In Praise of my Mischievous Child

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I keep a secret from my daughter.  There is something I don’t tell her, when I’m giving her a time-out or discussing the reason for the bad report from her teacher.

I am secretly happy that she gets into trouble.

Beanie isn’t angry.  She doesn’t get in trouble for deliberately harming anyone.

What Beanie does is test limits.  She conducts social experiments.  She’ll put her hand on the fire alarm to observe her teachers’ reactions.  She’ll say a bad word, to see what happens. She hits her friends, because she thinks it’s funny.

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Of course, we show her what happens when she crosses a line.  We don’t encourage her to “misbehave.”

But I still like that she does it.  I like that she believes enough in her own worth to be unafraid of making mistakes. She’s not afraid to try new things, make mistakes, and learn.

Can we say the same for ourselves?

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I know that I have always been a people-pleaser.  I have always been terrified of doing anything that might offend, or lead someone to “not like me.”  Being socially shunned has always been my fear.

And because of this fear, I have been afraid to try. Better not to rock the boat, than to do something “wrong.”  And when I inevitably made mistakes anyway, it led to a ridiculous drama in my head.  I admonished myself for being so stupid, and spent more time regretting the fact that I tried something that didn’t work, rather than learning from it.

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Beanie is not a people-pleaser.  She doesn’t feel the need to do anything or be a certain way in order to be loved.  Yet she also has no desire to hurt anyone’s feelings.  She realizes that her experiments won’t hurt anyone’ feelings, at least not in a way that a hug and an “I’m sorry” won’t fix.

Beanie doesn’t freak out when she makes a mistake.  She thinks no less of herself.  She merely  learns from it, and, if not, she repeats the “lesson.”  

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And the most amazing part of it all?  While staying true to herself, Beanie DOES have a lot of friends.  In the three schools she has attended, she has been quite popular in all of them.  She is very successful, socially, even after being the “new kid” twice.

I think we all might have something to learn from that kid.

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The Phone Call

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Tuesday night, I worked late.  It was our open house, and I didn’t get home until 9:00.

Excitedly, I burst through the companionway, announcing, “Hi!  I’m here!”

The music of Beanie’s video game, Pokemon Ranch, played in the background, but the cabin was empty.

Thinking that they might be in the restroom, I sat down at the dinette for a moment, before deciding that the counter needed cleaning.

On the counter was a scribbled out note that appeared to be written in Beanie’s handwriting.  “Kiwi sucks!” it seemed to say, then other stuff was written underneath it.  I laughed, because Beanie had been getting in trouble for using “bad words” lately.

Then, I saw that the writing underneath it was something about the Wharf, the marina where Kiwi is slipped.

So this was definitely not Beanie’s writing.

Kiwi sucks?  Was there a billing issue with the Wharf or something?  I turned the note right side-up and took a closer look.

It actually said, “Kiwi sunk!!!  I’m at the Wharf seeing if ins will cover the fuel clean-up.”

Uh-oh.

I didn’t think Kiwi was capable of sinking.  As far as I knew, it had positive buoyancy, meaning that it is stuffed with Styrofoam.  It has an outboard motor, so there aren’t a lot of through-hulls anyway.  And it has no bilge.

But, shoot.  Apparently it had.  I wondered if the recent storms had swamped it, when water leaked through the windows.

So, off the the Wharf I drove.  I practiced deep breathing, so that I would be calm and collected when I arrived.

I saw my dad’s SUV in the parking lot, so I quickly walked down the dock.  I was greeted by a cheerful Beanie (in her life jacket) running down the dock, nowhere near our slip.  I couldn’t see Kiwi from where I was, and a smiling Rob greeted me.

“Do you want to see our boat?” he asked, grinning.

I figured it was a laugh-or-cry kind of situation.  And we were nowhere near our slip, so the boat must have drifted.

He and Dad laughed and pointed to a rather large sailboat.  At first I wondered if this had been a set-up, so that they could show me a very nice boat that Dad had bought.

But, no, this large boat was partially submerged.

As I stood, baffled, Rob pointed to the number on the dock post.  “We’re not the only slip 14,” he said.

