Welcome Letter

I could reach the decorations!

I could reach the decorations!

I’ve been corresponding with Ruby’s teachers about the so-called bullying.  One of her teachers, an insightful sort, asked Ruby to write her a letter and express how she was feeling.  Here, sans spelling mistakes, is that letter:

Dear Mrs. B,

I am feeling unwelcomed at school because I’m being bumped and pushed around and I have pets so my cat wakes me up like 5:00 in the morning so that makes me tired, cranky, unsmart, unintelligent and makes it feel like the day is taking forever.  So people just rush through me and it feels like I’m invisible.  Every day it feels like this so I’m not so happy.  I don’t get so much attention every day.

Your best student,
Ruby

The kindly Mrs. B. read the letter to me over the phone yesterday afternoon.  I must confess I did laugh outright when she finished.  Ruby’s angst is real but her expressions – what Mrs. B. calls “her narrative voice” – are priceless.

“I will reach out to her every day,” the kindly Mrs. B. offered in closing.

Taking the letter’s advice, I confined the feline alarm clock Chloe to the downstairs last night.  I carried the muppet mass downstairs, purring in my arms, and placed her outside the pocket door.  She looked stunned.  But then she always looks like that.

Today was Children’s Day at Ruby’s school.  No school work!  They did crafts.  They devoured cupcakes and juice.  They saw a live show.  They knocked pinatas around in the covered area and played games out on the adjacent field.  I got to show up for a little while.

“Mom!” Ruby gasped when she saw me.  She ran over to me and grabbed me.  She wouldn’t let me go.  I was only able to stay for an hour, helping the kids make bracelets, necklaces or keychains with beads and gimp (anybody remember that substance?).  But my making the time to enter her world thrilled her.  The kids seemed to like it, too.

As I tied one of the girls’ necklaces off:  “You look like Ruby,” she said, shyly.

This always surprises me.  It shouldn’t, but it does.

“You think so?” I asked, twisting the slippery plastic around my finger.  “I think she looks more like her dad.”

My comrade looked stumped. “Ruby has a dad?”

Uh.  Yeah.  Guess now’s not the time for the “everybody has a mom and a dad” life lesson.

It got me thinking, Ruby’s letter. How many people feel “unwelcomed” all around us?  Maybe they take it out on us by cutting us off in traffic.  Maybe they shoot staples at us, trying to get our attention. Maybe they talk back when they should be silent, or simply ignore us all together. What are we doing about it? How can we help? I aim to change that, as much as I can.  What would Jesus do?

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Newsy Tuesday

Lovely welcoming gift?

Bizarre welcoming gift?

I started my new job at the city yesterday.  Yay, verily, I did.

I like it.  I like my new boss.  I like my huge cubicle.  To make the gray rectangle homey, a box of rolled-up drawings stands on one corner of my desk.  I share the space with the comb binding machine, circa 1960. No, it’s not electric.  Muscles required. Additionally, I gained a lovely bottom drawerful of Taco Bell sauce, salt packets, sporks and sundry savory condiments.  Perhaps rashly, I dumped it all into the trash. My cube still smells like French vanilla creamer. Not a bad aroma, kinda like an edible air freshener. The shriveled tangerines, front and center(above), added a pop of unexpected color.  I did wonder if it was some sort of hazing ritual, in lieu of shrunken heads.  What does it mean?!

I’ve gotten the CDBG notebooks and files mostly sorted.  A boatload of subcontractor payroll reviews  loom before me.  I’m slowly meeting my coworkers.  Folks, I’m on the payroll. I’ve got keys to the kingdom and (allegedly) my own parking spot out back. Let’s go!

I ran 5 miles this morning.  I wasn’t into it, but I am learning not to over-think the whole process.  It seems to help.  The weather was warmish, in the high 40s, and dry.  The lilacs bloom now, blowing their scent all around me.  The lilies-of-the-valley add their fragrance.  It’s too wonderful outside to spent much time inside.  Rex agrees.  He found his way downstairs from his napping eerie, nosed open the screen door and plopped on the driveway.  Bliss!

