Spousal amnesia, selective hearing, mind reading: marital communication by Christine Motta Faria

Brown RV being replaced by Blue RV

Brown RV being replaced by Blue RV

Back-story: We upgraded our 30-year old RV to a 20-year old RV. Mechanic-minded husband wants to go through new/old RV to make sure it is mechanically sound (even though we have ALREADY bought it) as I’m the one that will drive the RV out to Pyramid Lake each weekend this summer.

(And all I care about is that I’m going from an early 80s’ brown theme to an early 90’s light blue theme. While he talks to me of tie rods and carburetors, I’m not listening. I’m thinking about sewing custom shams and a duvet cover I bought a long time ago that will be absolutely perfect.)

Transmission shop goes through it and says, “this transmission should be in the history books because it hasn’t been rebuilt yet and still works perfect. But I can tell there is a something wrong with the drive shaft.”

Jim translates this to me as, “Blah, blah, blah more money, blah, blah before you can drive it I HAVE TO PULL OUT THE DRIVE SHAFT.”

Drive shaft. Sounds important. Sounds big. Sounds expensive.

Got it.

Can’t drive.

About a week or so later at home …

Me: “Hey, can I move the RV? It’s too close to the fence for me to put stuff in the storage bin.”

Husband: “I’ll move it later.” (This is where Jim is telepathically saying, “remember, I need to put the drive shaft back in.”)

Later that day, Jim, is taking a well deserved lazy break and is inside watching a Formula One Race. Me, I’m done waiting for him, so I jump in the RV, start the engine and put it into “D” for DRIVE.

It won’t move.

I gas it. It still won’t move.

Huh.

I put it back into “P” for PARK and it makes this horrible screeching noise, like I have killed something the size of a dragon. The entire neighborhood must be crouched on the ground with their hands covering their ears. Armageddon.

Uh oh.

Before

Check out those ugly valances!

I walk inside.

Jim has the F-1 race on so loud (he is hard of hearing from years of construction work) I realize in a moment before I beg for mercy, that he hasn’t heard the sound of the dying dragon.

I could walk back outside and act dumb when the RV won’t start when he tries to move it later.

Me: “Jim, I think I killed the RV.”

Husband: “What did you do?”

Me: “Well, remember I asked you earlier about moving the RV? Uh, I didn’t want to bother you and when I tried to move it, it made this horrible screeching noise.”

Husband: “Yeah when you put it back into park did it do a gurr gurr noise.”

Me: “No, it was more like a horrible screaming noise, but how did you know?”

Husband: “Chris, did you forget that I took the drive shaft out?”

Me: “Well, shouldn’t you have told me when I asked about moving it earlier that the drive shaft was still out?”

All I can think of is that perfectly old transmission that still worked and how much this is going to cut into my summer fun budget.  And how Jim might commit suicide facing another project.

The after photo: this is what I was thinking about when Jim was telling me about the drive shaft.

Two hours later: Jim puts the drive shaft back in and tests to see if I have done permanent damage. It looks like I’m spared.

He looks at me and said, “How could you have forgotten that I took out the drive shaft?”

I say, “Why didn’t you remind me?”

Sometimes I seriously worry that Jim has early onset of Alzheimer’s (I don’t worry about myself as I’m sure I’m a great communicator).  And I wonder if I’lll have more patience with him than I do now because it will be a medical excuse.

Is he in his own thought bubble when I talk about, say the fabric I chose for the valances – does he hear “blah, blah, blah, she’s going to ask me to hang those damn valances, blah, blah.” 

And we’re both so sure of the conversation that did or didn’t happen, it’s a bit scary.

Spousal amnesia. Selective hearing. Mind reading. You’d think after all these years we would master the art of communication.

Advertisements
Posted in Family, Feel Good, General BS and Musings | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Memorial Day – Our lack of connection with the people who serve – By Christine Motta Faria

“For all of you, I ask that the next time you see a service member or veteran, thank them. Know that they stand tall for you. Know that they are the face of America in many regions, and it’s a pretty damn good face.”