Apparently, when this boat sunk, the harbor master looked into the records and found the owner of slip 14, which was the owner of our slip.  He called him, so the slip owner called Rob, without seeing which boat had sunk.  The slip owner was surprised, because he didn’t think Kiwi could sink.

The slip owner called Sea Tow, so they called Rob and let him know they were on the way.  He talked to them, as he made his way down the dock.  Kiwi’s mast was still upright, so he considered that to be a good sign.  He chatted as he made his way to Kiwi.

It was floating.

“My boat is still floating,” he told Sea Tow.  They didn’t believe him, and had him check to see if it was swamped.  It wasn’t.

He looked at the boats next to it, and did quite a bit of looking around, before he found the other slip 14, nowhere near Kiwi.

So, while our night was very late, it was better than the morning for the owner of the other slip 14.

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How We’re Really Missing Out

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A few months ago, I made the decision to rejoin Facebook.

I loved reconnecting with my friends and family up north, as well as sharing ideas in a less in-depth venue, with the many blogging buddies I met during my time away from FB.  I had found the muse once again with blogging, and I found the three blogging groups I joined to be very helpful in my efforts to increase exposure.

It was great.  And then it slowly began to take  over.

First, I found myself playing catch-up after days when I didn’t log in.  I had to read everything in my newsfeed, and one day off could lead to a lot of time spent making up for it.  Because what if I missed big news from someone?

I (mostly) stayed true to my commitment not to discuss politics at all, but I clicked on everyone’s links, even when the articles they led me to were anything but uplifting.

I made sure to visit everyone’s blogs in my blogging groups, so that I could comment on their posts before it was “too late.”  I was spending a great deal of time reading about everyone’s adventures.

And of course I had to login on a daily basis, to be there for my online friends who were going through challenging times.

And then there was the drama.  Facebook has been a hotbed for that lately.  And watching it has been like watching a train wreck.

A couple of days ago, I caught myself rushing home to start up my computer and check in on the latest drama.  And I finally had to ask myself, what am I doing?  What am I getting out of this?  Aren’t there things I would rather be doing?

This moment of clarity really led me to think about the time I spend online and to rethink my use and perception of this tool.  I had fallen prey to Fear of Missing Out.  And in doing so, I was missing out on opportunities for joy and happiness that were right in front of my face.

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Here are a few of the lessons that I learned:

  • We don’t always need to be around “like-minded” people.  There is something wonderful about connecting with people who share ideas and are living in the same counter-cultural way that we are.  Before we moved to the marina, I knew very few “minimalists” in real life.  It was through my conversations with other bloggers that I learned how to live as simply as we do, and gained the courage to take the plunge and do it!  However, there is a danger in viewing ourselves as “separate.”  We are a part of humanity, not just a small subgroup.  Having friends who are different from ourselves adds some color to our day and allows us the chance to learn from each other and grow.
  • It’s okay to miss out on the details of someone’s life.  It is okay to not get caught up on your newsfeed.  It is fine to miss someone’s blog post.  If somebody has big news, they will contact you personally, if they need to!  There is no need to miss out on the world around us, because we are busy getting caught up on everyone else’s world.  And I won’t hate you if miss a post here–nobody else will, if you miss one of their posts, either!
  • Online “friendships” need to be kept in perspective.  It’s true that you never know everything about someone else, but we see a very limited picture of those we interact with online.  Even when we try to keep it “real,” it is a very censored version of ourselves that others see.  It is valuable to share ideas and gain support from people we meet online.  But these are not the same as friendships and relationships in “real life.”
  • There is no persona that we need to protect.  We become involved in drama, because we feel the need to defend the person that everyone online thinks we are.  The drama we see online is much more intense and prevalent than the drama we encounter in “real life.”  This could be because everyone works so hard to create a “face” for themselves online, and we feel the need to protect the way we appear.  There is nothing to defend though.  If a total stranger, on the other side of the globe, “judges” us, so what?  In the grand scheme of things, does that matter at all?

Keeping these lessons in mind, I am finding it much easier to be intentional with my time spent using social media, and my online time in general.  With a little practice, we can learn to use this tool to enrich our lives, rather than having it use us.

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First Day Excitement!

