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A Dangerous Game…… Part III

Part III

The next morning, Cal dressed and walked into the kitchen.  Tara and Rachel were already eating pancakes with syrup and strawberries.  Typically, Tara slept until almost eight. The kitchen in the morning belonged to Cal and Rachel.

Tara looked at him but didn’t really smile. “I’m taking Rachel to school this morning, Cal.”

Pouring a cup of coffee, Cal nodded. Mark Greenland was already changing his family .

Driving to school, Cal banged on the steering wheel. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do and this was a foreign feeling.  He prided himself on being a man who always approached problems with a system. He studied them, laid out a plan, then took action. But now he was lost.

What he really wanted to do was find Mark Greenland and beat the shit out of him. But that would do at least three things he was sure of. First, it would get him arrested because the kid was a minor, only seventeen. Second, it would cost him his job. And finally, it would turn Rachel against him.  She wouldn’t understand. She didn’t know enough to understand and he couldn’t tell her.

Then Cal had a thought. Why not tell Rachel the truth? Tell her the whole story. She was a smart kid, she loved him and her mom. She was old enough to understand. He and Tara could talk to over dinner, explain everything and then move forward.  If Rachel knew the truth about Mark, she would be safe from him.

Simply having a plan made Cal feel better immediately.And it was a good plan, one that would help bring his family back together. Because he was moving forward, and simply telling the truth, Tara might even possibly start forgiving him.

At 3:00 Cal was on the field, holding a clipboard and pacing.  He was waiting for his team, but what he was really waiting for was the cross country team. By 3:30 his coaches and team were on the field. And so was the Cross Country team, but Rachel and Mark weren’t there.

While his guys ran laps, he found Murphy, the cross country coach, in the bleachers with a notebook and stop watch.

“Hey Coach,” he said as he sat down next to Murphy.

“Hey Cal, what are you doing up here?”

“I didn’t see Rachel. Where’s my girl?”

“Oh, another runner needed to get some new shoes but he didn’t know where the New Balance store was. Rachel offered to go with him. I hope that’s ok. It’s Mark Greenland, he’s a good kid, and fast.”

Call nodded and stared across the field. He didn’t see his players,  didn’t see the coaches or benches or field goal posts. He only saw a vast and empty space. A terrain unfamiliar to him but he knew he had to find his way across.

After telling his assistant coach to handle practice, Cal walked to his office and called Tara. He told her what Coach Murphy had said. Then waited for her to respond.

“Cal, oh my God, if you had just done the right thing. If you did what we agreed you needed to do, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. You realize that, right? But for some reason, that I still don’t understand, you decided to cover for this kid and now look what’s happening. Cal, do you understand this is entirely your doing? This is all happening because you didn’t do what you said you would do. All you had to do was THE RIGHT Thing!”

Finally he was able to speak, “Tara, here’s my plan. Rachel is smart. Tonight I’m just gonna tell her the whole story. I’m gonna tell her the absolute truth. She’ll understand. ‘

“You can try Cal but I don’t know if that will work.  She’s never really liked a boy before and they were texting this morning when I was driving her to school. You should have seen the look on her face. If it hadn’t been Mark, I would of thought she looked adorable. You have to find a way to make this stop. You have to. Hang on a second. I just got a text.”

The phone was silent and then Tara was back. ‘It was Rachel. She just said she’d be a few minutes late. She said she’d be home by seven.”

“Seven? No, tell her she needs to come home now.”

“Cal, I don’t want to start a fight with her before you even try to talk to her. Thirty minutes won’t change anything. But you have to fix this, you have to. If you don’t I’m gonna talk to Mark on my own.”

“I’ll fix it. I swear to God I will. At this point I don’t care what the fuck I have to do. I love you so much Tara and I’m so sorry.”

Cal waited, but she didn’t respond.

#######

Tara’s car was parked in the driveway. Cal parked, took a deep breath and got out of the truck. There were lights on in the house but not on the front porch.

His wife was sitting at the kitchen table staring at her phone.

“Have you heard anything else?”

No, I texted, “I love you,” but she didn’t answer.

After opening a bottle of beer, Cal sat down next to his wife.