Colonel Jordan S. Chroman, OBE, US Army

This week, my high-school buddy, his wife and daughter closed the doors of their shipping

Col. Jordan Chroman

Col. Jordan Chroman

container, bound for South Korea.  I asked him if he was jazzed about this new deployment and in typical Jordan fashion he said, “I’m so very honored by this opportunity; you just don’t know how excited I am.”

Let’s take a raise of hands … anyone out there that wants to go to South Korea right now?

Col Jordan Chroman, U.S. Army, Deputy to the Deputy. Assistant Secretary of Defense (Material Readiness) – has been serving stateside – not with his boots on dirt, but the highly polished floors in DC, for over three years now, one stop of many. Since age 19, he has set his boots down in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Serbia, and I’m sure, other places I will most likely never know about.

It is hard to believe that this man is one and the same as the somewhat “nerdly,” artistic

Me in my mom's WAC uniform and Jordan circa 1983

Me in my mom’s WAC uniform and Jordan circa 1983

boy that I met in 9th grade. But I know this; at any given moment, no matter where he is in this world, he will always have my back — and more broadly, the back of our country.

Jordan’s candid words and insight remind me that integrity still exists in these tough times.

As I place my flag outside on this windy Sunday here in Reno, I’m thinking of Jordan and his family, as this will be their last Memorial Day spent in our country for the next two years.

Perfect timing to share a piece he wrote for me as a guest contributorFlag in 2011 for Raving,  on what Memorial Day really means.

His words remind me that the folks that serve, away from their families for months at  time, are our faces around the world; they are peacekeepers, they are humanitarians.

Thank you.

——————————————–

Contributed by Colonel Jordan S. Chroman, OBE, US Army

“Memorial Day (or Decoration Day, as it was originally called) is simply meant to be a dayChroman Photo - COL - 30 July 10-Headshot Cropped of remembrance — a day that we set aside to honor those fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who died in the service of our country.

“Although the idea of the day was born out of the horrors and immense losses of the Civil War, this is not a day about the division between the North and South, or the differences between conservatives and liberals, or the rich and the poor; it is a day when all Americans should put aside politics, religion, and social status and come together to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

 “Many Americans think of Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer, a three-day weekend, or a great time for picnics or barbeques. As we enjoy these activities, it’s important to remember the real reason for this holiday. Today, significantly less than 1% of all Americans serve in the military, veterans make up less than 8% of our current population, and many Americans have no real connection to those serving.

 “The war is ‘over there’ and it’s ‘sad that we lost some soldiers in Afghanistan,’ but there is little to no personal connection between the majority of our population and those who serve.

 “I can personally assure you that the men and women of our armed forces are exceptional. Each has his or her own story — some educated at Ivy League schools, others who worked hard to get a GED. Most come from ordinary backgrounds and are now part of an organization that routinely does extraordinary things.”

 “As a career soldier, I have been deployed on numerous military operations all over the world, and my greatest honor and most significant challenges have dealt with leading soldiers in battle. These warriors, often very young men and women, have done everything we as a nation have asked them to do, and so much more. In our current conflicts, Soldiers and Marines are asked to conduct combat operations one day, and help rebuild schools the next. They have to be prepared to accomplish successful combat patrols, and then be able to shift with little notice and conduct humanitarian and nation-building type missions. That is sometimes a difficult switch to click on and off. But they do

Today: Clockwise Chris, Jordan, Jackson, Arsinoe and Monica. Old-school pals

Today: Clockwise Chris, Jordan, Jackson, Arsinoe and Monica. Old-school pals

it, and do so well.

 “There are no better ambassadors for America than the soldiers with ‘boots on the ground.’ In their daily dealings with the average Iraqi or Afghani, they show compassion, integrity, fairness, and are shining examples of what is best about America. They endure hardship without complaint, have been separated from their families over and over again for 12-15 months at a time, are often put in harm’s way, in harrowing situations, and when you begin to wonder how they continue to go on, they do — with a positive attitude, a smile, and a sense of determination. They are willing to ‘ruck up’ and get the mission done, to soldier on, for their buddies, their unit, and their nation.