The first day of school has always been exciting for Beanie!  Even though she’s done it four times now.

Onto the bus for Head Start when she was 4…

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In Grand Haven the weekend before she boarded the Head Start bus once again when she was 5…

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Getting ready to ride a bigger bus to kindergarten, when we lived in our apartment in Clear Lake…

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This year, however, there were some changes!  Beanie would not be riding the bus through Clear Lake Shores

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Don't worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

Don’t worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

 

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It’s only a couple blocks (less than a mile) from our marina to the school, and we thought bicycling would be easier and quicker than riding the bus or dropping her off by car.  When we get a dinghy, there is a canal that ends across the street from the school, so she will probably arrive by boat then.

Beanie had an excellent first day.  This year, she is in a co-taught class, like she was in preschool.  In kindergarten, she was in a general education class, with an aide who came to work with her for 30 minutes each day.  Her teacher and case manager recommended inclusion for her this year, so that a special education teacher or aide would always be in the room, though not specifically to work with Beanie.  That way, Beanie could get the one-on-one time she required, without being stuck with a certain time period where she got the extra support.  So she is in a general education classroom, with the same expectations as the other kids, but there is also a special education teacher in the room.  (I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but I spend the majority of my day co-teaching as a special education teacher at the intermediate level).  She will also continue to get OT and speech.  I think this will be perfect for her!

As for Beanie’s opinion?   I think her joyful rendition of the school song spoke volumes.

The Quest for the Chickenpox Shot

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The week before school starts is a crazy time.  I’ve been getting back into the routine of waking up and leaving every morning, packing my lunch, attending training sessions, looking at my caseload, preparing lessons, meeting with co-teachers, and setting up a classroom. It’s definitely a time when I write fewer blog posts and rarely check in on Facebook!

And then, on Wednesday, it occurred to me that I am not the only one in my family who will be going back to school.

Sure, I took Beanie’s IEP over to her new school, as soon as their office opened.  And I wrote their special education department head a lengthy e-mail, explaining all of Beanie’s idiosyncrasies.  But I hadn’t bought a single school supply.  And I hadn’t taken her to get her booster shots.

Vaccines are complicated for us.  When she was 13 months old, Beanie ended up in the hospital with a reaction, after getting the MMR, Chickenpox, and three other shots.  After that, we decided (with our new doctor’s blessing) to only give her one shot at a time, and to space them at least a month apart.

This plan worked well.  She got a slight fever for a few days after her MMR booster, but nothing as serious as what we had encountered the previous time.  Everything went wonderfully until only the Polio and Chickenpox vaccines were remaining.  When we showed up at the doctor’s office to get these, they were out of both.

They continued to be out of both everytime we came in, for a year.

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When we moved to Houston, I forgot about getting the boosters, until it was mentioned when I signed Beanie up for school this year.  Students can be sent home on the first day if they are not up to date on their shots, so I wanted to take care of this right away.

The first issue was getting ahold of Beanie’s shot records.  We had lost our copy in the move, and her school records were in limbo for some time.  On Thursday, I called and learned that they had arrived at our new school, so I came in and got a copy.  After working until 6:00, doing home visits, I rushed home and scooped up Beanie, life jacket and all, and drove her to the clinic, which closes at 8:00 on Thursdays.

We made excellent time, arriving at 7:30.  On the way there, Beanie found her smelly markers in the car and gave herself a cat face.  She decided that she was Meowth, the Pokemon.

I darted into the clinic, with Meowth still wearing her life jacket, and handed the receptionist our shot records.  She eyeballed us skeptically, then said that those two shots were the only two they didn’t have in stock. Frustrated, I asked if there was anywhere we could go, and she produced a list of clinics in the area that would accept our insurance.

One clinic was nearby, so we drove to the high rise building that housed it.  Beanie squealed in excitement, and whispered, “It’s a hospital!”  It’s been a few years since her frequent hospital visits, but Beanie still remembers how much she loved that place.

We ran into the building, only to find that the clinic was closed.  As we made our way across the parking lot, and into the neighboring CVS store, Beanie yelled, “I need to go to the hospital!”

