There is a Time to Pause

Although several weeks have passed since I’ve found time to write, something happened today that gave me pause. Nothing serious although there was a definite toss of the dice. No blood spilled, no sprained ankles, no broken bones, no rush to a hospital which has been the end result of many of our escapades. I’ve often thought back to our medical adventures with a mixture of anxiety, followed by a pinch of humor after returning home. All of us have encountered accidents in our lives and they tend to shape our demguardianangeleanor to a certain extent. You either develop a slightly warped sense of humor or resolve to remain in a cocoon as much as you can. Of course, mishaps often occur more readily when working on a farm.

When we first moved to Florida, our farm, a dilapidated, unkempt pile of broken fence boards, debris, exposed nails and an assortment of heretofore undisturbed wasps nests, called for us to remain steadfast in our dedication to clean up the property.  Fortunately we were at the age where we still felt undaunted, fearless, capable of anything and, to be honest, a little stupid. At the delicate age of nine, my son heard his first bonafide expletive when I stepped on a nail protruding from one of those broken fence boards. It didn’t help matters to discover the board, lying in overgrown grass, covered a close knit nest of wasps. I regretfully confess, the swear word began with a capital F but in my defense, the situation called for a dramatic punch. My son, having had the bejeebies scared out of him hightailed it to the house which was fortunate since the sole wasp gunning for us only had eyes for my backside. First trip to Urgent Care.

Fast forward a few weeks when hubby and I tackled the overgrown vines choking the many oak trees dotting the paddocks. Hacking, pulling, yanking and severing the huge thick stalks threatening to choke the life out of the oaks.  We  worked all day while our son attended school, celebrating our victory with hot dogs on the grill later that evening. It wasn’t until the next morning when my husband and I awoke to our son asking us, “What’s wrong with your faces?” that we realized the vines we’d so enthusiastically attacked were, in fact, mature poison ivy vines. Second trip to Urgent Care. The doctor took a little more interest in us this time around. You could actually see the wheels turning as her curiosity grew.

They say third time is a charm. I would like to know who “they” are, Although, I can happily admit we stayed out of the Urgent Care for a whole three weeks, much more work remained to be completed. One Saturday, I decided to clean up the remaining fence posts while my husband made a quick trip to the local recycling center. The wasps had moved on, their nests eliminated, the piles of boards in overgrown grass had been burned and the grass bush-hogged. Two weeks earlier we had purchased a tractor with a front bucket. Placing the fence posts in the bucket required minimal effort. My son, a sucker for farm equipment had happily volunteered to raise and lower the bucket. We had even taught him to drive forward in turtle mode. Since he was on a need to know basis, we hadn’t taught him how to alter the speed so the tractor simply crawled when he applied pressure to the accelerator and stopped when he took his foot off. Things were going splendidly until the fourth load when my son noticed the lever for cruise control. Damn! Instead of putting his foot on the accelerator, he turned on cruise control. I knew immediately something wasn’t right when I told him to stop the tractor and he couldn’t, noticing the look of sheer panic on his face. He simply didn’t know how! The tractor continued to creep forward excruciatingly slow and began pushing me against the paddock fence. For some stupid reason in an effort to stop the tractor, I placed both hands on the blade of the front bucket and pushed back. Yea, like that was going to work. At the last moment, my son turned off the tractor and we were off to Urgent Care for a dislocated thumb.

We laugh about these escapades now and, thank heavens, my son has no horrific recollection of them. We changed doctors, understandably and have since mastered the complexities of farm equipment. Or at least, I thought we had. Today was a stark reminder of how quickly accidents can and do happen, even when one is capable, experienced and knowledgeable. The little patch of acreage where we hope to rebuild has some majestic oak trees and water oaks but years of neglect have left them covered with vines, underbrush and scrub growth. This time we hired a professional to help but old habits die hard. When my husband took off to pick up our son, I continued cutting here, pulling there. Picking up the chainsaw, I decided to begin where my husband left off. Now I’ve handled a chainsaw many a time. Although it’s not something one brings up in polite conversation handling a chainsaw often comes with working around a farm.  We were just finishing up a swath of small trees and as I slowly lowered the chainsaw, I felt a tug on my jeans. Sure enough, the teeth had grabbed the fabric above my knee and chewed open a hole about three inches. Thank heavens my jeans were baggy. Thank heavens I had taken my hands off all the buttons. Thank heavens the chainsaw wasn’t as sharp as it should have been. All this brings me to the above title.  My mother always told me, “Can’t never did a thing!” and I’ve tried to live by her motto. I love being able to tackle the hard tasks and jumping in without fear. However, I don’t think she was referring to chainsaws. Furthermore, at some point in our lives, one should really consider the possibility that although we CAN do something, the wiser option might be to choose not to and not feel regret for making the wiser decision.