“I’m just gonna throw a pizza in the oven for dinner,” she said absently.

“That’s fine, whatever is easy.” He took a sip of his beer. “Tara, Rachel has never ever been anything but smart and kind. Hell, she’s perfect. We have to have faith in her. She’ll get it, she’ll understand.”

“I hope you’re right but she’s also a fourteen year old girl. I remember what I was like when I was that age Cal. Think about the girls at school.”

“No! She’s not like them Tara. Rachel is nothing like most of the kids I see…..She’s sweet.”

Tara sighed, “I know she is. She’s really sweet. And maybe that’s part of the problem. We’ve protected her too much.”

Cal heard a motorcycle pull up in front of the house. By the time he got to the door, Mark was gone and Rachel was walking up the stairs grinning. She was carrying her backpack and a helmet. “Hey Pops!”

“What were you doing on a motorcycle, Rachel? You know that’s not ok.”

“I know but it’s all good,  I promise. Mark was super careful and he even made me wear his helmet so I’d be safe. His car was broken down so we had to take his bike. It was amazing.”

“No Rachel, you can’t do that. You can’t just jump on a motorcycle and take off. You have to talk to us. You know how we feel about motorcycles.”

“I know, but I promise, we were super careful. Really. And I’m home now. ” She hugged Cal for a long time, and he knew it was because she had so much fun, not because she loved him.

Cal pushed himself away and said, “Go inside. Your mom needs you.”

But by the time he stepped away from her Mark was already gunning the bike, and then he was gone. the chicken shit was scared to talk to him. He wouldn’t even look at him.

When Cal walked into the house Rachel was telling her mom about the adventrue. Tara was silent, she put plates on the table and waited for Cal.

They all made it through their first slice  before Cal tried to start the conversation. “So Honey, I need to talk to you about Mark.”

“I know you think he’s too old, Pops, but we’re just friends.”

Cal shook his head. “It’s not that Rachel.  I need to tell you about him. He’s not like he seems. He’s flirting with you to try to get at me cause he’s really mad about some things that happened last year.”

“Mad at you, why? And what do you mean he’s flirting with me to get at you? What, you don’t think a senior like Mark would think I’m good enough to flirt with, for real? ” She looked at her mother. Tara tried to hold her hand but Rachel pulled away.

Cal pushed on. “No, that’s not it. It’s just that Mark and I had an issue last year and he said he was gonna make me regret a decision I made about him. I think he’s gonna just try to hurt you, as a way of getting back at me.”

Rachel’s beautiful blue eyes were now rimmed in red and her bottom lip trembled”Mark and I are friends, it has nothing to do with you. Nothing.  You know he says such great stuff about you and I can’t believe how you’re trashing him. That’s crazy. He told me you guys wouldn’t understand because I’m a freshman and he’s a senior. He warned me and God, he’s exactly right.”

“It’s not about age, Rachel. Just listen, please?”

“Fine, I’m listening.”

Cal hesitated. He told Tara he would tell Rachel the whole story but now he wasn’t so sure. “Last year, after a practice I found Mark doing something bad, something he wasn’t supposed to do.”

“Something bad? What am I? Four?  What was Mark supposedly doing?”

Supposedly, the fact she used that word hurt. But Cal knew he had to keep going. “Mark was selling drugs to some kids, little kids.”

“Little kids, what kids, how old were they?”

“I don’t know, maybe 5th grade, that’s not the point.”

“And what kind of drugs?”

“Jesus Rachel, does it matter? There was some pot and some kind of pill.”

“You don’t even know what kind of pill it was?”

“Rachel, stop. That’s not the point.”

“Everything you are saying is  ridiculous, you don’t even know what he was “selling” to these kids you know nothing about. And besides,  he’d never do that. He told me all about his mom, about his whole family. They are a bunch of druggies and he hates that, he hates drugs.”

“Honey it’s true,”  Tara said, leaning in closer.

“There’s no way, that’s not him.” Rachel looked at Tara, pleading. “Mom, you don’t understand what he’s been through. You don’t understand how hard it’s been for Mark. You guys are just saying this because you think he’s too old for me. But age doesn’t matter. Oh my God, I can’t believe you  would make up this stuff just because you don’t like him. Mark warned me you might do something like this. I can’t believe he was right.” The tears were starting, she wiped them away as though anger was a weakness.