CVS had neither shot in stock, but the pharmacist recommended Walmart and Walgreen’s.  The Walmart was a block away, so I plopped Meowth (still wearing her life jacket) into a cart and ran inside.  After a long wait, the pharmacist said they were out of the shots until the next afternoon.

Walgreen’s was across the street, and they had the Polio but not the Chickenpox vaccine.  However, their pharmacist told us that we needed a prescription to get shots from a drug store.

So, admitting defeat, we headed home.

As I drove past Beanie’s school, I slowed down and considered stopping to find out who her teacher was.  I decided against this, as it was 9:00 and we needed to be getting home.  However, my pause attracted the attention of the police officer in the parking lot, and he pulled out behind me and followed me to the marina.  As soon as we were in the gates, he turned on his lights.

The very polite officer introduced himself and, after verifying that I wasn’t a criminal, wrote me a warning for a tail light being out.  This made Beanie’s day, and she couldn’t stop talking about the police officer who “rescued” us!

So back to the drawing board.

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On Friday, I made my way down the list of clinics.  The clinic in the “hospital,” had the Polio shot but not the Chickenpox vaccine.  The health departments on the list did not accept private insurance, but they recommended the Redi Clinics that happen to be located in HEB grocery stores.

I Googled Redi Clinics and made my way down that list.  After encountering a few that did not have the Chickenpox vaccine, I found one that was getting a new shipment that afternoon.  I figured we were golden!

I got home at 5:00 and promptly called that clinic.  They were out already!  I was finally able to locate a clinic two suburbs over, that had both shots.  Scooping up the life jacket-clad friend (no cat face this time!), we pointed our Volvo toward Friendswood.

Beanie was fascinated to see a doctor’s office in the middle of a grocery store, and she anxiously awaited her shots.  (She had been practicing with her Doc McStuffins doctor kit).  We were in good company–the waiting area was overrun with kids waiting to get shots.  We bought a soda from the nearby check-out and enjoyed it until we were called.

Beanie was beginning to lose heart, when the nurse finally called her name.  While she eagerly took her place on the examining table, and readied her leg, the doctor showed me Beanie’s shot record, as well as the immunization requirements for Texas schools.  It turns out that Beanie does not even require anymore Chickenpox boosters!  After all that….but I was relieved, since she had a reaction last time.

After learning that Beanie was tipping the scales at a whopping 41 pounds, it was finally time.  Beanie got the shot in her leg, since she’s still so tiny.  She gritted her teeth, then smiled when she got her band-aid and a sucker from the “big girl” box.

As we were leaving, she yelled out to the doctor and nurse, “Thank you for the shot and band-aid!”

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Lesson #11: The Internet (It’s Complicated)

Note:  This post is one of my 35 Lessons in 35 Years.

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It is interesting that this is the next lesson that I will be talking about, because it has been something that has been on my mind a great deal lately.

I have a complicated relationship with the Internet.

Two year ago, I gave up Facebook.  I found it sucking up my time, and I found myself drawn into non-productive political debates.  I desperately sought connection, and on Facebook I felt alone in a crowd.  So I deleted my account.

But that doesn’t mean I was never online.  I began e-mailing a number of other bloggers and developed some very close friendships.  And through these friendships, I found the courage to make some major changes in my life.  In that basement, I spend the vast majority of my time online.

And that was okay.

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After we moved, I found that I was kind of at a loss with my writing.  My personal journey became more private, and I found my inbox filling up with unanswered e-mails.  I spent more time reading, more time looking within.

A number of my blogging friends quit writing their blogs, and I wondered if this was the next step–if it were the “right” thing to do, when I reached a certain level of “maturity.”  I began to see my time online as a vice, and went through a cycle of forced digital breaks.

And that was okay too.

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And now, I kind of feel like I’ve reached a balance for the moment.  I’ve rejoined Facebook, so that I can check in with everyone, and save the more occasional in-depth discussions for e-mail.  I’m happy with the frequency of my blog posts, and I’m glad that y’all have come back to restart the discussions!

What works, is what works for me in this moment.

And that’s okay.

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So, my thinking is a little different than it was when I wrote that lesson #11 was “The answers aren’t online.”  I no longer think that a certain amount of Internet time is “good” or “bad.”