I do know this….when I die, I’m fairly certain the guardian angel who was assigned to watch over me during my lifetime is going to walk right up to me and smack me upside the head.

What the Heck is Going On?

I may get a lot of flack for this blurb but having been on both sides of the fence and knowing my son was also a recipient of this abhorrent behavior I have to voice some concerns. I’m talking about bullying.

Within the past week, an incident occurred involving a friend’s daughter. As she and her friends sat around a table working on their projects, 3 boys asked to sit at the table as well. They weren’t working on anything in particular but the girls didn’t object. After a few minutes, one of the boys, stated matter-of-factly, “Mary, (not her real name) you’re going to have ten children when you grow up.” I know….benign and silly. Her response was, “Oh yea, well you’re going to hang around Justin Beiber when you grow up.” Did I mention these were third graders? Secretly, I thought the entire thread funny. No name calling, no sticking out of tongues and no hurtful jabs. Personally, my teenage son thought the idea of hanging out with Justin Beiber pretty cool. I mean, sportscars, pretty girls, bodyguards…every teenage boy’s secret dream, right? The matter should have died right there or at least, that’s my opinion. UBad Boynfortunately it didn’t.

The next day, as this young girl entered the school, the boy grinned and told her, “My mom called the principal. You’re going to get it.” Sure enough, the principal called her into his office for a serious lecture.Unfortunately the boy had altered the phrase slightly. Let’s be honest here. Third graders have the attention span of a goldfish. The risk of “lost in translation” is almost a given for elementary school children. The phrase he accused Mary of saying was, “Oh yea, well you’re going to marry Justin Beiber when you grow up.” Slightly alters the implication. The principal proceeded to chide her for her statement. Am I wrong to feel this is a little over the top? The sad result of this altercation is the boy has now been able to pester Mary secretly and has, completely secure in the knowledge he has the upper hand. So what was accomplished here? Not a helluva a lot.

The sad fact of the matter is, most parents cannot conceive their child being the active antagonist which was personally confirmed to me when my son was in second grade.  At a routine school gathering. I found myself nervously approaching the father of a boy who had been picking on my son. He listened to me attentively before calling his son over and asking him directly, “Is it true you have been doing these things to her son?” Under such scrutiny, the boy confessed he had. After two weeks of grounding, the two boys became best friends soon after. However what floored me was his statement afterward. “I’m glad you came to speak with me about this. I have to warn you, however. There aren’t too many parents with whom you can have this discussion. I have found most of the parents here think their child can do no wrong.” Sadly, he was correct.

Now, I’m pretty sure all of us said things along this vein to a classmate growing up. I’m sure I received as often as I gave but, seriously I don’t remember. I certainly don’t remember this being such as issue in elementary school. Back then,  spats like these disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared.  Like storm clouds on the horizon, they blew in, caused a little havoc then disappeared just as rapidly, to be forgotten in the excitement of kickball during recess. What I find most annoying, most irritating and most irresponsible is a parent making a huge deal out of a situation which was  an opportune teachable moment. In my humble opinion, and it is humble, a better course of action would have been for the boy’s mother to have a serious sit down with her son and grill for all the details of the chain of events. She might have uncovered a few details lacking in the original story. Perhaps a polite invitation for a cup of coffee to the girl’s mother might have been a positive alternative.  I know my son was no angel. He was and is a great kid but in situations such as above, he invariably confessed to pertinent details under interrogation that were lacking in the original transcript.

