Educate Me!!

Bring on the knowledge!!

I stare out the window and then back at the ceiling completely spaced out.  Leaning back in my chair I usually spend a good part of my day wondering over and over in my head if this was it.  Entertaining myself by spinning around a few times or making a forbidden phone call probably to my mom.  There are days I believe the monotony is going to slowly kill me.  Was this what I was going to do with my life?  God help me, this can’t be what I was meant to do.  Even though there are things about my job I don’t mind, like the fact that I have one, I have never felt more trapped and I’ve been married twice.  The crazy thing is, I actually enjoy what I do and I can’t imagine someone in my position that truly hates the morning because of what lies ahead for them during the day, but I dream of a job that can support my family while I do something I truly love. 

 To be honest I enjoy my work enough that I don’t contemplate standing on my desk and yelling as I point “$#$^ You, $@*& You, your cool, %#*@ You…I’m out” although I cannot say I haven’t fantasized.  But the fact is, even if I wanted to, it’s really hard to advance in the type of career I was sucked into.  You have to make choices and the choices are not easy ones to make especially with a multitude of roadblocks everywhere you turn. 

 First and foremost anybody who has read my entries hopefully can understand that when something is important to me, I am feverishly passionate about it and have no qualms expressing that side of my personality.  That passion is my adrenaline rush, but there isn’t a whole lot of passion behind typing out form letters, filing papers in date order and sorting mail.  Not to say I haven’t had my interesting days.  Working with the elderly, I have come across the dramatic, the demanding, the loving and the hardheaded and each one has their own story to tell, and they ALL want to tell it.  I even had one gentleman so determine to convince me I was wrong and he was right that his dentures flew right out of his mouth during his rant.  There are definitely times when I have to contain my laughter and times when my patience wears thin, but I love when a client wants to interact, because that’s when I’m in my element and when I am the best at my job.  Unfortunately those days are rare, and my usual daily routine is pretty predictable. 

 In an attempt to escape the grind, I did test the waters to see what was out there.  Come to find out people don’t want to hire anyone based on their passion especially if they have no idea you have any, due to the fact they will never meet you.  If you don’t look good on paper, the doors are there but usually shut in your face.  I particularly have a hard time because I’ve been in the job so long I’m over qualified for a lot of positions because employers want trainable and cheap and I am under qualified if I try to step up a level because I do not have my BA.  And there are the jobs I really want to do but don’t qualify at all.  I did receive my Associates with high marks and paid the hefty bill that came along with the schooling, but I look back and realize that I could be doing what I do right now without having to have assumed that debt. 

 Do not get me wrong, I am all for educating yourself, but this is my predicament.  If I choose to go back to school, I will have to attend either at night or online, because I have to work and raise kids.  I barely make enough money to support us now and I will have to take on the responsibility of repaying loans for my education that will absolutely NOT guarantee me a higher paying position let alone a job when I’m done.  Then to top it all off, after endorsing going back to school and furthering your education, the financial aid/grants/government help is limited because I am not a minority, I am not undocumented and I am not unemployed.  This is not my opinion.  Unfortunately this is a fact.

 Even with that stated knowledge, I was still determined, so I researched and enrolled in online classes at a school that nobody knew because it was non-profit and cheaper, who only could/would transfer 2 of my credits from my previous college and required a specific amount of hours from me a week on top of my full-time work schedule.  I was totally cool with all of it.  I was actually very excited.  Then I sat down and roughly figured out the amount of money I would owe after I graduated, because financial aid will help for a time being, but its not free money, you have to pay it back.  Staring at the paper that in pencil read tens of thousands of dollars, my heart almost stopped mid-beat, and that didn’t even include books.  Taking a deep breath I hoped if I factored in the grants I could get I might feel better.  Not really.  It was a deck chair off the Titanic.  So when it came down to it, after I graduated, I would own a new debt of tens of thousands and 1 dollars PLUS the old debt I already had, because of course, as I stated earlier, I wasn’t guaranteed a job making more money.  So yes, as much I am an advocate for education, it was discouraging enough for me to put it on hold.  