Cal stood up, then sat back down. “We’re not making it up Rachel. I swear. Honey you know we only want the best for you , you know that. Mark is not a good guy.  When I tried to talk to him about the drugs the next day, in my office, he went freakin’ ballistic, it was crazy. He’s not a good guy, Rachel.”

This time Rachel stood up, tears rolled down her cheeks. “He’s nothing like you’re talking about. You have no idea.  ” She took a step back from the table.” It doesn’t matter that he’s a senior and I’m a freshman but you can’t see that and he told me you would be like this.” She stepped even farther away form them. “Why can’t you understand that we are old enough to make our own decisions, to know who’s right for us? Why don’t you get it? You have to stop treating me like a child, because I’m not one anymore.”

And then she was gone, up the stairs. Gone.

The clock in the living room clicked, the pizza remained untouched, Cal and Tara were silent. They had no words. Nothing to say. For almost thirty minutes Cal waited for his wife to speak. Every time he tried to say something she shook her head, telling him to stop immediately. And so he did.

 

*Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think and Part 4 will be up next Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Pit Bull Decision

A few months ago a skinny white dog with spots appeared on our lawn.  We have a great big German Shepard wolf hybrid who barked furiously at this stray. Our dog, Aries, tried to run the dog off.  Barking and growling constantly. The dog would disappear in the brush, then reappear an hour later.

This went on for three days and finally, on the third day, Aries allowed the spotted dog to come closer to the house. He was painfully skinny After another day or two the dog accepted our food but would not let us touch him.  When we reached, out he cowered and ran away.

Aries acts as though she still disapproves of the dog, who’s big square head seems disproportionate to it’s body.  But they were obviously becoming buddies.  After a week Spots allowed us to pet him, if we were sitting down and very calm.  He had cigarette burns on his head, so we tried not to touch those.

Fast forward three months.  Spots is firmly entrenched in our family.  He’s a joyous dog with a club like tail, that bangs back and forth when he’s happy. And that’s all the time. He’s broad chested with a  a neck as thick as an elm tree. We laugh because he sleeps on his back in chairs with his paws sticking up.  We laugh because he snores and if you hold you hand up in the air and say, “Face Five” he’ll jump up and hit your hand with his nose.

Spots, who probably weighs 50 pounds, is extremely protective.  Aries barks and growls when strangers drive up the drive way, but when we tell her to stop, she obeys.  Spots goes into “mad man” mode.  His bark and growls are terrifying and spit flies from his jowls.  We have to physically reassure him everything is alright before he believes it and calms down.  He feels he has to protect us at all costs.

If Spots wakes up in the middle of the night and need to go out, he comes to the side of the bed and whimpers. If that doesn’t work he puts his front paws up on the edge of the bed and very sweetly licks my ear. He’s that kind of dog.

Here’s my problem. Spots is obviously a pit bull mix. My guess is he’s a Pit Bull/Bull Terrier.

I don’t hate pit bulls but every time I hear a story about a pit bull attack, I’m one of the first to say, “Pit bulls are different than other dogs. They were breed to fight. They turn into savages way faster than other dogs.”  Other dog breeds are abused and neglected but you don’t hear about Hound Dogs and Labradoodles turning into ne cold killers because of the abuse.  In my opinion, there is a  flaw in Pit Bull DNA that makes them more likely to attack and sometimes kill.  It’s rare to hear of a Beagle, Great Dane or Collie attacking it’s owner, mauling a child or killing a stranger. Very rarely. But Pit Bulls do these things pretty frequently, especially when compared to other breeds. There’s a problem with Pit Bulls.

But I love Spots….so what do I do? Am I hypocrite who says, “not my dog”.  I think Pit Bulls are dangerous but I love Spots.

 

 

Teen Age Boy Brain Goes MIA

Rich people are different than you and me. And so are stupid, brilliant teenage boys.  Their brains are different, waaaay different.