 “Sadly, we have lost thousands of our best during these recent conflicts. The death tolls from Iraq and Afghanistan continue to rise — with just over six thousand deaths to date. It is a tragic loss and each person who died has his or her own story. Additionally, thousands more have been severely wounded from IEDs and other enemy actions. I ask that you take the time on Memorial Day to think of them, their families, and our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who stand resolutely around the globe. They aren’t there for the money, or the fame, or the accolades. They do it because someone needs to, because it’s the right thing to do, because it has to be done, and because they are dedicated professionals.

 “Let us make sure that we remember the real meaning of Memorial Day, which is to remember the sacrifices of our veterans, from the Revolutionary War to the Current Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. To remember the fallen, and honor them in your own way — whether that be by reaching out to serving soldiers or veterans, offering a prayer, or by simply showing your support through flying a flag and reflecting.

 “To those of you reading this who have served — I thank you for your service and sacrifice. To those of you who have not served — I thank you for the support you show to our military men and women; your attitude is so very important to them.

“For all of you, I ask that the next time you see a service member or veteran, thank them. Know that they stand tall for you. Know that they are the face of America in many regions, and it’s a pretty damn good face.”

Posted in Family, Feel Good | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Being a superwoman when your culture is in conflict

Balancing Act – The Multiple Roles of Indian Women Executives

Originally published by Indian Country Today Magazine

In my career at Raving since 2001, I have had the privilege to interact withBalancingAct-Faria Native American men and women, as our clients and at our conferences. During this time I have realized my ignorance (again and again, and still today) about this culture.

I didn’t have any misconceptions (or any knowledge really) about Tribal gaming, until I moved up to Reno in 2000 and started hearing how “all of the economic woes of our local casinos were because of the Indian casinos down the pass.”

The untold story continues to be untold – how Tribal gaming has benefited not only the poorest of tribes but their surrounding communities. A lot of people don’t or won’t want to believe it.

They don’t know that successful tribes with gaming are helping tribal communities throughout the country without gaming to overcome shocking poverty, addiction and suicide rates.

Recently I was hanging out with a girlfriend whose mother had worked for a few Indian casinos in Southern California. Her first comment was, “Do you know how many thousands of dollars they get each month from the casino?”

It reminded me once again of how, through negative PR and just general lack of information, how the “real story” or “entire” story is not being told.

So here is a real story for you. The following article I wrote back in 2010, and it is about the challenges and multiple roles Indian women face as business executives. The necessary attributes valued in the business world are often in conflict with the culture that Tribal women are raised within.

For all of us gals striving to be superwomen:

Here’s the backdrop: In 2010, women still occupy lower level positions despite similar education as their male counterparts and they earn less money for the same job.

In 2010, the highest paid officers in Fortune 500 companies are represented by a minute percentage of females; and women still have the primary responsibility for home and family matters despite comprising nearly half of the workforce.

Nothing new, right? You know all about superwomen, wearing several hats, trying to succeed in numerous roles as mothers, daughters, wives, financial providers, business leaders. And don’t forget, ladies, while you’re at it: Be beautiful, be sexy, be spiritual, volunteer, mentor and know how to dance, cook and clean like a pro.

The women that have enjoyed professional success, I think we can agree, have been their own advocates; they are assertive and they are confident. These necessary attributes valued in the business world are often in conflict with the culture that tribal women are raised within. And even though many tribal cultures are based on a “matriarchal society” – certain behaviors, still today, are not considered respectful coming from a woman.

I had the opportunity to interview three Native American businesswomen, all working in the gaming industry, and I asked them how they balanced their different universes: Respecting and embracing the traditions of their tribal culture while developing the skills and attitudes necessary to succeed in the business world.

Click here to read the full story.

Posted in Feel Good, Marketing, Profiles | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Over 45 and pregnant? Oh, what have I done? By Christine Motta Faria

Over 45 and pregnant? Oh, what have I done?

I was sitting in the doctor’s office. Waiting for the results of the pregnancy test.

Did you catch it … my most recent race entry put me in the 45-49 year-old bracket.  

I pee more on my hand than in the cup. How did I end up here? The nurse practitioner assures me that I’m healthy, sexually active (although Jim would question if active means frequent) and I’m still “regular.”