 I am not and never have been comfortable asking for help, so it was heartbreaking to know that I was fortunate enough to be born in this country, I am a proud white female and I work very hard everyday and pay the taxes associated with that work, but I have very limited financial resources to help further my education.  I did however discover that I could qualify for grants because I have children.  That’s great, but now lets not just talk about me.  I know for a fact that I am not the only person riding in this boat.  What if I didn’t have children, what are my options then?  What if I didn’t get married so young or was responsible with my choices and decided that my education came first?  What if I grew up in a medium to low income household making enough to survive but too much to qualify for help, but not enough to send me to school, and then, here’s the kicker, what if I always wanted to be a teacher (you know the extraordinary people who help raise our children everyday, but whose jobs are continuing to get cut).  What then?

I'm so confused!Iiii’m confused!

I guess I’m not really asking for answers because I know there isn’t just one.  I do admit that politics is not something I have great knowledge about (I know enough to get by) but even so, something just isn’t right.  I am all ears if someone can explain to me the nonsense system of cutting our educational funding, implementing No Child Left Behind, forgetting about the people who work hard every day of their lives but somehow get lost under the radar.  Please educate me, and hopefully it will cost me less than $40,000, because as logical as I know I can be I’m having a hard time seeing the logic in a system that is either to one extreme or the other all the while ignoring the middle.

 It is a struggle for me to understand because I am proud to be an American, and I am grateful for my freedoms, but the workings of the government baffle me to no end.  I might decide down the road to bite the bullet, not worry about the money and go back to school, I would really like to, but for now I’ll spin around in my chair, call my mom and exercise one of my many rights no matter my color, race, gender, age or class.  My right to free speech – and I will do it with passion, because even if potential employers can’t see it from a stiff piece of paper outlining my education, at least I know its there.

Mountains of Serenity

Being born and raised in the Midwest, the existence of hilly roads, mountains and an ocean view was foreign to me.  I am also not much of a traveler and believe I can count on one hand how many different states I’ve been to in my lifetime.  I do, however, have a select few landmarks that I have been fortunate enough to visit that I consider to by my favorite.  My reasons are different for each destination, but they all share one common denominator.  Serenity.  Each place holds a peacefulness that cannot be put into words, a calming sensation that when you breathe in you just want it to take you over.  You close your eyes and can see clearer and peace surrounds you even in chaos.  The first destination I chose to write about is a place that can capture adventure and serenity in every mountain crevice and where the sunset is like no other (at least what I’ve seen)

Never traveling much, my experiences are limited so every moment I am able to tear myself away from Northwest Indiana (eye roll) I truly try to take advantage and enjoy.  However, as much of a dream as is it for me to experience new things there are places I never had a desire to visit.  California was one of them.  Although I believe every kid dreams of Los Angeles, I was never infatuated with the famous.  I would be confused as to why people obsessed over the hype of celebrity and was not the type to faint if I saw Michael Jackson or enter into a mob to get Heather Locklear’s autograph.  Ignorant to the fact that there was a lot more to the golden coast than smog, fake plastic people and earthquakes sucking the entire state down into the ocean, I never saw myself traveling to the west coast.

It took some major convincing to give the place “where dreams come true” a chance, but I boarded a plane one January and headed out to unknown territory.  After landing in LAX, and renting a PT Cruiser (yeah we were cool), we arrived at our hotel in West Hollywood.  Our itinerary for the long weekend included visits to all the tourist spots.  However, first and foremost we visited the hotel bar.  After two days of submerging ourselves in the scene that is Hollywood (Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, walk of fame, Ripley’s and Marilyn Monroe’s) visiting the very exciting and colorful tar pits and a panic attack in the Hollywood Hills, we decided a relaxing day was necessary.  Maybe a little out of the way, but loving the palm trees, the smell of the ocean and surprisingly, California, I was embracing every new adventure we went on. So we took about a 2-hour drive outside of the hype, stopping only for Jack In The Box, and directed our car toward Joshua Tree National Park.

After winding ourselves around hilly mountain roads entranced by the massive metal windmills, we finally reached the entrance to the park.  Turning into the parking lot of a lonely little log cabin corner store we browsed around and shopped for magnets, post cards and candles (some smelling wonderful and some not so much).  After we got our fill, we drove deeper into the park down a long never-ending road.  Being from Indiana where everything is flat and corn, I was amazed.  I had seen pictures and heard stories of Joshua Tree but words could not describe the beauty.  We arrived in the daylight although there was not much of it left, we were happy because for January, it was strangely warm enough to just wear long sleeves.  Getting out of the car, I felt so far away from society as I took in the 800,000 acres of desert incredibleness.  Words escaped me.  It was naturally gorgeous and the ultimate play land for nature lovers/hikers, campers and mountain climbers. 

