Motivation

Sometimes we all just need a little push from a big supporter.

“I don’t want to do it” she said. “ I have been too busy”.

“but you love to do it!” I exclaimed!

I told her to think about how much she loves to do it. If you love something you will work hard to do it. It teaches us a lesson to do what you love and work towards that. If there is something you love to do, your life should include that in it.

Even if things aren’t working out for you in this thing, you love it. You will work hard for it even when you are busy. It is so important! No matter how hard it is, it is important to your life. Think about this thing in your life, Just think.

This was a recent conversation with my mom. She has been behind on blogging. I helped her stay motivated.

– Levi Rich Gettleman (Age 12)

Self reliance

I am a rock. I am an island!

Sometimes I write for fun. Most of the time, though, I write out of necessity. I write to make sense out of unfathomable things. And here’s todays:

Every July my family goes to California. We spend a week at a generous family friend’s beach house and enjoy for a short while, living like the other half do. It’s my kids’ favorite place in the world and a treat we all look forward to from August to June.

The first summer we visited, my eldest son, Levi, was 3 and a half and his brother, Eli, a new born babe. It was a tough time of adjustment for us. At the time, Eli had been diagnosed as blind and Levi was struggling to cope with the sudden appearance of an annoying baby brother who seemed to suck all the attention out of his world. We brought our babysitter on the trip and she had some kind of nervous breakdown and went AWOL. Seriously. She left us a bizarre, incoherent goodbye note and that was the last we saw of her. Given our stressful situation, we inadvertently let some of the household chores fall by the wayside.

We received a stern reproach from Lois, our beach house hostess, the following spring when I called to inquire about our upcoming summer visit. Frankly, it was mortifying. Accused of not leaving their lovely home in the same condition in which we had found it, I apologized profusely and assured her that I would never again allow toddlers, teething or childcare trauma to distract my attention from my housekeeping responsibilities.

From then on, I cleaned each summer like an army recruit trying desperately to impress her platoon sergeant. I scrubbed, shined and sparkled everything from the grout in the kitchen tiles to the bottom of the white marble toilet bowls. I cleaned this house like none other I had ever lived in.

Years passed and things seemed normal between us and our friends. So it was with great confidence that I sent this year’s email inquiring about a July visit. A few days later I received a phone call from Mel, our affable host who has always reminded me of my beloved father.

“This is very difficult for me,” he started. “You know we love you guys.” (Note to self: it is never a good sign when a conversation begins with a heartfelt declaration of love) He then proceeded to tell me that we had left their beautiful home in shambles last summer. I will leave out the details, but suffice to say that according to him, walls needed repainting, appliances repair, and furniture replacement. He said that we had left the beach house in bad shape before, but that this past summer was the worst of all and he simply had no choice but to ask us never to visit again.

I was seriously stunned. This seemed impossible to me. I distinctly recall our final Sunday morning cleaning session in which we washed and replaced the linens, scrubbed all the bathrooms, cleaned out the refrigerator, and did a host of other cleaning duties.

“But, we cleaned…” I stammered. “…for hours. I just don’t understand.” By this point, I was sobbing and close to hyperventilating. He graciously suggested that our definitions of “clean” must be vastly divergent. I offered to replace the recliner we had allegedly stained and cover the costs of any household repairs even though I remembered the tattered arm chair looking very near death upon our arrival last summer. He, of course, refused. No, there was nothing I could say or do to redeem myself or my family.

Beside the sheer mortification of this experience, I am deeply saddened to know that people we so greatly admire and respect believe us to be selfish, reckless and inconsiderate. I know we weren’t responsible for the damage they believe we caused. They lend out that house to countless friends and family who do not treat it with the same level of respect that we do and they probably have not set foot in the house in years. But I couldn’t argue with him. They apparently inspected the house and found several things wrong with it directly after our visit. So we, in their minds, are the culprits. Arguing seemed pointless. So I apologized again and hung up.

I want there to be a lesson in this. But I’m having a hard time finding it. All I seem to come up with is that you should never stay in anyone else’s home, borrow anyone else’s car, or utilize anything that doesn’t personally belong to you, yourself. Because the potential for something bad happening is just enormous. It’s like driving without car insurance. You’ll never have an accident until the day your policy lapses due to an overdrawn checking account.

Self reliance is the only way to go. I remember back in 8th grade when my best friend, Annie, dumped me for a more popular, less uptight burn-out chick. I sat in my bedroom playing Simon and Garfunkel’s “I am a Rock,” over and over until I fell asleep. I woke up feeling better though. I guess as a mom, I’d just bought into the whole “It take a village” thing; believing that you could rely on other people, that accepting help was a good thing, that you weren’t really out there all alone.

Forgive me if I sound callous or cynical, but accepting anything from anyone leaves you vulnerable and, as far as I’m concerned, vulnerability sucks.

Show a little damn gratitude, will ya?

Apparently beggars CAN be choosers!