I spoke to a friend today who told me her house sold within 50 hours.  God is moving them on.  They’re moving out of state. Exciting times.  Tis the season, methinks.

I’m excited to see what this phase of life has to offer.  Running is fun again.  Springtime beckons outdoors, celebrating fresh starts.  So far, in my adult life I’ve worked for private companies, nonprofits and churches, on a contract and now for the government.  I’m ready for new beginnings.  The best is yet to come.

This is what the Lord says—
    he who made a way through the sea,
    a path through the mighty waters,
 who drew out the chariots and horses,
    the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
    extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:16-19

 

 

 

The Beauty of Responsibility

Ruby is sitting across from me.  A frown creases her heart-shaped face.  She’s toiling at math homework.  She’d much rather be playing with her stuffed monkeys, Curious George and Coffee.

“What’s 13 take away 5?” she asks.

I sit in silence.  I want her to wrestle with it a little.

“What’s 13 take away 10?” I counter.

She thinks for a moment.

“Three!” she shouts.  From there, she backtracks to the original problem.  She’s in math tutoring to get her rote adding and subtraction skills up to state standards.  She’s not far behind, but I feel her pain.

She hates doing homework.  She wants to play. She tells me over and over.  It’s not fair!  Happy place, happy place…

“Got news for you, Ruby.  Everybody wants to play.  All the time,” I tell her.

And it’s true.  Being responsible is the great killjoy of adulthood.  Paying bills, doing laundry, washing dishes, filling the gas tank (a chore I rather loathe), and on and on, world without end.  Raising kids is a series of making decisions and teaching.  It’s being the grown-up when you’d much rather let them watch TV all day and stuff themselves with junk food.  Okay, maybe sometimes I *do* the things in the last sentence.  But most of the time I fix vegetables and  monitor TV time.

If you’ve ever seen “Joe Vs. The Volcano”, you get a sense of adulthood’s monotony.  Adults work to stay afloat.  Rent comes due every month.  Eating food keeps us alive, and we have to pay for it (usually).  Taxes.  Need I say more?  It’s depressing.  This is why so many adults long to be kids again, playing and fancy-free, no worries to tie them down.

I say being an adult gives you more choices.  You choose to take care of your duties and it leaves you time to play. Zac is just now getting this.  Do your schoolwork and then fire up the computer games. Working to the best of your abilities at everything you do honors God and your employer.  You can have a good attitude about your work and it changes your life. Ultimately, He rewards the diligent.

The ability to choose wisely is an adult trait.  Maturity comes with great rewards.  You learn to invest your time and effort.  You find better ways to do things, time-saving measures and ways to cut costs. You figure out you can put work off in order to take advantage of a fun opportunity now, knowing you’ll pick up the chores/errands/yoke later.  Maturity takes time, however.  You fail and then you get back up.  You say something stupid and pay the price.  Then you learn to keep your mouth shut.  You run out of gas by the side of the road or push your car into Coburg (!) and you get the idea that your car doesn’t run on fumes. Maturity creates a freedom you can only dream of in childhood.

My work complete, I must go. I’ll have time later to vacuum and do laundry.   Now, I need to see a girl about some stuffed monkeys.

 

 

 

Bend in the Road

The view keeps changing.  Photo by travellersphotoblog.blogspot.com

The view keeps changing. Photo by travelersphotoblog.blogspot.com

This morning, I turned in my very last timesheet for the shelter project.  As of this week, I am done being the CDBG Grant Compliance Coordinator.

I’m a little sad.  I’ve grown  attached to these crazy people, putting up a building during the rainiest season of the year.  I’ve learned so many new words (glacial spall!). I gained a greater appreciation for the way good communication facilitates cooperation. My boss treated me well and I learned a lot from her. Insert moment of silence here.

Okay.

A couple of weeks ago, I found out the city employee who was managing the project got a new job. Her last day was April 8.  Due to some severe budget cuts, nobody else was able to pick the project up.  My boss at the shelter put forward my name to finish it, like she has for the entire project.  She thinks I’m the bee’s knees.  Which I am.  If bees had knees.