We slowly walked through the park taking pictures by the Joshua trees and pretending to climb the rocks while witnessing, being afraid for and entertained by the people scaling sides of mountains.  Various sizes and shapes of rock formations spread throughout the enormous piece of untouched land made for great climbing for beginners and experts alike.  I am neither, and was happy just watching.  Continuing our journey through the park we stayed pretty close to our car only due to time constraints.  Otherwise, I could have spent hours possibly days just wandering around the many trails in awe of the scenery. 

As the day turned to dusk and the colors in the sky began to change, we realized, it was definitely not a place you would want to get caught at in the dark.  Knowing it was almost time to leave, but not wanting to end such a great day, we decided to take short drive to Keys View and watch the sun set over the valley.  Best Decision Ever.  We found a spot to park and climbed the side of a mountain (via stairs) to the lookout.  As we put space between ourselves and the solid ground the comfortable warmth that I was not accustomed to in an Indiana winter faded away, and I started to feel more at home when the temperature dropped about 25 degrees. My sweatshirt did not shield the cold wind that ripped right through the thin material, my nose was frozen and my cheeks were cherry red, but we were determined to stay and witness the intensity of the sun dip behind the mountains.  I don’t regret the frostbite at all.

It was breathtaking.  It was quieter then quiet and as the fiery circle descended, the colors exploded and spread through the sky in soft pastel purples and pinks.  The mountain range that swallowed up the light cast an array of dancing shadows throughout the valley. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, the seconds felt like minutes and the minutes like hours.  Soon all you could see was the dim erratic rays that reached out as if they were refusing to set – Breathtaking, calm and serene.  One of my favorite places ever.

Leaving the park I felt calmness and a connection to my surroundings.  It was an experience that I will always cherish and an unbelievable sight that luckily was caught on film.  It was a perfect day and so peaceful that the stress of almost running out of gas in the middle of the desert on the way back to the hotel was not as terrifying as it could have been…

 

GET IN THE KITCHEN!

 

Definition: Kitchen [noun]: 1. A room equipped for preparing meals.  2. A cookroom; the room of a house appropriated to cookery.  3. A utensil for roasting meat; as, a tin kitchen. OR the place on a pool table you place the cue ball when your opponent scratches.

 *******

“Get in the kitchen”…a phrase I never knew had any other meaning besides it was my turn to do the dishes.  I had no clue it was a phrase linked with playing pool, even though my aunt and grandmother had a pool table.  This ignorance may have had something to do with the fact that I could never develop any knowledge or skill because I am the only girl on my mother’s side with a brother and five cousins.  During family parties, even if they asked me to play, it was a winner-keeps-going kind of “tournament” and, as you can guess, I pretty much sucked.  “One and out”, now that phrase I was familiar with.

So you can only imagine my excitement when part of the deal in combining households was that I also got to adopt a badass pool table.  A pool table I didn’t have to compete to play on, a real pool table I might actually get to use with cues and everything.  Yeah, I was ecstatic.  If only I knew how high maintenance a freakin’ pool table was going to be.  Think I’m exaggerating? Not so much, let me break it down for you:                     

No. 1:  Not many houses have the space to accommodate a real game of pool without having to stand on chairs, shoot backwards, between the legs or around the waist.  In our relentless search to find the perfect home, this had to be a factor.  This factor almost put me in a position where I would have had a pool table in my dining room….my dining room. (Oh, it was considered).  When we finally admitted to ourselves that finding a place big enough was virtually impossible, we settled on rat-holing the table down in a basement, because getting rid of it was absolutely not an option.  Fortunately, after a little convincing, we saw the house with the outdated brick 🙂 and we discovered the space.

No. 2:  Now that we finally had the room to accommodate our new growing obsession, we had to then figure out how in the hell were we going to move the thing!!  This is where our incredibly strong 😉 and wonderful friends come in, along with Mike—who we affectionately refer to as our pool table guy. 