My fourteen year old son,  makes great grades but still can’t remember to put on deodorant or brush his teeth in the morning before we leave for school. I’ll say “smell good?” a couple of times, he’ll say, “oh, yeah, right.” Ten minutes I’ll find him in his room studying sheet music or looking at a youtube video of a guy who strained out all the pulp from 65 dollars of orange juice……ate it.

“Sandor, you  don’t have time to watch that. Teeth and arm pits, Buddy”

“Yes ma’am.” he says smiling and walking into the bathroom.

He never remembers to ask for lunch money or pack a lunch.  Old schoolers tell me, “let him go hungry and he’ll start remembering.”

So I did that, two weeks in a row. He just walked around hungry for ten days.

He forgets to eat, literally forgets because he’s so caught up in playing the drums, writing music and talking to his buddies. Then, at three o’clock in the afternoon he’s suddenly so hungry he wants to eat his own arm. He devours everything he sees, first come first served, chips, cookies, noodles, post roast. It’s crazy how much he goes through and I say, “When was the last time you ate?”

“Last night at dinner I guess. I just forgot.”

But his brain is still functioning.  He still remembers to hug me first thing every morning when he stumbles out of his room. He collapses into me as though his life depends on it. Then starts him morning ritual.

I’ll send two boys into the store with a twenty dollar bill. “I need ten in gas.”

They will appear, five minutes latter with a Gatorade. “How much gas do you need?”

But they can memorize an entire foot ball play book so I know something is going on in their heads.

Everyday when he gets out of the car he remembers to tell me he loves me first. He remembers our secret handshake and all the different handshakes with his buddies. He remembers to do his homework and exactly how to mix the dog food for the puppy dogs.

He remembers when I touch my nose it means “say thank you”, when one of his sisters extends an open palm, he’s supposed to tap it with his fingers and say “happy chickens!” And he remembers to say grace in Hungarian at every family meal.

He remembers the language of family. He never forgets the words and gestures that make us…..us.

Sandor can always make up for a stinky day because he forgot to take a shower. He can always gorge after he forgets to eat.  But the families precious orbit and loving satellite system is different. When we need each other, we all have to remember. We all have to be there. His stupid boy brain will settle down some day and he’ll remember to brush his teeth seven days in a row. Until then what’s important is he remembers  “Happy Chickens and the “Sexy Dolphin Dance.”

I Have A Hobo Problem

hoboI have a problem with hobos.   First, let me say I like the word “hobo” way better than “homeless” or “less fortunate” because it sounds like they are choosing to be a hobo.  They want to “ride the rails” and travel the country in a box car with a jaunty bandanna, cute dog and a hobo sack tied to a stick.

I know the truth is most “hobos” have mental problems, drug problems, many are vets and it totally sucks.

Here’s my problem.  When I see a guy standing on the side of the road with a sign that says “Homeless Vet Need Food God Bless” I feel I really really need to give him a dollar, or five or ten because I’m afraid he might be Jesus.  I constantly think God might be testing me, sending His son down to test me.

If I was God, that’s what I would do. It’s the perfect way to find out what’s in a person’s heart.  Do you really want to help or do you want to look away, ignore or judge?

Some times I see guys on the side or the road with a sign, asking for help and I reach into my pocket quickly. Sometimes, I’m kind of slow or hesitant, because I don’t believe the people are actually poor, looking for a job, hungry or needy.

But what if I’m wrong?  What if my judgment is off, what if it is Jesus?  That’s what drives me crazy and makes me worry for my own soul.  I look at people, their signs, their clothes, their expression and I judge.

Judging is wrong. I don’t know what they’ve been through, I don’t know what’s in their heart. How could I presume to think I know anything about their heart. Deep in my heart I know I shouldn’t judge.  That’s God’s job. My job is to help.

 

 

 

 

Horsey Healing

img_0038Everyone has wounds, unique emotional scrapes and scars. Childhood and growing up, family and friends can sometimes  beat you up and leave sore spots that we try to ignore or cover up.

I have a running joke that I cheerfully keep all my emotional skeletons locked in a closest and that’s where I want them to stay.

If we are lucky in life, we  find salves and ointments, activities, places and people who make us feel better as humans.  There are things that can smooth the rough corners and edges of life.