 “It can still happen, so let’s just make sure, okay Chris?”

My mom gave up on having children in her late thirties. My brother and I were born in her 42nd and 43rd years.

Seriously, the first time in years that we didn’t use protection and this happens. I must admit, it was one of those nights that we said, “WOW! Why don’t we do this more often!!??” That’s why I remember the exact date.

I can hear the nurse and assistant laughing outside the room.

When I add up the circumstantial evidence a few days before, laying on the couch, so nauseous I think I’ll pass out, I feel sick at heart. I imagine the next several months filled by high-risk pregnancy appointments. Fear would obliterate me; there is just no way it would end well.

I imagine going to Safeway and getting a pregnancy test from my personal pharmacist. I’d blurt out, “Ah, it’s for my daughter.” But he knows I don’t have a daughter.

One moment I convince myself it can’t be possible and the next I’m in full fledge freak out. Not able to handle this by myself, I go out to the garage and tell Jim my suspicion.

He laughs. 

Then he pales.

Gotta love him; the rest of the day he teases me about my “condition.”

Later that night he tells me all he could think about was “how are we going to pull this off?”

Why would something I once coveted with my whole being and denied with such heartbreak, happen fifteen years after the fact and way too late?

When I lay in bed that night, I revert to my Catholic childhood God, the one that has control over my destiny, the one that decided children wasn’t in the plan because somehow I was a sinner.

Yes, it’s true, my evolved “I’m not religious but spiritual” made-up, feel good spirituality takes a back seat to the scarier and more powerful Catholic God when I face real crisis.

And I ask, “Why now and not then?”

In the two days before this appointment, I have imagined the real bullies and gunmen in school; I’m not sure how to be a loving parent and not a policeman; I’m terrified of predators, of evil, of kids today being exposed to ugly things through technology.  I’m afraid I’ll have to raise this child alone as Jim will die early, like my dad. I’m not looking at this as a gift; I’m looking at parenthood as something I don’t want at this stage of my life.

It occurs to me that I could be dying or something considerably better like going through peri-menopause. I set up an appointment at my doctors, hoping it is a weird flu that is making me so sick and tired and delaying my never delayed period.

Through this, friends ask me, “well, what would you do?” Do? There is no option. We would move forward, knowing that it would be a high-risk pregnancy that would probably abort itself because of my age or if it didn’t, the fetus might be unhealthy. Because of everything we have gone through, we both know it is the right path.

But what I realize more than anything, is how fortunate I am to have a choice in the matter.

If I were alone, didn’t have Jim, was sick, homeless or dependent in other ways, my choice might be different.  But I live in a country where I still have that choice. I live in a country where my intelligence is respected.

The nurse and her assistant come back into the room. I say, “I could hear you laughing outside” and she’s embarrassed. She says they were discussing another patient my age that came in for the same reason and got the biggest shock of her life – she was pregnant.

“But, you’re not Chris.”

Funny, later, my closest gal pals all ask me if I am just a little disappointed.

And I can honestly say, that I’m not. I’m so friggin’ relieved.

Later I find out while I was getting my pregnancy test, a good friend who is 40 is celebrating that she’s finally pregnant.  I do my happy-dance around my kitchen when I hear her news. I cry for her. I’m joyful for both of us.

Funny how things work out.

Posted in Family, Feel Good, Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The difference between laziness and fear – by Christine Motta Faria

The difference between laziness and fear

I just emptied a few dishes out of the dishwasher, so I could fit the dirties in. How lazy is that?

Jim is out-of-town again in East Jesus Nevada, gold mine #522, and I’ve logged another Jason Statham movie. I’m not sure how many BBC/PBS series’ on Netflix I’ve watched to completion. Call the Midwife, Jack Taylor “The Guards,” and Copper are my favorite so far.

Now that’s lazy.

I managed to bring in the garbage can and recycle bins and feed Lucy and Ethel. Oh, and I’m writing, so I guess I’m not THAT lazy.

Okay, so there is lazy and there is fear. Fear, I have been told, by fellow writers, can disguise itself as laziness. “I’m too lazy to write every day,” actually means, “I’m afraid that what I’m writing is shit.” “People won’t like what I write.” “I’ll run out of inspiration.”