Well, the big supervisor at the city listened.  He asked me in person if I’d like it.  I told him I have no background in contracts like the other gal had.  I did have to think about, though I must confess I’m always highly flattered to be offered any job.  Yes, I’m *that* kind of girl. I dropped off my updated resume. We emailed back and forth about responsibilities and salary.  Starting Monday, I’m the one who will be directing the shelter project closeout procedures.  I am a city employee now, for the short-term. I got (nearly) a 1% raise, too. Woot!

Gulp.  I really, really, really don’t want to screw this up.

I’ve got a few key weapons in my arsenal.  I have the 4″ manual handy.  I can contact the project manager at COMMERCE any time with questions or concerns.  I get my own computer and all the old e-files I might need to revisit. I will have access to all the city’s notebooks containing subcontractor information as well as the original plans and specifications.  Kinda like an old IDC project, I guess, but slightly less paperwork.  Instead of  the standard 4,000 drawings on those building projects, I think we’re around 100.

I will work one full-time day a week.  I probably will pick up a few other duties like archiving old projects.  Nobody has done that in a long time, either.  Not my favorite thing to do but I can hang for one day per week.  Who knows what will happen?  I can see God’s timing in all of it.  His favor opened doors for me.

I would really like my life to be more linear. I want explanation and purpose front and center.  I’d like to see what’s coming up next, straight to the horizon.  But life doesn’t happen that way, at least not for me.  It opens up before me like a road.  Some of it is familiar and well-traveled.  Some of it I’ve never seen before, like this portion in front of me now.  I’m at another juncture, and I’m ready to go around the bend, in a good way.

As of this morning, this blog has 200 subscribers.  Thank you, thank you, readers!  Some of you have been with me from the very beginning in October 2011, when I had no idea what I was doing.  Not that I necessarily do *now*…but I appreciate you so much. You honor me with your time.  Your support means so much to me. Blessings to you all.

Five Miles and Bullying

I ran 5 miles today.  I had planned – oh, hubris! – to run before breakfast.  Not so much.  I found sleep to be a beautiful and necessary thing this morning.  So, after I dropped Ruby off, up to the Temple of the Treadmills I drove.  Once I got on, the few remaining empty ones filled up.  A full congregation worshiped in sweaty, humid silence broken only by panting and footfalls.   It was a good run, steady, with only a little kinking up quickly remedied by stretching. Amen.

And after this morning’s interlude with Ruby, I needed to do something.

Ruby has dreaded school for several weeks.  Turns out several of her friends and non-friends like to push her around.  As in, shove her and knock her about.  I suspect it’s all good-natured.  Ruby is a fun girl and tiny.  Her classmates probably assume she’s fine and she can take it.  However, she gets off the bus belligerent every afternoon, spoiling for a fight.  She’s hurt at how she’s treated.  We’ve both talked about it with her and prayed with her.  We’ve made it very clear that getting angry is fine.  Taking it out on other people (like innocent-bystander us) is unacceptable.

She pushed back about getting ready for school in a very mouthy way this morning and spent some alone time in her room.  I finally got the idea of writing to her teachers about what I now consider bullying.

Bullying is :  unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.- from stopbullying.gov.

Ruby says her teachers haven’t helped her when she does tell on the objectionable behavior. They brush her off, maybe thinking it’s all in good fun.  They instruct her to tell the kids to knock it off.  Kids like to roughhouse sometimes.  I know teachers can’t get involved in every kerfuffle that comes along.  Kids do need to learn interpersonal skills and work out their conflicts face to face.

I didn’t want to use the “b” word.  It carries so much weight in schools now. Now, kids shoot other kids for feeling threatened.  We want Ruby to be strong.  We want her to know who she is and what her personal boundaries are.  Growing up smaller than the average kid, I endured my own share of teasing and such.  But when it starts hurting feelings as well as little bodies, it’s not okay.

 

 

 

Hello Kitty

I guess Avril Lavigne has changed.  The bad girl from Canada (surely a paradox in itself) made a dubstep song and a video with possibly racist overtones.  And some say much more.

But…it’s catchy.

