high-end hotel to have them polished while you sleep.  

It was like that except that I didn't get to sleep in a high-end hotel. 

One night I left the glasses out to be glued, but our cat must've made off with the bow because Syd couldn't find it, I couldn't find it and the cat looked smug. 

Okay, this isn't the end of the world, I told myself. You'll just look a little silly walking around with broken glasses until you can get to a same-day glasses place. That, I calculated, could happen within two days - or two years if I waited until a day when the kids didn't have something already on the calendar. 

My kids have this sense of entitlement which has them believing that until they can drive, I should help support their medical and dental care habits, their budding social development and their fledgling community commitment. I actually have children interested in volunteer work, horseback riding lessons, social causes, and other things that can make them healthier and the world a better place. How they've become so shallow is beyond me when their mother is willing to sacrifice her vanity for them.  

At work the next day, my one remaining bow fell off. I tried propping the glasses on my nose like a pair of pince nez, but that didn't work. Then I tried holding them in place like opera glasses, but that would mean typing one-handed, and typing is what I do most of the day. 

I ended up having to take time from an already loaded work day to run to the same-day glasses place, get a vision exam and then wait an hour for my new glasses. I was overdue for both the exam and the glasses anyway so in a way it was for the best, and if you're wondering why I was overdue, you obviously haven't been paying attention. 

When I got back to work my boss said, "Hey, nice glasses!" I said, "Thanks, but I think they're a little crooked." He said, "It's not the glasses."

Anyway, the real point here is that by not making the glasses a bigger priority, I made an already long workday even longer and ended up working late into the evening, costing myself time that could have been spent relaxing with my kids. Because as much as I complain, we do make time for each other most evenings, and that is time that means a lot to all of us. By not taking care of myself, we all lost out. 

I just remembered a joke which I'll condense here to put a finer point on the whole thing:

A brain, a pair of eyes and an anus were arguing among themselves about which of them was most important. The brain said, "I'm the most important. If it weren't for me there would be no art, no intellect, no scientific achievement!" The eyes said, "We're the most important. If it weren't for us, no one could see where they're going and people would crash into things and fall down!" Then the anus said, "I'm the most important." To prove its point, the anus stopped working and the brain couldn't focus on art, intellect and science and the eyes crossed and people crashed into things and fell down anyway. All of which goes to prove there are no small jobs and everyone is important no matter how insignificant they might seem.  

People often use airline oxygen masks as a metaphor for the importance of making yourself a priority. Imagine that you're on a plane with your child and there's a sudden drop in cabin pressure. You were told in the pre-flight safety briefing to secure your own oxygen mask and then help your child with hers. What the analogy tells us is that if we don't take care of ourselves first, we can't care as effectively for our children. 

I'm here to tell you: The glasses are just as important as the oxygen mask because if you can't see, you won't be able to put the mask on your own face, let alone your kid's. So, it doesn't have to be your oxygen mask; sometimes it's something simple and humble like the bows on your glasses.

Just ask any anus. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Every Baby Meets Her Monkey-Doo

Monkey-Doo was a sock monkey I had when I was little. I loved Monkey-Doo and dragged him everywhere. The ingenious little loops he had for ears made it that much easier to haul him wherever I went.  
Sock Monkey Meditation with Border by Teece Aronin. 
Available at 
I also had a blanket that I'd loved into something resembling a pile of gray spaghetti. One day I lost it, and was so inconsolable that my mother resorted to the drastic action of turning off the TV right in the middle of the Captain Jolly show. This forced my brothers into a truly concerted search effort instead of the half-hearted "Yeah, Mom, we're looking" kind of attempt it had been. Someone finally found it at the bottom of my mother's clothespin bag and the world as we knew it was saved.

At some point, most kids have a security object like a sock monkey or a blanket. For my son, Jon, it was something he named "Lambley." Lambley was a sweet little thing, either a rabbit or a lamb, dressed in yellow and white pajamas and a nightcap with holes for the ears. Lambley was a Christmas present to Jon when he was about four and he helped Jon through his first trip to sleep-away camp at age six.