 But I do have a few thoughts on the issue:

  • Beware of using the Internet out of boredom.  Sometimes, I find myself refreshing the same 3 pages, just biding the time.  This isn’t “bad” or “immoral,” but it also isn’t something that I enjoy or something that makes me happy.  When I catch myself doing this, I ask, “What would I rather be doing?”  Sometimes, I’d rather write a book or take a walk.  Sometimes I’m just tired or hungry!
  • Online time can become an escape.   When something is bothering me, I often find that I get involved with discussions or search for a diversion online.  Again, that’s not good or bad.  There is nothing wrong with an escape, when your mind needs it!  But escaping is a short-term solution.  Eventually, we need to deal with whatever it is we are trying to escape.
  • You don’t need to try to change the world.  I have sworn off political discussion, because they only led to anger and hard feelings.  But I’ve found myself sucked into other discussions, feeling like I needed to advocate for something.  It’s good to inform and to share your ideas, but it’s also fine to bow out if the discussion becomes emotionally draining.  A great example of this for me has been all of the discussions that have started after Robin Williams’s death.  For my own mental health, I’m only engaging in those, in moderation!
  • Everyone you meet is on a journey.  Through my online interactions, I have met some people who have shared amazing ideas and completely rocked my world.  But it’s important to remember that these people are not fully enlightened beings, they are just people on a journey, just like me.  They have ideas, but they don’t have the Answers.  And they bring their emotional baggage to the table, just like I do.
  • Online interactions are great practice for “real life.”  While I don’t really buy into the whole introvert vs extrovert thing, I do realize that I haven’t fully developed the skill of being assertive.  So I practice online.  The conversation is slower, and there is time to think through my responses.  I’ve found this to be a great way to practice, and it does gradually transfer into my “real life” conversations.

I think the most important thing to remember is that the Internet and the many communities on it are tools.  Use them to help you in your journey and to get closer to finding your answers.

Just remember that then answers themselves are not “out there.”

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Clear Lake Shores–Our New Hometown

Good evening, folks!

It is high time that I share a little with you, about our new hometown, Clear Lake Shores.

We fell in love with this town, as soon as we started exploring marinas.  Only seeing it from the main drag, we liked the palm trees and and the “salty” look of the town.

And we hadn’t seen the half of it.

When we had the opportunity to lease a slip at a marina in Clear Lake Shores, we excitedly went for it.  And…here we are!  Last night, I decided to take a bike ride around the island that constitutes most of this small town.

I began by fetching my folder from behind the bath house…

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On my bike and ready to go!

 

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Clear Lake Shores is considered to be the yachting capitol of Texas, and it boasts having more boat slips than people.  Here is the view of Clear Lake Shores, from our marina.

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On my way toward the island that contains most of the town, I passed one of our favorite venues–the boaters’ resale shop!

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Here’s the last intersection before the island.

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Over the bridge…

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Lots of boat slips on the other side.

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Paradise…

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The very cutsie looking police department.

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Clear Lake Shores is a bird sanctuary, and there are plenty of odd-ducks to admire!

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Watch out!

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Plenty of beautiful homes…

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There are two canals leading off of the island, ending right across the street from the school.  Can you imagine being dropped off at school, by dinghy?

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A beautiful playground, that Beanie enjoys!

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A beautiful street on the backside of the island.

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Docked on the back side…

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As I made my way around, it became clear that a storm was crossing the lake.

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I could see it in Seabrook, across from us.

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I saw it encroaching on our marina.

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As I hastened back, I saw our old slip.

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I made my way back home, in time.

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And there Rob was, with the hatches battened.  We were prepared for the worst, but the storm never came.

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P.S.  I feel like I need to say a few words about the unexpected death of Rob in Williams.  I’ve engaged in many wonderful discussions about depression and mental health on Facebook, and I’m grateful for the increased awareness. Suicide is NOT the “easy” way out–it’s an act of desperation.  I believe that all of us have experienced desperation in some way, shape or form.  So, while another’s life is not our responsibility, it is important for us to be as kind as we can to those around us.  We never know how much someone is suffering.

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Click here for help, if you’re in that place of desperation.