This year I discovered a place, right down the road, whose sole mission is exactly that.  The Loco Bonita Ranch has some horses, a lot of them: and these animals have magical gifts.  They make people feel better.

Seven years ago John and Sonja McCaleb opened their ranch and their hearts to folks who need them. Kids who have to live in “children’s homes” , stroke victims, students with emotional struggles and adults with unnamed, but very real pain have a place and some horses who understand. It’s one of the craziest most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

Sonja, John and their horses are quiet and kind, patient and encouraging.  I watched as ten year old girls, twenty year old men and middle age ladies suddenly found peace as they  brushed a 2,000 pound horse and talked. Years of physical and emotional pain dissolved as the horses nuzzled on them and tried to nibble the buttons on their shirts.

A lovely woman I know had a stroke a few years ago. She hadn’t been near a horse in forty years and all she wanted to do was ride, one more time.  Sonja and John made that happen and it was beautiful. There were tears and laughter and horse poop and the world was right for an hour. Despite her disability she left empowered, knowing she could still do anything she set her mind to.

High strung, anxious, angry teens slow down as they figure out how to brush a horse.  The look into those big dark eyes and breath in the peace of Loco Bonita. Sometimes as John or Sonja shows them how to take care of a horse they tell their stories….for the first time.

Kids who have been abandoned at home and bullied at school discover they have the ability to brush, saddle, bridle and lead an enormous, beautiful horse. And they can ride that huge animal without threats or abuse but with understanding and strength.

John and Sonja refuse to charge for any of their services.  They just won’t do it.

The eighteen horses at Loco Bonita along with the Llama, goats, pigs and dogs do wondrous good in the world.  The ranch is a place of peace and power, of grace and beauty.

Over the past 7 years Sonja estimated they’ve had at least 5,000 folks come through Loco Bonita and every one has been touched and helped by a horse. Both John and Sonja work full time.  They help people because it is their passion and God’s plan. If you would like to visit or make a donation to help feed a horse (they eat a lot) let me know and we’ll make it happen.

Peace be with you,

Diana

hampoland@gmail.com

“That’s Disgusting!” Said The Boy

norman-rockwell-thanksgiving-thanksgiving-2927689-375-479A few weeks ago a young man came over to go to the lake with us and spend the night. He’s a nice kid, has good manners and was fun. But Alex and I were both horrified, yes, that’s the word I’m going with, when dinner time rolled around.

The menu was pretty simple. Roasted chicken, green beans with bacon and baked sweet potato fries with ketchup. Sandor was excited but our 14 year old guest, who’s a big ol football player, looked concerned. He sheepishly said, “I don’t really eat that kind of stuff.”

“You don’t eat chicken?”

“No ma’am, well, only fried chicken, like chicken strips.”

“Will you try one bite?”

Reluctantly, he nodded his head yes. I cut off a piece of white mean with some crispy skin.He stuck it in his mouth and swallowed but was shaking his head no the entire time. The texture of actual chicken was so foreign and strange he had a hard time swallowing it.

“I’m really sorry,” he said. “I brought some food from my house, though.”

Let me go on record, my husband Alex, makes awesome roasted chicken. I could tell he was about to get pretty angry, so I rubbed his back, until the boy disappeared into Sandor’s bed room. “It’s not his fault and he’s obviously really embarrassed.  If you want to be mad at somebody be mad at his folks. This is their doing.”

Sandor came out, sensing there was “an issue”.

“When you go to Hunter’s house, what do you eat?”

“Junk mostly I guess. Cereal, pizza, fast food, soda.”

“So nobody makes any real food?”

“No ma’am.  Hunter’s really embarrassed.  He brought a pizza and some bagel bites with him though.”

I told Sandor to have him come out and eat with us.  We were all gonna watch a movie and eat dinner. I offered to put Hunter’s food on a plate but I promise, this is true. He sat at the far end of the couch, eating his pizza out of his back pack. And he looked like a beaten dog. I felt so sorry for the kid.

Parents, make your children eat real food! Don’t put them in this situation! Don’t wait till they are seven or eight years old or you will have an epic battle on your hands. Make them eat normal, healthy food when they are babies. Good Lord, I know you love your child but don’t let them grow up on a diet of processed junk food.