Because the company originally used to move the very heavy, backbreaking, 100-year-old table the first time around was now out of business (probably due to some sort of bodily injury), we were at a complete loss.  Wandering around Northwest Indiana trying to come up with a solution, we headed into an “indoor/outdoor store of fun”.  You know it as The Great Escape.  Bracing ourselves for an astronomical price to get the job done, we were pleasantly surprised to be referred to Mike Bement, owner of Integrity Pools. (Ask for him specifically when buying your next pool). 

No. 3:  Taking apart a pool table (at least a pool table made in the early 1900s) is a really crappy job.  For those that don’t know, underneath the felt are three massively thick pieces of slate and about 1,000 bolts (that may be an exaggeration).  Newer tables have one whole piece of slate, but this particular table was made up of three because of its age, each weighing more than a grown man.  Enter Mike, the pool table guy.  He turned out to be great and knew his stuff, but the only problem was that he also installed swimming pools and we were now getting into the swimming pool season.  He agreed to come to the house to take it apart, but we (a/k/a our very strong friends) would be responsible for physically moving it.

I am told that the taking apart process is not necessarily that bad, it’s the conversation during and after that process that became the issue.  Apparently, while taking apart the high maintenance table, Mike explained that he also could/should order and install new bumpers, new felt and that we probably should get new pockets…let the games begin.

(I’d like to take this paragraph to again Thank our friends who almost disowned us for asking them to move the slate not just once, but because of unexpected circumstances, twice.  Thanks, and we appreciate that you are all still speaking to us and that nobody was injured, at least not seriously.)

No 4:   Now that the table was in the new house (in pieces) and Mike was ever so convincing about ordering new…everything, we did.  We picked out new felt color, new bumpers and even found a place that made leather pockets.  It was pretty cool, until we found out that we needed the pockets sewn onto the actual table pieces.  Good luck finding someone who does that.  After a ton of phone calls, we were about to resort to shipping everything out of the state until we met our savior—Debbie, the shoe cobbler lady at Feet First located inside Meijer.  Who would have ever thought Meijer would be the place to find someone to sew on pool table pockets! 

Then, just to add a little bit more excitement to the mix, we also decided that tiling the section underneath the pool table would be a fabulous idea.  So if you’re keeping track that was new felt, bumpers, pockets, Meijer and tile, not to mention we just bought a flippin house!

No. 5:  As for the table in general, we were in good shape, everything was ordered and on its way.  We just had to get Mike back over to put the beast back together, but as I said earlier, we had fallen right smack dab in the middle of swimming pool season.  The problem, we were planning a thank you party and we had three weeks to get everything done. We were so delusional.

Luckily, Mike was able to come by one a night for a few hours after his day job and at least get the frame together.  All we had to do now was wait………………………………..and wait.

No. 6 (AHH):  In the middle of all of this, our basement flooded, but that’s really all I have to say about THAT!

No. 7:  It was one (1) day before the party, and we had convinced Mike to stop by after work.  The beer was flowing (for us, not him) and we were ramped up to get it all done just in time.  Well, it wouldn’t be a story if that were the case.  It was 1:00 a.m. the next morning, and after a TON of laughs about Benny Hill in a diaper, an unstable toilet, a very large pig, and an almost completed pool table, we shut ‘er down. 

Mike had worked through the night with a very pregnant wife and three kids at home.  He fixed a damaged slate even though it took a lot longer than it should have, because he’s a perfectionist. He never got irritated at our insistence and we made a great connection and friend.  Mike came back the next day as soon as the party started and finished the unfinishable pool table.   Ironically, it turned out that we had mutual friends so we paid him in conversation and food. (just kidding). 

Standing in my awesome downstairs, playing on the badass “new” pool table, I think about the insane trip to the “kitchen”, but, just like my house, I would do it all over again.  The kids are becoming sharks and will soon surpass me in the winner’s circle (surprise).  My son has the lingo down pat, and not only do I get to play whenever I want, for as long as I want, we established yet another friendship.  AND, I now know who I’m calling when we get the pool.    Oh yeah, we’re getting a pool and its gonna have a deck, a hot tub attached, palm trees, lights… …rudely interrupted by my four year old….“MOM! I scratched, GET IN THE KITCHEN”!

Just Jokes!!

A Few More Tales to End the Week…

Have a happy and safe 4th of July weekend!!!