Bullying is a real problem not to be taken lightly. But as parents, as adults who may or may not have experienced it growing up, shouldn’t we realistically stop and consider the possibility there are two sides to every situation?  My father always said, “There are two sides to every divorce.” I’m sure that holds true in these particular situations as well, no matter the age of the participants. Before parents call in the troops, the Calvary and the FBI, shouldn’t cooler heads prevail?  Shouldn’t we as parents examine the situation with rationality and stop with the knee jerk reactions? If parents simply take everything their little angel says at face value, they are doing a disservice to their children. As in the case of “Mary” and the boy who now thinks he “won” I see the possibility of a real bully in the making further down the road. I pray I’m wrong.

 

The Angst of Immaturity

My husband and I are at the stage where we watch our son in awe…..most of the time. Oh there’s the ups and downs of immaturity and the  aggravaSpencer,Alex,Chasetion thereof but yesterday was different.

Our son took to tennis like a duck takes to water about four years ago. Since then, he and his friends have taken lesson after lesson, clinic after clinic. When the summer temperatures rose to uncomfortable levels in the high eighties, most of the participants scrambled to the swimming pool. This group, however,  headed back out to the courts for another couple of hours of grinding a little yellow ball. I admire tenacity and determination. To have a goal and set out to at least try to achieve it, is a worthy aspiration. On the practical and pragmatic side, however, there is a harsh reality one must eventually address whether the goal is in athletics or academics. It is easy for a young dreamer to announce the desire to play in Wimbledon or perform with the New York City Ballet Company or simply compete in an Olympic event. It is quite another to fully comprehend the magnitude of the desire and knowing the cost, continue with the commitment no matter what results will yield. Yesterday, my son received a mere taste of what the future can hold.

High school athletics is rigorous, competitive and an invaluable experience. One year a particular high school will have attained notoriety in a specific sport only to return the next year barely hanging on to the bottom rung havtennis racquets.on.neting lost the bulk of the team to graduation. I can only liken the rise and fall of any high school’s athletic division to the undulating tides of the ocean – sometimes high, sometimes low. My son chose a high school closer to our home and in doing so, wound up on one of those high school tennis teams climbing up from the bottom rung. There were probably 5 students on the team and only 2 had participated in any formal training, one being our son. For those unfamiliar with tennis  lingo, which I wasn’t, Court 1 is considered the best court, the dreaded arena often referred to as the court of annihilation one wants to avoid unless properly prepared. It would be like having a Freshman suited up to play quarterback facing a defensive line made up completely of experienced seniors. Kind of takes the stuffing out of you.

It didn’t take long for the lineup to be formulated. A great, lanky, and talented sophomore played Court 1 and my son, my tall, wonderfully goofy, freshman son moved to Court 2. In one fell swoop, he was thrown into the deep end.  The remaining team members fell into place thereafter. Now, this was just our high school. There were approximately six other high schools to compete against. A few were in the same category as ours; limited number of players with equally limited experience. Others were highly regarded with a deep roster, exceptional experience, mostly comprised of seniors and carefully cultivated to dominate the competition. They did so quite well. However, our little team became the thorn in their sides, at first surprising, then annoying. While my son’s high school team didn’t do well overall in the standings, both Court 1 and Court 2 weren’t easily overcome.

The season ended yesterday with District competitions, another level involving another set of high schools,  some familiar, some completely unknown. Without being aware of the fact, my son was pushing his commitment into an unknown arena. He was facing competitors of unknown ability in front of friends, parents and other attendees for the opportunity to achieve the same goal as every other high school tennis participant: the chance to play in the finals, a lofty goal for an incoming freshman.