What would happen if you put pancake syrup in your gas tank all the time instead of gas. Well that’s what feeding your child junk food all the time is like. Sure everyone eats a Happy Meal, Nacho Dorito Tacos and stuffed crust pizza some times. Don’t cheer for your kid when they eat an entire bag of chips.  Being overweight in school can be really hard. Kids are mean.. Just stop it, ok?

Your kids will learn to eat and like what you teach them to eat and like. You have all the power. Use it responsibly, Spider-Man.

 

The Beauty of Boyhood

flip-out-2“Mom, we’re gonna go jump on the trampoline.”

“But it’s raining.”
“That’s why we’re going.”
The three thirteen year old boys thundered out the door in tee shirts and basketball shorts.

I made a fresh cup of coffee. When I heard Aries, our German Sheppard, barking, I looked out the window. She was on the trampoline with the boys in the rain. They were all laughing and she barked deliriously.

I opened the door. “Hey, get the dog off. She’s got claws and will shred the mat.”

Two of the boys said “yes ma’am” as they all coaxed the dog off the trampoline. But she jumped back up with them instantly, refusing to be cut out of the fun. Drops of water flew from the trampoline mat and off their soggy heads, every time they jumped.
I called the dog and told her to go under the porch.

For almost an hour the three boys wrestled and bounced in the rain. They peeled off their wet tee-shirts and threw them into the grass.

The tallest boy is a redheaded football player. He loves to tell us extraordinary facts about “gingers”. He’s very proud of his hair. The muscular boy with dark hair is a musician and vice president of the 8th grade Beta club. The smallest of the boys has bright blond hair. He’s very quiet but he’s the daredevil of the three.

They start playing a complicated game called Dead Man. It involves a blindfold, counting and body slams.

Listening to them laugh and talk trash, I realize this moment is Boyhood’s Last Stand. This is the golden moment and will be gone very soon.

Right now, in the rain, they do not have a single dark thought or worry. Two of the boys have girlfriends. They hold hands and hug on the middle school play ground. The boys sneak up behind the girls and pick them up, an act of affection and a show of strength.
The girls laugh and squeal and demand the boys put them down.

The boys do the same thing to each other, but there are choke holds and punching too.

Soon, very soon, there will be kissing and holding on desperately. There will be emotions, passion, love, anger, joy and frustration. They will still

have fun but will not play as much. And thoughtless joy will fade.

I should tell them to come inside and dry off. There is thunder in the distance. But I can’t do it. It will end too quickly on its own.

 

Please leave a comment or email me. I’d love to hear from you. And if your interested having advertising on the page let me know. I’m pretty cheap. hampoland@gmail.com

Do Your Kid A Favor….Four Things

JpegThere are three things wait, four things, parents have to teach their children before they are five, six or at the latest, seven years old. Otherwise…it’s too late. And if you don’t teach your child these three things consider yourself a mediocre parent. I should know.

#1 Teach your kid how to ride a bike. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of patience and running around. Your child is going to cry and get mad at you. They will want to give up, but don’t let them. Take the time to hold the back of the bike seat and run up and down the parking lot or side walk.

Learning to ride a bike when you are young is easy and not nearly as scary because you’re a short person on a short bike, you are close to the ground and you don’t look like a complete doooof if you are wearing all kinds of elbow and knee pads, extra underwear and a football helmet.

Little kids fall down all the time, it’s not that big a deal. But when grownups fall down it’s a monumental embarrassment. Kids fall down then pop back up. Adults fall down then miss work for a week.

I failed to teach Mary how to ride a bike. We rode with training wheels, then took one wheel off but that’s as far as we got and I didn’t force the issue. So my beautiful, brilliant adult daughter still needs one training wheel.

#2. Teach your child to swim, or let somebody else do it. First there’s the safety side of the equation. Unless you live in the Middle East your child will spend time around water, lakes and pools, he’ll end up on a boat.

 

When grown ups try to learn to swim they are terrified because they know the reality of the situation. If they go under they will die. The adult brain also interferes with the learning process. A two hundred pound man may know he can float but he doesn’t’ believe his great big fat body will stay on top of the water. So he thrashes around, sinks, gets water up his nose and gives up. The end.