Could be.

Sometimes I wonder if being at Raving since January of 2001 is lazy or fearful.  I mean, is being at a company for over 12 years a sign of dedication, being with a groovy company; or of me being too comfortable with my lifestyle, knowing Jim’s construction job has proven unreliable? Is it fear of breaking out of my comfort zone and challenging myself?

I like to think that I get paid a good salary to write and it supports our “play hard” life outside of work. And that’s pretty damn cool.

I can justify almost anything but fear.

Fear. I hate to make decisions based on fear.

So get this, last year I was considering finishing my degree ONLY because I was scared the economy was going to tank even more, and I wouldn’t have a degree to help me find a job with corporate America (or anybusinessusa.com that would be hiring, especially out of small town Reno) if anything happened at Raving.

(Side note: Yes, I’m admitting I don’t have my degree and I’m okay with that.)

So pursuing my degree out of fear, well this never felt right to me. I have 10 classes to go, but I was going to do it for the wrong reason. I have NO DESIRE to finish my degree to “protect” myself.  I have desire to take classes in what I’m interested in, to grow, to learn. But there are no online colleges I can find, that I can afford, that cater to writing, that is more important to me than what I’m doing now.

The next job I have, will not be working for “the man,” but working for myself, taking jobs for “the man” at my discretion, that is. So why pay over $10K to get my degree, to work for a “man” I don’t want to?

Jim said finishing my degree was being “smart,” being “intelligent,” responding to “market conditions,” arming myself with the tools that I need – education is always valuable. I’m not saying that taking 10 classes won’t make me more knowledgable.

However, looking over the syllabus at the college I decided on, one of the required classes for the BA in Business, is direct mail. One of the smartest guys I know, Michael Hemphill, owner of CSG Direct, can teach me more in two hours than I could learn in one semester about direct mail (and he’s taught me an immense amount already). Not only direct mail, but  SEO, web, mobile, all that crap you need to know as a business person these days.

It’s these corporate folks that think that anyone worth their salt has put the effort into getting their four-year degree. Forget real life or OJT.

I’m utterly confident about this. Some of the most successful business folks I know, don’t have a degree, or don’t publicize it. Some of the most unsuccessful people I know, have degrees from those Ivy league schools and don’t have an ounce of common sense.

Lazy, cheap, or just destined for working for myself? Maybe I’m just a good justifier.

If Dennis ever retires at Raving and I find myself without a job, you can say “I told you so” when I’m competing with the 11% of Nevadans that are out of work and that could have their college degrees.

Fear.

Fear of pursuing a dream … do we tell ourselves that we don’t have enough time or skill to do what we do best or what we  know we are good at, or that has MEANING to us, or are we not confident enough in ourselves to take a chance?

Friggin’ money, car payments, being responsible.

I’ve got a friend, who truly has the “eye” for photography and I think she could make a  “go of it,” while being at home with her almost elementary school aged child. She defeats herself when she compares herself with other photographers … which we all know, there will always be people more skilled than we are, more talented, and more BEAUTIFUL … but they are not US.

Whatever “US” means. The way we connect to people. The way we see things, through a camera lens, through our words, through the clothes we design. What we bring to the table is unique. We are all special in the way we give back to the world. No one can smile back at the universe the way we as individuals do.

There is only one “US.”

I’m drinking wine and listening to Harry James … and I’m not scared, I’m not lazy (the wine is telling me “You are not lazy.”) I’m writing, and what else can I ask of myself?

So ask yourself … are you not tackling that dream, that project, because you are lazy or because you are scared of failing?

Posted in Feel Good, General BS and Musings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Garden of Good and Evil (and murder, plant pimping, and alien bugs) – by Christine Motta Faria

The Garden of Good and Evil (and murder, plant pimping and alien bugs)

Just how hard is it to grow zucchini? Isn’t it normally the veggie you can’t eat one more of by mid-season; even your neighbors avoid your knock on the door?