Holiday cheer? A time to give? What’s up with charities this year? Has anyone noticed that everyone who’s asking for handouts this yuletide season has conditions? “Please drop off any unwrapped, newly purchased, non-age specific, genderless toys by December 15th.” Ok, seriously? This is getting ridiculous. I mean every year we try to go through the boys’ toy closets and make piles of good stuff that they’ve outgrown or no longer want to play with. We talk about how important it is to give things away and the boys have to struggle sometimes with wanting to keep stuff that they need to let go of. But they are learning valuable lessons about sharing, giving and helping those less fortunate.

Well, apparently no one wants anything even “gently” used this holiday season. I find that incredibly offensive. It’s not that I’m not willing to buy new gifts for those in need. It’s just that I think they should be grateful for used items as well. Has everyone lost their minds? I mean, the poor and downtrodden only want new items? What’s that about?

I mean, we’re hurting this year, like everyone around us. I’m shopping at resale stores and garage sales. My kids had a much scaled down version of Chanukah this year. But while it’s okay for me to scrounge and save, I should go to Target and shell out full retail for a brand new Barney-mobile for some nameless kid who only wants new toys this year? That’s more than absurd. It makes me just say, “Oh well, guess I just wont give anything.”

That cannot be the message charities are hoping to convey. But why then all the hubbub about “new” or “unopened” toys? My kids have a plethora of rummaged board games, some of which show serious signs of age. But we have just as much fun playing Monopoly with the hand-drawn “Park Place” card we scribbled in yellow marker over a random two of clubs, than anyone playing with the authentic printed version. Come on!

It reminds me of all the times I’ve attempted to remedy the hunger situation when I encounter it in my path. I’ve offered leftovers to people begging on the street. I’ve purchased a dozen bagels or donuts for some sign-carrying veteran asking for food. I’ve even handed over half a bag of groceries upon passing someone desperate off the freeway ramp in L.A. once. And do you know what each of those people did with my food? They threw it out. Because they didn’t want food. They wanted money, for booze or drugs or cigarettes or whatever. And yes, that soured me a bit on trying to help out. So now, I give to reputable organizations. I make tax-deductible contributions whenever I can and I try my best to ignore the sad souls who approach me and ask for aid. I’m sure it looks heartless and callous to my kids. But thrice burned…

It’s the same damn thing. People need to be encouraged to give. But to give what they can, which may not necessarily be ideal or perfect for the person they’re trying to help. People need to appreciate whatever they get. Am I the only one whose ever heard of the proverbial beggar who couldn’t be a chooser? Maybe it does make a better Christmas for a kid to get a brand new Star Wars Lego set. But when people are struggling to do that for their own kids, they’re not likely to do it for a stranger’s.

I’ve taught my children to be gracious and appreciative whenever anyone gives them anything. If they don’t like it, if they already have one, if it comes broken in two, they just smile, say thank you and offer a warm, grateful hug. Maybe we ought to consider teaching that to the myriad of non-profits out there who are only looking for perfectly packaged, officially licensed, unused goodies this Christmas.

A symmetry boggles over a snag.

Airport Security

A funny thing happened to me on the way back to Phoenix last week. Sounds like a Jackie Mason routine. But here’s what happened: I’m at Ohare airport with my kids, trying to manage a bag of overflowing McDonald’s fries, two carry-ons, a bottle of water that had just opened in my purse, and my laptop computer which I’m desperately attempting to keep dry. We manage to find a few seats at the gate and the uniform clad lady at the microphone,(what do they call those people who check you in and give you the bad news about late departures anyway?), is announcing how full the flight is and how if you have more than one carry-on per person they are going to take your bag and check it. She’s urging people to come forward and relinquish their excess baggage before it becomes an embarrassing scene at the end of the ramp.

For once I think, “Wow, this doesn’t pertain to me. I am actually following the rules like a normal person.” Suddenly, this sweet-faced, elderly Asian woman looks at me, her eyes filled with despair. She says in broken English, “You…two bags. Three people. Me…too many…bag. You say…one…yours.” My boys both look at me expectantly. After all, I tell them it’s their responsibility to help people out whenever they can. But I keep hearing the “Has anyone unknown to you asked you to carry anything on board for them?” question ringing in my ears.

“I’m sorry,” I say with the same empathy I might show to a would-be suicide bomber who asked me to take his explosive-laden vest onto the aircraft with me. “I just can’t do that.” My 9-year-old looks up at me with shock. “Mom,” he chastises, “Why don’t you help that lady?” “Well, sweetheart,” I say, loud enough for everyone around us to hear, “It’s against the rules to pretend that someone else’s luggage is your own at an airport. You could get in a lot of trouble for doing that.”

The moment passed rather quickly. The kindly Asian woman checked her bag. My kids got over my lack of compassion. (They’re big into rule following which helped the situation a lot.). But here it is days later and I’m still seeing that woman’s pleading eyes and wondering why I didn’t just help her out. It’s not like I don’t have enough guilt for my maternal and familial failings, but now I feel sick over some stranger who tried to pawn off her extra suitcase on me. This is ridiculous.

The truth is, I should be applauding myself. My behavior was so atypical for me. Usually I just smile and concur, without a flitter of thought as to the possible outcomes of my actions. But this time I was sensible. I didn’t know that woman. I had no way of knowing what she was carrying on board. I was thoughtful, mature, and rational. I didn’t want to endanger my children. I did the right thing. So why do I feel so icky?