Lambley went missing one day, and even now, at 16, Jon occasionally asks if I think he'll ever turn up. Not that Jon still needs a security object, but the sentimental attachment is strong. Sadly, after two moves, one of them out-of-state, and still no sign of Lambley, I no longer expect him to show up. I have a feeling I hurt over that more than Jon does.  

My daughter, Syd had something she called "Pink Baby." Pink Baby was a little cloth doll with satin slippers and a satin-trimmed bonnet. It was, surprisingly enough, pink. Eventually Syd started calling it Tan Baby because she had dragged it over a surprising number of surface areas for one so young, leaving it nowhere close to pink. Sometimes I half expected to find traces of moon rock in its frock. Pink Baby had been a present from Syd's grandmother who sent more of them every few months when it became apparent our lives would be miserable should Syd lose it without a backup.

One day at daycare Tan Baby got lost and Syd's pain was agonizing to see. The other problem was that by this time Syd was old enough to know the difference between Tan Baby and a backup doll which would have been a conspicuously pristine pink and not a love-worn tan.

What was a mother to do? While Syd was down for her nap, I took a new Pink Baby out of the package, dropped it behind my rear tire, and drove back and forth over it until it looked like a reasonable facsimile of Tan Baby.

The deception worked until the real Tan Baby resurfaced at daycare three weeks later. I ended up telling my daughter those "Santa's helpers" kinds of fables with Tan Baby having lots of little sisters who fill in for her since she can't be everywhere at once.

Don't judge me.

I have no idea what happened to Monkey-Doo, just as I have no idea what happened to Lambley. As to Tan Baby, she's still around as is one of her little sisters.

It seems they're indestructible - even when you drive a car over them.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Due to Budget Constraints, No Sardines Will Be Purchased Until Tuesday

I have a budget, which is big talk from someone without any money. But now that I have a budget, I'm counting on the money to follow. 
Graphic: Copyright, Teece Aronin
My budget is calculated by taking each bi-weekly paycheck and setting aside at least half of what I need for each fixed monthly expense. Then I pull out what I need for groceries and personal care expenses for the kids and me and put it in envelopes. This keeps me on the straight and narrow and curbs the temptation to buy three shoes instead of two - you know, like people do. 

Sticking with a budget also means sticking to your guns. When the kids beg, "Please Mom, can't we have cake and chips for this weekend?" I calmly explain that they must then decide what they are willing to give up: toilet paper or heat. Notice the flexibility I employ in my willingness to dip into the fixed monthly expenses allotment in order to buy the cake and chips as long as they are prepared to sacrifice a bit on their end. I think this helps them to better appreciate the value of a dollar and to respect their mother's financial agility. 

If nothing else, they know that a woman with budget smarts and determination is in charge and that gives them a sense of safety when it comes to money. 

 My own personal finance hero is a woman I know who double checks the cost of what's in her cart before getting into the check-out line. If she's over budget, she swaps out or puts back items until she's at her limit again. She doesn't feel depressed or deprived over it because she knows the greater good is being achieved by being in control of her money. 

Being careful with my expenditures allows me to funnel more money into my vacation and entertainment accounts, and the kids appreciate that too. No more staying in independently owned hotel franchises with no elevators, no coffee and no door locks. This summer we'll be checking into a Holiday Inn, baby, and won't it be fine? 

Ah yes, the best is yet to come. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Michigan's Really Cold

I don't know where you are right now, but I'm in Michigan. And I don't know when you're reading this, but I'm writing this in January on yet another day when the temperature failed to reach 20 degrees. 

It's been this way for days. One day last week was so bitterly cold that as I was crossing a parking lot on foot I couldn't stop sputtering the F-word over and over into my winter scarf followed by the word me.   

It was the kind of day where even snowmen throw their branch arms into the sky and scream, but we can't hear them under our ear-muffs. 