Well, if you don’t mind saying, “Die you mother @$%& ers” and pinching the life out of a living, breathing, lumpy, squash bug, then not all that hard.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are much harder places in the world to grow

It's May in Reno: 80 yesterday, freezing tonight!

It’s May in Reno: 80 yesterday, freezing tonight!

vegetables. In Northern Nevada, we’re pretty lucky – the dry climate only gives us flakey skin and nose bleeds; we don’t have enough water; we always experience hard freezes in May – but not so much in the way of bugs. I think pincer bugs (earwigs) are next on the list of plant destroyers.

But let’s get back to squash bugs. They have to mate and connect and link together, at the same time that they are sucking the life out of cucumbers and squash plants.

squash bug

The dreaded squash bug

(Oh, besides these bugs, even squash plants can have infertility issues in our simple gardens. Did you know that summer squash has a pollen-bearing male form, and the ovary-bearing female form? Yup. If the squash bugs don’t get in your way, a lack of romance might. Fellow writer and cook enthusiast Amy F, I imagine, turns up the volume with a little Marvin or Luther out in the garden, drinks some good Italian wine (that’s for her to get in the mood, not for the plants) and gets down to business on mating her plants. She’s a plant-pimpstress. And she gets tons of squash blossoms which are their own delicacy.

IMG_0911

I will kill for you my little Cocozelle!

Some folks from the East Coast call them stink bugs, but I don’t think they are the same. In fact, I think these are alien bugs. If you are brave enough to kill their chunky bodies by flip-flop, they ooze this green and yellow fluid.

If you are an organic gardener, the suggestions for dealing with these buggers are:

  • Surround with deterrent plants that will repel the bugs such as onions, garlic, nasturtiums, radishes and marigolds.
  • Plant a sacrificial plant early in the season. Smoosh the bastards that have overwintered in your soil and crawl out to feast on your plant.
  • Use a ground cover, like black plastic and utilize floating row covers.
  • When they appear, spray the bugs with a concoction of liquid dish soap, jalapeño and garlic.
  • Rotate your plants, as once in the soil, always in the soil.
  • Delay your main season crop.

    baby squash bug

    Oh crap, the eggs of doom!

You might be fooled and think you are in the clear, that these methods have worked. No reddish-brown baby eggs lurking under the leaves. Nope. Just when you think you are out of the woods, wham! A party of grayish brownish bugs are in the soil, on the plants, destroying your vegetarian lasagna.

Sorry folks, the only thing that seems to work is  removing their bodies from the plant.

squash-bugs

Teenagers in those drab gray colors

My friend and neighbor Jodi A, originally from Atlanta, is one of the sweetest gals. But what you don’t know about her is that she’s a bona-fide, card-carrying, huntress. Every night after work, she picks them bugs off, plops them into a jar of soapy water and watches them drown, baby drown. (I think she actually says, “Drown baby drown” out loud.)

Needless to say, she has enough zucchini to feed the court, along with loaves of homemade bread stocked in her freezer.

I judge her violent, sadistic ways and say to her, “Really, you drown them …?” Where has this bug-pacifist Chris come from?

I’m lazy. Carrying a glass of cold white wine, admiring the garden, it’s a lot of work to kill them. You need two hands for this grisly business.

After having a bumper crop the first two years I lived in Reno, now I get next to nothing.  I too have turned to violence. If I’m wearing thick-soled shoes, I’ll flick them off the plant and smash them to death (which is not advised, you need a pressure washer to get them off the concrete). But it still feels good to yell, “Die you muther.”

IMG_0910

Marinated and on the grill

It’s a new gardening season. I tell myself I won’t be lazy. I’ll employ all of those tactics that never worked before and I’ll also drown them. Double jeopardy. I want to grill marinated zucchini out by the lake, to make my grandma Tressy’s squash and sausage soup, pickle them, and have a Greek salad with my homegrown tomatoes, onions and cucumbers.

I hate going to the store just as much as I hate these squash bugs.

I will succeed.

Posted in Gardening, Health, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Kids Scare Me: Fear and Hope at an Elementary Level – By Christine Motta Faria

Kids scare me.
So surrounding myself with elementary school students seemed like a really bright idea.