 

Teach your child to swim to the edge of the pool and to hold on before they are one year old. The kid doesn’t have to be an Olympic swimmer, they don’t need to know all the strokes including the butterfly, but they better know how to float and how to get to the shallow end of the pool.

And think about this, the planet Earth is 71 percent water. You don’t want your child to be afraid of 71% of this place.

When a child learns to swim it’s cute, when an adult tries to learn to swim it’s embarrassing and traumatic.

#3. Finally, please teach your child how to shake hands. Little boys and girls.  All you have to remember is “firm grip and eye contact”. Their lives will be better with this one simple skill.

When Jack was 13 or 14 he decided he wanted to look like an absolute freak, bright red mohawk, suspenders, plaid golf pants. Still, he had a great handshake, he knew how to look an adult in the eye and act like a man so coaches, teachers and ministers cut him some slack and still loved him. Grown men let him date their beautiful daughters in part, I believe, because he had an excellent hand shake.

If a kid has a pathetic handshake I generally think they are weak or sneaky. I can’t help it. And yes, I know lots of scummy, slimy people have great handshakes. But do your child a favor. Start shaking hands with them when they are two years old. Shake hands all the time at home. Role play, shake hands in the morning and say “nice to meet you, sir.”  Kids will think it’s fun and remember, when they are little, remind them to shake hands with new people in private before you introduce them.  After a while, it will become automatic.

And the best part, when they are little but shake hands like a grown man, people will say, “wow, great hand shake buddy!”  The child will be really proud and keep doing it.

When Sandor’s thirteen year old buddies come over I shake hands with them. If it’s gooey we work on it. It’s that easy. Young men need to know how to shake hands but if you don’t teach them they won’t get it.

If I were to add one more thing to teach your kid, it would be how to make a phone call, if they aren’t calling their friends.  They need to know how to say, “Hi, this is Morgan, can I talk to Heather.”  At least once a week a kid calls my phone, looking for Sandor. They just say, “Uh, where Sandor?” I tell them what they need to do (sweetly) then tell them to hang up and try again. 98 percent of them do it and get it right.

We all want to make our children’s lives better. You can teach them the skills that will absolutely help. And it’s actually fun!

 

 

 

How to Be Happy

boxing glovesI’m writing this for you. I can see your face, your beautiful eyes and perfectly sculpted nose and eyebrows.

You are worried because you don’t know how to be happy and you are too young and brilliant to be unhappy and stressed. You know that. So the fact you are not really happy worries and annoys you even more. And you are a little bored even though you know that’s absurd.  Part of the problem might be you’ve forgotten how and what brings happiness.

It’s ok. I promise.

I can’t tell you how to be happy but I can tell you what makes me happy and maybe that will help.

There’s good news. You already know somethings most folks don’t. You know happiness is a choice. Every morning you have to decide if you will be happy.  You already know happiness is not something that happens to you.  Other people can’t make you happy.  Happiness is something that happens in your brain. It’s a switch and you have to decide to flip it.

Right now, I’m sitting in the bathroom. It’s 6:45 on a Sunday morning. I didn’t want to wake up this early. There’s dirty laundry in the corner. But I have a bottle of cold water, a cup of hot coffee. I have a book that I’m enjoying and I’m happy. That’s so weird. But it’s ok.

1. Figure out what you like to read. Biographies, math books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, classic fiction, history, graphic novels, the Bible, collections of trashy funny essays. It’s all fine. Waking up in the morning is much better when you have something to look forward to. Fifteen minutes of putting something  into your brain, that’s only for you, will help make you happy and will actually help make you look forward to waking up.

2.Eat and drink good food. Sure you’re gonna put garbage in your body too, most of us do. But everyday make sure you give your body, this astonishing engine God has give us, lots of water and good food too. It’ll make you feel a lot better. When you don’t eat and drink enough good stuff you will not be happy. (Again, being happy is a choice, are you seeing the pattern?) A car needs gasoline and oil. If you fill the tank with maple syrup and Windex, the car won’t run. This one is pretty simple.