His first match was long and deliberate, controlled and executed. The opponent was no slouch but eventually my son prevailed. Because of a pass, he went straight into the semi finals against a player, a senior, he’d come close to beating twice. My son was chomping at the bit, eagerly ready to play, certain he could win and move to the finals.  Previously, their matches had been neck and neck so the opposing team player was rather surprised when my son won the first set handily. I’m sorry to report that’s when things began to go south. This is where the difference in age, the difference in competitive experience and the ability to pull it all together or simply keep it mentally together, is affected by immaturity. When a few of my son’s shots went awry, his frustration grew. Instead of taking a few moments to gather his wits and take a few breaths, he launched immediately into the next point with the same results. It didn’t take long for his opponent to capitalize on my son’s growing self aggravation and win the second set. My heart broke for my son. He wanted the win so much he could taste it but the possibility was rapidly slipping away.  It was a journey to a lesson he had to take on his own. A simple hug or thumbs up wasn’t going to make everything better. As parents, we aren’t allowed to coach our children during match play. The only thing I could manage to tell him, handing him a bottle of water was, “Getting angry isn’t going to help your game.” not really believing the statement would help.

As he went back out on to the court, however, a new young man emerged. I can’t readily confess he was no longer frustrated but for the first time, he took charge and began playing with his brain again. For the next ten minutes, emotion did not control his game and I saw a glimpse of the young man he is trying to become. When the tie breaker ended, he was the first man to the net to congratulate the winner. I couldn’t have been more proud. I’m not sure angst is the proper word to describe what teens go through but I’m fairly certain it’s the perfect word to describe what parents of teens go through.

Well done, son. Well done.

TheTrue Meaning of Love

Today was my birthday and I say that not to announce some sort of milestone but as a small tribute to my husband. As is our regular habit, hubby always prods and nudges me several times before the day.

“What would you like?”

“Is there something special I can get you?”

“Come on, honey. Give some sort of hint.”

My answer has always been the same over the years, oddly enough. Feeling blessed, I have always responded with the phrase. “Seriously, honey, I don’t need anything.”

Of course he never listens. The day before, like a man on a mission, he disappears for several hours. Upon his return, he usually places his special prize somewhere in safe hidey hole to wait for the next morning. When we first married, he would surprise me a pair of earrings or a necklace. All of these baubles were exciting to receive but considering our work involved manual labor, they weren’t something I could wear on an everyday basis. As time passed, his gifts took on a sensible vein.The first practical gift my hubby proudly presented was a brightly wrapped box definitely larger than a piece of jewelry. As I carefully peeled back the paper and lifted off the top, I discovered a salad shooter. A SALAD SHOOTER!!! He looked at me, waiting for my grateful reaction………he waited a long time, I’m sorry to say. I promptly filled the thing with carrots and took careful aim….

When we moved to Florida, dear hubby presented me with a brightly colored, huge umbrella for one birthday. After all, he reasoned, it rains quite a bit during the summer and now I wouldn’t get wet when it came time to feed the horses. After awhile, I waited in earnest to see what “practical” gift he would present next.

This year, when he asked what I wanted, I threw out a simple suggestion. “Honey, just get me some flowers. That would be perfect.”

During my first cup of coffee, hubby proudly placed a medium sized bag on the island along with two birthday cards. The cards were hilarious, as usual. Then I turned my attention to the bag. We’ve reached the age where wrapping is optional. So as I withdrew the box, I discovered this year’s gift was an “ultimate” blow dryer. I’m not sure if I have enough hair on my head to warrant such a powerful styling dryer. Nevertheless, his birthday presents always make me smile. We have had some good laughs over the years, let me tell you.

Here’s the thing though. Long ago, after I got over my snit at receiving a salad shooter, an umbrella, a gift certificate to have my car detailed, a crock pot, a blender and any other item I mistakenly regarded as ridiculous, I grew up. They say wisdom comes with age and hopefully I have achieved some measure of it. My husband’s gifts were his way of showing he knew me…..I mean he really watched over me. I love having salads; so he gave me a salad shooter. The horses had to be fed, rain or shine, thus an umbrella. I hate washing my car, hence a gift certificate. My favorite way to prepare a meal with our busy schedule is utilizing a crock pot, therefore, why not purchase a new one. When smoothies became my preferred breakfast choice, a top of the line blender would come in handy. All of these simple gifts were an extension of his consideration. As I looked at him, proudly presenting my latest birthday gift, I realized how incredibly lucky I am to be married to someone who looks beyond the glitz, the bling, the baubles and genuinely observes what’s really important. And that was the best birthday present of all.