A  DAY  AT  THE  PARK

It was yet another situation where my daughter was stubbornly putting her foot down, and was determined to let everyone around her know what she had to say.  Although this time, instead of refusing to get out of the car seat like the “Choices” incident, she refused to get in it.

We had taken my daughter to the park after work one afternoon, and treated her to some nuggets and fries.  After shoving her food in her face so she could go play, she bounced around the jungle gym until the sun was beginning to set.  Baffled by the way her tiny legs continued to go, go, go, and tired just from watching her, I decided it was time to leave for home.  I thought it may help to explain the reasons behind my decision slightly ahead of time.  In my mind, I was preparing her for the inevitable, not realizing I was setting myself up for the inevitable…a massive fit.

Attempting to depart from the park area once realized my explanations did nothing but upset her earlier than anticipated, her resistance was so persistent that I had to pick her up, carry her to the car, and place in her seat.  I was trying to secure the seat belt, and ignore the crying, kicking and arm thrashing when she yelled out, VERY loudly…

“WHHHY ARE YOOOUU DOOOING THIS TO MMME?!!”

Mmmmmmm, it was beautiful. 

MENU PLEASE

Every parent knows that feeding a three year old can be like swimming against the current in the Nile.  Impossible.  My son is no exception.  ‘Donalds was one of his first words, and chocolate has been banned from our home.  He is my junk-food-junky (a maternal trait I so graciously passed down).  Although it’s always my intention to feed him the good stuff, it is not an easy task.

Despite my mission to have healthy diets, I told myself that in the process of raising my children I would allow them to express their own choices when it came to certain things, which sometimes included what was on the home menu.  I believed this encouraged them to form their individual opinions of what they liked and disliked, a type of independence.  Hahahaha.  Not a smart move on my part.  I love that my kids have their own little minds, but I learned a very hard lesson when it came to feeding them.  They just wound up using the opinions I was determined for them to form against me.

 For quite some time, I asked my children what they would like to eat before every meal.  My son, of course, requested donuts or “chippies”.  My daughter always responded with a very unenthusiastic, “I don’t know.”  It was frustrating and time consuming.  It took me awhile but eventually, I put my foot down, and they now get what I give them, but the following is a time before I wised up.

 It had been an exhausting workday, and dinner needed to be cooked, baths needed to be taken and I just want to veg on the couch.  To make things simple, hot dogs and macaroni were the foods of choice for the night.  After repeating the TWO item menu approximately seventeen times, Mr. Picky finally agreed to a hot dog.  Excited he had made a decision; I hurried up and cooked it to avoid any second thoughts.  As I placed the dinner of HIS choice in front of him, my sweet, charming son looked at me in disgust, and said…

                                                 “Ahhh Maaaan, I don’t want dat!”

 Shaking his head, smirking in my direction and smacking his lips as if I should have known better. 

 Kids.  Aren’t they precious?

PUT YOUR DUKES UP

Growing up I developed a bad attitude toward life that unfortunately limited my opportunities and kept me from the enjoyment of just being a kid.  Once I reached adulthood and realized all that had passed me by, I have been making up for it in everything that I do.  This includes acting like a child on as many occasions as I can get away with.

Most of my pent-up anger became a thing of the past after having kids.  They have opened my eyes, and have taught me so many lessons in life, including how to have good old-fashioned fun.  Some of my favorite times are when I get down on the floor with them to play a game, chase them around the house, dance crazy to loud music, or even reenact a little wrestle mania.  There is always a lot of laughing and the entire time we play, even if only for a few minutes, the worries of the day disappear.

At three, my daughter was a sweet little blonde that could charm the pants off a stranger, but you couldn’t let your guard down, because she was also scrapper.  She would take you on, head to head, no matter how big you were.  She also unbeknownst to her, she had a witty sense of humor, and the keen ability to pick up on things not always meant for her ears.          

I learned not to mess with her one day when we were about to engage in the wrestling match to end all wrestling matches.  She may have been small, but her comebacks were mighty.  I was on my knees in front her with my dukes up, and asked her if she wanted a piece of me. She squared off, looked me straight in the eyes, her little pig tails swaying, put up her fists, and in a very serious three-year-old voice, said…

“No mommy, I want the whooooole thing.”

I am sure she was only repeating what she had heard somewhere, but the truth was, I had been defeated by a three year old.  I was completely caught off guard, too overcome by laughter to defend myself, and she took advantage of my weakness.