3.  Get enough sleep. You can’t be happy without it. Yes, there will always be days when life interferes and you don’t get the sleep you need . But don’t expect your brain and heart to be happy if you’re not getting enough sleep. You know that so make it happen.

4. Figure out some physical activity you like to do and do it. I recently discovered I like picking vegetables out of our garden. I like to swim under water, I like to look at stuff underwater with goggles and float on a raft. I like trying to dance with my children. And I like to box and kick. Why? Who the hell knows . It’s odd but it makes me happy so I try to do it with my friends who also like to hit stuff, several times a week. It makes me happy. But, it’s up to me to make sure I go to that place and be with those people.

Recently, I thought I needed to do something more reasonable for a woman my age.  I went to a couple of yoga classes. It was nice but didn’t make me happy. It’s all about trial and error.

If you don’t know what you like to do, then you need to be brave and accept responsibility to go figure it out. Get off your ass and go try some new things until you find the thing and people you need.

Think back, maybe you used to do something that made you happy. Dancing, gymnastics, sword fighting, horseback riding, martial arts. Try that again. Forget about how you look or what people will think. What’s more important to you? Looking cool or actually being happy. If you need help, Email me.

And finally, talk to God. All the time. Tell him what you are trying to do. He can help. He’s got ideas. And when you get some good sleep, read something fun, drink some water and eat something delicious. Say thank you. You’ll enjoy it a whole lot more.

There’s more, but I’m going to stop right now. Remember, you have to love your self and take care of yourself first. Then you can help others and that’s where things where things get really really happy!

But for now, it’s all about baby steps and moving forward just a little everyday.

 

Rude Brother, Offensive Sister

brother and sisterDear Brothers and Sisters, all of you out there.  Promise me you won’t do what I did. I’ve written about it before but is still sits in my heart.

Understand, that all you brothers and sisters are the same, you are a herd of zebra, as connected and similar as possible without being identical. You are the same,  your stripe patterns are just a little different.

You are the same, more so than anyone else you will ever know on this planet, but you have different internal clocks from each other, a different moral compasses, different electrical impulses racing through your heart and brain. But you are the same and know the same stuff, instinctively.

granger prisonMy brother, Granger, and I were always really close though he was eleven years old.

But when I was in my late twenties and had young kids he started really pissing me off. He was always late, sometimes hours sometimes days. the kids would spend hours anxiously waiting for him, because he said he was coming. Sometimes he arrived sometimes he didn’t. He accidentally took my kids on minor drug deals. They went hiking and he only remembered to take beer and vodka. But they did just find sucking on ice cubes. He’d bring one kid a present and forget the other. He talked about himself constantly or told wildly inappropriate stories about hookers and  inexplicable trips to small South American countries.

In my eyes, for years, he never said or did the right thing. So I was perpetually annoyed and pissed for five years.

Then, one day, something clicked in my brain. Why was I wasting so much time being annoyed, offended and angry? What a waste of valuable, precious time with my only living family member. I was a bitch and an idiot. So I stopped.

We were the same but different. Thankfully, God changed something in my heart  and all I felt was love, compassion and understanding. If we owe anyone one unconditional love….it’s our brothers and sisters. So stop wasting time wanting a person to act the way you think they should. That’s just dumb.

I still struggle with this. Sandor has friends and I have friends who are constantly changing plans, not arriving on time, not letting me know their plans change. For years I would seethe and fume. How inconsiderate, how rude. Secretly, I felt superior because I was punctual or organized.  What a bitch I was!

Recently, however I’ve realized these schedule meltdowns actually don’t have anything to do with me. I’ve learned to say or text “No worries.” Because I love them and they really don’t mean to be inconsiderate. Their day just blew up.

And one more thing. If you do blow up or snap or gripe at your brother or sister, that’s not surprising.  Your family. but do yourself a favor and learn to say, “Sorry I was an ass.” That’s all you have to say and all the negative vaporizes. Have the guts to say you’re sorry. It makes life so much easier.

I’d give just about anything to have a year back with Granger. I don’t care how bizarre, inconsiderate, inappropriate and self absorbed. He loved us and he was just being Granger. He was the last zebra with my stripes.

Love your brothers and sisters, as different as they are. That’s all you have to do.

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