Babysit a two-and-a-half-year-old? Frankly, I’d rather poke my eye out with a chopstick. Anyone who is too young to freak out with a ghost story, or not adventurous enough to build a fort out of prized junk from a dumpster, I get bored with in short order.

Many years ago, I must have felt differently or my “biological clock” was that much louder. My husband says that God, like Bill Engvall, made several attempts to dissuade us from having kids. “Here’s your sign” meant infertility specialists. Still not catching on, we became foster parents of two, both under three years of age, for a year, not knowing that one was a special needs child. The experience brok e our hearts. Even our combined families are the “end of the gene pool” — there are NO nieces or nephews to teach how to ski or to play HORSE with.

Here’s your sign: no kids for you!

This fear of kids (except having my own, I suppose) might be because in elementary school I met up with the most cruel and vicious of humanity: yup, I’m talking about those mainly blue-eyed, skinny, blonde, MEAN GIRLS who relished calling me “fatso.” And growing up, washing dogs and cleaning houses were a lot more profitable than babysitting.

My most recent involvement with children came about when I organized a yearly “Gifts for the Troops” campaign during the height of the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Handmade cards and needed supplies were shipped over to our men and women with feet on the ground.

Collecting money, organizing volunteers, being interviewed on TV, no problem; being asked to talk to elementary school kids to share where their cards were going: friggin’ scary. I did about three presentations, I think. I don’t remember, I’m still experiencing PTSD; but all they wanted to know was:

Have I shot anyone?
(No, I’m not with the military, but I almost shot my foot off doing skeet, does that count?)

Do the troops receiving the cards get to shoot anyone?
(Well … maybe … but how about another question?)

Would the cards get there before the “army guys” died?
(Uh … I hope so).

Here’s your sign: avoid elementary schools. But wait …

Our local paper (the RGJ) ran a series on 13 elementary schools that were at the bottom of a recent ranking for our county here in the Reno area. Students learning English and struggling with poverty were most likely to attend one of those 13 schools.

At the end of the article, the RGJ provided a link for folks who wanted to help these last-ranked schools. On the wish list, besides financial support, some asked for volunteers to help read to the kids.

And guess who clicked the “I want to help” button?

Think of it. How awful would it be for a child to be the worst reader in class, to be embarrassed, to be the underdog at such a young age? How terrible for a kid to miss out on traveling to the center of the Earth, swinging from jungle branches, living on the prairie? What a rotten deal to avoid reading, and thus miss out on one of the most valuable tools for life?

So, just how hard could it be to help kids become better readers?

About three weeks after I hit the “I want to help” button, I was sitting on a chair half my butt size, during lunch hour, between two third grade boys who were taking turns reading me a story called, Zombies Don’t Play Soccer. I thought one of the boys might pass out from lack of oxygen, since he didn’t breathe the entire time he read. He’d take a deep breath after a page and say, “I’m done.” It was so enjoyable, I’d even forgotten about the gigantic blister I had on my lip from frying them the weekend before. Seriously, I was afraid the kids would say, “Oh no, we don’t want that woman with herpes!”

I remembered the training video and encouraged them when they faltered, asked them comprehension questions, and sincerely praised them — both were second-language students.

Next, two kindergarteners had me read to them, that is, after the spilt chocolate milk got cleaned up. And my first graders seemed really into reading to me and engaged, until the recess bell went off.

As I drove back to work at Raving, I thought, “Okay Universe, where’s my sign?” The school didn’t collapse, the kids didn’t ask me any questions about firearms or sex, and I got to read about monkeys getting eaten one at a time by a crocodile in a dramatic voice (what kind of book is this, I thought, until I got to the end. Whew, they were just hiding!).

The kids appeared eager to be singled out for their two-on-one classes. Maybe it was because they got to go first through the lunch line. There was only one mean third grade girl who, while I was waiting, said, “You’re a reading buddy? Hmpf.” She must have seen THE LIP.

I’ll be returning every Thursday until the school year ends — under the guise that I’m helping them. I think we really know who is helping whom …

Originally published by Raving Consulting Company

Posted in Feel Good | 3 Comments