The parking lot was large and there was no one around and it hit me that if I fell, I could be one dead little mitten before anyone found me - a sorry metaphor for the state in which I lived and now had died.  

As to me swearing my way across that parking lot, I'm not proud of that; I like to think I can "use my words" better than that. However, on that particular day there didn't seem to be any way around it. Spewing "F me" all the way across that empty lot felt like the only way to propel myself fast enough to out-shuffle Death should he happen to be after me, which it seemed he was. But here's the good thing: it was so cold that if Death was stupid enough to get out on a day like that, he would be shuffling too, so I felt relatively safe provided I didn't fall. 

This morning I woke up and checked my Facebook feed. In it was a post from my friend Pat, who lives in Australia. It read: "Today it reached a high of 95. We have a beautiful breeze that comes in through our front windows. No need for the air conditioner."

I replied, "And I thought you were my friend," then wished for a plague of kangaroos to stomp all over her Bloomin' Onions or whatever it is that grows in Australian gardens in the summertime. 

I grew up in Michigan; I knew what I was in for when I moved back here from Maryland a few years ago. Still, shortly before my return I had a nightmare about Michigan in the winter, one where I was trapped outside surrounded by nothing but frozen tundra - assuming there's any other kind - and asking myself over and over, 'Why am I here?' It was a rhetorical question obviously but it does have three good answers: Michigan in the spring, Michigan in the summer and Michigan in the fall. To get to them, you've got to get through Michigan in the winter. 

So, despite all my cursing I am at peace knowing that spring will arrive in roughly 70 days, four hours and 27 minutes. And that it will take at least half that amount of time to thaw me out again. 







Sunday, January 1, 2017

Estrogen in the Water

Let me provide some background first.
Available at phyllis walter:
http://www.redbubble.com/people/phylliswalter
I was born in Pontiac, ("the yak") Michigan, a fact for which I hold a sort of scrappy pride. Pontiac suffered a fate similar to Flint, Michigan's when the car industry literally backed their cars out, left town, and the neighborhoods declined. 

The last time I drove down my old street there were boarded-up houses and empty lots where homes had been demolished. The street looked like a gap-toothed skeleton's grin. I sobbed all the way to the highway and back home again. 

But people still live on that street, some of them my old neighbors, and where there's life there's hope. I still love Pontiac. I would never have had some of my best memories and many of my best friends without it. 

The other day I was loading groceries into my car when a woman who was parked nose-to-nose with me yelled, "Hey! Excuse me!" I walked toward her. She was a black woman, middle-aged, with glasses and a not quite trusting smile.

"What's that mean on your windshield?"

I looked and saw that she was talking about the decal at the top which read: IMPORTED FROM DETROIT. It was there when I bought the car, used, a year or so before. The salesman explained that it was intended as a point of pride about the car being as good as any import, but coming from right here on our own shores. Once he said that, I didn't give it a second thought. 

"Oh!" I smiled with the suburban white bread naivety of Mary Tyler Moore's sitcom persona. "It was there when I bought the car. I think it's just a little poke at the imports."

"You sure it doesn't mean Detroit's no better than a third-world country?" 

I stopped dead and stared at her. She didn't look like someone trying to pick a fight. Instead, she seemed to be trying to sort something out with me, something that clearly had the potential for making her ready to fight if she deemed it necessary.

My eyes got very wide. "Honestly, ma'am, I never took it that way at all, and if I'd thought that's what it meant, I would have had the salesman take it off. I bought the car used and it was already on there. I always took it as pro-Detroit, not anti."

"Oh!" she smiled. "That sounds better to me. You see, I'm from Detroit and I was just about to go a few rounds with you if that was your opinion."

I smiled back. "Well, ma'am, I'm from Pontiac, and I think people like you and me ought to stick together."

"I think you're right!" she laughed. "You have a blessed day now!"

Life would be a lot better for everybody, and maybe last a lot longer for some, if we talked things out before jumping to conclusions. 

I know that two men could well have defused this tense situation just as amicably; still, I think it's a good argument for pumping estrogen into city water supplies.