It’s danceable.  It’s goofy.  The words remind me of actual conversations little girls have: “Let’s be friends forever”. “Pinky swear you’ll never tell it!” I’m also reminded of Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible” video.   In that video, identical, robot-like women dance behind him while he sings. Those ladies pout for the camera, hair slicked back above their empty eyes.  Gwen Stefani did the Asian entourage gig first, I guess, from comments I read.  Guess who’s also been called racist?

I’m no expert, but Ms. Lavigne seems to be spoofing the kawaii culture.  Hello Kitty is very much a part of that world.  Perhaps you’ve seen her before?

Hello-Kitty-hello-kitty-19285460-849-757Her face ring a bell?

I think Avril is a genius.  This song upset her fan base tremendously.  It’s not punky hard or navel-gazing.  It has no edge, no deep meaning.  Or does it?  Seems like a bit of sarcasm bleeds through.  I mean, Avril’s wearing a leather bustier with the pink cupcake skirt, people.  And are those garters or very skinny hip waders she’s wearing? Her bleached-blonde, shaved hair doesn’t look very “girly” to me.  She’s taken on the sexual exploitation of little girls here and reminds us of innocence lost.  She’s also riffing on the popular anime-manga phenomenon.   She’s made the Asian dancers silent and glassy-eyed for a reason, I reckon. She’s making a statement.

She’s been called racist.  She’s been branded a Ke$ha clone.

Really, she’s brilliant.  Controversy gains attention.  Outrage sells more albums.  Period.

The truth is, we don’t know what Ms. Avril will do next.  Nobody knows why she made this song. Yet. Perhaps Lavigne misses a more naive time in her life.  Or perhaps she simply loves cupcakes. Sometimes a song is just a song. But she’s got the media’s attention now.  Wasn’t that the point?

Still Growing

“Measure me, Mom!”

Ruby pleaded with me.  Her brown eyes mirrored her concern.  Among her friends, she’s the shortest.  She’s also the lightest and the most slightly built.  I can help with none of those things.  I have always been small but definitely not the most slight.  I had a roommate in college who was a scant 1/2 inch shorter than me.  But when we weighed the same – in the low 120s – I looked okay and she looked obese.  Frame size is everything.  I felt like a giant next to her.  Strange but true.

Ruby’s  friends are mostly blonde, blue-eyed giants in comparison.  They come from taller stock.  I should mention all the girls are very pretty, beautiful in their special way.  Sometimes they make fun of Ruby’s tiny stature.  She hates it.

Back to the little girl standing next to the wall.  Her posture ramrod straight, she has a dancer’s body. Her muscles are long and lean.You can see every one of her ribs if she lifts her shirt. She’s a gamine type, my youngest.  The only time she was ever remotely chubby was during babyhood.  After that, fuggedabout it!  It’s how she’s made. Blame it on her preemie birth. She doesn’t diet, exercise or even think much about food.  She will be the envy of all her friends for these qualities soon enough.

But she wants so desperately to be taller.  Every day it’s the same thing.  “Mom, I know I’ve grown.”

I humor her a lot of the time.  This time, too.

“Okay, heels against the wall, ” I instructed.  I took out a pencil and made a mark on the wall, level with the top of her head.

She hadn’t grown.  Downcast, she walked away.

“Let’s measure again on your cousin’s birthday!” I said.  Another couple of months should net at least a 1/4 inch of growth, right?

We don’t get to dictate our growth.  We aren’t in charge of our height or when it increases.  I had a great growth spurt in 8th grade.  I grew 1.5 inches.  I was thrilled.  “This is it!” I thought.  “Here I go, up, up, up!” And then…nothing more.  That was it.

To be inclusive, Zac and I have had similar conversations.  He hasn’t grown since January.  He’s taller than me but shorter than his father.  To him, it seems a bit like puberty purgatory.  He wants more height, too. And a new cell phone.

I can do nothing.  We can do nothing. What we can do is celebrate where we are.  We take the growth when – and if – it comes.  I’m in no hurry to have my kids grow up.  Soon enough they’ll be out on their own, much taller than I am, seeking their destiny and eating jellybeans all year round.  Right now, having everyone at home, small though they may be, is perfectly fine with me.